Review: Waveform

Waveform

This game continues the solid tradition of accurate labeling.  Rather than try to be clever or cute, Eden Industries has summed up what you’ll be doing in the title to this game.  Other than some level selection, players will spend their time in Waveform messing with a waveform.

The mechanics are unique if nothing else.  A particle of light will travel through each level and it is your job to guide it to other glowing orbs along the way.  The particle travels along a wavelength and the guiding is accomplished by changing the wavelength’s form.  This is done by moving the mouse up and down to change the height of the waves, the amplitude of the oscillating system, and left to right to alter how often the particle will go up and down in a given period of time, the frequency.  At its simplest, the particle does not slow down its rate of movement through a given segment of linear space over a specific period of time, but altering these features will dramatically change the path of the point-collecting particle.  A tight series of thin hills and valleys will cause the ball to run up and down the screen very quickly, mirroring the pencil tip of a frustrated child scratching out a poor drawing, while a longer, shallower series will almost look like the particle is moving in a near straight line.

The process of doing this, the play of the game, is far less clear when it is explained both in text as well as in the game’s brief tutorial.  A more direct explanation would be to sit someone before a computer with a booted up level and say, “If you hold down the mouse button and move the mouse, the path will change.  Try to collect the glowing bits by matching the wave’s pattern to the formation of glowing balls.”

The controls are very intuitive and it is very easy to immediately see the effect of the slightest of movements, but the abstract/spatial brain processing required to accurately determine the best shape for the wave as well as the hand-eye coordination necessary to change it quickly to that form may not be very intuitive.  It is probably safe to say that for most people this is not very easy as there is no direct comparison which can be made to this activity in the course of daily living.  Everyone manually tunes into frequencies all of the time with radios, musical instruments, and they used to do it with televisions.  But this is usually done through sound, clearing up an image or listening for the correct tone, not looking at a visual representation of a wavelength.  As I said, the gameplay is unique.

Moving the mouse on the axis available to a mouse pad is relatively simple and if the game is played for any amount of time, it will be discovered that the core mechanic requires that the upcoming orbs be looked at to see what the shape of the wave will need to be and when the wave will need to start hitting that curve.  If the timing is not right, then the particle will miss the orbs and it can kiss its high score good-bye.  Things almost turn into a weird sort of Dance Dance Revolution remix in that players have to adapt the shape of the wavelength to the shapes of upcoming orbs.  As the levels progress more mechanics are heaped on, such as dark matter which acts as mines that will end a run and start a level over, mirrors to bounce the particle around, and strange oroboros that will assist in picking up orbs can be captured to assist in grabbing orbs.  These odd monkey wrenches and the desire to get a better score on earlier levels serve to keep things interesting.

The game in no way lacks for content.  In a form of loose narrative, the light particle is coached on at the end of most levels to continue its journey from the edges of the solar system to the Sun.  Each significant obstacle in the way that might absorb your light, like the planets in the System of Sol, must be conquered.  In addition to the obvious levels, there are hidden singularities that serve as both warp zones to the next group of levels, as well as secret levels filled with darkness that must be illuminated by going over sparse pulses of light.  The game does have a nice, if somewhat simple, look to it.  Unfortunately, most of the levels look the same and it is doubtful that most players will finish all of what this game has to offer unless they really like the core mechanic.  Which is in no way a bad thing given how much there is to do in this game.  Everything is a chill Technicolor lightshow of anticipating mountains and valleys, with appropriate sounds, shapes and music.  Its only downside, is that it may not be a game people will want to play again and again as the different levels tend to bleed together after awhile.

A Steam achievement which requires every last drop of play be squeezed out of this game hints at a sequel.  It is a little hard to tell if it is a joke or not with a description of “Ready for Waveform 2”, but if it is not, a lot is going to have to change to make a second game worthwhile.  Waveform has a unique mechanic that while probably not the most fun or intuitive in the world, it is bizarre enough that it is worth owning and coming back to occasionally.  Things get increasingly complicated to keep the experience interesting, but if it is just more wave modifications in a sequel, it’s going to be kind of played out.  There are so many levels that it almost feels as though the developer combined Waveform 1 and the hypothetical sequel into this one game.

But, as there is no sequel now, just the original, it is an easy recommendation.  It is a good game to play between doing other things and it is different enough to keep in the mix with old standbys like Tetris and Bejeweled.  While not as good as either of those games, it is low impact and individual enough to put into the same rotation of time killers.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Distinctive gameplay
+ Simple and charming presentation

Cons:
– It can take a while to wrap your brain around what needs to be done to win
– Music does not sync up with gameplay like one would expect

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Eden Industries
Developer: Eden Industries
Release Date: 3/20/2012
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Source: Game purchased by reviewer

[nggallery id=2302]

Enhanced by Zemanta

About the Author

Steve has been playing video games since the start of the 1980s. While the first video game system he played was his father's, an Atari 2600, he soon began saving allowances and working for extra money every summer to afford the latest in interactive entertainment. He is keenly aware of how much it stinks to spend good money on a bad game. It does things to a man. It makes stink way too much time into games like Karnov to justify the purchase.