I’m sure many of you can relate:
This past Christmas, my family and I flew out to visit my parents for a week. While we were there, I stole a few moments to go through some old boxes and reminisce about days gone by as I gazed over old photographs in old photo books. Eventually, I came across my old table hockey set tucked away in some forsaken corner. You remember, right? The games with sticks connected to players on the surface? You’d have to spin the knobs to spin the players to shoot the little plastic puck.
Instead of reasonably wondering why my parents never got rid of the old thing, my first thought was strangely similar to the first time I got it for Christmas so many years ago: “Woh…. Awesome!”
Whenever I had a friend come over to play or if my dad got home from work, I would regularly pull out the table hockey set. In my mind, I recalled playing it a ton. If I think about it further and let the nostalgia subside, we probably only played for 15 minutes or more. There’s nothing to dislike about the thing. It is fun, albeit simple and straightforward. But after a generally small amount of time on any given day, we’d be ready to move on to the next activity. And with all the other options available these days, it’s pretty underwhelming by comparison.
In a nutshell, that is “Wondershot”.
“Wondershot” is a 1-4 player local or online multiplayer top-down party game with powerups and a small arsenal of potential weapons. The objective is quite simple, really. Run around and kill your opposition. This can be done in teams or mono-a-mono.
Each battle takes place in a relatively tiny, square battle arena. Some maps can transform at various times to create unpassable trenches, walls or shrubbery, or boxes and debris. Some maps have transporters, kind of like Portal, you can run through to transport to another area of the map or fire a weapon through it to take an opponent by surprise. But for the most part, you spend your time running around trying to get into an advantageous position to take a shot at knocking out your opponent.
The number of weapons are pretty small. 4, to be exact. Each has their own unique traits and use, but they’re pretty 2-dimensional. For example, your bow and arrow can be pulled back for a longer length of time to increase the speed of the shot, or you can tap it lightly for a slow, homing shot. The tutorial that offers itself to you at the beginning is worth your time, as it’s pretty quick to finish, and you’ll know exactly how to use each and every weapon to your advantage.
In addition to weapons, there are a few powerups to pick up on the map to use to your advantage. You can use a super speed powerup that increases your movement speed, a slow down perk that forces your opponents into slow motion, a temporary shield of invincibility, or a ghost ability that allows you to move through walls.
There are four characters to choose from, but aside from aesthetics and the one chirping phrase they use when you press triangle, there’s no difference between them.
As for game modes, there’s basically just three to choose from. To play online or local multiplayer, you can battle one another by yourself or in teams, or you can all work together to battle wave after wave of monsters, all of which have their own unique abilities and deadly tactics to end you. For the versus mode, you can select a couple of different scoring options, what weapon everyone starts with, how many points you want to play for, etc. but that’s really all there is. The amount of customizability here is almost zero.
The third game-mode is a single player mission which can be fun for people who enjoy puzzlers. Here you must “train” by defeating a certain number of enemies under what is often very specific restrictions. Some of these present a difficult and rewarding challenge. Unfortunately, there aren’t a huge number of them, so most people could clear it within a day or so.
All of this works quite well, and the battles can be frantic and keep you on edge. Unfortunately, there just isn’t much to it other than that. Everything I’ve explained so far is quite literally everything there is to know about the game. There isn’t any opportunity for customization, and there isn’t a whole lot of depth. It feels a lot like some older couch games from the Atari, NES or maybe the SNES eras.
When I first started playing, I felt a strong sense of nostalgia and had some friends play with me, since it markets itself as a couch game. All of us had fun.
For about 15 minutes. Once we got to the half hour mark, everyone in the room was ready to go do something else, myself included. It’s a neat little concept, but there just isn’t anything to it other than spin around frantically trying to tag one another. It works great in online multiplayer, but really, this game is best played with people you know.
Visually, it’s a colorful and vibrant scheme. Characters and artwork are fun to look at, and while nothing is exactly “next gen” about it, it’s clear, crisp, and very responsive. The audio works well, but has very limited character phrases. The music works well for the game, but is nothing to write home about. In fact, it wasn’t something that I particularly noticed.
The control is straightforward and easy to learn, but they really messed up the aiming feature, in my opinion. If you’ve played other top-down games like Dead Nation, the aiming in this game will drive you nuts. Most top-down games allow you to move with the left analog while aiming your body around with the right. Seems obvious, but for some reason, the devs completely missed out on this feature.
In this game, you must hold down the R2 button to keep your character facing in a particular direction. But need to move is slightly? You’re going to have to move toward where you want to aim to point that way. And often, that means death. As a result, more than once, I’ve had to just keep running away because there wasn’t enough space to turn around and aim correctly. This is a huge negative for a feature that should be obvious for all top-down games.
The rest of the controls work well, but there isn’t much to them. All you really need to remember is that R2 keeps your sights aimed in a particular direction, L2 lets you tuck and roll, X fires your weapon, and the left analog moves your character around. And that’s it!
The best thing I can say about this game is that it’s very easy to pick up and learn. In a relatively short amount of time, someone visiting you can play a few rounds. It might be fun, but you won’t stick with it for very long. And while there is definite appeal in bringing it out from time to time, with all the other games out there these days, it’s hard to justify giving this party game the nod over some of the others that are out there already. It's a solid game; it's just paper thin.
There’s nothing wrong with it, mind you. It works well and is a generally fun concept to spend time with, but with such a thin number of options available within the game, while fun, it’s hard to imagine most people playing it more than a couple of times. And while it might give you a warm, fuzzy feeling reminiscent of the olden days at first, digging out the old table hockey set will probably lose it’s luster after 20 minutes or so.
The Good: Colorful visuals, and a design that doesn't try to be more than it was meant to be. Fun with a group of friends on the couch. Some fun challenges in single player "training" missions.
The Bad: Gets old, fast. Very few weapons and perks, maps are more or less the same, and characters don't really set themselves apart in any way.
The Ugly: Would have liked to have enjoyed it for more time than it took to download. (It isn't even a big download.)
2/26/2016 Chris Howlett