Despite the game’s title, Workyrie Game Studio’s offering is not about 'a year spent traveling abroad, typically immediately before or after a university or college course'. Instead, it delivers a very compelling slice of JRPG strategic combat action, disguised as casual friendly by is cute graphics. But is there more than meets the eye beyond this simple premise in Wanderjahr TryAgainOrWalkAway?
After the discovery of the Universal Source Code, mankind set about reshaping the world to a society without the concept of evil. Centuries have passed since the beginning of such project and two weeks prior to the final stage of implementation, disturbances began occurring all over the world. It is our job as a commander in the World Organization for Peace and Order (WOPO) to deal with these disturbances by leading a team of experts in the field.
If you take a look at the electronic manual you might believe the game will overwhelm you with far too many choices instead of becoming a pleasant experience. Thankfully, some great introductory tutorial levels will quickly and efficiently explain all the main mechanics and extra gameplay quirks. The battles take place in a single screen where you can have up to four different party members on the field. Combat is automated, so all you need to make sure is that you have the very best team out to handle the current situation. You will be quickly introduced to the classic attacker/tank/healer combo (branded Vanguard/Sentinel/Medic respectively) that will serve you well for most of the main game.
But a constant flow of new enemies mean that you will need fresh strategies and this is where new recruits of different classes come in: Busters are magic users and can attack monsters with high physical defence, Entertainers are able to buff your party while Agravators use their biohazard expertise to debuff your foes, Thieves get a chance to swipe away extra money from enemies and Researchers are able to collect data on enemy behaviours and turn that into player skills. So beyond the JRPG strategy bit it's also a puzzle game since every enemy needs to be 'solved' and dealt with accordingly with the proper party combination.
Preparations are half the battle and that rings very true in Wanderjahr. As the main campaign progresses, so do the options in between battles open up to the player. From the item shop that enables you to stock up on health recovery items and other handy items (often crucial to avoid sound defeats), powerful artifacts that can immensely buff your party, team and levelling up management and even a handy encyclopedia that will enable you to review strengths and weaknesses for every monster you defeat. Taking your time exploring all the options here will ensure you have a far smoother experience in upcoming battles, so it pays to explore these fully.
Due to the hybrid nature of Switch we actually end up with the best of both worlds control-wise: the touchscreen controls of the PS Vita version and the more traditional joypad controls of the PS4/PC version. The game is truly best enjoyed with the former since touchscreen controls offer a more precise sense of control when compared to moving the cursor around and remembering shortcut buttons. Playing the game with Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller is not a deal breaker, but it is clear the whole concept was made for a touchscreen, mobile-friendly market. For instance, you can pick up fallen enemies gems by simply touching them, something that is not so second nature when you’re rushing the cursor over and need to press a button to pick them up before they vanish.
Visually, the game uses lots of quirky Japanese 2D sprite work and animation, with some particularity memorable designs for the world bosses. The music is also catchy and suits the game overall tone rather well. But despite all this cute looks and sounds, frustration can settle in quickly when a single party member from your squad falls and you end up fighting a losing battle. In fact, it's quite possible to be fighting such a battle from the start if you are improperly set-up to face the upcoming enemies, but you won’t know until you actually begin the fight.
Of course, if you're a patient player this will not be an issue and even in defeat you get to keep whatever money and star points (used for character levelling) you managed to score. There is also a wealth of secrets to uncover for dedicated players, in fact it is entirely possible to conquer the first world and miss out on the Researcher completely. These offer replay value and give the game a hidden depth one might miss when playing casually.
Wanderjahr TryAgainOrWalkAway hides a very competent and well designed strategy combat/puzzle game under the casual friendly visuals. Despite some struggle and grinding occasions that pop up now and then (one might even call some of the bosses overly unfair), the overall experience is very satisfying so even in massive defeat you don’t feel you were wasting your time. You will probably get the most out of this one playing it in portable mode with touchscreen controls, so make sure you have a screen wipe at the ready; even a single battle can lead up to hundreds of index finger taps on your Switch screen so tap softly... but tap decisively.