STAFF REVIEW of Wreckateer (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Friday, August 10, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

Wreckateer Box art Everyone loves breaking things right? You could make an argument that it?s one of the reasons Angry Birds did so well, because you got to wreck things. I bring up the Angry Birds reference purposely because what if you could play something similar with Kinect rather than the touch screen; well that?s what we have here with Wreckateer. Sure you won?t be hurling birds at pigs on random plank ways but the premise is the same, just with a different execution.

Wreckateer is set in medieval times with a ballista siege weapon as you?re tasked to destroy many different castles, destroying any goblins that have taken over said castles. You?ll be launching the ballista, aiming your shots, and even guiding the cannonballs midair to try and cause as much destruction as possible. So clear some space in your living room and get ready for a Kinect experience that makes for an interesting party game and one kids will enjoy.

It seems as if there?s been a goblin invasion in the kingdom and you?ve been hired to join the Wreckateers; Wreck and Tinker. So keep in mind, if you have goblins in the castle in this kingdom, this team of Wreckateers will be commissioned to simply destroy the castle so it can be rebuilt; goblins are serious business! As the newest member to the team, Wreck and Tinker will show you the ropes and teach you the basics of the destruction business as you evacuate all those goblins. You will use your ballista to destroy sixty different castles with multiple types of magical projectiles. The goal is destruction and you want to be the best at your job.

You are given a predetermined amount of ammunition to launch with your siege weapon and with that you must cause as much destruction as possible and rack up the points in search of a gold medal on each stage. The first step is by literally taking one up to the ballista, from here you put your hands together in front of you to grasp the bow then step backwards to place tension on the bow for longer distance shots. You can aim your shot directly in whatever direction you want by raising or lowering your hands before releasing. The further you step back the farther your shot will launch but you also lose more time to aim the shot precisely where you want it to land.

Once you release your shot by quickly spreading your hands apart, the camera will close in on your projectile as it hurls towards the castle walls. With some of the shot types you?ll be able to coax the projectile in any direction with your magical gauntlets. Your magic gauntlets appear on screen and you can ?hit? your shot down if you want it to go down for example. Eventually you?ll become very familiar with doing so as you?ll need to ?curve? some shots in the more difficult levels later on.

There are multiple types of shots that you?ll be given in your goblin eviction quest that range from split shots to flying shots. The flying shot is the easiest to control and has you holding out your arms as if you?re flying to control its direction. Split shots will separate and have a tether between the ends, allowing for higher destruction based on what angles your hold your arms at. There are bomb shots that can be activated and exploded at will and even a speed shot that will take off like a bullet when activated. Along with multiple projectiles there are also shot icons scattered about the stages that allow for more points or can even alter your regular shot into a speedier one.

Since the order of ammo is predetermined at the beginning of a level, it becomes quite strategic in the later levels to figure out the best course of action for the most devastation. This is the puzzle element to Wreckateer and as you progress in levels, the requirements to earn a bronze medal to continue onward becomes much tougher to achieve without proper planning ahead of time. Some of the floating icons act as hints of where you should aim, but others can almost be a distraction, making you wonder if it?s worth missing a tower just to get that point bonus.

As long as you achieve a bronze medal or higher, you?ll unlock the next stage after your final shot. Your score is based on how much damage you do with your shot, the multipliers you progress towards, and earning badges for doing various things like bouncing a shot, destroying homes, hitting goblins, and more. Nailing a goblin directly will give a surge of points, as will hitting the dynamite placed on specific castle walls, allowing for more destruction and thus more points. In the first half of the game you won?t even have to try to get a bronze, but as you get near the end, you?ll need to use every trick you can just to hopefully obtain one.

A new feature that took me by surprise is something called Avatar Famestar. While we are already used to achievements, this is almost a second tier and layer that has you trying to reach specific goals and completing challenges. Doing so will reward you with gear for your avatar, and while there are only a few titles that use this new feature at the moment, I think it?s going to catch on and you?ll start to see it in many more avatar centric titles in the future.

While the learning curve of Wreckateer isn?t very steep, you?re going to eventually hit a brick wall of difficulty, almost seemingly out of nowhere. All of a sudden you?ll have to hit many power-ups just to simply make the shot you intended to from the beginning. I was enjoying the game?s pace and difficulty until this spike in challenge as it became very frustrating, as you aren?t really given hints on the best course of action if you become stuck struggling to get a bronze to progress. Stages like these are where you?ll use your hard earned mulligans which allow you to redo your last shot in case you are unhappy with its results.

Like all Kinect games, the success is going to be on the accuracy of the motion controls, and this is where part of my frustration came in. While I frequently had issues with taking my shots or getting it to shoot exactly where I wanted, it wasn?t a consistent problem either. Sometimes I could do a full level with any issues and the next I would struggle for Kinect to simply recognize that I was trying to grab the ballista. The same went for activating the special shots abilities; many times it wouldn?t see my flailing my arms about resulting in a dud for a shot, forcing me to use a mulligan and try again hoping it will work. The same goes for when I was using my magic gauntlets to aim my shots, as sometimes it went the right direction, and others it would things my hands are moving randomly in any direction. Because the latter half of the game requires such precision and planning, failing a shot because Kinect doesn?t see you spreading your arms apart becomes incredibly frustrating and makes you want to stop playing.

When it works though, the game is incredibly fun and I was having a blast destroying castles as I eradicated the goblin menace. It was completely random when the game wanted to ?work? and when it didn?t. When it worked I didn?t want to stop playing, but as soon as I started having issues with Kinect recognizing me and not doing what I?m intending I wanted to turn it off right away. If you have the proper play space and kids, they will most likely enjoy hurling boulders at walls in the earlier levels, just be prepared to help them when the latter levels become very difficult to progress.

Overall: 6.3 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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