Some people tend to use their Nintendo Switch more as a home console, but personally, it’s a mix of both for me. While games like Splatoon 2 are definitely more fun sitting comfortably on a couch and not waving the entire system around, there are some games that I find match the system’s portability perfectly, with shmups being one of those genres.
While not as easy to play on a train ride, it’s a simple matter to get set up at a table at a cafe or restaurant, and get a bit of shmup-y goodness on. Barring that, sometimes I just don’t want to stare at the TV the whole time, and decide that I want to lie on my stomach in bed playing. Not only has Devil Engine been good with my needs and lifestyle so far, it has the benefit of being optimized for it and supporting widescreen. Looking at it in handheld mode is like playing past Virtual Console games in pixel perfect mode – it looks so good!
One of the benefits to handheld mode is how it feels easier to keep track of things happening, because of the smaller screen. While I wasn’t able to beat the Stage 2 mini-boss while playing in TV mode, I did finally manage to beat it (though not beat the stage) in Handheld. Another thing is that it’s a horizontal sidescrolling shooter, meaning you don’t need to set up TATE mode or have a Flip Grip or any of that – just hold the Switch normally. However, as a counterpoint, I can see some people not liking shmups with the Joy-Cons, and personally I had to remap some buttons to the ZL/ZR buttons instead, thanks to how hard it is to press L/R on the Joy-Cons.
However, what has made Devil Engine extra good for my experience so far is also its extra Challenges mode, which takes place in a special stage that looks more like a simulator. These are separate one-off challenges that each have different objectives. For example, in ‘Chain Chronicle’, letting even one enemy pass warrants a game over. Meanwhile, ‘Mad Core Rampage’ has you evading waves of attacks shot out by the green Core sphere. It’s a frantic case of dodging the lasers and bullets while trying to hit the Core to build up your Burst to escape if needed.
These Challenges provide a nice break from the regular game, and are also a perfect fit for Handheld mode. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of ‘one more try’, and I found it strangely nostalgic – it was like those ‘Hi score modes’ in old arcade games. Which makes sense considering the game’s genre and inspirations.
While how these Challenges are unlocked is a bit of a mystery, I assume that you’ll get more as you continue to beat the main game, and maybe at certain other achievements or milestones. All I know is that it’s making me pick up the Switch when I’m out or lazy to sit near the TV – and it doesn’t require constant internet connection like Tetris 99.
Devil Engine is available on Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam. You can read our previous playtest, focusing on the main game and the main abilities, here.