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Elebits and Warioware - Bad Wii and Good Wii 366

Posted by Zonk
from the two-headed-nickel dept.
The anecdotal evidence that's been going around, now that the Wii is an established fixture in American living rooms, is that Nintendo's new console still has room for improvement. We all had fun over the holidays, sharing Wii Sports with our relatives and watching our aunts laugh themselves stupid. Now, though, it's a new year and it's time for the Wii to step up as a gaming platform. It needs to be more than a Zelda player, and the console needs to prove that this 'new gen' style of play is sustainable over the long term. The post-launch round of games has started to trickle out, and the results are definitely mixed. Today I have for you impressions of Elebits and WarioWare: Smooth Moves. These are two games that show quite a bit of promise, but only one of which actually delivers. Read on for my views, and a return to a numeric grading scale.
  • Title: Elebits
  • Developer/Publisher: Konami
  • System: Wii
  • Score: 3/5 - This game is flawed, but will appeal to genre fans. Any gamer might enjoy renting it, but this won't ever be a classic.
The creativity, the wackiness, the control scheme - the essence of the Wii is present in spades in Elebits. One of the very first titles released here in the states after the console's launch, it shares with Wario Ware the distinction of having been a launch title for the Japanese market. There, alongside Zelda and Rayman, the imperfections that mark Elebits could have been glossed over in the frenzy of sword-slashing and cow-throwing. In the harsh light of day the game's lack of depth and vapid multiplayer makes it obvious that this was intended to be a launch title; a competent demonstration of the Wii technology and little more.

That's not to say it's unlikable. Quite to the contrary, the game wraps itself in an incredibly appealing package. Hung loosely on the hook of telling stories to a kid, each stage pits you against the wilds of a suburban Japanese home. Your goal is to use the electricity gun developed by the protagonist's parents to capture a certain wattage in Elebits. The miniature creatures literally *are* electricity, and snapping them up with your weapon powers up household gadgets left and right. The key is that you need to find the little buggers first, which requires a great deal of rooting around in closets and checking under beds.

The fun comes from the fact that you're interacting with the environment through the extremely smooth Wiimote controls. Your controller is represented in-game by the electricity gun, which can lift objects via a sort of energy field; think Syndrome's zero-point energy from the movie The Incredibles. When you start off a level your power is somewhat weak. Moving small objects is all you can manage. As you collect more Elebits, the weapon grows in power and larger objects can be manipulated. Later levels feature you lifting entire buildings in an effort to locate the wily creatures.

The core game mechanic is thus essentially a modified form of hide and seek. The first time you play the game, it will be sure to cause a smile. Subsequent play is equally entertaining, but there's never a real sense of a challenge. Elebits is a very easy game, and the duration of the main story mode only highlights that ease of play. It's quite possible to play through the entire game in one five hour session.

That would be fine if the basic elements of the game were ever switched up, or if multiplayer offered something substantially different. That's not the case. Simple variations on 'lift things, find Elebits' exist in later stages; some require you to avoid breaking certain objects, while others have some of the little creatures actively attacking you. The core mechanic stays the same, though, and by the end of the game you'll be quite ready to stop playing. Multiplayer, likewise, is more of the same. Up to four players can lift things and shoot Elebits, competing to see who has the most wattage. Additionally, and confusingly, only the first player is allowed to move the camera. This makes it exceedingly hard to tell what's going on, and has a lot of potential for abuse.

Graphical presentation on the Wii is not something I'm going to harp on very often, but I think a more thoughtful look could have given this game a little extra oomph. While the Elebits themselves are cutely designed, the game world is very boxy and uninspired. My hope is that Wii game-makers will take into account the limitations of the console they're working on when planning art design. Why fight the console's low power when you can make a statement? A more stylized art form would have made Elebits pop off the screen more, and would have alleviated some of the sameyness of later levels.

If you're looking for a quite weekend rental, Elebits isn't a bad call. It's very Wiimote-centric, and is another title you can use to show friends and family the potential of Nintendo's console. Just the same, don't put down hard-earned money for it. The long-term playability of the game is very low, and a few months from now it will end up as grist in Gamestop's maw as you purchase more worthy 2007 titles.

  • Title: WarioWare: Smooth Moves
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Intelligent Systems
  • System: Wii
  • Score: 4/5 - This game is above average, and excels in the genre it supports. A classic for the genre, likely to be a part of a genre fan's collection, and well worth a look for every gamer.
Like Elebits, WarioWare was a Japanese launch title. Unlike Elebits, however, this latest in the crazy-go-nuts series of Wario titles easily stands on its own in the post-launch days of the Wii. On the surface the title is little more than a series of simplistic mini-games wrapped in an attractive package, with no more replay value than Elebits or Red Steel. The key differences are the enthusiasm with which those games were executed, the clean attractive graphical package surrounding the games, and and endlessly entertaining multiplayer component. These elements combine to form not only Voltron, but a great party game that is certain to be a Wii staple all year long.

Just as in past WarioWare titles, the single-player story is the means by which all of the on-offer minigames are unlocked. The multiplayer, too, is closed up until you 'beat' the single-player game. In Smooth Moves, games are identified by the 'move' that is used to complete them. These moves translate to specific ways to hold the Wiimote, and specific actions you can take with it. Games are clustered by move, and introduced over the course of the single-player game as part of an entertaining narrative for a the Wario-related characters. The cute witch Ashley, for example, introduces the moves 'The Thumb Wrestler' (a vertically held position), 'The Big Cheese' (holding the Wiimote at your hip), and 'The Discard' (lying the remote down on a surface and then picking it up or rolling it). Each move is introduced with a short instruction text, which is far more entertaining than game instructions have any right to be.

The games themselves are, as always with a WarioWare title, crack-addled. Only a few seconds long, each minigame allows you only a moment to understand how you are supposed to use the specified form to complete the vague command associated with the game. It seemed to me that things were a bit less insane than the offerings from WarioWare:Touched, the DS title, but the games were still plenty strange. Some examples include : picking a nose, putting a old woman's false teeth into her mouth, drinking a glass of water, hula-hooping, driving a car, balancing a broom with one hand, fighting a samurai, and roasting a piece of mutton.

There are 13 character stories in Smooth Moves (two of them revolving around Wario), and in total there are about 19 different controller forms to master. Only one of these, 'The Diner', uses the Nunchuck; most of the game is playable with just the Wiimote. Playing through all of the stories and learning all of the moves won't take most gamers very long. A determined player could almost certainly play through the entire game in one sitting of about four hours.

That brevity may seem like a problem, but what is a problem for so many other titles is a strength for this series. WarioWare titles are endlessly replayable, even in a single-player state of mind. There's always a drive to refine your skill at the various games, to see how far you can make it through the endless series of games before succumbing to a missed cue or a slow hand. The Muliplayer component of Smooth Moves is especially well constructed, and allows for up to an astounding twelve players to compete against each other using one Wiimote. There are about six modes for multiplayer mania, with multiplayer-specific games joining the minigames playable in the single-player mode. My favorite is the nose-shaped rocketship piloting course.

The insanity of the minigames would not be complete without the distinctive 'look' of WarioWare offerings. While the character art has a crisp '2D/3D' style to it that looks amazing on an HD screen, the minigames themselves are all over the map. Crude pencil drawings walk side-by-side with what looks like clip art, crayola colorings, college-level 3D renderings, and actual-in-game assets from Nintendo titles. These last make for some of the most memorable games, as you bounce Mario off of coin blocks with a waggle of the Wiimote, or flick the device upward to catch a fish in five seconds of Animal Crossing. The dizzying array of visual styles is one of the game series' signature elements, and Smooth Moves delivers in spades. The games' audio is just as entertaining, with each stage having a characteristic jaunty tune to accompany your gaming. I recall enjoying these offerings a bit more on the DS title, but I may just be thinking of Ashley's music. Her simultaneously funereal and bouncy theme was a highlight of that game for me.

WarioWare: Smooth Moves is exactly the kind of game the Wii needs in these post-launch days. It's a ridiculous amount of fun, contains an endless amount of multiplayer, and (most importantly) shows off the Wii control scheme in a way few other titles can match. The only thing holding this game back from perfection is the incredibly short single-player component, and even then it's hard to argue with the developers choices. If you ever plan to have friends over to your home again, this title deserves a spot on your shelf alongside Zelda. The game's multiplayer element is as close to perfect as you can ask for, sure to elicit laughter and invite play by any and all interested parties. Smooth Moves is a title that deserves a look from every gamer who enjoys the act of playing games.
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Elebits and Warioware - Bad Wii and Good Wii

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  • by William_Lee (834197) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @02:09PM (#17756248)
    BTW, it's worth noting that the Wii does have a few non-minigame games.

    Including Madden...which I've rented and is IMO a great version. It really uses the Wii Remote and Nunchuck in ways that often approximate actual football motions.

    The graphics and commentary are pretty good, and the gameplay itself seems fresh and fun versus more of the same from EA.
  • by William_Lee (834197) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @02:13PM (#17756322)
    However I need to ask the question, What is going to keep X-Box and PS3 from stealing the Wii thunder?

    Sony has already made a half assed attempt to do this with their new stock controller, but all reports point to it as a tacked on mess versus the Wii Remote and Nunchuck.

    If history is a guide, console developers are very unwilling to design gameplay around optional controllers. It is a lot of extra work to come up with gameplay that works well on the Wii remote and really takes advantage of the controller. It's also what makes the console stand out.

    I doubt you will ever see near the same level of integration on other consoles even if something similar comes out as an optional addon.
  • I'm waiting this out (Score:1, Interesting)

    by maynard (3337) <j.maynard.gelina ... m ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @02:20PM (#17756464) Journal
    Christmas '05 I watched the ebay lunacy over the 360, decided I'd rather have a PS3 and waited. Then the PS3 was delayed. And Blu-ray began to look like a real dud. Finally, Sony announced the price. By November of last year, as the Christmas season was heating up, I decided I wanted a Wii instead. But I couldn't find one. Anywhere! My coworker stood out in the cold for hours to buy one. By the time December had arrived, I'd finally played with a Wii and decided that it wasn't HD enough for my tastes. So I bought a 360.

    And now I'm happy. The 360 does exactly what I want. And while the Wii might be cool to own, until Nintendo offers up a selection of games that use the WiiMote in new and entertaining ways, I think waiting until next x-mas before buying another console seems the smart option. JMO...
  • by captnitro (160231) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @02:25PM (#17756572)
    I have to respectfully disagree with the critique of Elebits' gameplay. I found it fun and incredibly challenging -- there are time limits, limits on breakability of objects (don't smash too many plates) as well as limits on making too much noise (dB). On some levels these limits were fun, on others, they were annoying. While the graphical polish could have been better, it was a refreshing game that didn't once harp on the same old genre formulas. I appreciate the smooth gameplay and consistent framerates in most levels as opposed to focusing on graphical prowess.

    Those that are observant/patient enough to explore into the levels a little more will realize that there are hundreds of little, unrevealed puzzles. For example, find a basketball in the drawer and put it through a hoop in the next room, and Elebits pop out. The same of putting books in order on the shelf, or finding a disc to put in a CD-ROM drive. The time limits are probably the most challenging/frustrating aspect of the game -- these are relatively massive levels with tons to do and explore, so it sucks when your time runs out at the expense of finding enough Elebits to turn on various appliances and tools that allow you to solve puzzles and turn on further appliances and tools. I truly envy those that have scored high enough to unlock Eternal Mode on a good number of their levels.

    The control method (drag the wiimote to the edge of the screen to rotate) sounds a lot like the same Red Steel catastrophe, but it was more responsive and easier. Unlike other games (like COD3), you have smoother, more gradient speeds of rotation as your wiimote approaches the edge. Controlling your character is incredibly simple and fun -- I'd play more FPSs on the Wii if they were all like this.

    My one beef with the entirely gameplay aspect was the Capture Gun power-up method. In Elebits, you have both regular elebits that increase your wattage (turning on appliances and such), and special elebits that power up your Capture Gun to lift heavier objects and thus find more Elebits in general. Unforuntately, they chose to make the gun reset to its lowest power at the beginning of each level, so if you want to get into the more challenging puzzles, you're doing it in the last two minutes of the level because you have to power up your gun the same way every time. I think I would have liked having fewer powerup elebits in conjunction with the "leveling" method a little bit more, so I could go back and use the newfound power to discover secrets in older levels I had already played. As it is now, I'm forced to unlock Eternal mode for a level if I want to power up my gun with few restrictions. I suppose the level they have now is more challenging, but I think another system might have been more fun and had more replay value.

    4/5.
  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday January 25, 2007 @02:27PM (#17756616)
    I humbly suggest that a new mascot is needed, to get Nintendo's creative juices flowing again.

    Donkey Kong? Yoshi? Link? Star Fox? Kirby? Captain Falcon? What are they, chopped liver?

    I "humbly suggest" that the last thing Nintendo needs is yet another mascot! What Nintendo really needs is to make games without a mascot (i.e., where the character is "you" or where there isn't a character at all).

  • by Thansal (999464) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @02:38PM (#17756776)
    Exactly, if you want a list of FAILED perifs here:
    R.O.B.
    Trackmeet pad
    Power Glove
    U-Force
    Eye Toy
    Sega CD

    If you can find me a list of ones that have worked I will be impressed, the only ones I can add to webrunner's list would be the Nintendo Zapper (admitedly, only 2 games I can remember), and the Guitar Hero controllers (Again, only for a specific game).
  • by Turken (139591) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @02:49PM (#17756952)
    First, I don't think that Zonk has actually played all the way through the game. His estimation of 5 hours to get through the story is a bit on the short side. Most of the later missions will take 15-20 minutes each to complete. And then there are a couple missions that you WILL fail on the first try, thus requiring more time. For me, it probably took closer to 10-12 hours to complete the basic story mode.

    Then, once the basic story is finished, there is a LOT or replayability in the form of finding special items/elebits to unlock additional modes, and then trying to beat the challenge missions. Taking the entire game into consideration, there is easily 30-40 hours of gameplay.

    Of course, you also have to factor fatigue into the equation. Frantically clicking the zap buttons for 20-30 minutes straight will actually wear out your hand, so while it may be possible to "beat" the game in a theoretical five hours, few individuals will be able to actually do it that quickly without stopping to rest the hands.

    Also, Zonk's description of multiplayer is not entirely accurate. The camera control is not always attached to player one. Player one is the default camera control, but during the multiplayer game setup, you have the ability to chooose another player to control, or you can choose for the control to randomly switch between players every 10/30/60 seconds. This switching of camera during play can be a little confusing at first, but once you get used to it yields a more balanced and ultimately more fun multiplayer arrangement.

    I'll agree that the game isn't necessarily the best that we will ever see on the Wii, but is is a good solid launch title and should be rated more like 4 out of 5. Definitely worth a rental, especially if you're a fan of the Katamari games.
  • Guitar Hero, Hello? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mongoose (8480) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @03:05PM (#17757246) Homepage
    I don't care if their is a great game behind an add-on it will sell. The Guitar Hero series is all the proof you need, and now more add-ons are being planned for release due to its sucess. I know of a drum master game coming for PS2/PS3 right now. Also there are rumers of 'drum hero' and the like too.
  • by C. Alan (623148) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @03:32PM (#17757674)

    I picked up Elebits last week, and I am finding that it is one of the few Wii games I can play with my 3 year old son. It took him a couple of games to figure out the targeting system, but after that, he had a blast throwing around the furniture, and generally making a mess, and concentrating very hard to line up a shot to capture elebits.

    The fact that the camera control can be restricted to one player is a plus for us. My son does not get how to control the camera yet, so we have fun with me controlling the camera, and him blasting away at furniture.

  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jonavin (71006) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @03:52PM (#17758012) Homepage
    It's probably a lot easier and quicker to stamp discs and print packaging than to make complicated hardware parts that may be dependent on supply chains. Also the variable costs of a game is going to be very little compared to hardware, so your risk for over-production will be lower.
  • by dlZ (798734) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @05:23PM (#17759426) Journal
    That makes me glad the only reason I'm getting a Wii is the wife wants one (and that just comes along with the benefit of being able to play it myself.) And she isn't a gamer, hasn't played them since she was a kid on her NES. But bowling won her over.
  • by Xenolith (538304) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @05:38PM (#17759616) Homepage
    Now that there is a windows driver for the wiimote, no need to port Portal to the wii. I think I'll say that again, cuz it was fun. Port Portal!

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.

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