I am slowly but surely becoming a big fan of Xbox Live Arcade. Whilst some of the games are a bit below par, the price and size of the titles allow gamers to be a bit more experimental in their gaming choices instead of investing in a major release, but there are also absolute gems. Amongst the latest XBLA games I’ve played (and can highly recommend) are Bloodforge, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD and the Feeding Frenzy series.
The latest in this list of highly recommendable XBLA games is Wreckateer. At only 800 MS points (that’s about R105.00) and at a size of 1.66GB, Wreckateer epitomises the strengths of XBLA. Saving costs on packaging and distribution is a great way to minimise the costs to us gamers and we can have fun without feeling guilty. I still sometimes feel a bit bad when I fork out R600 on a full blown title, but I can alleviate my XBLA buys by saying it’s just the price of dinner and a movie. With XBLA games, we can also be a little less picky with our purchases and increase our hoard.
Another beauty of XBLA is that my kids love it. In fact, they know how to switch everything on and start the games without needing me around at all. The games are quick to access, easy to play, challenging and, most of all, fun. The objectives are also small enough to focus the attention of gamers with short attention spans (such as my five year old).
Wreckateer is a fantastic title for the kids and for me. It’s all Kinect enabled so there is a bit of activity (and exercise if you play like my kids) and I think this is one of the better Kinect games I have played. The controls are simple and you’re able to complete your actions without the normal trouble that seems to accompany Kinect titles.
The basic idea behind Wreckateer is that goblins are infesting castles in your homeland and, of course, we all know that the only way to truly get rid of a goblin infestation is to demolish the whole structure. Enter ‘Wreck and Tinker Destruction’ and yourself, the newest recruit in the company.
Armed with your trusty ballista and some mighty impressive weaponry (for medieval times), you set about removing the unwanted scallywag horde from the castles in question. The ultimate objective is to bring down as much of the castle as possible and earn points, which are then translated into medals (gold, silver or bronze).
Essentially, Wreckateer can be played two ways: Either just go for it and smash as much as you can, or you can place each shot strategically for maximum impact. Surprisingly, I am more inclined to just go for it whilst my son is quite specific in what he wants to hit. Fortunately, there is a multiplayer option so we each have our own turns to play the way we want. The results were pretty much the same to begin with and I was just as likely to score big as he was, but as the game progressed and we started understanding the dynamics of the structures and the abilities of the different types of shots, the strategist starting piling on the points.
The strategist also has a bit more fun when they play because you really do get a sense of achievement when a particularly impressive shot comes off. There are many different icons, power-ups and abilities that can be gained both whilst earning experience and progressing in the game, but also whilst your shot is in the air. For example, you can earn a pair of gauntlets that allows you to alter the trajectory of a basic shot in mid-air, and there’s also an icon that you can shoot which allows your shot to explode on impact.
As you progress in Wreckateer, you gain access to different kinds of shots which all have different properties that really add into the strategic aspect of the game. Some of the shots that you get include the basic shot (which is simply a ball that smashes all in its path), the split shot (which breaks into four smaller shots thereby allowing you to hit more surface area) the flying shot (which has wings and can be flown like a plane) and the exploding shot, (which does exactly as it says on the box). There are more but I don’t want to give too much away. Suffice to say, they are all a whole lot of fun to shoot towers (and goblins) with.
So, the basic concept of Wreckateer is pretty simple: Knock down the castles with shots from your big ballista and chase the nasty goblins out of your kingdom. In practice, however, this isn’t as simple as it sounds and some learning, a lot of experimentation, a bit of frustration and a whole lot of fun are required to master this game.
There are a few drawbacks to Wreckateer, though. Initially, it’s quite difficult to activate shots such as the split or flying shot – the Kinect sometimes just doesn’t do what you want to do. Recalibrating your Kinect settings helps but there are a few occasions when your shot just won’t activate. Fortunately, ‘mulligans’ (a chance to repeat your shot) are available to alleviate this somewhat.
There are also times when your shot does something unexpected, such as causing a lot more damage than you anticipated (or a lot less) for no particular reason. I am of the opinion, however, that lobbing boulders and explosives at goblin infested castles might be considered an inexact science so results aren’t always 100% guaranteed. Once again, the mulligan may come in handy.
I can highly recommend Wreckateer as a fun, inexpensive game for the whole family. It’s fun to play and fun to watch, while the multiplayer functionality gives the game a great competitive aspect that really adds to the enjoyment factor. As per all XBLA titles, don’t expect too much from Wreckateer in terms of graphics, plot and all that other stuff that goes into a multimillion dollar title. Just get it and have some fun blowing stuff up.