As cool as the technology behind Kinect really is, the peripheral has failed to live up to its promise of providing us all a new way to play. Unfortunately, Kinect is inherently restricted in the options it provides the players, and thus, most games designed around it have been shallow, forgettable experiences, with very few exceptions. Kinect, one could say, is one of Microsoft’s rare missteps this console generation, albeit a very financially successful one.
On the other hand, we have the Xbox Live Arcade, Microsoft’s attempt to deliver on a digital storefront for some of the quirkier, riskier projects that would never find any backing at retail, long before Apple ever hit the scene with the App Store, has been a stupendous success, and unlike Kinect, the benefits of its success could be enjoyed by everybody, including by players.
It is kind of fitting, then, that the next Kinect game to utilize the control scheme in any meaningful way would also be an XBLA game. Wreckateer is exactly that. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it isn’t the best game on either XBLA or Kinect, but it still is a fin distraction that is wholeheartedly recommended to everyone, if only for how well it builds on its premise.
As a game, Wreckateer is about channeling those destructive desires that had us wrecking our siblings’ intricately crafted Lego cities when we were young. The entire game is about wanton destruction, havoc wreaked by using well aimed projectiles to build down massive structures. It resembles Angry Birds a little bit, especially in how it uses score maximization to keep players returning for repeated attempts at the same puzzle, but the satisfaction gained from seeing castles crumble into dust is much more satisfying on a purely primal level.
Wreckateer uses the Kinect’s controls to its advantage. You mimic the pulling back of your ballista shots with the Kinect, with the game’s expressive graphics and sound design (which involves creaking and tautening) providing for some good feedback o whether you might have overpowered your shot. The map is highlighted to let you know the general range of your shot, and all said and done, the Kinect remains, uncharacteristically, very accurate and responsive. Once your shot has been launched, you have the ability to marginally control where it goes by nudging it sideways.
The entire experience is surprisingly tactile, which is surprising considering the whole ‘no controls’ mantra that Kinect insists on touting. Although you don’t quite have a ballista straining against your arm muscles, on the whole, the fidelity of the controls, coupled with the great graphics and animations, and the on cue sounds, actually manage to immerse you more in the experience. It’s a kind of immersion that couldn’t have been achieved on a regular controller, and in that sense, it’s a first, being a regular game as it is that is actually genuinely enhanced by Kinect.
Wreckateer relies on score maximization in order to ensure the player keeps returning. Generally, there are all manner of power ups and the like peppered all over the course, that amplify your score. There are dynamites and the like, that enhance your destructive power and make your explosions that much more spectacular; goblins that, if you take down, add to your score significantly; there are all manner of power ups that significantly enhance your score, which means that not only do you have to plot your shot well in advance and well, but also control your shot, once fired, well.
It all adds a surprising amount of depth to what is otherwise a very simple and basic premise of gameplay, and the depth is only augmented by other thoughtful features, such as different kinds of shots, each of which have their own specific strengths and weaknesses, which means choosing one is always a tradeoff. You’ll probably eventually have your favorite, but everybody will have different favorites, and for different reasons.
All in all, then, Wreckateer remains a satisfying purchase, and at its current price point, it is very easy to recommend. It’s not the best game in the world, not in any of the categories that it represents, but it is a fun game, and ultimately, that is what matters.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Fun, satisfying, and surprisingly deep; utilizes Kinect well; addictive; cheap; tactile
It nay get repetitive after a while
Fun, addictive, and surprisingly deep, there's no reason to not get Wreckateer, especially at its current price.
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