Endless Ocean – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Endless Ocean Title Screen

Endless Ocean Title Screen

Endless Ocean was developed by Arika and published by Nintendo for their Wii console in 2008. Many critics seem to consider it to be an adventure game. My current impression is that Endless Ocean is an exploration and collecting game, in many ways similar to Pokemon but without combat. The game is set in the fictional waters of the Manoa Lai sea.

Map of Manoa Lai sea.

Map of Manoa Lai sea.

The game begins with a tutorial where the player learns how to use their wiimote to swim underwater while wearing their scuba gear. Katherine Sunday, the player’s partner, instructs the player on what controls to use. The controls seem a little awkward and I’m not sure they were the best choice for underwater swimming. In order to swim, the player presses the B trigger button and then points with the wiimote in the direction they want to go. The wiimote must be pointed at the screen when the player does this since the player’s direction is based on the position of the infrared camera inside the wiimote. If the infrared camera is not detected by the Wii’s sensor bar, then the player halts movement. This was mildly aggravating when people would walk in front of the screen while I was playing.

I found a new fish!

I found a new fish!

Pressing A on the wiimote, the player can interact with various sea creatures. Using the D-pad, the player may pull out food to feed creatures encountered or select the option to return to the boat. When the player first returns to the boat, they are greeted by their partner Kat. She explains how the player’s job and her own are sponsored by the Marinas Foundation. Periodically missions will be sent to the player from the Marinas Foundation that provide direction to the game. Kat makes it very clear, however, that just because the Marinas Foundation writes the paychecks that doesn’t mean she nor the player have to do anything they say. I get the impression Kat would never make it in the corporate world. It is also discovered early on in the game that Kat cannot swim and is therefore not a licensed scuba diver.

I'm Katherine Sunday. I'm kind of a big deal.

I’m Katherine Sunday. I’m kind of a big deal.

While seemingly short on underwater ocean skills, Kat is supposedly an expert regarding all things wildlife. She has been compiling an encyclopedia of all ocean life around the Manoa Lai sea. The encyclopedia acts as a scrapbook of sorts. There are forty pages of wildlife that fill in when the player discovers them, and there are three types of study milestones that can be achieved with each creature.

Each discovered creature shows up in your encyclopedia.

Each discovered creature shows up in your encyclopedia.

The underwater scenes were somewhat breathtaking for the Wii at the time Endless Ocean was released. Given that the Wii’s graphical capabilities are limited to 480p, the graphical experience is somewhat underwhelming today. This might be a good title for Nintendo to release an HD version. The soundtrack is calm and soothing. It appears there are several tracks that can be unlocked as the game progresses which can be selected from the load screen as the player is diving from the boat into a mission underwater.

Some creatures come visit you on your boat.

Some creatures come visit you on your boat.

Endless Ocean appears to be a fantastic game for the gamer who loves to explore and collect on their way to completing all the tasks offered. The map and the encyclopedia are inviting, and the atmosphere is calming. This might be an excellent title for adolescents who are old enough to grasp the handling of a wiimote controller. Since I found no overtly frustrating gameplay in Endless Ocean, I would imagine this would be a good game for children who are easily frustrated by more unforgiving and challenging games. Endless Ocean won’t be for everyone, but it may surprise you how much fun this non-game like game is to play through.

Endless Ocean Game Disc

Endless Ocean Game Disc

Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Blast Works Title Screen

Blast Works Title Screen

Blast Works is a side-scrolling shooter game released in 2008 for the Nintendo Wii. It was developed by Budcat Creations and published by Majesco Entertainment. From the little research I have done on this game, it appears to be a port of Tumiki Fighters from the PC to the Wii.

Tumiki Fighters was developed by Kenta Cho and released as free software in 2004. Written in the D programming language, it uses OpenGL for graphics rendering. I would assume Kenta Cho had a good deal of creative license with Blast Works given that versions of his other games, rRootage, Gunroar, and Torus Trooper are included as unlockable bonus items in the game.

Come At Me

Come At Me

Blast Works has a unique game mechanic that I don’t believe I’ve seen in any other side-scrolling shooter I have played. When an enemy is shot down and is falling toward the bottom of the screen, the player may swoop in to catch the enemy or the enemy’s guns. Wherever the enemy makes contact with the player’s plane is where the two objects connect. Once connected, the enemy’s guns will fire from that position as the player’s own guns toward other enemies. The former enemy will also serve as a buffer from being hit directly and losing a plane. As a level progresses, downed enemies hook to downed enemies creating a massive structure of firepower the player has accumulated to take on the level’s final boss.

There's nothing quite like a good boss bullet hell.

There’s nothing quite like a good boss bullet hell.

When I first witnessed this game mechanic it surprised me. I had a great deal of fun connecting out enemy planes to the end of the screen and blasting anything in my path with my own bullet hell for once. I then got to thinking that due to this game mechanic the game might turn out to be too easy. Not so. The game makers did an excellent job balancing the game. Each boss I played outside of the first couple levels made me sweat. The player may choose three different levels of difficulty. The bullet hells are intense and Blast Works provides a similar experience to other classic side-scrolling shooters I have played in the past.

Come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride.

Come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride.

Another interesting feature provided in Blast Works is a full-fledged level editor. The player may create their own level, with their own enemies, and custom build their own planes to fly through those levels. Even new bullets can be created and customized. The game offers a CAD-like program to create and save new shapes and modify environments. The amount of detail to which a player can create their own levels is incredible. Blast Works feels like a PC game that still works incredibly well with the standard Wiimote/Nunchuck controllers.

Blast Works features three modes of gameplay for playing through the side-scrolling shooter levels. Campaign Mode allows one or two players to play through campaign levels in a sequential order. I assume extra game features are unlocked through this mode of play, but I have yet to unlock anything yet. Arcade Mode allows one to four players to play through levels sequentially for points. And as mentioned earlier, one to four players may play through a custom level created by a player in the User Levels mode.

Blast Works Game Disc

Blast Works Game Disc

The music in the Blast Works is good. It sounds like a typical Wii game soundtrack, but mixed with the heavy synthetic techno kind of themes I would expect from a classic side-scrolling shooter of the Super Nintendo era. While the graphics are a bit blocky and look quite dated for the time this title was released, Blast Works more than makes up for it in gameplay and replayability. I picked up my copy of Blast Works used for less than four dollars. From a quick Amazon search it appears buying a new copy might cost less than ten dollars. At that price it’s well worth it. I would especially recommend this title for children who enjoy playing with Legos. It’s certainly not Minecraft, but who knows? Maybe this will be a gateway game for getting my son to play with CAD software someday in the future.

Igor: The Game – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Igor: The Game Main Menu

Igor: The Game Main Menu

Released on the Nintendo Wii in 2008, Igor: The Game was developed by Santa Cruz Games and published by Legacy Interactive and SouthPeak Games. Igor: The Game begins with protagonist Igor explaining his dream to be a somebody. In Malaria the somebodies are all evil scientists. Since Igor entered life with a hunchback, he was relegated to being a servant to the mad scientists. Therefore he has covertly been working on his inventions in secret in order to create something that will win the annual Evil Science Fair. All of the other characters beside Igor that may be played: Scamper, Brain, and Eva, are all creations of Igor. Eva, Igor’s most recent creation, was created to win first prize in the Evil Science Fair. Unfortunately it turns out she is not at all evil, and it is now up to the player playing as Igor to figure out how to still win the fair.

The storyline to Igor: The Game is creative and clever. It is funny, and has a sort of Addams Family feel to it. The game is based on Igor a motion picture that was produced by Exodus Film Group and released by MGM in 2008. In the beginning cutscene, the player is greeted with the familiar looking Frankenstein-like lab. There is a creature on a laboratory table and mechanisms all around. Igor calls for Brain to pull the switch and the lights go off. After reprimanding his creation, the lights come back on and the correct switch is pulled. Lightning surges into the operating table and Eva, his new creature, immediately comes to life and darts through the walls making her escape toward the local home for blind orphans. They chase after her, seemingly half hoping she is not doing anything to get into trouble while also hoping she is creating all sort of havoc. I’ll admit, I chuckled. This game seemed like it was off to a good start. Unfortunately the gameplay is not as good as the lines and characters in the cutscenes.

Every room feels huge and takes some time to traverse.

Every room feels huge and takes some time to traverse.

I wonder if Igor: The Game was tight on deadlines and raced out the door to be released in time with the movie. One thing I noticed very quickly when I played it was that the environments are huge compared to the size of the player characters. It takes a good bit of time for the player to walk a character across a room. To compensate for this, the players can jump to heights that appear to be relatively higher than what I would have expected and seem to hang in the air longer than expected. It’s almost like the designers just turned gravity down in their game engine configuration to solve a problem that should have been addressed more geometrically. Both of these issues combine to make the game seem incredibly awkward. I realized after pondering the awkwardness for awhile that I would wager they made the environments larger in order to accommodate a more primitive camera for the 3D environments. If the room is bigger with high ceilings, you don’t have to worry as much about keeping the camera being in a difficult position for the player to view the character they are controlling. While I experienced no actual bugs while playing this game, it feels more like a polished alpha build with production cutscenes than a full production title.

You can't hear it here, but the background music is an annoying voice going, "La, La La, La Laaya Laa." I'm sure parents loved this game when it came out.

You can’t hear it here, but the background music is an annoying voice going, “La, La La, La Laaya Laa.” I’m sure parents loved this game when it came out.

One of the selling points of playing Igor: The Game for me was the fact that it allows up to four players to play cooperatively simultaneously. I figured it therefore might be a good game night title to invite friends over to play together in one sitting. While I praised Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game for its fantastic split-screen mode in an article published the other day, there is no such split-screen in Igor: The Game. Given that the environments are large relative to the size of the character playing, even when there are two characters it is easy for their mobility to be impeded when they both find themselves on opposite sides of the screen, especially in the middle of fighting dangerous monsters. There were numerous times when my teammate and I got increasingly frustrated due to being stuck depending on the movements on the other until one of us gave up in our objective and walked back over to the other player.

Beating mechanical chickens and bashing crates is about all we're doing here.

Beating mechanical chickens and bashing crates is about all we’re doing here.

The meat of the gameplay in the little we played of it was to collect flowers and nuts and bolts, and to fight wind-up chicken things. It felt like it took forever to clear a single room of enemies and collect all the loot necessary to proceed to the next area. Once an area was completed and we had reached the furthest extent of the room, it would take forever to backtrack to the exit to move to the next area. While the cutscenes were mildly entertaining, the gameplay was downright tedious.

Igor: The Game Game Disc

Igor: The Game Game Disc

I’m not really sure who would really benefit from playing Igor: The Game. If I were a small child, perhaps a fan of the movie, and this were one of the only games I owned for a gaming system, then I imagine I would be blind to its flaws and just enjoy it for the game it is. But given that this game was a chore to play in the brief time I began playing it, I don’t think it would be one I could see myself recommending or even agreeing to play on a random game night where my friends and I might be browsing through my game collection unsure of what to play next. My advice would be to skip this one over unless you enjoy being a thorough collector for the Wii.

Cocoto Magic Circus – Nintendo Wii Game Review

Cocoto Magic Circus Title Screen

Cocoto Magic Circus Title Screen

This is the worst game ever. I hate this game! It’s so stupid! – my wife.

Cocoto Magic Circus is a light-gun mini-game shooter released for the Nintendo Wii in 2008. It was developed by Neko Entertainment and published by Conspiracy Entertainment. It follows the same classic formula of many of the light-gun mini-game shooters of the era. The game case boasts, “40 mini-games, each more original than the last!” All of the games are point and shoot with lots of similar patterns strewn throughout all of them making the advertising deceptive at best.

Cocoto Magic Circus was not a new game when it came out on the Nintendo Wii. It debuted on the Playstation 2 where it was played with the GunCon light gun. Since the Nintendo Wii was the ideal console for this type of shooter, it makes sense that Cocoto Magic Circus might be re-released for the system.

Save Fairy from the spiders before she's eaten!

Save Fairy from the spiders before she’s eaten!

The beginning cutscene handily tells the backstory without any words. Four monster-looking friends: Cocoto, Baggy, Neuro, and Shiny, according to the game manual, and their friend Fairy who is a pixie, meet a clown in the woods. He looks creepy as all get-out, but instead of running away they stick around to be friendly with him. The clown kidnaps Fairy, and the others race to help rescue her. Theoretically the objective of the game is to rescue Fairy by shooting her captors in the various mini-games. While some mini-games had us shooting bad guys to keep them away from Fairy, there was no point at the end of any mode of gameplay where Fairy ever regained her freedom that I noticed. The competing monsters would just hop up on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place stands at the end of the game to show how they placed in the Tournament or Duel modes.

This is air hockey... with guns. This shouldn't be a mini-game, but a full featured title.

This is air hockey… with guns. This shouldn’t be a mini-game, but a full featured title.

There are three multiplayer modes: Arcade, Tournament, and Duel. In arcade mode, one or two players play simultaneously and cooperatively until they run out of lives. Lives may be replenished in periodic bonus rounds. Tournament mode is a little bit of a misnomer that actually means hot seat in the case of Cocoto Magic Circus. In tournament mode players pass around one controller and play the mini-games one player at a time competitively. Some mini-games actually lend themselves to this mode of play better, especially for players who are less experienced with aiming a wiimote. This mode allows 2, 3, or 4 players to play. Duel mode allows 2 or 4 players to play competitively and simultaneously for a set number of games.

Try not to shoot Fairy in the face. Oops, instant mini-game over.

Try not to shoot Fairy in the face. Oops, instant mini-game over.

As I alluded earlier, some of the mini-games can be rather frustrating when playing simultaneously with another player. There are a handful of mini-games where all players are aiming at the same target and they only are given one shot to hit it. If all miss, the mini-game is failed. If an opponent hits the target first, the mini-game ends and you won’t get a chance to hit it as well. Then at the end of this short “mini-game,” the player who hit the target is awarded a large number of points for the round and the other players receive nothing. I felt like this happened more frequently than it should have, keeping the game from being well balanced. For this reason I am not sure this game would be very high on my list for Wii games to pull out in a party setting. It seems like the kind of game that is just begging for an argument to break out. My wife argued and screamed about how unfair the game was. I couldn’t understand why the ESRB rated this game for players 10+. There are no unsavory themes that I could find that a 7-year old couldn’t handle. Perhaps the frustration/unfairness issues were a factor?

Cocoto Magic Circus Game Disc

Cocoto Magic Circus Game Disc

Cocoto Magic Circus is a fine game for practicing accuracy with the wiimotes on the Nintendo Wii, but out of all of the similar light-gun games I have played on the Wii, this one is actually my least favorite. It’s just more blah than fun. That combined with the fact that my opponent was yelling at the television the entire time we played made me want to put Cocoto Magic Circus back on the shelf for awhile.