Uchuforce 2 is a thoroughly old-fashioned and huggable shoot-em-up by Babarageo, a Flash game developer with a deep and abiding love for gigantic pixels. Babarageo's very first game was a simple shooter called Uchu Force, and that one had really big pixels, plus humongorous bosses that looked like they were made out of red and yellow Legos. Then there was the previously reviewed Uchu Wars, which was less a sequel and more a tangent into Manic Shooter Territory, i.e. vertical playing field, lots of enemy bullets, and bombs that are designed to save your life in a split-second rather than actually cause damage.
Uchuforce 2, in contrast, is designed for shooter neophytes. You control your ship with the mouse, you're firing a ridiculous swath of bullets all the time, and there's only one button to worry about. Click the mouse to change your weapon to a powerful laser, and click again to switch back to the endless waves of bullets. A meter in the lower-right shows you how close your laser is to over-heating, so if you want to avoid an extra-long cool-down delay, turn the laser off before that meter fills.
In order to power up your weapon, you must collect letters that spell out "UCHUFORCE". The letters appear when you destroy gray pyramid targets, and they cycle through the whole word over time, if you don't pick them up right away. An exposed letter will always turn into the one you need eventually, but enemy ships won't always make it convenient for you to grab it at the right time. Your Weapon Level goes up to 3, and then after that, each UCHUFORCE just gives you an extra life.
Your goal is simply to fight your way to the end of the game, destroying ground targets and formations of flying enemies as they show up to challenge you. A scary Xevious-style boss will appear at the end of each level, usually more heavily armed than all the rest of the enemies combined. Helpful tip: boss encounters are an excellent time to deploy the laser.
Analysis: One serious criticism is that Uchuforce 2 sets you back too far when you lose a life. When you die on a boss, you'll have to fight your way through half the preceding level again. And although there are keyboard controls included, they don't work very well. If you're moving left, for example, and you press [right] before releasing the [left] key, your ship will stop dead, rather than going right. That alone made the keyboard controls useless for me, and I'm fairly surprised Babarageo left it that way. I figure the game was just intended for the mouse.
Uchuforce 2 takes a while to get challenging, due to the main ship's massive firepower, the relatively passive enemies on the first couple of levels, and the unrestricted mouse control. You don't have to dodge any bullets if you can just instantly go where there aren't any bullets, any time you please. But none of that is necessarily bad, if your shmup skills are under-developed or rusty. And even if you're an old pro at this sort of game, it's pleasant to just deal out death for a few levels and watch the pretty scenery scroll by.
And it is very pretty scenery, if the thick pixels and mono-colored sprites of the NES age still appeal to you. The bleep-blooping sound effects, the gray metal bosses shaded with ostentatious dithering, the purposefully limited color palette—it all makes Uchuforce2 feel like a lost masterpiece of MSX software. But it's not running on pure liquid nostalgia. There's a carefully paced game here, with a large variety of enemies and, dare I say it, a good helping of soul. As friendly and playable a shoot-em-up as you're likely to find.
Cheers to Wouter and Andy for sending this one in!