Beyond Co-op Review: Windjammers 2
Review by: Paul Acevedo
Way back in 1994, Data East released a futuristic sports game called Windjammers for the Neo Geo arcade system. Dotemu would later revive the property by porting it to PlayStation, Switch, and iiRcade. Thanks to Windjammers’ status as a cult hit, Dotemu announced a sequel in 2018. It took a long time to happen, but Windjammers 2 has finally arrived on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and Steam.
In Windjammers 2, players select from 10 athletes and one hidden character (up from the original’s roster of six athletes) and then compete in a one-on-one, futuristic version of air hockey/Pong. Rather than a ball, the game is played with a throwing disc. Each player guards a goal with multiple scoring zones. The location of the zones varies by arena, with some zones worth three points and others worth five. Matches consist of up to three timed sets/rounds, with the game ending when one competitor wins two sets.
The core gameplay is simple enough to learn – catch the disc, throw it into the opposing side’s goal, and occasionally charge up a powerful super shot. Windjammers 2 uses three buttons for regular shots (up from the first game’s two) and adds the ability to jump. Jumping is an advanced mechanic that mostly comes into play when receiving lobs. Learning the ins and outs of the game would be a lot easier with a dedicated training mode. There’s a “How to Play” section which briefly explains the various mechanics, but interactive tutorials would be so much more effective.
Windjammers 2’s modes include single-player Arcade, local Versus, and Online multiplayer. The arcade mode is more robust than that of the original game. Between matches, players now visit a slick-looking map screen where they can select the next opponent and play the occasional minigame. Arcade offers three difficulty levels, though the easiest difficulty is still pretty tough for me as someone who barely played the first game. You only get two continues – a needless restriction that makes things even less forgiving.
Multiplayer is where Windjammers has always shined – competing against someone of similar skill level beats battling the ruthless AI any day of the week. Online mode features cross-play between Xbox and Steam (Switch is oddly excluded), though the game lacks a way to invite specific players from a different platform, limiting the coolness of the feature. The rollback netcode is quite solid when playing against someone from the same region, though latency apparently becomes an issue with international players. One big omission for an esports-style game like this is a spectator mode. Hopefully, Dotemu will add one in the future.
While this sequel’s presentation really shines (the 2D graphics, music, sound, and menus are all fantastic), it still feels light on content. An additional single-player mode, the ability to select the minigames outside of Arcade mode, and maybe even a 2-on-2 mode would have all been welcome additions. Hardcore players will certainly spend tons of time in online multiplayer, but the steep learning curve and lack of content won’t help ease new players in.
Our Rating: 3.5 out of 5