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Review: Who's That Flying?!

Shoot 'em ups, such as DoDonPachi or Tyrian, moved from the realm of the mainstream and into the hands of small indie developers a long time ago. After all, they are fairly easy to develop, have solid core mechanics, and utilize mostly 2D graphics. Who's That Flying?! (WTF?!) is one of these games, and while it's not particularly revolutionary, it's a polished and fun shmup that almost anybody can get into. It's also unusual in that it is a fairly benign port of a console game, and manages to be fun without suffering from the traditional issues of ports.
Who's That Flying?! approaches a familiar topic - superhero defenders - with a fairly humorous slant. You play as Earth, the defender of Earth (big surprise). You are on trial by all the other defenders of the solar system for allowing enemies to attack Earth, and your showboating while defending the populace does not help your story. After all, wouldn't a fame-obsessed hero want monsters to attack? The story is fairly standard fare and completely disposable, but it manages to be endearing and funny at the same time. Maybe it's the goofy dialogue, or the childish reference (especially to Uranus), but we couldn't help but be won over by the game's underlying charm. This is doubly surprising given the kid-like nature of the cutscenes, as childish antics can quickly get boring. They don't here, though.

As for the presentation, WTF?! sports some detailed HD cartoon art and high quality audio. It's nothing particularly shocking, but it's also surprisingly high-quality. The closest game that approaches this style would be perhaps Alien Hominid, and WTF?! shares Alien Hominid's sense of color, form, and animation. The music is cheesy and the sound effects are standard, so there's nothing new there. The voiceovers are complete gibberish, much like the Simlish of The Sims, but it's somehow charming and isn't quite a language of its own. It's gibberish in the same sense that the pseudo-Swedish of Magicka is gibberish: familiar syllables arranged in unfamiliar ways.

WTF?! merges two genres into one, but its heart is the shmup genre. You fly along a horizontal stage, enemies come from the right and to the left, and you shoot them until they die. What makes WTF?! different is the inclusion of 50 lives. As a hero, you are invulnerable to all evildoers. Unfortuantely, those you defend are not. Thus, in a move ripped straight from hero defense mods from Warcraft 3, you must prevent monsters from reaching the end in order to retain all of your lives. It has been likened to tower defense, but it's not really that. It's more like the classic mod Enfo's, if anything.

To spice up your combat with the ravagers, you have a number of special moves. The first is simply triggered by running into a normal enemy, and consists of you ripping apart an enemy with your bare hands. It's cool for tracking down that last pesky enemy, but is otherwise useless. It does, however, cause a small explosion around the player. The other moves are all dependent upon building up a meter, which allows you access to three different type of shots: rapid, laser, and hyper. The rapid shot fires about twice as fast as normal fire, the laser deals light continual damage (great for huge waves of normal enemies), and the hyper laser deals tremendous damage to all units. The hyper laser is also the only weapon in the game that can kill grab-only characters without requiring a grab.

Besides the standard ravagers, you have larger enemies and bosses to deal with. Each cultural area (from New York to Egypt) has one kind of special ravager and a boss character based on this ravager. For example, New York has worm-like ravagers that you have to beat the snot out of, and the boss is a huge segmented monster that requires systemic destruction of its parts. Each area also has three stages, each of which can have up to four medals for (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Gold Perfect). There's a fair amount of replayability, as it is unlikely that you will end up perfecting every stage on your first run through the game. You don't get much for a perfect clear (just an achievement) but it's still fun to play through each of the game's stages. We just wish there was more overlap.

WTF?! has mostly minor issues, and none that seriously detract from the game. There is no built-in gamepad support (we tried an Xbox 360 gamepad), so you'll need a 3rd-party keymapper to play. The lack of larger enemy diversity on levels can be disheartening, as it does keep the complexity and difficulty of the stages relatively low. The magazines, while neat, don't really satisfy our interest in the cartoonish and goofy universe the game takes place in. There's nothing to do outside of the story missions except infinite mode, when it feels like there could have been more puzzle-like challenges in place. In short, it feels like the highly polished and thoroughly entertaining start of a game, and it ends up leaving us hungering for more. This is both good and bad, as we obviously want more but feel that this effort is lacking in a few areas.

Who's That Flying?! is a solid, presentable, casual, and entertaining game. It doesn't really break ground, but it doesn't fall down into the same pitfalls other games do either. It straddles the line between fantastic and average. Thus, we recommend you buy it when your current list of games to play has worn down a bit. It's a good break game, as you can come back to it 5 minutes at a time and not feel guilty, and it's also fun (and funny) enough to play for an hour or two. Just don't expect anything revolutionary. This is a polished game, but not one that will blow you out of the water. Well, except maybe on the visuals and humor. Who's That Flying?! has lovely art and charming cutscenes to spare. It's a good price at $6, and one that you can easily justify.

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