6. WiiWare FPS Showdown - Overturn: Mecha Wars vs. Water Warfare
- Developers: Studiozan/Gamebridge (Overturn), Hudson (Water Warfare)
- Overturn gallery, Water Warfare gallery
I can't judge Mecha Wars, because I was forced to play it on a balance board, while a woman trained a video camera directly on my body mass index. All I can say is that the board worked surprisingly well as a movement controller, but that doesn't mean it's going to revolutionise the way we play FPS games.
Instead, I'll talk about Water Warfare, the game that's bringing murder to children, via the precious and wonderful gift of analogy. It helped Orwell get around the censors with Animal Farm, and now, legions of protective parents will be instantly disarmed by the primary colours, the replacement of death with "wetness", and health packs with "towels".
Sure, the naming of the weapons could have been a bit more imaginative to preserve the illusion - "Water Machine Gun" is like standing in a plant pot and pretending to be invisible. That said, this eight-person multiplayer FPS (with two players able to share a split screen) is instantly fun. The maps are randomly generated across four themes, and power-ups are from the Mario Kart Universe, including invuln raincoats, rollerskate speed boosts, and banana skins.
You're not bound to those ridiculous Friend codes, and all the classic multiplayer modes are here. Two kinds of Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Checkpoint Race, and Base Defence. For anyone who'd rather delay the epiphany that humans are innately capable of bottomless atrocity, Water Warfare will paint the sky blue for a little bit longer.
5. Swords & Soldiers
- Developer: Ronimo Games
- Screenshot gallery
There's something beautiful about Vikings. As I understand it, they invaded our lands and tickled us all and said, "is that a smile" until we said, "oh OK then, you win". Ronimo Games has a similar idea, ish. Vikings are just looking for the ultimate barbeque sauce, which they think is probably something to do with the massive pepper the evil vegetarian Aztecs are growing. So they initiate a 2D war, which eventually involves another secret aggressor, who end up feeding the pepper to some dog, who turns into a dragon. Tell me about it, yeah? Happened to me twice already today, and I've only just got up.
Swords & Soldiers has already been announced and reported - the basic gameplay of resource-collection, unit production and divine intervention was finished in October - but since then, they've been adding storyline and extra play modes to pad out what might have been a slender experience. Single-player missions and skirmishes, arcade-style challenges, and survival modes all feel like they inflate the game world and help it float, rather than gluing objects to the game world, and popping it. There's another inappropriate balloon analogy later, so keep reading!
Complete 25 achievements, and you'll get a special code, and Ronimo's designer Fabian Akker cheerfully admits they haven't got a clue what that code will do, yet. "We'd like to do something nice, though. Maybe send it to us, and we'll give the first ten we receive something nice." It's that loveable can-do disorganisation that makes Ronimo so adorable, and Swords & Soldiers would have been higher on the list if I hadn't been trounced so casually by Akker. Like I said: my list. I do what I like.
- Developer: Exkee
- Screenshot gallery
If Spaceball: Revolution was a pleasant surprise, Colorz was a titillating shock. It doesn't look like much to watch someone else play - it seems absurdly easy. The concept is uncomplicated - control a red guy with the pointy wand, and the green guy with the nunchuk thumb-stick. Guide them into the microbes of the same colour, and they'll pop. Running at a sedate pace, with bold primary colours and chunky graphics, I was hardly watching Ikaruga.
But it's not easy. Controlling two cursors - one with a thumb-stick, one with the sensor bar - is like rubbing your stomach and patting your head. You end up patting both, or just waving your arms around like this guy, which in this context kills you.
There are twenty solo levels, grouped into four sets of five. On the first, you have just one ship, which gives the game a chance to be a straight-up speed run. From two to four, you're playing with two ships, as described above. By the fifth chapter of each level, you're controlling three, albeit two at a time. And to add to the stress, you have to combine ships to destroy microbes of secondary colour, and combine all three ships to break white microbes.
If the single-player is surprisingly relaxing, stressful, and compulsive (with plenty of scope to go back and grind a better score), the multiplayer is fantastic. The tension and pleasure of co-dependant co-op in such a simple environment is completely unexpected. A shared life pool means some recrimination for mistakes, but shared control of the merged vessel is an argument-causing stroke of genius. The ship moves in a mathematical average of your combined efforts - it's like Crowd Control Pong, but with someone to point at, blame, and tell to get out of your house.
3. Bonsai Barber
- Developer: Zoonami
- Screenshot gallery
It's odd, talking to the man who "did" GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, and being too full of snot, sneezes and headache to be able to say, "oh hey, you're amazing, put your foot in my hands and I'll help you do a backflip". The oddness becomes slightly stifling when he asks you to cut the hair of a gurning carrot.
The premise is straightforward. I point and rotate the controller, and snip around the carrot's bush, all the time looking at his face to see if he's happy. Snip too far, and you can regrow the leaves with the water spray. The game's not out to trap you - you're never without an undo. Paint the hair if you like, take a photo, pop it on an SD card, and bang the gong when you're done.
Martin Hollis means it. In Bonsai Barber, you move into a village and give the twelve fruits and vegetables of a local town haircuts. When I ask if the idea is for you to build a professional and personal relationship with those saucy cherry twins, I'm not sure if I'm joking. But Hollis means it like hell. That's exactly what the idea is.
To help you get closer to them, there's a lot of distinct personalities. With "a lot of text" behind each character, you'll probably find yourself going back to see what they're going to say, as much as cut their hair to get the five star award. To keep it fresh - or to stop you wearing the game out too quickly - the game limits you to five haircuts a day. "It's like when you sit and watch too many episodes of Friends in one go. It stops being funny," explains Hollis. He should have a word with E4.
Bonsai Barber will prove itself over time - but for the moment, I'm not reviewing it, and I'm more than happy to give it the benefit of the doubt, and number three on my logic-free number parade.