Nephenthesys, to me, sounds like an ancient Egyptian-based sci-fi featuring Lance Henrikson or perhaps Michael Biehn. I kid you not; it’s actually a shmup by Let’s Dev Studios, published by Eastasiasoft, and out today on PS5 (and other consoles). You couldn’t make it up!

Cobra 1 would be a good name for Biehn’s character. Instead, it’s reserved for the hero of this story. Alas, I didn’t follow it in the slightest. Surely by now it’s illegal to pay attention to a shmup narrative? Aren’t we all here to bash buttons and get hi-scores? Sorry, fellow writers, but you should blame the programmers for giving us the option to skip.

So, Nephenthesys is a vertical shooter where you’ll pilot a ship and shoot everything out of the sky, typically in wave formation, the occasional individual enemy, and ‘blockers’ that effectively hover in one spot, thus reducing your manoeuvring abilities to avoid incoming swarms and their associated ballistics.

Nephenthesys PS5 Review - Not Beat Saber
Not Beat Saber. Source: Eastasiasoft

There are four ships, each with one weapon and one unique drone. Colours distinguish ships, though they don’t sport individual stats such as speed or defence. It all depends on how you feel about the attacks and drones – I liked the green ship as it had a spread attack, and the drone was the most effective. Or it might be a simple case of picking your favourite colour.

I rarely used the drones as it’s a fickle setup. There aren’t X number of bombs as seen in traditional vertical shooters. Instead, you have to unlock them by obtaining the maximum power-ups and then triggering them. Even then, some drones are rubbish and will either miss your enemies or not do enough damage.

As expected, there are bosses at the end of each stage. They’re surprisingly easier than the basic waves, and though they shoot off a fair amount of projectiles, Nephenthesys never feels like a hardcore bullet hell. That said, it’s deceptive in appearance as it’s trickier than how it looks on the surface.

The shields will protect you, often releasing the power-up so you can collect it once again if lucky enough to have a clear path, but once they’re all gone, it’s a one-hit kill scenario with only three continues and no sign of a difficulty level adjuster. Not that you really need it, as the balancing is fair.

Nephenthesys PS5 Review - Laser
Laser. Source: Eastasiasoft

Nephenthesys’ features are barebones, displaying one of the most concise and unintentionally funniest tutorials I’ve ever played. Left stick to move, X to shoot, square for a drone – done. No enemies, no one-minute window to get accustomed to the controls, and thus no bloat. In its defence, it’s not needed at all. You could argue the same about the options, as there aren’t any key bindings or difficulty settings, just language and volume.

There are five more ships to unlock, which are earned through completing the game with any ship or hitting so many points. If that isn’t an incentive, there’s an online leaderboard. One of the many benefits of early access to a title is seeing yourself on the list until the game is released, and everyone knocks you off almost immediately. For shmup fans, that’s ever the more reason to play it more.

Nephenthesys is a decent indie shooter for those looking for a run-on-the-mill experience that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but allows them to jump straight in and work on their scores. It could have done with a bit more speed and tweaking of the drone system, so it was a bit more frequent, but it is balanced with a good selection of ships and, of course, an online leaderboard.

Nephenthesys PS5 Review - City slicker
City slicker. Source: Eastasiasoft