Thursday, January 20, 2022

Where's Our Windjammers 2 Review?

Windjammers 2 launched today, giving ‘90s arcade fans or those who discovered the game via the 2018 remaster a new arena to lob discs at each other. My review is currently in progress, but since the online mode didn’t go live until today, I’ll need time to test that out in a live environment before giving my complete assessment. In the meantime, here are my impressions so far. 

The good news: playing Windjammers is still very fun. For those unfamiliar, two players face off in what’s essentially a hybrid of tennis and air hockey. You try to toss the disc past your opponent to score in their goal, but you can also earn points if the disc touches their court. The game sports a fighting game caliber of depth thanks to many variations of disc throws. The best matches are fast-paced, back-and-forth exchanges of flashy trick shots and ricocheting discs until someone slips up. 

The gameplay feels snappy and responsive, meaning any time I blew a save was entirely on me. That’s good because Windjammer 2’s CPU opponents are tough, even on Easy difficulty. I choked down several bowls of L’s before I finally conquered its otherwise brief arcade mode. The presentation and soundtrack are appropriately ‘90s (in a good way), and the multi-cultural roster characters, each with speed/strength differences, harken to Street Fighter’s worldly appeal, granted they aren’t as memorable. The various arenas are enjoyable playgrounds, with some sporting small but meaningful gimmicks such as a roulette-style scoring system and those with blockers that can alter shot trajectory. 

It’s good that the core game is fun because that’s about all Windjammers 2 has to offer. The package is barebones, featuring arcade, online, and two-player versus modes. I’m most disappointed by the tutorial, which consists of a simple slideshow of commands. As I noted earlier, Windjammer’s gameplay is deep and not unlike a fighting game. That genre has come a long way in how it onboards players to its systems, with Mortal Kombat 11 standing as a shining example. I wish Windjammers 2 had more in-depth lessons or a dedicated training mode to help me better understand why I would want to spike the disc instead of throwing it because staring at several slides of button commands isn’t ideal for retention. It’s also egregious that you can’t access the move list in the pause menu. If you forget how to perform a maneuver during a match, you have to return to the main menu for a refresher. 

We’ll see how the online shapes up, but Windjammers 2 seems aimed at existing diehards who simply want to throw discs without any extra frills. That’s fun for a while, but there may not be enough meat on the bones to retain newcomers or even fans for the long haul.

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