“What’s this? A new iPhone game being released by Mistwalker Corporation and Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of such titles as Final Fantasy and The Last Story? Surely it must be some sort of epic quest, full of danger and dragons, sorcery and swordplay, right?”
“Well, no. It’s a actually game about surfing.”
“Oh, I see… well, it must be some sort of role playing game where only a lone, unsuspecting surfer must master the art of wave riding and earn bigger and better boards and swim trunks in order to save the word from some sort of Poseidon-esque menace from an Atlantis-like civilization who will engulf the world in water if he isn’t stopped, right?””
“No… it’s just a surfing game.”
Indeed, few likely ever suspected that Hironobu Sakaguchi and Mistwalker’s first foray into the world of iPhone gaming would veer so drastically from the style for which they have come to be known. But instead of some sort of fantasy story– final, last, or otherwise– Party Wave represents Sakaguchi’s fulfillment of a high school dream which came from his time living in Hawaii, and is a rather simple game. At least, when compared to some of his other noteworthy works.
Unfortunately, however, it’s just not a whole lot of fun. It’s not really bad, per se, but we found it to have a lot working against it.
The main idea behind Party Wave is to help maneuver surfers into a ready position to catch an oncoming wave, you’ll even have the opportunity to put multiple surfers on one wave, thus creating one of the eponymous “Party Waves.” To do this, you must use the touch screen to move them into position by more or less flicking them repeatedly to get them into position. Obstacles, such as coral or sea turtles, will get in your way, and if they do, you’ll be down one surfer.
Once they’re locked in, the wave will soon come, picking all of them up, and this is where things get tricky. You’ll basically swipe each surfer on the wave, causing them to travel up the crest and score points; the further down they are on the wave, the more points you can earn, but the greater the chance of wiping out. And juggling multiple surfers can be a challenge, particularly when they split up along the wave. All the while, you’ll want to accumulate stars to use in the game’s boss battles.
The big problem we had here was with the controls, as they aren’t always as responsive as they need to be, or will misread what you’re trying to do. We’ve had surfers wipe out after swiping to move them back up the wave, and the obstacles which appear here– such as jellyfish which electrocute everyone when you (not your surfers, but literally you) touch them– seem to read your touches as touching them, rather than the swipes meant to move the surfers, even when you’re not touching too close to them.
“Dude. I’ll give ya ten bucks if you submerge your whole body in that jellyfish. Dude. Do it.”
Amusingly enough, the tutorial even suggests that multiple people can play to keep the surfers afloat. We haven’t tried that for ourselves, but a group of people crowded around one iPhone and trying to frantically keep all the surfers afloat evokes a mental image of pure chaos, to say nothing of frustration.
Party Wave is kind of cute and kind of fun, and may even be more enjoyable on a larger screen, i.e. the iPad (where that multiplayer element probably works more as intended). But on the iPhone, it feels a bit underwhelming given the developer’s reputation. Then again, it is Mistwalker’s first iOS game, with more on the way, so maybe we’ll see some improvements as time goes on.