Friday, June 13, 2014

Commodore 64 review - Wavy Navy by Sirius Software (1983)

Chuck: Alrighty John, today we're going to be talking about the C64, um, "classic", Wavy Navy.

John: Oh this one's alright.  Definitely not in the upper echelons of the 64 library.

Chuck: It suffers a bit from port-weariness.

John:  Please explain your clumsy wordsmithing to the audience.

Chuck:  What I mean is it was ported to every system under the sun.  Hard as it is to believe, the 64 wasnt the dominant platform in its' early days.  It had to make do with Atari and Apple ports.

John:  Right, even today one would prefer that the game they're playing be developed on the system that they're playing it on.  Designed specifically for that system's strengths and weaknesses.

Chuck:  A lot of these early 64 games look like Atari 400/800 games.

John:  I'd say Wavy Navy is indistinguishable from the Atari version, and we'll get a chance to talk about a lot of other games like that, I'm sure.

Chuck:  Like the godawful Atari port of Pac Man...

John:  OK let's' focus.  Wavy Navy suffers from port-itis, port-weariness, whatever you want to call it.  It's slow, choppy...

Chuck: It's practically monochrome, and you're wrong about it being indistinguishable from the Atari version.  The Atari version actually looks better, slightly more colorful.  The Apple II version at least has a splash of color, what with having multicolored sprites.  This game looks like an Atari game and plays like an Apple II shootemup, it's the worst of both worlds.

John:  Sirius didnt bring their A-game to this one.  I think their Bandits game came out the same year.  Similar shootemup style, except Bandits looks like a proper C64 game.  Multicolored "chunky" sprites, fluid animation...

Chuck:  Bandits makes Wavy Navy look incredibly bland.  It does have those Sirius-esque sound effects though.  Nice and arcadey.

John:  They're a little annoying, not reaching the psychedelic heights they would get to down the road with games like Zodiac.

Chuck:  The only other thing I like about it are the hovering helicopters.  Maybe it's reminding me of better games like Fort Apocalypse or Choplifter.

John:  As I said, it's "alright".  It has some ideas that I like.  It's a good Galaxian clone for systems that didnt get a proper Galaxian port.

Chuck:  We did get a Galaxian port, and it sucked.  I think you mean Galaga.

John:  Right, for whatever reason Galaga didnt come home until the NES days, I believe.  So, Wavy Navy is a decent enough clone of that, but it's not a straight-up ripoff, it has some original ideas that I'm surprised didnt get ripped off in other games.

Chuck:  You mean the titular wave.

John:  Right.  Similar to Centipede, the player can move up and down and not just left and right like your usual Invaders game.  Unlike Centipede your movement is limited by the crests and troughs of the wave.   You'll move to the left to kill an enemy and find that you're also moving up or down. The playfield is continually changing, giving your brain more to deal with.

The enemies cant shoot you through the wave, so you can use them to hide.  Or the wave can spell your doom by forcing you to move when you dont want to.  You feel exposed at the crest of a wave, but it gets you a little closer to the enemies and allows you to clear them out quicker.  At the trough you're better protected from the hovering helicopters but the trough is always moving, so...

Chuck:  To me it's a little unfair.  You're just trying to get a little shootemup action and the game keeps pushing you around.

John:  Eh, somewhat.  I think you're insinuating that it's bad design but when you die it usually feels like it's your fault, like you werent planning ahead.  It's the least of this game's problems, anyway.  I mean, it is what it is, it IS the game.  

Chuck:  Yeah, otherwise it would be a pretty ordinary Galaga clone.  Are you sure the wave isnt just a cheap gimmick that doesnt really work all that well?

John:  It works good enough.  Like I said, the problem with the game isnt the wave, it's the graphics, the choppiness, the collision detection..  The wave makes the game special, it gives it a dimension that Galaga doesnt have.

Chuck:  I know you arent saying Wavy Navy is better than Galaga.

John:  Galaga is pure magic.  If Wavy Navy had some more polish... nah it still wouldnt hold a candle to Galaga, but it sure does need more polish.

Chuck:  I hate the monochrome explosions and I hate how they obscure your vision.

John:  I get a bit of a Missile Command vibe from the explosions.  Eh, a little extra challenge for the gamer.

Chuck:  Or a little extra foot to the crotch area...

John: I like the progression in rank as you clear the levels.  You'd think the highest rank would be admiral but you eventually get to be the president!

Chuck:  Makes sense, the president is the Commander In Chief so I guess he's the highest ranking officer.  Kind of anti-democratic though.

John:  But even when you're the president they keep sending you back into the field.  Maybe you're just giving the orders and the ship has a regular crew, but still, doesnt the president have better things to do?

Chuck:  Better things than taking on an entire first-world country's air force single-handedly with some kind of weird little tugboat that shoots missiles?

John:  The box art makes it look like a battleship.

Chuck:  Yeah, not even.  I love how it leaps in the air when you die.

John:  It does give you the feeling that it doesnt have much "weight" to it.  OK, tugboat it is.

Overall, Wavy Navy is a bit of a clinker.  It's got some neat ideas, though, and it's worth a play or two.  What do you say, Chuck?  Does Wavy Navy sink or swim?

Chuck:  It sinks!

John:  Oh, good John Lovitz impression there.