Rolling around in digital excrement may not be the best way to describe Waves. Perhaps surfing the ripples of electronic water, or riding the silky flow of the River Lethe. Ah yes, that would do; for supping from Waves would induce a certain forgetfulness due to its epileptic, tooty-fruity extravagance, as was the suffering of those who drank from the Lethe. Genius.
Waves swaps the pew-pew-pew of other arena shooters with a thud, boom and the occasional bass wobble. It’s a hyperactive ball roll-a-thon situated on a liquid surface that gently rolls with your movements, hence the slightly oblique title. Why is it oblique you may ask? Well, waves are typically associated with gentle, calm and peaceful vistas; but Waves is a hard hitting, spunk-filled fireworks display. The game’s distinctive neon disco presentation is bound to already have you transfixed, and trust me, when you blow it up to 2560×1600 (yes it supports that!) so that it engulfs your whole monitor, it starts to induce rainbow-coloured drool. Its core gameplay is quintessential for its genre. It’s fast paced and gets even more so the longer your ball does not collide into the other Rainbow Drops-like bits clumsily inhabiting the arena. Shooting the would-be life stealers is made more difficult with added physics. Your ball will take time to change direction as it has to adjust its roll, just like a normal ball would have to if they could live a life on their own accord. Shooting is not a matter of straight lines either, most of the time your projectiles will curve with your movements meaning that those adjustments you make for realistic bullet physics in Battlefield 3 will sort of come in handy here as well. Sort of.
For a simple game there is much more going on in the background than you could imagine. The developers, Squid In A Box, provide a run-down of the complex scoring system in the Main Menu that had numbers flying past my eyes until I nearly passed out from nausea. What it breaks down to is a need to shoot as many things on-screen as possible – see how much more sense that made. However, allowing the enemies to amount on-screen does have an advantage as Waves is all about combos. Shooting lots of enemies in a small amount of time ensures that your score is multiplied greatly and you may even find that your score is suddenly hanging with the big boys on the online leaderboards. Another factor to consider is what types of enemies you are shooting, as quite obviously progression leads to tougher enemies spawning. The ultimate of which being a giant neon cube with a tendency to fly towards you in a rainbow blur (I want one to replace my lava lamp). Fortunately, with the posh voiced narrator borrowed from the Forza series on board, you are told when you level up, when a suicidal thunderball spawns and more importantly, when you have a bomb ready. These bombs are rewarded when you reach a combo of x10, and by that time you really do need them to keep the ball-shaped menace back. Perhaps your greatest and definitely coolest aid to say alive is the slow mo feature. When things get really tight its time to whack on the slow mo and dodge death like a neon Neo, and you get bonus points because destroying things looks cool when slowed down according to the developers. I have to agree.
The only problem with Waves is that it lacks the variation to really impress outside of its core gameplay. True, there are five different game modes to choose from, but in this there are only really three true variants, and these all play out in the same arena. Crunch Time is a clear favourite as it gives the player three minutes and infinite lives to get the highest score possible. Playing off this same idea is Survival and Rush, which quite obviously limit lives and add an extendable time limit respectively. A personal favourite is Bombing Run which takes away the ability to shoot, and has you rolling back and forth grabbing bombs at one point and then dodging enemies to get to the detonation zone. Lastly there is Challenge which is a set of 20 tough challenges with a 5 star rating system; its more quickfire shooting in increasingly perilous situations. While all of these game modes are tight and fun to play, none of them really last long which makes Waves more of a five minute pick up and play game, more than a sit down and get comfortable experience. That’s probably for the best as well considering that the thumping music would probably get annoying after sustained periods of exposure, and your eyes may go square along with it.
If you are a leaderboard enthusiast though, Waves is right up your street, and there’s no denying that it is a well polished and enthusing experience. With a head bopping soundtrack and dazzling visuals, Waves is the latest in sugar doused candy. It’s great in short doses and will hype you up enough for a quick rave around the nearest populated room, but too much of it may rot your teeth. Saying that, this is usually the case with arena shooters anyway, but just a bit more variation would have gone a long way. Ultimately, Waves is short and sweet, and will definitely be a game you come back to again and again. Even if it is just for a few minutes of intense ball shooting action.
More information about Waves and Squid In A Box can be found at the official website.
Waves can be purchased on Steam and GamersGate, and a demo can be downloaded directly from the developers right here.