The classic disc-throwing game is back and finally here with a brand-new sequel that manages to capture the frantic pace of the original arcade classic whilst giving it a fresh new look with beautiful hand-drawn animations and new mechanics. For those unfamiliar with Windjammers, it basically plays like a game of tennis inside a steel cage or arena, except the ball’s replaced with a flying disc that bounces everywhere whilst you try to catch it and stop an opponent from scoring in the goal zones behind you. The game has also been super competitive and is an absolute blast with friends. For Windjammers 2, however, Dotemu have gone all out to make sure the game is smooth to play online with people all over the world.
The original title was released back in the 90s by SNK and has retained a dedicated fanbase ever since, with members of the fighting game community still holding tournaments for Windjammers due to the game’s 1 v 1 pseudo-fighting game feel. At first glance, the gameplay in Windjammers 2 doesn’t look like it’s changed much from the simple mechanics that made the original so addicting, but the developers have evolved the game in a way that keeps the pace of the first game whilst adding new tools to play around with. Now, when your opponent lobs the disc in the air, you can now jump up and smash it back to the floor on their side to score. You also now have a Special Meter, and just like in fighting games, you can activate that at any time for offence and now defence too; regular curve shots and supersonic speed volleys return, and now you have a ‘slap shot’ that can deflect even the most powerful shots from any opponent.
The simple and tight gameplay mixed with a little tactical variety with characters and stages that all have their own unique specialities and quirks creates the perfect mix for some addictive multiplayer action. The smooth online play does a really good job of replicating the offline experience thanks to the game’s Rollback netcode, with options for Ranked Casual modes and a handy player count so you know how many other players are looking for matches. Finding people to play against was quick and easy with short load times for getting into a match, meaning you can get straight to the action. When you get into a close match with another opponent, you can really start to see how the old and new system mechanics really gel together, allowing you to expand your options against even the most evenly matched opponents.
The biggest thing returning players will notice is the huge upgrade in visual quality Windjammers 2 has over the original. The developers have done a fantastic job capturing the Malibu 80s beach vibe whilst updating how the old characters look with vibrant new hand-drawn sprites and animations. The upbeat, synth-heavy soundtrack matches up perfectly with the overall feel of the game and only helps to add to the rapid pace of the matches. Everything about the game just oozes charm, and you can really tell the developers at Dotemu have a lot of love for the series with the amount of care and attention to detail they’ve shown with this reboot.
The heart and soul of Windjammers 2 is really in multiplayer, either online or locally with friends, but to get new players acquainted with the game and characters, there is a fun single-player mode that lets you choose a character to take on the CPU to become the Windjammers Champion. Get to the end and you’ll be treated to a short ending sequence that adds another layer of personality to the cast; the Steve Miller one in particular is very interesting and definitely worth a watch for hardcore fans. The CPU opponents are very challenging as well, especially on the higher difficulties, so even the most experienced Windjammers players will find them tough to beat without some classic cheese tactics. There are also a couple of bonus stages that see you chase your flying disc as a dog or trying to catch as many discs as you can, which are nice little touches and another throwback to the game’s old school roots. It’s a shame more of these bonus-style modes weren’t added to flesh out the single-player content, or even some tutorial-style challenge mode for players new to the series or who enjoy a solo experience, but even then, I’d say those players are missing out on the best part of Windjammers, which will always be the multiplayer experience.
At £17.99, Windjammers 2 is a steal, whether you’re playing against the computer, friends, family or online opponents, the fast-paced gameplay, banging soundtrack and colourful visuals are an absolute delight and combine to create a really fun and enjoyable experience. It’s a brilliant game to play when you just want to have some simple, mindless fun after a hard day’s work or being stressed out by that level/boss/challenge in your other games. Windjammers 2 is an excellent update to an arcade classic, seamlessly blending in new ideas with classic arcade-style gameplay to create a frantic experience. What it lacks in single-player content and tutorials for newer players, it more than makes up for with a fantastic multiplayer experience.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Google Stadia
Release Date: 20th January 2022
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Windjammers 2 was provided by the publisher.