Wanderjahr review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PC
Publisher: Corecell Technology
Developer: Corecell Technology
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

On some level, Corecell deserves credit for trying something new with Wanderjahr. They describe the game as a JRPG, but it doesn’t look like any JRPG that I’ve ever seen. I mean, maybe the characters look slightly anime-ish, but that’s about it. The combat here is simultaneously turn-based and real-time, every level takes place on a single, static screen, and there’s nothing in the way of story or character development beyond a quick plot summary at the beginning of the game. If Wanderjahr counts as a JRPG, then Corecell are taking the whole genre in an entirely new direction.

Or they would be, if the game was actually any good. Instead, Wanderjahr basically shows you everything you can do within the first couple of levels, and then sits back and hopes that’ll be enough to power people through the rest of the game. Spoiler: it’s not.

The problem is simple: Wanderjahr gets repetitive in a hurry, particularly because you don’t have a whole lot of input as to what’s going on. You manage your four characters fighting at any given time, and once they defeat enemies you can click on the jewels they drop. You can also decide what upgrades you want to purchase and use, and you can select the monsters you’d like your characters to direct their attacks towards. That may sound like a lot of stuff to do when it’s written out, but it’s really not. You spend the bulk of your time here just watching and waiting to either use some of those upgrades or switch in one team member for another. It all feels incredibly passive.

Of course, Wanderjahr isn’t helped by the fact it features some insane difficulty spikes. This is one of those games that doesn’t think it needs to gradually build up to boss fights: instead, it allows you to dominate — or, at least, watch your chosen team dominate — non-boss levels to the point you’ll feel cocky, and then it hits you with near-invincible bosses. It all feels more than a little unfair; coupled with the general passivity, it doesn’t make for a very fun experience, unless you like sitting by and watching as your characters get beaten up.

To top it all off, Wanderjahr looks and sounds like a cheap cell phone game. That’s not intended to be a slight against cell phone games, either, but a statement on how lacking this game is in the looks department: it’s really easy to imagine it being played on an old flip phone, and I don’t think you’d lose a whole lot in that translation.

Add all those things together, and it’s hard to see why anyone would pick Wanderjahr over pretty much anything else. It’s boring to play and not much to look at, so unless you have a thing for watching bland characters do the same things over and over again, you’ll be better off spending your dollars elsewhere.

Grade: C-