Typical: you wait all decade for a decent Wii game and three turn up at once. Titles like Little King's Story and Boom Blox: Bash Party are proving it's not just Nintendo who can produce decent games for the console. What's more, they don't all have to revolve around fitness, cooking or mini-games that are less fun than meningitis.
Now Codemasters wants to join the club with Overlord: Dark Legend. Like the original Overlord game, which appeared on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, it blends action and strategy with a fantasy theme and funny jokes. As the titular character you command an army of minions who help you complete quests, fight enemies, collect gold and explore new areas.
In the Wii version you play as a younger Overlord, living out his teenage years in Castle Gromgard. The gameplay is familiar right from the off - you get a horde of five basic brown minions to order about, "sweeping" them towards whatever it is you want them to do. As the game progresses the size of your horde increases, up to a maximum of 50.
Because this is a Wii game, the remote is used for sweeping instead of the right analogue stick. This works well - perhaps even better than the control system in the other Overlord titles. Pointing the reticule at what you want minions to fight, smash, collect or operate is instinctive, and there's never any confusion over what you're aiming at. It's easy to issue commands with the remote while simultaneously moving your character around with the nunchuk.
One unique feature is the ability to grab a minion by the throat, then throttle it by shaking the remote left and right. Release the minion at the right time to send it running off and it'll explode on impact with whatever's in the way. This is useful for logistical tasks like blowing up spiky fences blocking your path, but more to the point, it's great fun.
The minions do an excellent job of responding quickly to your instructions, collecting items automatically and keeping up as you move around. They also act intelligently and independently when it comes to combat. The red minions will stand back and lob their fireballs from a distance, for instance, leaving their brown chums to finish enemies off with melee skills.
There are two other types of minion in Dark Legend. Greens can't take as much damage as browns, but they can cause more and are extra agile. They can also cope with noxious gas and destroy poisonous paths, clearing new pathways for you. Blues aren't much good at combat but they can heal fallen minions and survive in water. Neither of these types were available to experiment with in the preview build, but the reds and browns are simple to command and swift to respond.
As in previous games the minions have real personality. They do a lot of enjoyable bowing, scraping and wisecracking. Best of all they like to wear hats, picking up sheep skulls, pumpkin shells and even the odd sombrero as they go along. The script is funny and the cut-scenes, which can be paused or skipped, move along at a healthy pace.
Which applies to Dark Legend generally; most objectives are easy to achieve, and it rarely takes more than a couple of attempts to get through the trickier set-pieces. Even boss battles aren't too taxing. Having said that, the preview code we played only let us try out the first couple of hours of the game. It's perfectly possible - likely, even - that things get harder later on.
One thing that's definitely easier is navigating your way around the game-world. A big complaint about Overlord for PC and Xbox 360 was about the absence of a mini-map. It was often difficult to work out where you were supposed to go next, or keep track of where you'd already been. This was remedied for the PS3 version, and there's a mini-map in Dark Legend too. It's got icons to highlight quest objectives, minion gates and teleporters, which proves very useful. Plus, unlike in the PS3 game, there's a bigger overview map you can call up via the pause menu.
What with the remote-based control system and new navigational tools, Overlord for Wii feels even smoother to play than the PC and previous console titles. As you'd expect, however, it doesn't look as good. The visuals are nowhere near as crisp or detailed and the frame-rate judders along from time to time. That said the animations for your character and the minions are excellent, and the environments are just fine in relative terms. This might not be the prettiest game you've ever seen, but it's one of the prettier titles that exist for the Wii.
The question is whether it will offer enough depth and challenge to appeal to older players. Having played just the first couple of hours, you can't help feeling a better title for Dark Legend would be Overlord Lite. You can rattle through quests, solve puzzles and defeat enemies without difficulty, using only the most basic of strategies when it comes to switching between brown and red minions. It's possible to pretty much ignore the spell-casting system (only three spells were available in the preview code, none of them very exciting or useful). You can also take or leave the forge, which allows you to create new weapons and armour. But these elements are likely to play more of the role as the game progresses and as the level of challenge ramps up.
Besides, perhaps Overlord games should feel a little easy; after all, you're supposed to be an all-powerful evil tyrant, one who has hordes of minion to do his dirty work. And there's great pleasure to be had in watching your loyal followers leap on a ninja while you stand back and watch, or hearing their cries of "For the master!" as they break open yet more treasure chests. If the finished version of Dark Legend turns out to have enough depth and a decent difficulty curve, Wii owners could have another reason to be cheerful.
Overlord: Dark Legend is due out for Wii on 26th June.