Microsoft’s annual Summer of Live Arcade promotion is well under way. It began with the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD last week, and this week’s release features a Kinect title – Wreckateer. Now, I’ve never made any secret of my general distaste for Kinect and motion controlled gaming in general, but it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf, right?
I’ll begin by coming out and just saying this straight up because it’s the simplest way to explain Wreckateer’s gameplay – this game is Angry Birds in 3D. You use a ballista to launch various types of shots at castles and goblins to see how much you can destroy before you run out of shots. Unlike Angry Birds, however, you don’t need to finish off every goblin in a level to win – you just have to destroy enough to reach at least a bronze medal.
Of course, using an entirely different control schemer, Wrecketeer definitely differs from Angry Birds in a number of ways. To fire a shot, you put your hands together out in front of you in a grabbing motion to take hold of the ballista, then take a step back to load your shot. To release the shot, you spread your arms out. You can also put spin on a shot to influence the direction it travels by waving at it. The controls are actually pretty responsive for a Kinect game and you won’t notice a ton of latency.
You’ve got five different types of shots to use throughout the game, each with its own set of post-launch controls. First you’ve got your basic shot which has no special properties. The bomb shot is similarly self explanatory, but you can blow it up before it actually hits something by raising your arms above your head. The speed shot, meanwhile, acts like a bullet when you activate it, flying fast and straight, and capable of hitting targets at longer range than most other shots. The split shot can break up into four pieces ideal for taking out multiple structures. The flying shot sprouts wings and allows you to control it manually by spreading your arms out and tilting around like you’re pretending to be an airplane. Finally, the lift shot allows you to bounce it three times in mid-air to allow for greater distance.
Here’s where the problems begin to set in. There are 60 levels in Wreckateer – all of them stylistically boring. Basically it comes down to “sometimes there is snow, and sometimes there isn’t”. So even though the game only clocks in at around four hours, you’ll probably feel like it drags because every level, every castle you’re tasked with destroying, looks almost exactly the same. A bit of variety here might have gone a long way indeed.
Another issue has to do with the depth perception. What I mean is, it’s very difficult to tell where your shot is actually going to land and what effect your spin is having on it. There were times when it looked like my shot was flying too high, so I started to wave it downward only to have it fall far short of the intended target. I’m not a big advocate for gaming in 3D, but something like that might have actually been useful in Wreckateer. I honestly don’t know how else they could have remedied this, short of making the game 2D. The result is a frustrating amount of trial and error for a game that is otherwise incredibly easy.
Another issue isn’t so much with Wreckateer, but with Kinect itself. Microsoft has spent so much time and money trying to convince us that gaming is “better with Kinect”, that controller-less motion control is easy and intuitive. But let’s not mince words here – it isn’t. The game is like one giant tutorial – constantly interrupting gameplay to teach you things that would be obvious were you simply using a controller. Even once you’re deep into the game, you’ll still be interrupted to have things explained to you. I actually felt a little insulted by it.
But then it hit me. As I stood there, in physical pain from a prolonged play session, wondering why this game hurt so much to play, it hit me – this is a game for kids, not adults. The general simplicity and ease, the bad humor, and the pain in my joints were all signs that the intended audience for this game is much younger than myself. This is the only logical conclusion I can come to when I factor in the game’s repeated interruptions to remind the player of how to do things, or to explain mechanics that were readily apparent to begin with long after you’ve discovered them.
Wreckateer is not a bad game. In fact, it’s actually pretty solid as Kinect games go. It just simply is not for me, or anyone over the age of 10 for that matter. Some games that are rated “E For Everyone” really are for everyone – they offer things that will appeal to all ages. Wreckateer is just for kids, and if we had any children on staff here at Piki Geek, I might have had one of them review it instead. God I’m old.
Wreckateer was released on July 25th, 2012 for Xbox Live Arcade.