Title: Sora

Platform: Steam, Windows

Reviewed on: Windows

Genre: Bullet Hell, Shoot-em-up

Players: Single player

Written by Bad Demoman 26th February 2016

Sora is a bullet-hell type shooter developed by Orange Juice, who happen to be quite experienced in the genre by now. Following the story of the titular girl Sora, who happens to be essentially a living weapon, in the middle of a war destroying her world.

Sora does things a little differently from a standard shmup – you don't scroll from bottom to top, or left to right. Instead, there's a whole lot of freedom of movement – you're able to move in any direction. Subsequently, enemies will be able to come at you from all directions. It can get pretty hectic. In most shooters, you'll mostly stick to around about the same area of the level. If you stay still in Sora for too long, you'll probably end up dead pretty quick. Moving is really emphasized and rewarded, as you have access to a move that lets you move faster and dodge most attacks. I tend to spend a lot of my time using this move, especially since it lets you cancel into more powerful versions of your attacks. It's a risk-reward system though.

While dashing you still take damage from physical attacks (I.E Missiles, Daggers). Dashing and dodging through bullets will increase your heat gauge. Heat will scale up the damage you take if you do get hit, so this leads to some really tense situations. You feel like you need to dash to live, but if you do you'll take tons of damage and die. It feels genuinely awesome when you manage to get through a whole lot of damage by managing your Heat and your dash. A decent variety of weapons are available to suit your playstyle. You'll have access to a rifle, a missile launcher and a special weapon. Variations on the weapons are better suited to close range, or more powerful but slower. It means that if your strategy isn't quite working, you can switch up and try a different weapon.

I was warned before I played the game (by the publisher, no less!) that it was pretty damn hard. And while at first I went in cocky and sure that because I'd played Touhou and other bullet hells, I'd be fine! This was not the case at all. The freedom of movement makes it like playing no other bullet hell, and so I ended up being overwhelmed! A lot of the difficulty I had stemmed from just how different it was, but the bosses are particularly punishing. They all make use of attacks that can't be dashed through in difficult patterns, some of which admittedly feel a little inconsistent and, dare I say it, cheap? They all have desperation attacks that they use when low on health, and one of them really frustrated me.

The boss in question surrounded themselves in a shield of projectiles that made it very hard to actually hit them. After this shield has dissipated, you've only got a short time to get some damage in before they do it again. Rather than an intense exchange of bullets, it feels like a test of endurance. For the most part though, the bosses are interesting and fun. It mostly just gets annoying having to go through the levels after each failure to get another attempt at the boss. This is pretty standard admittedly, although the game uses a health bar system that means no extra lives are available. If you mess up during the level, you'll have less health left to take on the boss and it becomes considerably more difficult.

Sora introduces something new to the table for bullet hell shmups, and it pulls it off fairly well. While the difficulty can be overwhelming, I was warned and it's hardly unexpected for games of this genre to be pretty difficult. For that reason, I can only really recommend it to seasoned veterans of the shmup genre, but for those who can weather the storm they'll find it's a breath of fresh air.


An innovation in shmups,

Mobility is punishing, but as a result all the more rewarding.


Repeating levels can get tedious,

Difficulty can be overwhelming.

Final verdict,

Sora gets a 7 out of 10.

Written by,

Bad Demoman


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