Imagine air hockey crossed with Street Fighter, and you have a good idea of what Windjammers 2 is.
Though of course, those familiar with the original Windjammers, released on the Neo Geo in 1994 before being ported to more modern consoles in recent years, won’t need such an analogy. They’ll just be glad that Windjammers is back, with Dotemu giving it the same sort of sequel treatment as Streets of Rage 4. This is basically the same game at its core, but with a fresh new look, a cracking soundtrack, and some new moves up its sleeves to make the gameplay just that bit deeper.
With 10 playable characters on its roster, Windjammers 2 has them battling it out to be the champion. They face off in head-to-head battles, each occupying a side of one of 10 available courts, with the aim of throwing a disc past their opponent, or getting it to settle on the floor on their side. Each side of the court is split into zones, worth three or five points should you manage to throw a disc into it. If a disc lands on the floor, you score either two or four points. Accumulate 15 points and you win the set. Win two sets and the game is yours.
With each character striking a balance between power and speed, your choice can greatly affect how you play. Nimble characters, for example, can move around quickly, allowing them to easily get into place to catch an incoming disc. Powerful characters, on the other hand, are extremely sluggish, so you’re more reliant on the awkward slide manoeuvre that allows you to quickly cover ground. But of course, their power means they can throw the disc with more speed and force, making it harder for an opponent to defend against their shots.
On the subject of shots, many are available. The standard straight shot is the bread and butter of the game – you take aim, throw, and watch your disc travel in a straight path, bouncing off the side of the court (and mid-court obstructions, if there are any). For those that want to add a bit of flair, moving the analogue stick in a quarter-circle when using a straight shot turns it into a curve shot, altering its trajectory mid flight and keeping your opponent on their toes.
Accompanying the straight shot is the lob shot, which sends the disc flying high in the air. If you’re lucky, your opponent won’t get to it before it lands, awarding you some points. It’s risky though, because if your opponent manages to stand under its landing location, marked with a crosshair, they can charge up a powerful return shot. Add in a host of more advanced manoeuvres, such as the toss, the slapshot and a duo of power shots only useable when a gauge is full, and you have a lot of options.
It has to be said though, that chances are it will take you a while to find your feet in Windjammers 2. There’s a tutorial, but it simply tells you how to play rather than guiding you through it. For the first hour or so, then, things can be very frustrating as you try to make sense of the controls and how you use them to perform some of the more advanced moves that are crucial to victory. It doesn’t help that the AI you might find yourself playing against is cheap on anything higher than easy, as well.
But if you put in the effort, Windjammers 2 soon becomes rather enjoyable, despite the controls still feeling a little awkward at times. It’s not the game for you if you don’t want to play against others locally or online, however. The only substantial single player mode here is Arcade, which simply challenges you to overcome opponents over a number of rounds. And with the AI being what it is, it gets frustrating and tiresome rather fast.
This is a game that really benefits from being played with others. Put in on when you have friends around and the room will soon be filled with roars of laughter as players take it in turns to battle each other in Versus. But thanks to solid netcode, the action can also be taken online, in both friendly and ranked battles. Get matched up with a player on a similar skill level and games can be epic. Though be aware that there is a high skill ceiling; as the player base wanes, you might find yourself outmatched if you don’t step up your game.
Existing fans of the Windjammers series will absolutely love Windjammers 2 – no doubt about it. Newcomers willing to put the effort in to learn its mechanics will find a lot to enjoy, too. It’s just a shame that its single-player offerings are so slight, and the AI isn’t much fun to go up against. Multiplayer is the highlight here, and if you do plan on playing against friends, family and/or strangers, you’ll get way more than your money’s worth.
Windjammers 2 Review – GameSpew’s Score