Eduardo the Samurai Toaster (WiiWare)
This is a platforming shoot-em up like Contra, but with some very unique artwork consisting of scanned-in pen-and-paper drawings which are used in place of conventional sprite- or polygon-based graphics. It’s a brilliant effect giving the game an oddball cartoony look as a result, but still offers some fun gameplay. The only serious issue I have with it is the lack of any kind of scoring system or leaderboards of any kind. I don’t care if they’re online, but I do like a little “beat my highest score” incentive to play it again, you know? Only a North American release for this, so European and Japanese players are out of luck.
Evasive Space (WiiWare)
A non-shooter where evading the baddies to reach a goal in a maze whilst collecting astronauts or other targets is the name of the game. Great visuals and nice degree of polish complement some fun gameplay. The only big negatives are a difficulty curve that climbs sharply at Level 3 and controls that are definitely marmite. Negative reviews lambast the use of pointer to steer and B button to thrust, but I actually find it works quite well. Of course if you suffer from some kind of palsy you’re going to need to recalibrate your remote, but I had no real issue with it and the controls helped maintain a good level of challenge. At 1000pts. it might be a bit on the high side though; I think it would have done better with a price point of 800. Definitely worth checking out if you have a North American or Japanese Wii.
Groovin’ Blocks (WiiWare)
A nice little falling block game with a musical twist. The goal is to assemble connecting groups of four, but in order to complete the stage you need to drop the blocks in time to the beat of the background music enough times to earn stars which unlock further stages. Each stage has a different techno track and there are several on offer. There have been reports of the disc release (which includes a few extra levels and presumably higher-quality audio) coming to Europe, but it has yet to materialise as of this writing. The gameplay is decent, though it can be distracting attempting to both plan ahead and time the block pair drop, but the music is ace. You might not be able to get the game in Europe at the moment, but the soundtrack can be found for download at Amazon.co.uk.
The graphics in this half-pipe shooter (resembling a marriage of Atari’s vector classic Tempest and futuristic racers like Wipeout and F-Zero) are quite impressive for a WiiWare title. The soundtrack moves along nicely and the sensation of speed is terrific. You’re trying to blast enemy ships and pick up the “warp energy” released in sufficient quantities to enable you to travel through the warp gates you’re speeding towards inexorably. Fail to pick up these luminous blobs and your ship will be mercilessly destroyed. Enemies shoot back as well, so you need to keep on your toes – though the first five levels aren’t terribly tough. The first level you can unlock is number 6 which proves to be quite the challenge. Between levels is a bonus round where hitting the gate without the required number of energy just takes you to the next level and whilst there’s no shooting, it still gets blisteringly fast. There’s a four-player multiplayer option in which everyone needs to work together to get the warp energy required or everyone dies. A nice game at a good price for 800points. Someday it might even be seen outside of North America!