In shoot-em-up games, particularly those in the bullet-hell subgenre, finding different strategies and quirks of design is encouraged. The more cognitive bullet-hells are built around this entirely, treating enemies as “puzzles” of sorts that have one or more “solutions.” An exploitable aspect of some games’ programming is their tendency to determine fire rate by limiting the number of bullets onscreen. “Mega Man,” for example, only allows up to three visible shots at once, and you can fire continuously if your bullets hit quickly enough. Thus, staying close to enemies to damage them more quickly is a common tactic; this is the basis for the entirety of “Risk System.”
“Risk System” is an indie shoot-em-up made in 2019 by Newt Industries. In it, you pilot a special experimental ship that, much like in Ikaruga, uses enemy fire to charge its bombs. By staying close to bullets or certain enemies, you quickly fill the gauge for the Barrier Breaker, a screen-spanning blast with multiple special properties. These include providing temporary invincibility, harming otherwise inaccessible or invulnerable enemy ships, and making short work of almost anything in your path.
The Barrier Breaker is necessary to avoid certain attacks, damage most bosses, and decrease the clutter onscreen. Though “Risk System” is far more approachable to new players than the majority of shoot-em-ups, it quickly gets hectic and mentally involved, especially when its many minor elements weigh in. Dashing up or down, while useful in a pinch, is generally risky, but if done while a bullet is close, it massively boosts your shot power for a short time. Finding proper patterns to weave through bullets is twice as important as in most shmups, since effective use of the Barrier Breaker is important for keeping up your combo and (on first attempts) health.
Crucially, the game’s actual button layout is intuitively minimalist — auto-fire with movement, two dodges and the Barrier Breaker — leaving you unencumbered to consider every situation fully. The entire setup of the gameplay is incredibly easy to grasp, and while the challenge is consistently high enough to require repeated attempts and consistent attention, it’s not structured with the immediate difficulty wall that most shmups tend to have. The hardest and easiest aspects of any given level will vary wildly for each player, because a liberating degree of the game’s difficulty is entirely in the player’s hands. As far as a genre as rigid as the shmup goes, that’s an impressive achievement.
As is typical of the genre, “Risk System” features an excuse plot (a giant portal in the sky is beaming alien parasites to Earth and the player has to defeat their parasitized squadmates with an experimental ship), but it treats its characters with care. The entire cast has great voice-acting, and every boss has a short arc as well as their own distinct visual and gameplay personality; even a boss with no character, a giant flying orb that does nothing but yell “YOU ARE INVALID” in a garbled monotone, stuck with me after playing. Speaking of visuals, “Risk System’s” are excellent. Detailed sprite-work and fluid animations define the experience, although they’re often marred by an endless barrage of brightly-flashing, quickly-moving bullets and explosions (the game even comes with a seizure warning). The music is decent, but far from memorable, and the cutscenes are only skippable if you turn on the option at the start of a run. The soundtrack isn’t totally homogenous, though — in an oddly appropriate and humorous twist, its true ending theme is sung by vocaloid software.
“Risk System” is another piece of well-cooked overlooked video game comfort food. It provides a smattering of varied challenges (try to get an S or D rank on a normal stage sometime, or try out the Trophaeum missions), has enough depth to entertain for far longer than the first playthrough, and rarely, if ever, phones anything in. At its price point of a measly $10, it’s a must-buy for any action-game enthusiast.
Gaget is a student in Fairbanks public schools, and has developed a number of free games. He is a neutral game reviewer.
If You Play
Game — Risk System
Platform – PC
Price – $9.99
Internet Usage (accounts for download size) – 200 MB
ESRB Rating – E
Release Date – 5/13/19
Genre (if applicable) – Shoot-em-up
Developer – Newt Industries
Challenge – Moderate
Novelty – Light
Polish – Heavy