By: Mike Chen
Gaijin Games, the developers of the BIT.TRIP series, are back with Whoa Dave!, a back-to-basics arcade game that’s all twitch and no fluff. It’s a one-trick pony, but the question is this: does it do that one trick well?
The basics of Whoa Dave! come down to old-school, two-button management. You jump and you throw, and movement can be handled with either the left analog stick or d-pad.
The only thing that may throw gamers off is the automatic grab when jumping on top of an item. As gamers, we’re used to landing on top of something and then pushing a button to pick it up. This takes some getting used to. At the same time, Dave feels a bit too responsive, with movement and jumps coming at one degree too far when it comes to speed.
The promo art for Whoa Dave! shows it in classic stand-up arcade format, like it was a snapshot from a 1980s arcade trade magazine. The actual graphics reflect this, with the quality being somewhere between Commodore 64 and NES. Since it’s intentionally retro, the only graphical requirement is that it supports rather than muddies the gameplay. In this way, Whoa Dave! succeeds as its pixel art is clean enough to be bright and colorful without causing confusion.
Whoa Dave! doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a pure arcade game. There’s no story and little depth, it’s just frenetic repetition as things get more intense. The design is like a mash-up of Mario history: a static environment with dropped enemies (Mario Bros) where you collect coins (Super Mario Bros) and grab enemies/items to throw (Super Mario 2).
Enemies primarily arrive in egg form, which you can lob at other enemies before they hatch. Timed explosives can take out groups, and the environment can be hazardous as well. This all comes with one-hit deaths and the goal of collecting as many coins as possible (dropped when enemies are killed). Enemies/eggs start accumulating across the screen quickly, and suddenly you’re hopping, throwing and dodging on pure twitch instinct.
It’s fast, frenetic and very self-contained. Which means it will only appeal to a certain group of people that want gameplay drilled down to its purest form of actions versus challenges. If high scores motivate you, then you’ve found your newest obsession. However, anyone looking for greater depth should use their money on a different budget title.
Whoa Dave! is not for everyone. But for people that miss one-trick quarter munchers a la Burger Time, its frenetic gameplay may prove addictive and worth the $4.99 price point as a time-killer.