Originally published at: Review | Wavetale - XboxEra
A little over a year after it was released on Google Stadia, Wavetale is now being launched for Xbox consoles. Both developed and published by Thunderful, a glance at the trailer gives the impression that this is a family friendly platform game with cute characters who inhabit a watery world. Let’s dive into these presently calm waters and see if the game is worth splashing out on, in the XboxEra review of Wavetale.
This review will be spoiler free as always but the premise is as follows. Sigrid (or Shrimpy, as she is affectionately known) lives with her Grandma in an archipelago called Strandville. We learn that before ‘the war’ this was a beautiful and abundant place but is now in a state of waterlogged decline. A large cloud of black pollution known as the ‘Gloom’ continually threatens to overwhelm the islands and is held at bay by a variety of light emitting machines powered by a form of energy known as Sparks.
An enemy known as the Dirty Paws and a range of gloom-related monsters are also a constant threat. After a particularly large gloom incursion, Sigrid comes across a mysterious shadow creature that far from being a threat, gives her the ability to walk or surf across the waves. Finding herself suddenly gifted with the ability to explore the surrounding islands, Sigrid sets out to discover the source of the gloom, learn the cause of their current predicament and free her people.
This is a third-person adventure game with an emphasis on platforming. The graphical presentation is bright, cartoonish and very cute. While the faces of the characters are of a basic design, they can be amazingly expressive during conversational cut scenes. The sea and surroundings have been presented with far more artistic vision and create a living, breathing, nicely detailed ‘drowned world’, much like the game Submerged: Hidden Depths which I reviewed earlier this year. Calm waters can soon develop into raging seas that are a great pleasure to surf across as fast as possible, especially when abandoned broken down infrastructure that can be used as a shortcut is waiting to be discovered.
Adaptive music is put to good use to convey Sigrid’s different feelings and moods as she journeys deeper into the unknown. One tune was particularly good and reminded me of Weeping Wall from the classic album Low by David Bowie, which is never a bad thing.
After receiving an objective to complete in order to move the story on, I was able to set off within a limited area of the map. Looking at the map in the early stages of the game it is almost entirely obscured by the gloom cloud. At the completion of a main task, an area of gloom on the map is expelled by a light source and another area becomes accessible.
Dr Livingstone I Presume?
Exploration carried out while completing these objectives is rewarded in a few other ways. Artifacts containing information about the past can be found littered around the islands and are used to fill in the back story of Strandville in Sigrid’s scrapbook. Strangers can be encountered who will offer up information, as well as side missions or surfing challenges that can either be taken up or ignored. Collecting a form of currency known as Sparklings allowed me to purchase a wide range of customisation items for my protagonist. A skeleton outfit, purple hair dye and a large set of cat ears really set each other off as Sigrid ruled the waves.
Each island discovered has its own particular platforming challenge involving everything from elevating platforms to body cannons, slingshots and something resembling a stand-up bobsleigh run. Although the control scheme is fairly basic, the level of platforming design is of a high standard and I never felt like I was doing the same climbing process over and over again. Generally, getting to several different summits in a particular area, results in machinery being energised that either just opens up the map or fights off a large monster from the deep. Falling from height can be used to Sigrid’s advantage if she uses her trusty fishing net. Acting as a rotor it can be used to glide for long distances and it also doubles up as a handy weapon.
Fight, Fight, Fight
Smaller creatures, formed from Sparklings that have been exposed to the gloom, attack Sigrid on sight and need to be fought off regularly using two different buttons and a ‘ground pound’ attack that is possible when the Y button is combined with a jump. Losing in a fight causes Sigrid to become polluted and start turning black herself. Hardier opponents such as Striders and giant Stag Beetles are introduced as the game progresses. Combat is fairly basic but success is rewarded with the liberated sparklings and the ability to go about your business unhindered.
Islanders and large objects such as pirate ships have also been imprisoned within a sooty layer of gloom that has to be beaten to free them from it. Surfing along as the protector of a pirate fleet on a journey to a hidden destination was a very enjoyable mission. There is an obvious environmental slant to this narrative but there is also another important message regarding a nation’s perceived truth, which is more important in today’s political climate than ever.
The game ran well on my Series X and I only came across one glitch involving a see-through section of a monster that I may well have unintentionally fallen inside. On a fun note ‘Gloom you!’ (stated with feeling) is a non-swearing insult that I have picked up during my playthrough that I intend to use a lot in future. The game is a fairly chilled experience apart from a small period at the very beginning when I struggled to see where my objectives were and got a bit frustrated. Once I understood how the gameplay worked, I did not have another problem.
After all this talk of gloom, you must be dying to know what the gloom is, what is behind it and what the nefarious Mayor Clout is up to, but you will have to play Wavetale yourself to find out.
To wrap things up Wavetale is a heart-warming story of discovery and reconciliation. Traversal of the islands requires players to overcome some rather creative platforming challenges and never gets repetitive. Although it takes a while to get going, the story is well written and the adaptive music and environmental design of Strandville bring the place to life. This title has a lot going for it and although it is not the longest experience, it is well worth several hours of your time.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PS4|PS5 Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||December 12th, 2022|