My PSP lives in my back pocket. While it can’t be too pleasant for the little console, I love having it on the go. When I’m at home, I’m most likely to sit in front of a TV or monitor for my gaming but it’s great to be able to pull out a handheld while on the go for a quick blast. This also means that I’m less likely to want to sit through a twenty minute cutscene when the bus ride takes half that time. Playstation Minis are the perfect solution for this and Mediatonic’s flashy shmup Who’s That Flying?! is ideal for bitesized gaming.
WTF?! (great acronym by the way guys!) promises to combine fast-paced shooting with tense courtroom drama. It doesn’t really manage this in the way you’d first expect; story exposition takes place in front of a tribunal of heroes from across the solar system while you take control when there are monsters to be obliterated.
You control the guardian of Earth, a powerful hero entrusted with the well-being of our defenceless little planet. When marauding aliens attack, it’s up to you to wipe them all out in a 2D aerial battlefield before they can blast past you to wreak havoc on our fair cities. It seems he didn’t do such a good job, however, as the story begins with him in front of his peers trying to justify his failure to complete his duties.
Other than its cutesy humour and jokes about Uranus, there’s not an awful lot of appeal to the mandatory (you need to complete it to unlock everything else) story mode. Levels all follow the same format – slog through waves of ravagers and fight off any distracting invaders that are foolish enough to take you on. As the defender of Earth, you’re invincible (obviously…) and able to rip weaker enemies in two by simply colliding with them. With little danger to your own personal well-being and a relatively large, acceptable loss quota for damage to whatever city you’re meant to be protecting, most players will have no difficulty in getting through the three levels per stage. Gameplay quickly devolves into holding down the fire button and occasionally unleashing a special attack or button-mashy finishing move.
Thankfully, the levels only last a few minutes each and the campaign is over reasonably quickly. Once you’ve racked up enough successes to justify your crowds of adoring fans, you can unlock the challenge and infinite modes. Fellow public transportation users, this is where it gets exciting!
With 25 gruelling challenges and (sadly offline-only) leaderboards, it’s all about perfecting your performance and racking up the highest scores. Where once you looked to the progress bar for reassurance that the level was nearly over, you’ll now be desperately trying to eke out a few more kills before time runs out. This turns any free couple of minutes into a frantic battle to stay ahead and test your skills against ever more challenging trials. Thanks to this, WTF?! is a game that guarantees repeat visits and matures with age and experience rather than growing stale.
While the sound effects are surprisingly visceral and satisfying for such a lighthearted game, the rest of the soundtrack will start to wear on you before the gameplay is in danger of getting old. Thankfully, the bright, stylish 2D visuals are easy on the eyes for the most part. My only major gripe is that enemy design is rather uninspired, with every member of the alien horde sporting a similar black and purple colour scheme that makes it difficult to discern any real detail other than their basic shape. It does, however, mean that when filled with enemies, the screen never becomes too busy or confusing to focus on each individual creature. Still, a little more colour would have been nice. The dynamically changing backgrounds, made up of unique cityscapes that crumble and burn as you let more enemies past is a nice touch, adding to the quality feel of what is a remarkably cheap little game.
If you’re after something quick and quirky that you can pick up and blast through when there’s time to kill, Who’s That Flying?! is a great way to brighten up a dull moment. Its strength lies not in its ability to engage you for hours on end but is thanks to the fact that you’ll find yourself drawn to it in every spare moment for one more blast through. Mediatonic have identified exactly what needs to go into a Mini and delivered a fantastic short-form game that will outlast some of the more long-winded titles currently available. It may not win awards for innovation or stunning production values but succeeds in presenting a compact, concise experience well worth a look.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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