Windjammers (Review)

 Think of Windjammersas an evolution of Pong with a bit of a fighting game twist. Two players pick from two of six playable characters ripped straight out of a late 80s/early 90s beach movie and battle it out for disc-based supremacy through quick, high-octane gameplay. Anywhere from 3-5 points can be scored after each service, with most games going to 12 and matches being in a best two-out-of three format under a 90-second time limit to keep things short and sweet. Things never really feel like they drag out, and the constant worry of letting the disc get to one’s own goal can certainly keep even the best players on their toes.

The fighting game twist comes in how the game actually controls. Windjammers has a simple control scheme consisting of two face buttons and either the analog stick or D-pad for movement. One face button (either square or cross) will throw the disc normally or make the character slide around when empty-handed, while the other button (circle or triangle) allows for lobs to throw opponents off their game. “Simple to pick up, difficult to master” is a pretty easy way to sum up the basic gameplay experience.

More slightly advanced techniques, such as a perfectly-timed throw that makes the disc travel at supersonic speeds or curved shots that have inputs like a fighting game, take a little bit of time to get adjusted to. The characters to choose from also have particular stats and traits to look out for. Two of them are more agile but don’t throw the disc as hard, while another two are more powerful and painfully slow, and another pair are a healthy balance of speed and power.

 Each also has a custom super throw that can be used when standing under a lob or after knocking the disc up into the air before throwing it back either really fast or in such a way that it’s difficult to react. Each is different and can be hard to strategize for, much less predict where they’re going. The super move can also be used for a faster lob shot or a throw that bounces off the wall several times in an attempt to score in the corner. It can be difficult at times to keep up with if paired with an opponent that has an idea of how to do those techniques, but the rewarding feeling of taking a point in a situation like that is pretty damn satisfying.

One thing the game definitely gets points for is the visual style. The colorful, 16-bit graphics really pop off the screen, along with bright and vibrant menus that fantastically replicate that coastal vibe from 25-30 years ago. The music is also pretty well-done and represents the time period well, with synth riffs and drum machines leading the charge of in-game action.
Despite being sprites, the competitors themselves also have distinct looks and features and show off an international flair that remains intact from the original release. There’s also a nice little stage selection here, ranging from just an ordinary beach to a concrete court with bumpers, along with other stages each with their own gimmick and personality. It really adds more depth to the on-your-feet strategy of the game when having to adapt to different settings and having to figure out new ways to outsmart an opponent.

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