First Impressions: 530 Eco-Shooter

Recycling - with a vengeance!

Intelligent Systems has a reputation of being one of Nintendo's better first-party development teams, with an impressive resume including the Fire Emblem games, Tetris Attack, the Paper Mario series, the WarioWare games and Super Metroid. Seeing a WiiWare title from them naturally raised our curiosity, and that curiosity was rewarded by a challenging lightgun shooter with a oddball theme.

530 Eco-Shooter is a little unusual in that it's designed for the Wii Zapper and therefore the Nunchuk is required, however you can easily play it without the Zapper shell if you desire. The (Z) and (B) triggers are used and their functions can be reversed, along with the ability to calibrate your screen, but that's the limit of the game's options.

It's not clear what the story is (unless you can read the Japanese in the operations guide), but there's a brief intro showing a blue-collar guy with a hardhat and the number "530" festooned over his hat and gloves, so he's presumably the titular "Eco-Shooter," designated 530. He assembles a big gun and then hops into what looks like a tiny wooden fortress that then transforms into a floating platform - now you're ready to recycle!

Apparently things have gone wrong in the future and discarded tins have somehow started coming to life. As Eco-Shooter 530 your job is to float around blasting every animated tin in sight using your Recycle Gun. The animated tins will take at least two hits: one to kill them and one to destroy the inert tin(s) remaining. After blasting them with (B) energy spheres are released that you need to collect by aiming your cursor and pressing (Z). The energy spheres recharge your weapon which loses one G.E. (energy) point every time you fire. If you run out of G.E. it's game over, so you need to ensure you achieve a good balance between shooting and collecting (you can do both at once by pressing both buttons) and keep your gun stocked with energy. Holding down (B) will switch to auto-fire mode which is good for eliminating groups of enemies (or the stacks of inert barrels they're taking cover behind), but also runs down your energy quickly, so don't forget to collect G.E.!

Pressing (Z) will actually suck in G.E. spheres from a large area, so you don't need as much precision for recharging as blasting, but you can only collect so much energy at once before your collector overheats, so you need to watch the heat gauge that appears when collecting G.E. and pause before it maxes out, or wait a few precious seconds for it to cool down again. Overheating happens just from pressing the button even without G.E. to collect on screen so don't think you can just hold down (Z) for the entire time to make things easier, either. Combat recycling requires focus and an awareness of your weapon status at all times!

Your foes are many: flying tins flapping their cut ends, empty cans with aerosol can for added propulsion (one of the few metal menaces that will directly attack you), caterpillars assembled of barrels and tins of various sizes that inch along the ground, bouncing bean tins and countless other variations on empty tins. Sub-bosses appear in the form of humanoid shapes (made of tins) that will also chuck empty fish tins at you (the weapon of choice for discarded cans, apparently). You can blast their "limbs" off, but they're only truly destroyed by having their flashing red cores eliminated. Tins, tins and more tins - all must be destroyed! At the end of each stage you face a sort of tin maelstrom, all whirling around a central red brick (of metal, no doubt) that sometimes will form a menacing humanoid shape. Blast the flashing bits and the central core to take out this final boss to unlock the next stage.

There are three stages in all that get progressively more difficult; once you beat the third one a Challenge stage is unlocked that plays stages back-to-back carrying over your remaining energy after each one which really increases the challenge. For added difficulty you can untick the "make the game a bit easier option" which seems to increase the enemy count and reduces the amount of energy awarded by destroyed foes. Local leaderboards track the top five scores for the three stages and Challenge, but you have to complete the stage/challenge to get your name up (with up to a whopping ten characters!) and there are no continues.

There may be a lot of lightgun games on the Wii, but this one looks nice (pretty explosions and special effects), has a decent electro-rock soundtrack and is more than just shooting the most targets for the highest score which is always a treat. Hopefully it will be coming to other territories soon so everyone can learn the fun way to recycle!