The original Windjammers was a bit of a legend to me. I got to play it a few times in arcades with people who were Windjammers fiends, then again when the game was miraculously ported to consoles. So when I was given the opportunity to play Windjammers 2 early, I jumped on it. Playing the game’s arcade mode was more than enough to know that Windjammers 2 feels every bit as good to play as the original. I wanted to wait until I could play other people online, however, before I wrote something up. I’m glad I did, too, because Windjammers 2 is missing some important modern online features, and their absence is felt more because the gameplay is so good.
Windjammers 2 is Cool Pong
The most basic way to explain Windjammers 2 is to call it what it is: Pong, with trick shots. And crop tops. You choose one of eight characters with varying levels of speed and power. You score anywhere from 1 to 8 points depending on where the disc lands and what arena you’re playing on. It’s all very straight-forward, which is part of what makes Windjammers work so well. You’re just trying to stop and throw disc.
Obviously, there’s more to it than just pong. You could dash around to cover space quickly. If you pressed the dash button with the right timing, it would knock the disc in the air, which gave you access to super throws. You can choose the direction you throw the disc and bounce it off the arena walls. This isn’t that much more to learn than pong though, and Windjammers was so brilliant because of this simplicity.
Windjammers 2 builds on these initial options without making the game too complicated. There are ten stages, each with its own size and scoring layout. Some stages, like Lawn, are just wide enough that you can’t dash from the middle to save a corner shot. On more narrow courts, players have to rely on a combination of the game’s throw options, which now include the ability to instantly slap a disc back and a jump that lets you spike the disc. You can also use the jump to make powerful defensive reads, which feels incredible.
Windjammers 2 has a totally fine offline arcade mode. You choose a character, you play through a handful of matches, there are a couple of very cute mini games, then you’re in the championship match. Win, and you unlock the character’s ending. All well executed, but I’m not coming to Windjammers 2 for the single player experience. So, when the game launched on January 20, I hopped online. Playing online feels fantastic. The game utilizes a rollback netcode, which makes even bad connections feel playable. The pool of players is healthy so far, helped by the fact that Windjammers 2 is on Xbox Game Pass, which has cross-play with PC versions.
A Major Lack of Features: Playing Online
This is where we start to run into the game’s major issues. For one, PlayStation has no cross-play what-so-ever, only cross-generation play. Second, although Steam and Xbox players can run into each other in quick play and ranked modes, you cannot invite players cross-platform. My early copy was a Steam copy. I had to download the Xbox version to play with my friends, since they were playing on Game Pass for PC. This alone is such a weird oversight—most games with cross-play just have a built-in friend list for that game. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it would at least let me invite my friends to jam discs without having to have two different versions of the game on my computer.
Windjammers 2 is also missing an entire suite of modern online features. There are no lobbies, so you can only play against one friend at a time. You can’t spectate matches either, friend or otherwise. This is rough for any multiplayer game, competitive or otherwise. For Windjammers 2, it also means a competitive scene that’s been building since DotEmu ported the first Windjammers to consoles may have to stick to the original. In a statement made on the game’s official discord, developers stated that adding these features would delay the release of the game. The statement also doesn’t raise a lot of faith that these features will be included in the future. “We’re still discussing it,” says the discord statement, “but right now we have neither technical means nor possibility to confirm or not their implementation in [the] near future.”
Playing Windjammers 2 feels so sick. The different options open up so many different playstyles, which are further complimented by the differences in arenas. The game succeeds at making something that’s simple and easy to get into and also has high level depth. It’s great, which makes the lack of a modern online feature set stand out that much more.