Wavetail takes place in a gorgeous archipelago, where the small island community is confined to scraps of land. You play as Sigrid, who lives with her grandmother maintaining a lighthouse to protect the neighboring islands. The conflict begins when an ominous black cloud looms over the horizon and the elder townsfolk revive stories of an age-old threat named the Dirty Paw.
You begin by exploring the island where you live to fetch Sparks in your Spark-net to power the lighthouse. The conversation between Sigrid and her grandmother establishes their routine and the family’s backstory, lingering profoundly on Sigrid’s missing mother.
Sigrid is stranded by an enormous wave. A mysterious figure looms out of the water and helps her to walk across the ocean back to safety, acting as her shadow beneath the waves. This allows her to surf from island to island, coming to the aid of the community and investigating the origins of the gloom sweeping towards them.
The controls are simple. You learn very swiftly how to move on land and water, jump and use your Spark-net as a weapon and to launch yourself forwards and upwards. The movement in-game is stunning to watch. The animation is wonderfully fluid without moving so quickly you lose track of Sigrid.
Wavetail as a whole is beautifully designed. The art style is simple and cute, each character imbued with a lot of personality in their dialogue, story and design. The world you explore is idyllic, with rolling waves and fun buildings and contraptions built on islands and floating platforms.
The design choices, from the cartoonish people to the gentle color palette, feel very deliberate. It frames the world with an almost childlike sense of wonder and simplicity, which is challenged by the threatening gloom. As Sigrid uncovers the history of her community and the mystery of her missing mother, she loses the naivete hinted at by the softness of the design.
She learns how harsh the world can be and how honest mistakes can snowball into villainy perpetrated by people you trust. The narrative does an excellent job of balancing the personal stories of individuals you meet on your adventure with the larger overarching plot and its message.
Through its story, Wavetail reinforces the significance of community and collaboration, protecting the environment and the importance of trusting experts. It examines how dangerous the impact of an ill-informed decision can be and how stories can travel until fear ruins reputations and lives. You follow Sigrid closely as she turns back on her work when presented with new information about what will truly help her and her loved ones and her world.
There are some minor things in this game that could be smoother, but my main issue with Wavetail is that I would like it to be longer. I wanted to spend a lot more time exploring the world with its beautiful islands and interesting character. The game overall has a great balance of story, puzzle and action, with a profound and important message at its core.