Very few games succeed in recreating the look and feel of the retro arcade era quite like Woah Dave! does. You'll find yourself playing over and over again while trying to beat your high score without the burden of opening a roll of quarters.
Woah Dave! stars a little chum named Dave Lonuts whose world is filled with odd creatures, exploding skulls, and UFOs. When he meets his demise, the vision of his world fades away and all of the oddities reveal their true identity as fellow humans. The game does little to explain this, but one can assume that he's probably insane or addicted to illegal substances. Anyway, you control Dave who automatically picks up any object that he comes in contact with. Eggs will eventually hatch into green creatures while skulls simply explode. You can throw eggs and skulls at creatures to kill them, but be careful because if they hatch or explode while you're carrying them then you're toast! Skulls can be used to wipe out eggs by either throwing them or letting them explode when they're in close proximity. While you're running around throwing things at other things, you must also stay vigilant of the lava at the bottom of the screen since the covering platform slowly dissipates. When it's completely gone, the lava will rise and things start to get really hectic.
Graphically, Woah Dave! is an accurate representation of an eighties-era arcade game. Dave is a blocky fellow who vaguely represents a human while his enemies are mostly Cyclopsian squares. Platforms are bright pink while the background (which changes to different colours over time) is simple. This creates a decent contrast so being able to focus on the action is never a problem. A frame on either side of the screen exists since the game doesn't take up the full widescreen width. This is acceptable but also appears drab as it's simply a few shades of orange-brown. It's a missed opportunity that the frame isn't an arcade machine or some silly retro game art which would have brought more authenticity to the experience. Woah Dave! also works with PlayStation TV and it looks pretty slick on a television. One song plays throughout and although it's a cool one, it sounds too modern for an eighties game. That being said, the sound effects are spot-on interpretations of arcade classics from the sound of collecting coins to a synthetic voice saying, "Woah, Dave!"
Woah Dave! features incredibly simple controls. You run around, push a button to jump, and another button to throw. Although the controls are simple, that doesn't mean it's easy. The point of each play session is to get as high of a score as you can. You get one penny for defeating each basic enemy and additional pennies for more evolved enemies. However, you have to chase after your change and collect it before your score will increase. As you can already tell, there is a lot going on at any given time. Therefore, the randomly spawning objects and enemies can sometimes feel unfair. At times, nothing but skulls will materialize for a while. As you sit there waiting for an egg, you can't help but think why they couldn't implement some intelligence to the randomization. Conversely, the screen fills with enemies much faster than you can take them out when you are only given eggs. In the end, it all seems a bit too luck-based.
Some additional features are included that help shake up the gameplay. One of which is the "WOAH" block that will wipe out all of the on-screen enemies (as long as you don't throw it in the lava or let it get blown up by a skull). After a while, UFOs will start to invade. If you don't stop them in time, these extraterrestrials will destroy two of the top platforms which then fall to the bottom. Enemies evolve when they reach the lava at the bottom of the screen. When they do, they will shoot up to the top of the screen, so be careful. The evolution process will have them go from basic slow green enemies to quick red ones, jumping blue ones, and finally to flying eyeballs. As you play, you must ask yourself if it's worth waiting for enemies to evolve and collect more pennies or is that too much of a risk? You want a high score but you also don't want to die so you'll be trying out plenty of strategies as you play to see what works best.
There are only two modes in Woah Dave! The first is normal mode where you play until you run out of lives. The second mode (called Bonkers!) is basically the same as the first with the exception that it is much more difficult. That's basically all there is. You can keep playing and getting high scores which is a rewarding experience since it is incredibly challenging, but this only has so much longevity. Most players will play until they get a score that they're proud of, then either not play it again or pick it up from time to time.
Woah Dave! does an excellent job of bringing a retro arcade experience to modern consoles. Although you probably won't play it for long, you will love every second you spend throwing objects all over the place as you run for your life.
- + Solid retro arcade fun with tight controls
- + The great degree of challenge makes achieving high scores incredibly rewarding
- + Well implemented enemy evolution system
- - The only thing to do is play over and over and beat your high scores
- - Randomness can be unfair at times
- - Generic frame is a missed opportunity