Welcome to another installment of Wiikly WiiWare Wiiview. The games this week are Fast Draw Showdown, Pub Darts, and Heron Steam Machine. The new year is getting off to somewhat of a slow start, but hopefully this is only the beginning and there will be great things to come. We can only hope at this point. But while you wait, go ahead and get started with the Fast Draw Showdown review…
Fast Draw Showdown
Remaking classic games seems to be one of the trendiest ways to go for developers these days. Fast Draw Showdown does manage to set itself apart from this crowd, however, primarily because it is not necessarily considered a classic, nor is it much of a remake. It is, in fact, a port. Fast Draw Showdown was a moderately popular light-gun western scattered throughout arcades across the United States by American Laser Games in 1994. Rather than focusing on the rail system that was so popular at the time, it offered a more patient and strategic experience by requiring players to wait for the most opportune time to strike. Simply imagine if the duels from Red Dead Redemption were made into an entirely separate game.
Fast Draw Showdown is somewhat odd because talking about it seems to be more fun than actually playing it. It’s not that the game isn’t enjoyable; it just doesn’t quite seem to deliver as well as it should, which may be due largely to its age. 1994 was a strange time in gaming history when the humor was insanely corny and live-action video sequences were all the rage. It makes it far too difficult to take the game seriously, but at the same time, it also feels like the only saving grace because it is so campy that you just have to play it. Unfortunately, beyond that, it’s not a particularly interesting or compelling game.
Waiting there for your chance to strike—waiting too long results in you getting shot and going too soon earns you a penalty—isn’t all that exciting. It does provide quite a challenge, however, unless you play on the easiest setting. Even so, losing a round and getting shot will force you to replay the entire level again. The main reason to play this game is for the novelty of it all. Your opponents are often humorous, whether intentionally or not, and the videos are laserdisc quality at best (for obvious reasons). It is never explained why so many old cowboys are out for your blood or why you have to wait to shoot them, but the game still manages to maintain a certain kind of charm. Still, this is probably only going to appeal to those of us who actually grew up with these kinds of games. Anyone else may want to consider Wild West Guns instead.
Pub Darts is an interesting game because although not a bad idea in theory, there isn’t much reason to play it. This game gives you exactly what the title suggests: a game of darts in a pub. Alright, well, there are actually five games, but they don’t differ much; they are just different modes of the same thing. The five available games are 501, Cricket, Around The Clock, Killers, and Baseball. They are games that I am mostly unfamiliar with and they have interesting rules, but once I figured out what each game was about, all I wanted to do was go play with a real dartboard, which we have hanging up in our game room.
The game suffers greatly from a lack of detail and gameplay. The main menu is a section of a pub and you can navigate by clicking on different objects, which I found interesting. It is also the only portion of the game that has any music or a menu that is easy to navigate. Some of the character avatar designs are done well, but you won’t see much of them throughout the game, so don’t fret too much over which one you should choose. After playing for a little while, I had nearly forgotten which one I went with because the entire game is spent looking at a dartboard and a chalkboard.
The controls are questionable at best. At times, I was able to hit bullseyes and doubles without much effort; at other times, a seemingly straight throw would send the dart flying into the wall. The sensor can’t seem to decide how sensitive it wants to be. This may not be the game’s fault, however, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. It is worth noting that despite sensor issues, I found that I had the best throws when actually holding the Wii remote like a dart, although this is somewhat more difficult to pull off when having to hold and release the A button at the right time (think Wii Bowling).
One of the biggest problems with the game is that it is aimed at people who already know how to play darts. Each game has an explanation of what the objective is and how to achieve it, but it never once explains how to physically play, nor does it adequately explain the scoring system. Someone who has never played before should not expect to learn anything from this game. And for those who do know how to play and enjoy it enough to be interested in purchasing a Wii game based on it, there’s a pretty good chance that they have a real dartboard, and if not, they’re not very expensive. It also doesn’t act as a proper replacement for a second player because the computer’s AI is laughable. And there isn’t any sort of championship mode that will allow you to compete for some kind of award.
Pub Darts plays very much like a tutorial and perhaps it would have been a good idea to market it as such, but it would need more gameplay modes and improved sensor reading. Including a freeplay mode could at least help make this a decent party game. Sure, it’s probably not the kind of party I would want to attend, but it’s a clean way for people to have a bit of fun without having to worry about putting holes in the wall or each other. Pub Games isn’t necessarily a bad attempt—in fact, it can even be enjoyable at times—but it is somewhat boring and pointless. It is not at all a viable substitute for the real thing. You won’t be getting ripped off if you purchase this for 500 points, but for less money, you can head out to your local 99¢ Only Store (or whatever similar chain is in your area) and buy a real dartboard and darts. I have personally checked and they do indeed sell these items.
Heron Steam Machine
Remember the old game Pipe Dream? If not, then surely you can recall the pipe mini-game in Bioshock? Well, that is basically what Heron Steam Machine is. As is apparently the cool thing to do right now, this is yet another game based largely on an old classic. For the most part, it is actually able to hold its own, but at the same time, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table and it is greatly lacking in longevity. For those unfamiliar with this type of game, it is very simple. Basically, you have to create a path from one end to another by rotating pipe pieces within a grid in your favor. Once you have made the proper connection, that round is complete and the next one begins.
It is a fun concept that has been pulled off quite well. However, there isn’t much reason to play this instead of any other nearly-identical version. Aside from the humorous cutscene before the main menu, the game doesn’t do much of anything to add to the original concept. Using the Wii remote’s sensor controls is rather interesting, but I don’t see much reason to use anything aside from the default classic controls. That is the biggest change that has been made to the game idea. Even the multiplayer mode isn’t much of a change. It is rather unfortunate because after playing the exact same thing for several rounds, it is easy to grow bored. Adding a few different types of gameplay mode would have been a great improvement.
Despite the lack of ingenuity, Heron Steam Machine is still a fun game; I just wish it could have been somewhat more innovative and added more than a multiplayer mode and nice visuals. If you already have a similar game, there is no reason to purchase this one as well. However, if the concept is a new one for you, this is as good of a place to start as any, and the game really can be quite entertaining at times. Personally, I feel that this would work far better on the DS because there isn’t much reason to play for more than ten or twenty minutes at a time. Obviously, a pick-up-and-go game like this is certainly better suited for a handheld console. I can’t really recommend Heron Steam Machine unless you have never truly played this type of game before, but either way, it is at least worth the 500-point pricetag.
Fast Draw Showdown was developed and published by Digital Leisure.
Pub Darts was developed and published by Big Blue Bubble.
Heron Steam Machine was developed and published by Triangle Studios.
All titles were released for WiiWare in North America on 1/4/2010.