Woah Dave is all about classic arcade action. Taking control of a blocky little guy named Dave Lonuts (who happens to bear a striking resemblance to Bert from Sesame Street), players will do their best to exterminate aliens and collect the change left behind in their wake. There are two modes to choose from, and once you’ve made a selection, it’s all about playing and replaying the same stage until you put up a high score. If you’re not into that, well, it might be time to stop reading. If you are into it, however, this is a blast from the past that doesn't necessarily go the extra mile when it comes to modes and value, but it does offer a charming and addictive good time for those of us that fondly recall the era of Atari and arcade cabinet dominance.
Remember the multi-tier stage design in the original Mario Bros. arcade game? You know – the one with the POW block smack dab in the middle? That’s pretty much what you can expect from Woah Dave. Eggs will fall into the environment and these can be thrown at enemies to earn coins. Thing is, enemies hatch from those eggs as well, so you need to be careful not to keep one in your grips for too long. Once hatched, if an enemy reaches the lava pits located on either side of the ground floor, they return to the playing field in an evolved, and more dangerous, form. There are also exploding skulls and Woah blocks (which clear the screen much like the POW block flipped enemies in Mario Bros.) to help exterminate the opposition. So, in summary, the agenda is simple: kill enemies, collect pennies, and stay alive as long as possible.
Controls are as approachable as needed for a pick-up-and-play style of game such as this. Walk into eggs or objects and they will automatically be scooped up, and throwing them takes only a single button press. The automatic grabbing mechanic can take some getting used to as you’ll often find yourself accidentally picking up objects you don’t mean to (especially when multiple eggs or skulls are in close proximity), but you should come to terms with it quickly. Moving around and jumping feels the best with the D-pad, and most players will find it to offer the level of precision Woah Dave calls for, because if you graze the edge of an enemy or end up too close to an explosive, that’s one of three lives down the drain.
While there aren’t multiple stages to advance to – it’s just an endless “how long can you survive” kind of thing – environmental shakeups do occur as you progress. Platforms will get smaller and more perilous, the lava will rise forcing you into one chaotic space, and enemies arrive in larger numbers. This escalation serves to make you feel as though you are moving forward, and it makes the events all the more interesting… and intense. But perhaps a major concern with Woah Dave is that it's a slightly meagre package. Other than standard play, there's Bonkers mode, which can be unlocked once you've reach a score of a buck and a half. The only real difference is that Bonkers starts at a point where the chaos is already in full effect. It's a better option for the more skilled players, but it's not much in terms of variety. Achievements do help add a little extra worth to the package, though.
Whichever way you slice it, Woah Dave can be loads of fun to play, even if it doesn't go above and beyond in its efforts. The core gameplay is highly addictive and very approachable, and the attractive color palette, infectious music, and complimentary 3D effect help bring the basic retro presentation to life. But with only two modes (which are essentially the same outside of difficulty/intensity) and no online leaderboards, there's just not much to chew on. The ideal way to play Woah Dave is to pass the 3DS around to friends and family to battle for high-score supremacy — that's when you'll realize how entertaining of a game it can be.
It doesn’t take long to get an encompassing look at what Woah Dave has to offer, and while it does what it does in a commendable fashion, it’s not redefining the genre or reinventing the wheel — and that’s absolutely okay. It’s very clear that the developer wanted to make an arcade-style game that harkens back to the classics you played on Atari, NES, or at your local pizza joint all those years ago. Even the home screen icon is of an arcade cabinet, and it’s a mighty comforting sight upon unwrapping the game. If you’re into high-score chasing time-killers, then Woah Dave deserves your consideration. It’s fun, it’s polished, and it’s called Woah Dave. That’s a name we (this reviewer in particular) can get behind.