The two players are distinguishable by the different color circles behind them and each is free to wreak havoc on their own
Where the game’s faults lie are in its lack of any real cohesion between its 100 stages. Unlike many of Treasure’s other games, including the original Bangai-O, Bangai-O HD doesn’t have any story element to it whatsoever. Each stage is more of a bite-size morsel that’s intended to take you, at most, a couple minutes to clear. While these morsels can end up packing a big kick, and the steps outlined above will see you through many of them, it would be nice to have some ultimate goal or purpose to see you through them all. As it is, Bangai-O HD becomes nothing more than a series of challenges to overcome that get progressively harder. If one level proves overly tough, you won’t be stuck for long as three unsuccessful attempts allows you to just skip it and move to the next one. With the inclusion of an online leaderboard, there is a nice competitive/bragging rights element added to the game, though that competition element is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the top player’s replay of their playthrough is available to watch.
It’s this dichotomy of elements – inventive levels, but nothing that ties them together or forces you to complete them; multiplayer competition, but learn how to be as good as leader – that carries over into the co-op play and level editor and, ultimately, brings the game down overall. Beating these challenge levels with a friend makes them a whole lot more fun as the craziness just ramps up to a new level when both players unleash a barrage of 1000 missiles at the enemies. It was actually by playing the game co-operatively with Nick that I learned the key step in winning (i.e., shouting “BANGAI-OOOOOOO!”). While couch co-op is a feature that would be nice, after playing a few levels in the co-op mode, I'm not sure it would work. So much of the game entails what you can see coming at you and being able to freely move about, and any implementation of a split-screen feature or tethering mechanic would severely hamper the co-op experience. Fortunately, for those who want to play locally (and have another XBox and TV lying around), there is a system link feature for the game.
Some levels put you in a confined space where you have to quickly kill everything, others are much larger and divded into sections
Yet while the levels become more fun, and easier, when playing co-operatively, you can only play those levels that the host has unlocked in their single-player game. Work together to beat something, but don’t get any credit for it. It's a methodology that's annoying when it comes to games like Fable II, but it's practically unthinkable in a game like this one. The reason for this is no doubt tied to the online leaderboard keeping track of everyone's scores and clear times, but I would think that it'd be possible to just disable this feature in order to allow friends, strangers, and 'shmup enthusiasts to team up together to advance through the plethora of stages. Finally, the level editor, where you can take any of the levels you’ve cleared in single-player and modify them to increase the insanity, can only be shared with friends but can only be edited solo. It's a sadly missed opportunity to allow co-operative level editing given that only your friends benefit, or suffer, from your particular brand of 'shmup ingenuity/cruelity.
Ultimately, Bangai-O HD is a great game, if not a confusing one. Its dual-nature makes some of its best features, the co-op play and the level editor, a little lack-luster, its core gameplay is solid and worth the price of entry for just about any gamer. If this whole thing seems like it’s a little bit bilateral in its thinking, I believe the game has affected me. You see, after playing through a good 30 or 40 of the game’s 100 stages, I’m still not entirely sure I understand everything that’s going on, and I definitely don’t know why I’m doing it. All I know, and what I think really matters and speaks the most about this game, is that I don’t want to stop doing it.
The Co-Op Experience: Players encounter insane gameplay and face an incredible onslaught of enemies in single player or in co-op mode with their friends.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.