"One of the things Iíve always loved most about the PC Engine/Turbografx-16 is that so many of its games seem to revel in being quirky and off-beat. Just look at that systemís many shooters for all the proof you need. Thereís the psychotically trippy Paranoia, the whimsically bizarre Bouken Danshaken Don San-Heart Hen and the crass, juvenile humor of Toilet Kids, to name just a few. "
One of the things Iíve always loved most about the PC Engine/Turbografx-16 is that so many of its games seem to revel in being quirky and off-beat. Just look at that systemís many shooters for all the proof you need. Thereís the psychotically trippy Paranoia, the whimsically bizarre Bouken Danshaken Don San-Heart Hen and the crass, juvenile humor of Toilet Kids, to name just a few.
W-Ring: The Double Rings also is quite strange, although the things that make this game different from the norm involve a handful of very questionable gameplay decisions, rather than the spontaneous bursts of creativity that seemed to birth many of this systemís other shooters.
At first, youíll likely wonder what Iím talking about. While this 1990 Naxat Soft creation is a horizontal scroller, it gives you a lot more top-to-bottom leeway than virtually any other such shooter Iíve ever played. Some levels look to be multiple screens tall, giving the impression that you truly are negotiating vast caverns and bases, rather than being led down a non-linear path to an unavoidable climax. For a while, I found this to be a breath of fresh air, leading me to believe I was playing a pretty enjoyable game.
Very little about it was, though. I did like being able to manually manually adjust my shipís speed between three settings and a few of the levels had really nice themes, but I found W-Ring to be short, simplistic and pathetically easy. Consisting of seven levels, none of which are particularly lengthy, it simply wonít take that long to fly through this game.
To put it simply, very few foes in this game are capable of putting up much of a fight, as long as youíre able to put some sort of work into enhancing your ship. There are a number of different power-up types you can snare, with three of them actually being somewhat useful. The purple multi-direction gun is great for blasting foes that canít be reached with other weapons, but I found it to be pretty weak and ineffectual for the most part. Much more handy were the blue laser and green ring attacks. While they only can hit foes directly in front of your ship, theyíll pummel those enemies into dust almost immediately. While taking a hit will deplete your shipís weaponry, as long as you can keep your laser or ring on its third (and highest) level, youíll be a killing machine that nothing can withstand for more than a couple of seconds.
Sadly, that includes W-Ringís pitiful excuses for bosses. At first, I thought the first levelís final ďchallengeĒ was a fluke, as the two gun-laden floating islands I encountered both went down with only a minimal amount of resistance. Well, it wasnít a fluke ó it was a joke that perpetrated itself through the remaining six levels.
The second stageís awesome-looking bird-head boss only lasted a handful of seconds against me, as did the more mundane offerings of the next few levels. Hard as it was for me to believe, the gameís final boss did nothing to break that streak ó in fact, it was so plain and easy, I was shocked to discover that it was the game-ending foe! To be honest, the only boss that was even able to kill me once was the fifth levelís. While slowly waving its two long arms, this ship was able to get the better of me a time or two thanks to the unbelievable accuracy of the yellow globes it constantly besieged me with. Of course, I only had to dodge about three volleys of that attack before it went down in smoke, but....it was good to, you know, actually feel threatened by a boss in this game.
About the only redeeming factor I could find in W-Ring was the neat appearance of a tiny handful of its levels. The first level, while simple, was pretty fun to navigate through. This space cavern was chock-full of rocky obstructions and assorted debris to dodge ó while shooting down hordes of ships and guns, some of which were disguised as floating rocks. More impressive was the gorgeous third level. Also taking place in a cavernous setting, the aquatic theme here provided the majority of my few positive impressions of W-Ring. Rivers of water flow on both the top and bottom of the screen, as well as on scattered mid-air islands, while your ship constantly is flying through a downpour. But if you pay too much attention to the gorgeous backgrounds, youíll fall prey to the enemies of all shapes and sizes that explode out of the water in an attempt to catch you off-guard. On a purely aesthetic level, I would go as far as to say this was one of my favorite levels of this era to play.
However, the rest of the game doesnít come close to living up to the standards set here, or even on the first stage. The second level is set against a generic alien-themed backdrop, while the fourth stage looks like youíre flying by a gigantic computer chip. That is followed by two consecutive tunnel-like base levels and a final stage where your only background is provided by a constantly-shifting red background (much like that seen in the Genesisí Thunder Force 3 and Arrow Flash. This game is no masterpiece, whether it be graphically, musically or any other aspect.
W-Ring isnít a complete flop. Like Iíve said, there are a couple of nice-looking stages and the amount of room you can scroll up and down gives many levels an illusion of vastness I find sadly lacking in even the greatest of the old-school shooters. Unfortunately, those positives are more than tempered by lackluster gameplay, a lack of challenge and a number of boring, bland levels that only serve to accentuate those flaws. If you feel you have to play every single shooter from this era, go right ahead and try out W-Ring ó if not, I really wouldnít recommend this game.
Community review by overdrive (September 23, 2005)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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