WayForward: Old School Heroes
If you ask a gamer their most anticipated game of 2013 you'll get the same usual suspects time and time again. Grand Theft Auto V, Call of Duty: Ghosts, FIFA 14 and so on. Not for me. No game this year got me more excited than DuckTales Remastered, and luckily I was not to be disappointed. When the HD remake of Capcom's classic water-fowl based platformer was first announced, many gamers were surprised and delighted. Yet they couldn't help but be a little apprehensive- could it be brought back without messing it up? Then it was announced that the game would be handled by none other than WayForward Technologies, and we all knew it was in safe hands. I mean, how could you not love a company named after a Dirk Gently reference?
WayForward was established back in 1990, but it's relatively recently they have really started making a name for themselves. In a gaming landscape where it's all increasingly about 3D photo-realism and shooting each other in the (photo-realistic) face, WayForward have carved out a niche for themselves, putting out charming old-school games lovingly crafted in two dimensions.
Take for example, their cruelly over-looked Wii platformer A Boy and His Blob. With it's lovely art-style and a genuinely touching bond between boy and blob it shows what the studio is capable of when they are given full reign. It's got a relaxed pace, a million miles away from the manic pace of some platformers, and a feel all of it's own. If when the Boy hugs his pet Blob, you don't feel a tug at your heart-strings, then you might just not be human. You can pick it up for a pittance if you can find it, and I recommend that you do just that.
Similarly many of their original games are availably cheaply through various download services. The likes of Mighty Flip Champs, Lit and Mighty Milky Way are among the best ways you can spend your points or cash.
WayForward have also worked hard to redeem the reputation of the licensed game. As well as the DuckTales (woo woo) remake, they have also made original games based on the likes of Adventure Time- and are currently working on not only another AT game, but one based on fellow Cartoon Network series Regular Show. As developers for hire they've also worked on games we might suppose they don't have quite the same personal investment in, but they always put out a polished finished product. I can't vouch for the quality of their recent Smurfs 2 game (I'm not exactly the target audience) but games like that help fund their more personal projects.
The studio first delved into original IP with Shantae, a platformer for Gameboy Colour in 2002. Although well loved by those who played it, it never quite got the reception it deserved, arriving as it did in the Colour's dying days. WayForwards' Genie heroine- and mascot- was later revived in 2010's DSiWare Shantae Risky's Revenge, to much greater success.
There had long been talk of a new adventure for Shantae, and this year it will finally happen. A 3DS outing, Shanate and The Pirate's Curse is coming to eShop some time in 2013. But that's not all, as at the time of writing WayForward are also running a kickstarter for Shantae's first HD adventure: Half Genie Hero. The new game will, funding willing, come to both current and next-gen consoles in 2014, and is intended to be WayForward's biggest and most beautiful original game to date. If you love platformers, you should definitely back it.
At a time with budgets on triple-A games becoming increasingly bloated, it seems if anything the little guys like WayForward are only getting more important. As the budgets soar, less risks are taken in the mainstream- you've only got to look at Hollywood to see where we could be heading. So it's up to smaller studios and indies to offer an alternative. To cater to gamers who crave something different, or who's tastes tend towards the more old-school. Download services and mobiles have allowed for a major come-back for more classic style games such as platformers and puzzlers. With the increasing profile of WayForward and the recent success of the Mighty No 9 project, it's clear there's something happening. We're in the midst of a retro revolution, and this gamer for one couldn't be happier.