by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
I’ve been gaming since the days of the 8-bit era, and so when a game that has similar stylings appears on my radar, it invokes feelings of nostalgia. Flying Red Barrel – Diary of a Little Aviator is one such game. It is a game that is reminiscent of old arcade games such as Galaga, or more closely, 1942 – vertical scrolling shooters that have you destroying waves of enemy aircraft, whilst avoiding their fire.
Flying Red Barrel follows that same mould. The game has you taking the role of the titular aviator and guiding your plane through a series of increasingly tougher opponents before meeting up with a boss on each of the five missions. The game offers some vibrant action, with explosions, enemy fire and collectible coins flying all over the place. At times this can be overly hectic as you try and navigate your little plane through the enemy fire to collect as many gold coins as possible.
The game does start off fun as you evade the plethora of projectiles that are aimed your way and offers a challenging beginning. But your little aircraft does not gain any boosts (temporary or permanent) and the game quickly becomes quite dull and repetitive. Each new game is the same as the last, and although this does help in planning your way through the multitude of enemies, there is little to entice gamers to keep playing once they have conquered the five missions. There are three difficulty levels, with each level adding projectiles for each of the foes. But apart from that, each of the difficulty levels are identical, even down to the patterns of enemy flight paths.
Visually, Flying Red Barrel does have some good points, but they are largely detracted by the limited screen space used by the game. Most of the action takes place with a narrow section of the screen. It is almost as if the game was designed for mobile, with panels added to the sides so that a story can be told. The narrow screen for the action does cause several issues. At times, hit points for enemies can be outside the view. This was particularly annoying when trying to finish off a boss and there appears nowhere that needs destroying. Moving right across to the edge of the screen and firing willy-nilly will often do the trick, but this seems a flawed approach particularly as projectiles are raining down.
Hit or Miss?
This leads me to my next gripe…the horrible collision detection of the projectiles. On more occasions than I would expect, I thought I was done for as a bullet grazed my plane, only for it to miraculously not count as a hit. This allowed me to keep going, only for a similar bullet to seemingly do the same thing, but this time causing me to live one of my valuable three lives. Often there are so many missiles on screen that it is difficult to dodge them all, and it is ultimately frustrating to get hit by one that should have missed…or vice versa.
Another frustrating experience comes from the bonus sections. There is a small notification at the top of the screen advising that there is a Bonus Chance, but there is no mention of what is required to complete the bonus, This often resulted in a ‘bonus chance failed’ due to the fact that I had no idea what the goal was. Shooting all the targets normally enabled completion, but the previously mentioned issue with targets being outside the field of view, meant that this was problematic.
Flying Red Barrel does have some redeeming features though. There are some nice tunes that play in the background as you fly around, creating an upbeat feel to the cartoon-style visuals. The sound effects – primarily the sound of your own weapons being fired do a reasonable job but are nothing to write home about. The controls are simple as well, whether you are playing with a controller or a keyboard.
The team at Orange Juice have tried hard to provide a retro feel to Flying Red Barrel, but in the end, it feels like a game that could have been made twenty years ago. The boss battles are enjoyable, but the lack of any upgrades means that each level feels basically the same - but with new opponents. The poor collision detection for enemy fire, the screen that limits your view and a storyline that can only be glimpsed at while you’re frantically fighting the enemy seriously let this game down. If you’re looking for some retro vertical scrolling action, I would suggest Shooty Skies. It does everything Flying Red Barrel does, only much better and with more variation.
Simple controls Upbeat music
Horrible collision detection, limited screen size, monotonous gameplay