With the abundance of trippy experiences, hectic shooters, and intricate puzzlers available on the Playstation VR, there’s certainly room for something a bit more casual to pick up and play when you’ve got a few minutes spare. Waddle Home provides that with its simplistic puzzling gameplay, offering an experience that just about anybody could pick up and get into with minimal fuss – even if the game does hit a harsh difficulty spike out of nowhere towards the later levels.
Waddle Home puts you in the role of an Alien who just so happens to love flightless birds. No, not chickens – penguins! You have to guide a bunch of penguins from their prison cage all the way to a mini-spaceship in order to escape from the wrath of the evil penguin hating robots. That’s what I gathered anyway; Waddle Home isn’t the kind of game that offers some mighty back story to everything that’s going on, but rather drops you right into the penguin saving action.
Each level plays out from a top-down isometric viewpoint, allowing you to rotate the map around to carefully examine your surroundings and work out exactly what you need to do. When you free your penguins from their cage they ‘waddle’ in one direction, with the penguins only turning when they come up to an obstacle blocking their way. You need to lead them to the spaceship that’ll take them home, à la classic puzzlers like ‘Lemmings’ (albeit a lot less complex). You can raise and lower pillars in the environment to create pathways, block paths, or even make little mini-lifts to raise your penguins to higher platforms. That’s about all the game consists of – adjusting movable pillars to help your penguins escape. It’s fun though and the simplicity of it all works in its favour.
There are also three pink eggs scattered across each level too, giving you something extra to work for besides reaching the solace of the escape ship. They’re not compulsory to collect, but it’s an extra challenge to complete besides simply finishing levels – plus there’s the replayability factor of having to play through levels again if you miss anything the first time around.
I was really fond of Waddle Home’s level design, with each level cleverly designed to offer multiple ways to work through them. Sure, there was always a correct route, but the addition of the pink eggs meant that I was constantly seeking out the alternate methods of passage in order to find everything.
Later levels add the villainous robot enemies to the mix, the evil metallic murder-machines wanting nothing but to leave your penguins in a pool of their own blood. Just kidding; they send them back to the cage, ready to get freed by you all over again. Whilst the lingering robots pose a threat and you really need to avoid them if you’re going to complete each level, there’s no fear of the consequence of loss of progression. In a puzzle game like this, that can be both a good and a bad thing – it means you don’t have to frustratingly replay sections you’ve already completed all over again, but it also takes away any real feeling of risk.
Waddle Home can be controlled with either the move controller or the dual shock controller, your weapon of choice shining out a pointer than can be used to interact with each object in the game. It’s a simple approach with the game only really using one button at any time, meaning anyone can pick up and a controller and play regardless of their experience at playing video games. It sticks with the game’s simple approach to everything, giving an accessible experience that anyone can play. I think a few more complicated mechanics might’ve varied things up for more experienced gamers, but I was never bored when playing.
The game does suffer badly from unbalanced difficulty though, with the earlier levels incredibly easy before suddenly turning incredibly tough and hectic. There wasn’t a transition through the difficulty either, with the sharp difficulty spike coming from nowhere. I actually appreciated the extra challenge in some ways because the game was starting to feel like a bit of a cakewalk, but I’d have preferred it happen incrementally rather than smashing me in the face with penguin hell from nowhere.
Waddle Home’s visuals are simple and pretty, offering nothing that really stands out but doing enough that you’ll enjoy the pleasant view. Everything’s charming and cutesy – even the villainous robots look adorable, but that’s the vibe the game is going for. It really will appeal to all ages, something that’s evident with the gameplay mechanics and the visual design. It all looks pretty good in the VR headset too, with the bright colours standing out well. It’s nice to be able to get up close and personal to explore every facet of a level too, especially when seeking out those hidden pink eggs.
Waddle Home is probably the Playstation VR launch title that stands out the least, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect it. The simple puzzling offers something that’s easy to pick up and play, whilst it’d also be a great entry point for those who are new to the VR platform. I know I enjoyed my time playing it, even if it did throw me in the deep end a little with the harsh difficulty spike that seemed to come from nowhere.
If you like simple puzzlers, cutesy visuals, or simply saving penguins then you should give Waddle Home a try. It’s not the most thrilling VR experience you’ll have, but it’s still a very enjoyable one.
Release Date: 13/10/2016
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Samsung Gear