The game wears its side-scrolling shooter influences on its sleeve, from Mega Man to Contra, and blasting your gun in all directions while running and jumping to avoid fire feels great. Bosses will frequently fill the entire screen with bullets and energy beams, or punch and kick with their massive limbs in ways that seem unavoidable, but there’s always a way through if you’re persistent. But then, of course, the massive humanoid you’ve been fighting splits down the middle and becomes two horrifying shambling robots with totally new attack patterns for you to memorise.
The real frustration comes in once you know exactly what you need to do, and can make it flawlessly through the early stages of the boss, but you can’t convince your thumbs to get those few final hits in. It’s maddening, but ultimately very rewarding when you set off that final big explosion.
Between fights you can purchase upgrades like extra health or acquire new weapons including a flame-thrower or endlessly reflecting laser (my favourite). You also periodically?get new gear that can really change things up. For example after you get the magnetic gloves early on, some of the bosses become massive moving stages you need to scale or infiltrate to get to the cores.
If the frustration gets too much you can return to previous levels and beat up on old bosses for cash, then use it to buy some helpful upgrades or temporary health. You can also invite a second player for co-operative fights, which makes the game quite a bit easier — since you can focus fire at two places, have two sets of health and can scoop up more money — though having two little people on the screen can also make the action even harder to track than usual.