Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hany in the Sky


"Innovation is recipe for disaster. Must I cite Star Ocean 2?"

So said Duomazov ally Robanovich during a debate about something or other many years ago. My usually well-informed comrade obviously misspoke, as SO2 is one of the greatest games ever, but had he subbed Hany in the Sky in there for it, he probably would've won his case hands down.

Hany is practically overloaded with "innovative stuff." It's a vertical shooter, but instead of piloting a craft, you control a, uh, whatever the fuck that cucumber-like thing is and rotate his arms to determine the direction his shots take.

Face's innovative measures didn't stop there. You'll arrive at forks in the road in certain stages; some paths lead to upgrades while others simply transport you a ways back. Once you've conquered a given level, you can warp right back to it if you'd like to explore it further in the hopes of finding more good stuff. The locations are typically dark, strange places with weird symbols sketched into the terrain and a variety of odd creatures patrolling the grounds.

Your oddball foes can put up a fairly good fight. To aid you in countering their assaults, the game lets you halt the action and access an upgrade/restoration "shop" pretty much whenever you want.

That's all kind of interesting, but it comes together to form an absolute mess of a shooter. There are reasons most companies don't try crap like this. The rotation system is cumbersome and ends up being a source of extreme annoyance late in the game, when you encounter enemies who are fast and robust. And constant pausing (as will be necessary during the final stretch, when you'll need to purchase life replenishers over and over again) only serves to stunt the already unsatisfying action.

The level designs wind up being huge negatives, as they frequently force the player to revisit previously traveled strips in blind hopes of "finding the right path." And Face's good intentions thematically come to naught, as the visuals are drab and dull all too often. There are way too many nondescript sprites and way too much empty black space.

There certainly aren't many other blasters like Hany in the Sky in the PCE library, and while this is something to be thankful for, the game's uniqueness at least makes it somewhat interesting, and there are some folks out there to whom it'll appeal.

Not many, though.

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