Welcome to another installment of Wiikly WiiWare Wiiview. The games this week were WarMen Tactics, Art of Balance, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All. This week, we get to see the best of WiiWare and the worst of WiiWare, and you may be surprised to actually see which is which…
Wow. Whoever is in charge of advertising for this game is a liar. Yes, that is perhaps a bold statement on my part. I will even agree that my claim might be a little childish…but this person (or persons) is a liar, liar, pants on fire. And at the same time, they may very well be a marketing genius because they have managed to take WarMen Tactics and con gamers into thinking this will actually be a fun and exciting experience. Sure, that’s obviously what you want people to think when you’re trying to get them to buy something, but it really takes some balls to deceive consumers on such a level.
I am handling this review a bit differently than usual because I am rather upset with what has transpired here. Before this week, quite a few people had probably never heard of WarMen for the iPhone, myself included. If we had, we could have saved ourselves some grief. Unfortunately, that is not the case and as such, many people were duped recently by various screenshots and somewhat compelling trailer that portrays an action-packed third-person shooter that relies heavily on taking cover while blasting the living daylights out of your enemies, much like games such as Gears of War. Sure, it didn’t look pretty, but it looked like genuine fun.
Well, it is a third-person game and it does rely heavily on taking cover, and heck, you might even be able to argue that it is technically a shooter based solely on the fact that guns are involved. But that is where the accuracies of the game’s description stop. Right about now is where I might briefly describe the synopsis of WarMen Tactics, but I’m not going to because quite frankly, it’s not worth my time or yours. It is an insanely generic and unoriginal plot that is consistently dry, boring, and juvenile throughout the entirety of the game. Even the story in Fighting Force was more compelling than this.
Now, as for the game itself: you actually have no control over the protagonist’s movements whatsoever. You have some control over his actions, but you will never control where he goes. Instead, you get to press the A button and watch as he lumbers to his next location. Upon doing so, he will take cover—usually behind a wall or a crate—and wait for the enemies show up. This is where things really heat up. Amazingly, you can use the Wii remote to control a crosshair and point it at your enemies. When it turns red, simply press the B button and…wait for it…he fires a quick round off with his UZI. The enemy then falls over and sprays squares of blood and lucky you, you get to do the same thing to the next guy. Oh, I almost forgot: every few seconds or so—depending on your difficulty level—the enemy will fire a flurry of blue sparks at you.
Once an area is cleared of its two enemies or so, you get to press the A button and watch your character make his way to the next arbitrary location. Of course, I must admit that I would be lying to you if this is all you got to do. It’s very important to keep in mind that you can also reload your gun or crouch at your leisure, and when it’s time to blow something up, you can switch to a stinger missile launcher. I certainly hope other developers are taking notes. To add to the complexity of the control scheme, there is also a small HUD at the bottom of the screen where you can click on any of these actions if you ever forget which button to press. These are the “intuitive controls” that the developers are certain to point out in their operation manual.
Sadly, talking about this awful game is actually more enjoyable than playing it. Much to my relief, the game takes roughly 30 minutes to beat. After doing so, you can move on to the next difficulty, but it is a nearly identical experience. On harder settings, about the only differences I could spot is that there were a few more enemies, they sometimes took two or three shots, and they fired back with slightly more frequency. This is one of the laziest development jobs I have ever seen; the entire game spans across five levels. And if I recall, there are two different enemies: guys in plastic Stormtrooper costumes and fat alien-bug things. Some of them are different colors and some are dropped from helicopters—which magically fly through solid objects—but the variations are no indication of different difficulties, skills, or tactics. Regardless of appearance, they all pretty just stand there and wait for you to kill them. There is, however, one alien-bug thing at the end that requires you to shoot it with a missile. Of course, the game has no method of informing you of this, aside from snickering behind your back as you waste two minutes showering the alien-bug thing with an endless supply of bullets.
The developers claim that you will “feel the fast-paced action and get carried away by the plot” and that this is “pure unrefined fun”, which is so painfully untrue. I admit, for the first minute or two, despite being horribly disappointed, I found the concept intriguing. But then I realized that the pace never picked up and that this is essentially a rail shooter with many pit stops, a miniscule amount of opposition, and virtually no challenge. The only time I died was when I accidentally pressed A twice. Well, I certainly died a little on the inside, but I’ll save that for my therapist.
As far as I can tell, WarMen Tactics is a direct port of the iPhone version. The controls have been altered slightly for the Wii, of course, and the HUD looks slightly different, but it hasn’t been optimized for use on a television. So, imagine how fun it was for me to play an iPhone game that was blown up to fit a 50″ screen. This game is the sole reason why the Wii sees so little respect in the gaming community. Forget Wii Fit, forget My Ballet Studio, forget the vitality sensor…I place all blame and responsibility solely on WarMen Tactics and its developers (Calaris). All past, present, and future indiscretions are entirely their fault. I really try to not dictate what people should or shouldn’t buy, but I implore you: please don’t waste your money. It’s a complete rip-off.
Note: A score of 0/10 isn’t typical around here, but something like this doesn’t deserve a proper score.
Art of Balance
After sitting through WarMen Tactics, any game would have been a nice change of pace. Something to simply cleanse my palette was all I wanted, and Art of Balance did that and more. As I have mentioned in past WiiWare reviews, while many others often feel that the service is flooded with an overabundance of puzzle games, I gladly welcome them with open arms. They’re not all winners and a good handful aren’t particularly original, but even so, most of them are quite fun and I think many of them bring a certain level of quality to the console. Art of Balance has eagerly been added to my arsenal of examples of why puzzle games are indeed a good thing.
The entire point of this game is to simply balance blocks on precariously-shaped platforms without having any of them fall into the water below. Just pick up the blocks, one at a time, and rotate them and place them wherever you deem appropriate. Although it doesn’t sound terribly exciting, it provides loads of fun and can easily suck you in before you have a chance to realize it. And while you may not think it at first, this requires a fair amount of thinking and perhaps even a bit of physics comprehension in order to stack the blocks of various shapes in a way that won’t cause them to topple, slide, or wedge other blocks out of place.
The challenge doesn’t lie solely in the art of stacking, however. As you progress through the levels, you are also introduced to special kinds of blocks, such as ones that have a weight limit and can only hold a certain number of blocks on top of them before breaking. There are also timer blocks that start counting down once another block is placed on time. If you can’t finish before the timer reaches zero, the block will break and everything on top will come toppling down. And while speed is certainly important at times, nothing is more than important here than precision. Don’t think you can simply pile a bunch of blocks on top of each other and be done with it; the blocks have to actually stay out of the water for a certain amount of time, specified by a green counter that appears at the bottom of the screen when all blocks have been placed. The blocks do not, however, have to remain perfectly balanced. Even if they all topple, you will still progress as long as the counter completes before they hit the water. I personally took issue with this, but many may relieved with this in some of the later levels.
Placed intermittently throughout the levels—which are unlocked out of order for whatever reason—are special challenges that provide a nice change of pace to help keep things fresh. The hectic feeling of having to beat the clock while being precise adds a lot of fun and makes me wonder why a Time Attack mode wasn’t thrown in. Still, we at least have these fun challenges that require special accomplishments such as achieving a certain height or trying to balance on a teetering platform. The game spans over four “worlds” which you gradually unlock by acquiring enough of the rings that are awarded upon completion of each level. Normal levels award one, challenges award two, and ending bonus levels award three.
Over the four worlds, you will encounter a total of 100 levels, which really gives the game a chance to ramp up its difficulty over time and it does indeed get rather tricky in some of the later levels, but the difficulty increases at a near-perfect rate as you progress. Even those not particularly good at puzzlers can easily jump into this game and eventually conquer the harder levels. And if you’re feeling a bit lonely or having trouble with a particular level, you can simply bring in a friend to help you out, although you may find yourselves stepping on each other’s toes. For multiplayer fun, it’s best to stick to the Versus mode in which you and an opponent compete to see who can beat each level quickest. The winner is determined by the best out of 5, 7, or 9. Versus mode features the same levels from the singleplayer mode, but challenging a friend to a stacking competition is a blast.
Because the game can be rather enthralling, you may reach the end fairly quickly and find yourself clamoring for more. Finishing the game was rather bittersweet, but I find it hard to fault a game for being too fun. I was more than happy to start another game and begin playing the levels all over again. And I must say that this game looks fantastic. It easily one of the best-looking games available on the Wii, downloadable or otherwise. Some of the backgrounds can be a little busy, which may cause slight confusion on some levels, but I was rather impressed. Some people may be bothered by the lack of online leaderboards (or any online features), but I have never been one to see the point. Regardless of you feel about that, Art of Balance is easily one of the most enjoyable games available on WiiWare right now.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All
Just like the first Phoenix Wright game ported to WiiWare, Justice For All is basically a direct port of the handheld version. This would be fine, but just like last time, it isn’t properly optimized to fit a television screen and suffers somewhat from blocky images. The touch controls—which should easily translate to the Wii’s motion controls—are also largely missing, and while they aren’t necessary to enjoy the game, it certainly is nice to have the option available. After playing the DS version, a lot of this game feels stripped down.
For the most part, the game itself is almost as enjoyable as the previous one. The story is a bit lacking comparatively, but it is told in the same style that will be familiar to fans. And because the series tries to maintain a certain level of continuity, expect to see a few familiar faces. The gameplay mechanics are nearly identical to that of the previous installment, but there are a few minor changes here and there, such as the induction of the Psyche-Lock feature, which allows you to interrogate people during the investigation in order to get more accurate (and truthful) details from them. Also, the wrong-move counter has been replaced a status life bar that depletes depending on how off-track you are. Setting yourself on the right path of the investigation will help replenish the bar. These are fairly insignificant improvements, but they do help take the progression of the games in the right direction.
Perhaps the biggest improvement in the game is the increased difficulty level. While many of the hints aren’t necessary, they aren’t as blatantly obvious as in the first game. Aside from these changes, Justice For All doesn’t do much different, so people who enjoyed playing the first Phoenix Wright should enjoy playing this on about the same level. While the game isn’t worse than its predecessor, the lack of innovation or significant advancement provides little to be excited for. Another lazy Capcom port, this feels a bit more like Justice For All Lite and is meant more for newcomers who haven’t experienced what the Ace Attorney has to offer on the DS. Despite the $10 price tag, fans of the handheld versions will likely be left feeling somewhat disappointed.
WarMen Tactics was developed and published by Calaris.
Art of Balance was developed and published by Shin’en Multimedia.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All was developed and published by Capcom.
All titles were released for WiiWare in North America on 2/15/2010.