There has been no shortage of hype surrounding the release of High Voltage's new Tempest-style shooter Gyrostarr. The only problem with having that kind of hype is that the game ultimately has to attempt to live up to it. After complaints of Star Soldier R, the first shooter on WiiWare, being too short and slightly unfulfilling, many shooter fans have placed a lot of hope in Gyrostarr. The game does offer up some gorgeous visuals, a techno-style soundtrack, and some intense shooting action, but is it enough to satisfy fans who've been longing for a more compelling shooter experience to come to WiiWare?
In Gyrostarr, you take control of a space fighter and fly at breakneck speeds down narrow tracks that are overflowing with enemy ships trying to stop you. Along the way, you'll have to pick up energy pods in order to power up the warp gate that's waiting for you at the end of the track. If you don’t manage to get enough energy to power up the gate, then you will be treated to a nice visual display of your ship crashing head first into a closed warp gate at mach speed. Ouch!
To ensure that you don’t meet such a fate you’ll need to pick up some power-ups which you can run into as they appear on the track, or grab using your ship's grappling hook. These power-ups can add multiple and rapid fire capabilities to your ship and some will even make you invincible to enemy attacks for a short period of time. In addition to this you also have a small inventory of smart bombs that will destroy every enemy currently on the track. As the game progresses, the tracks become more cluttered with enemy ships and there are fewer chances to grab the energy pods.
The gameplay is pretty standard as far as shooters go. You can move left and right around the track and use your cannon fire to take out enemy ships that stand in your way. To make things a bit easier, your ship comes equipped with a grappling hook that you can shoot out by pressing up or down on the D-pad or "L" stick. This allows you to grab power-ups and energy pods without having to take your thumb off of the fire button. The game also allows for the use of several different controller options including the Wii Remote held sideways, the Nunchuk, or the Classic Controller. There is even an option called "Paired Control" where one person can use the Wii Remote and another player can use the attached Nunchuk or Classic Controller. To add to this comprehensive array of controller options, you can choose to use the "Motion Controls" which allow your ship to be moved around by tilting the Wiimote or Nunchuk, although this feels more like a novelty than a serious alternative form of control. The motion controls make manoeuvring the ship feel too loose and don't offer the precision control needed to successfully take down the barrage of enemy fighters. It's a fun way to control the game, but not terribly practical.
The play control in Gyrostarr is very responsive no matter which controller you choose. Making constant use of the grappling hook for grabbing energy pods is very intuitive and easy to execute, even while moving your ship around the intense tracks. If you manage to fill up your energy meter to full capacity before you reach the warp gate, you'll be treated to a bonus level. The bonus levels don't offer up much in the way of gameplay however; you basically fly around a track with no other ships at knee-jerk speeds collecting as many energy pods as you can manage. You can carry over the surplus energy to the next level if you manage to acquire enough during the bonus level.
The lack of a boss fight and the unimaginative bonus levels tend to make the game feel a bit repetitive after you've played for a long period of time, but the action becomes more intense and challenging as the game progresses, though it never really changes much. The omission of online co-op modes and online scoreboards doesn't help.
Gyrostarr offers up to four player simultaneous play, which is handy if you have some buddies hanging around. This basically pits up to four players on the same track in a no-holds-barred shootout. You can even get your ships in line with each other to make use of a charged-up power shot. Although the gameplay is essentially cooperative, each player has their own colour-coded score so they can keep track of their current tally of points. It might not seem like much, but this multi-player mode does add a bit of intensity, especially if you can find three additional players to participate, and it at least offers some additional variety to the overall experience.
The visuals are outstanding on the whole. The vivid colours and transparency effects give the game a very shiny and polished look. There is also a good sense of speed, especially on some of the more intense bonus tracks. Some of these seizure-inducing levels move so fast it's hard for your eyes to even keep up with them. The ships are quite detailed and you can choose a colour to suit your particular preference. The scrolling, even at some of the blinding speeds, remains fairly smooth. There are a few instances where you might notice some choppiness here and there, but the overall frame rate remains fairly consistent.
Over the years, techno music has often been used in shooting games, and Gyrostarr is no exception. If you like bands like the Prodigy then you’ll be right at home here. The pulsing beats fit in with the intense speed and action quite well, but there's very little variety between the different tunes and after a while they all begin to sound the same. There are plenty of bass-busting explosions, not to mention the alluring female voice you'll hear quite often, to cover up any inadequacies found throughout the pulsing musical score. The game supports Dolby Pro-Logic II and does a very accurate job of executing the intense surround sound.
Although Gyrostarr overflows with gorgeous eye candy, the gameplay can get repetitive after a short time which brings the experience down a notch or two and will likely leave shooter fans once again feeling a bit short-changed. There is a lot of potential for the graphics engine, and at the generous price of 700 Wii Points, it's hard to complain too much about what you get for your money. If you're a shooter fan and you don't demand a lot of variety in your gaming experience, Gyrostarr is a game you are likely to enjoy. However if you are one of those gamers who felt disappointed with the lack of substance in Star Soldier R, you will probably feel the same about Gyrostarr on the whole despite all the good things it has going for it.