Once in a great while, something comes along with gameplay that's so utterly elegant and accessible, it's particularly gob-smacking that it hadn't been tried before. Waveform, an upcoming action title from Eden Industries is just such a game.
The unique concept of Waveform is a simple one. In side-scrolling fashion, an orb traverses a beam of light through space. Rather than controlling the orb directly, the player manages the light-wave pathway that dictates the orb's course. Merely by clicking the left mouse button and moving the mouse up and down, or left and right, the player is able to control the amplitude and wavelength of the beam, respectively.
Each of Wavelength's worlds--based on planets in our very own solar system--contain a number of levels to complete. Collecting colored gems increases the size and strength of the player's orb (much like health). Conversely, it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate narrow gaps between hazards. Collisions with dark-matter destroys collectible gems nearby, and colliding with too much black matter will reduce the size of the orb, and ultimately result in failure of the stage.
As one would expect, gem patterns and the frequency of hazards increase as the player progresses through each planet's stages. Sometimes the player will encounter things like hoops that will increase the score-multiplier, or configurations of two or more gems connected by a neon pathway which yield extra points if the player can line the beam up so that the orb passes through the neon pathway.
Manipulation and adjustment of the light wave is an action-based affair that can get just as frantic as the pace set by more traditional action games. The juxtaposition of the intense mechanics with a soundtrack and visuals that are both beautiful and soothing works extraordinarily well, encouraging the player to take a zen-like approach to light-beam manipulation.
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Upon reaching the exit portal in each stage, the game rates player performance, and presents an "overall completion" stat as well. In the number of early levels I played, I rarely failed outright, but usually had quite a bit of room for improvement--making the notion of subsequent tries to improve my standings on the leaderboard rather enticing.
While the majority of my experience with Waveform was quite fun and polished, the pre-release version I played included a bug that cut my time short. In fairness, Ryan Vandendyck, the CEO and founder of Eden Industries, informed me that I might encounter some issues with the early build, but that the bugs will be squashed for the final version. Bugs in an unfinished game are entirely acceptable, but my good-natured frustration at not being able to proceed helped me realize the extent to which Waveform had gotten its hooks into me. It's compelling, fun, and addictive. Its design is an impressive achievement because it is instantly accessible to anyone who knows how to use a computer's mouse, but includes enough challenge to engage regular action gamers looking for something new and different.
Waveform is due to hit Steam exclusively on March 20.