Waves is a splendid game. I first encountered it at the Eurogamer Expo back when I was an RPS baby, and its frantic twinstick shooting and shimmering screen of colours immediately coaxed me into a spaced-out bliss zone. Last year, one-person dev studio Rob Hale launched a Kickstarter to fund a sequel, Waves: Arena Tactics. That didn’t work out quite as intended but Hale reckons that’s all for the best and has now released Waves² [official site] into Early Access. You can see it in action below.
The current build is an alpha and it sounds a lot like the original Waves, though presumably with more colours and lights. All of the enemies from the first game have returned and most of the playable modes are recognisable as well: Crunch Time, Survival, Rush and Chase all return, with GRID the only newcomer as far as I can remember. It’s possible that GRID is a replacement for the original’s Challenge mode, however, which had a set of levels to work through within a time limit.
Of the original modes, Chase is the one I remember best, mostly because I found it ludicrously difficult but couldn’t leave it alone. It plays out in five second increments – within that miniscule time limit you have to hit a trigger within the arena while dodging death. When you make contact with the trigger, the timer resets to five seconds and another trigger appears. Hellish. Compellingly so.
Over the Early Access period, which will last at least six months, Waves² will receive new weapons, enemies and arena designs. Most significant, perhaps, will be the addition of metagame progression for equipment and mode unlocks, as well as enemy progression within individual attempts.
Hale has addressed the failure of the Arena Tactics Kickstarter in a recent blog post, stating that he’s “glad the Kickstarter failed”:
Waves: Arena Tactics grew out of my experiments into procedural generation and even during it’s Kickstarter the game concept changed so drastically that by the time the Kickstarter ended I was no longer making the game that began it. In all honesty I’m glad the Kickstarter failed because otherwise I would still be making a game that I since began to doubt the appeal of myself. Notorious was born out of that experience and developed rapidly into a very fun proof of concept; cementing it’s design direction as a multi-player focussed co-operative shooter.
There’s lots of info about the design of the sequel in that same post and it’s well worth a read, particularly if you’re a fan of the original and are wondering what has changed.