I’d like to start off my review by saying that Waterworld for the Virtual Boy is a game with simple, classic game play, which gamers who have an appreciation for classic games may enjoy but which gamers who do not have such appreciation will likely not enjoy. Because the game just throws the player into the playing field without giving any explanation (which is what the large majority of all classic games do), one might be confused as to what is going on and what to do, as I myself was when I first played the game. Thankfully, Planet Virtual Boy has a scanned copy of the instruction booklet for this game, which explains the premise of the game rather completely, which is also what instruction manuals always used to have to do back in the glory days of classic gaming, before the games of modern days came along, which always assume that players will never pick up an instruction booklet. I find it fitting to include the vital information from it in my review, which will be helpful to those who are thinking about purchasing this game. All information included between the two sets of asterisks was retrieved from the instruction booklet.
THE MARINER’S STORY
Some time in the future, a shift of the earth’s polar axis has resulted in a world of endless water where those who managed to survive reverted to a primitive form of life. All that is left is the search for dry land.
Floating cities, called Atolls, serve as a place of habitat for a simple and moral type of people who work to protect precious water, soil, seed and other highly valuable resources that are essential for their existence.
More mobile and larger in numbers than the Atollers are a gang of pillaging Smokers, led by the evil Deacon. Their efforts are focused entirely on attaining and controlling anything and everything to build their evil empire.
In half wrecked Atolls, the last remaining Atollers are waiting to be rescued. As the Mariner, your mission is to prevent Smokers from enslaving them. The Smokers most prized target is a little girl named Enola, who has a map to dry land tattooed on her back. In the game, Enola is the floating Atoller that flashes. If you are able to prevent Enola from being captured, at the end of the round the bonus multiplier will increase.
Each level starts with the Mariner arriving at an Atoll. Upon nearing the Atoll, the Mariner is ambushed by an army of Smokers — whose primary focus is to capture the Atollers within the Atoll.
As the Mariner, you must rescue the Atollers by any means possible. A round is finished when the final enemy is destroyed. At the end of each round, bonus points are awarded for each Atoller saved. At the start of each round, an extra Atoller is awarded. If you lose all of the Atollers, prepare for the PT onslaught. These enemies are ruthless — destroy them to survive.
Your mission is to destroy the Smokers and rescue your fellow Atollers (and Enola, of course) from the Deacon’s water-bike riding vigilantes.
Once a Smoker picks up an Atoller, he will begin to flash and head away from the Atoll. If a Smoker successfully carries an Atoller to the edge of the play area, the Atoller is “captured.”
Enemies will grab and load Atollers onto their crafts and start flashing when they collide into them. If you destroy a Smoker that is carrying an Atoller, the Atoller will be blown clear of the craft — unharmed and ready to be rescued. Once the Atoller is rescued, he will automatically re-appear inside the Atoll.
After destroying the last enemy, the camera will fly up to the aerial view of the play area. From this vantage point, it is easy to assess the damaged battle field and locate straggling Atollers.
Between Rounds-Tally Mode:
You are awarded points for each Atoller saved, as well as various other bonuses. “The Enola multiplier” multiplies your bonus and is increased each round if she is kept safe. Conversely, each time that Enola is captured, the multiplier is reset to “x1.” Enola is represented as the blinking Atoller.
Each time you get hit, play will continue and your Trimaran will begin to flash — allowing you a brief period of invincibility.
There are four types of enemies, each more dangerous than the last.
Smokers are the slowest yet the most pesky of the Deacon’s cohorts. Mounted on wave riders, Smokers are considered the front-line warriors of the Deacon’s army.
These are the Deacon’s kamikazes. Brain damaged and willing to stop at nothing to bury any Atoller in a watery grave, Berserkers are slightly faster and a little more tenacious than Smokers.
If the Berserkers are the Deacon’s kamikazes, Thrashers are his homing missiles. Lightning fast and capable of fantastic stunts, like 360-degree jumps, these hydro guerrillas use finesse and pinpoint accuracy to down their opponents. Watch your back!
These guys are virtually unstoppable. Out for the quick defeat, Seekers have modified wave riders with high output engines for ripping quickness and split-second agility. Save your big guns for these psychos and don’t wait till you see the whites of their eyes.
The Deacon has prepared his arsenal well. Not only do you have the Smokers to contend with, but some very crafty, heavily loaded vessels as well.
These boats appear when all of the Atollers have been captured. Shoot them to survive.
Big in size with a huge appetite for Atollers, Tracker Sharks must be shot to be slowed down, but they cannot be destroyed. Fortunately, these over-sized sharks will retreat when the round is over.
When deciding who to protect, focus on Enola. By saving her, your bonus multiplier increases at the end of the round. If you fail to save her, the multiplier is reset to “x1.”
When you hear the alarm, a Tracker Shark is approaching!
Try to stall Tracker Sharks by shooting them while rescuing their victims.
Break down Atoll walls by running into them to remove obstructions.
Drift and shoot off angle to “sweep shoot” enemies. Using this technique, your first couple of shots can be used as tracers, while zeroing in with your final shots
As one can probably tell from reading the information from the instruction booklet, the concept of the game is very simple. While the story that is attached to the game in the booklet is interesting, the game itself doesn’t try to follow it whatsoever. There’s no “search for dry land” at all in the game, and Enola, the little girl with a map to dry land tattooed on her back, only serves as a bonus point multiplier. Instead, the game is set up much like many classic games, where the player is faced with level after level of enemies, where the levels seem to go on indefinitely and where the enemies keep getting more numerous and harder and harder. Thus, the goal is to see what level you can make it to and how high of a score you can achieve before you lose all of your lives and it’s game over.
The gameplay is highly repetitive and, as mentioned before, contains ever increasing difficulty as one progresses. In each round, there are a number of people floating around in the black field, which is to represent the ocean, and who are waiving their hands. They all look the same and like adult males, but as the instruction manual says, the blinking one is actually the little girl who must be protected if one wants the bonus multiplier to keep increasing at the end of each round. In each round, the several types of enemies keep going into the middle of the playing field, where they try to take the floating people out of the arena. Your job is to shoot all of the enemies and to protect the people from being stolen. There are obstacles that are randomly placed at the beginning of each round that obstruct your view and that make it harder to protect the people. Feel free to ram into these, since doing so won’t harm your ship – unlike ramming into enemies, which will kill you – and since it takes many shots to destroy them. The more you clear out the obstacles, the easier it will be to see and protect all of the people. Protecting the people is actually quite comical. If you run over the floating people, it won’t harm them but will rather launch them several meters away. Such a tactic can be used to protect them from being eaten by sharks or from being stolen by enemy ships. Killing an enemy that stole a person and running over the person will then put the person back into the middle of the arena, where he is still in play and, thus, “safe,” able to be counted at the end of the round as a person saved. Once all enemies are destroyed, the next round begins and the same type of gameplay continues over and over again.
Those who don’t appreciate the style of classic games will probably find this game to be too repetitive. I, however, grew up on classic games, and I appreciate and enjoy their setup. I love games like Robotron, where one simply tried to run around level after level and collect all of the people in the arenas while destroying the endless hordes of enemies that were trying to kill the people and the player. In games like Robotron, it was all about just getting to the highest level that you could and getting the highest score that you could, which you could then brag about to your friends at school the next day. Of course, just as the classic systems didn’t save your scores when you turned off the console, so also does Waterworld not save your scores when the Virtual Boy is turned off, so just like in the glory days, you are left to write down your scores or take a picture of them. One could say that this preserves classic gaming in its true form or that it was just lack of effort on the part of the game developers. In many ways, Waterworld does remind me of Robotron with its concept, but it controls more like Twisted Metal in a much simpler way, where you hold down the gas button to move forward and can freely rotate all around while pressing the trigger button to shoot at all the enemies. The controls in Waterworld are actually fairly responsive, and the game also moves pretty smoothly (as long as there aren’t too many enemies on the screen at one time), but certainly not at the fast pace of many modern games. Nevertheless, the graphics are also nice for the system and the 3D effects, like with all Virtual Boy games, are a nice addition to an otherwise classic-style game.
Overall, I would have to say that Waterworld should be considered a fun game with an average replayability factor by those who appreciate classic gaming and who have a heart for the Virtual Boy. Since you’re reading this review, you likely already have a heart for the Virtual Boy, so the question is: do you have a heart for classic gaming? Of course, the other question is: are you willing to fork out the high price that you’ll probably have to pay to get this rare game these days, after hearing what the game is all about and what it has to offer? I, personally, like the simple concept and find it to be fun, and I can see myself replaying it frequently in the future, in order to satisfy my classic gaming craze. Thus, classic gaming Virtual Boy owners won’t regret paying a little extra to add this to their collection, but those who aren’t collectors of Virtual Boy games or who are gamers that just don’t “get” classic gaming would probably want to keep their money for something else.