With an inviting cartoon visual style and high-paced gameplay Windjammers 2 is a blast that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. This might be more down to a name that looks like it’s been jammed through a Japanese-English translator and sounds more like a breaking wind prevention method rather than a 2D frisbee game. A good amount of fun can be had in short bursts though, by yourself or with others, regardless of how much noise you make – public or not.
A joyful explosion of bright colour greets you from the go and an upbeat soundtrack with a strumming bass and screaming guitars, like something pulled out of a 90s SEGA arcade title, blasts through your headphones, which appeals to the child in me that never wanted to leave the arcade, always wanting one last attempt.
The gameplay uses a mix of table hockey and volleyball to arrive at its addictive frisbee formula. A 1v1 system provides a volleyball net and spike-based gameplay, walls allow for ricochet shots and goals spanning the length of each end.
It sounds relatively simple, but there is a multitude of ways to try and beat your opponent, meaning that games feel unique enough to enjoy extended playthroughs. Each throw fills up a power meter which increases the power of your throw and can be used for your special move when full. Disks can ricochet off objects on the midcourt net, can deflect into the air for you to jump and spike as well as other methods to get the disk in the other end other than a simple throw.
The format of the match ensures the action is also relatively brief, with best-of-3 sets and first to 15 points in each making them as tense as they can be fast. In fact, it’s these short matches that really bring everything together and push the pace. Like that overzealous game of table hockey with your buddies where the disk flies off the table and nearly hits a stray child, there is barely room for you to blink with competitors letting shots fly all over the place. The moment when you start to really pick up the game is a great feeling as you can turn the tide on a match that you are losing by double digits and on a dwindling clock.
Adding to the retro stylings of the title is a clear Street Fighter influence which is really quite appropriate based on the intensity of the matches feeling quite like a fighting game in its ebbs and flow and round-like sets. The story mode’s map, vs screens, as well as bonus rounds all make an appearance, but unfortunately, it doesn’t translate much in terms of substance as the bonus stages have no significance at all as there is no scoreboard to tally your scores.
I tend to be one of those gamers that takes a while to adapt to unusual control systems, and Windjammers 2 is definitely one of those that I had difficulty getting used to, with an unfortunate mix of inconsistent mechanics and unbalanced characters.
The worst offender of these was the fact that I could never consistently predict how fast my throws were going to be. There are two ways to see the frisbee leave your hands at an increased rate – a full power meter and charging your shots by standing underneath a deflected frisbee – but there were still times, when unaffected by either, where I would throw a charged shot for no apparent reason. Regardless of whether it’s just poorly explained or a poorly implemented feature, not knowing why frustrates me to no end as it’s the key mechanic to the entire game.
Adding to the difficulty of the title is just how precise you need to be with all the other abilities. Dashing, for example, is a very helpful ability to get you across court and is exactly what you need when trying to reach a frisbee launched in the air, but if you try to dash towards it too early you will simply skip straight passed it.
The 12 character roster is host to a mix of characters with different speed/power stats (thin characters are fast but have little power while larger characters are the opposite) but I found the roster unbalanced as the larger characters take up enough of the court to negate any speed advantage and with their powerful throwing abilities it’s hardly a fair fight, so much so that I couldn’t even win a single game until I started using one of the bigger characters – even on easy mode.
It could be argued that this is just me being utterly useless at the game, rather than being any particular flaw, but there’s certainly no denying how tough it can be.
Windjammers 2 is a complete blast that excels in the same way that the original 1994 neo geo title did and with the local and online modes it really is an easy recommendation for fun pick-up-and-play evenings with others, but there are just a few niggling gameplay issues that prevent this from fulfilling its full potential.