Apart from the misguided cacophony of Wii Music, Nintendo’s contributions into the Wii library have been exceptionally satisfying. From the two dimensional, retro-inspired platforming of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii to the sublime gesture-based recreations assembled for the Wii Sports series, the publisher has presented players with the platform’s paramount titles.
Recent first-party release FlingSmash increases the incentive for gaming aficionados with an attractive enticement. Packaged with the game is Nintendo’s Wii Remote Plus, a unit which combines the faithful Wii controller with a built-in Wii Motion Plus module. While I’ve had the peripheral attached to my existing Wiimote since the release of Wii Sports Resort, having the two components fused into one solid, well-balanced controller is a nice perk. The sole downside is that the new rubber jacket makes it slightly harder to remove a Classic Controller or Nunchuck from the bottom of the Wiimote; the expansion port plug doesn’t bend out of the way as well.
Strangely, the enhanced motion-tracking abilities of the Wii Remote Plus don’t appear to be properly exploited in FlingSmash; typically the title seems no more accurate than a standard issue controller. In the game, players are tasked with directing Zip (or female counterpart, Pip) across landscapes filled with crumbling blocks, hovering enemies, and countless collectables. A swing of the Wiimote sends the cuddly-cute protagonist careening off of objects in the playfield, slowing scrolling the screen along. Move too slowly, and a foe called the Hydracoil will gobble up protagonist- who looks like a tangerine with a crimson top-knot.
As Boom Blox and its sequel skillfully illustrate, the simple act of lobbing a sphere at brick piles can be consistently mesmerizing. Yet, EA’s series and FlingSmash differ wildly in the accuracy of controls. Although players are shown a small on-screen representation of their Wiimote, hitting Zip and Pip around the screen is consistently imprecise. The game often expects a degree of accuracy comparable to the hourly marks of a clock. In execution, swinging the Wiimote like a tennis racket doesn’t offer the fidelity it should. To compensate, FlingSmash has a degraded level of difficulty; players will rarely have to retry a stage unless they want to improve their ranking. As I played through the title, I couldn’t help but feel that FlingSmash would have been much more gratifying with a non-motion based, timed swing mechanic, similar to many golf games.
Beyond the game’s control problems, there’s a lot to like about the game. Following the emblematic Nintendo format, themed worlds are broken up into individual levels- each with its own twist on the game’s core mechanics. Occasionally, Zip will transform from a rubbery, bouncing orb to a metal sphere, altering the method players traverse the stage. Picking up three fruit icons will initiate a number of remarkable power-ups- from turning Zip into a huge balloon to splitting the hero into three bouncing parts. Each grants players the ability to clear most of the enemies and obstacles from the screen. Following the archetypical Nintendo aesthetic, worlds are composed of vibrant colors and filled with imaginative characters, and easily identified environmental objects, each drawn with bold strokes. There’s even a handful of non-essential mini-games which are unlocked as player’s succeed in each world.
For players looking to supplement their arsenal of controllers, paying an extra $10 for FlingSmash is advisable. For the cost of an average WiiWare title, players get a full-sized, reasonably gratifying game, which offers a few hours of innocuous entertainment. However, those seeking the luxury of a first-party Nintendo title may want to hold off until FlingSmash inevitably careens its way into the used-game bargain bins.