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DRAINUS (Switch) Review

by Jordan Rudek - February 2, 2023, 2:19 pm EST
Total comments: 1


As far as shoot-'em-ups go, using a shield is rarely this satisfying.

It’s always a treat when a well worn genre like the shoot-’em-up receives a new entry that adds a unique feature or mechanic that distinguishes it from others of its ilk. From Team Ladybug and WSS Playground, makers of the very excellent Record of Lodoss War-Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth-, DRAINUS is a horizontal shooter that puts the focusing on switching between offense and defense on the fly, literally. At the touch of a button you can conjure up a shield that absorbs most enemy projectiles, but it also allows you to return that energy in a burst of homing lasers. The end result is a genuinely fun and satisfying experience that’s only lacking in terms of its staying power and replay value.

In an effort to resist the cruel and oppressive “capital E” Empire, the protagonist steals the Drainus ship and blasts off into space. Across six fairly lengthy stages, you’ll fight your way through a variety of enemy ships and mechs to reach the final boss. Every level culminates in a multi-stage battle against a different oversized ship, and the overall journey is definitely an enjoyable one. That said, there’s little to unlock after rolling credits other than an arcade mode and an added difficulty mode where you can only take a single hit before a game over. The lack of online leaderboards is another curious omission given how common they are in shoot-’em-ups.

Fortunately, the gameplay loop of DRAINUS is incredible, and reminiscent of both Gradius and Ikaruga. At any time, you can bring up a menu where you can spend accumulated currency to purchase and equip upgrades to your ship, but the upgrades build up and don’t kick in until you’ve picked up a power up dropped from certain defeated enemies. Each level of upgrade that you activate in-flight also functions as a pseudo life meter, allowing you to take an extra hit at the cost of losing that upgrade. The upgrades come in many different flavors, including stronger base guns, missiles that shoot out in a variety of directions, mini-guns that rotate around your ship, and shields that absorb different projectiles. It’s the Reflector ability, though, that really makes the game stand out, and just how satisfying it is to absorb enemy shots, store up that energy, and then have it explode out of your ship to rain down destruction is a thing of beauty.

The stages themselves aren’t necessarily filled with visual variety, but they do include some neat effects in terms of how your ship enters larger ones to navigate them like a maze, for instance. One level features a vertical screen wrap that presents a series of corridors for you to choose from. The music is solid throughout, and the explosions and other visual flourishes do add to the game’s charm and presentation.

I’ve played dozens of horizontal and vertical shooters on Switch, and DRAINUS is definitely in the upper third of them. Your ship’s unique ability to absorb and reflect enemy fire back at them adds a gratifying push and pull to the gameplay, and there’s enough meat on the bone of the six total stages to make them well worth a playthrough. The lack of unlockables is unfortunate, but the number of upgrades you can open up and attach to your ship does allow for some neat customization. Another slight issue is that because the power-ups you collect allow you to take extra hits, you become something of a sitting duck after losing a life during a boss fight, with no way to reactivate your power-ups and thus build up your arsenal and your “life meter.” While it’d be great to see online leaderboards and more content added down the road, I’d still recommend DRAINUS to fans of the genre and–given the manageable challenge it offers–even newcomers looking to try one of these for the first time.


  • It's fun to swap between offense and defense
  • Purchasing and activating power ups and abilities however you choose
  • Solid presentation
  • No online leaderboards
  • Only six total stages


KDR_11kFebruary 07, 2023

If you need power ups during boss fights there's a bomb option that gives you a powerup when activated. Since the bomb meter recharges by absorbing bullets you can recover fully that way.

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Game Profile

Genre Shooter

Worldwide Releases

na: Drainus
Release Feb 02, 2023

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