Drainus from Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth developer Team Ladybug and publisher Playism was announced and released a few days ago at the Indie Live Expo 2022. Drainus is a 2d side-scrolling shoot ’em up that has excellent visuals, superb gameplay, and an interesting story. I bought it on Steam the moment it was available because I wanted to check out Team Ladybug’s newest game, but didn’t expect to be hooked to it for nearly four hours after booting it up on Steam Deck. I initially didn’t think I’d have time to cover it this month, but I’ve not stopped thinking about playing it. Drainus is special and one of the best games released so far this year.
With Team Ladybug, I expected Drainus to be a competent shoot ’em up that looked good, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this good. You pilot the ship Drainus in space taking down hordes of enemies on well-designed stages. Drainus has a good story by shoot ’em up standards with lovely cut-scenes in between levels and in recorders you collect across the levels. Team Ladybug did a great job with character portraits and animations here. The real star of Drainus barring the gameplay, is how good the animation work is. Team Ladybug makes use of dense animation that still look like pixel art here. There’s a gif of this in action in Team Ladybug’s Tweet here.
Drainus’ core mechanic is using your ship’s Reflector to absorb purple enemy bullets, lasers, and other projectiles. Absorbing these lets you build up energy and unload an attack on the enemies depending on how much energy you absorbed. You can only absorb for a short period of time that varies based on how much guard meter you have available. I love how each boss has multiple phases, and that there’s never a lull in action on screen. Every stage is full of carefully-placed enemies, power-ups, and obstacles making sure you’re always on your toes as you fly and take down enemies while pausing to enhance your ship.
Enhancing the Drainus is what gives this game replay value. As you take down enemies, you collect energy tanks. These are in-game currency used to upgrade you shots, unlock shields, and change your ship’s loadout. You can do this on the fly during levels which is nice to see. You can also adjust your ship’s movement speed from here. You can adjust this by holding down the right trigger button to move from normal to slow speed. This is useful in the more narrow areas of levels or as you precisely move between barrages of bullets.
In some shoot ’em ups, the levels feel good, but the real stars are the bosses. With Drainus, I enjoyed everything about each level including the regular enemies. The bosses are definitely above and beyond what I expected here given the quality of the levels and regular enemies. While each level has some callbacks to the genre greats, the multiple phase boss battles make this even more memorable with a short cut-scene or dialogue leading up to said battle. I enjoyed replaying the levels with different upgrade paths for Drainus’ ship weapons as well to try out different combinations on specific bosses.
Visually, I have no complaints with Drainus. It is everything I hoped for and more from Team Ladybug with colorful visuals, superb animations, and smooth performance. The soundtrack is also very good and available to buy on Steam alongside the game. If this ever does get a physical release eventually, I hope the soundtrack is included alongside a nice artbook showcasing the animation and work that went into making Drainus look as good as it does.
In its current state, my main complaints with Drainus have to do with the difficulty. It is easy even in the normal mode, which will be a problem for genre veterans. For newcomers, this is likely the best horizontal shoot ’em up you can get on Steam in terms of accessibility and quality. Speaking of accessibility, I’m glad that the developers patched in an option to disable the screen shake during gameplay which was annoying from launch day. Hopefully a future update will allow disabling it outside gameplay as well. My other complaint is with the lack of online leaderboards. I feel like this has to be added soon given the genre, but it is a noticeable omission right now.
Drainus and Vampire Survivors have been the best pickup and play games for me on Steam Deck over the last few days. I’m glad that Drainus runs perfectly out of the box on Steam Deck as well. I played it connected to my monitor through an HDMI adapter and on the Steam Deck itself with no trouble during the actual levels and menus. The only issue I’ve had is with how the loading in between levels is a bit too long. I’m not sure if this is an issue specific to the game on Steam Deck or one that affects all versions. I hope it can be improved in future updates.
I loved Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, but Drainus is easily my favorite Team Ladybug game so far. I can’t wait to see how it evolves with potential updates, and will be buying it on every console whenever ports get announced. This is also my favorite shadow drop announcement and release of a game in years. If you enjoy horizontal shoot ’em ups, you need to play Drainus. It is an essential. I just hope online leaderboards are patched into it eventually.