There has never been a game made for the Kinect that relied on the Kinect for its controls which has had a good control scheme. Even Dance Central gets around this by only having you match movements on screen. Now here we have Wreckateer, a poorly named Summer of Arcade entrant which tries to prove once and for all that you can in fact make a good game that relies on the Kinect for its controls.
Long ago in the land of Fardom, the local economy was supported by the urban renewal business. You, on your first day working at Wreck and Tinkers Destruction Company, are drafted into testing out some experimental balista shells. After showing some talent, you are given a promotion and begin to march your way across Fardom at the behest of your king, who informs you via letter that goblins have infested all of the castles in the land. Dreaming of riches beyond your wildest dreams you are given the task of doing all the shooting while the experts sit back and make comments. Sounds right to me.
Anyway, the story here is pretty basic, existing solely to move the game along from one castle to the next.
When I started downloading the game I couldn’t believe the size of it. There had to be a mistake. Nearly two gigs for a Xbox Live Arcade game? Well, having played the game to its completion I can say I still have no idea where all of that space went, but a good chunk of it probably went towards the voice work. Both Wreck and Tinker have numerous lines per level, and the King speaks every time you get a letter from him.
There are a few sound effects, but given the basic nature of the gameplay there isn’t a huge amount. The balista sounds like a shotgun blast every time you fire it. The castles you destroy all sound similar, and then there are the explosions. Nothing insulting, though the shotgun blast is really quite loud compared to everything else in the game.
And then we get to the songs. Think of a renaissance fair. There. That music. That’s the music that plays for most of the game. I don’t know what they could have replaced it with, but it’s not exactly on my iPod, let’s leave it at that.
Wreckateer is a nice change of pace from the games I’ve been playing lately. It is very colorful, and you aren’t stuck with just one kind of environment. The game isn’t hyper realistic looking, of course, but even a cartoony game like this one can start to look pretty bland and boring if the designers don’t put the effort in. Fortunately, here you are rewarded with explosions which are bright and filled with fireworks. It’s subtle, but the game would be less interesting if the destruction didn’t feel so rewarding.
The castles themselves range in shape and size, from tiny border outpost looking things to massive fortresses. The destruction is often total, but that’s a gameplay thing I’ll talk about in a few paragraphs.
The one big thing graphically that I suppose I ought to tell you about is the inclusion of Avatar Famestar. Basically, the game uses your Xbox Avatar as your character. You can unlock new outfits by doing things in the game such as killing so many goblins, etc.
So what can I tell you? The controls do not suck. They are actually quite viable here. It helps that you don’t have to constantly manipulate the environment. Instead you line up your shot and then let fly. After that you can interact with your shots up until a certain point (usually impact), but even here most of the controls work flawlessly. The gameplay might be pretty simple, but it works here.
It occurred to me pretty early on in the game that this is basically a 3D version of Angry Birds, minus the aviators and the swine. Like that game, you must destroy fortifications in order to get at your enemy. Only in this case you don’t really have to kill the goblins, just destroy the castles. Also like that game you are granted shells which can do different things when activated. They aren’t all based on the furious birds, but more than a few are. I won’t even name the shells, I’ll just tell you which birds to look forward to in the game. Red, obviously. Blue makes an appearance. Yellow shows up too. So does Black. There are a few shells which are wholly and uniquely Wreckateer shells. There is a shell that lets you fly around the stage before colliding with whatever target your heart desires. And there is a shell that has a short range but can be given a boost three times while in flight.
In addition to these shells you can also power up any shell you fire if a stage has a floating power up and you happen to hit it. These power ups are all based on the powers of your various shells, so you might get a boost icon that bumps your normal shell up in its flight to the target. You might also find a power up that sends your slow moving shell flying through the air at lightning speed.
Winning the game means scoring golds on all of the stages. You advance if you win a bronze, but to truly conquer the stage you need to score gold. And scoring gold is not always easy or even straightforward. Leaving a stage in ruins should do the job, you might think. In actuality getting a gold medal depends on getting your destruction meter up high enough to register in the 2X and 3X bonus ranges. The earlier you manage this, the better chance you have of grabbing a gold medal. That means you have to approach each level carefully, thinking what attack would score the most points for you early. And because you don’t get to chose which attacks you are going to use at any given time, you have to then consider what that shell happens to be good at. And the developers aren’t above setting traps for you either. Your attention may be caught by the shiny row of explosives right in front of you, but the score you may get for that would pale in comparison to what you could get if you hit the target off to your right.
Because you can guide your shots in midair there are some levels where you simply must curve your shots around buildings in order to get the best result. Figuring a level out like this makes for a really gratifying feeling when you at last get it, but it can be a little frustrating until you do. Fortunately as you kill goblins you earn mulligans to redo shots if you wish. This can save your skin if and when you screw up a shot on your way to earning a gold. It also rewards experimentation.
There is a multiplayer component to the game. Two players can compete with each other to score the best on a given level. Each of you has your own version of the same castle to destroy, and may the best artillery person win. Setting up the multiplayer can be a little confusing at first, but after getting into it things can be pleasant, but I wish the devs had done more for the multiplayer portion of the game.
As for the replayability of the single player, there are some 60 stages in the game. Each state has five castles for you to destroy, along with a bonus that is unlocked by achieving gold in the other five. As there are 10 states in the land of who cares, that gives you 60 levels to wreak havoc on.
I would have loved it if the developers had included some levels where the castles didn’t feel like they were made of paper mache. They don’t feel like castles, or if they do then you’re firing asteroids at them. Later on in the game there are some castles that have armor, but that armor is invincible and only there to make you work at getting the real targets behind it.
The game does a pretty decent job of increasing the difficulty level the farther into the game you go, so kudos for that. At the start of the game I was getting golds on my first attempt, but the deeper into the game I got the happier I was to be getting a bronze. I still don’t know the secrets to all of the levels. Some of them leave me mystified, but I’m OK with that. It just gives me something to keep working at later.
There can be no denying that this game is really a 3D interpretation of Angry Birds using the Kinect. True, they do try to differentiate themselves with some of the attacks and power ups. It’s also true that Rovio and the gang haven’t exactly made a 3D version of Angry Birds. But I’m guessing that when they do, it’ll look a lot like Wreckateer.
While the game doesn’t get it exactly right, I’d say they’ve done enough to keep me playing and wanting more levels. I’d just like it a little bit more though if I could maybe buy my own shots, or even select what order they appear in. I suspect these are limitations of the Kinect, though, so we’ll see.
Blowing things up appeals to something very primal, so naturally when I heard about a game that was going to let you destroy castles I paid attention. And while the castles may as well be made of playing cards, the destruction you cause is certainly satisfactory.
On more than a few occasions I had the game hang on me while the Xbox tried to calculate how much damage I had caused. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but either way it was very annoying. I actually lost my save once because the game crashed while saving, corrupting the file.
Sound: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Very Good
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: Above Average Game
Short Attention Span Summary:
A solid little puzzle game that proves you can have good controls using the Kinect. I hope they make another one. Give it a try if you have a Kinect. You might be pleasantly surprised.