Back in the day, before every video game console was connected to the Internet, people who wanted to play games together actually had to sit next to each other. I know, crazy, right? Well, the cartoony, top-down action game Wondershot — which is coming to PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam on February 18th and Xbox One on the 19th — is bringing that kind of action back. While it does have a single-player challenge mode, the centerpiece of the game is its multiplayer, which is local-only. To explain how it all works, I spoke to the Leikir Studio’s Aurelien Loos, the game’s Creative Director, as we and some pals played a few rounds.
To start, what kind of game is Wondershot?
It’s a local multiplayer game in which you fight other players in an arena. But you only have one life and one piece of ammo, so if you shoot at someone, and you miss, you have to go and pick up your ammo.
The game also has simple controls. You move with the left stick, you shoot with this button [points to the “X” button], and you dodge with the left trigger. But you can’t keep hitting the dodge button, it has to cool down.
What kind of weapons do you have?
There are four weapons in the game, and when you play multiplayer, each player gets one of them and it’s random which you get. You have a bow and arrow, a boomerang, a hammer, and a slingshot.
Now you said that you have to pick up after yourself when using a weapon. Does the apply to the boomerang, or does it come back if I miss?
Yes, it’s the only one that does that. Though if you throw it at a wall, it will stick into the wall.
Do any of the other weapons have special abilities?
With the hammer, you can hit people, or you can do a throw, but it sends you both flying towards something, and it’s tricky, but you can actually go through walls this way, and even through an arrow that’s flying towards you.
Also, the ammo in the slingshot can bounce off walls. Though only a couple times before it stops and you have to go pick it up.
If I shoot at arrow, can other people pick it up?
Yes they can.
But it seems that while you have to go pick up your arrow or whatever if you miss, it comes back to you if you hit something?
Yes, that’s correct. That’s why you need to be careful how you aim.
Did you ever test how it would work if arrows didn’t come back to you when you hit someone but instead stick in their bodies and you have to still go get them?
We did. We love playtesting our games, and we play our games all the time. And we found that if you had to do that, it made the game feel too slow.
Do you need three other people for the multiplayer part?
No, you can play 1-on-1 or against two people if you want. You can also set up teams, and then it can be 2-on-2 or even 3-on-1 if you want.
Is there a reason the game isn’t online instead of being just local multiplayer only?
We just think it’s more fun to play with other people sitting next to you. During lunch, we play a lot of multiplayer games, stuff like Smash Brothers, and games like that are just more fun when your buddy is sitting next to you.
Regarding the arenas, are they procedurally generated or pre-designed?
Are they different for co-op and multiplayer?
Yes. We also have three kinds of maps, and each has fifteen stages. And the three kinds, which have to do with how they look, you have the same three in both co-op and multiplayer, but the actual stages are different in co-op and multiplayer.
Now, one of the map types seemed to have prickly bushes. Are there environmental hazards?
No. The only thing that can hurt you are your other people’s weapons. That said, there is mud on the ground sometimes, and that will slow you down, and there are portals you can walk through to the other side.
Ah, like Pac-Man. Now, the game has a cartoony look about it. There’s no blood or gore, and everything is big and shiny. Why did you go this way instead of something more realistic or bloody?
It’s because when we show off an really as an early prototype at an event, we saw a father playing with his son, and they really had fun with it. This got us thinking that there’s not a lot of games you can play as a family all together. Especially not like this, where you’re playing against each other. So we decided to make it more cartoony so that everyone can play it.
When you were playtesting the game with outside people, did you ever invite families to come and play?
Yeah. In France [which is where Leikir are located], we have a thing where kids who are like fourteen-years-old spend a week working as interns for local business, so we always have a lot of kids who come in to our offices. And when they did while we were working on this game, we asked them to bring in their moms and dads and little brothers and sisters so they could all play the game together.
I noted when we were playing that each round was last man standing, and that the winner is the first to get to five.
Right. But you can go in and change a lot of the rules if you want. For instance, you can make it so a match has up to thirty rounds, as opposed to the normal five, or make it so the winner isn’t the last one who survives, but the one who gets the most kills.
When you play it like that, do you respawn?
No, you still only have one life. It’s just that…let’s say in a round, I kill two people and then you kill me. I now have two points and you only have one, even though you survived. We keep playing this way until someone gets to however many kills you set it to.
Ah, gotcha. What else can you change about it?
While normally everyone has a different weapon, you can change it so everyone has the same weapons. You can change how much you can use the dodge move. You can also play with just the Super Slingshot, which has ammo that keeps ricocheting. There’s also a version called “You Miss, You Lose!” and in it, if you miss, you’re dead.
We also include a bunch of presets of interesting combinations of rules, though as I said, you can pick and choose whatever ones you want to use.
Lastly, you can pick which of the maps you want to have come up. Though if you pick more than one, it’s random which one will come up.
Finally, will the PC version support controllers?
Of course. All the controllers and the Steam Pad.