By , on July 8, 2011

Download on the AppStore
4 out of 5


  • Clever control-system; ‘lock-on’ adds new tactics for multiple situations.
  • Five different characters to play; four from the original arcade and a new one for the iPhone mode.
  • iPhone mode includes unlockable items and new game plus for some replay value.


  • Movement controls ill-suited to the style of shooter; too easy to cover over multiple enemies requiring blind-firing.
  • Relatively short campaign; requires a full play-through to unlock challenging difficulties.


Cute witches; huge amounts of firepower; and more complex attack patterns than you can shake a fist at - Deathsmiles lives up to the legacy from CAVE, but feels less at home on an iOS device.

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By now it’s hardly worth pointing out what genre the latest release from CAVE falls under, but for those who have missed out on their earlier titles, Deathsmiles is yet another shoot’em-up title, albeit a little different from the rest of the pack.

We’ve seen their bullet-hell titles, mostly in the form of vertical shooters and in one particularly amazing case a unique adventure-game style shooter, but this one takes a little side-step as it drops the bullet-hell and puts things (primarily) on a horizontal track. I say ‘drops the bullet-hell’ only on the basis that the attack patterns you’ll face are less about dodging complex patterns as they are about dodging huge attacks. It’s splitting hairs, but it presents a distinctly different challenge.

Whether you play the exclusive iPhone mode or jump in to the arcade mode you’ll take control of a cute witch, blasting her way through a series of enemies in order to seal away rampaging demons. Your weapon can be switched between two modes (a broad attack or a thin-focused one), though the ‘lock-on’ feature provides one of the more interesting mechanics as your attacks home-in on your target, blasting anything that gets in the way. This also provides you with the ability to shoot enemies above and below you, making the occasional shift to a ‘vertical’ shooter easier to manage.

Deathsmiles isn’t without some downsides though - the relatively large 2D sprites and the ability for enemies to appear from all sides of the screen makes moving the princess around with your finger a liability. Indicators help to point out when you’re facing the wrong direction for an attack, though far too often you’ll cover over enemies completely, meaning you have to shoot blind.

For those who already own the game on their 360, there’s some motivation to check out this version thanks to the exclusive mode that features some RPG elements (notably item collection to boost ‘stats’), but playing a game like this on a big screen with a controller has its distinct advantages as well.

Still, if you’ve been impressed with CAVE’s in the past it’s worth grabbing Deathsmiles for your iOS device. It may not be as well suited as some earlier releases, but it’s still a whole lot of fun if you enjoy the occasional shoot’em-up.


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