Made2Game Wreckateer Review Score: 3/10
Formats: Xbox 360
Developer: Iron Galaxy
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Reviewed by: James Bowden
There's this thing I hate in Angry Birds - a thing which I understand must exist from a design perspective to decrease clutter, but a thing I hate nonetheless – and that is the way bricks disintegrate after they take damage. I love watching things fall over, fact. I think it's something we as human beings can all agree on; watching a Jenga tower collapse, the temptation of introducing wind to a friend's house of cards, N64 explosion simulator Blast Corps - seeing numerous objects stand firm one minute and then – TIMBER! - lose all stability and collapse the next is a priceless joy.
This is a joy that translates to video-games perfectly. Messing around with physics objects in a space disconnected from our plane of cause and consequence is a childish delight and the environments of video games allows us to experience this on a scale we could never realistically get away with. Certainly not a scale attainable with a bucket of Lego and my lounge anyway. Unfortunately Angry Birds is currently the poster avian for video game destruction, and double unfortunately Wreckateer is barely more than 3D Angry Birds. There's not much more to it than that.
Actually there's less to it than that, you don't have to even eliminate the green Goblins that are inhabiting the buildings here. Just cause destruction, get a medal and move on. Less aggravating, sure, but also much less purposeful.
Wreckateer puts you in a control of a very large catapult from which numerous damage causing orbs are thrown and, being a Kinect exclusive experience, the whole thing is operated by your motions. Step forward, extend arms, wiggle left and right or up and down to adjust aim, step back and release – simple stuff.
And destruction is fun, to an extent, with the cannonballs taking on a number of guises from explosive bombs to multi-orb scattershots and even controllable aircraft. Then the game does that silly Angry Birds thing of having the bits of building disintegrate after they've been dislodged, ruininf half the fun in the process. Arenas should end with a scene strewn with physics destruction, but instead it's all a bit 'meh'.
Combine this unsatisfactory destruction with the game's equally limiting setup and it just gets worse. Again like Angry Birds a level's cannonballs are lined up at the start, and you have no control over what order you launch them towards the current level's masonry. Had Wreckateer let you say 'now I shall use the bomb. Right, next the scattershot', then the levels would have held far more replayable interest then they do.
It's not all bad mind. Developers Iron Galaxy should be commended for seemingly taming the Kinect, for one. Minor menu quibbles aside the act of pulling your catapult back and controlling your balls (ahem) is nice and responsive. I never failed a launch due to the device; a feat that has me spontaneously nodding in approval - well done Iron Galaxy. There's even a one off challenge levels that asks you to fly, precisely, through an obstacle course using arms outstretched as rudders, which was easy to control and hassle free.
Yet praise for Wreckateer will always be fleeting as it ignores the glaringly obvious issue that Wreckateer has – it's imaginatively bereft. What we have here is a 3D Angry Birds clone made to order for a casual crowd. A sure fire hit. The fact its controls work is neither here nor there when it feels like a product of men in suits pointing at market research flipcharts, quoting figures and dropping mundane anecdotes about how 'my wife needs to lose weight and all my daughter plays is Angry Birds'.
The biggest smack in the face for me was witnessing the game actively awarding a points bonus for repeating a throw. I send a ball flying, it was a bad shot, so I mulliganed the action to take another crack at the shot - I was awarded bonus points. That alone should be enough to see Wreckateer slammed in the stocks and heckled until death. The game mollycoddles the player with arbitrary point bonuses from everywhere, coming across condescending as a result. Points bonus' should be earned, not achieved through failure. Someone can feasibly beat a friend's score simply by using a Mulligan on each shot of a level as it's a free, effortless 20,000 point bonus on every shot. So if you've got a 3x multiplier going on for breaking a lot of rock that's an extra 60,000 points added to a shot for doing nothing. Brain hurtingly abhorrent design.
BoomBlox did this all right in 2008 and on simpler tech. Watch as you break and pull apart a tower in that game, seeing bits and pieces topple and roll, it's a destruction based delight. Wreckateer doesn't do this. Wreckateer doesn't understand the true joy of knocking over a building and revelling in the aftermath, and because of this the game becomes largely monotonous before too long. But it's not Wreckateer that doesn't understand the fun of destruction, it's Angry Birds, and as Wreckateer's castles fizzle ato ash like thousand year old museum relics it only serves to highlight how closely it has been designed around the currently hot Angry Birds template, and serves only to highlight how Wreckateer hasn't been able to find its own fun core outside of its constraints as a dull product of marketing and popularity.
words by James Bowden (Twitter: @Dalagonash)