Buddhagillie (GWS Workshop) Review | Blast Annual - Everygamegoing

Blast Annual

By GWS Workshop

Published in Blast Annual 2020 Volume 2


What do you get if you cross Buddhism, Ninja Spirit, Galaga and Arkanoid? The answer might be GW'sWorkshop's crazed trip-out Buddhagillie. Upon booting the game first time I was immediately smacked in the chops by a wave of nostalgia. In my early gaming experiences on the Atari 800XL I was always into fighting games, Bruce Lee and anything with Ninjas. This Eastern feeling seeps through Buddhagillie immediately and its spirit feels very reminiscent of those seminal titles from my early gaming history.


The idea of the game is to take our sword-wielding would-be Buddha through six short but taxing horizontal shoot 'em up stages each containing dastardly patterns of enemies moving in Galaga-type formations, capped off in style with epic, and sometimes twitchy, boss battles.

The regular Galaga style enemies look like ghostly, ghoulish faces, and sometimes fire bullets at you (some bosses bombard you with bullets also). These shots can be deflected away harmlessly with a swing of your sword which can be activated by tapping the fire button. However the stand out mechanic is the ability to return fire and this is essential to progress through the stages.


If you hold the fire button you will take up a blocking stance allowing you to absorb enemy bullets. You can store up to six shots as energy, represented by Kanji style characters orbiting your avatar. Obviously the more bullets you absorb, the more devastating your shot will be but the tricky thing is, in order to fire your shot you have to perform a three-hit sword swing by tapping fire three times. Not only does this require timing and patience but it also leaves you immobile for a brief moment.

Once you use your shot you have to absorb bullets again as all stored energy is used each time you use your shot. The play area is divided into two areas. The left side of the screen is where your avatar can fly around and is about 60% of the screen real estate. The remaining 30% on the right hand side is where enemies rest when they are in formation and also where most of the bosses remain. This puts them out of the reach of your sword and this is why you must use the shooting mechanic to defeat them. So let's delve into the stages now we've got the slightly detailed requirements of the game's mechanics out of the way. Each stage represents one of the six realms of rebirth and existence featured in Buddhist cosmology.

Stage 1 is called "Hell" and there's only a few enemies to face before a fiery demon boss appears. This boss is very easy to dispatch as it invitingly fires bullets in your direction. Absorb these quickly and hit it with a blast and it's all over very quickly. Stage 2 is called "Hunger" and the enemies here are just a slight variation on the patterns you face in stage 1.


The boss on this stage looks like some kind of dragon and is slightly harder than the stage 1 boss. This is where the "Hunger" comes in, as this dragon will take a really deep breath and suck in any small enemies on screen. These enemies now become more dangerous as they get pulled towards the hungry dragon into fast wide sweeping arcs that can sometimes catch you out. It's also doubly effective as the dragon reduces your own mobility during this.

"Animal" is Stage 3 and this is where things start to become a little tricky. The Boss is a charging bull and never fires a single shot. This means you have to dodge him whilst trying to absorb enough energy from small enemies to deal a killer blow. Stage 4 is "Asuras" and the boss on this stage looks like a variant of the six-arm entities of Indian mythology. This boss fires shots you cannot absorb and blocking them will only send them away briefly. You have to slash at them with your sword to repel them off the screen and you need to collect shots from the small enemies to dispatch this boss.

"Human" is Stage 5 and is one of the trickiest levels of the game. The human boss has four small enemies orbiting him whilst devious patterns of small enemies come on and off the screen. You have to take out the small enemies around the human to finish the stage but if you kill the human you get sent all the way back to Stage 1 to start again.


Stage 6 "Gods" is the final stage and the winged god boss cannot be hit when he wraps his wings around himself. He also fires shots at you that can be neither blocked nor repelled. The final kicker is that these home-in on you somewhat so it's a real task to dodge these shots whilst simultaneously dodging the waves of smaller enemies and collecting power for your own shot.

Stage 7 "Nirvana" is the final stage of the journey but only acts like a congratulations screen. This is where you attain your own state of Nirvana and become a Buddha before being reincarnated in "Hell" for the next loop of the game with increased difficulty.


The creative way the religion of Buddhism is used as an overarching narrative for the game with the meta elements really tying it all together into a great piece of shoot 'em up gaming. The interesting blend of mechanics initially gave me a similar vibe to that of Irem's Ninja Spirit but once you get deeper, the game's own unique identity shines through. The AY chip music really works with a few cool tunes that have variations for different stages. The music also changes when the bosses arrive on the screen helping to add to the arcade feeling of intensity.


The graphics are a little basic but I understand this is due to the limitations of the system and the type of game we're talking about here. Most sprites are small and contain no more than two colours but with bigger and more complex sprites I think the flickering would make the game unplayable when the screen gets busy. The last couple of issues for me is that your sprite's hit box seems a little on the harsh side as you cannot shoot at those enemies who circle behind you. Secondary to this you can't control your blocking direction independently from the direction you're moving in. This was one nuance of the game that got me killed most when I need to move quickly or unexpectedly.


Overall Buddhagillie is a masterful piece of old school arcade shoot 'em up joy and could have sat next to the big arcade shooters of the day holding its own. If you love shooters, you'll love Buddhagillie. Play it now!

Richard Yaxley

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