Who’s That Flying?! (PSN)


By: Alan Bell    On: PlayStation 3
Published: Friday 26 Nov 2010 8:00 AM
 
 
 
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Who’s That Flying? is a new game from the developer of “Monsters (probably) Stole my Princess”, Mediatonic. A PlayStation “mini”, it’s playable on both the PS3 and the PSP - although for this review, we played it exclusively on the PSP. In part, that’s because it’s easier than kicking loved ones off the TV. In part, it’s because graphics that work well on the PSP often are less successful on a 46” screen. Mostly, however, it’s because the game is so damn good that the thought of leaving it behind when we went out was too much for us and staying at home all the time is not an option.

So what’s it all about, then? Some early reports suggested it was like a mix of a shmup (Shoot Em Up) and a Tower Defence game - if you’re confused by how that might work, put it aside; there’s next to no relationship between these game modes (at least, not in the way they play). What we did find was a surprisingly deep side-scrolling shooter, with a simple premise and oodles of “just one more go!” appeal.

The story - startling as that may be, yes, there is one! - goes that you, as a big-headed chap called “Earth”, are on trial. You’re a superhero in charge of protecting planet Earth from relentless alien assault, something has apparently gone wrong and, well, you’re being blamed. Your defence is the recollection of events, each of which is played out as a level within the game. Fail the level and you’re found guilty - so you’d better not fail or your digital persona is going to spend eternity on the prison planet (which sounds quite a bit like prisons here on Earth - as in, “do not want”, etc).

Scrolling from left to right, you can move your little hero guy in any direction, shooting by holding down the “X” button (hallelujah! no button-spamming here!). Shooting things powers up your secondary attack, which you can unleash by pressing “Square”. Tactical use of this in particular is paramount if you’re to succeed (in the later levels especially.)

What you’re shooting at is where things get really interesting. In WTF, you see, there are essentially two main types of enemy: little dudes which you simply must destroy and bigger dudes who you can destroy if you like. The little guys are trying to get past you; if they do, you lose one of the 50 civilians you’re trying to protect - lose them all, it’s “Guilty!” time and your life’s goal will become “not dropping the soap” (that’s not our joke, it’s in the game!) The bigger guys (of which there are actually several different sizes and types) exist to do one of three things: distract you, stun you, or block your shots from hitting the important little guys. This twist to usual sidescroller mechanic is what makes the game; it’s compelling, fresh and requires an all-new approach to your play style in order to succeed.

There are other cool little twists, too, like the ability to perform killing blows on bosses or major enemies. To do this, once you’ve inflicted enough initial damage, you hold in the right bumper and hammer the X button (ok, so there is some button spamming) as, in slow motion, your hero warps to the enemy in question and performs one of a handful of devastating finishers. It’s simple yet tactical, as the resulting explosion also obliterates anything else anywhere near the blast area.

Enemy waves become increasingly devious as the game’s difficulty ramp comes into effect. The placement of the medium and large enemies will soon fill you with dread as you learn to predict the outrageous level of challenge that their presence intimates. It’s good stuff, with many different valid approaches that you’ll learn to switch between depending on the level of success you’re able to leverage from each.

It’s not perfect, however, as it suffers from a single (but major) flaw. There are two ways you can be stunned in the game - hit inconsequentially by an enemy (like a small or medium-sized enemy) or hit catastrophically (a large or boss enemy can inflict such a blow on you). Inconsequential hits are like hiccups, temporarily (although very briefly) interrupting your activities. Catastrophic hits, however, stun your character for an interminable period. Worse, during this (unbelievably lengthy) time he meanders around randomly on the screen. Worse still, you can then be chain-stunned by other enemies or projectiles that are capable of catastrophic hits. Ultimately what this means is that things can be going very well only to turn to total disaster while you watch it agonizingly play out in front of you. There’s very little in life more frustrating than watching your hard work turn to naught, your control wrested away from you as something you can’t affect brings your hopes and dreams crashing down around you - at random. In theory you can avoid this by not being hit in the first place but, given that’s almost a certainty (at least occasionally), that’s hardly a reasonable rebuttal.

Graphically (as in most other ways), WTF sets the standard for what we should expect from a mini. There’s no sense whatsoever of any visual shortcuts being taken. The graphics are, to put it bluntly, gorgeous. Loads of frames of animation, oodles of character and a package that has been clearly put together with love. The only slight negative is that there aren’t perhaps as many different looks for the bad guys as you might have gotten were the game to arrive on a disk. It’s not a biggie but it is noticeable.

Who’s That Flying? raises the bar for what minis are capable of. It’s not just a shooter, it successfully re-imagines the core of the genre to create something entirely new. It’s compelling, it looks great and you just keep coming back for more - even if it does have a frustrating, random difficulty aspect to it. Highly recommended and worth checking out by any “minis” fan or anyone who’s been wondering what these minis are all about.


The Score

Who’s That Flying?!
"Damn near awesome"
9.0
Excellent
Rating: PG   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 15 Min

 

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Bank NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Friday 26 Nov 2010 2:23 PM Posted by Bank
Love these kind of quirky games :)
 
 
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