Lilt Line (WiiWare)
This iPhone-to-WiiWare port marks Gaijin Games’ first foray into the world of publishing and it’s a pretty good fit for the makers of the Bit.Trip series of old-school rhythm action games.
After playing both the iPhone and WiiWare versions I find the WiiWare version to be the superior experience, though the controls are the same: tilt your phone/remote to move a line up and down through a narrow corridor, taking care to avoid walls and tap the screen/button to the beat. Having the screen stay static in front of you makes this a lot easier, as does using the remote tilt Bit.Trip BEAT style as opposed to the iPhone version’s left-right tilt. There’s fourteen levels in all, each one accompanied by a track of dub-trance techno (dubstep) which makes for some good background music. The opening levels aren’t too bad, but halfway through the difficulty takes a rather sharp turn upward.
Rather than scoring points for good performance you start out with a set number of points that gets reduced a little when your line hits a wall and a lot if you fail to press a button when passing one of the marked beats in time. Run out of points and it’s game over; otherwise whatever is left when the song/level ends is recorded as your score.
It’s a budget release for 500 points and worth checking out for fans of the Bit.Trip series. Of course if you have an iPhone and want to save a couple of quid you can buy it in the App store, or do what I did and buy both so you can play it at home or on the go!
I was one of the few who liked The Conduit: its old-school corridor battles were made fun by some decent voice acting, good controls and a passable storyline. For many veteran FPS players, however, it fell short of what was in place on rival consoles and failed to meet their standards. This was especially true of the online mode, where a lack of patching infrastructure allowed a plague of hackers and highly-publicized glitches to cement this negative impression. Thankfully High Voltage has delivered a sequel that corrects many shortcomings of the first game, but it may be a case of too little, too late given the recent publication of similar titles that have gotten a good reception.
The solid controls are still there, with the addition of Motion Plus support and a dual analogue option to appeal to those who started playing first-person action games using gamepads. For myself the Wii Remote and Nunchuk is the reference way to play this kind of game: after playing The Conduit, Red Steel 2, Goldeneye and Call of Duty: Black Ops I find keyboard and mouse a bit cumbersome as an interface. The real-time control adjustment is gone, but there’s still the usual tweaks to perform so nothing critical is lost. The game itself is quite different from the first one however, not only in level design and enemy AI, but tone.
Levels are less the corridor parade of the first game and more like warrens filled with plenty of things to go hunting for: currency to buy weapons and upgrades (for use in single-player and online), conspiracy objects (real-world items with lore and enemy communiques that add to the story), extra levels and the graffiti you’ll remember from the first game. Although the puzzles leading to weapons caches from the first game are gone you’ll find yourself using the ASE a lot more as there’s no longer an annoying “ping” to tell you something of interest is near and there’s so much more to find. You’ll need to bring the device out regularly if you want to get all the secret items, putting up a filter which highlights objects of interest, Metroid Prime-style.
The enemy AI is a lot more clever (most of the time) and will not simply take cover and pop out to get picked off by a well-timed head shot. Instead enemies will move from cover-to-cover and close to your position and dive away from thrown grenades. Some tank-like enemies will just barrel straight at you and there’s crawling ones that jump quite a distance. If you thought the mites in the first game were annoying, in Conduit 2 they’re positively lethal!
I found the default Guarded difficulty presented quite a challenge in several spots. New to this game are boss battles which mark the end of various story sections and echo those found in Metroid. In fact this aspect threw me a bit. I was expecting a more traditional FPS “shoot over and over again” fight, but in fact you can only harm the bosses by shooting certain parts of them or shooting them at certain times, which is rather more in keeping with a traditional 2D style of action game than the big aliens I was used to from The Conduit.
For veterans of the first game the most jarring change is the voice acting and the tone. Not only have all the voice actors been replaced, but the serious tone of the first game is gone. Mr. Ford is now a wisecracker who charges in guns blazing rather than a put-upon hero trying to overcome the odds against a vast conspiracy. It takes a little getting used to, but if you can let go of the first game it’s fairly amusing – even including a poke at the repeating corridor level layout of parts of The Conduit.
Multiplayer options include a new splitscreen mode – which I haven’t tried – and online with up to a dozen players as in the first game. Chat is exclusively via the new Headbanger headset, but you’ll find that’s only used by a minority of players (blame Nintendo’s failure to define a communication standard at launch for that). As with The Conduit, you can only chat to your friends (including ones registered in the lobby on the fly), so the unsolicited chatter experienced on other consoles (and Black Ops on the Wii) is non-existant. If one of your new friends proves annoying they can be muted of course.
There’s a new achievement system, avatar customisation (something else to spend those credits on) and patch support (yay). Favourite multi-player modes from The Conduit, like Bounty Hunter and ASE Ball, return along with new modes. If you have enough friends you can choose a game mode and create a private match; otherwise you get to vote on one of two random ones between rounds. I suppose some might chafe at the lack of choice beyond FreeForAll, Team Play or “Hardcore” versions of both, but I like the pot-luck aspect: it makes me more likely to try out a new game mode than if there was a dedicated lobby. Although the level environments are smaller and less-detailed than Black Ops, they have a feeling of spaciousness and look good. Veterans of the first game’s multiplayer mode will be happy to note that enhanced versions of the street and courtyard levels are included alongside the colourful and exotic settings of Conduit 2.
Despite all the improvements I think the market has gotten a bit crowded on the Wii for this kind of game. Even with the delays Conduit 2 might have done better if released more towards the fall as most online Wii gamers still seem to be playing Black Ops and Goldeneye. I can get a game going no problem, but I have yet to play in a full match and I’ve had more than a few games with only one or two other players. On the plus side I have yet to see evidence of hacking and, unlike Black Ops, I’ve yet to experience game-breaking lag. I have played a couple of matches that were terminated because of some kind of server error or loss of connection to the host, but neither of these has been a frequent occurrence and again, unlike Black Ops, I’ve never had to quit out of online mode or reset my Wii as a result.
If the Grinder does end up coming out on the Wii later this year then the novelty of a squad-based FPS with a horror theme on the Wii might prove a big hit. At the moment it seems the available audience of FPS fans on Wii just isn’t big enough to support the online environments of three first-person action titles at once.
Conduit 2 is a pretty decent example of the genre. Think of it as the Wii’s Duke Nukem – if a bit less OTT – with a solid (if underpopulated) online community. From a single-player perspective it blows Call of Duty: Black Ops out of the water and though the numbers might not be as great online it has the advantage of not burning out your DVD-ROM drive and being dominated by servers based across the Atlantic. If you’re lukewarm on the genre there’s probably nothing that will change your mind in my review, but Wii-owning FPS fans should be able to get their money’s worth out of it.