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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Review

The Laser's Wii Bargain Bin (Part One)

Finding a decent title amongst the flood of cheap Wii games can be a daunting task, but we at the Laser are slogging through to find the gems hidden in the shovelware and point out the bombs you need to avoid. For our first installment, we take a look at several different titles including NitroBike, Ocean Commander and The Monkey King plus, we warn you about Championship Foosball, which is one Wii title youíll probably not want to play regardless of how cheap you find it on the shelves.


The Monkey King (UFO Games)


Weíve seen this title available for an absurdly low price under $10.00 in many stores, which is a shame because aside from its relatively short length, this is a fun vertically scrolling shooter with a cool Wii twist. The game plays like many shooters as your main character moves around the sceen, shooting a variety of enemies. Itís not particularly innovative here, though the occasional power-ups and health boosts make it somewhat easy to play through in a single sitting. The Monkey Kingís shops which appear from time to time make for an interesting power-up system that reminds you of Segaís classic Fantasy Zone. Monkey Kingís eastern-influenced levels and enemies give it a cool Japanese flavor which is enhanced by its soundtrack. The gameís play is fairly standard with one exception. Utilizing the Wiimoteís tilting abilities allows you to tilt the screen, making you go faster or slower. Itís a pretty cool idea that bridges the classic shmup play mechanics with the modern Wii technology to present a unique experience. You donít really need to use this strategically for the most part, but itís a fun change of pace. Its sort of gimmicky, and its disappointing that when it comes time for boss encounters, its not used at all, making the game play like a traditional shooter. Unfortunately, as stated earlier thereís a limited number of levels in the game, which means the fun is over all too quickly. Graphically, the gameís 2D appearance and simple visuals recall 16-bit era shooters, which makes it a pleasant throwback for older gamers. Unfortunately, the gameís presentation is also old-school, as it lacks support for widescreen display. Still, itís a fun shooter title that should please fans of the genre, effectively bridging traditional play mechanics with some modern Wii controls.   Grade: C+

Ocean Commander (Valcon Games)

This is another different take on the classic shooter genre, which should appeal to the same gamers who enjoy this style of play. Ocean Commander has you in control of a futuristic submarine with advanced targeting abilities. On the surface, it plays like traditional shooters, but go a little deeper and youíll find more interesting gameplay mechanics submerged. You can use either the nunchuck to steer your ship around, or use the wiimote alone. Firing your weapons and special shots is a fairly simple task and the waves of enemies come at you in predictable, if enjoyable patterns. Making this unique is the fact that you need to point the wiimote at the screen itself to shoot down enemies in the targeting cross-hairs. Itís a bit confusing initially, especially in some of the boss battles where it isnít clear where to shoot. There are two configurations available for the controls, and they both take some practice to get used to. However, once you get the hang of things, youíll find that Ocean Commander offers smooth-flowing gameplay. The game allows you to purchase power-ups between levels, gradually increasing your shipís weapons and defenses as you progress through the levels. Visually, the game looks good with decent animation and nicely rendered backgrounds, accompanied by decent techno music. Itís not a bad game, but the novelty wears off quickly, making the levels feel repetitive quickly. Overall, this release is a fun and slightly innovative underground shooter, that might appeal to shooter fans. Unfortunately, but the slow pace of its initial levels and somewhat wonky controls detract from what could have been a much better game. 
Grade: C

NitroBike (Ubisoft)

The Wii console is definitely not lacking for racers and its probably difficult for most games in this genre to offer something unique. While itís graphics arenít as polished as youíd like, NitroBike is surprisingly fun if youíre expectations arenít too high. The gameplay mechanics are accessible and simple to understand. You tilt the Wii-mote to steer and have to navigate through a series of tricky courses and finish ahead of the other bike riders. The twist here is that your Bike is equipped with Nitro, which gives you a speed boost temporarily. However, this can only be used sporadically, otherwise youíll over-heat and the bike will explode. You only have a limited amount of boost, but you can earn more by performing tricks. The gameís structure is easy to understand, and you have to play through the career mode in order to unlock additional items, courses, bikes and characters. The gameplay is fairly easy to learn, but the courses themselves are large and elaborate with tricky corners and occasionally deceptive layouts. This adds to the challenge, giving NitroBike a surprising amount of depth. Itís easy-to-learn controls and arcade-style racing make this a surprisingly easy to play game thatís appealing for both quick pick up sessions and longer career modes. NitroBike plays like a scaled-back version of MotorStorm, but thatís not an entirely bad things. NitroBikeís tilt-steering controls are responsive and its course designs offer varied terrain and more. It lacks the polish of Nintendoís own ExciteTruck from the launch window, but it still delivers some action-packed and exciting racing action thatís worth checking out if you can find it cheap. Grade: C+

Championship Foosball (505 Games)


Those who enjoy this casual sports/action game in real life are bound to be frustrated by this poorly-designed titleís non-intuitive controls, ugly graphics and unimpressive physics. Championship Foosball supports up to four players and includes multiple tables to play on, though it doesnít seem to make much difference once you get into Championship Foosballís gameplay itself, which gets dull quickly.There are different rules, such as number of goals to win or timed matches. These arenít enough to really make much of a difference, since the gameís problems are immediately apparent the moment you hold the controller. You control the action using the wii-mote to point at the bars and spin them around, while the nunchuck is used to move the characters. It takes some practice, but once you get used to it, youíll find this to be an aggravating game. Having to point with one hand, and spin with the other requires more hand-eye coordination that its worth. This awkward interface makes for a frustrating game where you have to struggle to keep up with the action. Add in static visuals, minimalist sound effects, a decidedly dull presentation and simplistic, predictable AI for an unappealing release. Itís limited selection of game modes and options make for a title that offers very little challenge and even less replay value. Additionally, EA has already included a vastly superior Foosball simulation as a bonus in this yearís FIFA 09, making this title both sub-par and redundant. This is one of those knock-off cheap games where you definitely get what you pay for. Grade: D-


- Michael Palisano

Grade: C-

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