Review: Waddle Home

Disclosure: A code for Waddle Home was provided to VGBlogger.com for review consideration by Archiact Interactive.

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Waddle Home is a simple tabletop-like VR game where the objective is to get penguins to a flying saucer located somewhere else on a puzzle board that floats in front of the player on a frigid ocean surface. Alien robots have captured the penguins and players must release them from cages in each level and guide them along by raising and lowering blocks to modify their automated pathways until they can be correctly steered to a rescue space ship. Along the way, there are three eggs that can be collected on each level. Collecting the eggs isn’t mandatory, but definitely adds a fun layer of challenge to completing each level.

Once the penguins are released from their cage, they will automatically waddle forward à la Lemmings. If an obstacle is in their way, they will only turn right until they can continue moving forward again. Raising and lowering blocks is handled by pointing a laser from the onscreen representation of a DualShock 4 or Move controller and pressing X or the Move button, or for direct physical interaction, objects can be “bopped” on like a mallet. Since the levels are fully realized in three dimensional space, the ability to rotate the table plays into being able to see all potential obstacles or traps. While using a DS4, rotating can be done by either pressing the L1 or R1 buttons for true 45-degree rotation, or by slightly holding down L2 or R2 for a gradual rotation. When playing with a Move controller, the table can be rotated by holding down the T button (or pressing either X or O).

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A timer counts upward to track how long it takes until all of the penguins are rescued. Some levels only have one penguin that needs to be saved, while others have two or three. All penguins must be rescued in order to proceed to the next level. In addition to getting the penguin(s) to safety, they can also be manipulated to walk over eggs. Collecting all three eggs in each stage isn’t necessary, but doing so while also rescuing the penguins in short order means that a higher score can be earned. Sadly, gaining a higher score isn’t as enticing as it could be since there is no online leaderboard to compare how well players did against someone else on their friend list.

The early levels are straightforward and relatively easy to master by simply moving a block up or down to guide the penguins’ progress. Later stages become more complicated by having doorways that only open if a button trigger on the floor has been walked over, which can also be a real challenge when there are three penguins all moving with the potential of walking over the button one after the other, forcing a previously open door to close again.

Other obstacles or traps can be found in the guise of automated robots that patrol the levels. If a penguin runs into a robot, it is simply sent back to the cage. In the latter part of the game, the robots can be stopped by routing their path into holes in the ground. Once a robot is in a hole, it still needs to be “bopped” to make sure it sits flush to the ground so that penguins can walk over it without issue. Eventually whole sections of the levels can be raised or lowered, adding even more challenge to any attempts to collect all three eggs.

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Waddle Home is a delightful game that reminds me of quick pick up and play mobile offerings, yet crafted in a wonderfully realized VR space. Little touches add to the atmosphere of the game when players stop from playing for a moment and just look up or around. When looking up, the skybox becomes a gorgeous interpretation of the Aurora Borealis. In the waters surrounding the puzzle table, alien robots wearing shark fins will pop up to watch players. No interaction can be done with them, but they offer a nice little extra distraction.

My one complaint is that the game board sits too close to the player. View of a level is basically sitting right in the player’s lap, and some levels can almost be too hard to easily see what is going on (even while rotating) due to how high some structures are built in the world. It would be nice to be able to move the play area away from view, even if just by a foot in the virtual space. Oddly enough, the first couple of times I played, the board actually appeared too far away, and it was a bit of a challenge to even see what all was going on in each level. I’m not sure what the cause is for this inconsistency, but a nice middle ground that is player selectable would be great.

Archiact Interactive has produced a fun game featuring intuitive gameplay, satisfying puzzles, and a tabletop play toy VR perspective that sucks the player into the cute game world. Waddle Home is a terrific way to get non-gamer friends into playing VR games too, because the controls are simple and accessible and there is no high stakes punishment to discourage continued play if a penguin is sent back to the cage. This is a great early VR game that shouldn’t be missed.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Clever puzzles
+ Cute art style
+ Short burst gaming sessions
+ Plays great using either DualShock 4 or Move

Cons:
– Can’t move the game board away from viewing space

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PlayStation VR for PlayStation 4, also available on Steam/HTC Vive
Publisher: Archiact Interactive
Developer: Archiact Interactive
Release Date: 10/13/2016
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1

Source: Review code provided by developer

Buy From: PlayStation Store or Steam for $9.99.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.