Don’t miss: Diadra Empty

Oh the chaos! I’ve never played a shooter where unbridled chaos has been so beautifully implemented. You can’t really call this ‘Bullet Hell’. To my mind, Bullet Hell conjures up something altogether more structured and meticulously choreographed – Diadra Empty laughs in the face of ‘patterns’, or ‘order’ in favour of total madness.


The experience is quite simply breathtaking. Diadra Empty is a doujin shooter that takes place in a vast arena. You’re not forced up a predetermined path – instead you’re thrown into a sea of space populated by waves of enemies. Your goal, quite simply, is to destroy everything in that area.


If I had to draw a parallel between another game, I think the closest I could come up with is retro classic, Defender – it even has a similar radar underneath so you can see your area of sight in relation to the wider arena, and the enemies within it.



Staring off nice and easy, you have waves of enemies that traverse the screen – little bug things that spawn out of little black holes, which then begin to spew out bullets. You can follow their paths, meet them head on, fire at them directly from the source – basically plan your attack however you want.


In terms of controls? You can fly around in any direction you want – you can also lock your ship to point left or right enabling you to strafe, or back up from enemies while still shooting at them. You also have a standard weapon and also a special attack. Lastly you have a little speed boost that also has some invincibility frames – which you can use to dash out of the way when things get seriously hectic. In between levels, the coins you earned by defeating enemies can be spent on upgrading your abilities in terms of speed, standard shot, and special, etc.


Initially, the controls take some getting used to (I started to get an aching claw-hand after a while) but the game does have a pretty gentle learning curve, with a few more (comparatively!) relaxing levels to play through and a reasonable starting difficulty setting to try before it really ups the ante.


When it does get rocking though? Ooooh boy! Starting off with swarms and patterns of easy enemies, larger enemies and truly outstanding bosses begin to enter the mix – and it’s these bad boys that really bring the pain. You have bullet-hell like patterns thrown in, but also more random, direct fire coming at you – when this game is throwing everything at you, the bullet rain is so intense it’s almost hypnotic.


Rather than being contrived patterns, it’s like a snowstorm of enemy fire swirling around you – and the result is a screen so full of neon, that it’s one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see.



Unbelievably, though thing get outrageously hectic, it’s actually reasonably simple to track the action – which is amazing considering your ship is just a tiny collection of sprites lost in the maelstrom.


In fact, you could argue that – despite having more bullets on screen that even something like MushihimesamaDiadra Empty somehow, somehow, manages to retain a certain calming element. I think it’s because, despite the chaos, Diadra’s visuals are rather bright and breezy – and the same is definitely true for the soundtrack – allowing you to enter a kind of zen-like state to cope with everything that’s going on.


More importantly, because Diadra doesn’t seem as orchestrated as your usual Bullet Hell shooters – you always feel that there’s scope to change your approach. To alter your weapon load out, to try playing in a different way. You have a level of freedom that I wouldn’t usually associate with this kind of shmup – I think it’s all the better for it.


Diadra Empty is actually something of an oldie now – I think it came out back in 2008. I remember at the time that my PC struggled to cope with it, but I think that barrier to entry will now have been removed for most people. I can run it well on just my more ‘standard’ office computer.


If you want to check it out – then you can download the demo from Icewind/Frozenorb’s site here. I do suggest you give it a whirl, if only for the unique experience and the delightful soundtrack!



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