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A good scrolling shooter requires balanced difficulty to keep the game interesting: Not too hard, but not a mind-numbing cake walk of holding down one button while lethargically wiggling a joystick, either. Triggerheart: Exelica's difficulty is, unfortunately, bipolar at best. Finishing the game in under 15 minutes is woefully simple due to an infinite supply of continues. Granted, many arcade-to-home shooter conversions do this, but it obviously strips much of the game's tension - and purpose - away.
While its standard weapons are the tried-and-true yet uninspired narrow and spread shots, Triggerheart's anchoring mechanic injects some strategy into the game. Pressing B fires a cable at a nearby hostile unit. Holding B swings the hapless foe in a circle like a demolition ball, while releasing B sends it hurtling at its comrades. Flinging massive robots into groups of adversaries is an excellent screen-clearing technique and is far more enjoyable than using the game's standard weapon arsenal.
So what about Achievements? Having infinite continues saps the challenge from some of them, such as finishing the game without using a special attack - who needs bombs when dying isn't a problem? But most are too difficult for any but the most fanatic shooter fans to unlock even with limitless chances. Using a continue causes the score counter to be reset, which means Achievements such as finishing the game without dying or earning a final score of 100,000,000 points present an almost impossible challenge for anyone who isn't an expert at weaving through a claustrophobic screen filled with dozens of enemy bullets, bombs and lazer blasts.
Despite the enjoyment of slinging bad guys around like giant wrecking balls, Triggerheart's indecisive difficulty, average looks and short length render it a bad choice for any but the most devoted shooter fans. Pull the trigger on Omega Five instead, or better yet: to see how vertical shooters should really be done, wait for Ikaruga to arrive on Live Arcade or fire up the Wii Virtual Console and download Blazing Lazers.
Feb 29, 2008