We test the waters of Mistwalker Studios' first mobile game.
It's impossible to introduce Party Wave without making a few obligatory observations. First, it's from Mistwalker Studios, the development company headed up by legendary designer Hironobu Sakaguchi. Second,, he's rather well known for a small franchise you might have heard of called Final Fantasy. Third, Party Wave has found a home on the App Store because of Sakaguchi's passion for surfing.
As a game, rather than an interesting development anecdote, Party Wave is split into two separate components. At the start of each level, you'll first need to paddle any number of surfers to a break point in the crisp blue sea, using finger swipes to gently nudge each character towards a central point where the incoming, rolling wave is due to break. Some of these surfers are larger than others and require more forceful pushing, while others breeze along with only the gentlest of nudges.
Once everyone's in position (or at least, everyone you've managed to steer successfully), the game moves into its central Party Wave mode where the surfers line themselves up to catch the frothing wave that's begun to break over the meeting point. They ebb and flow with the water individually, and you'll need to tap on them from time to time to keep them afloat. Alternatively, tapping them just before they hit the base of the wave sends them shooting off into the sky where you can continue to juggle them for bonus points.
The thing is, it's not really all that interesting once you've played a handful of levels. Each stage has its own unique paddling challenge, and you'll need to steer your team around coral reefs, circling sharks and what-have-you before the party can get started. At first this feels like a great prelude to the action, with some careful fingerwork required, but it sits at odds with the more action-orientated part of the game.
Fortunately, and to prevent this fiddlier paddling phase from becoming tedious, you only need to complete each one once before taking a new stab at the stage's surfing section, but even this latter, more action-orientated phase wears thin after a while, as the collisions with the local wildlife that knock out your surfers sometimes feel a little unfair. There's just a little too much randomness for the experience to be satisfying, and while there's great variety in the creature types and behaviors, this area of the game falls short once the novelty's worn off.
Completing one level unlocks the next, although at later levels you'll need to have achieved a certain number of 'perfect' ratings up until that point if you want to go further. This will mean going back and making sure that you've both successfully brought every surfer to the party point, and kept them afloat long enough to survive the scoring section.
It's not all doom and gloom for the game. For its original gameplay, perfectly chilled music, and crisp graphics, Party Waves deserves credit. We just found that the strong motivation to continue, to push further, and to improve on our previous scores didn't materialize. As such, while your time with Party Wave will certainly be enjoyable, it's likely to be rather short-lived.
What's Hot: Crisp graphics, some unique gameplay, and a lovely score.
What's Not: Rather repetitive, and unlikely to engage gamers beyond the first few hours.