First Impressions: Gnomz (WiiWare)

WiiWare gets weirder

QubicGames' Gnomz isn't much like other fighting games. There are no punches, no blocks and no health bars — instead it has gnomes, rainbow socks and reindeer with lights on. We recently grappled with a preview version of the game and came out (mostly) mentally unscathed.

Played with the Wii Remote sideways, Gnomz is a single-screen platformer/fighting game that owes as much to Mario Bros. as it does Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The only 'attack' is your jump, with the aim being to stomp on your opponents' heads to dispatch them and score a point. They soon respawn though, and whoever has the most points at the end of the match is declared the winner. It's simple, instantly intuitive and — with up to eight characters on-screen — totally chaotic.

Smash Match is the standard mode where up to four human players and four CPU characters brawl on one of 25 stages, each trying to stomp the others. With no teams it's every gnome for itself, and the almost instant respawn means nobody's out of the action for more than a second or two. The stages each lend themselves to differing strategies: it's not always advantageous to claim the high ground as the stage 'ceiling' extends beyond the edge of the screen, letting others float over you for a well-aimed stomp, so quick movements become the key. Some will notice similarities to fan game Super Mario War, but Gnomz is executed with no little panache and plenty of its own style.

There's also a few handy power-ups (disguised as socks) to help you put away the other porcelain pugilists: a white sock summons a familiar to take out nearby opponents, a brown sock turns you into an unstoppable viking and a rainbow sock unleashes a giant rainbow of enormous destructive force. All of this is wrapped up in some very crisp and charming 2D artwork and suitably bizarre sound effects.

Gnomz isn't far off release on WiiWare and, if the price is right, could prove to be an enjoyable romp for anyone after a simple and speedy battle.