In what has proven to be an incredibly stacked 2017 for high-quality, story-driven games—even described as, "the best year in gaming history" by some pundits—sometimes less can truly be more. For every Horizon: Zero Dawn, there can exist a Player Unknown's Battlegrounds, and in a year that will be considered an all-time great in the annals of gaming history, something as simple as a flying disc game from 1990s can exist and find new life.
Originally developed by Data East and published by SNK in 1994, Windjammers has found a new home on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, thanks to the port from French developer, DotEmu. While the game can be boiled down to its rudimentary mechanic of throwing a disc from one side of a court to the other like a fancy Pong, discovering the level of nuance hidden under it's facade of simplicity is where the game truly thrives.
Similar to 2015's massive hit, Rocket League, Windjammers is a game that is easy to learn and play, but has a much deeper level of understanding that will separate those looking to wreak havoc on the game's leaderboards. From mastering the different styles of the six characters (someone like Hiromi Mita who has high speed, but low power; Loris Biaggi who brings a balanced attack of both speed and power; or someone like the German juggernaut Klaus Wessel who utilizes high power, but at the expense of coming with low speed), to learning the different aspects of the six playable arenas (where the five-point goals are, are there barriers in the middle of the court that can change the shot's trajectory, etc), Windjammers provides an underlying level of substance that kept me coming back for, "one more game."
That's truly where this game sunk its hooks in me. A match in Windjammers won't take you a long time to complete (first one to 12 points wins), but it will leave you wanting to play one more round. If there was a game genre of, "Well I have some time to kill" Windjammers would easily compete for that throne. Unless I'm playing someone in a local game, I won't spend hours on end with it, however, when I don't want to dive into a new game just yet, or need a break but want to play something, it expertly scratches that itch, but I know that if I ever do want to sit down and perfect my hook shot, I will gladly spend a couple of hours in this 90's timepiece.
As it is a port of an arcade game, don't expect it to blow you away with a robust choice of options, or do anything new. The greatest hindrance this game suffers from, is simply the year in which it was originally released. Once you're beyond the main menu, you have your selection of Arcade Mode (playing against the CPU, and competing one-on-one against the game's roster of six players with a limited number of credits before it's game over), Infinite Mode (Arcade Mode as describe, but with infinite lives), two mini-games (Dog Distance—where you throw a disc, and then chase after it as a dog, dodging obstacles on a beach along the way—and Flying Disc Bowling), Local Versus, and Online Play. While you aren't going to find the customization of its aforementioned "soccar" compatriot, Windjammers provides an addictive experience that will satisfy gamers looking for a break from every other release this year.
What it lacks it overall content and customization, Windjammers makes up for in charm, and exceeding amounts of fun. DotEmu has delivered on an exceptional port that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. It won't have you sitting on your couch for hours consecutively, but will serve as the perfect palette cleanser between 2017's heaviest of hitters.
Alex is the host of the 48 Minutes podcast. If you're interested in what he screams into the sky, follow him on Twitter. If you want to chronicle his Netflix addiction, add him on PSN at Owl-x