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Wooden Sen'SeY Review


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On 09/11/2014 at 05:00 PM by Nick DiMola

Let me axe you a question.
RECOMMENDATION:

A worthwhile purchase if it goes on sale. A bit on the short side, and frustrating at times, Wooden Sen’Sey isn’t for everyone.

Wooden Sen’Sey is one of those unfortunate games that has charm and style and comes so close to greatness, but sadly falls short. The abundance of quality platforming games on the Wii U makes it hard to turn a blind eye to the faults of Wooden Sen’Sey. Simple shortcomings like awkward controls (particularly for grappling), levels that overstay their welcome, and a lack of new abilities really drag down an otherwise great experience.

Starting the first level makes a striking impression. Wooden Sen’Sey is quite the gorgeous looking game; bright and vibrant with highly detailed environments, it’s a real looker. Diving deeper into the game, you start to notice that each and every level has a completely different visual palette, theme, and soundtrack, all of which are fantastic. Cherry blossom trees drop their leaves all around you in one level; another has a Donkey Kong Country-esque shadow presentation with silhouetted figures in the foreground and the bright orange setting sun in the background.

Despite each and every level being memorable thanks to the fantastic art direction, the gameplay doesn’t quite stand up to the same scrutiny. The most troublesome part of Wooden Sen’Sey is the awkward and loose control. Rather than the more typical double jump, players need to execute a downward attack which sends your character’s double chained axes careening towards the ground, which results in an upward thrust when they connect. In general, pushing down when you want to go further up is a bit unnatural, but it’s something you do adjust to. What’s more awkward is that if you’re too high above a platform, you’ll get no boost, same goes for when you’re jumping across a chasm. And because you activate the move via a downward attack, it can be awkward to execute when you’re in a full sprint.

These same axes can be used for the game’s grappling function as well, which is extremely problematic. For starters, it doesn’t seem to work like any grappling hook in any game you’ve ever played and trying to use them to really swing around, reach new heights, and keep momentum seems impossible at first. Once you figure them out, you realize it isn’t impossible, it’s just very hard and unpredictable. In the last level of the game, there’s an intense swinging section where the final boss is tailing you while you swing from platform to platform. Each time through the level, I’d get different results out of the grappling mechanics – sometimes they’d manage to connect to the first platform, sometimes not, sometimes I’d keep momentum, sometimes a millisecond of hesitation would completely throw off the rhythm and get me killed.

All of these little control oddities add up to a lot of frustration in certain areas because it makes it very hard to be successful. It also makes it particularly tough to collect all of the bottles of Sey scattered about each level. I typically love grabbing all of the collectibles in platforming games, but when I noticed that it was taking me 30+ minutes to get through a level to do it, and losing all of my lives was a distinct possibility thus forcing me through the effort all over again, I stopped pushing for total completion

Small changes like breaking up these behemoth levels into three sub-stages would’ve made Wooden Sen’Sey much more consumable. That being said, the game is not very long. It only has a total of nine levels, which can be rushed through in less than three hours if you’re not going for total completion – by which I mean, killing all of the enemies, collecting all of the Sey, and hitting the target times. There’s some bonus time attack content if you’re so inclined, but by the time I made my way through the final boss encounter I had my fill of Wooden Sen’Sey.

It’s too bad to see all of these little problems in a product with so much charm. Improving the controls and breaking up the levels would’ve gone a long way to improving the experience. And giving some meaning to collecting the Sey, like the ability to use them to upgrade your character, would’ve introduced a feedback loop that made the collectible meaningful. On the flipside of the coin, Wooden Sen’Sey is not a terrible game and has lots going for it, specifically the beautiful and diverse levels and a platforming design that’s just different enough that it sets itself apart from the crowd.

If you’re interested in Wooden Sen’Sey, I’d suggest grabbing it on sale. It’s pretty short and doesn’t have a ton of replay value unless you’re a completionist. For its current asking price there are other platforming games available that are more worthy of your dollar.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

mothman

09/12/2014 at 09:01 AM

It doesn't release until January 1 3000? I don't think any of us will be around to play it then. :P

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

09/12/2014 at 09:32 AM

We've been trying out our new tech that allows us to review FUTURE GAMES! Hope getting this review nearly 1,000 years early was worth opening that portal to the demon realm.

mothman

09/12/2014 at 09:50 AM

Oooh demons!

Nick DiMola Director

09/12/2014 at 10:35 AM

Hahaha - didn't even notice that! Well, I'm loaning out my time machine for anyone to use if they're interested, though it's really going to kill PixlBit's competitive advantage.

I just booted it back up to go back in time and release it for Neko and set the release date to the past time it had actually dropped. :)

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