Mortal Kombat X, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection and Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin. I had intended to play all of these games a fair whack over this past weekend, but that just didn’t happen. For that, I can wholeheartedly blame Woah Dave! a wonderfully frantic and retro platformer that recalls the arcade experiences of the early 80’s with the sort of verve that I fear might be developing some sort of co-dependency on the sodding thing.
Woah Dave! then is a platformer but it’s one that very much reflects the streamlined design ethos of the over three decade old arcade scene that it emulates. Rather than a succession of scrolling stages, Woah Dave! instead plies its craft within closed-off arenas where you have three lives to earn as many coins as you can before your avatar bites the dust and tumbles off the screen in true 80’s arcade fashion. Essentially then, Woah Dave! is an old-fashioned, yet endlessly captivating dash for the highest score possible.
How this is achieved is by vanquishing various alien folks by tossing eggs at them, throwing flashing skulls in their direction or by dispensing UFO-powered laser death from above should the opportunity to do so arise. Of course, it’s not so straightforward as all that since the eggs can hatch and generate an alien, thus killing you if you’re still holding one, while skulls are effectively time-bombs that can also ghost you if you hang onto them for too long. It’s a brilliant dynamic that forces players to confront the reality that their own weapons can be turned against them at a moment’s notice, thusly requires players to be mindful of what they’re actually holding onto.
Ably layering the proceedings are the enemies themselves. In addition to the regular green foes that hatch and then merely plod in one direction, you also get the sort that fly around the map in the previously mentioned UFO’s (which can be stolen if the alien is knocked out of it) and if the regular green alien type lands in the lava, they morph into exceedingly quick red versions of themselves that scoot around the map at breakneck pace. So really, if you see one of those little green bastards heading towards the hot water, stopping them in their tracks becomes a top priority, lest proceedings becomes a whole lot trickier as a result.
And quite frankly, the notion of priority is what forms the crux of Whoa Dave’s hyper-kinetic escapades since as each level goes on and more and more enemy types spring onto the screen it becomes crucial that the player understands which aliens represent the most pressing threat. Helping players take a breath during these scenarios are the WOAH blocks that occasionally fall from the sky. The equivalent of the old-school smart bomb, slamming one of these bad boys into the ground will destroy everything on the screen, leaving a shower of shiny coins in their wake and like their application in any game, they should be saved for the ideal occasion rather than used as soon as they spawn.
Developer Choice Provisions has managed a frantic fusion of on-the-fly strategy and pixel-perfect platforming that very few games actually manage to pull off and the bite-sized, easily accessible nature of it all ensures that Woah Dave! terrifyingly impinges on your happy time with other games.
On a related note and representing a nice bit of added value, Woah Dave! also includes the Deluxe edition of the game that encompasses a trio of different stages and a variety of cosmetically different characters to choose from. The additional stages in particular bring a lot of new elements to the table such as portals that can be used to toss eggs and skulls through and different layouts for players to acclimate themselves to. Ostensibly, such content proves to be a nice addition certainly and helps to extend the game’s already substantial appeal.
Elsewhere, the inclusion of local multiplayer proves to be one of the game’s finer points too.
A tug-of-war style variant, the ‘Double Dave’ multiplayer mode has players competing to collect money with a momentum bar that shifts as one collects more money than the other. The winner of course, ends up being the player who is in profit at the point that the timer hits zero. In mirroring the sublime frenzy of the single-player game, the multiplayer component of Woah Dave! proves to equally essential and in doing so, sticks itself quite comfortably in the local multiplayer pantheon that includes such similarity frenetic stablemates as Bomberman and Mario Kart. Many, many nights have been lost to its competitive charm, let’s just put it that way.
From its muffled 8-bit voice sound sample introduction and cheerful chiptunes to its large and colorful pixellated models, everything about Woah Dave! screams the early eighties. In fashioning such a heartfelt yet effective homage to that bygone era, Woah Dave! proves that its worth lay in being more than just a distraction from more ambitious fare. With its impressive caliber shining through and affirming its place as one of the most enjoyable and accessible gaming experiences you can buy right now, you have precisely zero reasons not to get stuck in yourself.
The PlayStation 4 version of Woah Dave! was tested for the purposes of this review. Multiplayer is only available on the PlayStation 4 version of the game at present.
Woah Dave! is available on PS4 and PS Vita for FREE to PlayStation Plus subscribers. It can be grabbed here.
Additionally, Woah Dave! is also available for purchase on iOS, Windows PC, Mac, Linux and Nintendo 3DS.