I’m often a defensive player when it comes to shoot-em-ups. I fly and hide from bullet hell trouble and try to sneak attack wherever possible. Graze Counter GM changed all that as it wants you to live and play dangerously. As a result, its become one of my favourite shmup’s I’ve played in years and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to experience the thrills the genre can provide as both a beginner and an expert.
Each pilot you can control in Graze Counter GM but have anime tropes attached but they mostly have three modes of attack. You’ll have your standard bullet fire which is handy but it doesn’t really do tons of damage. Think of it as level 1 and the weakest attack you have. You’ll have a graze counter which increases as you narrowly avoid enemies and their enemy fire. As the hitpoint for your ship is the centre, it sometimes looks like you are genuinely grazing dangerous objects as you zip around the screen. Once the graze counter is ready, you can then switch to a graze attack which is a far more powerful attack. When enemies die from this weapon they drop stars which you’ll want to collect. These stars fill your break meter which when full unleashes your ultimate attack.
Some enemies can’t be hurt by standard bullets, and bosses really only take meaningful damage from the graze and break attacks so you are in a constant cycle of graze-attack-collect-break in order to survive. Its visceral, frantic, daring and fantastic. I’ve played other games with a similar style of gameplay but Graze Counter GM has a near perfect execution of it. This is in part down to excellent hit detection that lets you get close consistently without the fear of dying. It is also down to level design and the various difficulty levels to ease yourself in.
I started off on beginner and found myself winning quite quickly but it wasn’t until I hit normal that I truly got all the different gameplay mechanics and started to make both high score and survival based decisions. As you replay the game, more characters with different weapon patterns become available to switch things up. The levels also contain a couple of binary choices at levels 2 and 4 so you can take different routes too. As you get more comfortable, you can up the difficulty and soon a game that feels perfectly pitched for beginners becomes a bullet hell masterclass. There is also the passive mode where you can only shoot from charging your graze counter, and this is a real challenge to survive beyond level 1 on at times!
All of this is wrapped up in a smooth graphical style with no slow down or issues to speak of on the PS5 version I purchased. The synth rock soundtrack works a treat and whilst there is story involved, I didn’t get hooked into it at all and just enjoyed the visceral gameplay instead. There is also a mission mode that teaches you some of the lesser known moves and nuances of the system which I found helpful too. It also helped me understand that when I died, which was often, it was my fault and never the game’s. I just needed to learn to adapt and choose my attack moments better. This is especially true on boss battles. Often the entire screen is a wave of bullets and lasers but your graze attack will eliminate enemy fire from directly infront of you. Sometimes its better to hold off a few seconds and then make the move to clear bullets rather than attack mindlessly.
Graze Counter GM is a fantastic shoot em up and one of my favourites of the last few years. Approachable to start with, it has plenty of tricks to keep the veterans coming back too. It really is the all round package and I’d recommend it to all audiences interested in playing a shmup in 2023. Superb.
Graze Counter GM
One of the finest shoot em up's I've had the pleasure of playing and wrestling to the ground. Live dangerously with Graze Counter GM.
Graze mechanic is pixel perfect in its implementation and delivery.
Variety of difficulty levels means you can start off slow and build yourself up.
Loads of characters and game modes for longevity.
Runs smoothly and with a kick arse soundtrack banging away to get your blood pumping.
Some characters don't feel particularly different to others.
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