Review: Kyuiin

The last thing anyone thinks of when it comes to saving the day—and to that end, shooting things—is a vacuum cleaner. After all, it’s meant to suck things up, not shoot things out. Yet in Kyuiin, that’s your weapon of choice. Does it work out, or does it just suck?

KyuiinKyuiin
Systems: Playstation 3, Playstation Portable
Developer: Media Entertainment
Publisher: MonkeyPaw Games
Release Date: July 19, 2011
MSRP: $5.99

Kyuiin kicks off with a boy reading his favorite fairy tale when a fairy emerges from it. She asks for his aid in vanquishing an evil wizard who has been wrecking havoc in the tales he has been reading. So off he goes on his trusty vacuum cleaner, for lack of other options, to put a stop to it. The plot isn’t especially deep, and there’s not much in the way of story scenes beyond the introduction and ending, but it’s cute and serves its purpose. The available modes are similarly barebones, with a single-player and two-player mode being the only options. Being able to shoot things down with another person is nice, so the game does
have that going for it.

The opening animation resembles that of anime like Doraemon and has a similar simple and adorable charm. The ending scene is portrayed in 3D that looks more like claymation and rather dated by today’s standards—unsurprising given that this game originally came out in 1996. During gameplay, your character is rendered in what looks like 2.5D, while enemies and everything else are rendered in 2D sprites. The 2D sprites are colorful and detailed, particularly the bosses. The different types of shots are also rendered fittingly: your standard shot looks like dust bunnies, and your garbage cannon shots contain what you sucked up. It’s an unusual contrast, and while it’s not too jarring, the 2.5D looks worse in comparison to the 2D. The music ranges from lighthearted and whimsical while flying through the stages to more serious for boss fights. It suits the theme of each stage, and it’s enjoyable to listen to while playing. The sound test is unlocked from the beginning of the game, so you can listen to tracks. There’s a bit of voice acting during the game in the form of yelping when hit or knocked out and cheering at the end of a stage, which is a cute touch.

The controls are fairly easy to get the grasp of quickly: the d-pad controls movement, X shoots and cancels in menus, circle fires the Garbage Cannon and accepts options in menus, and square attacks whatever’s behind you with a power cord. The power cord deals good damage and yields a higher score bonus when it lands, but its range is short, and it can be difficult to actually hit an enemy with it especially when a swarm of them come at you from the front as they shoot at you. I found it impractical for the most part, though it is satisfying when I actually did manage to land a hit with it.
 
 
Stemming from the unique choice in transportation is the ability to suck in enemies and projectiles, which you do simply by touching them with the vacuum hose. However, you can only suck up anything with blue sparkles on them. As you vacuum enemies and projectiles, though more the former than the latter, a meter fills. Once it’s full, you get a shot of the garbage cannon. The color of the meter indicates the power—green is the weakest, blue is the next step up, and red is the strongest—and up to three shots of the cannon can be stockpiled at a time. Whenever you’re firing the garbage cannon, you’re invincible for the time it’s discharging. The shots from the cannon degrade in power and duration the more times you use it, so the third shot will have a narrower beam and inflict less damage compared to the first.

When you’re hit, you lose the hose along with your ability to suck things up, and your gun also downgrades in power. If you get hit again, however, say goodbye to a life. A repair kit usually appears soon after, though you can also pick up a powerup to repair your vacuum. Speaking of powerups, there are four kinds you can find floating by: Vulcan is a three-way shot, laser is a beam that shoots through multiple enemies, homing shoots a helix shaped beam that zeroes in on enemies, and rapid is a continuous stream of shots. While your shots grow more powerful if you pick up more than one of the same powerup, there is no visual indication of such, so you have to track that on your own.

The first couple of stages are more lenient and let you get used to the concept of sucking up everything in your path, but the difficulty spikes quickly, especially in hard mode (the multi-form tomato boss is the bane of my existence). The game consists of six stages in total, and the game makes you earn the victories and high scores, especially in later stages. Simply shooting down enemies isn’t the most profitable means towards the latter end, even if it is the easiest way. Sucking up enemies and hitting them with your power cord grant more points, though both are harder to pull off.

There’s one section in which you have to maneuver your way around a maze of large snowflakes that damage you if you touch them, and your character’s hitbox is displayed. The problem with this is that the box is large and vertically oriented, making it awkward to squeeze by obstacles without brushing against them and sustaining damage. You can take the easy way out and destroy some of the snowflakes with your garbage cannon, but that’s one less shot to use later, and such a solution does not exist for the rest of the game. While the hitbox is not displayed in other parts of the game, dodging a barrage of projectiles can get just as tricky because, even if you position yourself perfectly between two of them, it’s still possible to get nicked anyway.

The bosses have rather wacky designs, and part of the fun came from seeing what I would have to face down next. For example, one boss was a demonic looking nun holding a crying baby, while another was a giant smirking princess. Like other games of this type, it comes down to figuring out the bosses’ attack patterns and countering them. Even with all that, though, it can still be challenging to pull off. The fact that you get infinite continues does help and somewhat lessens the frustration from failing against a boss. However, when you use a continue, your score is reset. This allows you to get through the game if your goal is to simply beat it, but maximizing your score will require avoiding using any continues. To compound things further, in hard mode, the repair kit tends to take its sweet time coming, forcing you to get good at dodging and hope it or a powerup show up soon.

Kyuiin is a fun and quirky side-scrolling shooter. However, after you go through the game once, the only incentive to play through again is to improve your high score. While that certainly has its lure, even that classic incentive eventually loses its luster, and there are only two difficulty modes to play through. Still, it’s an enjoyable bullet hell game, whether with one or two players, and the vacuum is a neat little gimmick that works for the most part.

PROS
* The ability to vacuum up some enemies and projectiles adds some strategy
* Quirky and charming graphics
* Provides a good challenge

CONS
* Can be difficult to tell which objects and enemies can be sucked up
* Vertically oriented hitbox makes dodging attacks more difficult
* Not much in terms of replayability

FINAL SCORE: B-

Disclosure: A review code was provided by MonkeyPaw Games. At the time of this review, Easy Mode had been completed and four out of six stages were completed on Difficult Mode.

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About Aileen Coe