Wavey the Rocket by UpperRoom Games
Wavey the Rocket calls itself a precision side-scroller, and this is an apt description; this is a game that tasks newcomers with learning a tricky control system and then demands that they master it to journey through its harder levels.
This, coupled with an aesthetic reminiscent of ’90s Saturday morning cartoons, gives Wavey the Rocket a unique personality that will either charm or repel potential players.
Extreme to the Max, Dude!
When I first launched Wavey the Rocket, the first thing that struck me was the rather bold design choices during the opening cut-scene. Something about Wavey feels like a throwback to the 1990s and the almost painfully “cool” aesthetic of certain game and cartoon franchises of the time. After the opening cut-scene passed and the first level got moving, my first impression switched to “My goodness, this feels bizarre to play!”
Wavey the Rocket looks very much like a traditional flight based sidescroller. Instead of shooting down enemies and dodging incoming fire, however, Wavey tasks you with controlling a waveform that the titular rocket will follow.
This wave can be manipulated both horizontally and vertically, changing the speed Wavey moves at while also adjusting his flight path. I cannot overstate how strange this feels at first; it took me some time to get to grips with this unusual control system and its many quirks. While it is relatively easy to see how it works, it’s another matter entirely to internalize that and make it instinctual.
The Zen of Surfing: Catch the Wave
Countless crashes later, I finally began to get an intuitive understanding of the controls. Wavey, however, is no slouch, and the game was way ahead of me. Levels quickly ramp up in difficulty and soon after I gained some mastery over the mind-mangling control scheme, the game began to throw crueler levels my way.
For the most part, I consider this a good thing; I was concerned at first that this would be a game that relied on its awkward control method for its difficulty (rarely an ideal way of challenging your players). It was a relief to find that failures were entirely my fault and that, having learned my way around the controls, the level design was providing an increasingly brutal but always fair challenge.
For the most part the action is fairly straightforward: avoid obstacles and pick up collectibles. This is done almost exclusively by manipulating the waveform, although a finite boost ability can be used for momentary horizontal movement.
Each level is strewn with collectible goodies, and while they don’t seem to serve much of a function beyond the score, this adds some solid replay value.
Every few levels there is a boss or a bonus stage with a unique mechanic, and these do a good job of shaking things up. There is a shift in background environment every now and again, too, which helps to keep things fresh.
Cowabunga or Whatever, I Guess?
Speaking of aesthetics, Wavey the Rocket somehow manages to be aggressively ’90s and somehow just a little bit bland at the same time. I’m not sure the titular rocket was the most engaging character to run with, and much of the game feels a little childish (not necessarily a bad thing, depending on target audience, but it can be a tad grating).
The music, however, is on point, and the game gets by with its colorful visuals and somewhat in your face style.
Wavey the Rocket has found a way to provide a new form of gameplay in an almost elegantly simple way; its wave-based controls can feel like an obtuse obstacle at first, but this eventually passes and is replaced by a somewhat relaxing – if quite challenging – rhythm-based game.
It’s easy to fall into a “just one more try” cycle here, and that’s a sign that Wavey the Rocket could pack a decent amount of replay value for high score chasers and collectibles hunters. All in all, Wavey is a strange but worthwhile time-sink that manages to engage despite its only occasionally charming aesthetic.
Wavey the Rocket is available via Steam.
Watch the official Wavey the Rocket trailer below: