Review: MaBoShi: The Three Shape Arcade (WiiWare)

Three games in one - Triple the fun or triple the terror?

MaBoShi: The Three Shape Arcade is a rather unique game from Mindware, a company that's relatively unknown outside of Japan. As the title suggests, MaBoShi is based around three shapes - Circle, Stick and Square. The gameplay comprises three mini-games based on these shapes, which all challenge you to the simple objective of beating the best high score. Mess up once and it's game over! It doesn't sound very interesting on the surface, but there is more to this game than meets the eye.

To begin, you are presented with three vertical rectangles on your screen, lined up from left to right. At the top is a list of all of your Mii avatars. Drag your selected Mii into one of the rectangles and you will be able to choose one of the three games, which you will then begin to play in the selected rectangle. The games are fairly basic, but they are not mastered easily.

The Circle game puts you in control of a ball, which is located in a circular playing field. The ball is always on the move, and it will continuously try to go in one direction. If you press the A button, it will change direction and go the opposite way. Using this tactic, you have to try to defeat swarms of enemies that appear in the playing field before they manage to reach the edge and escape. At first, you will probably be able to beat the levels very easily, but later on, there will be added obstacles in the "arena", such as a ball attached to a rope that swings around when you hit it and thus blocks your movement. And no, it won't take out enemies!

The Stick game involves a stick attached to a circular object known as the "core". The stick continuously swings around the core. Hold the A button to swing in the direction the stick is spinning toward. The stick will then lose some swinging speed, so you'll have to wait for it to pick up the pace before you can move again. Slowing the stick down enough will cause it to change its swinging direction so you can move the other way, if you want. The objective in each stage is to simply progress upwards, avoiding enemies and walls. The stick can destroy whatever crosses its path, but if they hit the core, you lose. Occasionally, you'll come across items such as a pinball, which can be knocked around with the stick to destroy everything it hits, or an invincibility item, which temporarily allows you to move without any speed loss, and makes the core invulnerable. Every few stages you will encounter a fiendish boss fight to keep you on your toes.

The Square game is a bit less action packed and would suit those with a more strategic mindset. To the untrained eye this might at first appear to resemble the popular mobile phone game “Snake”. You control a little square and move around square-shaped spaces. In your wake, however, you will leave a trail of fire. Your objective is to use this fire to burn all the other coloured blocks you will encounter across every stage. If the fire touches an empty square located next to the coloured ones, it will spread across and start to burn up the rest. You have to be fast though: with each step you take, the screen scrolls up slightly, and if anything that is not burnt or still burning touches the bottom edge of the screen then its game over!

These games sound simple, but the genius here is that they work together as part of one big game. In single player mode you play one of these games occupying one of three rectangle-shaped screens, but once you've played for a while, AI players will begin playing games in the other two screens (You can also let two other human players play games in them). This isn’t just a cheap way to fill up the two empty rectangles fortunately; the three rectangles cleverly interact with one another.

For example if you're playing the Stick game, and the next rectangle has the Square game, and you move the stick close to the edge of the screen, it will actually appear in the Square game and take out any blocks it hits! Defeat enemies in the Circle game and they'll go careening in the direction you bashed them. If you happen to bash them into the Stick game, they can bump into enemies there and defeat them. If they fly into the Square game, any coloured blocks they hit will automatically catch fire and begin to burn. Each burnt block in the Square game will send ghostly square outlines into the other two games, which will also kill any enemy they hit.

Occasionally, while you're playing, one of the other rectangles will suddenly feature the appearance of Mr Maboshi, a man whose face is made out of the three shapes. As a variety of shapes begins to fall down in this screen, he requests that you obtain one million points in his screen, which must be done by using the "interactivity" features of the other games to hit the shapes and score points. This is not as difficult as it first appears, as your score is saved. If you can't get one million before Mr. Maboshi leaves, no worries: every time he appears, you'll continue with all the points you collected for him so far, so getting one million shouldn't be too challenging even if you're terrible at the game! When you finally hit the million mark, you will unlock a new wallpaper to use as the background behind the games. After this you can try to get one million points for Mr. Maboshi more times for more wallpapers!

The games are all very simple, but also very fun. MaBoShi isn't a game you'll play for hours at a time, but firing it up once every day and trying to beat one of the high scores will most likely keep you entertained for quite some time. The overall goal is to get one million points in all the games, try accomplishing that! With a friend or two taking part and interacting with your rectangle, this is one very entertaining package.

There’s more too: if you have a Nintendo DS, you can send a download version of the game to it. In the DS version, there is just one playing field, and your DS is held sideways so that the screen is vertically aligned like the WiiWare version, using the d-pad for control in all games. The DS version has downgraded graphics, understandably, but the gameplay and music are intact. If you like the game and would like to take it with you on the go, this is perfect. Just don't shut off the DS -- put it in sleep mode by closing the lid when you're done, or you'll lose the download! The only small gripe would be that your achievements on the DS download do not in turn feed back to the WiiWare version of the game to unlock anything, but it is still a clever idea. As a final extra feature, it is possible to send replays of your best scores in the Wii version to friends via WiiConnect24. You can also make these replays play in the game screens, while you play a new game in another! The replay will also interact with your game like a live game would!

Conclusion

MaBoShi is a very strange and unique game. Perhaps it is not one that will keep you glued to the screen for hours at a time, but it really is addictive and will have you coming back often to try to better that elusive high score set the day before. With friends around, the proposition is even more attractive. The game is complemented by a surprisingly excellent soundtrack and the Nintendo DS download version is the icing on the cake. Nintendo made a good choice in publishing MaBoShi outside of Japan, which is a testament to the potential they saw in it. If you fancy something completely different to experience on WiiWare, this might just be the game for you.