Saturday, 4 February 2023

Wing War (Arcade)

 For some reason, Model 1 games have been listed as "Not Working" in MAME for years, even though they're all, as far as I can tell, totally playable. Maybe it's an oversight, or maybe there's some special technological reason that's beyond my grasp, but you can definitely play them. And this is one of them! I think it might have been the last of them, too, coming out in 1994. Model 2 games Daytona USA and Virtua Cop had already been released the previous year!


But being the last Model 1 game, it is also the most graphically sophisticated by a long way. It's a game about one-on-one aircraft combat, with aged propellor planes, modern fighter jets, and a few attack helicopters on offer. Also on offer are two modes of play, selectable right at the start of your credit: dogfight and expert. Dogfight is the best, but I should at least explain the differences between them.


Dogfight is by far the most videogamey, and specifically the most like a SEGA arcade game of the two. In this mode, you and your opponent fly on a fixed path over each of the stages, and every ten seconds or so you switch positions between being the attacker at the rear or the evader in front. As the attacker, you can fire your useless machine gun, and your slightly less useless missiles, while as the evader, you've got to fly around to evade your opponent's weapons and at a pinch, you can release a smokescreen to confuse their missiles.


Expert is a lot more complex, and it's all the weaker for it. In this mode, the stages are just differently-decorated large square plains over which you and your opponent are free to fly around and try to shoot each other down. Now, dogfight mode ends much more often than not in a time out finish with the victory going to whoever scorded the most lucky hits, but expert mode adds in the struggle of having to seek out your opponent before you can even try to hit them. Many of my Expert mode matches were decided with only one hit having been landed by the time time was up.


The game does have a problem with how unreliable the weapons are at hitting their marks. It is a problem that plagues both the player and their AI opponents, though, so the luck-based gameplay is at least equal in its tedium. I'm not sure how it could be fixed, unfortunately. lock-on weapons ala Afterburner or Panzer Dragoon would grossly unbalance dogfight mode, though they would greatly improve expert mode. But would they also ruin the psuedo-realistic verisimilitude to which expert mode aspires?


Though the game has some serious problems mechanically, it is at least aesthetically beautiful. Like I said, it's the most visually complex Model 1 game, and the stages look great, especially in dogfight mode, which sees you flying through them on a fixed path like you would in a sprite scrolling game. They're varied, too: there's a New York-like city, a wild west desert, and a high-altitude fantasy plateau with waterfalls, rainbows, and dinosaurs. Something else worth noting is that there was a version of this game housing in an R-360 cabinet, which might explain its existence: maybe SEGA wanted to put a polygon-based game in one of those, but there was some reason that it wouldn't have been practical to put a Model 2 game in there.


Wing War isn't a particularly great game, but it is one that looks really cool. And I suspect that that's the whole point of it existing: in an age where polygonal 3D games were new, this was one that had a lot of cool-looking stuff happening at a high speed, and sometimes it was even in a gimmicky cabient that span the player round a bunch. If you like looking a pretty low polygon vistas, give it a look. If you don't, it doesn't really have anything else to offer.

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Lilithrottle (PC)

 Here's a game that will immediately appeal to some of my readers: a fangame dedicated to Lilith from Capcom's Darkstalkers/Vampire games! More exciting, though, is the developer: Mount Punch, who also developed the best game on the XBox Live Indie Games store, Chieri no Doki Doki Yukemuri Burari Tabi! Does it live up to that game's greatness? No. But it is still pretty good!


It's a platform game in which you play as Lilith, and you've got to traverse the various stages killing enemies and avoiding traps while also collecting enough bats to open the stage's exit. Later on, things get added like switches for opening doors and so on. The gimmick, though, is in how you get around the stages. Obviously, you can walk and jump, but the majority of your time playing the game will be spent flying in straight lines.


While in midair, you hold a direction and press jump to make Lilith fly in that direction, and while flying, you can also hold the melee attack button to turn her into a drill, smashing through enemies and certain kinds of blocks. To be honest, I don't know why you have to press a second button to do this, since there's no benefit to be found in flying without drilling, nor is there any disadvantage to doing it every time. 


The game's clearly designed entirely around this mechanic, and it's in a certain category of game (my goto example always being the Playstation game Speed Power Gunbike) that offer little mercy to new players, but get significantly more enjoyable to players that persevere and master the idiosyncratic way the game plays. That is, when you first start playing, it'll seem unfair, clunky, and generally no fun at all to play. But once you master flying and drilling and you  learn the stage layouts a little, there's a lot of fun and satisfaction to be had zooming from place to place, cleaning up bats, monsters, and destructible blocks as you go.


Lilithrottle is, like I said, definitely an acquired taste, but if you think you have the patience to properly get ahold of it (or if you're enough of a Darkstalkers fan for that to motivate you), you should definitely give it a try! If you just want to get through games while encountering very little friction, though, it's definitely not for you.