Earlier this month we took a look at the upcoming bullet hell shooter Phoenix from Firi Games. Phoenix claims to be able to push hundreds of bullets onscreen at a time and still run smoothly even on the oldest of Apple iOS devices. Firi recently sent us a work in progress build of the game and after spending some time playing it seems they are well on their way to bringing another solid entry into the shmup genre on the App Store. The preview build we were given is missing some key elements like music, some sound effects, and graphical variety, but the core of the gameplay is in place and it's definitely a lot of fun.

Phoenix is a little bit different from other scrolling shooters in that there aren't set levels. Instead, the entire game is an endless randomly generated level with a difficulty that scales based on how well you are performing. Think of it as the Canabalt [$2.99] of shmups. Controls are of the relative touch variety, meaning you can touch anywhere on the screen to control your ship instead of it always following closely to your fingertip. Defeated enemies will drop upgrades to your main weapon, health packs that repair your ship, temporary shield powerups, and a super weapon of sorts called the Alpha Strike Attack which gives your ship incredibly strong firepower for a limited time.

I was a bit skeptical about the scaling difficulty in Phoenix at first, but in practice it actually seems to work as intended. When you are doing well the game throws bigger and more difficult enemies at you who will fire faster and spray more bullets in your direction. Scoring also scales with the difficulty, which can be seen with a tiny meter next to your score display. As you avoid damage, the meter increases and so do the points you earn for defeating enemies. Due to this, you score doesn't necessarily reflect on how long you survive in the game, but rather how efficiently you can avoid damage. Scores are tracked by an in-game global and regional leaderboard.

So far Phoenix has nailed the groundwork for an interesting take on the bullet hell shmup. Controls work well, and I was easily able to narrowly dodge the multitude of bullets being fired at me while simultaneously dishing out my own offensive onslaught. Visually Phoenix is looking very nice as well, although having only one scrolling background image got a little old. I'm told that this is something being worked on and there should be some more variety in locations in the final release. The leaderboards are also being tweaked, as right now they are somewhat basic and allow multiple entries per user which really clutters things up for such a high score focused game. Phoenix seems really well suited for something like Game Center, but it remains to be seen if the developer has any plans to implement this.

All in all I'm really impressed with what I've played of Phoenix at this point, and if Firi Games can polish up some of the rough edges in the game shooter fans can look forward to some bullet hell action no matter which iOS device they own. Firi had been shooting for a September release, so barring any unforeseen issues cropping up we should be seeing Phoenix arrive in the coming weeks. In the meantime you can follow along with the discussion for Phoenix in our forums, and we'll take a closer look at the game when it hits the App Store.

  • it's me

    Most overused term on toucharcade: bullet hell

    • Yrogerg212

      Or "retro classic"
      But yeah, I agree.

      • tsharpfilm

        Nah. Most overused is probably "Canabalt [$2.99]." This game bares absolutely NO resemblance to that game.

      • Jared Nelson

        Right. Because this is a randomly generated endless high score game. That is NOTHING like Canabalt at all...

      • http://www.firigames.com Selachii

        I actually like the comparison to Canabalt better than being pegged as a title "out to get Cave's Crown". Where one is about a novel game concept aimed at the iphone market, while the other is a (great) port of a title from the Arcade which goes back to 'established' mechanics.

      • tsharpfilm

        Does every game with randomly generated levels have to be compared and contrasted with Canabalt [$2.99]? And if Phoenix has to be compared to something, why not compare it to Monster Dash [$0.99]? They both have color graphics, shooting, randomly generated levels, ext.

  • it's me

    Most overused term on toucharcade: bullet hell

    • Yrogerg212

      Or "retro classic"
      But yeah, I agree.

      • tsharpfilm

        Nah. Most overused is probably "Canabalt [$2.99]." This game bares absolutely NO resemblance to that game.

      • Jared Nelson

        Right. Because this is a randomly generated endless high score game. That is NOTHING like Canabalt at all...

      • http://www.firigames.com Selachii

        I actually like the comparison to Canabalt better than being pegged as a title "out to get Cave's Crown". Where one is about a novel game concept aimed at the iphone market, while the other is a (great) port of a title from the Arcade which goes back to 'established' mechanics.

      • tsharpfilm

        Does every game with randomly generated levels have to be compared and contrasted with Canabalt [$2.99]? And if Phoenix has to be compared to something, why not compare it to Monster Dash [$0.99]? They both have color graphics, shooting, randomly generated levels, ext.

  • seleneluna

    Use 'DANMAKU' instead. Cave is always the best in this field.

  • seleneluna

    Use 'DANMAKU' instead. Cave is always the best in this field.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com Silent Rocco

    A random generated Shmup would be fantastic. Really.
    I'm not thaaat much into best-highscrore-within-6-stages-concept.
    Looks promising so far. But as you mentioned, a changing background would be highly appreciated. Graphics look great already.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com Silent Rocco

    A random generated Shmup would be fantastic. Really.
    I'm not thaaat much into best-highscrore-within-6-stages-concept.
    Looks promising so far. But as you mentioned, a changing background would be highly appreciated. Graphics look great already.

  • polyplay

    Bullet hell, danmaku, curtain fire, manic shooter, the name may change but the incredible fun doesn't.

    And only Touch Arcade and 1UP.com have shown the genre any love.

    Keep on keeping on, Jared. Great games deserve good press.

  • polyplay

    Bullet hell, danmaku, curtain fire, manic shooter, the name may change but the incredible fun doesn't.

    And only Touch Arcade and 1UP.com have shown the genre any love.

    Keep on keeping on, Jared. Great games deserve good press.

  • Chocolate

    It's great to see the SHMUP genre come back to life lately! So MANY quality SHMUPS on this platform, and more being made!

    I just wish someone out there would make a sequel or "spiritual sequel" to Gunhed AKA Blazing Lazers for iPhone/Touch. That was my favorite SHMUP of all time. Used to play it on a TurboExpress. :-P

  • Chocolate

    It's great to see the SHMUP genre come back to life lately! So MANY quality SHMUPS on this platform, and more being made!

    I just wish someone out there would make a sequel or "spiritual sequel" to Gunhed AKA Blazing Lazers for iPhone/Touch. That was my favorite SHMUP of all time. Used to play it on a TurboExpress. :-P

  • Tamara

    zzzzz... It's been done soooo many times before.

  • Tamara

    zzzzz... It's been done soooo many times before.

  • david

    apple has to speed up the process... this looks amazing! on what device is this game played in the video above? An iphone 3G? Touch 2G?

  • david

    apple has to speed up the process... this looks amazing! on what device is this game played in the video above? An iphone 3G? Touch 2G?

  • Adam

    The game is looking quite fun but the lighter coloured orange bullets seem a bit hard to see through your own fire (although that may be just the video).

  • Adam

    The game is looking quite fun but the lighter coloured orange bullets seem a bit hard to see through your own fire (although that may be just the video).

  • Christian

    I love the Cave shooters to bits but this looks a bit stale and pedestrian in comparison so far. There isn't the urgency, speed and pressure there so far, and it seems to lack personality as well.

    On the other side the idea in itself is nice, and the R-Type kind of graphics look pretty good. Good luck with the further development.

  • Christian

    I love the Cave shooters to bits but this looks a bit stale and pedestrian in comparison so far. There isn't the urgency, speed and pressure there so far, and it seems to lack personality as well.

    On the other side the idea in itself is nice, and the R-Type kind of graphics look pretty good. Good luck with the further development.

  • Zonko

    Looks a bit amateurish to me, and streets behind the incredible stuff we've been getting from Cave.

  • Zonko

    Looks a bit amateurish to me, and streets behind the incredible stuff we've been getting from Cave.

  • John

    This looks like noiz2sa but with better graphics, but way worse art style. Too cartoony and big. And not nearly as much content as either kenta cho ports, both of which are free ATM.

  • John

    This looks like noiz2sa but with better graphics, but way worse art style. Too cartoony and big. And not nearly as much content as either kenta cho ports, both of which are free ATM.

  • ipod_david

    I really like it. The question is, do all games have to have the same approach as Cave & Co to the genre. I like the idea that the levels are generated. I think the Firiguys will implement new stuff as users will offer new ideas and so on. I am definitely looking forward to this!!!

  • ipod_david

    I really like it. The question is, do all games have to have the same approach as Cave & Co to the genre. I like the idea that the levels are generated. I think the Firiguys will implement new stuff as users will offer new ideas and so on. I am definitely looking forward to this!!!

  • http://celtiquemusic.com Celtique

    why the space ship looks like einhander's?

  • http://celtiquemusic.com Celtique

    why the space ship looks like einhander's?

  • george

    We need Horizontal port of a cave shooter for ipad.

  • george

    We need Horizontal port of a cave shooter for ipad.