It’s amazing what the DS/Wii era has done for small developers. In an industry of giants, several small developers have found their own niche in the market and shown success comes from good ideas, proper execution and originality. Gaijin Games has cornered the ridiculously hard rhythm games for WiiWare and Scribblenauts creators 5th Cell have created 2 (so far) multi-million unit selling series. But if there is a developer that has proved to be the best of the bunch, I would have to say it’s the team at WayForward Technologies.
My first taste of the greatness WayForward creates came when I picked up Duck Amuck not long after the game launched. The game is based off the second greatest short form cartoon ever, also called Duck Amuck (the greatest short form cartoon is of course The Great Piggy Bank Robbery). When I first heard about the game, it was described as a Warioware-ish game with a personality all its own. It took me a few minutes to actually get into the game because it wasn’t a straight forward experience. Instead of just selecting the mini-game, you had to wait for it to appear. Or you could annoy Daffy Duck until a new game opened. It is that kind of thinking that really made Duck Amuck stick out and stick in my mind after all these years. Probably the best part of it came when you would close your DS, something that would regularly put it in sleep mode, and you would hear Daffy screaming at you.
After Duck Amuck, WayForward took on a classic series: Contra. Konami wisely choose the company to work on Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS. The game had a lot in common with the original NES game. It was hard as hell, had addictive multiplayer and no matter how hard I try, I still haven’t beaten it. But I try and try and try. WayForward was able to create one of those games that cater to people who are gluttons for punishment. I didn’t think I was, but after 2+ years of trying and failing to beat the game, I guess I must be.
WayForward’s next two games (well, the next games that matter. The developer still does a lot licensed games that honestly I have no intention of playing) appeared on WiiWare and DSiWare. For WiiWare, the company released Lit, a horror puzzler that was very smart, sometimes frustrating, but never scary.
As for DSiWare, WayForward released Mighty Flip Champs, a platform puzzler that felt like a mix between Away Shuffle Dungeon and Donkey Kong. The game had you navigating Alta between screens as she tried to reach the fishman at the end of the level. It is a great, unique spin on the all but dead concept of single screen platform games.
After testing the waters of digital distribution, WayForward released their greatest game to date: A Boy and His Blob. A re-imagining of the cult favorite NES game, the magic of WayForward’s A Boy and His Blob can be found in the atmosphere the developers created for the game. Prior to this game, A Boy and His Blob DS was in development using hideous 3D models of the characters and environment.
You’re forced to think, forced to use the jelly beans at your disposal and look at the challenges with a passive point of view. The game really shines once you hit Blobolonia, one of the most imaginative and colorful video game world ever designed. Plus, the game has a hug button. A HUG BUTTON!!!
Less than a year after A Boy and His Blob melted my cold dead heart, WayForward released a licensed game I actually wanted to play. Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a beat-em-up that has you playing as the Dark Knight and one superhero partner as you work your way through four “episodes.” Being base on the cartoon series I’ve never seen, I wasn’t too sure about buying the game.
However, once again, the fantastic animated from the WayForward team convinced me to give it a try. I blasting through the game right now, and I have to say it’s pretty fun. It’s no Arkham Asylum, but as of right now it’s probably the second greatest Batman game ever.
After Batman, WayForward released a game they had been teasing for years. Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is the sequel to the GBC Platformer that nearly no one played, including me. This DSi exclusive is still the best game available for DSiWare, and one of the best platform games released for the DS in general. The art work in particular, is meticulous. Whereas A Boy and His Blob reveled in the simple details of the outstanding artwork, Risky’s Revenge is a pixel masterpiece, espeically when you find the forest area.
As for the game play, Risky’s Revenge combines Metroid-vania style exploration with the series’ animal transformations. That makes for a lot of secret areas to find and a lot different ways to make you way through the game. Plus, if you own and have beaten Mighty Flip Champs!, Risky’s Revenge thanks you and rewards you for giving the game a try. A very cool way to show your love for the fans that support you.
Up next for the team at WayForward is another, sure-to-be-great DSi exclusive Mighty Milky Way and the sprite-work masterpiece Thor DS. One is original, the other licensed, but both games look like WayForward is doing what they do best: classic game play and incredible artwork. I can’t wait to see what this team has planned for the 3DS.