It’s story time here at JGR, and today’s tale finds myself along with the legendary Static_A_Matic standing in the local Funcoland looking for victims, by which I mean new games to review. Laying in the bin, we come across a game adorned with a picture of an old prospector with a banjo on the cartridge. That’s it.. old guy, banjo in hand, looking surprised as if he just recovered from blacking out and is trying to regain his bearings. Trust us prospector, we’re just as confused as you are. Static and I looked at each other, wondering what the hell kind of marketing strategy this was supposed to be. Was Phalanx a game where you prospected for gold and played the banjo? Well whatever marketing it was, it worked, because we tracked that game down to find out what in sam hell was going on with it. As you might expect, old men and banjos have nothing to do with the game. It is in fact a rather average space shooter.
Phalanx’s full name is Phalanx: Project Climax. I think I saw this one night on Skinemax. If not, well I want the rights, and here’s how it would go: The main character would of course be named Phalanx, because it sounds like a futuristic version of “lance” (obvious reasons there). He’d be flying around the cosmos in the ship from this game, which already looks suspiciously like a big dick when viewed from above; see the title screen if you don’t believe me. Anyway, Phalanx is cruising around the galaxy when he runs across the troubled women of planet Noorgasmo, and decides to land and deliver pizzas, copies to the female corporate VP, and his mechanical robot cock to all. For fun, each scene would be broken up by a suggestive shot of Phalanx’s ship docking with various space stations as he moves on to pork a new gal. I see Ron Jeremy in the starring role, with a cameo by Kobe Tai.
But you’re not here for porn concepts and prospectors. You’re here for a game review. I will now provide one for you. As you might expect, Phalanx plays out like any other scrolling shooter on the planet. I mean you’ve seen this all before: the greatest pilot in the world takes an experimental ship that can change shape and fire all kinds of weapons, and plunges into the heart of enemy controlled territory to end the giant galactic war. If you just can’t seem to get enough of these games, well here’s another one that you’ll enjoy. If you tired of these shooters a long time ago, as I definitely did, then you can stop reading now as Phalanx brings almost nothing new to the table.
The game’s graphics are pretty average for these kinds of games. It’s all sci-fi and futuristic, with explosions and flying robot enemies, you know, that old chestnut. Backgrounds range from nice to crap. Examples: the first level has a pretty decent looking city you fly over at night. The third level is a pathetic looking cave made of varying strips and rocks all covered with the same texture. Enemy ship designs range from basic shapes with guns, to anime-inspired machine monsters. I don’t know why a flying death ship needs swinging octopus arms and a hinged jaw, but it’s here. Maybe space superiority fighters taste delicious.
The game’s sounds are pretty decent. The music sounds like every other anime and anime inspired game EVER, which, at your discretion, may or may not be considered a benefit. Controlling the game works pretty well, which isn’t saying a lot, as the scrolling shooter was perfected when Defender pretty much invented it. The controls could always be more responsive, though, especially when the bullets commence a flying. Phalanx does offer a ship speed option you can adjust along with the difficulty. Furthermore, the shoulder buttons switch the ships gears between low, medium, and fast. This does nothing to affect how fast you’re moving forward, but does control how agile your ship is. This is actually a pretty useful addition, and allows you to go from low speed precision shooting to fast speed bullet dodging on the fly.
Oh, did I mention the main character’s name is Wink Baufield? Cause it is. This may also serve as one more piece in the puzzle of Phalanx, ’cause Wink Baufield is a prospector’s name if I’ve ever heard one. Perhaps he shows up in later levels to offer sage advice, or is a hidden character or something. Or maybe… just maybe… the prospector is the pilot. I’m telling you, there’s a connection here somewhere.
It seems to me that there was some kind of unspoken challenge among developers of these kinds of games to make theirs harder than any one before it. Phalanx certainly ascribes to this rule, and if there is anything unique about it, it’s that it could be one of the hardest games ever made. Probably in the top 100, at least. I’m not very good at these games to begin with, so I didn’t get far even on easy. However, Phalanx comes bearing three harder modes for those who just aren’t challenged enough by normal means. The hardest of these is titled “Funny”, presumably, because it is so hard that it’s funny. The screenshot to the right should give you an idea of the kind of firepower this mode puts you up against, and though it doesn’t appear to be impossible to beat, it certainly will take more work than I can imagine anyone wanting to put into it. Though such people do exist, and if you are such a person, godspeed.
Still, when all is said and done, Phalanx isn’t much more interesting than R-Type, or the multitude of clones. How many times you can pilot an experimental space ship against hordes of mechanical aliens is a question you alone must answer. If you think you’re ready for some more of the same, come after Phalanx with guns blazing. If the whole shooter genre never really caught your interest to begin with, go prospecting for another game.
A pretty by-the-book scrolling shooter. Ridonkulously hard, if you want it to be.
Par for the course as far as shooters are concerned.