As an avid reader, writer, and all-around pop culture junkie, I love a good story. I like a definite beginning, middle, and end. The ending is important; I want to feel the satisfaction of a resolution. Even with games that are light on story, there’d better be a final boss to beat and a denouement to tell me the hero lived happily ever after.
I crave closure.
Wacky Spores: The Chase blends the action of an endless runner with the tactical play of a turn-based strategy game. You play as three sentient mushrooms (the titular spores) fighting against a ceaseless tide of bug/insect creatures that are trying to kill you. You can move the mushrooms up, down, right, and left, but the screen is always scrolling, and the mushrooms move together as one, like the players on a bar in foosball. After your mushrooms have run long enough to fill a meter, the action pauses and you get to choose a weapon and take shots at the motionless enemies. You follow this pattern until all three of your mushrooms have shuffled off their mortal coil.
There are a lot of familiar gameplay elements here. You collect coins to unlock weapons, items, characters, and locations. You get bonuses for completing goals, like killing twenty of one enemy type. Each character has its own stats and special moves, so you can change up your party depending on the enemies in the location you’re playing.
It’s all pretty standard stuff, but Wacky Spores: The Chase puts it together in an interesting way.
The first bit of the game is a little grindy, but once you’ve unlocked a good portion of stuff, the strategy gets really fun. There are a lot of choices to make: how will you move your mushrooms so that they’re lined up well for the next combat phase? In what order do you have your mushrooms attack so that the right gun is available for the mushroom in the right position? When do you try to avoid enemies, and when do you sacrifice one of your mushroom guys so the others can keep going? Each one of these decisions matters, and the surprising amount of depth in this title is what kept me engaged and having fun.
Aesthetically, Wacky Spores: The Chase looks and sounds great. Each location gets its own fitting soundtrack, and the sound effects make sense, accurately conveying the actions they’re depicting and providing helpful audio clues. Any given moment can be hectic, and being able to hear that one of your mushrooms is getting hit is useful when you’re focused on a different part of the screen. The graphics are playful and colorful, and they fit the arcade-y feel of the game nicely.
Wacky Spores: The Chase wisely disposes of its alleged story within about 30 seconds; you’re not playing an endless runner for deep, meaningful characters and profound storylines, after all. Instead, the script entertains with fourth-wall-breaking meta-commentary about games and memes. It’s not uproariously funny, but it’s pleasant enough – and easy to blow right by if it’s not your thing. It’s weird that you’re playing as a set of mushrooms shooting bugs (never did I think I would type the word “mushroom” in a game review this many times, outside of the Mario series), but it makes for fun, whimsical gameplay.
Plus, you get to kill bugs.
Lots of bugs. Cartoony bugs, but bugs nonetheless. And if you hate bugs as much as I do, it’s just a little bit cathartic. (I’m not saying I’m a grown woman who makes her girlfriend kill all the bugs in their apartment, but I’m not-not saying that, either.)
Wacky Spores: The Chase has a few issues. Some of them are little problems not uncommon in one-man developed titles: typos, instructions that are not always well explained, UI that isn’t always the most intuitive. Those are overlookable for me. The collision detection was frustrating, however. The aiming mechanism of your guns highlights the first enemy who’s going to get hit, which is helpful, but if you’re aiming right on the edge of the enemy, you occasionally miss, even though the enemy was highlighted. When I say occasionally, I mean it; it happened maybe three times over the course six-ish hours of gameplay, but it was tilt-inducing when it did. I also had some problems with repeating guns, like the minigun that shoots several bullets in a row to take out a line of enemies. I would line up shots that really looked to me like they were going to hit several enemies, but they ended up missing by about a pixel and wasted half my bullets. After the first few times I did that, I learned to be more conservative in my use of the minigun, but that behavior did detract a bit from the tactical use of that gun.
Wacky Spores: The Chase is a unique mashup of genres that ends up being very enjoyable. With all the strategic choices to make, I didn’t miss having a strong story or a conclusion. As the saying goes: It’s the journey that matters – and a perpetual journey can still be really, really fun.