January 20, 2022
PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, PC
Windjammers 2 gives fans of the popular arcade game exactly what they want: more Windjammers. Outside of a sharp graphical facelift and some new competitors and arenas, don’t expect to find much to gnaw on after you’ve batted around the disc a few times. The sport remains a reflex-demanding delight, but the fun wanes after a few rounds on the court.
Windjammers pits two players against each other in an over-the-top frisbee version of air hockey. You shoot the disc at each other, attempting to nail it through the goal on your opponent’s side; you can also earn points if the disc touches the ground on their court, as in tennis. Getting the disc past your opponent involves executing a variety of wildly implausible shots that ricochet off walls or wrap around the court in flaming loop de loops. Windjammers 2 controls well, and I love using curved shots and other tricks to fool my opponents to zig where they should have zagged.
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The game possesses a fighting-game level of depth despite its simple veneer, so I wish it had a more fleshed-out tutorial. Windjammers 2 has a lot of moves and nuance that the tutorial mode plainly explains through static slides. Committing pages of button commands to memory before starting a match is neither fun nor effective, and there’s no way to access the move list in the pause menu. I forgot how to execute a useful maneuver several times and had to decide whether to quit the arcade ladder to refresh my memory or continue flying blind. Modern fighting games have come a long way to onboard players, providing instruction as well as context for how and why a move should be executed. Windjammers 2 needs something similar because getting annihilated for matches and feeling like I didn’t have a great resource to turn to wore on me in the early goings.
The roster features returning names and newcomers, each with speed/strength differences and dedicated special moves. My favorites include Sammy Ho, who fires a teleporting disc that disorients opponents, and Jao Raposa, whose pure speed makes him a mobility machine. Matches are largely balanced no matter which pairing of competitors faces off, but taking on the CPU in the short arcade mode is challenging to the point of frustration, even on Easy mode. Even when I pinpointed a clear opening, the AI often blocked my shots, no matter how fancy or mind-bending they were. That’s not entirely new for Windjammers, but at times I gave up on strategically lining up shots and resorted to serving any which way until I scored a lucky goal. Still, it’s hard to deny the fun, sweat-inducing intensity of a long back-and-forth volley and the triumph of tripping up your adversary for a score.
The arenas aren’t vastly different from each other beyond the visuals, but a few sport notable gimmicks. I like the casino stage the most, which regularly changes a goal’s point value roulette-style, adding a devious layer of luck and unpredictability. I appreciate the vibrant ’90s-inspired presentation and upbeat soundtrack as well.
Though enjoyable, Windjammers 2 is a bare package. The basic arcade, online, and versus modes didn’t engage me for the long haul. And there is a noticeable lack of unlockable rewards, characters, or cosmetics to work towards. Bragging rights and leaderboard dominance are your only incentives. The action is best enjoyed in short bursts, preferably against a friend in local versus or a stranger online. I respect this old-school approach as an older player, but I found it hard to stay motivated when all I could expect from winning a grueling round was a pat on the back and a “good job!”
Windjammers 2 is an enjoyable throwback that proves its unique sport is still a blast, but the thrill is fleeting. I’m happy to see it return; I just wish it gave me more reasons to step on its court more often.
Summary: Windjammers 2 gives existing fans more of the wacky disc hockey they love but not much else.
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