"Oh, no..." That's the phrase that gets squawked whenever one dies in a challenge in the latest title from Leikir Studios, an arena-type couch co-op title called Wondershot. It could also be the motto for the game's unending sameness - "Oh, no...not again." This recent addition to the ID@Xbox program is a fun little game but not for long.
The concept of Wondershot is that the player has one life and one shot. If one hits the target, the weapon returns. If one misses, the arrow, boomerang, etc. must be retrieved before it can be used again. There are also a few power-ups available, such as faster speed, invincibility, and the ability to walk through walls. Other than that, the game is very straightforward -- kill everything on the screen and be the last man standing. The game is played from a top-down view on battle screens that are colorful and fun, although limited in variety. The different battle screens utilize mechanics such as portals, moving obstacles, walls, and mud pits to slow the players down. If the match reaches Sudden Death, the already small area becomes significantly smaller, forcing enemies to deal with each other once and for all.
Players choose one of four available characters, all of whom are exactly the same except for appearance. Not one of them has any special abilities that differ from their counterparts. Four different weapons are also available. Each of these does have a particular set of abilities and their usefulness varies with the environment, but only to a small extent because the environments aren't especially varied themselves. Unfortunately, aiming is an issue. To maintain the direction of a shot, one must hold down the RT while moving, but this doesn't lock onto an enemy; it simply locks the direction into place, which makes it rather awkward. It would be akin to holding a spear at a 45-degree angle and then running around while trying to catch an enemy on its tip. This clunky aiming mechanic makes the up-close-and-personal approach more appealing, but this can also get one killed rather quickly.
The game has two different modes: Battle and Adventure. Battle Mode is straight-up couch co-op. It cannot be played alone. It can be manipulated with two controllers, but that's not the same as playing. One can customize Battle so that a tournament can be won in one round, which would save someone time on a couple of the achievements, but if a person owns just a single controller, he or she is out of luck. Battle Mode can't be done with one controller, nor can it played online, which seems strange for a game that encourages co-operative play. Since one of the achievements is to win 500 tournaments, you would expect access to online play to be available for those who don't have a couch buddy handy, but no online multiplayer option is available in any of the modes. Oddly enough, there are online leaderboards but no online play.
Adventure Mode has two parts: Challenge and Endless. Challenge puts the player through his or her paces in a series of challenges that pit the player against set objectives. These can range from killing a certain number of enemies within a set time limit to staying alive for a required amount of time. After winning so many challenges, players progress to the next "chapter", an interesting appellation in this context since there's no story whatsoever in the game. As one works through the chapters, the challenges naturally become increasingly difficult. As frustrating as some of these challenges are, the pattern of a given challenge is always the same so the enemy moves can be learnt and the player can adjust accordingly. Endless Mode is survival mode in which players stay alive against waves of enemies for as long as possible. Both Challenge and Endless can be done alone or in co-op.
Portals in action
Then there are the achievements. This title plays like most XBLA arcade titles, but its achievement list is something altogether different. Rather than the standard dozen or so achievements for an arcade game, this title has a whopping 56 available achievements. If one loves the game, that's good news. However, if one finds the game boring within an hour or so, this isn't such a great thing. As mentioned earlier, Battle Mode can be manipulated with customized rules to make a tournament winnable in one round, but 500 times? And what about reaching Wave 20 in Endless Mode on your own?
Additionally, one has to kill 1,000 monsters with each weapon, get DEV medals (beat the developers' time) in every chapter, win Gold medals in every Endless dungeon, perform Perfect Shots in every chapter, etc. For a game that is so straightforward in its simplicity that it could easily be mistaken for a kid's game, this is quite an ambitious list, especially when one can't go online to find friends to help with them.
SummaryOverall, Wondershot is a fun game for brief spurts of time, especially if one has friends with which to play. When alone, however, the game quickly becomes tedious and frustrating, and this can become a real problem since online play is not an option — a serious oversight by the developer since the game is geared to be a party game. While it boasts fun graphics and sound effects, those cannot compensate for the sameness of gameplay. Since neither characters nor weapons level up, one must become increasingly skilled to progress through the game, and with its difficult achievement list, it could prove a real trial for completionists. The game's $12.99 price seems fair for the amount of gameplay available, but it will be neither a quick nor easy game to finish.
- Fun, colorful graphics
- Can play with friends locally
- Set pattern in challenges
- Fair price
- Aiming isn't intuitive
- No online multiplayer
- Far too many achievements
The reviewer spent about five hours playing the game and earned eight of the available 56 achievements. A download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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