Thursday, 6 August 2009

Project: Horned Owl (Playstation)

Project: Horned Owl is a light gun shooter for Playstation released in 1995. It has mecha designs (and possibly character designs too?) by Masamune Shirow, and as such will probably light a little spark of nostalgia for cartoon nerds of a certain age, with it being slightly reminiscent of Dominion Tank Police.
As you might have worked out from the first paragraph, in this game you play as cops in giant(-ish) robots, and you shoot evil terrorist robots. Even though you're playing as cops, you get points for destoying the scenery. A subtle satire on the attitude and conduct of real police, or just the developers knowing that people like shooting things? Probably the second one. You get two and a half weapons: your normal gun, your grenade launcher, and when you hold the shoot buton for a second and let go, you shoot a weak scatter shot thing, the only use for which is shooting missiles without having to aim. But the time it takes to charge means you'd be better off just shooting them normally.
The graphics are nice to look at, a mix of 2D and 3D, with the stages themselves being made of polygons, and everything you can shoot (with a couple of exceptions like some of the bosses and such) being sprites. It works well. The 3D hasn't aged as badly as most 3D from 1995, with the only real eyesore being the plane in the background of stage 2.
"Satisfying" is the best way to describe how the game plays. There's just something that feels good and chunky about shooting the robots, and the robots exploding. You know, one of those strange unnamed feelings you get from games that aren't down to any specific thing like graphics or sound or whatever. It just feels right. The feeling of satisfaction is definately helped by the fact that the enemies don't disappear after you shoot them down, leaving you with nice piles of scrap after particularly busy segments. The only real problem is the fact that putting the cursor right at the edge of the screen reloads, which means you can't shoot enemies there. But even that's not too much of a problem, since enemies don't attack from there, you only be shooting them for a few extra points. I would say that the difficulty was a problem, were it not for the fact that although it is really hard, it never feels unfair.
Oh and there are animated cutscenes, if you like that sort of thing. They're not very exciting, but if there's exciting stuff happening in a game, it should really happen while you're actually playing.