No two superhero babies develop just alike. Superman, for instance, was mostly helpless as an infant and couldn't even fly until he was sixteen years old. Franklin Richards, the son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, could warp the very fabric of reality as a toddler. The Powerpuff Girls sprang into existence with an array of abilities, including flight. The star of Paul's Shooting Adventure falls somewhere in between. He can fly, shoot energy blasts, and transform into enemies that he defeats. Also known as The Ultimate Pacifier, it's up to Paul to save the ocean from alien invaders. The game is a sidescrolling shooter, with several nods to classic video games we all know and love, but is this a baby boom or a dirty diaper?
Playing as The Ultimate Pacifier is a fun experience, but for some, the replay value will suffer from a lack of originality and very linear gameplay. Even though it's not very original, though, the game is still a blast. The action takes place on the top screen, where you can direct Paul to fly in any direction with the D pad. Shooting is assigned to the A button, and cycling through your available transformations is done with L and R. The bottom screen displays your health, total points gained by defeating enemies and energy meters. Tapping the A button repeatedly will have Paul shoot tiny energy balls and holding it down will charge the meter on the bottom screen, Mega Man style. The result of a full charge is the most powerful attack in the game and resembles a Hadouken that Ryu of Street Fighter might throw at you. You gain the ability to transform into an enemy by defeating three to five of the same type, depending on the monster, and once you morph into your sea creature of choice, you can use their special abilities until you run out of energy for that form. Oddly enough, the enemies themselves never use these abilities against you, instead only trying to tackle you or shooting generic fireballs.
A lot of your time will be spent experimenting with the powers you acquire from enemies. While you'll face a nice variety of creatures, there are only four sorts of powers to gain and a fifth ability that’s obtained in a special way. The hammer ability is just what you might expect, mirroring the attack of the Hammer Bros. of Mario fame. Charging up while using this power allows you to swing a large hammer in a circle, and a full charge eliminates all minor enemies around you and damages the rest with a large explosion. The shuriken ability is haphazard but fun to use, letting you throw a shuriken in a straight line or charge up to unleash many at once that bounce around randomly on the screen. Your ninja ability creates mini shadow copies of Paul that act as homing missiles, and the fully charged version of this power is very similar to the medium level of the magic stick, another available power. This is an awkward manoeuvre that becomes longer and more powerful when charged, and you can attack very quickly with it or use it to collect items from across the screen. The stick is only useful a few times in the game, though, and using it will get you killed more often than not – however, as a short range attack, it's pretty effective.
The fifth ability is called Ninja Revolution, and you acquire it by possessing two certain monster transformations at once, and unlike the other attacks, it has four levels of power. The first attacks in a straight line and causes minimum damage; the medium level acts as a decoy to attract enemies and causes no damage; the next fully charged shot splits Paul into three of himself, of which only the middle Paul can take damage while all shoot small energy bullets that cause minimum damage. By fully charging the meter and holding it for five seconds, you can unleash a secret incantation that will destroy all enemies on the screen by tapping runes that appear on the bottom screen in the correct order as they light up.
There are three difficulty levels to choose from, but only the hard setting presents a healthy challenge. Easy mode lowers the number of enemies you face and slows them down, making the game feel much too simple, even for an easy setting, and normal isn't much harder. You gain a ranking based on points once you beat the game, which is saved and displayed in a rankings menu separated by difficulty setting. You won't gain a place on the board unless you fully complete the game, but it's not a major problem because the entire thing is fairly short.
Defeating enemies is the main way to score, but you can also gain bonus points by collecting floating pieces of fruit. The minor enemies will occasionally release these tasty treats, but bosses always release several delicious cherries, grapes, and apples for you to collect. The boss you face at the end of each level is usually a giant sea creature that uses unique attacks, and the final boss is a pregnant alien sea horse. Their actions don't change based on the difficulty setting, which instead only affects how many health points they have. The boss battles make up one area where this game really suffers as they aren't much different from facing a normal enemy, whereas something requiring more creative thinking to defeat would've been nice.
Bright graphics and upbeat music compliment the tone of the game and are really quite pleasant. Baby Paul appears to float lazily in the air despite being able to move fairly quickly, and when charging a shot, he takes the stance of Goku preparing a Kamehameha. Another highlight of the graphics is the excellent variety of enemy sprites. There are different music tracks for each level, and they all help to drive the action with an upbeat rhythm, complimenting the gameplay without becoming distracting. The cute and cheesy nature of the story and protagonist give the game a lot of charm as well.
Paul’s Shooting Adventure is a fun little experience that is definitely worth a look. Even though it’s short and doesn’t offer a lot of replay value, it still manages to be charming and addictive. The protagonist can’t change his own diapers, but he can save the world from alien-controlled sea creatures while still staying as cute as a button. While some may find fault in the unoriginality of his adventure, the Ultimate Pacifier still takes a comfortable spot in the pantheon of superhero babies.