After a brief respite with a couple of PS3 games, I’m back with yet another Mini review. This time, we have another shooter. The Flying Hamster was a surprise for me in terms of how much I enjoyed it, and this title seems to be quirky in its own way.
This time around we’ve got a superhero theme and a different take on shooter genre. In fact, the game proudly displays its odd merger of traditional shooter and tower defense elements. These weren’t two genres I ever thought to put together, but it certainly is interesting. The developer also made the well received Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess.
Can lighting strike twice? Are we in for another good PSP Mini shooter?
Let me tell you about my friend Steve. Everybody liked the guy, but he was the butt of just about every joke we could come up with, was a punching bag for most most girls, and was someone nobody took too seriously. A lot of this has to do with his sense of humor, which was always groan worthy and worse than the “jokes”Â my father makes to waitresses.
Why do I bring this up? The reason is that WTF has the same sense of humor. You play as the guardian of Earth, a robotic superhero of sorts who is on trial for allowing aliens known as ravagers to invade his planet. Judging him are the guardians of the other planets, led by Jupiter. The levels you play are actually recordings of Earth’s battle against the ravagers. Earth is corny as hell. He makes obvious and horrible jokes about Uranus that everyone laughs at, showboats for magazine covers, and is generally unlikable. Hell, at one point the game’s story devolves into nothing but a long Uranus joke. It wasn’t funny the first time, and it wasn’t funny any of the times afters. The big twist can be seen from mile away, and the story is pretty forgettable. Thankfully, the game makes up for this with its modes.
Story mode works differently from most shooters. You have a level select system rather than just blasting your way from start to finish. There are five themed locations each with three stages, the last of which houses a boss fight. You can replay missions to get medals which unlock bonus material in the form of character profiles. These are much more interesting than the story and introduce a few characters who didn’t get any real screen time. Once you’ve beaten all three levels for a location, you unlock a level for Infinite Mode, which tasks you with seeing how long you can last without losing all of your lives.
The best mode has to be Challenge Mode, however. You unlock this once you’ve cleared out all of the story levels. There are twenty-four challenges, from tougher boss fights, sped up levels, and levels where you can’t let a single enemy through, among others. These are short, which make them great for portable play, but challenging in a way the story levels are not. If you want to get into some post-game content, this is where you’ll spend your time.
It may not seem like much, but these modes offer a lot more replay value then your typical Mini. Even The Flying Hamster, which I loved, died out faster than this game. If only the plot weren’t so groan worthy and forgettable. There was a nifty concept there, but it got lost in silly butt jokes.
WTF is one of the many games trying to capture a superhero/comic book type feel, though without panels. Characters, enemies, and backgrounds use rich, dark colors for the most part, seemingly colored in with ink. The look is simple, clean, and pretty good overall.
My favorite aspect of the game comes into effect when you’re doing badly. As Ravagers get by you, your city loses health. As its health drops, buildings crumble, and the cityscape looks war-torn. It was an effect that could have been easily overlooked or left out, but it helps the presentation immensely.
There isn’t much in the way of animations going on. Earth doesn’t move much beyond the occasional barrel roll. He just flies along blasting things. There are some nifty animations when he uses a close quarters attack to finish off bigger enemies or when he rips Ravagers apart, but there isn’t much variation and it gets less impressive as you go on.
If there’s one thing going against the game, it is a lack of enemy variety. All Ravagers look the same, with only special enemies looking different. In that case, there is only one special enemy per city, and bosses are just large versions of those. You’ll likely get tired of destroying the same black blobs over and over again.
Overall, however, the game looks good and has enough personality to keep you interested.
The music in this game takes an interesting approach. Earth has his own superhero theme that plays during the intro and first level, but each city has a localized version. For example, the Russian theme reminded me strongly of Tetris while the Japanese theme had a much faster pace then the others. The tunes are definitely fitting and amusing. They didn’t capture me quite like the tunes in TFH, but I enjoyed them enough.
The sound effects are the other half of the audio equation, and they aren’t standout in any way. You have your typical laser blasts, explosions, and the like. I actually turned them down so I could listen more to the music. The characters speak in a robotic gibberish that honestly gets annoying. Hiring one or two people to contribute some voices would have gone a long way, but I get why they did it.
WTF offers a standard audio package with a bit of a plus thanks to the interesting take on its soundtrack.
As far as controls go, WTF follows the standard to a tee. You move your character with the d-pad or analog nub while holding down the X button to fire laser blasts. The level scrolls vertically with enemies coming in from the top, bottom, and right of the screen.
A combo meter at the top builds as you destroy enemies. If you take too long between killings, the combo resets and the total is added to your score. There are several modes that keep track of this score, and getting high combos is easy provided you dodge and never let off of the fire button.
Where the game differs from the norm is in your goals. Earth is invincible to damage. You can get hit all you want and never die. There are no lives to speak of. Sound too good to be true? Well, the goal of each level isn’t to survive. It is to make sure that no Ravagers get past you. Your city has a life total, and if enough Ravagers get through, the city is lost, Earth is found guilty, and it is Game Over. Ravagers can be beaten with your basic attack, but you can also grab them up close for an instant kill. This can be a life saver, but it also takes some time, so you don’t want to depend on it.
The longer you keep Ravagers from attacking your city, the more your super move meter fills. It has three levels that can be reached. You get a faster version of you normal attack, a thin laser that cuts through enemies, and a giant laser which pretty much destroys everything. The most tactical decisions you’ll make are when to use these special moves, as they can be a life saver during crazy moments.
Blocking your way are bigger monsters that are unique to each city. They still can’t hurt you, but also don’t affect the city’s life total either. Instead, their job is to absorb your fire and stun you. While stunned, you can’t fire, and often lose control of your character. You can mash the X button to snap out of it sooner, but you’ll get free eventually. In the meantime, you’ll be lucky if a bunch of Ravagers didn’t sneak by you while you were out. Even bigger enemies take even more damage and must be beaten with a special melee attack. When prompted, you’ll need to hold down the right shoulder button and mash on the X button to perform the attack. It also has the added bonus of damaging anything nearby, Ravager or not. It becomes a worthwhile strategy to not take these guys down until there are a bunch of enemies on screen that can be caught in the blast.
Bosses are a whole other story. You have a time limit to defeat the boss, and they’re all about stunning you while throwing hordes of Ravagers at you. It can be easy to get distracted by the Ravagers and forget to whittle the boss’ health down, and you’ve got to hit their weak point to do it. These battles are often fun and challenging, especially the ramped up versions you get in Challenge Mode.
The decision to include a tower defense system in a shooter could have been a big flop. However, this game is pretty darn fun to play. A lot of levels come down to holding down the fire button while flying back and forth, but there are plenty of nifty moments where you’ve got to aim carefully or prioritize one enemy over the other. It adds a layer of depth to the game that saves it from being just another shooter.
I was actually surprised by the length of this game. It took about an hour and a half to play through the story mode the first time, which is a bit longer than some of the other Minis I’ve played. That might not seem like much, but when you factor in replaying for medals and unlocking stuff in the extras, it starts to add up.
Challenge Mode adds some more length. A lot of the challenges can be beaten in a minute or two, but more than a few of them are so tough that you won’t be able to beat them in even the first several tries. That, and the game is fun enough that you’ll keep coming back, especially with the rewards.
The extras I’m referring to are magazine articles and trophies. Trophies are earned by meeting milestones or performing specific actions. There are two different magazines to earn articles for. You unlock articles about enemy types by getting all of the medals for a city. You get articles about the guardians by reaching set medal totals. The magazines have the same humor as the story, but some of the jokes are actually worth a chuckle and provide some back story.
Overall, the game is something you can come back to whenever you get bored or have a few minutes to kill on a bus or car ride. Basically, it’s pretty good for a Mini, and easily has the highest replay value of any of the Minis I’ve played.
Since you can’t die, getting through the levels isn’t too bad. The only time I failed a story level is when I failed to kill the boss during the time limit. This might sound too easy, but the goal of the game isn’t simply to make it through the levels. The goal is to keep as many Ravagers from getting through as possible, and that turns out to be pretty tough.
Enemies come fast and hard, and the bigger baddies have no problem getting in your way. During one particular challenge, I managed to get stunned and get caught in loop that kept me out long enough for an entire legion of enemies to get through. It was all preventable in the sense that I could have avoided the first attack were I more skilled. I never blamed the game for a loss because it was always pretty fair.
The game gets tougher as it goes, is never unfair, and is consistently challenging. Color me impressed.
I can’t think of any shooter that incorporates this kind of gameplay mechanic. That may be because I’m not the most well versed in the genre, but my friend who loves them couldn’t come up with them either. That alone helps this game stand out from the pack.
However, I wish the game had gone further with the concept. Merging a shooter with a tower defense game has a lot of potential for some unique gameplay, and I can’t help but feel the game missed some opportunities for growth. I also can’t believe they didn’t offer alternate characters with a whole colorful cast of heroes at their disposal. Perhaps we’ll see something like that in an eventual sequel?
When I first started up this game, I put it down after about ten minutes. After that, I played for about half an hour. After that, I played for about two hours. As you can see, the game starts off slow but gets its hooks in you before long.
The game really opens up with Challenge Mode, which is truly the star of the show. As the challenges get tougher, so does your resolve to complete them. It also became hard to feel satisfied with a silver trophy when there was a gold and even a perfect score within reach. It can be easy to let time slip by while you replay a level several times over to improve your score.
The one thing the game doesn’t do is get you to come back once you’ve put the game down. It’s only when you’re playing that you feel the urge to keep going. It’s kind of like Pringles to me. I don’t often get them, but once I start eating them, I can’t stop.
The first thing that might set you back is the six dollar price tag this game commands. That’s pretty high for a Mini, but like The Flying Hamster, the game will be worth it to those who pick it up. Unless you adamantly refuse to pick up a Mini that is more than a few bucks, don’t let this stop you.
For fans of shooters, you probably shouldn’t pass this up. The tower defense elements make it a unique entry to the genre, while it has a higher degree of replay value than most Minis. Challenge Mode also packs a good punch if you’re afraid the game is a breeze.
For other people, this is a good Mini that shouldn’t be overlooked, even if you have to wait for the price to drop. Keep this game on your radar, because it is something that just about everyone can enjoy.
I’ve already gone over what’s included in the extras option, but I suppose it bears repeating. You’re given character files as well as amusing enemy facts. You also unlock trophies as you play. The latter might not be all that new to PSP games, but not enough offer them.
Beyond that, this is a pretty fully featured Mini title. Throw in some online leaderboards and some multiplayer, and I’d be running around town telling everyone to pick this up so I could have some competition. Don’t let the lack of those features keep you from the game though. The game is a great portable title in its own right.
Replayability: Very Good
Balance: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Above Average
Final Score: Enjoyable Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
Count Who’s That Flying?! as another hit for Mediatonic and another great traditional shooter for the PSP Mini lineup. While it might not have the best story or much variety, it makes up for it with quality all around. In particular, the tower defense mechanics and the Challenge Mode are some quality additions that help the game stand out. If you’re looking for a good Mini to kill some time, you could to a lot worse with Who’s That Flying?!