Casual games are often dismissed by hardcore gamers as the choice of kids or bored housewives. But talk to anyone who has played ‘just one more level’ of Peggle and they will tell you a very different story.
Waveform is a textbook example of a casual game. It has a huge number of levels (around 100), non-threatening gameplay, an amazing soundtrack, and absolutely no story. And, of course, it’s very addictive, with that critical ‘just one more level’ appeal.
Waveform is a game about manipulating a sine wave of light through various obstacles across the planets of our solar system (even Pluto gets a look in). The goal is to collect glowing orbs of light, and not hit squares of dark matter. Collecting a glowing orb will increase your light wave while hitting dark matter will weaken it. The goal is to collect as many glowing orbs as possible without clipping any dark matter.
The official story is a “Journey to restore light to a dying galaxy being consumed by a singularity”, which translates to an excuse for collecting all the colourful orbs and scoring multipliers.
Manipulation of the light wave is done by left clicking and dragging the mouse. Dragging to the left or right decrease and increase the wavelength, respectively. Dragging the mouse up and down affects the amplitude. If that sounds finicky and confusing that's ok. It is, but it works. Until the lights go out, or space asteroids start messing with your flow.
Understanding how it all works will take a few attempts and even then it isn’t fully mastered - not by a long shot. In the end it all comes down to timing. Make the wave longer to hit the next group of orbs too soon and you will miss the ones that are currently lined up, same goes for the height, and this is all before the introduction of dark matter that moves and bounce pads, etc. There is no golden path through a level of Waveform, it requires a constant adjustment that builds more tension than a game of Russian Roulette.
In order to spice up the gameplay and make sure it never really gets comfortable, each level introduces some new element to mess with a perfect run. This can come in the form of giant asteroids bouncing around the screen, or by tempting space promises for to pilot your light wave into a near impossible to reach worm hole. It's all there to make sure it never gets boring or, God forbid, relaxing.
At the end of each level completed is a reward in the form of stars for various things, like completing achievements or collecting X amount of orbs in a row. This allows for a few shortcuts depending on how well things have gone. For each planet there are will come a fork in the path. With enough stars there is a shortcut from level 4 to level 9, cutting down the amount of levels needing to be completed to reach the next planet. Merely scraping through each level with 30% orb collectionstill gives access to the next planet, but with no shortcuts.
Each ‘Planet’ has around 10 levels in which to collect orbs, and one Moon level where the waves feel like they are under water and constantly moving. It is like a ‘70s psychedelic music video, but instead of partying with the hippies it’s all about collecting colourful space orbs, man.
In the crowded world of casual games and apps, Waveform is something a little different. The basic mechanics of gameplay are something new and unique, which is something, considering the sheer variety of content out there in terms of casual games. It has a polished look and feel; it’s good enough to keep coming. All in all, Waveform is a fantastic casual game which revels in both frustration and addiction. And best of all, this extreme enjoyment will only set you back the tidy sum of USD $7.