Preview - Waveform
I'm going to be very frank here: no one hears about the concept of computer gaming for the very first time and goes, "Hey! I want to play a wave of light traversing the great void of the universe!" Everyone wants to be a fireball-conjuring wizard with a funny hat. Everyone wants to play soldier and simulate the violent planting of metal slugs into the vital organs of virtual humans. Everyone wants to drive tanks and fly airplanes, but come on--waves?
Waves are neat. Look at the sinuous beauty; the symmetry; the endless undulations; the spot-on coordination of the fans in the bleachers. Deep down, you really want to try playing as a wave. Believe me.
Waveform, by indie developer Eden Industries, is a game that's all about waves, and it's shaping up to be a very promising game indeed. Ryan Vandendyck, the game's programmer at Eden Industries, calls it "a PC game about manipulating a wave of light". That's as concise and as accurate as it gets. I like to call it "watching a crazy intense tennis match turned on its side with glowing bits in space" -- not too descriptive but certainly emotionally apt.
Here's the best way I can describe Waveform: think about playing a space-based side-scrolling shoot-em-up, like Gradius. Take away the bullets, and the missiles, and the lasers, and the bad guys who shoot back, and heck, take away your spaceship as well and replace it with a glowing ball of energy. Now, constrain the glowing ball on a sine wave-shaped track that's forever going to the right. The ball goes up. Then down. Then up. Then down. That's Waveform, and it's more fun than my feeble words could convey.
The ball's path is controlled by the titular waveform, which in turn is controlled by the player by clicking and dragging the mouse. The controls in the prerelease version we played are already very tight and responsive, which made the game a pleasure to play. Dragging horizontally increases or decreases the frequency of the wave, and dragging vertically increases or decreases the amplitude of the wave. The objective of the game is to collect the crystals scattered along your wave's path (usually in conveniently curved lines) and get to the end intact. It's that simple. And yet it's not.
Here's something else I learned about waves during my time with Waveform: once you go up, you can never come down. Unless it's time to go down. Which it probably isn't time, unless you've planned ahead. This means overshooting a bunch of crystals, and quite possibly crashing into a deviously-placed pile of dark matter. Dark matter is one of the ways that Waveform keeps things interesting: as the levels progress, new concepts are introduced, just like any good action or puzzle game should. Some objects block and threaten to destroy your wave, like dark matter, and some give you new ways to score points, like the glowing curved lines that you can trace a la the held notes in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. There are a lot of objects that show up to tweak the game mechanics throughout the game.
The base mechanic of manipulating the wave, however, remains the same. Take note: it's harder than it looks. The game is all about being at the right place at the right time, and you're given the tools to do just that, but when you're wrestling with crystals and obstacles and everything else that's being thrown into your path, it's tough to make the split-second decision to increase your frequency or reduce your amplitude or just sit in catatonic silence and let it all pass you by in a sine-induced stupor. If you like a good challenge and an exhilirating mental exercise, this game is worth a look.
The team at Eden Industries have a lot of plans for the game once it releases. There's a level editor in the works, which the devs are planning to release at a later date as free DLC. Here's a video sample of how it works:
There's also a planned separate release of the game's soundtrack, which is admittedly uniquely awesome. Watch the gameplay video (which we also shared in our earlier post about the game) to hear a sample. Ryan has stated that they have plans to release the game for mobile devices, which seems like a really good idea. It all depends on the game's success once it gets released.
There's no definite release date yet for Waveform, but Ryan and the team are hoping for a March release. We'll post more updates about the game here as we get them.