Zepetto's "Flying Bunny" is one game that nearly flew under my radar. Pun intended. I didn't see it announced until the day before launch, and little to no information was given on it. All I was able to gather is that it was a shmup (shoot'em up) of some sort, and that it kind of looked like "Parodius". Being a fan of both shmups, and the Parodius series I really wanted to review this game. In fact I really wanted to just play it. Upon getting my hands on it though I was slightly disappointed to see that it was less of a traditional side-scrolling Gradius style shooter, and more like a mobile game akin to "Flappy Bird". I do get it though. The title is fitting in accordance to the gameplay as you have to tap/hold/release the "X" button to get your bunny guy or gal to fly through strings of sweets, and enemies as they come into view for that retro high scoring opportunity. Much like a bunny would hop along, but more so in the flying plus hopping sense. The idea is actually very interesting as is the setup.
When it comes to plot, and story elements nothing is really fleshed out in "Flying Bunny" though. While there is some character flavor text hinting at a school, and something called the "Candy Core" the game comes off as being one of those pick up, and put down arcade style mobile games that you'd play on your mobile device during a break. You basically have a given selection of characters to choose from, and some setup options beyond that as well as a stage by stage gameplay mode where the point is to get the highest score for the bragging rights ...
As one of the three initially available characters (Bunny, RingRing, Fey) you start off with a selection unique character specific stats including varying life, attack, and speed attributes as well as a base perk that allows for things like magnetism, quicker bomb refills, and a longer giant state among other things. This allows the gamer to experience their singular playthroughs in a variety of different ways. Being there's a total of thirteen characters, some of which require certain in-game feats to unlock, it gives the gamer different ways to make it to the top of the global or local leaderboards. You could say that for each character there's a different play style, or even difficulty in regards to how easily or difficult the character is to manage.
After choosing the "Gameplay" option (which is the only gameplay mode) at the title screen you'll be prompted to select two pets, and two items. The pets which take on some wacky animal-like/plant-like appearances double as traditional Gradius style satellites, and allow for a rechargeable bomb style attack, or a basic shooting attack depending on which ones you choose. The pet types are labeled as "Passive", and "Active" with the shooting satellite being the passive option, and the bomber being the active option. You can actually opt not to have any pets, but with the way the game is laid out I think it's best to capitalize on these offerings unless you are up for a serious challenge. When it comes to the item selection you'll once again be picking two things for use during your playthrough. The items are basically perks that allow for things like resurrection with one health point upon death, boosted health points, an initial power-up boost, an initial speed boost to get you deep into a level quickly, and a few other things that can make your playthrough a wee bit easier. You should also know that pets, like the main characters can be unlocked through specified game feats. Mostly by clearing boss battles.
When it comes to actual gameplay things are fairly straightforward. Your chosen character will be flying and moving in a stationary position as the stage environment, and contents therein pass from the right towards you making it look as if you are in motion. This of course is the traditional side-scrolling formula shmups like Gradius, and Parodius used back in the day. As far as goals go you have a handful of things to mind as you ascend, and descend your character through "X" button presses. These things include not getting hit by enemies or boss bullet hell, collecting strings of sweets that are arched in a row, and collecting coins that drop from the enemies. Each stage, in general is a twofold experience including all of these looting and scoring opportunities. At first you'll see a Candyland style background that's so cute, and vibrant it's almost sickening. Not long after that you'll enter an ominous looking cave area which ends in a boss fight that requires you to fully deplete the boss's health bar. The catch is the only time your character will fire during a boss fight or in the stage prior to it is when you collect the proper sweets. In the boss battle instance, in particular you'll be collecting a large candy to do this. Along with your basic character bullet spray, and your passive pet's spray you'll also have the use of the active pet's bomber capability which will deplete the boss's health even more quickly. To use the bomber ability you'll need to press "CIRCLE" when the associated icon is fully colored in. In most cases the bomber ability has a 30+ second cool down period before it can be used again.
While that all might sound straight to the point you can perfect your playthrough, and take advantage of some cool playthrough bonuses for scoring sake. As you tap, untap, and fly your way to that top score on the leaderboards you'll want to fully collect strings of sweets for the shooting effect as well as the points you can earn from getting an "Excellent" character quotation after having done so. There are also plenty of power-ups to collect along the way including letters that spell out "LUNARMODE". Either spelling out this word by collecting the individual letters, or by getting the instant power-up you will go into a sweet and coin collecting bonus mode where you can further capitalize on score. It should also be noted that by collecting certain power-ups like the bullet power-up, the giant power-up, or the speed power-up you'll rake in more points, and be able to last longer. On the downside collecting power-ups such as the flight reversal will make progress more difficult for you.
One thing you should always keep in mind while playing "Flying Bunny" is that you have only one try. That means once your character's hearts are fully depleted by collision with enemies or boss bullets you will reach the ending screen which tallies up your score stats for a final score ranking. The only exception to the rule is if you choose the resurrection item, or have a character with the resurrection base perk attached. There's that, and the chance that a boss fight might end with a heart refill. In that sense "Flying Bunny" isn't just some easy, or casual shooter. It is quite the challenging experience even if it strays from the classic shmup formula gamers like myself have come to appreciate.
For the price, and what it offers I feel "Flying Bunny" isn't a bad deal. It's actually a good game for the type of experience it offers. My only concern is that the colors, and the flashy imagery might be a bit harsh for some gamers. I actually had trouble following my character at times due to everything being so vividly colored. There's also the inclusion of a repetitive music track that might actually grind on some gamers' nerves. It does get old after awhile, but if you can stomach the bright colors, and oddly annoying soundtrack you might actually find some enjoyment, and challenge in this game!