Review: Protöthea (WiiWare)

Is this worthy enough to be remembered in the shoot-em-up hall of fame?

Protöthea originally started life as a PC game, developed by Digital Builders back in 2005. It pretty much went unnoticed at the time, so it seems like a strange choice for Ubisoft to use for its debut on the Wii as there's little here in the way of innovation other than the hasty inclusion of Nunchuk and Wiimote controls.

There isn’t any explanation as to why you play as a lone ship fighting your way through numerous enemies on various planets, but storytelling rarely features in this kind of game. Shoot-em-ups are all about challenging, and often frantic, gameplay. When it comes to challenge, Protöthea delivers, but it doesn’t do so exceptionally. This isn’t to say that the gameplay doesn’t have its strong points though.

Protöthea does have an interesting control scheme, in which you rotate the ship and aim with the Wii remote, and move the ship with the control stick. It’s basically FPS controls applied to a shooter, in the same way we witnessed in the excellent Geometry Wars. It works just as well as the PC version and after some practice you may come to appreciate the control scheme for moving and firing. Besides firing your main weapon with the A button, you can drop bombs on ground enemies with the B button. The bombs have a fairly impressive firing distance, but aim carefully, because the farther out you aim the bombs, the shorter they’ll fall from the target.

There’s more to speak of in Protöthea’s defence as well. There are some cool power-ups, and even a new power-up introduced on each level. A multi-shot, a flamethrower, a thunderous beam weapon, and many others are all at the tip of your right thumb, provided you can switch to your desired weapon by removing your thumb from the A button to the left and right directionals on the d-pad. It’s a little awkward, and it certainly puts the player at a disadvantage, but it is functional. By default, the ship is also equipped with the rather handy ability to slow down time. There is a specific meter for this which is built up by destroying enemies. It certainly comes in handy when you're trying to dodge a wave of enemy fire, but overall the ability comes off as something of an afterthought, and hardcore shooter fans might even consider it to be cheating!

Things start to go downhill when you inspect the game further. The level design is particularly suspect; while environments do vary throughout the game, they all feel very similar. It doesn’t matter how many oceans, hills, or domes there are, there’s little to look at and lots of the textures look ill-defined and lack detail. Combine this with the tiny amount of enemy variation and boring boss fights, and there is next to nothing to get excited about. Some levels don’t even contain any ground enemies, and you may find yourself running into air enemies that look exactly the same as ones on the ground. The levels move along slowly too, and it often feels like there are just enough enemies thrown in to each level to make sure the player’s watching. All in all, it fails to get the pulse racing in the way all good shooters should.

The sonic package is even less appealing. Music-wise, Protöthea contains lots of generic rock pieces that sound like they were thrown together in five minutes with a cheap sequencer and grating sound samples. The songs may set the tones for the levels, but they don’t set the right ones. Sound effects are just as generic with many of the shots fired being hardly audible in the first place and explosions sounding like thunder piercing the sky from miles away.

Conclusion

Sadly we can't think of many positive things to say about Protöthea. Some people may enjoy the interesting control setup and the innovative power-ups, but poor level design, average graphics, little enemy variation, the slow pace, awful music and bad sound effects ultimately sour what could have been an enjoyable blast. Protöthea was an average PC game and it should come as no surprise to discover that it's an average WiiWare game, too.