While the acronym “WTF” is often used in exasperating situations, recent release Who’s That Flying?! may change that. Whether players download the title via Steam or the Playstation Network, they’re in for a 2D side scroller of galactic proportions. Gamers play as Earth, guardian of our planet and showboating hero extraordinaire. Earth flies through the skies taking down aliens with an arm cannon that receives temporary upgrades for keen marksmanship. The characters are cute, the cut scenes are comical, and the challenge level is enough to keep players engaged but not so hard that you can’t play it in one sitting. In fact one of the nice things about WTF?! is that it’s short and sweet enough that you can finish it in two hours or so (which readers and listeners will know is a big deal for me, since I tend to take a long time to finish games).
The controls are easily mastered. They consist of moving Earth around the screen with the arrow keys, holding “control” to grab bigger enemies, using “x” to trigger turbo mode, and whamming on the space bar to take out space baddies. Earth’s movements are smooth, and for the most part you feel like you can direct him exactly where you’d like him to be. The only exception to this is that when trying to fly backwards to grab a stray enemy about to pass you, Earth seems to miss about half the time. When moving forwards into enemies, Earth grabs any ravager in his radius and rips it apart with his bare hands, causing an explosion which is devastating to other enemies. But when moving backwards, his dexterity seems to decrease disproportionately to his otherwise skillful maneuvers.
Allowing ravagers to pass you both decreases the health of the city you’re protecting, and resets your turbo charge bar to zero. This is problematic because there are groups of enemies you will encounter which you will be unable to best unless you have a turbo gun ability charged up- thus allowing more ravagers to pass you and further this detrimental cycle. All is not lost though, as the game gives you a hefty fifty enemy allowance before the cities are destroyed. One thing I would have liked to see more of is some kind of cut scene when your city gets overwhelmed by the ravager aliens. The loading screens mention that if they get past you, you’ll have to watch as your cities crumble into ruin but you don’t actually get to see any of that if they do make it past you. Instead, you get the retry or quit screen. It would have been nice to get a little cinematic destruction action, since the otherwise animated cut scenes are so enjoyable.
For the shmup genre, it’s one of the best. Normally my grading rubric elevates deep and thoughtful gaming, but this game isn’t about that. It’s a fun and simple, and effective at what it hopes to accomplish. Who’s That Flying?! is definitely worth the cost- it will make you chuckle and bring you enough challenge and motivation to master each level. Considering WTF?!‘s compelling mechanics, don’t be surprised if the game’s amusing acronym slips out when you realize you’ve lost hours protecting the world from ravagers.