In 2019, Google launched Stadia, a cloud-based gaming platform that looked to change the landscape of the industry. With a conglomerate of that size and magnitude leading the charge, several developers signed exclusive deals with the company. After its short and unsuccessful tenure, servers are now due to close which has left a few titles without a home. Relocating to all major platforms, can the oceanic odyssey, Wavetale, find a second wind?
You take on the role of Sigrid, a wide-eyed young girl who has been restricted to living on a small island. Due to the world succumbing to a horrific flood, she can only dream about what may lie beyond the horizon. With her Grandma at her side, together they fend off strange creatures that dwell in the fog with the use of a lighthouse. As the threat grows, it’s down to you to venture into the unknown to seek new land and find a way to stop the catastrophe. While the game’s whimsical design captures some of that Disney magic, the narrative itself falls short.
Searching Through the Big Blue
To explore, you can surf the sea with the help of a mysterious being that lives in the ocean. Paths to your objective are lined with ramps and slides which allow you to flamboyantly zip across the large expanse. Due to the intuitive controls, cruising through the water is an absolute joy. You can gain extra height and soar through the by jumping at the crest of a wave then delve beneath the blue to gain a boost. Thunderful Games also use this time to develop the narrative. As you may need to travel long distances, channels of water are lined with apparatus for you to hurdle as discussions progress the story. This is a great way to ensure the plot remains at the forefront without removing you from the world.
Most objectives require you to ascend to the top of structures to collect items or activate switches. Although missions lack variety, scaling the environment is a blast. Grapple points and springboards combine to create wonderful routes to your destination. Sometimes you will even climb enemies, giving Shadow of the Colossus vibes to your adventure. These segments are a highlight of the game as its quick and slick gameplay creates some incredible sequences.
A Weak Whack
Creatures prowl the terrain to halt you from cleansing the area. You must terminate each of these with light or heavy strikes to save the place from corruption. Foes amble along and pose no real danger, removing tension from fights. Due to the sluggish nature of attacks, there is no fluidity when switching between strikes. The lack of impact is also noticeable; battles feel like a chore because of this. Strangely, you can aim with your left trigger but never get a weapon to use this ability. This odd inclusion makes it feel like parts were removed from the game.
Throughout there are items to collect which will conclude side mission tasks and currency that allows you to dress up Sigrid. The side missions are quite basic and develop the narrative further rather than offering new and interesting gameplay elements. As you progress, your notebook will include new elements about the world so you can delve into the lore of the game.
Lost in the Sea
The visuals in Wavetale are great. The cell-shaded design mixed with 90s-influenced characterization creates a charming aesthetic. Unfortunately, performance is what lets the game down. Screen tearing is commonplace and stifles the enjoyment of the fast, paced platformer. In addition to this, the lighting can flicker between different styles which knocks the atmosphere. While the music fits the occasion, sound effects often drop to make the experience feel flat.
The platforming and level design in Wavetale is fantastic. You can easily fly up buildings in style due to the responsive controls. Even though the objectives are similar throughout, the areas are well-designed to make each island refreshing. While you can overlook the lackluster and rigid combat, the performance issues are harder to ignore. Screen tearing and pop-ins are frequent and hinder the experience. However, fans of games like Solar Ash and The Pathless will still enjoy the game.
*** A PlayStation 5 game code was provided by the publisher ***
- Slick Platforming
- Great Level Design
- Lovely Visuals
- Performance Issues
- Audio Drops
- Mission Variety