I’m nowhere, I’m nothing, and I can’t die
Reviewed on the computer, available as a free download here
Short one, this, but a breathless one.
There was a small but significant burst of shmup creativity on PC, 15 or so years ago. Creators like Kenta Cho, x.x and Hikware pumped out some incredible pieces of work, mostly completely free, hellish in bullets and impressive in quality.
I’ll touch upon some of these later—Eden’s Edge/Eden’s Aegis are worth an article of their own, as is Noiz2sa—but for now, Warning Forever.
Yeah, it’s one of those games. It’s a series of explosions, bullets and lasers, gradually increasing in number, which will eventually kill you. You can’t escape. There’s no story, and no ending—it goes on forever. Games used to do this, sometimes. Devil Daggers is a good, recent-ish example.You’re not playing in order to advance a plot, or unlock a slightly better gun. You’re playing for score. And if you want that score to be a big score, you’re going to need to practice.
Warning Forever is one of those games. It’s intense, aggressive, and newcomers can’t be blamed for thinking it a bit overwhelming. A quick overview of what WF actually is—it’s a top-down shmup in the Death Label boss rush style. A siren sounds, your enemy scrolls onto the screen, and off you go. Your job is to pick apart that enemy, blasting away until all its bits fall off and you’re left with silence, a score, and encouragement to press a button and continue.
Continue, and you’ll be faced with a slightly bigger enemy. It’ll have another gun strapped on. You’ll kill it, or it’ll kill you. Excellently, WF ‘learns’ from your playstyle—if you dodge about a lot, it’ll use lasers to hem you in. If you sit in a corner motionless, it’ll spit more and more bullets. And since each iteration of the big sod is bigger than the last, you’ll find yourself hemmed in, having to adapt to an enemy that you know is going to kill you.
Control-wise, it’s a bit odd—it’s a twin stick shooter with only one stick. Your ship has a visible cone of fire in front of it. Let go of fire, and that cone will rotate around your craft in the opposite direction to your travel. Moving in the direction of the cone widens it—making your weapon more like a rapid-firing shotgun able to address multiple weaker targets at once—and moving in the opposite direction narrows it. Dismantling the enemy quickly and efficiently means adding time to your countdown (oh yeah—you have a countdown, and at the end of it you die.)
Sounds a bit weird, and it is. Coming back to this after a game of Nex Machina or, say, the superb Score Rush Extended will feel clunky and alien. But this is a good thing. The way WF demands you either change fire direction or move means you’ll think harder about both, and curving around the enemy while you concentrate the firing cone onto just the right armature at the right time feels amazing. It’s a ‘zone’ game. One of those.
Sound-wise, the game is incredible. It has no soundtrack, though apparently it’ll play OGGs if you ask it nicely. But the sound effects are remarkable—loud, super-compressed explosions, blasts and the siren from the titular warning. It’s a game that suits the silences a lack of OST brings, which give it a weirdly melancholy feeling. You know the end of Halo: Reach? Like that, but good.
It can save replays, it still works on Windows 10 (I first played this game in something like 2005, after seeing it recommended by a Mighty Being), and it’s still freeware. All this in a game weighing in at 420KB. The original dev blog I downloaded it from is long gone, but you can find the game at the link above. It’s worth a go.
Two thumbs fresh.