It may seem faintly sacrilegious to include a game like Deep Space Waifu in the same column as legends such as Thunder Force II, Raiden IV and Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours. But the fact is, this rough-around-the-edges, budget-price affair is actually well worth your time and attention.
Developed by the mysterious “Neko Climax Studios”, whose only online presence appears to be a Facebook page under the ID “@nekohentaiking” and whose credits consist entirely of initials, Deep Space Waifu describes itself as a “casual strip ’em up action game, full of colours and girls”. And, really, that’s pretty much the perfect description.
At first glance, this appears to be a game that does not take itself at all seriously. But beneath the neon colours, chaotic visual effects and questionable artwork, there’s a surprisingly solid shoot ’em up that has clearly been designed with some care and attention.
In Deep Space Waifu, you take on the role of King Bear, who rides a motorcycle and is obsessed with finding the perfect waifu via a Tinder-like app on his phone. Upon picking a potential paramour that tickles his fancy, the action shifts to a top-down perspective where the apparently tiny King Bear rides his motorcycle back and forth across the multiple screen-filling body of an anime-style girl. He then proceeds to blast a variety of alien scum out of the sky while simultaneously attempting to shoot the clothes off his “date” in an attempt to get her naked before defeating the stage’s boss.
Completing a level in Deep Space Waifu consists of several components, not all of which need to be completed in a single attempt. Firstly, shooting aliens adds to your score, which in turn feeds into a star meter, rating your shooting ability between zero and five stars. The more stars you collect, the more girls you unlock, so it’s in your interests to try and score as highly as possible to see everything the game has to offer.
Scoring points is a matter of both shooting enemies and collecting the stars they drop when they explode. These both reward you with points and charge up your special weapon, which you select before jumping in to a level. In most levels, you have the choice between a “bomb”, which destroys all bullets on screen and turns them into black stars, making it a good screen-clearer, and a temporary burst of slow-motion, allowing you more time to react for a short period. In one level added specifically for the Steam Summer Sale, however, these special weapons are replaced by a screen-filling shower of cash that obliterates everything in its wake; in this level, your bike also fires dollar bills instead of its usual laser bolts.
The second component involves shooting off the girls’ clothes. These are divided into various weak points, marked with brackets and hit point meters once you hit them for the first time. Destroying all the weak points allows you to finish off the complete item of clothing by shooting it anywhere until it disintegrates. Prior to encountering the level’s boss, you can only strip the girl down to her underwear; once the boss appears, her underwear becomes vulnerable too, allowing you to strip her completely naked so long as you do so before whittling the boss’ life down to zero.
An interesting twist on this second component comes in the form of the hardest difficulty, known as “Gentleman Mode”, in which you are punished rather than rewarded for damaging the girl’s clothes during your “date” with her. In this mode, you have to be very careful about positioning as you attempt to destroy the enemies without hitting her clothing’s weak points. It’s a fun, challenging twist that inverts the game’s usual formula and provides some variety.
The third component of progress — so far as the game’s 69 (of course) achievements is concerned is whether or not you can complete the level in “One Hand Mode”, which is justified as “leaving your other hand free to do something else”. In One Hand Mode, your ship autofires and its special weapon is fired using a shoulder button on the controller rather than a face button, meaning you can indeed complete a level using nothing more than your left hand, with an achievement waiting for you for each girl if you finish them off in such a manner.
That is essentially all there is to Deep Space Waifu, with the main variety coming from the different difficulty modes and the many girls to unlock, each of whom play on a particular, popular character trope. There aren’t that many different enemies to confront in the game, you’ll fight the same bosses numerous times in your various runs and once you’ve completed the game to your satisfaction there’s probably little reason to return — but it’s most certainly a fun ride while it lasts.
The game’s psychedelic neon colour scheme and excellent synth-heavy soundtrack give the whole experience a distinctly ’80s feel, with the heavily pixelated, artifacted graphics for the girls adding to the retro arcade feel and fitting in well with the overall aesthetic. There is, in fact, also a “retro” option in the graphics settings, though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it actually did, since there was already so much visual noise going on that it was difficult to determine what had been changed.
In some regards, Deep Space Waifu reminds me of work by Llamasoft’s Jeff Minter, in that it’s colourful, chaotic and strongly evocative of simpler times in gaming. Minter’s work, of course, tends to focus less on anime girls and more on stereotypically “British” things as well as his beloved furry and fluffy animals such as sheep, camels and llamas, but there’s a similar feeling that both Neko Climax Studios — whoever they really are — and Minter are making the sorts of things that they enjoy making rather than what they think people want.
Consequently, much like with Minter’s best work, there’s a refreshing sense of honesty and joyful shamelessness to Deep Space Waifu that makes it hard to dislike, even with its various shortcomings such as lack of enemy types and inconsistent graphical quality. It’s a game that invites you to roll around in the mud with it for no other reason that it will be enjoyable to do so; you might come out of the whole experience feeling a bit dirty, but you’ll certainly have had a good time in the process!
Deep Space Waifu is available now for PC, Mac and Linux computers via Steam.
Top Tip: Create a blank text file in the game’s directory and name it “nude.patch” to uncensor the artwork and enjoy full nip-and-vag action.
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