Wreckateer Review

By Adam Rosenberg - Posted Jul 23, 2012

Wreckateer nails what Kinect play ought to be. You feel utterly ridiculous flapping your arms around, but it's fun rather than frustrating. It would be easy enough to sit down and plot out gamepad-based controls for most of what you can do in the game, but it's unnecessary. The entertainment value in Wreckateer hinges entirely on Kinect by design, and it's a better game as a result.

The Pros
  • Perfect use of the Kinect
  • Silly-fun gameplay
  • It's Angry Birds in 3D
The Cons
  • Aiming controls are a little unreliable
  • Could use a steeper challenge

Wreckateer Review:

There's nothing worse than a goblin infestation. You can't simply storm the castle and behead the lot of them. They'll always come creeping back. Much like cockroaches, for every goblin you can see, there are at least 10 others that you can't. They're like the medieval fantasy equivalent of bedbugs, and the only reliable way to rid yourself of them completely involves reducing whatever structure they're calling home into rubble. That's the premise of the second Xbox Live Summer of Arcade title, Iron Galaxy Studios' Wreckateer.

 

 

Crushing The Castles

Imagine playing Angry Birds in a medieval setting, with the slingshot replaced by a siege weapon and the pig-filled sticks and stones targets replaced by goblin-filled castles. Okay, fine: you'd have Crush the Castle, the 2D forerunner to Rovio's mobile hit. It's true that Wreckateer more closely resembles the older Flash game, though the 2D look is replaced by a 3D perspective that gives you a shot's-eye-view on the action.

The premise is pretty simple. Each of the 60 maps features a castle for you to chip away at using a pre-selected assortment of shot types. There are six shots in the game in all, from basic cannonball-like spheres to more out-there concepts, like Lift Shots that can bounce multiple times in mid-air before falling to the ground and Flying Shots that you can take direct control of. In all cases, you can adjust the course that your shot is flying along in mid-air by literally swiping at it.

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Let's back up: Wreckateer is a Kinect-required game. Everything is controlled with your hand and body movements, from the in-game menus to aiming and launching attacks. Once you've got a shot in the air, you use your hands -- realized on the screen as a pair of gauntlets -- to swipe over the launched sphere in the direction that you want to move it. You can also activate any of the shot's special abilities by throwing both hands above your head.

Aiming is similarly Kinect-controlled. To start with, you step forward and put both hands in front of you, as if you're grabbing the in-game trebuchet's bowstring and arming it with a shot. You then step back to pull the bowstring taut, moving your body left and right to adjust the horizontal aim and raising/lowering your arms together to tweak the vertical aim. To release the shot, you throw both arms out to your sides in one quick motion.

Basic shots are the simplest; you take aim before release and maybe apply a little bit of English in mid-air to tweak the final destination. The more specialized shots bring additional motion controls into the mix. For some, such as the Bomb Shot, it's all about timing; you won't want to throw up both arms to "activate" it until you can cause the most damage with your explosion. On the other hand, it's best to activate a Flying Shot as soon as possible, since you can raise/lower your arms and lean left/right to take full control of it in flight.

Wreckateer

It's immensely satisfying to see the grand stone structures crumble beneath your assault. The physics are right, or at least they're right enough to create a convincing spectacle. The art design is very nice as well, with a cartoony aesthetic that -- in the case of the goblins especially -- will remind many of Orcs Must Die.

You're always shooting for higher scores in the game's 60 levels, so replay value comes from aiming to create bigger chain reactions and hit floating bonus rewards. It never gets particularly challenging, however. Too many of the levels feel as though they were designed to highlight a specific shot type or power-up gimmick, and it's really not until roughly halfway through that you feel like the training wheels have come off.

Apart from the campaign, Wreckateer includes a local hot-seat multiplayer mode that allows you to go head-to-head with friends on any of the game's levels, regardless of whether or not you've unlocked them. It's also one of the first games to support Avatar Famestar, with an associated list of simple challenges accessible from the main menu.

Wreckateer

Knockdown Fun

Iron Galaxy leans heavily on a very simple and intuitive set of motion controls for Wreckateer, and it works marvelously well for the most part. Aiming is a bit fiddly, especially if you've got only a small amount of play space. You'll calibrate that playing area with the Kinect early on, but you'll definitely need a good amount of room to your left and right in order to properly line up shots. The game helpfully highlights any targets that you've got lined up with a pulsating glow, but even the slightest movements can throw your aim out of whack, particularly with more distant targets.

That aside, the motion controls really do work well once you get the hang of them. For example, it's very easy to accidentally swipe back across your shot in the opposite direction when you're trying to re-position it mid-flight. It quickly becomes clear that exaggerated movements are the answer. You're not just rapidly swiping down to push the shot closer to the ground; instead, you're frantically flapping your arms in the same direction, like a windmill, to keep swiping down while avoiding accidental upward swipes.

When you get right down to it, this is the sort of fun that Kinect games should be striving for. Games like The Gunstringer have proven that you can create perfectly functional motion controls that offer an alternative to thumbsticks and buttons. That's not enough though. Sure, it's cool to use your hands instead of a controller, but is it really any more fun?

Wreckateer

Wreckateer nails what Kinect play ought to be. You feel utterly ridiculous flapping your arms around, but it's fun rather than frustrating. It would be easy enough to sit down and plot out gamepad-based controls for most of what you can do in the game, but it's unnecessary. The entertainment value in Wreckateer hinges entirely on Kinect by design, and it's a better game as a result.

Microsoft's second shot in 2012's Summer of Arcade is delightful. It might not be the deepest game Xbox Live Arcade game around, but it's simple to learn and does a good job of throwing you right in. Wreckateer gives you one of the best and most rewarding reasons yet to clear out the play space and hop around in front of your Kinect.