Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Wonderful 101 Review

What's this? A video game? I get to review a video game!? YES!

Yes despite the fact that I mostly write reviews for movies, I am a full blooded gamer. I've been gaming since I was a kid, and I'm still gaming now. I'll get into a blog entry later on about my history of video games, but that's neither here or there. The point is, I'm a gamer, and I love it, questionable state of the industry be damned.

Which brings us to The Wonderful 101, the latest game by Platinum Games, which has made games like Madworld, Bayonetta, and mostly formed from former Clover Studios members that made Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and God Hand. So yeah, they've got a bit of pedigree behind them. Does The Wonderful 101 stand up to their more well known games? At times, it really does. At times, it really doesn't.

Everyone's a hero in their own way!
Games like 101 are hard to talk about, because they do have moments of brilliance that make them really enjoyable, but they're ruined by just a few small problems. Now in the case of 101, it doesn't ruin the game at all, but stops me from fully loving this game. I will say this about the game; it oozes with style. Even when the game is frustrating to play, the frustration just melts away after a minute or two. The world is just too endearing to hate.

Speaking of the world, the entire Earth, or Dearth in some cases, is a giant play ground for all of the characters. The story centers around the Earth being attacked by giant robot aliens, so destruction happens every five minutes. A standard level is watching 5 buildings explode, a giant robot attack, and some natural disaster happening. In movie terms, this is if Power Rangers decided to emulate Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich, but in the best way possible. The action is non stop and always a sight to behold.

The gameplay during the intense action though is a lot more problematic though. The camera is actively against you for half of the game, always zoomed out way too far and having way too much happen at once. When you have three giant enemies attack you at once, one spitting fire, the other shooting missiles at you, and the last trying to run you over, it's very hard to tell what's happening and can be really cluttered. There's nothing worse than playing an action game, but having no idea what the hell is happening.

The game is never this organized. Ever. 
Thankfully, the game is insanely forgiving with helping you out. At any point from the mission select menu, you can change the difficulty of the game, and even if you die in a level, your can revive instantly with your only penalty being a score deduction. If you've ever played Bayonetta, it's the same ranking system, for better or worse. It's very easy to complete the game, since there technically is no game over, but to master the game and get Pure Platinum in every level is truly a feat. That being said, the game will penalize you for continuing even once, so it won't be uncommon to average silver rankings for each level.

Hell, even if there were frequent game overs that would require you to go to your last checkpoint, it really wouldn't be that terrible because of how fun the actual gameplay is. In the beginning, you have access to only two powers; forming a giant hand and forming a giant sword. As the game progresses, you can form a giant gun, whip, hammer, claw, bomb, and even a few level specific powers like bowgun, drill, boomerang, and naginata. Each attack has stronger forms and you can use two at a time, one that's directly controlled by you and one that's controlled by an AI. Using each attack is a blast and forming giant weapons never loses its charm.

Moments like this make the game all worth it
Unfortunately, to get the giant weapons, you actually need to draw them like Okami. And this is probably the game's biggest flaw; there is no ideal way to form the weapons. Ideally, you draw a symbol on the Wii U game pad, like a straight line for a sword or a wavey line for a whip, but there are two problems with this. One, you have two methods of input. One method is by using the right analog stick, which will make you move faster, but doesn't have the tight controls on the game pad. Drawing on the game pad though means you have to look away from the screen, and when three giant enemies are attacking you, you're bound to take some damage. Two, regardless of which input you decide to use, the game has a hard time registering which symbol is what.  Oftentimes I wanted a whip, but because the symbol for the claws and the whips are so similar, guess what I got a bunch of! And guess what happens when bombs and hammers are basically the same symbol!

As for the story, all I can say is that it exists. It's nothing spectacular in all honesty, but does have some fun characters. Wonder Black is probably my favorite hero in the game because of how he barely talks, yet knows more than everyone else. Prince Vorkken is a fun villain as well that speaks VERY dramatically and gets basic Earth phrases mixed up. When you first see him, he has a guide book explaining to him basic Earth culture, but he still can't grasp the idea of it. This is a game dominated by its vast cast of characters, but in the case of the story, the parts far outweigh the whole.

Now THIS is what the game really looks like
Despite how very flawed this game is, I can't help but have a good time. When a boss fight is a giant homage to Punch-Out! I can't help but not like it. This game oozes personality with its characters and its unique Okami-esque controls, but because those controls don't work 100% of the time, and can get really cluttered because of it, I can't say this is one of Platinum's best games. If I was to place TW101 on a scale of all of Platinum and Clover's games, I'd say that it was on the same level as Viewtiful Joe 2. Still a really solid game, but does just enough things wrong to make the experience not as good as it could have been. The Wonderful 101 gets 4 Unite Morphs out of 5.

The Wonderful 101 was played for 13 hours and completed on normal. 

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