Shoot 1UP DX is far from just another shmup release; in fact it is positively maddening both in its visual presentation and gameplay ideas. In a way it takes after the unique subgenre of “parody shooters”, which includes the likes of games like the aptly titled Parodius by Konami, or the bizarrely obscure Cho Aniki which was an onslaught of visual innuendo. Shoot 1UP DX follows the bizarre underbelly of the Japanese shmup genre, and although it tries a whole bunch of different things, the execution of it all feels like absolute chaos, for better or for worse.
The 1UP in the title is interesting, because with most games in the genre players are probably accustomed to instant one hit deaths, but in Shoot 1UP DX the idea of an extra life has a completely different meaning. Every time the player collects a 1UP they don’t really get an extra life for the primary ship, but rather each adds a completely new ship for the player to control. By collecting all these 1UPs players are then able to amass a squadron of ships which they are able to control simultaneously. The end result is some serious firepower which can allow you to unleash an onslaught on enemy waves.
By having a full squadron of ships, Shoot 1UP DX has an interesting expand and contract mechanic (which makes use of the triggers on the Xbox One controller): expand allows you to spread the squadron out to spread the shots and cover more ground, and maximum expansions with the large number of ships means you can basically attack the entire playing field, whilst contract sees you bring them all together, which allows for a more concentrated attack and is especially useful during boss encounters.
Beyond this there are a few more nuanced mechanics, such as being able to generate a temporary shield when you take your pulse off the fire button, or how each ship explodes upon defeat as a kamikaze manoeuvre. There is also a break button to slow down the ships and allow for a stronger attack. The basic fire attack can be held down for a continuous stream of bullets, but there are also temporary super-charged fire attacks too. There’s certainly a lot going on with the gameplay systems and mechanics in Shoot 1UP DX.
The level design is just as crazy, and while the game is on rails for the most parts, there are some interesting detours and segments. Players are occasionally able to choose their paths, and while most of the action is horizontal, things occasionally go vertical. But what’s even crazier are the free roaming segments where players are able to fly about in any direction to fight enemies.
Complementing the chaotic game design are the equally crazy visuals. Taking after games like Cho Aniki, Shoot 1UP DX has a postmodern sci-fi presentation that is absolutely loaded with carefully hidden innuendo. In some instances, the presentation is brash and unapologetic about this, but the visual imagery is like stepping into a modern art gallery. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning to some of these images. It’s hard to say really.
As much as Shoot 1UP DX should be applauded for trying new gameplay ideas and experimenting with art, the execution as a whole just feels a mess for the most part. It’s not broken or unplayable by any stretch; in fact it provides a reasonable challenge even on the easiest difficulty, presenting a variety of segments and some enormous bosses (they too carry plenty of innuendo). Still, the best games in the genre have always taken a less is more approach, as even the most outlandish bullet hell shooters from Japan at least had clean gameplay mechanics, predictable hitboxes, and a method behind the level design. Things in Shoot 1UP DX, on the other hand, are simply erratic and all over the place.
Shoot 1UP DX on Xbox is a chaotic mess of interesting gameplay ideas and a visual onslaught of sci-fi innuendo. As far as shmups go, it definitely deserves points for originality and for the interesting game design. It does, however, lack the level of polish and thoughtful designs that are evident in some of the best games in the genre. Anyone after something fun or something different will get a kick out of Shoot 1UP DX, but genre loyalists will likely find this offering far too gimmicky for their liking.