MadWorld • Page 2

Worn out faces.

The second way in which you accrue points is via Bloodbath Challenges, mini-games that interrupt each level at set score thresholds. These take the form of timed challenges in which you must, for example, throw as many enemies onto a giant dartboard as possible within 30 seconds, or knock zombie heads through rings in the sky using a golf club. The points you earn in these spot challenges are added to your overall total, so a high score here will shorten the amount of time before the level boss appears.

Boss battles switch between freeform fighting and structured quick-time event-style sections, in which you have to make controller gestures within short time periods. It's a game design crutch often frowned upon in Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games but, thanks to the gesture controls, it's sensible and compelling here. Your real-life movements mimic the action of, for example, unscrewing a bolt from a giant Frankenstein's head or throwing an eight-foot Nazi into a turbine, so what might feel dull and lifeless on the other consoles is engaging and relevant on this, adding weight to the argument that MadWorld could only really work on Nintendo's console.

The first few stages are a breeze. Enemies attack very little, instead acting more like tokens that must be inserted into the level's sideshow attractions for visual payoff. In this way, the game can at times feel like little more than a giant funfair ride, all spectacle over true substance. Indeed, the first playthrough is fuelled entirely by the delicious promise of what visual horrors are going to be serve up next: a voyeuristic hunger that apes the in-game television audience feel.

But soon enough the difficulty scales dramatically and by the time you reach the Austrian-themed Mad Castle area of the city, careful use of Jack's offensive abilities must be balanced with defensive actions if you're to have any hope of progressing. Bosses start to regenerate their health midway through battle and any bad habits you've picked up in shaking the controllers and hoping for the best (the Wii's version of button mashing?) must be exorcised and replaced with a more thoughtful approach.

Your performance graded on five levels from Routine Violence up to Ultra violence, aggregating your scores for general play and the spot challenges encountered along the way.

It's at this point that the game will lose a chunk of its audience, revealing as it does the unforgiving and orthodox Japanese systems that underpin the experience. Sink 30 minutes into earning enough points to tempt out the boss only to lose all of your lives to him and you'll have nothing to show for your investment: the game doesn't even record the futile time spent to your save file. The funfair ride turns into a precision sport and where any fuzziness in the controls went undetected before, now it stings and irritates. The lack of a block button becomes infuriating; dodging is your only evasive move and the unwieldy camera and ineffective sometimes-broken target lock-on mechanism threatens to ruin the entire experience.

For the skilled player, the heavy emphasis on score attack - your performance in each level is rated for kill efficiency - means that MadWorld is not so much about the destination as it is about the multiplier-winning journey. But even here, under prolonged scrutiny, the systems waver. You're free to summon a stage's boss at any point after you pass the score threshold, but you're also free to continue infighting right up to the time limit. This means that the game rewards those who slog at it, rather than those who are quick and effective, which makes the score-chasing unsatisfying hard work. Perseverance, then, is rewarded only in terms of the story and the set-pieces: over the long haul, the systems fail to deliver.

Still, as a piece of violent spectacle MadWorld is unrivalled. The creativity of PlatinumGames in providing ever more unlikely and delicious ways to kill and maim Jack's antagonists boggles and delights the mind at some deep, base level. And so, no matter how much the schoolboy-humour commentary grates, no matter how repetitive the bits in between the set-pieces start to feel and no matter how frustrating the later levels become, MadWorld provides a rush of blood to the head almost as often as it provides a rush of blood to the pavement.

7 /10

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About the author

Simon Parkin

Simon Parkin


Simon Parkin is an award-winning writer and journalist from England, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The Guardian and a variety of other publications.


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