If you’ve ever felt mislead by a game title in the past (such as Legendary being anything but what it name suggested), then you’ll feel reassured by Dakko Dakko’s newest PS Minis title for PSP, PS Vita and PS3; Floating Cloud God Saves The Pilgrims literally is what the title says. It doesn’t tell you about what type of game it is, but thats alright, after all they have to leave something for you to discover on your own. It’s easy to imagine FCGSTP as a platformer, maybe an action game or even an RTS, but a side-scrolling shooter probably wasn’t at the top of the list of titles you were expecting; however, in all honesty, trying to imagine this game as anything but a shooter after playing it is impossible.
Drawing upon influences of Japanese folklore and religious temples, FCGSTP sees you escort pilgrims and protecting them from various enemies that set out to thwart their journey to salvation. You protect them by taking up the role of an angry, yet helpful, floating cloud god who fires cloud projectiles at enemies to destroy them. All in all it’s premise is painfully simple, but luckily story isn’t really the core attraction of the game, instead the major draw comes from the creativity on display and the addictive gameplay that seems devilishly simple but is anything but.
Playing out like your standard affair of a side-scrolling shooter, the bullet hell aspects start to creep in in the later ‘paths’ (essentially each of the games five worlds), and so you find yourself being wonderfully eased into playing through these harder sections without breaking too much of a sweat thanks to the incremental upgrades. Gameplay isn’t just a progression through linear levels shooting down foes, whilst your cloud god may be invincible, it is the pilgrims that work as your health as well as your power – meaning that protecting them is of the upmost importance if you wish to get the most out of each level. Playing with more pilgrims alive means you have more power at your disposal, whilst having fewer means that it takes longer for your power to reach its maximum level – and you can take less chances in shooting down enemies whilst your pilgrims plod along at the bottom of the screen. Through your pilgrims chanting you can pick up hearts that increase your power, however if you take one hit from an enemy you instantly lose all this accumulated power. While this can be frustrating, it also works wonderfully well in ensuring you actively dodge oncoming bullets – as being an invincible god the temptation to just soak up bullets is immeasurable. The variety of enemies also helps in teaching you how best to deal with a situation, taking down enemies who can directly threaten your pilgrims before focusing on ones that’ll harm you over them.
Visually this is easily one of the most beautiful Minis titles around, it’s bright colours and sharp visuals look beautiful on both the PSP and PS Vita screen, and even blown up on a TV screen they still seem bright and crisp. As mentioned before, it’s clear to see that it draws upon Japanese folklore in its character design and art style. Enemies look like you would expect a feudal Japanese demon to look, with their long noses and red faces and wings, and the more surreal enemies and bosses on show ooze creativity and still retain that classic style. It seems almost like a flowing tapestry or papercraft puppet show in motion, with a style that reminds us of the brilliant Loco Roco, Patapon and Rolando.
PS Minis may not be quite as popular as XBLIG, but FCGSTP deserves to be noticed and enjoyed over and over again. There are numerous reasons to revisit the game time and time again, even if its just to see how many pilgrims you can save. It would be nice to see some online leaderboards, or perhaps a few more levels, but for an indie developers second game, it’s hard to see how they could have achieved anything more superb than Floating Cloud God Saves The Pilgrims.
Final Score: 4/5