WiiWare and Virtual Console Roundup

Potpourri, Midnight Bowling, Earthworm Jim, Shining Force II, Street Fighter II, Mayhem in Monsterland, Space Harrier.

Midnight Bowling

  • Developer: Gameloft
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 7.70 (approx)

Established mobile phone games publisher Gameloft has found a respectable niche on WiiWare. It's certainly one of the most prolific publishers on the system and between Block Breaker Deluxe, Wild West Guns and Midnight Pool has cornered the market in the sort of good-enough games that don't leave you feeling outrageously defiled by an impulse purchase.

That streak of mostly acceptable amusement, sadly, comes to an end with Midnight Bowling, an awkward and facile attempt to mimic the popularity of the Wii Sports rendition of ten-pin fun. Not that the existence of Wii Sports should preclude any other bowling games from gracing the system, but the fact that every Wii owner will have a perfectly enjoyable bowling game already does mean that subsequent efforts have to try that little bit harder to prove their worth.

In Party Mode, a Mario Party style board game based around wacky bowling challenges, Midnight Bowling almost has that edge, but it's undone by a clunky and often confusing control system that fails to satisfy the needs of dedicated bowlers or casual players alike.

Pressing the B trigger and swinging your arm is all you need to do to bowl. The game decides when to release, so all you're doing is setting the speed by your swing. However, for anything less than a full power wallop, the game has real trouble reading your intentions. A slow, methodical bowl confuses the game no end, with your bowler stuttering at the lane like a distracted penguin.

Even more ridiculous, the game relies on a barmy aftertouch system for the majority of its finesse. Once the ball is on the way, you can twist the remote to essentially steer the ball down the lane. You can't slalom left and right, but the fact that you can wait until the ball is right in front of the pins before making it veer sharply into the centre at an angle means that the perfect strike is easily achieved, once you master the timing.

It's a stupid idea, and one that pretty much breaks Midnight Bowling. It's too silly to work as a bowling sim, but it's also too open to unfair play to work as a fun multiplayer game.

4/10

Potpourri

  • Developer: Abstraction Games
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 6 / EUR 7.70 (approx)

How highly do you value originality? And what about challenge? Is that important to you? If you answered yes, then steer well clear of this bucolic puzzle game. It manages to feel like about twelve similar games, all at the same time, while being so phenomenally easy and uneventful that it might have been better packaged with a white plastic pillow and marketed as Wii Sleep.

pot

The whimsical story is that an evil wizard has done some evil to a magical forest, and the nice gnomes must put it right by matching different-coloured forest sprites, each of which represents a season. Clusters of seasonal sprites can then by eliminated by firing a sprite of the ensuing season into their midst. The larger the clusters, the bigger the score multiplier. Complicating matters very slightly is the fact that the sprites are floating in a circular pool - called the potpourri for no apparent reason. Should the sprites touch the side, they stop spinning. Leave them in this state for too long, and its game over.

That's basically it, and the game has such a languid pace that you can easily reach level 30 without breaking a sweat or even paying all that much attention. It calls to mind dozens of similar games in the Zuma/Luxor style, while also feeling derivative of Puzzle Bobble, Pop N' Pop and many more. There's a two-player mode, but that just leaves you with half as much to do.

With its classical soundtrack and pastel shades, Potpourri is certainly pleasant and undemanding gamers may find its soporific style quite charming. As a game demanding 800 of your valuable Wii Points, however, it's a rather slim offering.

5/10

Comments (80)

Comments for this article are now closed, but please feel free to continue chatting on the forum!