For months I had been checking Xbox Live Arcade, itching to use the points card collecting dust on my TV stand since Christmas. Having no previous knowledge of Islands of Wakfu, it was the charming art style that first grabbed my attention, but something or other about saving a dying world with a dragon was what spurred me into the download.
Before plunging into gameplay and combat, I'd like to give some insight into the story or what exactly you'll be fighting for. Unfortunately, Islands of Wakfu takes vagueness a little too far. The mythical setting is easy to get into, but far too often are you told, "I wish I could tell you more," or the ever popular, "Hurry, no time to explain!" For me, this carried on until I no longer really cared or could remember enough of what was previously mentioned to piece it together. The explanations you do get are also pretty sparse on details, but they manage to get across the fact that you're special and the only one who can help the Goddess and save the planet.
Islands of Wakfu is probably the best-looking game I've played on Xbox Live Arcade.
The two characters you'll play as are Nora and her dragon brother, Efrim. Nora is your close-combat punch-and-kicker, while Efrim is your flying shooter. Both have a unique set of skills, but a collaboration of the two is where the strategy is at. Nora has the ability to teleport and absorb energy from her surroundings; Efrim, on the other hand, can expel energy, as well as control a little platypus to help solve puzzles along the way. Trust me, the platypus is useful.
Maybe it was the singing flowers, the goofy characters, or the extremely simple quick-time warping, but I went in thinking Islands of Wakfu would be a bit of a cakewalk. As it turns out, my premature discernment was far from the truth. Wakfu provides numerous skull-scratching scenarios, and it definitely dishes out a challenge come boss battling time. Mastering both characters and all their acquired skills will definitely help you out, but the boss fights are arranged in a way that will keep you guessing, and perhaps dying over and over again until you figure out the best strategy for each of the curve balls thrown at you. Between both characters, you'll have a bunch of choices on how to deal with each fight, and while more than one way will work, it may take a few rounds to find the best approach.
The game really plays as an adventure beat-em-up, with puzzles sprinkled along the way. Objectives are made clear, but how to reach them is for you to figure out. Admittedly, a few times I was stumped longer than I would have liked on something that seemed completely obvious, but I had fun with it. The game also keeps you busy by placing valuables such as flowers, goddess tears, platypus nests, and score-boosting "candies" to find in each level. I like to call this "player enrichment," and it's a lot more interesting than going from one side of the screen to the next. What Islands of Wakfu could have done better is given a map to view. Among the fourteen levels, there really is no sense of place. How many islands in the Islands of Wakfu? Your guess is as good as mine.
Quite frankly, this is probably the best-looking game I've played on Xbox Live Arcade, and I say "probably" just because absolutes are dangerous. The environment, the cut scenes, the character designs are all so attractive and pleasing to take in. The style lends itself well to the mythical wilderness and naturist theme of the game.
Ask me to sum up Islands of Wakfu and I'll tell you it's a gorgeous, fun, and original adventure game. Though the game tugs at some of my personal interests, such as making flowers grow, assisting hatching eggs, and other nature-loving flimflam, I think almost everyone will find something to enjoy here. Definitely worth some time and 800 points in the Xbox Marketplace.