iPhone/iPad review of the day: Whos That Flying?! – puts the comedy back in the shooter genre

On iPhone/iPad (universal app)
Who’s That Flying?!
Price: $2.99 / £1.79
Size: 112 MB
Get it now at the iTunes store: US (opens in new tab)/ UK (opens in new tab)

It’s rather surprising how the iPhone app store has amassed a good amount of solid, old-school-styled shooters. One wouldn’t think the touch-screen would be an ideal form of control for these games, but Who’s That Flying?! Has finely tuned controls that give you pinpoint accuracy without obscuring your vision, (you may even have to turn the sensitivity down on iPhone). It’s a scrolling shooter in the vein of numerous classics of years gone by, but it adds several interesting twists on established genre formulas – including invincibility and jokes.

In WTF?! (subtle acronyming, that), you assume the role of Earth – not the whole planet, but the same-named defender of our lovely little planet from all manner of extraterrestrial threats. Think Ultraman, but pint-sized and sassier. Unlike most scrolling shooters, in which something hitting the wrong pixel on your ship’s body spells instant death, Earth is actually completely indestructible. But the cities you defend aren’t. Instead of focusing on keeping your character alive, WTF?! tasks you with protecting the planet’s major cities from inky black beings bent on destroying them. Waves of small, hungry black creatures flow onto the screen, and if they make it past you by exiting on the leftmost side of the screen, they’ll damage the city – and too much damage to the city spells Game Over.

Fortunately, Earth has access to an auto-fire laser that can take out most of the smaller threats with no sweat. And if you actually ram directly into a hungry blob, he’ll rip it apart by hand (unless it’s too big for that, in which case he bounces off). By destroying more and more monsters in succession, your laser charges up and can temporarily unleash more powerful, mega-damaging super attacks – which will be needed against the bigger beasts in the game.

The larger creatures don’t attack the city – they’re coming for you directly. They serve as distractions, blocking large sections of the screen (and protecting the little gobblers) and executing projectile attacks that can stun or stall you, enabling the smaller, destructive monsters to bypass Earth’s defense. But you can take them down too – certain large monsters, when dealt enough damage, can be attacked by hand with a series of rapid taps, destroying not only them but any smaller threats nearby. There are also encounters with huge boss enemies every three stages, each with a timer and a trick to defeating it that you must puzzle out. If the boss isn’t downed by the time the clock hits zero, you’re done.

WTF?! is a charming, humorous little game with a lot of neat ideas. The twists on the typical shooter formula are quite fun, the enemy formations are challenging, and the boss battles offer something a bit more cerebral than a standard “blast them until they’re dead” shooter fight. There are a few issues with the iOS version, however: the dark background elements can sometimes make the also-darkly-colored enemies a bit hard to see, and the default control setting is far too sensitive to navigate some of the tight attack volleys smoothly. (We had to turn the sensitivity all the way down in order for the controls to feel “right.”) But despite some flaws, WTF?! is a pleasant, enjoyable little game that plays to the strengths of the iPhone platform.

May 6, 2011

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