After Burner: Black Falcon Multiplayer Hands-On

Fighter jets with racing stripes and bovine udders? This is definitely not your daddy's After Burner.

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Planet Moon Studios is the quirky software house behind such offbeat games as Giants: Citizen Kabuto, Armed & Dangerous, and Infected. Soon it'll add After Burner to its body of work, with the new PSP game Black Falcon. But After Burner seems like a strangely serious fit for Planet Moon, who's produced some of the wackiest action games in recent memory. At least, we thought it was a strange fit until we actually sat down and played the game's multiplayer recently. After that, we realized exactly how the relatively small studio has decided to put its unique stamp on what could have been just another run-of-the-mill air combat game.

It wouldn't be a Planet Moon game without ridiculous stuff like this.
It wouldn't be a Planet Moon game without ridiculous stuff like this.

Our first look at Black Falcon described the game's lengthy single-player campaign, with a number of different jets you can purchase as you progress. We got to try out the ad hoc Wi-Fi cooperative version of this campaign, which simply lets you and a friend jump into any mission you've unlocked and play it together. There's no increase in the number or power of enemies, and your progress in co-op is reflected when you go back to single-player, so if you're having trouble with a particular mission, you can grab a friend and brute force your way through it so you can move on to the next level.

This was the first time we got to try out Black Falcon with most of the crazy extras unlocked, and we couldn't help but laugh when we saw a hot pink F-22, a B-2 bomber emblazoned with a British Union flag, and other planes sporting racing stripes, a skull and crossbones, a flaming paint job, or even big, fat hot rod pipes. Planet Moon apparently had pretty free reign to do whatever it wanted with the plane add-ons, and we found it rather amusing to play co-op with these odd-looking jets.

Things really got goofy when we jumped into the four-player competitive mode called mad cow. Mad cow is Planet Moon's traditional deathmatch variant in which one player is the mad cow until their brain wastes away, or something. In the company's last game, Infected, it was easy to turn the human player into a bipedal, gun-toting bovine, but how in the world did the designers represent the mad cow in a game with jets? Simple--attach an ungainly udder to the bottom of the player who's "it." Getting past that absurd image, the mad cow can drop EMP bombs behind it that messes up other players' controls, making it a lot harder for them to attack. Naturally, the mad cow gains extra points as long as he or she can stay alive, so you want to try to remain "it" for as long as you can.

Black Falcon is shaping up to be a solid revival of the classic shooter franchise. It doesn't mess with the basic mechanics, but Planet Moon has slapped a whole bunch of extra gameplay in there, what with the multiplayer modes, unlockable extra planes, and so forth. The game is in the can now and due out next month, so look for a full review soon.

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