Review: Helix (WiiWare)

Pick up your Wii Remotes and prepare to burn off some calories in this WiiWare music rhythm game.

If you haven't yet had enough of looking foolish by moving to the groove or rocking out on toy guitars, fret not! Now there is a new way to get people to have a laugh at your expense: Helix - a curious hybrid of rhythm action and workout exercise. Like games such as Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero, which provide the player with a good upbeat experience, Helix is also aiming to give you a good upper body workout, too. Does it actually work? This we'll have to answer with a resounding yes.

After an hour or so of play (depending on your level of dedication or masochistic tendencies) you will definitely feel the burn. Hence, we recommend doing at least a few good stretches before playing, unless you enjoy the feeling of sore arms the day after. This game is certainly not meant for the couch potato purists.

The actual mechanics of the game are fairly simple. An on-screen robot mannequin will perform moves to the beat which you have to mirror when indicated on the top's screen rhythm bar. That said, your moves will not be simultaneous with the mannequin but they'll follow subsequently. The in-game tutorial ensures that you know what needs to be done. After playing a few songs the game will encourage you to calibrate your movements by performing all move-sets, so that it can judge your moves more accurately while playing. You'll be prompted to do punches, side-jabs, uppercuts, bushwhackers, disco-style poses, and so on. Be prepared to practice some before you get them right, since it definitely takes a bit of getting used to before you can get a feel for what the game expects you to do.

Difficulty-wise, the game seems rather simple in easy mode, while medium will definitely give you a good workout. Hard, on the other hand, is not for the weak hearted or for those of you with slow reflexes; gaming sessions can become quite frantic. It is quite a feat to repeat the movements, while the robot shows you another set you'll have to perform a split-second later. As with most rhythm games, Helix gives you a health bar that will deplete as you miss moves and replenish as you correctly pull off subsequent ones. Combos (strings of successful moves) will provide you with a score multiplier.

As far as the controls are concerned, there are only two ways you can play this game: with one Wii Remote (one-handed) or two Wii Remotes (two-handed). The former is not worth anyone's while, providing quite a dull experience: Helix was definitely meant to be played with two controllers. So, if you don't have the requisite second Wii Remote you might want to pass on this purchase for now. Then again, we assume most Wii owners are in possession of at least two controllers, given the multiplayer focus of the machine. Straps may be recommended for those among you who fear for your or others' safety, although this reviewer had no trouble playing without such precautionary measures.

Regarding the question of motion-detection accuracy, there's definitely some room to fool the game by flailing randomly. Keep in mind though; you're also certain to miss many more moves that way. It's definitely more fun, satisfying, and quite a bit more successful to stick with the indicated move-set. As mentioned before, it does take some practice, but once you have it down the game can be a bundle of fun, while making you (possibly) more fit.

The music packed in with such games is definitely what makes or breaks them. Thankfully, while being of the somewhat unknown variety, the artists displayed here provide the game with an energetic and upbeat track list that fits the game quite splendidly. As an interesting and quite welcome addition, the Wii Remotes will pulse to the beat of the rhythm, giving the game quite a bit of a tactile feel. All of the music (which falls into the 'trance' genre) resembles the kind you might expect to find in modern European dance clubs. There are twenty-six songs all in all, several of which will be accessible from the get-go, while you'll have to unlock the rest by completing a certain number of songs on any of the difficulty settings. It is also noteworthy that those among you with a decent speaker system might get even more enjoyment out of the game, since the thumping of the bass will definitely get you into the swing of things.

As with most rhythm games, the graphics are far from a priority. That may be a good thing here because, overall, Helix's presentation is a bit lacklustre. It's just enough to fulfil its function, and nothing more. The "dancing" robot and the background visualiser are as grand as it gets; which is not very, obviously. On the other hand, since it won't be a distraction, one can more easily focus on imitating the displayed moves, especially when it comes to the more frantic sections. All in all, the lack of visual splendour is quite negligible.

There is also a co-op "multiplayer" mode, in which two players each take control of one of the robot's arms. Frankly, we can't see this as a drawing point for the game, but it's a nice addition regardless.

Conclusion

While some may have voiced their scepticism about this title when it was first announced, those fears can be easily set aside. As it is, Helix is a refreshing entry into the rhythm action genre and, without a doubt, one of the more worthwhile additions to WiiWare. If you weren't a fan of such titles before then we don't expect you to be won over by it, but if you enjoy a fun game that tries something different (and succeeds) then we can heartily recommend Helix to you. It is definitely worth the asking price.