One has to admire a developer who gives their game a title that lets you know exactly what to expect from the experience. Waifu Uncovered, a new release from the delightfully named developer One-Hand-Free Studio and indie/niche publisher eastasiasoft, does indeed boast a fine selection of attractive female characters and the gradual disrobing thereof, but it might also surprise you to learn that there’s some satisfying, enjoyable, arcadey blasting action to go along with all the lewdness.
In Waifu Uncovered, you take on the role of a horse-headed ninja named K. Vaio who has been tasked with saving a series of pretty young ladies from a deadly virus that will turn them into “hot but ugly” aliens. As these things tend to go, the virus is, at present, entirely contained within their clothing, so K. Vaio naturally has no option but to make use of his mad ninja skills and his unsubtly phallic-shaped spacecraft to defeat the aliens and shred the affected clothing before anything terrible happens.
The core gameplay loop is pretty simple. Each stage begins with several waves of enemies that fly in from the sides of the screen in set formations — think the “Challenging Stages” from Namco’s classic Galaga — with a bigger score bonus being hurled your way if you manage to defeat most or all of your foes. After this, you enter what the game dubs “ClearView” mode, where you must destroy enemies that spawn all over the screen, avoid their bullets and collect the ninja stars that they drop. Collect enough ninja stars to reduce a counter at the top of the screen to zero and you destroy an item of clothing as well as restoring your spaceship’s health slightly. Obliterate the last piece of undies on a girl and a boss battle ensues in the vicinity of her nether regions, with new playable ships and game features unlocking the first time you successfully beat these powerful foes.
The enemies you’ll face are varied and interesting to battle against. Some fill the screen with bullets; some fire more focused salvos of shots; others attempt to overwhelm with sheer numbers. The designs are entirely in keeping with the overall tone of the game in that they are both puerile and amusing, including evil takes on Sanrio’s classic Hello Kitty property, homages to 1996 Tim Burton cult hit Mars Attacks! and what appear to be pairs of sentient testicles with winking anal sphincters. There are a few classic Internet memes in there too — most notably asteroid storms that are clearly inspired by “rage face” comics — but this side of things, mercifully, isn’t overdone.
Each of the unlockable playable ships handles very differently from the others, and the differences become more apparent as you engage with the game’s creative take on a weapon upgrade system. Each ship begins with a base maximum level for various stats such as rapid fire, spread shot and speed, but it’s also possible to “level up” the whole ship, which increases these possible maximums. Some ships are clearly designed to be slow, hulking powerhouses that can take a few hits from enemy swarms, while others are nimble little beasts that can zip and dodge between barrages of bullets while focusing their fire tightly on a particular target. There’s also a “one finger mode” for playing with the Switch’s touchscreen; here, you control a sausage-shaped vessel that fires automatically while your finger is on the screen. In this mode, as the name suggests, you can leave your other hand free for complementary activities such as drinking a nice cup of coffee or catching up on your correspondence with elderly relatives.
Presentation-wise, the game is solid. The background art for the girls is well drawn and features a pleasantly stylised coloured pencil and pastel look about it, often complemented by heavy posterisation for particularly vibrant colours. While the game lacks the genitalia-revealing “full uncensor” mode from the PC original, it does feature the “uncensor” mode that reveals bare breasts — though this remains optional if you prefer to preserve a little mystery. The atmosphere created by the images is one of cheeky pinup-style exuberance and flirty exhibitionism rather than voyeurism or exploitation. Everyone is full of smiles and laughter, demonstrating a clear understanding of the fact that being sexy is sometimes just a bit of fun for everyone involved — it doesn’t have to have any deeper (or more sinister) meaning than that.
The game does feature a touch of slowdown when things get a bit busy on the screen in both docked and handheld mode, but there’s the distinct sense that this is intentional. Many classic “bullet hell” shooters deliberately embrace slowdown in order to make particularly chaotic, screen-filling bullet patterns more manageable, and indeed in the case of this game, the controls remain nicely responsive even if the frame rate drops a bit, suggesting that the same is true here.
The soundtrack is a particular highlight, featuring some tuneful, hypnotic synthwave that acts as a good complement to the vibrant colours and chaotic action. It further adds to the feel that this is a game intended to be pure hedonistic pleasure rather than an experience with anything particularly deep or meaningful to say. And that’s fine — good, even. Sometimes we all need a break from the seriousness of the world around us, and this game certainly delivers on that front.
Waifu Uncovered has a laser-focused target audience and it caters perfectly to that audience. If you fall outside of that demographic, how much you’ll enjoy this game will depend entirely on your receptiveness to hand-drawn, mildly lewd pinup-style art and puerile humour coupled with solid shoot ‘em up action. It perhaps lacks a little longevity besides chasing high scores on the online leaderboards — but if you’re looking for a quick fling with an affordable game you don’t have to think too hard about, this is a great palate-cleanser for when you’re between more substantial experiences.