App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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At first glance, Wavecade looks like a mobile knock-off of Geometry Wars. And--while you do indeed pilot a little geometric ship and shoot at little geometric enemies in a neon, spaceage environment--Wavecade is most definitely its own kind of game. It's a very strange game and I'm not sure I understand the reasoning for some of its design choices, but I sure as heck enjoy playing it.
Shoot to survive
Wavecade is a wave-based survival game where you have to shoot your way through increasingly fast and dangerous waves of blocks that threaten to destroy your ship if they happen to touch it. To destroy these blocks, you have a few tools, including an auto-firing laser, charge attacks, "nades" that can clear the screen, and a special ability of your choosing that can be anything from a shield to a cloning device that copies your ship and its abilities.
Wave after wave your goal is to simply stay alive, though every mode of Wavecade also has a leaderboard you'll more than likely be looking to climb. For most modes, the challenge in Wavecade is less about the amount of enemies or their movement patterns and more about how you have to put yourself in dangerous positions to chain together large combos that net you a lot of points.
Lord over space and time
As you progress through waves in Wavecade, you'll get access to powerups that make you a more formidable fighter. All of these upgrades are fairly expected and conventional, from a spreadshot to a time freeze. All of these bonuses are time limited, but with some skill and speed you can chain together lots of powerups which can be very useful to keep you churning through waves and upping your score.
Each run ends when you run out of lives, and each time you lose a life any powerups you had are stripped from you. This can put you in a pretty precarious situation, especially if you are pretty deep into a run, which is where one of Wavecade's stranger mechanics can possibly help you out. For some reason, forward and backward movement in this game speeds up and slows down game speed respectively (in addition to changing the position of your ship). You can take advantage of this to cower at the bottom of your screen as enemies and bullets crawl along at a glacial pace or you can race to the top of the screen to have things whiz along into your path of destruction.
Upgrades, custom modes, multiplayer, oh my
When you complete a run of Wavecade, you earn experience that unlocks things like new ship designs, sound effects, ship trails, perks, and more. You can mix and match all of these to your liking before diving back in and taking on any of the game's variety of modes, though most of them are somewhat minor variations on the default "survive as long as you can" mode.
If none of these modes speak to you, you can make your own custom game mode or even team up with a friend to play co-op. No matter what you do, though, you can be almost guaranteed to be treated to a visual spectacle of bright neon explosions and lots of great arcade noises. The visual chaos can also become a factor in the challenge as well, but seeing all the explosions and other particle effects popping off is a big part of what makes the whole thing satisfying.
The bottom line
Wavecade is a pretty wild arcade game with some unique mechanics and a lot of variety to give you reasons to keep coming back to it. It may look like some games you have seen and played before, but nothing quite plays like this, and--in the case of Wavecade--this is a very good thing.