Reviewed by Malc

I hate buying games in PC World. Unlike Electronique Boutique, they don't let you take games back, period. They get quite stroppy about it as well, even if you're having bona fide problems. Like when I was buggered if I could get MotoRacer to work on my damned PC, I almost got into a bout of fisticuffs with the glaikit assistant when he refused to swap it. Finally, after an hour of repeating myself incessantly saying "It doesn't work for me, I want me money back", ad infinitum I managed to get The Reap instead. That's the last time I buy a game in there, I tell you!

With that, I took the unnecessarily huge cardboard box home and bashed it into my PC, expecting yet another ingenuously produced western effort. Pleasingly, my expectations were thrown willy-nilly by the wayside as I played what must be the best PC shooter in recent years.

Being a huge shooter connoisseur, I get very critical of artlessly created shmups. The Reap does have its niggles, but as a whole package its an amazingly detailed and playable game. Shootemup lovers will know that the best ones come from Japan, and we Brits and Yanks can't normally make them for toffee. However, there's always been some codehouses in Europe who can make a decent shooter - this one comes from Housemarque - I don't know who the actual members are, but I'm sure they've made a shmup before. It shows. I'll get the niggles out of the way first, then boisterously proclaim its wonderfulness after that!

  • The graphics are undeniably great, but sometimes there's just one too many lensflare and lighting effect used. It's like a novice getting his hands on Photoshop filters for the very first time, if you know what I mean. Coupled with the fuzziness of the interpolated 640 res mode, it gets quite confusing and sickening at times. Especially when the screen is busy, and boy does it get busy!

  • Loading times are awful! I've got a fast cd, with 128MB ram, and it still takes bloody ages! The levels are split up into 2 sections each, in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

  • The control is fairly tight, but the weapon select system is not intuitive, and you can't alter the angle of controls. What do I mean? Well, The Reap is not dissimilar to Viewpoint in the forced 3d perspective kind of way, and it's nice to be able to change the way the directions work.

Well, that's really all I can fault with it, now lets find out why I think its so good!

Do you know when you're playing a game, and it involves you totally? The combination of frantic compulsive gameplay, super graphics and driving music, with fabulous set-pieces and details? Yes? Then that's what The Reap is like. I've never seen such amounts of sheer detail and rich graphics in a shooter ever, everything moves beautifully and there's plenty little things to distract you from the game. How about toasting sheep and cows in the background, blowing up huge boats and trains and hundreds of corpses explode out and fall to the ground in agony. Schools of tiny fish swim by, and the background cogs, machines, cranes and monorails work away as you shoot past. Tiny splashes as discarded cartridges fall, flames spurting out of blast furnaces, old women looking for contact lenses in the streets. It's incredible!

The enemies are relentless and there's a lot of variety in them, from small 'intelligent' footsoldiers, to the largest submarine, hammerhead sharks to giant buzzsaw bosses. I'm scared to think what's coming, as I've only got to level 3 as it is! (I refuse to cheat and spoil it.)

And you've got quite a nice set of weapons to kill em all with too, afaics there's three basic types, which can be upgraded and combined, using a slightly cumbersome select system. The best looking one is the fuzzy lightning one (a la Raiden 2) but it's not particularly strong. Controls are otherwise quite simple, only two buttons are used, they way I like it!

Aurally, it's perfect. I'm not really fond of what I call 'Doomf Doomf' music (techno actually) but it suits The Reap down to its little cotton socks. Spot effects are wonderful, lots of 'Aieees' and 'Aaarghs' as you kill the wee men, and just wait until you hear the buzzsaw boss! 'BzzzshoooOOmph!!, BzzzshooOOOmph!!' :)

The Reap was only released a wee while ago, but you may be able to find it quite cheap now. (It's not as if it's a popular type of game y'know!) Don't pass it up if you see it!

Score 8½/10

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These trains scoot by, but don't let them. Blast em and watch all the men burst out in flames!

The background detail never lets up... it's solid wall-to-wall graphics throughout!

Just after blowing up a ship, everything blasts apart and falls into the icy water. Lovely.

The iron foundry carries on working not giving a damn about your presence. This part reminds me of Alien 3 for some reason. Didn't Ripley look really stupid bald? And why were all the prisoners English?

This boss is GREAT! I smile whenever I meet him. "Hullo BuzzBoss" I grin, readying my weapons.

YESSS!! Die, you alien Buzzmonster! Er, actually, The plot is quite different. *I* am the alien, invading earth. Feels weird this way.

A tribute to Gradius III - aren't they beautiful! Burst em with extreme prejudice!

Hammerhead sharks attack in waves, they're almost too cute to kill.

As usual, I'll try and remember to get some more pics when I play it next, but I never do, do I?


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie