There’s a certain elegant magic to arcade-style experiences. Once the predominant time-waster of so many children in the 80’s and 90’s, arcade-style gaming has since largely retreated to the niche realm of indie games, and the controversial realm of mobile games at this point.
Still, it’s been quite a while since we’ve gotten an all-new arcade-style game that so successfully captures that feeling of mindless score-chasing, just as it was in days gone by. Nonetheless, we now have Woah Dave!, a game from re-branded Gaijin Games outfit, Choice Provisions, which has been gradually trickling on to more and more platforms since its debut last year, most recently hitting Wii U just a couple of weeks ago.
There isn’t much to say about Woah Dave! as a package, particularly since its base release is rather bare-bones, and expanded somewhat with a free ‘Deluxe’ update that adds in a couple of new goodies across all of the game’s many platforms. Even with the Deluxe update however, Woah Dave! is very straightforward, and frankly, pretty shallow.
Is it good however? Well, that depends on whether the words, “Good” and, “Addictive” mean the same thing to you. Woah Dave! is definitely addictive, with its fast-paced insanity constantly demanding new levels of replay and score-chasing, even if anyone looking for actual depth really shouldn’t bother. There isn’t a lot to the game, but if you want a genuine return to arcade-style gaming, one that’s pretty much as pure and mindless as they come, then you’re bound to get quite a lot of mileage out of Woah Dave!.
Woah Dave! is intentionally blocky and pixelated, deliberately aiming to ape the look of early 80’s arcade games, or, even more accurately, the approximate appearance of something on the Atari 2600 or the Intellivision. If you’re old enough to remember either of those consoles, then you’ll probably get a kick out of Woah Dave!’s appearance. If not however, then the game will probably just look primitive and minimalist to you, even if it is at least nicely colourful.
Still, the lively animation is definitely praiseworthy, with the game unfolding at a brisk, steady clip on all platforms, which is very important! Woah Dave!’s pacing is insanely fast, and both control precision and performance integrity are crucially important in a game that’s both this speedy, and this challenging! The handheld platforms almost benefit more from the decreased resolution as well, where Woah Dave! looks more bite-sized and acclimated, compared to its proudly primitive, blown-up pixel look on consoles and PC, which, needless to say, doesn’t even try to take full advantage of the vast modern specs of those platforms.
There really isn’t much in the way of visual difference between the many different ports that Woah Dave! now has to its name, with the handheld, mobile, console and PC versions all looking more or less the same, barring the larger or smaller resolution count, depending on whether you’re playing on a portable device or a home device. The 3DS version has a pretty basic 3D effect on offer, which compensates for that version not having the HD ‘pop’ factor of the other platforms, though this is moot for 2DS users. The Wii U version also supports off-TV play on the Wii U Gamepad, which is to be expected. Playing on an iPhone screen isn’t always ideal, since that makes for the most constrained view, but the game looks pretty sharp on an iPad, which pretty much captures the same visual experience as playing on PC, PS4 or Wii U, and doesn’t present as much of an issue with having to use touch controls. Speaking of PC players, Woah Dave! predictably has rock-bottom system requirements, so even a very old computer that has at least Windows XP can run it very easily, and run it well. Current Mac and Linux OS’s can also play the game without issue.
For the most part though, as charming as it is to toss exploding skulls at pixelated aliens and watch blocky clouds of steam and lava trails follow them when they reach the bottom level of the area, you’ll mostly be staring at the same basic screen, and its same basic colours. The Deluxe update has added in some different stage backdrops, but that still mostly creates the same problem. You need a high tolerance of looking at the same simple graphics over and over again, potentially for hours, in Woah Dave!, but those attracted to the 80’s-style arcade challenge will probably know that this is the score anyway, so it’s not too big of a deal in the end.
Much like the graphics, the audio in Woah Dave! is very simple, and will probably become repetitive to some before long. The same chipper, upbeat tune plays through most of the game, which fits the fast-paced, surreal tone, but is still just one piece of music. The music is also intentionally fuzzy, with the sounds of clapping and MIDI tones emulating the feel of arcade attractions from the 80’s pretty nicely.
The same is true of the sound effects, which are primitive as can be. The game’s adorably tinny declaration of its title is definitely charming for gamers who fondly remember 80’s gaming, and true to form, the various sounds of the game are also firmly rooted in arcade nostalgia. The sharp chord that plays when Dave is hit and loses a life sounds with the appropriate shock factor, almost enough to make a player jump during a lengthy game run gone sour, just as the quake-like set of tones that erupt when you toss an important Woah! Block on to the ground feels satisfying, particularly as enemies explode into precious Pennies to collect!
Again, there isn’t much to say about the audio in Woah Dave!. It works to achieve the degree of arcade nostalgia that Woah Dave! is striving for, but much like the visuals, there isn’t a lot to it, and it demands a fair bit of tolerance for repetition.
Woah Dave! might seem initially confusing, and maybe a bit pointless. Once the numbers start climbing though, any player with an appreciation for arcade shenanigans is bound to be hooked very quickly!
Like I said, it’s a question of whether you feel that a game being addictive is enough to make it good. Woah Dave! definitely boasts addictive gameplay in spades, but there isn’t much to the package. You have to be the kind of player that wants to experience the same one-note kind of fun for hours. If you want so much as two notes, Woah Dave! is going to have a harder time holding your attention, even considering the additions in the Deluxe update.
So, how exactly does one play Woah Dave!? Well, players take control of one Dave Lonuts, a rather overwhelmed individual that has found himself in the middle of an alien invasion. Why? How? Who cares! 80’s arcade games didn’t bother to ask those kinds of questions, and as you can imagine, Woah Dave! doesn’t either.
When the game begins, players can do one of two things; Run and jump. Once alien eggs start dropping however, you’ll need to either try and toss them into the open lava pools below, or keep an eye out for flashing skulls. Both objects are picked up simply by running into them, and you have to press a separate button to toss the object. You can help destroy alien eggs by hitting them with the flashing skulls, and this is the main way to build up your score, which is the sole objective in Woah Dave!. Be careful though! When the skulls flash blue, that means they’re about to explode, and when they do, they’ll take out Dave if he’s nearby, just as they will any enemies or eggs!
This sounds simple on paper, but it’s not long before Woah Dave! starts piling on busy, chaotic sets of enemies and gameplay. Eggs will inevitably hatch into wandering aliens as you play on, which will eventually pave the way for UFO’s to beam away your platforms, Eyebats teleport into the fray, and other nasty threats will come along that make the gameplay feel progressively more challenging. Woah Dave! challenges you to manage the chaos carefully, since Dave loses a life if anything so much as grazes his feeble form, and after three lives are lost, it’s Game Over!
Every time you destroy an enemy however, they’ll drop a Penny, which Dave must collect to build up his money count, taking the place of the normal Score that you would find in an actual 80’s arcade game. Even as your score goes up by one painstaking penny at a time, you’ll find yourself eager to keep building it up. Every time you play, you might get one or two pennies more, and that’s enough to push you to see how far you can make it.
Adding to this intensity is an interesting risk/reward system that can further develop your profits, if you’re lucky. If you allow enemies to drop below the screen and become more powerful, they’ll drop more Pennies when they’re destroyed. Using this tactic, you could possibly build up a whole screen of strong enemies, then toss a well-timed Woah! Block to exterminate them all at once and reap the riches for example, but obviously, this is a very risky strategy. Still, trying to decide between allowing enemies to evolve or just trying to keep them off the screen helps make the game more interesting, especially since you can unlock a more difficult ‘Bonkers Mode’ that spawns more enemies, and immediately gives you less platforms to safely stand on, though creates many more opportunities to amass Pennies too. It’s just too bad that you have to get a somewhat high score of $1.50 before you can unlock Bonkers Mode, which is necessary when one considers how hard it is, but is nonetheless annoying, since it might take you some time before you build up a score that high.
Things are further helped by the fact that developer, Minivisions has expertly crafted the game controls, which are fast, fluid and responsive on all platforms. Playing with the handheld button scheme on a 3DS/2DS or PS Vita feels ideal, since that most closely resembles the feeling of playing on an arcade cabinet, though using a controller in the console and PC versions feels quite agreeable and responsive too, as does the slightly less comfortable option of using a keyboard if you’re playing from Steam and that’s your only option. Even being forced to utilize touch controls on an iPhone or iPad feels pretty solid, with players having the option of toggling the game so that it moves the virtual buttons according to your thumb movements, helping to make the game better-tuned to avid players’ specific input needs. The iOS version still feels just a bit more slippery and unreliable than the dedicated Nintendo, PlayStation and Steam builds, but it’s not a dealbreaker, if that’s the version you’re most drawn to, especially with Woah Dave! functioning quite well as a mobile time-waster that’s great for long waits on the bus or at the doctor’s office or something.
Woah Dave! is surprisingly challenging, and infinitely replayable, but, again, the gameplay never expands beyond what I’ve already described for the most part. It just progressively ups the pace of that until you run out of lives, with players simply having to survive for as long as they can. The Deluxe update at least allows you to vary the stage designs a bit (which more or less makes Classic Mode entirely obsolete), but the changes are minor at best, and while you can choose between a handful of characters, the change is more or less just cosmetic.
There is however a competitive mode of sorts, where two players can try to compete for the highest score, while both surviving as long as they can. It essentially just amounts to twice the Dave, but it’s not bad, if you don’t mind possibly smacking your friend with your controller when they snatch the coveted Woah Block! away from you and scoop up heaps of Pennies afterward. The competitive mode is restricted to local play, which is fine, since Woah Dave! is especially enjoyable when friends can see how long they can last together. This two-player mode is only featured in the home builds though, so only PC, PS4 and Wii U players will get to enjoy it. 3DS, iOS and PS Vita players are out of luck, and can only play Woah Dave! solo, with the game’s ease of portability compensating nicely, on the bright side.
Also compensating nicely is the fact that Woah Dave! is cross-buy on PlayStation and Nintendo platforms, which is a perk that iOS and Steam naturally don’t offer. The PS4 and PS Vita versions are awarded together with a single purchase, just as the 3DS and Wii U versions are in turn. The PS4 and PS Vita versions also share a trophy roster, though the in-game achievements tallied by the 3DS and Wii U versions are predictably self-contained. The Wii U version also accommodates all potential control options, between the Wii and Wii U input methods, and all of them work quite well. PC, Mac and Linux players can at least enjoy the unique benefit of Steam Trading Cards. Steam Achievements and full gamepad support within the Steam build, but the ability to have both a home version and a portable version together with the PlayStation and Nintendo builds definitely make them the best deal, assuming you own both of the respective platforms.
Woah Dave! definitely feels most at home on handhelds and smartphones however, where it can be quickly pulled out for some fast, satisfying time-killing, both at home and on the go. The lack of gameplay depth may be a turn-off to those who want a meatier, less quaint gaming experience, but there’s something to be said about how many times you’ll want to strive for something as simple as just a bit more pocket change once you dive in, especially when Woah Dave! proves to be as speedily satisfying as it is!
Woah Dave! is simple in its aim, and blunt in its madness. It’s for a certain kind of player, that being the kind of player who loves pushing themselves to ever higher numbers, and ever higher monuments to their own gaming persistence. If that’s not you, then Woah Dave! is not something that you would be interested in.
If you’re the kind of gamer that can still remember sinking an entire allowance’s worth of quarters into your local Asteroids, Donkey Kong or Pac-Man cabinet however, simply for the love of score-chasing, then Woah Dave! is right up your alley. It’s a game that will effectively bring you back to those days of quarter buckets and hogging cabinets, only now, you won’t have a peanut gallery of fellow children either urging you off, or cheering you on, unless of course you arrange for one. The decent two-player mode in the PC, PS4 and Wii U versions may hold the attention of you and your buddies for a bit, though it’s the 3DS, iOS and PS Vita versions that will be most appealing for their quick, on-demand time-wasting, especially since the 3DS and PS Vita versions are cross-buy with their console cousins, so you can still freely enjoy the craziness at home on your television as well, if you’re so inclined.
Woah Dave! is undeniably simplistic, and perhaps a bit shallow, but then again, many of its arcade inspirations were as well. Still, the expertly refined challenge and addictive, ‘just one more go’ gameplay will have arcade gaming and indie gaming enthusiasts coming back continually. The modest $4.99 price is pretty agreeable to boot, especially with the PlayStation and Nintendo builds offering cross-buy, though bear in mind that you are mainly paying for what is a shallow, but reasonably refined addiction. If the addiction is all you’re coming for, then Woah Dave! has you covered, even if it doesn’t promise much beyond that.
- Simple, fast-paced arcade gameplay
- Very, very addictive
- Two-player mode in home builds is fun
- Shallow, repetitive gameplay
- Portable builds can only be played solo
- Deluxe update doesn't add any more depth