Waifu Uncovered: Return of the Strip ‘Em Up

So it seems that “strip ’em up” is a thing now. I am neither surprised nor particularly upset about this, given that Kaneko’s classic erotic Qix-alike Gals Panic also spawned its own subgenre; it’s just amusing to see this sort of thing happen in the modern day.

For the unfamiliar, the strip ’em up, previously seen here on MoeGamer in the form of Deep Space Waifu (and in a tangentially different form in Crawlco Block Knockers) is a take on the shoot ’em up — or, more broadly, arcade game — formula in which you not only blast enemies, you also, through engaging with the game’s specific mechanics, find some means of disrobing the (usually anime-style) young lady in the background. Success provides titties; failure provides frustration.

Which brings us to Waifu Uncovered, product of the delightfully named One Hand Free Studios, and a game that, rather pleasingly, isn’t just a clone of Deep Space Waifu. Let’s take a closer look!

Mild NSFW stuff ahead!

In Waifu Uncovered, you take on the role of K. Vaio, a horse-headed ninja piloting an unsubtly phallic spaceship who is tasked with rescuing a series of cute girls from their infected clothing that will, over time, turn them into “hot but ugly aliens”, whatever that means.

Anyway, in order to fix this terrible issue, K. Vaio needs to travel around the world in one of several selectable (universally phallic) spaceships, blast away hordes of enemies and collect the ninja stars they drop, which will subsequently home in on the infected clothing and eventually destroy it when a counter reaches zero. Once all the infected clothing has been successfully removed, the boss for the stage appears, at which point you must blast it into oblivion; the first time you achieve this it generally unlocks something new such as an alternative ship to pilot or perhaps one of the two “uncensor” modes.

The mechanics of the game are actually pretty interesting, as this isn’t just about blasting enemies. For one thing, the essential ninja stars that foes drop fall down the screen and can be missed, so you need to position yourself in order to catch them, and collecting more in succession adds to a combo and provides the potential for higher scores.

The stages aren’t just randomly generated hordes of enemies, either; there are distinct patterns and groups of enemies you’ll encounter, each with their own unique ways of attacking. Particular highlights come during “asteroid” sequences, where large, spinning, “rage face”-inspired obstacles float down the screen at varying speeds, forcing you to spot and quickly plan out a route to safety while still blowing enemies away.

Of special note is the game’s power-up system, which has a fun amount of depth to it. Rather than just powering up your ship bit by bit, each ship can be upgraded in various ways by collecting the appropriate icons. You can increase the ship’s movement speed, its spread of shots, its bullet power and even add different types of orbiting options. The twist is that each ship has its own “cap” on each of these upgradeable statistics, though collecting “level up” markers allows you to bust through these limits and continue to improve the ship, with the sprite changing with each level increase for a nice bit of visual flair.

These “caps” on various areas of performance are the main way in which the different ships are made to feel distinct from one another. The one you start with, for example, is balanced, allowing for a decent spread shot with good power and a nice bit of speed. Elsewhere there’s a ship that starts as speedy to move but has no capacity for spread shots until a level up; a ship with powerful shots but slow speed; and various other combinations. Each feels nicely different from the others, making multiple playthroughs of the game something well worth exploring.

The game is divided into three main modes, which all essentially unfold in a similar manner with varying difficulty. The “Normal” mode is extremely easy and can probably be cleared by most people with a passing interest in shoot ’em ups on their first try, which will unlock most of the ships for subsequent playthroughs; the “Arcade” mode provides a much stiffer challenge through denser bullet patterns and more enemies, but allows access to a character not present in the “Normal” mode if you can clear it; and “One-Hand” mode allows you to play with the mouse, leaving your other free for masturbating furiously, should you feel the need. Oh, and there’s also a ship you can only unlock in “One-Hand” mode, too.

The game can be played with one or two players, and the developers are rigid and unflinching on their desire to make this an arcade-style experience: you have one life, no continues, and if you mess up, you have to go right back to the beginning and start again. Some players on Steam have expressed a certain degree of upset about this — likely since Deep Space Waifu allows you to tackle a single level at a time and saves your progress as you go — but with the score-attack structure in place here, the merciless, no-nonsense arcade structure works perfectly. If you want to see everything the game has to offer, you better get good; that “Arcade” mode takes no prisoners!

Presentation of the game is very nice. The artwork for the girls is good quality and has a distinctive sense of style about it; I particularly like the way it “posterises” itself with bright colours and high contrast under certain circumstances, and the film grain effect applied over the background during the pre-stage Galaga-style enemy swarm is pleasing to the eye. The girls run a nice gamut, too, including a rocker chick, a soccer player, a cheerleader, a cowgirl and more; something for most tastes!

The enemies are a creative and fun bunch, ranging from Robotron-style brains to monstrous, dark takes on Hello Kitty via what appear to be sentient assholes, a boss that is a literal pile of shit and the aliens from Mars Attacks! There’s an obvious Japanese influence going on in more than just the artwork for the girls, too; the “ghost”-type enemies in particular are strongly reminiscent of comedic anime and manga depictions of spirits from beyond. Each enemy type has its own bullet and movement patterns, meaning you can quickly recognise them by sight and know how to deal with them after a playthrough or two.

The music is pretty great, too. Rather than attempting to ape the popular ’80s-inspired vaporwave style heard in Deep Space Waifu (and numerous other indie games right now), Waifu Uncovered instead opts for a more ’90s trance and techno-inspired soundscape, featuring some cuts that sound like they were put together on Dance eJay. And I mean that as an absolute compliment, believe me. It’s a bit of a shame that at the time of writing there isn’t completely unique music for every stage, but the game has been undergoing continual development since it first appeared on Steam a while back.

In fact, as I type this, the game has just left Steam’s Early Access programme, and judging by forum posts and reviews, it seems the developers have been serious about listening to feedback from players, implementing lots of tweaks and fixes to make the overall package really rather solid.

Ultimately, Waifu Uncovered is a bit of cheesy, silly fun that was almost certainly never intended to keep you super-invested over the long term — but it will doubtless be a lot of fun to return to every so often in the pursuit of high scores.

Also, at just £2.99, this is the modern equivalent of those straight-to-cassette budget releases gamers of a certain age used to be able to get for their Spectrum, Commodore 64 or Atari 8-bit computers: cheap, disposable fun that will bring a smile to your face every time you boot it up. That said, it is to the developers’ credit that they haven’t skimped on actually making a good game in their attempts to get more budget-price tits on Steam; like Deep Space Waifu, this is a solid, enjoyable shoot ’em up in its own right that just happens to incorporate anime tiddies into its overall aesthetic.

And I am 100% cool with that!

More about Waifu Uncovered

A review copy was provided by the developer.

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