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  opened by paleface at 05:04:05 10/10/07  
  last modified by paleface at 12:25:50 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=DC; cat=Shooter_Vert; reg=JPN]
Developer Milestone follows up their vertical, cel-shaded shooter Radirgy (see entry 1023) with another vertical, cel-shaded effort, also with a funny name. The one is apparently sort of like a word for "crow," and there is a black feather theme here and there, so there you go.
The three weapon system of gun/sword/shield is the main gimmick in Karous. Gun and sword are separate buttons, and shield is automatic. Like Radirgy, enemies in Karous don't hurt you by contact, only by bullets, so you can float over the big slow ones, hacking away with your sword, or slowly disintegrating them with your forward-facing energy shield. Weapon powerups pops out of certain ships, and you can toggle them through powering up the three weapon types (or even alternate bonuses, I forget what they are at the moment) by juggling them with the sword.
I'm not comfortable with the three weapon system, and it's mostly for that reason, I think, that I find Karous a bit unpleasant. Thing is, I can't really get any appreciable score with anything except guns. I've tried being patient with the shield, tried doing sword only, or guns and sword, but in none of them do I last as long, and thus get as high a score, as I do with good ol' guns.
Shield I get no points with, and certainly can't kill bosses, who just time out. The first boss times out even with guns. I've also tried gun/sword on him, but there are limited weapon powerups as you play though, so if you're powering up sword, your gun is going to be weaker.
Oh, and shield reflects bullets, converting them into powerup pellets. These are absorbed, and help level the weapon that scored them. The shield levels itself up surprisingly well, for that reason. At higher levels the weapons gain more abilities: shield, for instance, starts reflecting shots back--with interest.
When you activate the rechargable bomb, you get a bit skull around your ship for a while that sucks in powerups and bullets, converting the bullets to powerup pellets. For a high score, ideally you'd bomb, take out enough enemies while the bomb was going to absorb enough energy to recharge the bomb, then bomb again, etc. You definitely have to get this kind of rhythm going against later bosses, it seems like, as they love to throw near-solid walls of bullets at you. Some enemy bullets you can shoot and destroy, but others just have to be dodged.
Radirgy was styled after cel phones, sorta, and Karous wants to be a bit hipsterish too, with a weird breakbeat soundtrack. It's far too mellow, though, and mostly might as well not be there, except that sometimes the player is subconsciously distracted by some weird break sound. The weapons make almost no sound at all, and in this strange sound vacuum, with my weakish weapons, I certainly don't feel like I'm at the head of a fun, powerful strike ship. The cel-shading is okay as far as lines go, but the chosen colors--mostly white, gray and gray-green--are extremely flat and dull, and, like the sound, feel far more subdued and unexcited than a shooter really should feel.
There may be people who can score well with the other weapons, but for me, Karous is a relatively weak shooter with several useless weapons, an annoying "use it or it sucks; use it and everying else sucks" powerup system, and very mediocre graphics and sound.
Oh, and while it auto-loads option settings, it does not auto-load high scores, so if you don't remember to load your scores from your save manually, before you start playing, they'll get overwriten by the game-over autosave. Needless to say, this is horrible. It's hard to imagine how they could not have realized that was a terrible arrangement in a score-based game like this.
To end on a bit of an up-note, the game is VGA compatible, and has full "tate" mode support for playing in the crisp original vertical resolution on a sideways monitor.
  paleface 15:50:23 10/10/07
Besides the end bosses who like to time out on me, Karous also has some pretty tough mid-level bosses. These guys also like to time out on you, but before they do that, they'll often spend a good chunk of the level buzzing you; you can't actually take them out until a set time later (I think--it's also possible I just suck), so they're just there to mess with you. I like having bigger targets around, but I don't like them being quite so invulnerable.
Karous also does a sort of dynamic difficulty adjustment, similar to that seen more often in shooters these days: if you're doing really well, it'll sometimes hit you with additional enemies and bullet patterns. I'm not a great fan of this technique; it does add some variation to play-throughs, but it can also be a downer, on the one hand, not to get a chance at the additional points those ships represent, if you're doing poorly, and, on the other hand, to get ganked by suddenly tough parts when you had been doing really well. That kind of thing makes me think that I should play some parts sub-optimally until I'm past the bit where it would spawn the additional guys on me. I suppose that's thinking like a loser... Still, this kind of dynamic doesn't strike me as really being worth the time it must take to add in.
  paleface 03:13:56 10/16/07
Forgot to mention that Karous is 1-player only, no co-op or nothin'.

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