Flying Red Barrel – The Diary of a Little Aviator
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

Flying Red Barrel makes its long-overdue debut on Steam with this update on the classic bullet hell shooter. It features five challenging levels, multiple bosses, and a scoring system that is a lot more advanced than it looks. The addition of modern resolution and controller options is a welcome touch, but the gameplay is still the same as what purists fell in love with when the game was first released back in 2007.

Gameplay: Very challenging, but also very addictive when you get the hang of it.

Graphics: Not exactly cutting-edge, but still charming.

Sound: No voice-overs, but the music and sound effects are good

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Flying Red Barrel – The Diary of a Little Aviator

Developer: Orange_Juice | Publisher: Fruitbat Factory | Release Date: 2020 | Genre: Action / Shooter | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Red Barrel is not exactly the type of name that would strike fear into the hearts of enemies, but it is quite appropriate for the chunky little red plane you pilot in Flying Red Barrel – The Diary of a Little Aviator. This vertical scrolling shooter is set in a world where the rapid development of flight technology saw everyone taking to the skies. In order to keep some sort of semblance of peace in the air, the Blue Sky Union was established. The game opens ten years later with the Blue Sky Union, who are now simply known as the Guild, still eager to put an end to the anarchy in the sky.

As the pilot of the Red Barrel, it is your job to destroy waves of incoming enemy fighters while doing your best to avoid their projectiles. It’s a pretty straightforward concept, but the game does have a little more depth to it than what most players will notice at first glance. Although the cartoonish visuals may make it look like a very cute and friendly game you actually have to play very aggressively if you want to succeed in Flying Red Barrel. This is due to how the scoring system works in the game.

Your plane can fire bullets, but these are quite weak and it can take a while to chew through enemy health bars with them. However, you can also launch rockets which is slower, but much more potent. Unlike bullets, your rockets are finite but can be replenished by collecting the coins that are dropped by enemies. Also, by blowing up enemies with rockets you increase your multiplier, which means more points and coins. The result is a game where you are frantically blasting everything in sight as quickly as possible so that you can maintain your multiplier and keep firing off those rockets.

Flying Red Barrel only has five levels, so with a bit of practice, it shouldn’t take too long to reach the end. Even at the lowest of the three difficulty settings, “Notice Aviation”, the game is still very challenging, but you do get three lives and three continues to help you out. It only takes one hit to down your ship, so the risk versus reward factor plays a big role. Playing defensively may allow you to get further, but you will not reach the big scores and multipliers that you can get from taking risks. Initially, most players will probably just concentrate on surviving and getting as far as possible, but the more time you spend with the game the more fun the scoring system becomes. Clearing stages also opens them up in the “Practice” mode where you can spend more time familiarizing yourself with enemy patterns to sharpen your skills for future runs.

Bullet Hell Shooters tend to be rather short, but with lots of replay value and Flying Red Barrel is no exception. Along with the thrill of chasing a high score, the game also comes packed with a ton of secret bosses and different endings. Most of these also come with associated Steam achievements, which gives you some extra incentive to track them all down. The game also allows you to record and watch replays of yourself playing, which can be handy for figuring out where you went wrong or what you need to do differently. Although it keeps track of your scores the game appears to lack online leaderboards, at least in the version we were sent.

Fans of Bullet Hell Shooters will probably know this already, but while it’s the first time that Flying Red Barrel is available on Steam, it’s not the first appearance of the game. The game actually came out in 2007 already, but thankfully the 640×480 resolution has been upped to 1280×960 for this version. The visuals are still not going to blow anyone away, but the hand-drawn aesthetic does give it a lot of charm. From fluffy white clouds above blue oceans to desert canyons with cactuses, there’s a lot of variety across the five stages. Enemy health bars are shown over their planes and you’ll also face off against huge bosses who have multiple weak points to shoot at. If you play well your screen should be awash with coins, which can make it tricky to spot the green enemy bullets, but there is an option to make the coins transparent.

One issue with the visuals is that since it is a vertical scrolling shooter all the action happens in the center of the screen. Large borders are on either side and these are used as panels for dialog between the characters who you encounter. While it is nice that there’s no text on the screen to distract you from the action, it also means that sometimes it’s impossible to try and follow the story without getting shot down. Voice acting would probably have prevented this, but sadly all dialog in the game is text only. You can however set the text to English, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, or Traditional Chinese. Flying Red Barrel can be played in fullscreen, borderless windowed or windowed mode and you are also able to set the resolution and aspect ratio to your liking. Another useful option is the ability to toggle hitboxes on and off or set them to only be visible at low speed.

The controls for the game are responsive and you can play using either a controller or keyboard. The keys are remappable, but all you have to worry about is moving up, down, left and right along with fire buttons for your bullets and rockets. Unlike a lot of bullet hell shooters where you might as well tape down the fire button, there’s a bit more strategy involved when playing Flying Red Barrel. Holding down fire actually slows down your plane, which can be great for dodging bullets, but you’ll want to let go so you can zip to another point faster. Releasing the fire button also makes your plane suck up coins that you would otherwise have to chase down yourself if you were firing. The game does not feature any type of upgrades, though, so don’t expect to get better guns or survive more than one hit. The audio is quite decent and most of the levels feature upbeat music tracks. Background music and sound effects volume levels can be adjusted independently.

It’s great to see Flying Red Barrel finally making an appearance on Steam and, as an added bonus, buying the game also unlocks an extra bonus character for 100% Orange Juice! It is a game that has some hidden depth and clearing all five levels is not as easy as you might think even in the novice mode. The game isn’t without issues and will hold little appeal for players who are not fans of the genre. It may also appear too simplistic for anyone not willing to master the scoring system and delve into the hidden bosses or endings. Still, it’s a neat little game at an affordable price that can easily suck you in if you give it a chance.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7/8/8.1/10
  • Processor: Intel Pentium 2.4GHz or higher
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX 9 or above compatible card with 512MB VRAM or more
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 2 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectSound compatible sound card
  • OS: Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 450, AMD Radeon HD 5670 or better
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • OS: Snow Leopard 10.6.8 or newer
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Core HD Graphics 3000/4000, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M, ATI Radeon HD 4850 or better (ATI Radeon X1600 NOT SUPPORTED)
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: NOT SUPPORTED: ATI Radeon X1600, Intel GMA950
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GT 650M, AMD Radeon HD 6750M or better
  • OS: Ubuntu 12.04 or newer, other unsupported distros may work
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel Core HD Graphics 3000/4000, NVIDIA 8800 GT, ATI Radeon HD 4850 or better (Open Source Drivers NOT SUPPORTED)
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: lib32-alsa-plugins or libasound2-plugins:i386 and libasound2-plugins-extra:i386 may be required.
  • Additional Notes: NOT SUPPORTED: ATI Radeon X1600, Intel GMA950, NVIDIA Geforce 7050
  • OS: Ubuntu 14.04
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 2.8Ghz or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 450, AMD Radeon HD 5670 or better
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space

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