Review

Wreckateer Review (Xbox360)

Wreckateer is the latest Kinect title, vying for our attention and desperate to be taken seriously. All too frequently, it's easy to be cynical when the word Kinect is bandied around. Yet to reach its true potential, many a gamer has struggled to be taken in by the full body motion controls. Wreckateer aims itself at the casual market, misfiring in a few places but it is one of the better examples of Kinect gaming with some responsive controls. Even if that might not necessarily be something to boast about.

The most obvious influence to Wreckateer is the ridiculously popular and iconic Angry Birds series. While there are no birds to be seen here, players will be spending their time lining up shots carefully in order to knock down towers and take out goblins. The difference here is that everything is conducted with one's body rather than a touch screen or control pad.

Such wood based explosions should become quite commonplace while playing

It's an immediately family friendly title. While the tutorial is a little minimal and unexciting, it's pretty clear what's involved. Players use a ballista to fire at towers and goblins. Step towards the ballista then make a grabbing motion before stepping back to pull back and release. Raising or lowering hands controls whether the shot goes upwards or down, while moving one's body to the left or right affects the direction. It's a format that works well, providing you have plenty of space to utilise. Like so many other Kinect games, Wreckateer is reliant on a very large playing space. It's far from enjoyable to be squashed in a small space and, more often than not, just leads to failing the level spectacularly.

Much of this is down to Wreckateer's subtle nuances. It's not quite as brash as Angry Birds, for instance, with more opportunities for using after touch in the form of magic gauntlets. These gauntlets enable the player to wave to the left or right at the shot in motion, in order to direct it slowly in the relevant direction. It can make all the difference to success, as well as giving players more things to do while the shot is flying through the air. Later stages, in particular, require such manoeuvres as they turn into forms of physical puzzles.

Different types of shots are available such as the self explanatory bomb shots and speed shots, along with split shots in which numerous smaller balls come out of the main ball. Each of these are activated by putting one's arms out.

Who knows what the goblins ever did to deserve such suffering

There's a decent learning curve to everything, gradually introducing elements and ensuring it's easy enough to earn bronze but anything better can involve a lot of practice, just like any mobile based physics puzzler. Higher scores are best achieved by building up multipliers and collecting up other bonuses such as extra points or speed boosts. It all makes for a quite fun experience, one that should prove popular within the family, but also entice fans of score attack games. 60 levels in all makes for an eventually very challenging package, especially for those keen to pick up all the achievements, including one requiring all gold medals.

The problems lie in Wreckateer's slight soullessness. At first, the introductory characters are quite charming, but it's not long before it grates and you just want to skip ahead and focus on the task at hand. Despite appearances, there's no sign of the charm of a Fable game, for instance, and the medieval theme merely feels generic. It also slows down progression to the next stage, with this compounded by the fact that the shots themselves have little urgency about them.

Plenty of variety in terms of what to aim for

Much of the fun from Wreckateer also relies upon the enjoyment gained from Kinect, a common problem with any Kinect title. Wreckateer could have had controller functionality with controls lending themselves to the format and extending the appeal, but it hasn't. Instead, its appeal feels mostly geared towards the group scenario but with the awkwardness of sessions taking longer than a quick bash at Fruit Ninja and being less frantically entertaining than something like Kinect Sports.

Wreckateer is an interesting experiment and certainly one of the more accurate Kinect titles with clear and responsive controls (despite a large space requirement) but it forms an uneven experience. It's tough to know quite who it's aimed at. It'll be too slow paced for many casual gamers and children, and lacking in excitement for everyone else. While there's plenty of value for money here, I can't see many gamers playing it for long enough to get their money's worth.

Top Game Moment: Lining up a shot just right, adding a dash of aftertouch and watching towers plummet.

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