Positive Surprises At THQ Wii Event

I played a game a couple of weeks ago that I summed up in my notes as “Grand Theft Auto: Coloring Book.”

A note like that indicates either that someone spiked the punch at the THQ Wii event where I played it or that the publisher has a game coming that is just that innovative.

It’s actually the latter. The game is “de Blob.” It was one of seven Wii games shown at a THQ Nintendo-platform love-in held a few weeks ago in Manhattan.

I played and/or watched three of the seven, each of which left me a far better impression than the games I played at a THQ Wii launch event a little over a year prior. That earlier event, held in late 2006 at a fancy candy shop on Manhattan’s east side, featured waggle-added Wii versions of “Cars” and “Avatar” games.

At this 2008 event in an impressive penthouse near the top of a midtown Manhattan hotel, I was witnessing original content, some of it showing a lot of promise.

I played:

  • Battle of the Bands” — This April 2008 title is a very basic rhythm game that works as a tug-of-war between two different versions of the same song. So picture the standard rhythm-game rolling highway of musical note cues. But add to that the idea that you and I could be playing two-player, split-screen, each with our own rolling road of notes. If I did better we’d be hearing a version of Cypress Hill’s “Insane In The Brain” (country music edition) and if you did better, we could be hearing “Insane In The Brain” (marching band edition) that you picked. I liked that twist, though I don’t recall the different musical styles having any bearing on the gameplay. This game seems like it would be good at parties, possibly the only setting where hearing the Latin music version of “Black Betty” could be called a good time. The two other music styles in the game are hip-hop and rock; 30 songs are promised, all recorded in the five styles. Developer: Planet Moon.
  • de Blob” — I saw this at E3 and it looked solid. The gameplay was tight then. It let the player control a squishy, bouncy ball of a creature who can dip himself with a color and then paint that color all over a gray city via rolls, bounces, and ricochets. You can combine colors to make different hues but have to avoid water that washes it all away. The game’s city is full of challenges and enemies, and since the gameplay looks fairly open, it’s reminding me of “GTA” just as much as it is a cocktail of Kirby games, “Mario Paint” and the city-climbing parts of “Assassin’s Creed” and “Crackdown” (except this time with the climbing done by a sticky ball). So what did they add since E3? The story parts, apparently. The events of the game are now pitted as a “color revolution” against the evil forces of the monochromatic I.N.K.T. Corporation. Cute. This is the THQ Wii game with the most promising gameplay. It’s set for summer 2008 release and supports 1-4 players. Developer: Blue Tongue, after a student project by nine students from the Utrecht School of the Arts.

I watched:

  • Deadly Creatures” — In what may have been the shortest game demo of all time, I asked a THQ rep to give me the two-minute pitch on this holiday 2008 game. “Deadly Creatures” puts players in control of a tarantula and a scorpion. I was pressed for time, and I felt bad. But better to get a tidbit than nothing, I think. The game was the only Wii title at the event that didn’t seem like it was be tailored to little kids. In fact, the game looks a bit dark. And in that two-minute summary, the THQ rep told me that the development team was drawing inspiration from independent film. He said the narrative is told out of order, involves a desert gas station blowing up, a tale of crime perpetrated by humans, all glimpsed from the worldview of the titular two playable deadly creatures. The THQ rep had just finished killing a giant boss: a gila monster, which was only relatively giant, of course. I was very intrigued, and that was before the rep started having his tarantula walk on ceilings in the game, as I was walking away. I’m keeping an eye on this one. Developer: Rainbow Studios.

I skipped:

  • Wall-E” (Pixar movie game), “Worms: A Space Oddity,” “Big Beach Sports” (volleyball, soccer, football, bocce, disc golf, cricket compilation) and “Big Willy Unleashed” (“Destroy All Humans!” sequel).

I went to a THQ event for new Wii games and left with positive impressions. Quite a surprise, no?