Who's That Flying?! (aptly abbreviated WTF?!) is the latest indie game to come from UK based Mediatonic, the developers behind many a browser and mobile game made for the likes of SEGA and Adult Swim, as well as their previously well received PSP Minis title Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess released in April 2010.
WTF?! is primarily a PSP Minis 2D side-scrolling shoot-'em-up with the slight twist that the main character, Earth, is an invincible galactic hero and protector of the little blue planet you and I call home. While that may sound like an easy job considering he's invincible and all, a hero’s work is never done. You see, since Earth is meant to protect the planet from any and all threats that kind of means that he has to get off his ass and do some actual protecting once in a while, making sure the hordes of ravenous space bastards don't kill everyone on our beloved planet.
Being an arcade game at heart WTF?! awards you with points for various things as you play. This mainly includes killing the aliens besieging the many cities across the globe, either by pew-pewing them with your super arm cannon blaster device or ripping them apart with your bare hands. There is also the all important health system that determines not only the amount of bonus points you get but also whether the city you're protecting is destroyed or not.
This is where the difficulty factor comes in. Every city has a health bar representing how many Ravagers can enter the city before it’s all over. While the small Ravagers that are gooey black blobs with pointy teeth are the only ones who can enter the city to decrease its heath, you'll also go up against more advanced enemies that are merely there to ruin your day and slow you down. Your common household Ravager, while extremely agile, will die in one shot, but don't let that fool you into thinking they're easy to stop. Killing them all is like trying to kill a swarm of hornets with a machine gun. They come in swarms, whizzing around the screen in an attempt to dodge your attacks, and you're usually too busy fighting off one of the large Ravagers to notice before it’s too late.
The larger Ravagers come in many varieties depending on the level, from fast worm-like entities that fly all over the place shooting balls of lightning at you, to the slow and tough variety that shoot green goo, sticking you in place for a few precious seconds if you get hit by it, as you attempt to free yourself. They still go down pretty easily, but they're there to distract you from killing the smaller beasties who are the real threat to the city.
Being a galactic hero and sole protector of the planet, you'd expect Earth to come complete with some sweet special moves, and he doesn't disappoint. While you're perfectly fine just staying back on the left side of the screen spamming the attack button, it sometimes pays to get up close and personal. All the little Ravagers can be engaged in melee, resulting in an insta-kill and the death of those in a small radius. However, the attack animation is slow causing you to stop your endless spray of lasers for a precious second, while you proceed to punch the crap out of the blobby bastard.
As well as being able to melee certain enemies, there's the factor of the often life-saving special attacks bar, which fills as you slaughter enemies and empties as more get into the city. The first attack is most probably the best against the little critters as it activates the TURBO-FIRE ability, in which you spray and pray wildly with your arm blaster faster than a redneck with a mini-gun. The second and third abilities, super and hyper beams, are pretty similar. Super beam is a short-lived attack that fires a small highly damaging focus beam for a few seconds, while hyper beam literally obliterates everything on screen, Shoop-da-whoop style.
"The story mode itself, while by no means hilarious, is bound to get a smile on your face…"
The story side of the game lasts only five levels with three stages each, each level being set in a different city. You can usually finish off each stage in six-minute slots with the third stage being the hardest as it pits you against a boss, health bar and all, to fight against. This means you can blast, pew, and pow your way through a level in about twenty minutes or so. The story mode itself, while by no means hilarious, is bound to get a smile on your face – if you manage to read the incredibly fast subtitles. You can usually get the gist of what's going on but the dialogue is where it gets the laughs. Essentially Earth, the hero, is defending himself in front of the Galactic Council of planetary protectors over allegations that he let Earth, the planet, get invaded. The story mode is Earth retelling the events from his viewpoint, with slight artistic license. “How did you defeat the super boss Ravager!?” protests one of the council members. “Easy, I just held down control and mashed the space bar, of course,” replies Earth in one of the tutorial sections.
You're not going to find the game particularly hard, if you're familiar with the occasional arcade shoot-‘em-up, but hardcore fans will have a hard time getting gold in all stages. With the story in mind, one might ask, “WTF am I going to do in WTF?! once I've finished the campaign?!” Well, that's where the infinite mode comes in.
If you're of the sort of persuasion where you revel in coming in at the top of the global leader boards, then you can play the game's levels to death in order to gain the highest score. Infinite mode however is your bog-standard survival mode with four different levels to choose from, each with their own special enemies to fight off in a never-ending battle to save Earth. You've got 50 health points standing between you and failure; let through enough Ravagers, and it’s game over, man.
The graphics definitely have a distinct style that is both simple and cute but ultimately nice to look at. The cut scene movies are a little low on the quality side of things on certain resolutions however, detracting a bit from the style and story, but the overall gameplay visuals are pretty good. The interface is simple and streamlined but also seamlessly fits in with the overall feel of the game. The only thing that's lacking is the inclusion of more variety within the Ravager designs, but when you're zooming along shooting the crap out of them it doesn't matter if they're big, small, black, or blue, they all die the same….
Now we come to the verdict. While undoubtedly Who's That Flying?! is a fun and charming little arcade game, I find it hard to justify its commercial release on Steam. While I can see it being a nice cheap game to keep you occupied on your PSP, which is what it was originally made for, the game is really little more than a glorified browser game for which you have to shell out $6. My advice? Go to your local browser gaming website and try out the many fun games on there, before you spend your hard earned cash on this little chestnut. If you're really interested in checking it out, get it on PSP, but for the PC crowd, you'll find the same amount of enjoyment in something like Elephant Quest or Burrito Bison on Armor Games and still be able to keep your $6 to put towards a Dumper Truck or for investing in the stock market. What could possibly go wrong?