Review: Incoming! (WiiWare)

Beware of incoming duds.

Welcome to Incoming!, a game of projectile combat. You command a tank (or a small group of tanks), and you will be expected to demolish the other tank (or small group of tanks) by adjusting the angle and velocity of each shot. You've played games like this before, and you've probably enjoyed them. In fact, the first time you play this game, you'll take one look at the screen and say, "Oh, this game is like such-and-such!" Enjoy that flash of recognition; it's probably the only joy you'll get from Incoming! whatsoever.

When you boot up the game, the first thing you'll see is the menu screen. Or, we should say, the first thing you'll see is a static image of the game's logo, which you'll realize is the menu screen after it doesn't go away. There are no words (apart from "Incoming!" in the logo), and the whole thing reeks of prototype. It's sort of like the early days of DVD, when you'd just get some unflattering screen grab and one or two options to choose from, except those early DVD menus at least told you what the options were!

Two of the game's options are easy enough to figure out. The uppermost button features one silhouette, and one beneath it features two. So that's one-player and two-player mode. Easy. The third (and final) option is not quite so straight forward. It looks kind of like a stylized Wii Remote and nunchuk, so I expected it to be an option for customizing the controls. (Note to developers: if you're going to eschew all text in favor of icons, at least make sure those icons are vaguely recognizable.) Selecting it, however, just brings you to the credits.

No, not a credits sequence, just another static screen with the same logo and some typewritten credits down the side. Obviously we don't need flashy introductions or credit sequences to enjoy a game, but in this particular case, it's just depressingly symptomatic of how little effort went into Incoming! at all. Basically, if a corner could be cut, it was cut. I have nothing against a game that streamlines itself for the sake of efficiency, but in the case of Incoming!, this streamlining seems to have sacrificed everything fun.

There is--to be perfectly blunt--no fun to be had with this game. Anywhere.

When you start a single-player game, you choose the color of your tanks, and that's about all there is in the way of customization. You can't give your team members silly names as you can in the Worms series, you can't change the default control setup, you can't change the sound-effect volume (though you'll wish you could), and you can't even stick a Mii to your save file. You simply choose a color and that's the last option for customization you'll ever see. (We're lucky they even gave us that much!)

The game begins with one tank on each side of the screen. You control the tank on the left, and the computer controls the one on the right. The object, obviously, is to defeat your opponent before he defeats you. A direct hit does a good deal of damage, a glancing hit does a small deal of damage, and a miss causes no damage, no matter how close you were to the target (there is no blast damage). Your projectiles look and behave like cannonballs.

There are only two things you can do at any point in the game: fire upon your opponent, and move from side to side. Limiting? Yes. But that wouldn't be so bad if the control wasn't so horrible. In order to fire, you point at your tank with the Wii Remote, hold A, and drag the cursor diagonally upward. An arrow will appear, showing you the angle and velocity (via the arrow's length) at which your shot will travel. (It does not take arc or gravity into account.) Releasing A fires the projectile, and a few seconds will pass before you can fire again.

Moving your tank, oddly, uses the same control scheme, except that you drag the cursor to the left or to the right, rather than upward to the left or right. When you do this, a flag will appear somewhere on the ground. You position the flag where you'd like your tank to move, and then you release A, which starts your tank rolling slowly to where the flag was. Has there ever, in the history of real-time combat gaming, been a more convoluted way to move your character slightly to the left? And because the moving/firing mechanisms are controlled identically, you will often end up firing when you meant to move, or moving when you meant to fire. Triggering either event locks the tank into an action that can't be followed up on for another few seconds, so prepare to be continuously frustrated.

Strategy goes out the window when playing against the computer, because the enemy seems to just fire randomly. You can't have a strategy against chaos (it's impossible), so all you can do is sit there and press A and drag your cursor over and over again until you kill them. Or until they kill you. Whichever happens first, you'll just be glad it finally happened. Tanks take a lot of damage, and the gameplay never changes from the standard press-drag-wait pattern. Over and over again. Press, drag, wait. If you really want to, you can roll back and forth, but the movement is so sluggish, unresponsive and imprecise that you're just as likely to roll into the line of fire as out of it. Everything you do in this game feels like you're controlling your tanks not with buttons and levers, but with long rubber bands tied to those levers from several miles away. About the only good thing I can say about the controls is they allow you to fire straight up into the air and kill yourself.

As you complete levels, additional elements will be added to the game, but they don't so much improve the game as they do compound its issues. You'll start of battling tanks one on one. Then you'll move on to two on two and three on three. You'll gain the ability to launch rockets (as will your enemy), and while this sounds cool, you have no control over them. You just point at the rocket icon that appears and press A; a rocket will launch, and you'll hope for the best. Hooray. You can also shoot down your opponent's rockets by -- you guessed it -- pointing at them and pressing A. (Why do developers forget that the Wii Remote has more than one button? Could you imagine playing Super Mario Bros. if every action -- including movement -- was mapped to the A button?)

Eventually power-ups will start raining from the sky. If you highlight one and -- all together now! -- press A, you'll snag it. These can range from a temporary shield to special one-time freeze-shots, and things of that nature. None of them affect the gameplay at all. You're still pressing A, dragging, and releasing. The same way. Over, and over, and over again. You're not likely to come out of this war with PTSD, soldier...but you just might end up with Repetitive Stress Disorder.

If you win a battle, you're punished by having to play another round. If you are defeated, a Stephen Hawking sound-alike bleats out YOU LOSE!!, which, to be honest, is the highlight of the entire game.

Two-player mode should have been this game's saving grace, but...well...it's no better. We enlisted the help of a Nintendo Life outsider to test the multiplayer (local only), and boredom was vocalized (repeatedly) before the first round was even over. It's no different from the single-player campaign in terms of gameplay, but there are a few more options for customization here. Namely you can turn the rockets / power-ups on or off, you can adjust the speed of play, and you can set the number of rounds. We chose to play a marathon best-six-of-eleven match (the longest you can select), and it was just awful. The only additional fun provided by competing against another human is the chance to laugh about how bad the game is with somebody else.

The graphics aren't so bad. Each of the backgrounds is pretty cool, and we did like the stage with the Earth rising behind the action, but they're not nearly enough to save this game. The music is your basic Casio techno-rock, and it's nothing you'll find yourself humming later. The sound effects range from the passable to the dreadful; my personal favorite being the sound of the cannonball hitting a tank, because it sounds like an acorn dinging somebody's fender.

Conclusion

From the creators of such classics as Pong Toss and WD-40 Spray Game it’s fair to say that we didn’t have high hopes for this game, but this really is an all time low for JV Games. If you've played Incoming! for only thirty seconds, you've gotten just as much out of it as if you've played for several hours. There is nothing this game has to offer that can't be found elsewhere in a superior form. The graphics are passable, but the music is completely forgettable, and the gameplay absolutely reprehensible. In short, this game is recommended only to parents who are tired of their kids asking for more Nintendo Points; buy them this game, and they will never ask you for points again.