Arcade shoot 'em ups, Singapore style

As a big fan of shoot- 'em-up games, or shmups for short, I was pleasantly surprised that Singapore video-game makers have recently released titles akin to the arcade "aeroplane-shooting games" of yore.

They come after earlier Singapore-made shmups such as Crisis 2150 and Shmusicup.

I was even more intrigued because shmups aren't quite as common as they used to be in the 1980s and 1990s, when they were all the rage.

But can the latest home-grown titles deliver on the fast-paced thrills I'm used to from the genre?

Phase Shift: Threats Beyond the Network (top photo)

This shmup - released digitally last Wednesday on the PlayStation Store by Singapore start-up Dark Potato Studios - seems simple with its stylised, retro art. Trust me, it's not.

In Phase Shift, you control a virtual ship to quell network viruses. The game is akin to the 1978 classic Space Invaders, so your ship remains on the screen and moves from left to right to fire at enemies.

But here's the catch: You can warp. This allows your ship to shift quickly between the top and bottom of the screen. It's reminiscent of 2010's Crossfire, which Dark Potato Studios' head, Mr Hoong Boon Wai, said he was inspired by.

A simple tweak to a tried-and-tested formula, but warping makes for some interesting gameplay.

For instance, you'll need to warp to avoid barrages of enemy bullets, and even warp through some enemies to disable the shields they set up around nearby viruses.

Throw in other nasties - like enemies that explode into bullets over time, an upgradeable ship and intimidating bosses - and Phase Shift can be frantic, challenging and satisfying all at once.

It's more difficult for me as I'm actually not very good at shmups. For one thing, I have an embarrassing habit of warping into enemy bullets.

Wind of Witches

Made by the Singapore studio of Japanese firm Konami, this mobile shmup is a departure from the classic Gradius shooters Konami is known for.

It's not a typical shmup, but a mash-up with endless running games, not unlike Temple Run.

This means the free-to-play game, released on July 10 on iOS, has no stages and you play in an endless scrolling level. It's also like Space Invaders as you can move only left or right.

Blocking your way are enemies, some of which you can destroy with bullets fired by the cute broom-riding witch you control. Occasionally, you'll meet a cartoony grim-reaper boss who fires scythes.

Contact with any of the above means death, unless you spend a crystal to continue.

If you haven't already guessed, Wind Of Witches is aimed at casual gamers with its short bursts of gameplay. Konami said the characters are cute, so as to appeal to both male and female players.

I had trouble getting into the game at first because it's too casual for me. For example, boss fights aren't complex affairs.

But enemies do get tougher to destroy as you race on, so you'll have to consider upgrading your witch's abilities with coins that fallen enemies drop.

If you're impatient, you can use real cash to buy more crystals to purchase even more coins or get special upgrades.

Upgrading my witch and seeing its performance improve is certainly the hook for me.


While both Phase Shift and Wind Of Witches might not give me the same high I get from 1992's Super Spacefortress Macross or 2006's Mushihimesama Futari, there's still fun to be had if you give them time.

Phase Shift goes for $4.49 on the Asia PlayStation Store for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita and PlayStation Portable. Wind Of Witches is free to download on the iTunes App Store in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. An Android version is in the works.

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