Ufo Pilot 2:
The Phadt Menace


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UfoPilot 2: The Phadt Menace

JoshA little-known sequel to an even lesser-known original, UfoPilot 2: The Phadt Menace is a fun little action shooter that pays homage to the classic Defender, with gravity-based elements reminiscent of all those "moon lander" games that you've probably played throughout the last decade. You're tasked with leading rescue missions to save your fellow pilots, who are being held as prisoners-of-war by the Phadt Armada, a hostile alien enemy. Developed by Spell of Play, the game features an original soundtrack and physics-based graphics presentation, leaning heavily towards the arcade motif, but less cartoon-like than most shooters. This may be, in part, because of the physics/gravity engine (it's difficult to articulate without being a developer, but the game looks like it feels and plays, with debris from explosions affecting the environment in small, pixel-sized amounts).

UfoPilot 2: The Phadt MenaceLike most action games, the story takes a backseat to the gameplay, which is pretty fulfilling if you're a fan of gravity-influenced flying and blowing things out of the sky. However, this isn't your typical run-and-gun shooter, which might appeal to fans that have been yearning for something a little different. There's a lot of unique environments like underground caverns and above-ground ruins to fly around in; a stark contrast from most shooters that just throw you in deep space with some asteroids to crash into. The goal of each level is to rescue a certain number of captured pilots that are being held in little bunkers scattered throughout the map. There are always five prisoners in each bunker, and you've got to fire a single shot at the bunker to destroy it and free them. (Yea, the irony of blowing up the building your buddies are being held in seemed a little odd to me, too.) Once a bunker is destroyed, they'll run out screaming like lunatics. To rescue them, you've got to land somewhere close to them, and they'll automatically start running to your ship. Once aboard, you can either fly to another bunker or unload them at the mothership, depending on how much cargo room you have left. Conceptually, it seems simple enough—until you factor in the dozens of things trying to blast you out of the sky.

From the first few levels you'll be met with laser and missile turrets, tanks, falling rocks and even other alien pilots (that amusingly cruise around in ships that look almost exactly like the ones from Tron). But perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome is your own flying skill, which will probably lead to your destruction more often than enemies, at least until you get the hang of it. Your thrusters are controlled by pushing the right mouse button, allowing you to fight gravity and follow the direction your mouse is pointing. The left mouse button fires your lasers, so it takes a bit of practice to use both these abilities in harmony, yet independently of one another. You also have three special weapons (gathered as power-ups): bombs, heat-seeking missiles and a unique "bounce" weapon that ricochets of surfaces a few times. These weapons are deployed using [Z], [X] and [C], as displayed on your in-game HUD. Additional power-ups include invulnerability shields, extra lives, anti-gravity boosters and armor replenishment.

UfoPilot 2: The Phadt MenaceThe game features three modes; Classic, Time Attack and Arcade. You'll probably want to start with Classic, since it allows you to play in whatever style you like, at your own pace. At the start of each level, you're presented with an upgrade screen that lets you tweak six different aspects of your ship; weapons, armor, engine, payload, spin and target. Weapons and armor are pretty self-explanatory. Upgrading your engine gives you stronger thrust, while payload dictates how many rescued pilots you can carry at once. Lastly, "spin" refers to how fast you're able to turn—or pivot—your ship (which is more important that it sounds), and upgrading "target" lengthens the distance between your aiming reticule and your ship, helping you to shoot more accurately. The catch with upgrading is that you're only given 12 points to spend, regardless of progression. While this allows a strong start, it also discounts the possibility of becoming "stronger" in later levels. It might seem like a dumb move on the developers part, but therein lies the real challenge at the heart of the game; dynamically adapting both your ship and play style to overcome different obstacles, depending on the level. Sometimes you'll need brute force to defend yourself from heavy alien resistance, while other times the level design will call for greater finesse and control of your ship, or even stealthy tactics to avoid confrontation altogether.

Analysis: For a small indie arcade game, the music and graphics in UfoPilot 2: The Phadt Menace are surprisingly good. The backgrounds are a far stretch from breathtaking, but the animation and explosion/particle effects are pretty cool and uniquely stylized for this game. It really fits the theme of a physics-based arcade shooter, although there's obvious room for improvement (max resolution is a paltry 640x480). Presentation aside, gameplay can be frustrating because of what a cruel, unforgiving mistress gravity plays in this game. You might find yourself banging into things left and right, which drains a hefty bit of armor. Landing is also a challenge, since anything but a delicate touchdown will damage your ship a little (and you'll be trying to land a lot, since rescuing pilots is half the game). Fending off attacking aliens and zeroing in on turrets also takes a bit of practice, but becomes really rewarding once you get the hang of it. Additional options would have been a great feature, such as the ability to tone down the gravity, or turn it off completely. The Arcade mode offers a different flavor of gameplay, automatically upgrading aspects of your ship as you progress, among a few other variations from Classic.

You don't have to be a glutton for punishment to enjoy this game, but it's not going to be the easiest arcade shooter you've ever played. The rough action doesn't overshadow the strategic elements so much as to ruin the game, although you might disagree if you just spent the last half hour blowing up into the side of a wall. Thankfully, you can try it before you buy it by downloading the demo, available through the hUb distribution client (similar to Steam). It's a commendable effort that adds a unique dimension to the Defender and Asteroids era of games that many arcade fans still love to this day.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

7 Comments

Eh, WHY is it that more and more sites want to use some *intelligent* installation program to deploy their games? What is so bad about the dirt-simple "download exe. execute exe. play game or see errors"-approach?

This grows even more annoying if I suddenly see that this ingenious program dowloads DirectX. At that point, I killed the whole thing, because I don't want it to fubar my system. But still, WHY?

And thus, I cannot even play this :(

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fuzzyface Author Profile Page April 18, 2009 1:50 PM

lol at TRON crusher enemies.

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same as HK, I just want a simple demo and a simple game to install after I buy it. I am not interested in installing some half baked app to install and "manage" my games.

A pity it looks like the kind if game I would buy.

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A note from the dev!

johno here, I just want to thank you for the review and thanks to anyone who tried the demo and/or bought the full version.

I understand your concerns about hUb (our distribution platform), but here's our reasoning:

Firstly, hUb is all about keeping the game(s) up to date, as well as giving users easy access to all our other titles through the same system.

We update our games more often than you might think, and since they are tied into pretty significant backend services (for highscores and whatnot in this case...) this is a really important aspect of the whole system both for use as devs and for the end user.

The DirectX download is of course Microsoft software, and it is smart enough not to install anything that you don't already have or need (we've slimmed it down to just include the stuff that our games need).

For for info on hUb, check out: http://www.spellofplay.com/play-games

Again, thanks for your interest and your time!

/johno

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Hey,

I'm a developer over at Spell of Play and I'd just like to explain the deal about hUb.

First of all I totally understand your reluctance to install something extra to get the games. You should of course be very careful what you install on your computer, even if it's good ol' install.exe

The thing is that at Spell of Play we like to keep our games as up to date as possible. This goes both for game play tweaks, balancing, updates and tech. We firmly believe that good games are developed together with the people that actually play games. Carefully listening to feedback and involving gamers in the actual development.

Typically our games gets updated several times a year, possibly even several times a month depending on the feedback we get, if Microsoft decides to make an update etc.

These frequent updates would be a pain for players to first find out about, then download and install. So we created Spell of Play hUb; a small unobtrusive application to do this for players at their convenience.

You can read more about our game development philosophy.

This is becoming lengthy enough, thanks for reading and feel free to ask any questions here or over at our gaming forums (no sign up needed you can post anonymously) I'd love to hear from you guys!

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And oh... one more thing... if you don't want hUb to install the DX November 2008 end-user runtimes head over to Microsoft and download their latest end user distribution.

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This sounds a whole lot like Dan Hewitt's 1987 classic Oids.

That was a fantastic game for the time back on my B&W Mac, and there's a more modern remake of the original game and levels for OSX.

That said, the upgrade system and additional weapons do sound like interesting additions to a classic formula.

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