Video Game: rRootage

There is a boss under there somewhere. And that's not even its final form.
Released for personal computers in 2003 by Kenta Cho, rRootage is Bullet Hell stripped down to the absolute essentials. You control a small ship which can fire a continuous laser beam, and dependent on the game mode, also utilize a limited secondary defensive power. The game has only one kind of opponent: a large, durable boss enemy which fires lots and lots of bullets. Your objective in each level is to take out five of these bosses in a row, each one sporting a different arsenal.

The game has four modes: one 'normal' mode, and three special modes which are based on three influential titles in the bullet hell genre. The main gameplay difference between each mode is the nature of the secondary power given to your ship.

Normal Mode: Your ship has three bombs, which vaporize the bullets in a small area around it for a limited time, allowing you to get out of trouble when the bullet pattern has become too much to cope with.

PSY Mode: Inspired by Psyvariar. Secondary fire slows you down but allows you to brush up against the non-damaging portions of projectiles, which increases your Graze Meter. Fill it up and your ship becomes invincible for about three seconds.

IKA Mode: Inspired by Ikaruga. The bullets fired by the boss are either white or red, and your ship can switch between those same two colors using secondary file. When your ship touches a bullet of the same color as itself, damage is reflected at the boss instead of your ship. By carefully switching colors, you can navigate the barrage of bullets and deal extra damage to the boss while you're fighting it.

GW Mode: Inspired by Giga Wing. Your ship has a Reflect Meter which automatically refills. When it's full, holding secondary fire will surround the ship in a short-lived reflector shield. Any bullets which hit the shield will reflect damage back at the boss. There is a warmup delay in activating the shield, and a cooldown delay as your Reflect Meter refills, so you have to think carefully about the best time to make use of it.

The game uses a special markup language called BulletML, also created by Kenta Cho, to define its bullet patterns.

The game can be downloaded for Windows from here. It's also available directly through some package managers on some Linux systems. A port has also been created for Apple devices, which can be bought from here.


This game features the following tropes:

  • Anti-Frustration Feature: In spite of the ridiculous amount of firepower being thrown at you, the game tries to play as fair as it can, and includes several features to make the player's life easier.
    • Every bullet's hitbox is clearly visible, as is the hitbox of your own ship (it's the glowing red square in the middle). This makes the guesswork when trying to weave through bullets a little easier.
    • The pretty variations of bullet colors and shapes provide visual cues which are much easier to comprehend than just raw hitbox squares.
    • The boss lights up and glows in areas that are about to fire, giving you a chance to prepare or back off if you're up too close.
    • When you destroy either of a boss's forms, every bullet on screen is also destroyed, preventing any frustrating post-victory deaths.
  • Attack Reflector: in IKA and GW modes, your ship can become this by utilizing its secondary power.
  • Boss Game: Each stage has five bosses. Each tier of stages has three stages, not counting the R stage. There are 10 tiers of stages. Finally, there are four different play modes. This makes for a total of six hundred non-random bosses.
  • Bullet Hell
  • Guide Dang It: several important details of the mechanics - in particular, how the scoring works - are not obvious simply from playing the game.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: the game deliberately makes hitboxes visible, so you can see that the bullets are larger than their damage-causing areas.
  • Homage: The three special modes are homages to popular bullet hell shooters.
  • Minimalism: In contrast to many other shmups, rRootage goes for this. Your ship is a tiny glowing red square surrounded by rotating green columns. Your opponent is a mass of yellow vector shapes and bright glowing lights.
  • Combos: The longer you continously damage the boss, the higher your damage bonus increases, all the way to 1,000. Once your laser stops touching the boss, it will rapidly decrease back to 10 points.
  • Every 10,000 Points: You get an extra life at 200,000 points, then 500,000, then every 500,000 points after that.
  • More Dakka: if you damage the boss enough, it'll shift into a second, larger form and start firing even more stuff at you.
  • Multi-Directional Barrage: The boss's entire strategy. A lot of the time, the boss isn't even firing at your ship; it's spamming bullets all over the place, giving you very little room to breathe.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game isn't easy to begin with, and only gets harder.
  • No Ontological Inertia: destroying a boss (or one of its forms) also destroys every bullet that it's fired.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: Your laser does more damage the closer you get to the boss, thus rewarding daring or skilful play.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: The R stages use randomized patterns.
  • Recursive Ammo: bosses make frequent use of bullets that split into more bullets, which add layers of complexity to the patterns you're facing.
  • Return to Shooter: both IKA mode and GW mode allow you to use the boss's own bullets against it.
  • Scoring Points: You gain points for damaging the boss. The longer the laser is on the boss, the more points per interval you get, ranging from 10 to 1,000. At the end of each boss, you get a bonus proportional to how fast you defeated the boss, divided by the number of lives you used and number of bombs (in Normal mode) dropped. The three special modes all have additional scoring gimmicks. Conclusion: Kill bosses as fast as you can and avoid dying or bombing whenever possible. Points are a necessity in this game because they earn you extra lives.
  • Smart Bomb: the secondary power in Normal mode is a bomb which eradicates bullets in an area around you.
  • Turns Red: Every boss has two forms. When you deal enough damage to the boss's initial form, it transforms into a larger, much more powerful form. Only when you've destroyed that second form is the boss truly defeated.
  • Video Game Lives