Eastasiasoft love porting over shoot em ups that are styled on yesteryear. Rick Henderson is the latest one to be ported over and for a game that states its a short gameplay loop about taking on five enemy factions in space on an endless loop until death, its really quite varied. As a result, what looks like initially being something quite simple and cookie cutter actually is a enjoy to play.
You can choose from three ships with different starting movement speeds, health and special attack and immediately you are dropped into the action. Each ship has three main weapons, a bullet attack, energy attack and a missile attack. Depending on the enemy, each attack will do half, normal or 150% damage to the enemy, so if you spot anything with armour on, switch to missiles immediately! Each of those three weapon types has nine different weapons and you’ll find pickups randomly strewn across the game as you go although never at a high rate to see you constantly switching. I did find some lent to my playstyle better than others but all weapons felt like valid choices. More powerful weapons have slower reloads or recoils, the latter of which becomes a real pain as you progress as you’ll recoil into enemy fire and lose some health.
Rick Henderson prides itself on switching things up every time you play. Bosses pick from a wide selection of attacks and then they’ll merge a few together to feel slightly different every game. Some of this seems to be determined by your ship type but also by your upgrades you chose after each level too to improve your ship or change some level parameters. If the faster ship, bosses love to chase you around the screen, whilst with the slower ship its more about sidestepping bullet barrages. Combine this with different enemy layouts and level variations of minefields, laser attacks or asteroid fields and there’s plenty of variation to go around. Several hours into Rick Henderson, I was still seeing new things. Remember, this is an infinite loop of five levels, so the fact that it can sustain your attention for a few hours speaks volumes for it.
The game has a few other nifty systems going on too. Graze is here, allowing you to near miss enemy fire and after ten shots some back up ships fly in to help you out for ten seconds. Each time you take a hit you get a shield for a second which allows you to kamikaze into enemies but its so brief I barely used it. The final hook is ranks. These are six coloured badges and in order to ascend up the ranks of the fleet you have to collect one of each. These drop at random and are tied to trophies and achievements and its this that brings some difficulty to the elusive platinum rather than it being the usual Eastasiasoft cakewalk. The game itself has no health regen during a level but it replenishes after each one. That still makes bosses in particular very hard to beat if you have the wrong set up or get wrongfooted on a few moves. Still, its an enjoyable challenge that with all the variation, has a decent lifespan for the price.
My only slight concern is I’ve read that the developer is working on an enhanced version of Rick Henderson, offering even more weapons and variations. It might be worth holding out for that version if its coming soon but at the time of writing, no date is known. Rick Henderson is a pleasant surprise. Replayable, challenging and rewarding. This is one of the better budget shmups.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Whilst the core gameplay loop is small, it has loads of variations on its theme to keep you engaged and coming back for more.
Variations of levels, enemies and bosses make Rick Henderson feel different all the time.
Lots of weapon choice to enjoy.
Decent synthwave soundtrack.
Everything feels solid and well put together.
Shield does very little.
An enhanced edition is already in works, which suggests this won't be the definitive version.
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