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.
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.
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.
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.
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.