Review: Wreckateer

Wreckateer has a simple premise: drive all those pesky goblins out of the kingdom of Fardom! The green ones patrol the perimeters. The red ones chill midair in their hot air balloons. Thanks to your avatar, the kingdom has a secret weapon against the forces of ugly. What’s the best way to clear them out of each castle? Destroy the castles!

The most important lesson in Wreckateer is that the ballista is your friend. No, it’s not the guy that makes your coffee. It’s that ginormous crossbow shaped slingshot used to load ammunition! If you aim to obliterate the goblin infestation, you have to learn how to control it. The controls are pretty user friendly, except the sensor tends to interpret a shift in weight as three steps to the side. Keep your feet firmly planted and the controls are pretty simple. Do well enough and earn mulligans to repeat crummy shots for higher score potential. Better your score and increase the multiplier. Learning these basics are almost all you need to know to be successful for the first half of the game.

It also helps to learn the differences between the types of shots and icons early. There are numerous types of each. The Basic Shot is just a boring old boulder. Move these shots around midflight with a swipe here and a flail there. Then there is the Bomb Shot. These detonate after impact, adding more opportunities for destruction. There’s the Split Shot, the Speed Shot, and a few others I’ll save for surprises.

The most fun (and frustration) comes from the Flying Shot. This is a user controlled shot with a wingspan that match the player’s arms. While mimicking anything that flies, you have the tendency to drop your back and lean down. It’s not just equilibrium. It’s human nature. In order to control the Flying Shot, the player must stand vertically and merely flap their arms in the direction they want their shot to travel. It was incredibly aggravating at first, but afterward, it was simple enough to control. The only other issue with the Flying Shot is that there’s no way to loop back around to grab things you missed. Being locked in a forward motion when you have a mobile object with wings is frustrating.

The entertainment from the Flying Shot is the ability to pick off goblins, pilot through structures, and dive bomb into towers. It adds flavor to the barrage of hurled boulders, increasing the physical motions required to play the game. The most fun came from having company play the game without me, telling them how to properly move the shot. Watching them needlessly dive their faces towards the carpet. Now that was funny.

There are icons worth bonus points: the main source of points in the game. Without these, gold is next to impossible to achieve. Combine bonus point icons with higher multiplier levels, goblin hits, and castle wreckage for maximum points. There are also bomb icons that turn basic artillery into explosive shots. There are Speed icons that greatly increase the momentum of your ballistics. New powers, shots, and icons are released intermittently. There’s never a point where the player feels inundated with new things (except maybe the beginning), and the game gives you newer things until the level difficulty kicks up. The pacing is perfect.

As the levels progress, the tasks become more challenging. There’s a fair amount of strategy required to find the optimum scores. Most levels are easy enough for children and new players to finish, while hitting the high scores leaves a bit of a challenge to the Kinect veteran gamers out there. The balance and learning curve are commendable.

The bumbling duo guiding you through the game is Tinker and Wrecker. Most of the dialogue is typical drab medieval banter. Occasionally, there will be a laugh out loud line. For example, when you’re attempting a dive bomb attack in a Flying Shot, Tinker says, “Talk to me, Goose.” If I had been drinking milk at the time, it would’ve shot out my nose.

For a game called Wreckateer, there’s a surprising shortage of wrecking. Don’t expect big payoffs via domino effects. The castle debris isn’t that effective against other sections of still-standing castle. Though, if you’re lucky, the falling pieces will squish a few goblins or trigger chargers (thus triggering the dominos we all so desire). Most of the satisfaction is derived from dead on, well placed hits. It’s a bit disappointing, but nothing that pulls too far from the enjoyment that’s here. There are points of redundancy, but there’s so much variety that any recycled gameplay is mostly overshadowed.

Leaderboards increase the fun to be had. Earn FameStar points to give yourself a chance to own them (it’s also a good way to unlock some Avatar goodies). Shot Leaderboards keep high scores for each level. Destroy the castle, squish the goblins, and nail the extra point icons to climb the rankings. Between the extra modes, FameStar accumulation, Achievements, and the story progression, there’s enough to keep you playing your Kinect for hours.

Closing Comments:

Wreckateer is a great title for kids. Many of the plain jokes and goblin humor is not lost on the younger crowd. There’s comical violence, but nothing more than you’d find in a DreamWorks movie. As for the adults, it’s still not a bad choice. Sticking with the simple flick-of-the-wrist entertainment found in Angry Birds might still be the best option. However, there’s still a lot of fun to be had in this Kinect title. For those who dig math, the game can be solved with a simple equation. (Fable – magic) + (Angry Birds – animals) = Wreckateer.

Platform: 360 (XBLA)

  • This looks like a blast, especially for an XBLA game.