shoot-em-up posts

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.

Freeware Friday: Varia

Welcome to Freeware Friday, a weekly column showcasing excellent games that you can play free of charge!

It's been quite a while since we've talked about shmups on Freeware Friday. It is one of our favorite genres, thanks to the replayability - even the shallowest shmups have quite a bit - combined with a basic gameplay mechanic that just works. While Varia doesn't do anything especially new or strange, it's a polished and well-designed look at several mechanics that haven't seen much action in the genre. Those that love shmups should definitely have Varia on their hard drive, and even though it is quite difficult, it has a charm that appeals beyond just the confines of the shmup fandom.

Build up your multiplier in Obsessive Nuclear Testing Disorder

Most shmups have you die in only a single hit. However, not many make you invincible, but reset your multiplier whenever you take a hit. This is the concept of Obsessive Nuclear Testing Disorder, an entry into the Experimental Gameplay Project's Unexperimental Shooters theme. It's not the most amazing game ever made, but it's certainly fun and does a good job of making you think about where shmups can go.

Obsessive Nuclear Testing Disorder involves you gunning down ships to build up your multiplier. Every time you reach 7000 points, you get a nuke. You must then use these nukes on waves of enemy ships to get the real, recorded score. It balances reward and risk very well, although once you get so much multiplier, your nukes are self-sustaining.

Boom! Go! Go! destroys bases

Most shmups revolve around you pushing forward into enemy territory, blasting away ships as they attempt to destroy you in an effort to defend their precious bases. But what happens when you succeed? Well, you turn right around and flee the ensuing blast wave, enemies attempting to hamper your escape. This is the concept of Boom! Go! Go!, and it's incredibly fun in a short way. Nothing like a quick coffee break game!

Boom! Go! Go! has a wall of death advancing on you from the rear. Every hit you take makes the wall advance closer, and the longer you go without taking a hit, the farther away the wall gets from you. There are four enemies that can make this wall advance when you collide with them: minelayers, rammers, mines (laid by the minelayer, big surprise!), and destroyable walls located in the base. There are power-ups that make you stronger, invincible, etc. All-in-all, a simple, fun game!

Destroy enemy ships in Pixelvader

There is not a whole lot of innovation in the shmup genre, and honestly, we're not surprised. It fits a very specific niche: shoot things until they blow up and give you score. Pixelvader is hardly innovative in the sense that it introduces new or complicated game mechanics, but its simplicity belies its fun. In a way, it's reminiscent of Frantic, and that's definitely a good thing.

Pixelvader involves moving around while your ship automatically fires. You kill enemies, get cash, and upgrade your ship between levels. If you are low on cash for a needed upgrade, you can play old levels to earn more. Upgrades include things like more health, faster shooting, the addition of more guns to shoot from the sides or rear, and a better defensive pulse. The defensive pulse (which erases bullets around you) in particular is interesting, as it is often your only refuge during a difficult boss battle. You can play Pixelvader on Kongregate.

Slow time (and be accurate) in Proto Shooter

Horizontal shmups are, through some unknown virtue, naturally harder than vertical shooters. Some of the best horizontal shmups are almost impossible for the average person to complete, such as Gradius or R-Type. Proto Shooter is an entry in the Experimental Gameplay Project's "Unexperimental Shooter" monthly theme that follows this difficulty despite only having a few enemies and power-ups. How does it do this, you ask? By making score dependent on your accuracy, and then by speeding up enemies as time passes.

Proto Shooter is extremely simple to control. Move with the mouse, shoot with the left mouse button, trigger slow time with the right mouse button. You move slightly slower in slow time, but enemies slow to a crawl, making it easier to destroy them. Every shot counts in Proto Shooter, both literally and figuratively. Any missed shots count against accuracy, which is then applied to the enemy's base score. For example, if you have an accuracy of 0.97, and you kill an enemy worth 100 points, you only get 97 points. vel.shock()

We don't want to speak in pseudo-code for this whole article, so we'll just leave it in the title. vel.shock() has a unique name that accentuates the excellent, although slightly tedious, gameplay. In a way, it's reminiscent of the classic Ray-Hound done by the creator of the infamous Warning Forever. However, while vel.shock() definitely shows signs of inspiration, it differs enough to draw attention.

vel.shock() involves a ship that must reflect enemy shots back at the source using a pulse with a minor delay. However, as you clear the levels, enemies spawn faster and you gain levels yourself. As your levels increase, so does your health and delay, eventually leading to a point wher you are frantically dodging around the screen, pulsing as often as humanly possible. Controls are entirely through the mouse, and the graphics are excellent. Unfortunately, there's not much variety in enemies or phases, and the music is repetetive electronica. It's definitely worth a play, though, and you might end up sinking some serious time into it!

[Via IndieGames]

Freeware Friday: Tyrian

Welcome to Freeware Friday, a weekly column showcasing excellent games that you can play free of charge!

Back in the day, PC gamers had two great shareware shoot-em-ups to choose from: Raptor and Tyrian. While many chose Raptor (whose full name is Raptor: Call of the Shadows), the clear winner in terms of care and quality is Tyrian. Oozing professionalism from every pore, Tyrian sports some excellent pixel art, music, and gameplay elements. It was also the launching pad for Alex Brandon, whose may be better known for his work on Unreal Tournament or Deus Ex. However, the original programmer, in a fit of generosity, decided to release the games as freeware, and the game engine as open source. Thus, new generations can be exposed to the genius shmup gameplay of Tyrian... for free!

Can you apply the Torque?

Jesse Venbrux, that ever enigmatic peddler of experimental games, has gone a much gentler route on his latest endeavor. Well, gentler in the sense that it's not experimental. Dubbed Torque, it's slightly different than your standard fare arena shooter, which means that it is hard. But that's fine with us. You spin and fire uncontrollably, and by holding down Z you can focus fire in one direction. That's it. Featuring hypnotic graphics, simple gameplay, and excellent controls, it's a great entry into a crowded genre, definitely worth a play for any fan of classic arcade gameplay. There is an online leaderboard as well as several modes to plumb the depths of.

[Via IndieGames]

Das ist Der Angriefer

Please excuse our butchery of the German language. We just felt it appropriate that a game named in German should have a German introduction. Der Angriefer is another entry in the Third 3 Hours competition over on Poppenkast, and it's a fast paced, infinite loop scrolling shooter. Controlling a ship that can take multiple hits, you must shoot down oncoming ships. You can fire either your main gun or activate your special, which sprays a massive amount of bullets that effectively clears the screen of enemies. Thankfully, there's noth9ing else. It's just kill or be killed. Your special recharges pretty quickly, so don't be afraid to use it.

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