Platform: Arcade (Sega System-16) Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Released: 1987 Genre: Top-Down Shooter - Dual-Joystick Players: 1-3
Bullet is a difficult one to judge, because it's competent enough and doesn't make any horrifying design blunders, it's just unfortunate that it exists in the same universe as similar, better games. A three-player co-op game (a rarity at the time, and almost unheard of in the genre), Emmy, Fred and Chris must make their way to the enemy's base and wipe them out, making their way through subways, sewers and underground hangars (?!) to get there while fighting against generic soldiers and the odd imposing boss sitting in a chair.
The controls are ripped straight from Robotron: 2084, of course- use the left joystick to move, and the right joystick to fire- but it adds in elements from other Commando-style shooters (such as end-of-level bosses, scrolling and an actual ending) and while the basic mechanics are solid enough, it ends up feeling a bit wishy-washy. The main issues are that the action is quite slow-paced, and each stage scrolls more than other games of this type. The speed leads to the game lacking intensity, and because you have (almost) total scrolling freedom, there's no sense of confinement and you can just walk away from many of the enemies, so there's fewer Smash T.V.-esque moments where you're pinned against the wall, making a violent last stand against the hordes... It's strange, because while Bullet does indeed throw lots of enemies at you, they only occasionally feel like a real threat, mostly because they walk like they're stuck in treacle and escaping from them is so easy. The dodgy hit detection on the laser fire is probably the biggest threat in the game! If the game didn't let you aim and fire independantly, however, it'd be a lot harder and more rewarding to play as a result.
The only time you'll really feel under pressure is during the first part of every stage, where you only have your (awful) starting gun. Powering it up requires you to stand on multi-coloured power pads for a few seconds to charge your weapon's energy meter by one level- it can be upgraded three times (the only difference is the weapon's range) by which point you'll have a deadly purple lightsaber and you're ready to cut a swathe through the enemy masses and stand a fighting chance. The fact that you have to stand still or risk getting only 1/5th of a charge from the pad adds a nice feeling of danger, but it's only temporary, and the meter empties so slowly that once you get the final upgrade, you don't need to do it again in most cases. Really, the game just potters along, and although it's the perfect length for a one-credit clear (made necessary by the fact that continues are disabled), it just feels like it's missing something, some added danger. Hell, even some decent sound effects would've helped!
This doesn't mean that Bullet is a completely terrible game, of course. To be fair to it, it's entertaining enough if you're planning to make it to the end alive, and there's nothing massively broken about it. It does what it does well enough to a certain extent, it's just, well, there's better games in this genre out there. If we're being honest, it's even outclassed by other non-dual-joystick games in the genre, most notably Alien Syndrome released in the same year- it has all the elements, like varied weapons, threatening enemies and intensity that Bullet's sadly lacking. So basically Bullet is the Insector X of Commando shoot-em-ups- pretty average.
For being decent enough, Bullet is awarded...
In a sentence, Bullet is... A real milquetoast of a game.