In real life, most astronauts are practical-minded pilots, engineers, and scientists. Fortunately, that’s not true in video games, where an astronaut can be a geometric shape floating through alien landscapes to dreamy music. That’s the case in Wave Trip, a game for those who always wanted Defender to be a little more psychedelic.
There’s a whisper of a plot in Wave Trip. Your astronaut is rescuing his stranded friends — also geometric shapes — by flying over orange and blue objects and avoiding pink shapes. The orange shapes score points. The blue shapes build up a bonus multiplier. The pink shapes trash your bonus multiplier, which is why you avoid them. Every time you pick up all the orange shapes on the screen, your friend flies away to safety and you get new orange or blue shapes to pick up.
Triangle Man hates Particle Man
The twist is that all these shapes are musical notes, and picking them up creates the soundtrack for the game. Each level is a song that you play, and exactly what the song sounds like depends on the order in which you pick up the notes scattered around the screen. That’s cool.
There’s also a full level editor. Building your own song levels is quick and easy, as is sharing them with other players. A beginner can create and upload something that sounds interesting in five minutes, while expert players are already uploading elaborate tunes. That’s really cool.
There’s just one problem. The only way to fly your ship is to touch the screen. While you touch, the ship goes up. Don’t touch, and the ship dives to the ground. That’s terrible.
Commercial video games have been around for over 40 years now. We’ve learned a few things about how controls work, and one of the near-universal basics if that if you’re not touching the controls, your avatar’s path stops changing. You may keep moving due to inertia — that goes back at least as far as Asteroids — but you don’t suddenly start going in the opposite direction. There are exceptions like Lunar Lander, but Atari built 70,000 Asteroids cabinets and less than 5,000 Lunar Lander cabinets. Asteroids had guns, but it also had the better controls.
Wave Trip would be fantastic with a simple “slide up and down to move” control system. In fact, it would have worked well with a Pong-style paddle control, which is what started us thinking of classic arcade games. But swooping up and down with precision requires a constant tapping pattern that seems to have nothing to do with the other rhythms of the game. You can master flying, and Wave Trip’s leaderboards boast impressive scores by the players who have done it, but it’s a pain.
Fortunately, there’s another way to play. The obstacles don’t kill you, so you can fly through the whole game and never dodge or use your shields. We had a lot of fun building levels, downloading others’ levels, and flying around listening to the tunes — much more so than we did trying to score points. If that’s the kind of player you are, then you may not enjoy Wave Trip as a game, but you’ll have a lot of fun with your trippy space music toy.
Wave Trip developer trailer