‘Wreckateer’ Review – Bringing Down The Castle

It’s been long established concept that smashing things is lots of fun. Think back to when you were a kid, and remember what the best part about building something up was… to knock it all down. For some reason most people find so much joy in seeing something get destroyed, especially if it’s at their own hands. It seems like someone on the development team over at Iron Galaxy decided to play on the human race’s naturally destructive nature and craft a game around feeding that sick pleasure. Wreckateer isn’t the first game to put players in control of a destruction crew, and it won’t be the last, but this game actually lets the player do the dirty work themselves by taking advantage of Kinect.

In Wreckateer you’re tasked with being a medieval ballista (think catapult launcher) that has to destroy 60 goblin-infested castles in service of the king. That’s about all the story you’re going to get. Wreckateer plays out like a traditional arcade game where your goal is simply to get the highest score by, you guessed it, wrecking things. As the ballista you’re armed with six different kinds of magical shots that can be targeted to take out towers, houses, goblins, floating goblins, mid-air power-ups and additional points targets. The catch here is that the ballista not only controls targeting the shots, but also what they do mid-flight. Using gestures you load up the catapult, aim, release, and then manipulate the shots to target the best spot to hit, or activate their special abilities to help destroy as much as possible. The more damage you accumulate with each shot will add points to your score, and increase your shot multiplayer to help you get one step closer to the gold medal.

Almost all of the motion controls in Wreckateer are fairly intuitive, making the game easy to “pick up” and play. Each shot begins by stepping forward and grabbing a hold of your shot, stepping back to arm it, moving side-to-side to target, and “releasing” to fire. That’s just about everything you need to know about the game’s initial controls, and should be enough to get your first shots into the air. Sure there are some nuances, like moving your hands above or below your waste to target high or low, and stepping further back for more power, but one of the appeals of the game is that it is simple. It’s once the shots have been fired that things get a little trickier.

Depending on what kind of shot you are using, various motions can be used to influence its flight path. For example, with a basic shot, you can use your hands to shift it up and down or left and right. However, when using the flight shot, you need to raise your hands above your head to activate the wings, and then use your whole body to guide the projectile around the board. Obviously this helps mix up the gameplay, and keeps every shot a unique experience. The downside here is that by the time the game introduces all six shots, the individual gestures for each shot tend to get a bit muddled, and can cause some mid-air frustration when your split shot doesn’t activate how and when you need it to. Layered on top of that are power ups that are placed around the later boards to mimic the abilities of certain shots for the shots that don’t have that ability. This just adds to the potential confusion and could end up overwhelming some players.

While we’re on the topic of gesture controls, there’s one other small issue, unique to Kincect downloadable titles that needs to be addressed: how to pause the game. Without an instruction manual to reference, it’s virtually impossible to guess which motions will help keep you from wasting a shot because your cat is walking in front of the sensor. You basically need to wait until the end of your turn to restart or quit to take a break from gameplay, but the lack of a tutorial for the nuances of the game as a whole (not just the gameplay) is a bit of a misstep, especially when targeting more casual gamers. Fortunately, Wreckateer helps balance out this issue by doling out mulligans which allow you to redo your shots with no detriment to you score.

On the plus side, gamers that like tinkering with their Avatar’s outfits should be happy to find that Wreckateer is the first of three games to pilot the Avatar Famestar program. Famestar rewards players with Avatar Rewards for completing certain challenges each week over the span of (currently) three different Kinect games, Wreckateer, Full House Poker and A World of Keflings. The fame can be carried over from game to game, and is a solid bonus to your Avatar’s wardrobe.

Wrecking seems to be one of predominant game mechanics of the past few years, with Angry Birds really bringing the concept into its own. Wreckateer manages to up the game by introducing Kinect controls, and, surprisingly, it kind of work in its favor. Like most Kinect games, Wreckateer isn’t going to get hardcore gamers to put down the controller and skip that next round of team deathmatch. However, for anyone that’s looking to get a little extra use out of his or her technological investment, it’s well worth a look; Wreckateer provides a continually satisfying experience no matter how old you are.

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