EastAsiaSoft continues its budget release schedule with endless shmup Rick Henderson. The horizontal blaster pays homage to 16-bit arcade titles of old with a modern twists that give it a fresh feel. Rather than setting out waves of enemies to memorize, this is one features random levels that loop. It includes lots of genre staples such as big bosses, bullet hell sections and lots of weapons all presented in a neat package. It’s out now on PS5, PS4, and Switch.
The first aspect that is worth mentioning when loading up Rick Henderson is the noticeable slow down that first appears on the menu. This continues at certain parts during gameplay and while there doesn’t appear to be any game breaking bugs, a patch will probably be needed to iron out these niggles. But jumping into the game you have a choice of an easy mode or hard mode as well as a quick tutorial to get you through the basics.
You choose between three different ships, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The basic ship is a good all-rounder with decent shields and speed, there is then a strong, slow type and fast, weak type. The ship you choose will depend on your play style but all three feel different and you will need to adapt your strategy depending on your choice. The all-rounder is perfect to start with and is the easiest to get to grips with.
Once the levels start you will see that each section is called a loop and you blast waves of random enemies until you reach the section boss. The bosses come in many forms, although all are large. The unique aspect of Rick Henderson is just how random everything is. Although the bosses do not change with each section, there are differing varieties. Each boss comes in Mk1, Mk2 or Mk3, each with different attacks.
After each stage you have the chance to select one of four upgrades. These range from simple things like a damage upgrade to more interesting things like no shields but a score bonus. There is also an interesting mechanic of gaining promotion by collecting medals that are tallied at the end of each stage. As you progress the enemies get harder but your health is replenished after each boss.
The scoring system uses a classic combo counter where each enemy downed counts towards a multiplier total. Take a hit and it resets and you need to build it again. Those seeking high scores will soon pick up on the risk and reward nature of the scoring system. You may also notice a graze meter that fills as you skim past bullets. Fill this meter and some helpful buddies appear to blast away foes for a short while.
The weapons system is deep and comprises of a standard shot, energy weapons and missiles. The different attacks correspond with enemy types that take more damage depending on the shield level. To explain it simply, use the slow missiles on bosses and energy weapons on the tiny craft. The middling enemies with heavier shields are best blasted with the standard attack. Beyond this there are lots of different weapons to switch out although these don’t appear that often.
With all the basics and mechanics out of the way how does Rick Henderson play? The bottom line is that this one will not appeal to shooter hardcores. Its random enemy waves means you cannot memorize the attack patterns. Also, the bosses have some cheap moves that make the camera shake and it all gets a bit busy. This makes avoiding bullets difficult and with the odd slow down rearing its ugly head this makes it unfairly difficult.
It is fun though, Rick Henderson does capture that frantic bullet hell frenzy that started in the mid-90s. The collision detection is decent and that is important in these games. And there is some great pixel art on show filled with colourful enemies and eye popping bosses. The music is very catchy, it pulses along and matches the action superbly. Similar with the sound effects for your shots and missiles. The presentation is a strong point in Rick Henderson.
Overall this budget game achieves exactly what it sets out to do. You can play for as long as your lives will hold and no two playthroughs feel the same due to its random nature. This isn’t one that hardcore shmup fans will enjoy but those looking for a quick arcade blast will have some fun. Rick Henderson feels like the perfect game to play before a lengthy gaming session, a great warm up perhaps. Certainly fun but not offering anything new we haven’t seen.
Thank you to EastAsiaSoft for the review code.