CYGNI: All Guns Blazing is doing some interesting things in an overlooked genre | Hands-on preview

by on July 8, 2024

The video game veterans among us will likely have fond memories of shmups from arcades and early consoles alike, but younger generations of gamers are probably rather unfamiliar with the slightly dated genre. Well back in the eighties and nineties flying a spaceship around bullets and blasting baddies was all the rage, but only those with the twitchiest of reactions found much success with shmups. Although the popularity of the shmup has somewhat calmed over the years, smaller companies have been steadily making bullet hell throwbacks for fans of the forgotten genre. Unlike these games though, CYGNI: All Guns Blazing is aiming to evolve space shooting into the modern era.

In this preview build I was able to play three different levels of CYGNI, and was exposed to plenty of its fresh twists on the genre. Even in the early moments of the game you get to see fancy modern cutscenes, which explain the invasion of earth from a new intergalactic threat. Taking down these evil space bots won’t be easy, but with some practice and a bit of knowledge of how the mechanics of the game work you’ll be good to go.

CYGNI All Guns Blazing

Because CYGNI: All Guns Blazing isn’t like most shooters, it’s recommended you play the tutorial before jumping into the main campaign. It’s rare for a tutorial to excite me enough to bother writing about it in a preview, but CYGNI’s is particularly cool. Set in an old school arcade cabinet, this glowing green retro experience teaches you everything you need to know in less than ten minutes and is a blast to play through.

The main thing that separates CYGNI from similar shooters is that you need to manage your energy if you want to succeed. When you defeat enemies they’ll drop glowing orbs that when collected are converted into energy, and you can use this to either boost your shields so you can take more hits or your weapon energy to deal more punishment. The shoulder buttons control where you channel your energy, and it can be swapped between the two on the fly. You’ll have to get used to pumping all your power into weapons to deal massive damage to massive bosses, then quickly activating shields when the bullets start flying your way to successfully survive the extraterritorial threat.

Not content with throwing enemies at you in the foreground of the game, CYGNI: All Guns Blazing also constantly has all sorts of nonsense happening on the ground below. Whether its enemies firing up at you or a large-scale conflict between warring armies, swapping to shoot down onto the surface is often crucial if you want to avoid having to dodge extra bullets. It’s a little harder to manually aim when you switch to shooting downwards, but it’s just another part of CYGNI you’ll need to master.

CYGNI All Guns Blazing

As you’d hope from a shmup, there’s a massive variety of bullet spewing enemies standing in the way of intergalactic peace in CYGNI. Some enemies unleash thousands of bullets at once and expect you to dodge them skilfully, others shoot out massive lasers you’ll need to dance around. Perhaps the most interesting though are the AI enemies, who change their behaviour based on how you play. In a genre that so often has fixed patterns for enemies it’s both refreshing and tricky to have to deal with these foes.

I really enjoyed my time with CYGNI: All Guns Blazing, and honestly I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to all its features. There are loads of difficulty options catering to everyone from newcomers to the genre, to veterans looking to chase high scores. There are unlockable upgrades you can experiment with, a page packed with tons of lore to read about the various characters and factions of the game, and even the ability to customise the way your bullets fire in all sorts of wonderful ways. I haven’t played many shmups with more features than CYGNI, so if you fall in love with this game you’ll be able to get deep into its many systems.

CYGNI: All Guns Blazing is looking to do some interesting things in an often overlooked genre, and I had a blast playing through a few of its stages. If you’ve gotten bored of playing the arcade classics and are looking for a fresh shmup with interesting ideas then you’ll want to keep an eye on CYGNI when it releases next month.

CYGNI: All Guns Blazing is coming to PC and consoles on August 6th.