Friday, February 26, 2010
WiiWare Review -- Maboshi's Arcade
Some of my favorite games have been the most simple things imaginable. People who know me personally know that one of my favorite multiplayer games is an imported GameCube game by the name of Kururin Squash, and the design and concept are so simple that you'd imagine the depth of such a game would be explored and gone within minutes (you move a rotating stick through a maze and the only controls are move, move faster, and rotate faster). Yet after nearly four years the game still isn't old when I drag it out for gaming nights with friends. When I was looking through the list of WiiWare puzzle games I saw kind things said about Maboshi's Arcade, a simple yet challenging little game from Mindware, I thought I'd found true love. I return to you, however, a broken man.
Maboshi's Arcade has an interesting concept. There are three different games you can choose from. The "Stick" game, shown on the right part of the screenshot up top, has you in control of a stick rotating around an orb (think of a lollipop or Dum-Dum for lack of a better or more workplace safe description) with the goal of moving up toward a finish line. When you hit the A button (the game's only control mechanism) you move whatever way the stick is pointing. There are little things that get in your way and if they touch the orb you start over. Luckily, your stick can knock them out of the way. "Circle" is the second game (left part of screenshot) and probably my favorite out of the three. Like "Stick" you only use the A button. A ball moves around the inside of a circle and the A button changes the way it spins. Little critters try to make their way to the outside of the circle and your ball needs to hit them or you lose. In each stage there are different obstacles like a swing or a huge block that make it difficult. And, finally, "Square" (middle part of screenshot). Easiest control comparison is the old time-waster Snake. You move with the d-pad (Wiimote pointing forward, not NES style) with the intention of touching and burning all the blocks on the screen. Anything that isn't completely burned that touches the bottom of the screen makes you start over. Probably the most complex and difficult of the three.
The neat little concept of the game that tries to keep it from being a simple collection of three rather lackluster minigames is that what happens on the other two screens can affect your screen. An example is, if you were playing "Circle" and someone, either a human or the computer, was playing "Stick" on the screen next to you, the things they hit can fly over and knock some of your enemies away. Or the enemies you knock off your game can fly over to the "Square" game and start burning some of the blocks, helping your friend (or the lifeless A.I.) out. The idea is interesting and completely cooperative, yet it falls short in that you really don't purposely help anyone out. You just do whatever it is you normally do in that game and, occasionally, something you do will help someone else.
The presentation of the game is simple and clean. Really, there's not much more to say about it. You can pick the music from a small selection of tunes and change your background to ones you earn through play, and the minimalist graphics aren't anything to write home about (or yell upstairs to your mom if you live at home still). I never found myself being annoyed with the sounds or music but they don't stick with you.
The controls, as said, are pretty simple, and this is actually something I had a huge problem with while playing. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was changing television channels while playing this game. Two of the three games require a single button press and the other only used the directional pad. "Stick" was difficult to get a feel for and, even when I did, the momentum of the swinging felt lost and random at times. "Circle", though somewhat fun, loses its charm quickly when all you need to do is hit "A" near the top of the circle and hope you drop on something. And I really wish "Square" had an option to allow you to hold the Wiimote in its classic/NES style as the d-pad is not comfortable at all for lengthy play sessions when used remote-style.
None of the three games by themselves held my interest long enough. I suppose it's nice to be able to switch between the three of them quickly and not have to be playing something different than the person next to you but, aside from "Circle", I just didn't feel like playing any of the others longer than a few minutes. "Stick" wasn't fun at all and "Square" felt challenging for the wrong reason of being unable to see far enough ahead to know what you should do next. Even with Maboshi popping up to ask you to snag a million points (the only replay value the game tries to have) I didn't want to keep going. I didn't try the two additional features (DS Download Play and Wii Message Board compatibility) but, since I didn't really want to play any of them while the game was ON let alone OFF and no one else I knew had the game, neither of these were going to make the game any better. If I want to take the time to get my DS out and go through the download process, I'd rather play something I'd enjoy.
I feel a little odd being so harsh on a game that, when I look at other reviews, received such praise, but I call 'em like I see 'em. Even if I enjoyed the three games of Maboshi's Arcade, it'd still be difficult to justify spending 8 bucks on this when there are better simple puzzle games available for less for WiiWare (Art Style series), Virtual Console (load up some NES gem), or over on the 360's Indie Game selection (one of a hundred). Stuff like this is why WiiWare needs game demos.
Maboshi's Arcade is available on the Wii Shop Channel for 800 Wii Points. Played each of the three games by myself and with one other person playing. I don't even have anything funny or cute to say. The game is THAT forgetful.