Review: Wooden Sen’SeY

The trend of quality indie platformers continues.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 07/30/2014 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Fantastic and diverse audio and visual presentation, fun core gameplay, lots to do for completionists
Poison Mushroom for...
A few mechanics feel a little off, less to do for non-completionists

2D platformers are more popular now than any other time stretching back to their heyday in the early and mid-’90s, so it makes sense that many developers are flocking to the genre. Not only does this move make a certain amount of economic sense, but I can’t help but feel that many of the people making these games are satisfying their own sense of nostalgia as they create games inspired by the titles they grew up with. Wooden Sen’SeY is obviously another example of this trend and is really highly indicative of all the strengths and weaknesses of it as well.

Like many of its contemporaries, Wooden Sen’SeY incorporates a unique aesthetic and irreverent set-up for its world. You play as Goro, a booze-loving wooden peg-like character chasing down the evil, black glob alien thingies that stole said booze. As you might have gathered from the title, the game features a unifying theme of sounds and imagery associated with Japan, at least initially. The story mode starts out in settings very much inspired by classic images of bamboo forests and pagodas, but as the story progresses Goro winds up in caves, alien factories, and he even spends some time jumping his way through a fleet of airships highly reminiscent of those found in Super Mario 3.

Thankfully, Wooden Sen’SeY has decided to go against the pixelated 8-bit trend dominating the indie scene, so all the environments are lovingly rendered with a fantastic attention to detail and great use of color. Each level is gorgeous to look at and aesthetically unique, so you rarely encounter any sort of visual repetition and are excited to see where the next level will take you. I especially like one level that takes place at dawn, so the sky is cast in gorgeous reds and oranges while all the foreground action is cast in shadow; it is a truly wonderful effect. However, the game does follow the indie platformer trend of having a fantastic soundtrack. Though it is driven by guitar and electric synths, the early levels still use old Japan inspired themes while the music evolves to match the new environments introduced later on.

In terms of gameplay, Wooden Sen’SeY focuses on platforming constructed around a handful of major mechanics with some relatively simple combat mixed in from time to time. Goro starts only with the ability to jump and swing his axes, but he later gains projectile shurikens and bombs along with the ability to toss his axes, which are chained to his arms, downward while jumping to give him an additional boost, and later upward to latch onto the ceiling, thus allowing him to climb up or swing back and forth to gain momentum for bigger jumps or to cross large gaps by swinging his way across. The latter two of these moves can be done either with traditional button inputs or with motion controls via the GamePad. I personally found both options worked well; however, swinging with more traditional controls typically felt faster. I would be remiss not to mention the game does throw a little extra variety by including an underwater level where you control a submarine, that plays very similarly like classic underwater Mario levels.

Unfortunately, the game has a few troubles with some of its mechanics. First, I found Goro’s normal attack range to be annoyingly short and narrow, a factor that really proves annoying when dealing with attacking enemies, especially the swooping bats found in some levels. This can be resolved by relying more on your shuriken or throwing your axes up or down, but if you are like me you will instinctively try to jump and attack them during your first few encounters and wind up needlessly frustrated. The other issue is that the swing mechanics just feel a little slow. It is hard to really describe, but there are occasional combat and platforming sequences, particularly in the latter levels, that heavily rely upon the mechanic without fully taking into account its limitations.

The only other issue that might pop up is entirely dependent on how obsessive you might be when it comes to speed running and clearing your games 100 percent. In terms of content, Wooden Sen’SeY has a nine level long story mode and 30 time trial levels, which ultimately doesn’t look like much from a purely objective perspective. However, each story level tracks three sub objectives, number of “Sey” bottles collected, number of enemies defeated, and completion time. Taking the time to track down every bottle and defeat every enemy in a level will almost certainly take longer than the target completion time, so if you want to tick off every objective it will require multiple playthroughs. As for the time trial levels, each features bronze, silver, and gold target times, and believe me when I tell you that getting times down even to the silver tier requires exceptional skill. So, if you really want to get more than a few hours out of Wooden Sen’SeY, be prepared to put plenty of effort into perfecting the mechanics and replaying levels many times.

Considering the plethora of top notch platformers available on Wii U, Wooden Sen’SeY isn’t capable of earning an automatic recommendation. The game looks great and has a fantastic soundtrack, but the mechanics just feel a little too off to qualify as gameplay bliss, though they are most certainly serviceable. Finally, the brevity of the core game is going to hurt the overall sense of value to those who aren’t obsessed with absolutely mastering every game in their collection; so if that isn’t you it might be better to wait for a sale. Taking all the good with the bad, Wooden Sen’SeY proves to be a good game, even if it doesn’t manage to climb to the top of what has become a highly competitive genre.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.


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