What is the concept? By reworking the destructive antics of the Angry Birds franchise into a three-dimensional, Kinect-controlled environment, recent XBLA release Wreckateer risks being dismissed as derivative. After all, each of the title’s sixty stages offers a familiar objective: using a variety of flung projectiles to splinter each structure into rubble- all in an effort to earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal. Yet, as Galaga’s reworking of Galaxian (and Galaxian’s variation on Space Invaders) has shown us, sometimes a single, new innovation is just enough of an impetus to rekindle a player’s interest.
Gamers assume the guise of untested apprentice recently employed by the Wreck and Tinker Destruction Company, an outfit determined to purge the medieval realm of goblins by crumbling crenellations atop the mischievous monsters. Using gestures to aim and fire a virtual ballista, each stage provides players with a predetermined loadout of spire shattering weaponry. Preliminary levels bestow a giant orb which players can steer with their hands during the sphere’s leisurely-moving trajectory. Later, gamers catapult more exotic artillery, such as Flying Shot which can be guided by mirroring the movements of a bird in flight or the Split Shot which fragments into four smaller warheads.
What are the game’s strengths? Unlike many Kinect-based titles, Wreckateer’s controls are reliably responsive. Emulating natural gestures, a player first steps forward, bringing their hands together to load the ballista. The distance of a reverse stride sets the amount of power for the weapon, while the elevation of the gamer’s arm determines the angle of the shot. Beyond having unlimited time to tweak the route of your round, the title also illuminates any structure that is in the path of eminent devastation. Wreckateer’s on-screen avatar did prove to be uncooperative during a moment of play, but that could be attributed to the harsh glare of artificial light coupled with Kinect’s routine fussiness. Regardless of lighting, rotating the ballista needed a bit more physical space than the average motion-sensing title.
The title’s other virtue is its accessibility, at least in early levels. With an infinite amount of time to arrange a shot, combined with the liberal distribution of explosives conveniently affixed to introductory castles, Wreckateer can accommodate a wide range of ability and experience levels. While gaming vets can opt to aim for strategically placed bonus items to garner a place of the game’s online leaderboards, novices are still able to issue up a reasonable razing.
What are the game’s weaknesses? Although Wreckateer tries to prolong its procession of castles by varying color schemes, or setting its strongholds against snowy or rocky backdrops, before players see the game’s sixtieth citadel, tedium will inevitably emerge. While later levels introduce a light puzzle-like mechanic where players have to perform specific functions to obtain a bronze and move to the next stage, even this variation doesn’t radically deviate from Wreckateer’s basic premise. Ideally, players would have confronted more than just castles; something such as an oversized leviathan boss would have helped alleviate matters.
To a lesser extent, the game’s physics modeling has the chance to vex players. Sporadically, hitting towers at the base should send the turret tumbling down; instead the spire enigmatically remains upright, its balance secured by the frailest of seams. Large, falling pieces of castle should crumple any structures below, but instead these objects habitually crumble into innocuous dust. While the game boasts local multiplayer, only a single type of match can accommodate a competitive duo of participants.
Is it worth the money? Considering both Wreckateer’s 800 Microsoft price point and the dearth of responsive Kinect-controlled titles, the game is recommended to players craving a new activity for their motion-sensing peripheral. As long as potential purchasers are aware of the game’s repetitive nature and space requirement, laying siege can be an entertaining activity for an audience of varied experience levels.