Revolver360 is, at a glance, complete and absolute absurdity. Picture a bullet hell shooter drenched in futuristic neon blue which fully rotates at the press of a button, existing in three dimensions as you fly sideways through waves of enemies while trying to keep up with the madness on-screen.
The number of systems and mechanics at work at any given time in Revolver is in itself intimidating, which when paired with its genre-typical difficulty level and the added intensity of a third dimension, can feel like borderline excess for the sake of it. But Revolver pulls it all off because underneath the inscrutable exterior there’s a very deep, developed formula at work, all focused around an elaborate shooting and scoring system that is only as invasive as you want it to be.
Different types of shots affect different enemies, various meters are raised by particular stimuli, and multiple paths through levels create even more room for experimentation. Revolver fully commits itself to being as complex and unique as possible within the capabilities of its systems, and while this means it’s likely the least accessible shoot’em’up I’ve played in a very long time, its desire to nurture and expand the boundaries of advanced play feels like a justified trade-off
Revolver expresses this best in its challenge mode, which features 50 quick, extremely focused missions which give you a specific task to complete in a short period of time. To me these felt less like fun bonuses to the main game, but rather a comprehensive tutorial detailing the minutia of Revolver’s intricate mechanics and how best to use them. This is accomplished through the challenges themselves, and also the contextual hint system which drip feeds you information in a way that is much easier to parse given you can immediately apply it to an appropriate situation.
Returning to Revolver’s main stages after completing a number of these, I was surprised just how much more I understood about the game I had already beaten once, and how significantly more capable that had made me where simply reading a manual and playing the game had not. I also began to appreciate all the little things I hadn’t even noticed before, like the finer points of the scoring system or how to best utilize the rotation feature to line up enemies, which further solidified in me the idea that Revolver had fully thought through each of its mechanics and the interplay that develops between them. The more I was able to understand the more I enjoyed playing, and it made me wish that other games would be as thorough in their initiations.
But even if you aren’t interested in getting deep into Revolver’s metagame it’s still a fascinating beast of a bullet hell shooter to play around with. Rotating your ship is an ingenious hook that somehow never manages to feel clumsy or obscure important information (an even more impressive task when put up against Revolver’s brainmelting cyberpunk visual style).
Revolver360 is a sort of “cool” that didn’t need explaining; a “cool” which leaked out of the screen like a kettle getting ready to blow its top and told me that I better get ready. And then the game started and all pretenses of restraint evaporated as Revolver boldly declared that it wasn’t going to settle for being just enough shoot’em’up and neither should you.