App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Shoot to survive
EISEN starts with very little introduction. The game boots straight into the cockpit view of a mech and instructs you to hit a button and pull a lever to get launched right into the action. There is no other starting menu, settings, or anything. Once you hit the ground, your machine gun starts firing automatically and it's up to you to use the left side of the screen to control your mech's movements and the right side to aim at enemies as they appear.
Your goal is to stay alive as long as possible by defeating enemies, avoiding damage, and leveling up to unlock new weapons and abilities to keep up with the ever-increasing number and power of enemy combatants. The start of every run almost feels like a gallery shooter as the only things to target are non-attacking spheres but within a few minutes you need to have gained some significant upgrades to take down opposing mechs and turrets if you want to survive for any significant amount of time.
Any typical run of EISEN generally runs just a few minutes, and it seems impossible to last much longer than that as the quantity of enemies and the amount of projectiles they fire your way seem impossible to weave between. Upon death, your score gets totalled up and you can dive in again. There's no roguelite elements with unlocks between runs or even any other menu element. Once you tap past the score screen you're right back in a new round of play.
Each new run gives you a new opportunity to experiment with combinations of abilities you unlock as you level up. These abilities include passive bonuses like increases in damage or movement speed and also new weapon types altogether like a shotgun, cannon, sawblade, and missiles. In theory, the variety of these upgrades seem like they'd add a lot of replayability, but in practice runs feel too short for any particular upgrades to feel particularly impactful.
Lack of weight
It's kind of surprising how light EISEN feels considering it is pitched as a mech "simulator." Aside from having a cockpit view and some pretty slow movement, the game otherwise feels like a very typical action shooter experience, though played in portrait mode on your phone. There isn't really much to manage aside from trying not to get hit, and there's no kind of redemption mechanics allowing you to repair yourself or otherwise add some kind of wrinkle to the gameplay.
As a result, a lot of EISEN just feels like a test of how well you can circle strafe. In my time with the game, I kept hoping that if I extended a run long enough something would happen, some mystery would reveal or a new system would open up, but this never seems to happen. It just seems to be a shooter variation of Vampire Survivors, but without any of the progression.
The bottom line
EISEN feels like the first misstep in Hideki Hanida's mobile output. His previous games share similarly odd design philosophies and a focus on capturing a specific concept, but the difference here is the concept of "shooting gallery but you're a mech" isn't all that compelling and the leveling up system layered on top doesn't have much depth to it.