I often start out many of my reviews by quickly covering a game’s plot first, which is extremely ideal this time around as it allows me to get a certain 800 pound gorilla out the door right off the bat. In The Way Home: Incredible Time Travel Arcade Adventure (out now, free) — the latest game by moWOW Studios — your goal is to help a time traveler named Will get home, seeing as how a little accident has stranded him in the past. Although this might currently sound like a very trope-standard basic time travel adventure plotline, it’s the specifics of this story that quickly present a problem that you might well figure out before the next paragraph is even finished.
See, Will is now stuck in the past because various things — as a result of his attempt to jump backwards through time — got messed up and are no longer the way they were meant to happen. This has resulted in Will finding his consciousness placed within one of the many people whose timelines were mangled by his jump, which he will only be able to leave after he’s successfully set their life straight (afterwards: lather, rinse, repeat). Helping him through these ordeals is his fellow researcher — Dex — whom can only appear to him in the form of a holographic-esque image, which is furthermore being beamed directly into his mind from the future.
If — by some chance — you haven’t already figured out the major inspiration for Way Home’s plot, I will finally come out and say it: this game’s story is ripped entirely whole sale from a TV series called Quantum Leap. In fact the game’s first plot arc involves Will waking up one day — sans any memory — in the body of an experimental pilot whose face, and life in general, the time traveler is utterly convinced can’t possibly be his very own. The exact scenario — except using the original names of Sam and Al, rather than Will and Dex — is the very same plot used within Quantum Leap’s pilot episode, taking Way Home far beyond “homage territory” straight towards extremely lazy copying.
I am not here — however — to discuss just how blatantly shameless moWOW has been with their wholesale rip job of Quantum Leap’s concepts, and even some of the TV show’s exact plotlines, I am instead here to review if Way Home is actually any fun to play.
In each stage is it will be Sam Will’s mission to make everyone happy so that the story can move forward, which is apparently accomplished by bouncing into them after they have first woken up. Will is — for reasons not really explained — constantly bouncing back and forth across each and every stage, with the player only having the ability to move him and down at will (via up and down buttons placed in the lower right hand corner). However, should Will ever touch a brick wall placed in the middle of the stage — or any person whom hasn’t already been woken up — he will inadvertently create a space-time paradox that will abruptly halt his mission.
Scattered about each stage will be various objects, with the objects usually having some connection with the person whom Will has leapt into, as well as blue pills along the level’s edges. Collecting requisite amounts of the related objects will cause the various people surrounding Will to eventually wake up, as well as immediately send him bouncing back in the opposite direction. The blue pills — on the other hand — will permanently accelerate Will’s speed whenever he picks them up (at least until the current stage ends), and will furthermore apply a multiplier on all the people he grabs afterwards.
Merely finishing each stage is certainly easy enough, and after each level a screen of prose will further the currently active plotline (with multiple stages being required in order to complete an entire scenario’s story). However, should someone truly desire to rule Way Home’s leader boards, then they’d need to successfully run multiple stages in a row without ever having an accident along the way (as failing resets their current score). Of course there are also continues — as well as certain booster items — that can aid in the player’s attempts for leader board supremacy, all of which can be acquired via IAP means (although the continues will also — all on their own — slowly recharge over time).
Now while such a set up would usually mean that the winner would be whomever could afford the most continue hearts, in Way Home it would be more accurate to say that the leader board king will be whomever can spare a one time $2.99 fee. For that is all that one needs in order to purchase a permanent infinite supply of additional continue lives (immediately trivializing the existence of all the lesser $0.99 options that also exist). Therefore those who don’t pay $2.99 will never be able to truly compete on the leader boards, whereas — for everyone whom has paid — the game is more one of whom can play the longest solid session rather than how much skill each player involved actually has.
Sadly at this point I have to point out that Way Home — while perfectly functional — isn’t terribly engaging either, the repetitive game play — which only ever has tenuous connections to the plot — will wear out its novelty extremely quickly. Although sometimes a desire to see where the plot goes next can keep people going in the face of mediocre game play, it certainly does Way Home no favors here that much of their story is copied. The fact that the game’s leader boards become a pure war of attrition once someone pays the $2.99 permanent life unlock fee, further closing the last meaningful venue of fun that some players might have found, doesn’t really help moWOW Studios at all either.
Ultimately The Way Home: Incredible Time Travel Arcade Adventure is not an inherently bad game, but there’s just not much here to enable me to recommend it over various other iOS games — both free, or otherwise — either.
iFanzine Verdict: moWOW’s Way Home: Incredible Time Travel Arcade Adventure is a game that lifts heavily from Quantum Leap’s plot, sometimes to the point of direct plagiarism, coupled with repetitive game play that wears out its welcome quickly. Unfortunately this is further coupled with a $2.99 infinite life option that renders the game’s leader boards little more than a competition to see who can play Way Home for the longest period of time within a single sitting, rather than one of skill whatsoever. While the game is certainly playable — thanks to its rock solid controls — there’s just not much here to ultimately recommend, even if the main game can easily be finished sans a single IAP purchase.