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Philosoma (PlayStation) artwork

Philosoma (PlayStation) review

"Oh my. This could have been a legendary game. Really. Unfortunately, it falls a bit short. Philosoma is a shooter that should really appeal to all the different niches of shooter fans. It attempts side-scrolling, vertical, behind-the-ship, in-front-of-the ship and isometric overhead/horizontal stages, with varying results. "

Oh my. This could have been a legendary game. Really.

Unfortunately, it falls a bit short. Philosoma is a shooter that should really appeal to all the different niches of shooter fans. It attempts side-scrolling, vertical, behind-the-ship, in-front-of-the ship and isometric overhead/horizontal stages, with varying results.

You'll notice right from the beginning that Philosoma tries hard to be different. The introduction is well done, despite some lackluster visuals that only get worse as the in-game graphics begin. The story isn't anything special; a team of pilots must battle gamely toward their goal of annihilating the generic alien threat.

What's enjoyable though, is the way the cinemas tell the tale. You've got communication going on between the pilots, relating their experiences of the previous level, and what they feel is coming up in the next. The voice acting is average, at times bordering on moving, and at times smelling of Limburger. The mixed bag makes for a surprisingly enjoyable kitsch factor. But what is consistent is the urgency that their constant extempore brings to the game.

Further urgency is brought about by the fantastic music. There are some really memorable tunes here. They are bass heavy and well orchestrated, and genuinely make you feel as if you're going up against something you've got no chance against.

''What's with all these views then?''

''Isn't that obvious? We are trying to inject some much needed variety into the genre!''

These aren't actual quotes from my interview with the game developers, but... they could be! Missing from that correspondence is my final response: ''it didn't work as well as it could have.'' Some of the levels, primarily the Afterburner view and the inverse, seem like filler. Despite having a definite 'this is cool, I was chasing them, and now they're chasing me!' moment the first few times you play them, they will soon seem like a distraction. They are more of an obstacle on the way to the better, vertically and horizontally scrolling stages than anything else.

I've got to give credit where it's due however, and I applaud anything along the lines of innovation in a 2D shooter, seeing as how the words innovation and shooter don't often appear together in print (and if they do, they mostly shouldn't).

Regrettably, the underwhelming graphics, especially in the background, hurt the game's attempt at attaining the level of slickness they were obviously aiming for. Your spacecraft only looks passable, and the enemies are very, very average. Some of the visuals remind me of Thunder Force II, and being as that's a 16-bit game, this is not a good thing. And the bosses? From a badly realized first level mech, to a multi-headed mech/dragon thing, they are mainly competent (there's an exception, but more on that later).

Well, then, bad graphics shouldn't knock the game down three pegs should they! Shame on me. Alas, there's more to it than that. There is one particular problem that is much more responsible for the game's fall from, well, my graces. Continue points.

How a simple thing like allowing the player to continue from a fair juncture in the game can be botched, I'll never know. Irem should be cursed in spades for their ineptitude with said problem in Super R-Type, and Philosoma doesn't do much better.

Allow me to elucidate. The first level has five stages. If you die and have to continue at stage five, you start from level one, stage one. There are five levels, each containing at least three stages. You can probably perceive the frustration.

You might make it entirely through level one, and have one life left. You may as well cash in your chips of your own volition, because when you fight, fist, tooth and laser cannon, to get through to stage three of level two, only to die... Are you getting the gist of this? You'll have to continue from level two, stage one anyway. This problem creates an untrue difficulty curve. That is to say, with closer checkpoints, the game wouldn't be hard at all.

To its credit, when Philosoma is finished, you'll feel as if you've cleared an epic airborne journey. The powerful tunes will still ring in your ears, the pilot's prattle will seem real, and the memory of the final stages and moments will remain emblazoned on your pupil (as I alluded to before, there is an exception to Philosoma's dull graphics rule - the last level boss. Now here is a brilliant, fully realized enemy attacker). But then you’ll remember how it all started, and the bloody checkpoints (or lack thereof) and you'll shake your head somewhat sadly, considering what might have been.

Overall, Philosoma is an engaging B title. Its engrossing 'story' and variety, more than offset the bland visuals and flawed difficulty curve. The music, and the way the CD steadily becomes more intense as you near the end-of-game's beautiful monstrosity, make this title seem greater than it is. Shooter fans, play this game; there’s much of averageness to accept, but much of excellence to enjoy.

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 10, 2003)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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