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Wings of Wor

Welcome Wor. Brace up, you’ve got a nasty business ahead to be sure. Six levels of side-scrolling shooting action await you. Spread your ethereal wings and steel your warrior’s heart, because this Genesis mission offers up more sheer bullet count — more grotesquerie — than you’ll likely be prepared for.

If you’re a gamer old enough to remember owning Sega’s very finest black box, back when it was running things, you know of its love affair with shoot-em-ups — especially early on in its life. You’ll likely remember Thunder Force III — almost everyone seems to remember that one. If that’s your pedigree, perhaps Wings of Wor is not for you. The transition from lukewarm side-scroller to WoW’s inferno may be too steep a climb for your game to step up to.

The projectiles are many, the bullet type is varied and interesting — from what look like clusters of blue-white tears to flipping red checkers. A drawback might be that tracking said projectiles is sometimes a strain; certainly the game is challenging enough without requiring you to squint. But far more disadvantageous to us than the sketchy bullets, is the tendency the levels have to lull you into feeling impatient and indifferent with their length.

Yet, how many shooters would love for ‘long levels’ to be their lone notable weakness? WoW’s visuals are brilliant, the music, likewise. It’s all very old school looking, featuring that slightly unpolished but entirely likeable blurry look that all the early Genesis offerings wore. We don’t have to look hard for power ups to magnify our regular guns and magic abilities. Yes, magic! The system isn’t perfect, and really it’s not even necessary for a seasoned shooter vet, but how swimmingly it feels to bring down vengeance on foes with lightning bolts, circular bullet-eating blades, and the like. WoW parades all sorts of miscellaneous innovation, and it’s rich and thick and different.

The first level anthem is stirring and important-sounding as the world tilts and rocks, and it’s sweet to sink into the dark murky depths to take on the bullet spewing sub-aquatic things in level two. Level three offers sounds and sights straight from a Castlevania classic, a meshing that is more than welcome! The obligatory ‘greased lightning’ stage makes an appearance as level four, and similarly, level six gives us the familiar mid-boss redux. Happily though, even the expected elements are a much grittier and darkly picturesque bunch than we’re accustomed to seeing.

And to top it all off — to top off the menace train, the pirate ship with grimacing pirate’s face, the furious furnace from within the pirate’s maw, the torn torso of the anguished fourth level soul — is the fifth level. It’s a shooter standout. The backdrop looks like something you might not want to see under a microscope. The unidentified biological mess mesmerizes off in the distance, but somehow close to our baffled eyes. And at the worst of times, because the bullets fly faster here than ever before, some accelerating as they target you! And the coup de grace…

…the p enis.

Yup, that was my reaction too. Meet the giant demon man with no limbs to speak of save his immense third leg, his massive member that looks impossibly hard and swollen. The nastiness of all these surreal oddities (the p enis being the oddest) is strangely entrancing more than anything, but once again, it’s to your detriment to pay much mind to the weird wonders — you’ve got a sheet of bullets to dodge!

Wings of Wor’s drawn out levels would have made a lame shooter, just, well, lamer. But in a game this atmospheric, this gusty and garish, it weakens what should have been a completely robust and visceral experience — like watered down Kool-Aid, it’s stretched too thin. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. As early on as the second level, you’ll be battling along and you’ll want to say: ”Hey guys, still here, underwater. Quite nice to start with, undeniably. Still here though. Still.” It’s not a great feeling. That being said, there is no overlooking how much of the truly rare, cold, hard stuff we get frothing up in our thankful glasses despite the unfortunate dilution.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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