GAME NAME: Wreckateer
DEVELOPER(S): Iron Galaxy Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
RELEASE DATE(S): 25/07/12
I’ve never been quite as Kinect-phobic as most people. Microsoft’s new baby never did much to wrong me and I’ve always assumed that a game would come along and really justify its existence. Sadly, no such game has come along and we’re left with half-baked ideas and mini-game compilations leaving Kinect resigned to the living room of many family homes. Booting up Wreckateer I was curious to see if it would change my opinions in any meaningful way. Perhaps this quaint Summer of Arcade title would prove to me that Kinect is a must have accessory? As expected, my curiosity made way for excessive frustration and boredom.
Wreckateer begins with the player, referred to as a rock polisher, smashing up some beginner castles in a tutorial that fires up as soon as you jump past the title screen. It’s a nice, immediate start that throws you into the game without getting bogged down with controls screens or various other barriers of entry, it seemed like an extension of the Kinect’s “message”. Past the tutorial and the game started to show the first of many warts: The completely irritating concept of having to pull back, aim and then fire each of your various types of shots. It simply is zero fun to make these shots go exactly where you want them to go. Moving forward to grasp the shot is fine, but pulling back whilst also having to aim proves a task that Kinect cannot quite comprehend unless your play space is both huge and barren. The final gesture that allows the shot to leave the Ballista involves the player throwing both arms up as if praising the sun, this proves problematic due to the movement having to be performed at a specific speed or the shot may simply be moved to a different spot. When you finally get your regular shot moving, there is the option to paw wildly at the screen hoping for it to change direction. Attempting this generally negatively effects your shot as it is incredibly easy for your hand to drift back over the shot whilst you try to realign yourself, completely negating any good you did before.
The general rule for most shot types in Wreckateer is that trying to control them leads to complete disaster and annoyance, most quite simply being too complex a system for such a flawed control scheme which rings true for the entire game. As complexity in each of the 10 world’s levels ramps up, the more infuriated you become with the control system as you pine for more precise controls before eventually throwing down your arms and accepting yet another Bronze medal so as you never have to see that level again, which will occur more than once. A key flaw is the completely linear progression, as hitting a (literal) brick wall in one of the latter levels will either bore you to tears, as you bludgeon and swear until you finally get Bronze, or you’ll simply give up. For an arcade game based around scoring a high amount of points, being stuck on a level really kills any sense of momentum through the game, so it would be a much better system if upon opening each world you had free reign to complete the 5 levels in whichever order you want.
The entire presentation is glossed over with a sugary sweet, non-threatening atmosphere that leaves a world which feels like it is attempting some semblance of charm but creates nothing but vapid, chunky characters that spout meaningless nonsense. The music accompanying most levels follows the same style by being soulless and chirpy; inoffensive music overall but can grate especially when retrying a level that is causing some major problems.
The multiplayer aspect allows for all main campaign levels to be played locally with a friend, which proves to be good fun despite being terribly shallow. The levels are identical in every possible way so for the player who has ploughed through the campaign it’s far from a challenge to beat the other player. Strategies that were honed in the single player can simply be mimicked in these levels, leaving one player to sit confused as the other storms to victory. Honestly, the most fun that I gleamed from this mode was thrusting myself in the way of the Kinect sensor during my opponents shots and toppling into them causing mass carnage off screen whilst ensuring their shot hits way off target.
Without Kinect, Wreckateer would be a throwaway title that might amuse for a few hours. With Kinect, however, it becomes even more worthless as it obscures any positives that may redeem it. There is a wealth of content in the single player campaign but why put yourself through such agonising irritation that simply comes with natural progression of the game? Genuinely enjoyable moments, such as the child-like pleasure of extending your arms to control the fly shot or finally nailing a perfect lift shot as if you were skimming a stone in a lake, are buried beneath deeply flawed controls and tedious progression. The main problem that continually rears its head during Wreckateer is the feeling that Kinect never quite gives you the control you really need to achieve high scores, grating on the player instead of empowering them and always failing just when you need them most. Wreckateer isn’t a complete trainwreck, it has some glimpses of intrigue here and there, but it ultimately feels like a waste of time.
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