A Wrecker's life is a surprisingly dull one.
What Wreckateer Got Right
- + Mostly responsive motion controls
- + Goofy dialogue is somewhat charming
- + Avatar Famestar offers incentive
- + Points system is well implemented
What Wreckateer Got Wrong
- - Motion gameplay gets old fast
- - Mostly irritating voice-acting
- - Repetitive levels and minimal variety
- - Lack of personality or innovation
Wreckateer is the newest addition to the increasing catalogue of first-party Kinect-centric efforts from Microsoft's first-party developers. Having been the second of Microsoft's releases in their Summer of Arcade 2012 pipeline, Wreckateer had a lot of support behind it from MS, and thus a lot of pressure to impressive and perform as an ideal Kinect title. But does it succeed to stand out above the average catalog of motion-centric titles on XBLA?
Sadly, no. The initial impressions of Wreckateer will universally be as a family-friendly and simple game, and comparisons to Angry Birds is definitely expected as it is an obvious influence. However, the personality imbued in Angry Birds is nowhere to be found here.
The story of Wreckateer is a simple and disappointingly bland one. Set in the generic medieval land of Elkhart, your King assigns you, a young and nameless upstart of the Wreck & Tinker Destruction Company and your two terribly voiced Scottish-accented superiors to demolish 60 random Goblin-infested towers and castles across the land.
Tinker and Wrecker might take the cake as the most irritating and unlovable mentors and narrators in any video game, and if it wasn't for their admittedly humorous Top Gun References and lame but crude jokes, I would have simply played the rest of the game with the volume turned off to spare me from my agony. The medieval backdrop is also so devoid of any of its own unique traits or quirks that I assumed they had unashamedly taken cues from Lionhead's world of Albion, albeit to lesser success and virtually none of the humour.
Wreckateer's gameplay premise is straightforward and uncomplex. Players are tasked to launch, throw, fling and spin a limited amount of rocks per level using Kinect to destroy towers, walls, castles and houses and the Goblins within with as much efficiency and style as possible. The more accurate your shots are, the more you destroy and more points you earn to reach Bronze, Silver and Gold prizes. A bronze gets you progression to the next level while a Gold prize unlocks a special challenge level that often offers additional challenges in the form of tweaks to the gameplay mechanics, offering some variety to those who are dedicated enough to scoring as much as possible.
Just performing the repetitive process of preparing the Bastilla alone becomes a drag, and before long the motion appeal will wear off and you'll be wondering why you can't just do this with the basic controller in your hand.
There is a level of strategy and planning involved in completing a level, as well as luck in securing a high amount of points with such limited ammunition, so a well-earned cluster of points for destroying one tower with another is very satisfying, so there is fun to be had in the challenge of discovering new ways to succeed. Some variety in the projectile types such as the Split Shot, a large shot that splits into four smaller ones which can be expanded and rotated by the player as they fly through the air and Bomb Shots which you can explode at will, offers creative and stylish ways you can fling your buckshot at the unlucky Goblin-infested castles.
In Wreckateer, it's all about the Kinect; there are no traditional controllers here. Grabbing, aiming and firing the Ballista all require simple movements; step forward to grab the bastilla launcher, step backwards to prepare it, turn in the desired direction to aim, and spread your arms to unleash some rocky hell on some unlucky castles and goblins. Spinning and boosting your buckshot mid-collision is also accomplished through elaborate spins and pushes that require minimal effort and all of which feel responsive.
Because all the gestures and movements are fairly responsive and simple, any technical shortcomings the motion detecting hardware may harbour are masked. As proven time and time again, it's the games with simpler Kinect controls that seem to be and play the best, as there is no constant recalibration to fix the motion sensor controls like many other titles, allowing for mostly uninterrupted jump-in-and-play single-player or multiplayer action.
The implementation of Avatar Famestar deserves a mention, giving incentive to those who like treating their virtual avatar with cool new gear a way to do so for free, by accomplishing several in-game challenges and goals.
However, responsive controls and virtual avatar bling doesn't mean good or fun gameplay. The cookie-cutter levels quickly become repetitive in the lack of variety in their layout or aesthetics, and the gameplay isn't suited for play sessions longer than an hour at best. Just performing the repetitive process of preparing the Bastilla alone becomes a drag, and before long the motion appeal will wear off and you'll be wondering why you can't just do this with the basic controller in your hand.
The game also requires a fairly large play-space, so it's not ideal for people who can only play in a small or cramped space or who can't move furniture around to accommodate such needs.
The nature of the tower-destruction gameplay should also have made the game snappy and fast in each shot. But each time you go through the steps and watch the buckshot fly and points tally, the ensuing chaos feels drawn out and way too long to keep you attentive. Wreckateer is simply devoid of anything outstanding, innovative, or gripping to keep most players invested, and at a 800 Microsoft Point price-tag, those spacebucks are probably best spent elsewhere.
The Final Verdict
Wreckateer is a passable XBLA title. While the game has a goofy charm to it in its mediocrity and boasts impressively accurate and responsive controls, it ultimately falls short as a must-have Kinect game in its lack of long-term play, lack of a unique personality and, quite simply, lack of fun.
By Nathan Misa