Wiwi’s Adventures 3 is a very worthwhile platformer/shooter for $1 on Xbox Live. Even when you’re in a car or jetpack, the game is surprisingly comfortable to play. Most decent platformers are either pleasant or challenging, but Meruvia Game Studio did a helluva job of making this game a pleasant challenge. The lead developer promises to add more characters and stages if enough people buy this indie game — so buy it already.
The visual style of Wiwi’s Adventures 3 is reminiscent of Earthbound — straightforward and quirky at the same time. I wouldn’t call it retro, as the graphics tend to have smooth edges. The game sports a few neat details, such as signs that point you in the direction of pirates (the game’s principal enemy) and eyes looking out of closed doors. The graphics are more uneven during the boss fights but otherwise get the job done.
The music is mostly forgettable, but the sound effects give the game personality. In particular, the hit detection sounds are hilarious. They sound like downbeat samples from old rap songs, and if you take consecutive hits, the samples keep on coming (thankfully, your life bar only goes down by one when this happens). The death sound is also distinct and, dare I say, enjoyable.
I can’t think of another game that has all of the gameplay mechanics of Wiwi’s Adventures 3. You choose from three characters. One is Wiwi, a boy, and the other two are fire-breathing lizards. Each character has a different pace and jump height (think Super Mario Bros. 2), but all of them have infinite fireball shots, which is awesome. You also have the traditional option of jumping on top of enemies to kill them, and every character has a double jump. The attention that Meruvia Game Studio paid to the jumping mechanics will not go unnoticed: you have remarkably flexible and smooth control over your character while he is in midair. When you make a mistake in this game, it’s usually on you. You get three hits per life, but you’ll find hearts to refill your health here and there.
A fatal mistake in Wiwi’s Adventures 3 is rarely frustrating or worrisome. Through each level, you collect tons of different orbs that give you an extra life when you reach 100. Throughout the first few stages, you’ll likely rack up a dozen or so extra lives by doing this. Those lives will be put to good use once you get to the meat of the game, which includes insane car rides — even your car shoots bullets — and surprisingly fluid jetpack mechanics. The game even has a couple of scrolling levels, with a wall of spikes following you the whole time. Yeah, spikes. However, unlike the overrated Sonic the Hedgehog, obstacles like spikes usually don’t come out of nowhere. Wiwi’s Adventures 3 takes more skill and less memorization than Sonic the Hedgehog, making it superior to the Sega standard.
(And speaking of Sega games, I’ve read a review of Wiwi’s Adventures 2 that compares the game unfavorably to Alex Kidd. For the record, Alex Kidd is a huge piece of shit. Go back and play it. The punching and jumping in that game are embarrassingly off the mark. Comparing it to Wiwi’s Adventures 3 would thus be an insult and a lie.)
Wiwi’s Adventures does have a few annoying quirks. First, the game never says you have to press B (the cancel button) to get off a ladder. While having to press B to get off a ladder is perhaps weird, it quickly becomes second nature, but I had to figure out the mechanic myself after dying several times on a scrolling stage. There are few things more embarrassing than getting killed by a moving wall of spikes because you can’t get off a damn ladder. Speaking of scrolling stages, stage 9 has a couple of clearly unfair parts. One part of the level allows you to take one of two paths, but you don’t have the ability to tell that one of the paths is a dead-end and, therefore, inevitable death by spikes. Another part of the level rains spikes from the ceiling while you’re trying to jump onto a moving platform, and I could almost swear there’s no way you can clear this without taking a hit. Fortunately, the level ends immediately after this debacle.
The glaring weakness of the game is the lame boss fights. While not insultingly easy like the Dr. Robotnik fights in Sonic the Hedgehog, the boss fights in Wiwi’s Adventures 3 are sterile. It’s disappointing to say that an otherwise fun and rewarding game ends on a low note.
I could see myself playing through Wiwi’s Adventures 3 again, especially if the developer updates it with new stages. But the replayability of the game is a question mark, as I never found any secrets during my first playthrough. There is no multiplayer option, which probably wouldn’t have been good anyway.
This year we’ve seen some good platforming/shooting games on Xbox Live Indie Games, but I believe this one could be the best. Wiwi’s Adventures 3 is better than Rad Raygun and Vintage Hero. Now pay the $1 so I can play more levels.
Editor’s Note: From the game’s manual and credits, you can tell the lead developer of Wiwi’s Adventures 3 is a really nice guy. So I feel bad about my comment on the game’s title after learning from the end credits that “Wiwi” is the nickname of the developer’s son. Man, I can be an ass.