DotEmu has brought back a slice of that 80s arcade flare with the return of Windjammers for PS4 and PS Vita. DotEmu is famous for reigniting old franchises like Wonder Boy, but will Windjammers have the same impact? Hit the beach, grab your frisbee, and continue below to see the verdict.
What made Windjammers work back in the day is the same thing that makes it work now: tight, accessible, simplistic gameplay with plenty of room to git gud. The concept is simple: In a much more complicated version of Pong, you and your opponent sling a frisbee back and forth, using all your techniques and strengths, until one of you slips the plastic circle past the other. Simple, right?
No, this is not simple, not when you have an opponent that can put enough English on the frisbee that you’re diving in the opposite direction to stop it. That’s just part of it, too. Of the six playable avatars, each one has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, some faster and some stronger. Couple that with charged and finesse throws, and you have a game entirely dependent on if you can read and react to the situation at hand. You try to go in on the defensive? They can lob it over you. Try to lay back and stay safe? They can power it into the center barriers and confusing the living hell out of you. With those small barriers in the center sending the frisbee any and every which way, you’ll have to account for the environment just as much as you’ll have to account for your opponent.
Windjammers features a single player mode where you play against the computer, all with enough difficulties to either run through it all or destroy every controller you’ve ever owned. The challenge is there, and the challenge is real. From there, local and online co-op will take up your time and test your mettle to the fullest. If you have a compadre, I suggest playing that way, since you won’t have to jump in and out of game sessions and wait for random, super-skilled experts to pop in and make you look like a cloud on their way to victory; that’s not always true, but the fan base so far–most of the time–has proven to be stout and highly skilled. What kills the online portion is how long it can take to find matches. It’s one thing to wait for a game session, but it’s another to get your butt whooped in a shorter amount of time than it took to find said game. At least the games themselves are lag-free.
The original arcade game included Dog Catch and Bowling, and this version is no different. These are simple modes that let you do what you came here to do: Throw a frisbee at things (but not at the dog, though, which is good). Apart from Practice Mode, there’s not much else to Windjammers. That’s not to say that there isn’t much here, because for the most trickshot-iest pals out there, this game will consume evenings and weekends for a while. DotEmu didn’t change much to Windjammers, apart from fine-tuning the controls for the DualShock and Vita to a mirror sheen, leaving you the only reason you win or lose. Visuals and sounds haven’t changed either, but that’s fine. Don’t ruin a good time with an unnecessary overhaul that would just make the characters the focus over the game. We came to jam some wind, not oggle some pecs and glutes.
All jokes and silliness aside, Windjammers offers up a healthy dose of what made great arcade games great: tight controls, fast pace, and room to grow. Online has some ironing out to do, and nothing’s really changed from the original source material, but that’s what makes this release successful. Windjammers will jam you up in the best way. And bring a friend, because he or she deserves to get in on this, too.