Who's That Flying?! Review
Most shoot 'em ups out there can be categorized as either really deep and enjoyable or really shallow and repetitive. Very rarely do games in the genre fall somewhere in the middle. Developer Mediatonic, though, has managed to create a side-scrolling shooter that's not exactly awesome but certainly deserves some merit. Who's That Flying?!, previously released through PlayStation Minis, has found a new home on the PC. This strangely captivating shoot 'em up is full of charm, but its lack of originality and shallow gameplay keep it from being as great as it could be.
Initially, the only mode you can play is the Story mode, which consists of five levels with three stages each and a boss battle at the end. The plot revolves around an intergalactic hero named Earth who's being tried for allegedly putting the world in danger. Earth's colleagues (Mars, Neptune, Uranus, and company) are all in charge of deciding the hero's fate as he tells his side of the story. Cutscenes consist of butt jokes and drop-the-soap liners ("dropped the soap" is literally used in the game), which are fairly comical but mostly absurd. You'll probably chuckle at some of the humor, but everything is fairly cliche for the most part.
Like other flying shoot 'em ups, Who's That Flying?! has you guiding your character through the air as endless waves of enemies fill the screen. There are small drones and larger enemies with special attacks that require you to dodge and pick your spots as you try to take them down. You don't actually take damage, but if you let the smaller enemies get past you, the city you're defending will slowly be destroyed. Once a total of 50 enemies slip by, it's game over. Luckily, the game never gets overly difficult or frustrating, so if you lose, you're just not doing a very good job.
Boss fights are a little more challenging and are the most enjoyable aspect of Who's That Flying?! These battles are timed, but you still have to watch out for small drones. Keeping an eye on the clock and ensuring that enemies are fired upon promptly requires quick thinking and fast reflexes. Unfortunately, if you lose, you have to start from the beginning of the third level, which leads up to the boss fight.
Another really cool aspect of the game is the weapon charge-up system. As you kill off enemies, a meter on the lower left-hand side of the screen begins to increase. As long as you don't let any drones pass you, you can power up your weapon. The first increase in power speeds up your rate of fire. The second gives you a strong beam that can wipe out almost every enemy. And the final upgrade rewards you with a larger, much more powerful beam that eliminates all enemies on the screen. Each of these power-ups lasts only a few seconds, so the game never gets too easy, and you can really savor the enhanced abilities.
Who's That Flying?! can be played with the computer keyboard, but an Xbox 360 controller is much more suited for this type of game. Though you'll get used to the keyboard controls, there's a greater sense of precision in using a D-pad or analog stick and face buttons as opposed to switching between the space bar to shoot and the X key to trigger your power-ups. Latching on to enemies by holding the Ctrl key and mashing the space bar is especially tedious, making the Xbox 360 controller the definitive input method for the game. That said, if you do go with the keyboard controls, you won't have too much of a problem after you get used to it.
You're likely to get through the entire campaign in Who's That Flying within an hour and a half. Luckily, there are two extra modes in the game, both of which are more enjoyable than Story mode. You can take on several different challenges across the game's worlds and earn medals based on your performance. These consist of accumulating a set number of points, preventing a single enemy from succeeding, completing stages at frantic velocity, and more. There is also an Infinite mode, which is a lot of fun and the real way to play the game.
Who's That Flying features bold, colorful visuals that are almost Flash-like in their presentation. Everything looks slick and polished, and aside from some blurry lines during cutscenes, everything looks absolutely charming. The sound design isn't as crisp, however, and consists of a handful of quirky but forgettable themes.
Plenty of gamers are certain to find a lot of enjoyment in the game, but fans of more compelling shoot 'em ups will only be able to squeeze a minimal amount of worthwhile gameplay out of it. At $7, the price is most certainly inviting. If you're looking for a quick and fun side-scrolling shoot 'em up that doesn't take itself too seriously, Who's That Flying?! is a decent investment. Just don't expect anything ground-breaking or terribly unique.