Wooden Sen’SeY is a game with many good ideas, but not enough to prop up this title completely. The visuals are exceptional, and they brand the game with a unique style. The platforming is nothing extraordinary on it’s own, and there are a few issues with the grapple-axe, but it gets the job done. However, when Goro needs to fight, Wooden Sen’SeY‘s problems rear their ugly head.
The first half of Wooden Sen’SeY is hum-drum; much of the time Goro is simply walking forward to progress. It is not until after Goro leaves the caves (level four) that the gameplay will pick up. Nearly all of the levels have sections where Goro needs to take advantage of his down-slam or grapple-axe (think grapple beam from Metroid), with the grapple-axe being increasingly necessary in the later half of the game. Grapple-axe sections require the player to tilt the controller back and forth in order to gain momentum, which is a good way to take advantage of Nintendo’s technology, but is extremely disorientating during off-TV play.
Combat is dreadful in Wooden Sen’Sey. Goro’s standard attacks only extend a few inches beyond his body, which becomes a problem when combined with Goro not being able to block. Enemies are more troublesome than they’re worth, and anyone throwing projectiles become the bane of Goro’s existence. The many situations where Goro faces down foes in a narrow space ensure you will take a hit. The down-slam and grapple-axe provide some relief, but never enough. Goro will come across throwing stars, which are useless on all but a few adversaries. Bombs are a rarer find, but far more powerful. Even the game’s final boss will go down after a few bombs (one of the game’s achievements, coincidentally). While much of the game’s combat can be ignored, there are times where the player will be forced to take down a number of enemies in order to progress. These sections are what hurt Wooden Sen’SeY the most, as Goro can be easily overwhelmed and need to restart at the previous checkpoint.
Each stage feels unique, which can keep the experience fresh. However, this concept backfires once you reach the underwater stage. Goro will take control of a submarine, and the player will have to constantly tap the jump button in order to keep the sub afloat. Button tapping will keep the player on his/her toes, but the controls are too unwieldy for the precise movements the level calls for. Mechanically, the submarine level does not seem to fit in thematically with the rest of the game. The submarine only appears once, which makes me wonder if the developers thought they needed an underwater stage in order for the game to feel complete.
Wooden Sen’SeY‘s difficulty is inconsistent, with enemy encounters and the aforementioned forced combat sections being the biggest culprit. Extra lives are generously peppered throughout the level, so a game-over screen will be a rare sight. Optional challenges come in the form of collecting all of the SeY bottles, defeating all of the enemies, and beating the level under a certain amount of time. The time challenge will prove to be the most difficult, as dying does not reset your timer. Therefore, you will have to go pause the game and manually reset the level in order to stand a chance at beating the level under par.
The campaign is incredibly short; only two or three hours to complete. Don’t fret, as the campaign is not where Wooden Sen’SeY truly shines; that distinction goes to the game’s time-trial mode. Levels are short, and the game gives you a moment to scan its entirety and plan your route accordingly. Time-trial mode is also devoid of enemies, and level design will focus on Goro’s prowess with the down-slam and grapple-axe. Your score depends on the speed in which you complete the level, and how many SeY bottles you can collect on the way. If you want a bronze, silver, or gold medal (which you will need to unlock all thirty stages), then you will need to collect all of them.
Wooden Sen’SeY is a title I wish I could give a higher score on, but I cannot bring myself to do so. The flaws in this title are few, but very large. Visually, Wooden Sen’SeY is marvelous. The visuals and music give the game an identity that neither the platforming nor the combat was able to accomplish. I even enjoy looking at the art that appears in the loading screens. Unfortunately, visuals alone do not make a game. The combat mechanics are what hold back the game the most, though platforming has a few issues to work out as well.