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    Leikir Studios’ Isbarah does a lot of things, all of them hectic and deadly. In most bullet hell games, the player is given an unlimited range of movement, able to make precision dodges using a spacecraft or some other  device. In Isbarah,  you’re platforming  instead of flying, adding calculated jump trajectories to the  list  of things you’ll need to get good at to stay alive. The game asks how long you’ll survive against the constant onslaught of bosses, bullets, and beams. The answer it expects is, not very.

    Having to jump instead of just navigate a ship adds some new challenges to a screen riddled with glowing shots, but luckily there are a few tools to help you out. As Iria, you have the ability to dash, slow time, and create barriers for yourself. All of these abilities need to charge, so players will need to use them at just the right moment to keep breathing. While being able to create a handy barrier or slow down traps sounds like it would make the game easier, the abilities just allow the developers to put in far more dangerous traps and bullet arrays. Using an ability at the wrong time often means having no way out when you desperately need one.

    Interestingly, Isbarah is actually one long boss rush, one where you technically have no way of directly fighting back. Instead of having a gun you fire yourself, you need to stay within range of rail guns in the environment to activate them, using those to hit the boss. After a few hits with those, you need to stay within a set spot to counteract the boss’ next big attack. This means trying to stand in one place a lot of the time, but with all of those bullets raining down, it’s not easy. So, not only has the game limited your ability to flee from shots by forcing you to jump instead of guiding a ship around, but you must also avoid them within specific, small spots to beat the boss. No sweat.

    While there’s little time to take your eyes off the mayhem, you should definitely look at some of the painted hellscapes the developers have created. With a story of clashing deities and evil from other planes of existence, the backgrounds often feature strange, gorgeous worlds where titanic eyes peer through cracks in reality, or gem-encrusted peaks jut out from glowing landscapes. The bosses are equally detailed and striking, with multi-eyed beasts and colorful gods standing in your way. Don’t admire them for too long, though, or you’ll be left a scorched smear.

    Isbarah’s grand visuals give your fights a powerful feeling of scope, but it’s the constant, challenging dance of keeping yourself alive amidst the deadly shower of bullets that makes it hard to put down. Using only maneuverability to fight with, it creates a refreshing, exhilarating experience in dodging deadly shots. Even as an early Beta test, it makes for some fine frantic fun. 

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