Drainus review – the most spectacular side-scrolling shooter since Gradius 5

Old school shooters have always been where you’ll find video games at their most direct, and the genre’s side-scrolling subset is where you go to see them at their most stately and spectacular. Konami’s Scramble kickstarted the form in 1982 before it evolved into the atmospheric masterpiece Gradius, while Taito brought to the genre a cinematic scope with the three-screen spectacle of Darius. With complex scoring mechanics not so much of a concern there’s a joyful simplicity to the action, matched by pure-hearted sci-fi panoramas that make these games spaced out thrill rides. It’s why I love them so dearly, anyway.

It’s always lovely to come across fellow enthusiasts, and developer Team Ladybug’s passion for the genre shines clearly throughout the somewhat unfortunately named Drainus – the moniker a nod to the grand dames of the side-scrolling shooter genre that provide the big inspiration that would be adorable if it didn’t also sound like a synonym for taking a dump. Still, silly names have never stopped shooting games in the past and they certainly don’t dent what’s a fine effort here.

Indeed, so lush is the spectacle of Drainus that it puts a fine argument forward for being the best of its sort since Treasure’s Gradius 5 – there’s that same inventiveness to Drainus, the same spark in its environmental puzzles that occasionally throw little physics-based mechanisms for you to unlock and the same wit in its multi-staged screen-filling bosses.


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