Twin stick shooters are one of my favorite genres of all time. It’s simplistic approach can lead to surprisingly deep gameplay. Waves is the latest game in the tradition of shooters like Geometry Wars. In Waves you play a small sphere tasked with killing everything in a circular platform. Much like Geometry Wars there are different shaped objects trying to ram themselves into you, ending your game, and it’s up to you to take them all out. A few smart design choices and interesting play mechanics elevates Waves from being a Geometry Wars clone and makes it something that I think is even better in many ways.
Waves has a few cool mechanics and modes that make it incredibly compelling. As you play the game your little sphere earns a buffer of slow motion, activated by pulling the right trigger. Slow motion can be incredibly handy in those insane moments where there’s so much on the screen that it’s hard to tell what’s where and what you should do next. It gives the feeling of suddenly being Neo in The Matrix where the rest of the world moves slowly and you can see actions well before they happen. It’s very cool.
Waves also presents a cool take on bomb mechanics. Rather than earn a bomb for so many points, it gives you a bomb to trigger for a few seconds after a 10x combo kill. This means killing 10 or more baddies in just a second, which is incredibly possible thanks to a baddie that I call “The Creep”. The Creep is this growing digital fungus that starts to… well… creep over the board as you play. It can take up large spaces, but killing just a small portion of it counts for a full kill, so letting it grow can actually be beneficial to your gameplay if you rely on bombs. Soon bomb usage starts to fuel itself as bombs will take out more than 10 enemies, allowing you to get yet another bomb and cycle it.
Leveling up is an interesting affair in Waves as well. At the bottom of the creen is an XP bar that fills up. In order to truly level up, once you fill the bar you still have to run over a small icon with your sphere in order to get the combo multiplier that it would provide. Don’t do this right away and you could miss it entirely and lose that bonus.
There are several play modes in Waves ranging from a timed mode where it’s all about how high of a score can you get in a short time. Survival is about staying alive as long as possible with a new life awarded every ten levels. Rush is a mode where a timer runs down. Hard to kill cubes occasionally appear and if you kill one the timer goes back up a bit. Dying takes away from the time limit. Very addicting mode. Bombing Run is Waves take on Pacifism mode. Bomb platforms appear. Running over them arms you, and then you have to run over a detonator pad to blow it up. There are no guns in this mode, but there is a combo shield. Every ten kills and your one hit shield replenishes… makes it more fair. Challenge Mode is twenty maps, each short and sweet. Get to the end without dying more than 3 times and see what your score is. Each of these offers a slight, but addicting twist on the game, making it new every time.
Visually Waves offers a lot in the way of “pretty colors”. It does it’s job of keeping you engaged and entertained, while letting you know what’s good and what’s bad. Audibly the game is incredible, with a brilliant soundtrack by the artist Smiletron and small little audible queues that let you know when you have a bomb, extra life or have just leveled up.
Waves doesn’t invent a new type of game by any means, but it does take an established genre and make it fun, engaging and addicting. It puts just enough twists on the twin stick shooter genre to make itself worthy of your time and money. There’s technically nothing wrong with this game in any way. If you’re looking for a game to take the place of the never to be seen Geometry Wars 3, then this is it. I highly recommend it.