Many of the titles released today feel the need to tell a story or develop characters throughout an intricate campaign. Woah Dave! is not one of these games. It is a frantic, arcade-inspired platformer with a dizzying amount of obstacles and a focus on high scores. Players may start out confused, but once they get the hang of the controls and the never ending onslaught of enemies the real fun begins.
Woah Dave! comes to us from the publishing team at Choice Provisions (formerly known as Gaijin Games) who previously worked on the much beloved BIT.TRIP series, with MiniVisions being the developer. It's no surprise that the game includes well implemented, retro-inspired graphics and sound blips, as this is a signature style of the teams involved. It's a look and feel that has been perfected over the years and would be warmly welcomed in any arcade environment.
The game boots to an 8-bit themed menu and a muffled shout of the games signature catchphrase, "WOAH DAVE!" Players are given the option of choosing Original or Deluxe modes, as well as the basic options and staff credits. The Original mode features only one stage and one character (the titular Dave), while the Deluxe version offers players three stages to choose from and a large array of characters to select. It should be noted that no character has any distinct advantage or disadvantage over the others, they are simply skins. While Original is fine and dandy, players will be hard pressed not to pick Deluxe for the sheer fact that they have more options at their disposal.
The gameplay in Woah Dave! starts out innocently enough, with a smattering of eggs and skulls dropping on to the stage from above. Running into one of these items will result in Dave (or whoever you chose) picking up said item. But watch out! Eggs will hatch into malicious monsters and skulls (for some odd reason) will eventually explode. Both of these will result in a death for poor Dave and you'll be that much closer to the "Game Over" screen. The trick to Woah Dave!'s setup is timing and quick thinking. Skulls can destroy eggs when thrown at them, producing a penny for Dave to collect. Eggs can also be tossed at hatched monsters once they roam the screen, also resulting in a few coins. It seems pretty simple, but things start to get crazy with more and more eggs, monsters and skulls in the mix. Luckily, the developer did a wonderful job giving Dave some tight controls and players can use his speed and jumping abilities to escape from the spawning creatures.
Monsters will walk the stage's many levels until they eventually fall into one of the ever-expanding pits of lava situated on either side of the map. At this point they will evolve into more deadly beasts who can do things such as jump (gasp!), change platforms (Oh no!) and eventually fly (Not that!). All these monsters can be clobbered by unhatched eggs or skulls, and the more advanced a monster has become the more they'll pay out in sweet, sweet cash. Therein lies the two main strategies this reviewer found - one can either try to kill monsters as soon as they hatch and reap the small rewards at a steady pace or they can let the monsters roam free until they have hit their most valuable and deadly peak.
Doing the latter is a bit of a gamble, because once you let eggs start hatching and monsters begin running amuck things can get out of hand very quickly. Eventually players will need to dispose of the monsters onscreen or they will overwhelm them into an early grave. A player's best bet to clear the screen is grabbing the coveted "Woah! Block", which destroys all enemies on screen. Unfortunately these fall at random and seem to never show up when a player needs them most.
One of the key aspects that all great arcade games have is turnaround time. Is it easy to get another game going once your character has bit the dust? In Dave's case it's almost instantaneous, and as easy as confirming your initials for the scoreboard. This makes players want to keep playing and strive to beat their current high scores as they slowly advance their strategic monster destroying skills. It's easy to sit down for a few games and find that you've suddenly played ten or twenty in your quest to be the best Dave on the block.
Unlike the portable version of Woah Dave! for the 3DS, the Wii U version features two player madness. It's a race to see who can collect the most moolah before the other, and it's unsurprisingly more hectic than the single player mode. When playing with a friend who has a firm grasp on the games controls it can make for a very interesting and stressful match. Stressful in a good way. Stressful in a way that makes you want to slap your friends controller out of their hand when all is said and done. The old saying is true, "The more the Daves the better." People say that, right?
Like many indie title that have surfaced on the eShop in recent times, Woah Dave! has it's own set of built in achievements. They don't add much to the gameplay, but for those players who enjoy completing all aspects a game has to offer it's a nice little bonus. There is a decent range of goals to hit that range from simple to difficult and a good handful that are quite humorous. Players will be less distressed after chucking their precious "Woah! Block" into lava when they realize they have just earned the aptly named "Right in the Toilet!" achievement.
It's also worth sharing the welcome reminder that this game has full cross-buy for its North American release - if you have the 3DS version you get a free Wii U copy on the same Nintendo Network ID, and vice-versa.
Woah Dave! is a game for high score junkies. It's a title that builds upon simple gameplay and visuals to make players feel like they can do better. Like most arcade classics, the strategy involved in advancing your score is surprisingly deep and will keep players coming back for "just one more game" for hours. The 3DS version may be a better fit for on-the-go players, but Dave feels more at home on the big screen where others can share in the insanity.