I really wanted to like this game, I really did. usually I like bullet hell games quite a bit, but this one didn't sit well with me. It's got a lot of problems; some of them are subjective and some people may consider them to actually be strengths, but there are others that no-one in their right mind would think to be good unless they are a blind fanboy.
Obviously, this is going to be a negative review, so let's start out with the positives. The graphics look pretty nice. Controller support is (mostly) very good. The polarity switching mechanic is... interesting... for the first five minutes of the game.
To start off the negatives, let's expand on some of the positives. When I say controller support is mostly good, I mean that it's excellent, save for one thing. Like in most bullet hell games, you have the ability to move at a slower speed, if you desire to. The problem is, the only way to activate this slow speed is to only tilt the analog stick slightly, rather than holding a button and inputting a direction, like most bullet hell games. This wouldn't be a problem, except it's very difficult to even get the slower speed to activate; the analog stick must be tilted just so for it to work. In a very intense game that is a bullet hell game, monkeying with the analog stick and trying to get it to behave a certain way is an obvious no-no. So, if you use a controller, you will never be moving at the optional slower speed; it simply doesn't work well enough.
This brings me to my next issue with the controls. The keyboard controls have issues. Usually I prefer to use a controller when I play video games, but for bullet hell games I prefer to use a keyboard. This doesn't really work with this game. There is no button you can hold to move at a slow speed with a keyboard, so while the option is too poorly implemented on the controller to work well, it doesn't even exist on the keyboard. However, that's small beans compared to a start button not existing on the keyboard. That's right, if you play using a keyboard, you won't be able to use continues. I hope you enjoy 1CCing bullet hell games on your first try if you don't own a controller!
This brings me to my next point. The buttons can be remapped to basically whatever you want; if you have a working controller or keyboard, Xinput or no, you can remap the controls. However, as said before, there is no option to remap the start button on the keyboard; it does not exist. I've tried pressing every key on my keyboard to continue when the counter appears, and nothing works. Again, it does not exist. Being able to remap the buttons that DO work is very nice, and the customization is appreciated. Another nice thing is that if you use a controller with Xinput, the button prompts change. It seems weird to me that the control options for this game would be so fleshed out, but that something is vital as a start button is completely missing from the keyboard controls. In conclusion, the control options for the game are mostly really nice but some deep errors were made concerning specific aspects of them, as well.
So, you have to use a controller and the slow speed doesn't work well for the controller, big deal, what about the actual game?
Let's address that by expanding on another positive; the polarity-switching mechanic is interesting... for a bit. Ikaruga features the ability to change your "polarity"; being light/blue/whatever-you-want-to-call-it allows you to absorb blue bullets, and being red allows you to absorb red bullets. Absorbing bullets lets you charge up a powerful special attack. Also, shooting bullets at an enemy that is not the same polarity as you will deal significantly more damage.
As said before, it's interesting for the first 5 minutes. It's really not a big deal. I could only really see someone that was very starved for creativity enjoying it significantly.
The first stage is pretty easy and allows the player to get used to the concept of changing their polarity. I enjoyed it. I noticed at the beginning of each stage, there will be some text that will tell you what stage you are on and say something edgy about overcoming an ordeal. It's completely unnecessary, makes no sense, and is not germane to any story (not that most bullet hell games even have those). Not a huge deal, though. There wasn't really anything special about the boss, but when he explodes, there's gratuitous slowdown; the explosion couldn't possibly cause lag when the rest of the game didn't. While I frown upon that, it's also not a huge deal.
The second stage is where I really became disappointed with this game. This is where the subjectivity comes in, and is also my major reason for disliking this game.
I ♥♥♥♥ing detest environmental hazards in bullet hell games. Walls, giant rocks, things that serve no purpose but to get in the way. I ♥♥♥♥ing hate them.
So obviously, the second stage is where the environmental hazards start to come into play. Probably about half of the stage (maybe a bit more) consists of environmental hazards; large square fans and flying metal objects that don't seem to resemble anything specifically. Navigating the stage was more of a bore than fun. The boss of stage two though... that was the icing on the cake, the cherry on top, yada yada. It was extremely tedious. The boss boxes you into a triangle that is about a third of the screen. To damage the boss, you must shoot these cap things that protect it's weak points. They will expand away from the boss the more that you shoot them, and you must get between the cap and the boss to shoot it's weak point as the cap slowly retracts back to it's original position, all while you dodge bullets. It's extremely tedious. Not only is your movement extremely limited, but even being able to damage the boss is a chore. I've already said it, but the word "tedious" really describes this boss very well.
So I soldiered through stage two, hoping that stage three would be better... it was even worse. Worse than I could have possibly imagined. Basically the entire stage is an environmental hazard. The first part of the stage consists of large, moving square blocks that leave you with very little space to maneuver. Unless you watch someone do this part or practice it over and over again, there's no way to know how to maneuver correctly. Stay back or move ahead? Who knows? You'll end up touching one and exploding, unless you know exactly what to do. This introduced something I also dislike, just not as much as environmental hazards: memorization. The next part of the stage is heavy on both; Pillars will extend from the side of the screen. Some will close, some will leave openings. Again, this requires heavy memorization, because you need to know whether to pull ahead or stay back; there's no way to know if they will fully close or stop and leave an opening. Pulling ahead may result in you hitting one of the pillars that left an opening, stay backing may result in you getting trapped behind a closed pillar. I ♥♥♥♥ing hated this part. Luckily, the boss of stage three isn't nearly as tedious as the boss of stage two, just a little plain, but it's a huge improvement. Unfortunately, the achievement for beating him glitched and wasn't awarded to me, so that's nice.
I had some lives left after I beat stage three and played a bit of stage four. It didn't impress me, but it seemed to be a lot better than stages two and three. I had no motivation to try again after I lost the rest of my lives fairly early in the stage. There are only five stages, so I figured that I had given this game a fair shake and quit. I proceeded to uninstall it and write this review.
I wouldn't even recommend this game to hardcore bullet hell fans. I have no idea why people like it so much.