Hands-On With More Of THQ's Impressive Wii Games: "Battle of the Bands," "de Blob"

THQGamers, Stephen's right.

Some of 2008's most promising third-party (and non-licensed) Wii games are coming from a most unlikely source: THQ.

I don't think it's unreasonable to say I went into THQ's Gamer's Day two weeks ago with tempered expectations, but "Deadly Creatures" (which I wrote about last week), "Battle of the Bands" and indie-favorite "de Blob" turned my assumptions inside out.

And that's a very good thing for gamers wondering if Nintendo was going to be the only company who could figure out how to make the Wii work. My time spent with these three, however, convinced me that's not necessarily the case anymore.

BATTLE OF THE BANDS

Battle of the BandsAfter all the money I've dropped on "Rock Band" downloadable songs each week, I haven't had much interest in getting hooked on yet another music game. "Battle of the Bands" isn't replacing "Rock Band" or "Guitar Hero," but it is refreshingly different.

Unfortunately, conveying the mechanics of "Battle of the Bands" through words is difficult, but I'll try. You only need to hold the Wiimote to participate. Before a match begins, players agree on a song but choose separate styles. See, in addition to licensing a bunch of music, THQ recorded cover versions of each song in different styles -- Rock, Country, Marching Band, Hip Hop, Ranchero.

The gameplay isn't particularly deep, because it relies on simple motion controls. But it works. You have the typical scrolling game board on each side of the screen. The pointer remains in the center of the board and your gestures are based on the various indicators on the board (jerk the Wiimote left or right, move it in a squiggly fashion, push it forward, etc.)

The struggle in "Battle of the Bands" is style domination. The higher your combos and the more consistently accurate you are, the longer the song remains in your style. Power-ups, a la the ones found in "Guitar Hero III"'s boss battles, do well to mix up who's on top.

I didn't play through more than a handful of tracks, but "Battle of the Bands" definitely felt promising. Whether it holds up past the initial entertainment value of hearing pop culture hits re-recorded in ridiculous styles remains to be seen.

"Battle Of The Bands" will be released next week.

DE BLOB

de BlobNot many people were playing "de Blob" at THQ's Gamer's Day.

That didn't bother me a bit, because it gave me a chance to play for a solid 20 minutes, an absolute rarity at an event like this. Time well spent, too, as "de Blob" plays very much like an indie experiment (which it originally was) that's become something much more like a complete game experience.

You control a spherical character who has to roll and bounce his way through an open city, giving it color. Enemies and color-draining pools of water lie in your way.

There are some deep mechanics like wall jumping, that "de Blob" players will need to spend time learning in order to earn the higher-end level achievements. Those techniques aren't necessary to have fun. That's actually the greatest part about "de Blob." The game riffs on the joy of coloring. I was never any good at drawing in-between the lines as a kid, but remember the first time you used the paint bucket tool in MS Paint and color filled perfectly -- like magic? "de Blob" makes you feel that sense of wonder all over again.

One of my favorite parts of "Metroid Prime 3" involved Samus Aran navigating puzzles in ball form, and you jumped by flicking the Wiimote. "de Blob" takes that tiny bit of gestural fun and runs with it, making it the core mechanic in "de Blob." It requires little to no explanation due to sheer intuitiveness. Grab a color, start bobbing the Wiimote and start painting the town red (or green or blue or yellow!).

THQ's already sold me on "de Blob," but if there ever was a game that would massively benefit from having a demo available on the Wii Shop channel, "de Blob" is it.

"de Blob" is slated for a late 2008 release.

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