Results tagged “wii games”

Super Mario Galaxy

It's fun, and I recommend it. It fails to reach the conceptual heights of last decade's Super Mario 64, but the games it plays with gravity and perspective and make it a unique and worthwhile platformer.

Galaxy's levels are surprisingly linear. For the most part, you start at point A, and bounce along a unidirectional graph - the tiny planetoids being nodes, and the fixed flight-routes between them the edges - until you hit the flagpole star at the end.

Several levels feature branchpoints in their routes where you can go grab a "hidden" star instead of the main one, encouraging you to play that level twice. Nice, but adding an extra arm to the graph doesn't make it less graphy.

It is not an exploration game like Mario 64. Your interaction with the environment is more like a tourist than an adventurer: land somewhere, admire the scenery, do whatever's on the itinerary for this location, and then move on to the next destination. There's no need to figure out what to do or where to go next, and almost never any backtracking.

The scenery, however, is beautiful, and those itinerary tasks are all perfectly fun, usually involving nosing around a little planet collecting things and exploiting the various crazy new power-ups this game introduces.

Small gripe: the game continues the Mario-game tradition of keeping track of lives, and awarding you with extra lives for clever exploration, valiant deeds, or just collecting lots of stuff. The trouble is that lives are meaningless to a modern platformer. You start out every Galaxy play session with five lives, and playing almost any level results in a net gain of two or three more. I typically had 15 or so lives every time I was done playing. I seldom bothered to go fetch 1up mushrooms placed in tantalizing locations. It would have been nice to replace these with something more appreciable.

You should still play it (especially if you can borrow a copy like me, ha ha). Wii owners who find themselves enjoying this game owe it to themselves to also check out the orginal Super Mario 64, which can be purchased and downloaded for $10 from the Wii Shop channel.

Rolling Thunder 2

Though I haven't played it to the end yet, I highly recommend the 1991 Sega Genesis title Rolling Thunder 2 to all action-game fans. It just became available as an $8.00 download via Wii's Virtual Console. Someone on a Virtual Console message board said that this game is like a 2D Gears of War in the way it forces you to balance attacking with diving for cover. I thought that was great.

Not a straight-up port of the arcade game, it's an effective home-console adaptation, tweaked to encourage longer play sessions. There are lots of hidden power-ups that extend your dude's life bar past its usual amount. Its level design is pleasantly varied; while most of it is pure twitchy action, it pauses now and again to get surprisingly puzzley.

While your character can leap around in a typical video-gamey way, he's quite fragile (usually dying if shot once) and can only fire his gun while standing still. This lets the game present you with situations where the particular terrain forces you to stop and think about the best way to approach an enemy before he gets a chance to blast you, since charging them head-on won't work. (Note this when you're fighting those ridiculous blue bastards who roll bombs Donkey Kong-style down the stairs at you.) For a side-scrolling jump-n-shoot game, this is very good level design.

It's also got a two-player mode, and I have no idea how well that works yet. The single-player game alone is worth the price of admission.

Zack & Wiki review

Zack & Wiki is the first Wii game on my "I really want to like this" pile. It's a puzzley adventure game, light on the adventure and heavy on the puzzles. (I would call it a "puzzle game" but, annoyingly, that is a loaded term referring to games like Tetris, which this is not.) It has pretty good puzzles, actually, but its attempts to use the Wii controllers makes it clumsier than it ought to be, and then the game further hobbles itself with unfortunate design decisions.

The controls aren't terrible, but they fall short of what they aim to be. Most of the time, the wiimote controls a cursor that you can use to make the hero run around, pick things up (if they're pick-uppble) or examine them (if they're not). The latter activity switches the camera to a static close-up view of the contraption under examination, where you can use the cursor to interact with specific parts of it, such as poking buttons on it.

So far, so good, but it leads into one the game's let-downs. Much of the game's selling point is its claim that discovering how things work means moving the wiimote in gestures that mimic using the items. This is technically true, but there's very little discovery involved in the process. Your character can carry one object at a time, and the option to use any object in any way at all only appears during the zoomed-in detail view of an immobile object. And even then, the held object only becomes interactive if the game has a these-two-objects-interacting animation queued up.

Once it's established that you're in a position to use the item you're holding on something else, the game stops to tell you (with an enormous screen-covering graphic) exactly how you should hold the wiimote in order to perform the object-using gesture. When it hands control back to you, a little animated caricature of the player, holding a little wiimote, shows you the one way to use the item. You either perform that one gesture to let 'er rip, or you hit B to back out.

While making a sawing motion in order to saw a tree down is kind of fun, going through this whole process quickly proves less fun than it would be to walk up to the tree and press a generic action button. Through this cumbersome hand-holding, the game makes itself seem like it would work just as well, perhaps better, with a traditional game controller. Sometimes things are slightly more interactive, such as requiring you to rotate an object before applying it, but it doesn't happen enough, or with enough net Wii-ness, to make it feel worthwhile.

It would have been significantly cooler if, while holding that saw, you could make sawing gestures with the wiimote at any time, and the hero would lay into the nearest target (which would usually be un-sawable and result in a "You can't use a saw on that, you dummy" animation, and that'd be just fine). I would bet a dollar that that was what the designers wanted, but they just couldn't get it to work right, and deadlines were looming, so they punted.

Now, I would willing to play the game through anyway, because the puzzles are cute and the characters are charming, but here we get to another problem: the as adventure games go, it can be cruel, a bit more than it really has any right to be.

Once you're more than a couple of levels in, it becomes pretty easy to either die or put the world into an unwinnable state (dropping a key item into the lava before you get a chance to use it, for example). Now, that's perfectly fine in the world of interactive fiction, where you can typically save the game anywhere you like. In Zack & Wiki, death means either starting the level over or spending some in-game gold to buy another life. That's harsher than letting you just jump back in, but it's not totally unacceptable. However, making the level unwinnable in a way that doesn't kill you always means that you have to start it all over from the beginning.

And that sucks. What you get is a chilling effect that makes you, the player, too timid to try dangerousthings. But you will anyway, because that's how these games work. And when you discover that you once again failed to catch the babel fish, and off it goes flying into the void, then you need to blow about ten minutes setting the level back up to that point again. This is not fun, and I really don't know what the heck they were thinking, especially since the puzzles themselves are often pretty good.

It's bad enough that I wonder if I'm missing something, amid all this game's generally positive reviews. I have to conclude that the reviewers either played only the first few levels, or they love doing the same things over and over again.

I hope the sequel will be better. It has lots of potential, and I love to see true puzzle games, but sadly I cannot recommend this title.

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