Time is literally everything in Godstrike. It governs how long we have to beat the endless procession of bosses, as well as the very life force with which we have to survive. And I’ll tell you what; 5 minutes has never passed so quickly in all my life.
Godstrike is a Boss Rush Bullet Hell game, meaning we battle one tough son of a bitch after another with no pesky levels or platforming in between. The action is viewed in a pseudo-top down perspective, with each boss filling up a large portion of the screen compared to our tiny character – and then, the shooting starts, and what little is left is soon filled with bullets to avoid.
We’re lucky enough at the Tavern to get a fair few games before release. This is usually to help us hit launch window coverage or spend that bit more time with the game to better inform you, the reader. I received my review code for Godstrike a month ago, which is much earlier than usual. I soon discovered a good reason for that – this game is fucking hard. Like, real hard.
I love a bit of bullet hell goodness, and this title delivers that in spades. Even the first boss – puntastically named Tutoriaal – absolutely kicked my ass over and over. In fact, it took me a good two or three play sessions over a few days to finally beat him. Rinse and repeat for the next 5 or so bosses I’ve beaten so far. From literal second one the attacks barrage upon us, and they just don’t stop coming.
Each boss has three or four stages to beat that naturally get harder the further we get. What might start of as a ‘simple’ screen filling attack turns into a dual layered attack with a sprinkling of extra enemies to dodge on top of environmental hazards to avoid – and that’s only Boss 3! Quick reflexes are the order of the day, and a love for trying over – and over – again.
We fight back with twin stick controls, dodging with the left and firing with the right. We could also use the face buttons to aim and fire but outside of a few select moments that’s rarely a good option. Movement is smooth and easy to control, and makes the hectic battlefield fun to navigate even when we can barely see the ground for the bullets.
Back to the time aspect, and it’s this – other than the millions of bullets heading out way – that we need to keep an eye on. We begin each stage with a set timer to beat it. This gradually counts down on its own, but also any attacks that hit us cause up to 15 seconds to be knocked off each time. Let a few wayward attacks hit in a row and all of a sudden we’ve lost over a minute in the blink of an eye. The time pressure is already enough, but this means we really feel every single blow as the minutes turn to seconds before our very eyes. Once the timer counts down to zero we get one more hit to try and succeed. The screen turns monochrome, and we need to dodge like a ninja in order to not get hit and fail. Having our health be the timer is a great idea, and one that works really well when combining the above with the following.
Further complicating things are the powers we can go into battle with. Each one is incredibly useful, letting us lose less time when hit, fire homing or multiple projectiles, shield us, or one of about two dozen more. We can only take four into battle, but each choice comes with a time penalty before we even start. Fill up all four slots and we could have lost over a minute before the first shot is even fired. Even then, to actually use them we need to attack the boss so that they drop souls that are used to fill up the charge meter, with each one needing between one and five souls before we can use them. Handily, the effects can be combined for ultra powerful flashes of attacks; one combo say me gain spread fire, homing missiles, and faster shots that meant the Boss’s energy bar almost melted away. This did come at the cost of losing a lot of starting time, but it’s all about that trade off between power and life.
To somewhat balance this out are passive abilities that thankfully don’t come with a penalty. We’re also able to take up to four, and these can offer faster movement or defence, or force the boss to drop more souls and so on. Both these and the above abilities are unlocked one by one for defeating a boss in the Story mode, though in the Arena mode all are unlocked to use from the off.
Add all this together and we end up with a supremely challenging game, but one that is rewarding as it is frustrating. Every run edges us closer to beating a boss, and every failure gives us a better understanding of what to do better next time. Fail enough times and we can activate an ‘easy’ mode, in quotes because even then the bosses are still bastard hard, they just don’t take off quite as much time and have slightly softer health bars it seems. I had to rely on this a few times but it made my victories when I wasn’t on easy mode all the sweeter!
In addition to the Story and Arcade mode – whereby we must beat all bosses in one run… – are a Daily challenge mode and Standard challenge mode. The former gives us one shot per day to beat it (which I almost did) whereas the latter gives us a stipulation on top of the gameplay to beat. Both are as rock hard as the other modes, and will no doubt offer dedicated players more to get stuck into.
I had a great time with Godstrike. The combat is fast and fluid, and hectic as a bastard, but the challenge is pitched just right that I found myself dropping in every day or so for an hour to see how I would get on. Having time as our health and restriction is an inspired touch, and every hit against us has that bit more impact as a result. Truly challenge, but incredibly rewarding, Godstrike is an easy recommendation.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.