Thorium Wars (DSiWare)

Game Review

Thorium Wars Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

One more proton and you'd be playing Protactinium Wars.

It's always refreshing (to us at Nintendo Life and also, we imagine, to you folks at home) when a game is released for WiiWare or DSiWare that fills a tangible gap, and the first thing you'll notice about Thorium Wars is that it's like nothing else available through DSiWare.

That uniqueness alone might have been enough to earn it some default recognition, but the good folks at 3PM Games didn't stop there; they saw their vision through and managed to produce one of the best-looking, most polished games we're ever likely to see on the service.

Thorium Wars takes place in the year 2152. For decades the human race has flourished, thanks in large part to thorium-based technological advances. Unfortunately the Thorians, a race of angry evil robot alien monsters...

...you know what? It doesn't matter.

The plot isn't what makes a game like this; the gameplay is what makes a game like this. And fortunately for everybody, the gameplay is great. In fact, there's so much good about the game that it's difficult to know where to begin.

The variety of missions is certainly a welcome feature. Throughout Thorium Wars you'll be asked to perform various tasks, and these range from combat to escort missions to scavenger hunts. In each mission, the action will unfold on the top screen, where you pilot your craft, fire your weapons, and speed all around hoping to deal more damage than you take, while the bottom screen offers a moderately helpful (though decidedly abstract) map of the area to help you along. As mentioned, your goal will always vary, but the basic concept of killing-them-before-they-kill-you is going to override all else.

Then there's the variety of vehicles. You'll be piloting futuristic, heavily-armed variations of planes, tanks and hovercrafts, and - saints rejoice - they all feel different! This was no lazy copy-and-paste job, where the ground is recolored blue and you're supposed to believe you're driving a boat now. The vehicle types are all unique, and though they're controlled similarly, the "feel" of driving each of them is rewardingly distinct.

Even sweeter is the fact that many missions offer you the choice between different types of planes, tanks and hovercrafts, each one of which handles noticeably differently from its brethren. Each vehicle feels like an entirely separate tool, and it's up to you, as the player, to determine which tool is best suited for your approach to each job. It would have been very easy for the developers to make cosmetic changes to the main vehicles in order to try to pass off the variants as additional content, so the fact that they devoted time and attention to making each individual unit stand out as a worthwhile experience speaks volumes about the care that's gone into this game.

The controls, unsurprisingly by this point, as also great. They're a bit intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of them, they work quite well. As much as we tried, we could not blame our constant exploding on sloppy controls. It always came down to us, the players, pressing the buttons, making the mistakes. It's a strange feeling to lose at a game like this without being able to curse a lousy control scheme. (The touch-screen-only option, however, is another story, and it's probably best if we just pretend it doesn't exist. Really. Trust us.)

The only downside is that there's no tutorial level or practice arena, and this really is one game that would benefit from one. Since you're not told how to play in-game, you'll need to consult the enclosed instruction manual. Doing so will cause your eyeballs to explode, as playing this game appears to be only slightly less complex than completely restructuring your nation's space program. Don't worry; the game controls easily enough once you get the knack for what you're doing, but you can't consult that complicated manual while you're playing the game, and so you'll just have to learn by doing everything wrong. This will get you killed, and lead to an awful lot of early (and needless) frustration, which is why a tutorial would have been a huge help.

There are a few other issues with the game as well. The missions themselves - while typically interesting and varied - are quite long, sometimes taking a half hour or more to complete. And while there are some checkpoints scattered about the level to help you out when you die, there is no way to save your progress in-level when you wish to quit. Which means that if you've been trying to complete the same mission for over an hour and you want to give it a rest for the night, you'd better not power down your DSi. If you do, you'll be starting all over again.

Enemy behavior, too, can sometimes get irritating. While it's nice to see that the different types of enemies all behave differently (and it is quite nice to see that), there are a few small ones that just circle your vehicle endlessly, periodically firing projectiles at it. And while you can destroy them, they respawn quickly, so that the investment of time it takes to kill them is compounded by the irritation you'll feel when they swarm in again, meaning you'll often just have to ignore them while you go about your mission and they go about getting in your way. (If you have trouble understanding what this is like, imagine sitting on your couch, trying to play Super Mario Bros. while a few wasps circle your head, repeatedly, until you either finish the level or decide to stop playing the game. Kill one, and it reappears. Not very appealing, is it?)

There's also a confusing desire on the game's part to ask you to proceed in a certain compass direction...without there being a compass in the game to help you figure out where it is. Nothing even indicates North, so good luck when you're told to "proceed to the East gate" after you've spent twenty minutes spinning aimlessly through a rainy city.

But this can be seen as nitpicking. And, in a way, that's exactly what it is. Thorium Wars is a great game that just happens to contain a handful (and only a small handful) of unfortunate design choices. What it does well offsets the few things we'd have liked it to have done differently. There's no doubt that this is among the better DSiWare games, and it's certainly one of the most fun.

The big question on everybody's mind, however, is whether or not it's worth the 1,000 point asking price. To this, we cannot provide a definite answer. The various vehicles and unlockable soundtrack/enemy galleries lend it a good deal of replay value, so if you are the type of gamer who actually does replay games, it's very likely that you'll get your money's worth. If you're more likely to blow through the game once and move on with your life, it might be a little more difficult to justify.

That said, however, whether you end up playing Thorium Wars one hundred times or only once, it's unlikely you'll come away disappointed.


It's difficult to find any serious fault with Thorium Wars. Its concept is both strong and well-handled, and the various missions actually feel...well...varied. The only thing difficult to swallow is the price tag, and, indeed, for a few hundred points less we'd be recommending it all the more strongly. If you've got the points to spare, however, or don't mind kicking in a little extra for one of the more polished DSiWare releases, Thorium Wars should be a welcome addition to your collection.

From the web

User Comments (55)



smithers43 said:

good review but not completely sold......i do offten replay games but IGN gave this a 5.5 which with yalls is a like 6.7 average which doesnt completely sell me sorry



cheetahman91 said:

Another good quality DSiWare game huh. That is what the DSi is in need for over the garbage it's being treated with (glares at apps). Here's to more 8's and 9's! (and hopefully 10's)



KnucklesSonic8 said:

I'll definitely get this when I get more points! Thanks for another great review, CB. Your best yet.

(P.S. - Is this a typo? " It always game down to us, the players, pressing the buttons, making the mistakes")



Bankai said:

IGN's review does a pretty good job of positioning this game amongst other games in the genre - that is - compared to the best shooters it's merely average.

Is this review honestly saying the game is a great example of the genre, or is the reviewer comparing the game to some other measure, such as DSiWare titles?

I only ask because, while I'm interested in the game, I'm not interested in the same kind of "cheap and derivative" kind of game that Gameloft's stuff is - so I guess my question is - is the game the equivilent of Fifa/ Need For Speed, or Real Football/ Ashphalt?



Token_Girl said:

How many missions does this have, since if I got it I probably would only play through it once?



Sylverstone said:

Sounds good.

When I get more points, I'll download it hopefully.

It's just the 1000-point price tag that caught me off guard.



FATEM said:

Brilliant review. Any idea of when it's being released in Europe?



Grumble said:

Wow... After reading that review I may actually purchase this and give it a try! Thanks for changing my mind... )




Philip_J_Reed said:

The review was done based on the game and its own merits. I tend to view games as whether they hold up on their own, not based on how they measure up to what other games might have done. After all, you might feel very differently toward other games in the same genre as I do, rendering the comparison pretty unhelpful!

I do feel this game stands up on its own, which is what I'm looking to evaluate when I play something. I didn't think, "cheap, watered down version of a better game." I thought "small, portable game that happens to look great and be quite fun." Hope that helps.

I haven't made it through all of the missions yet, as some of them are very difficult! But according to somebody on our forums, there are 12 missions in total.



Darknyht said:

Sounds someone similar to the original X-Wing on the PC. Multiple crafts each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Multiple mission types.

This will probably end up on my to buy list. Not going to buy immediately because I still need to finish some of my other recent purchases.



Brionkendo said:

I fell like you went easy on this one....I was guessing it would get about a 7 at the most.



smithers43 said:

Chicken Brutus: I haven't made it through all of the missions yet, as some of them are very difficult! But according to somebody on our forums, there are 12 missions in total.

seriously dude....you should beat all of the missions especiallly for a game like this before you review...what if they drag on ands its the same thing over and over again and you just get bored or the later levels are kinda lame.....i think you may have jumped the gun a tad

now im not saying it cant be a good game but i think a whole play-through is required to fully rate this game



Philip_J_Reed said:

Whenever possible, Smithers, I do play a game through entirely. Unfortunately we need to balance the timeliness of a review along with everything else. It's simply not possible for every reviewer to complete every game before they put pen to paper. It's unrealistic. However, I do always invest enough time in a game (and I'm sure every reviewer here does the same) that I am confident I've seen a representative sample of its positive and negative attributes.

On a more personal level, "completing" a game doesn't always matter to me. There are games I absolutely adore (Super Mario Bros. 2 for example) that I've never completed. The gameplay experience is what is being rated, and that's something one gets a feel for long before the game's closing moments.

Thanks for your concern however!



CanisWolfred said:

Yeah, I have to agree that ya should've waited until the end credits rolled before putting up the review. Some games tend to really go downhill by the last half of the game, or they might turn out to be totally epic, and completely worth the hefty price tag.

Now, if it was an RPG, or even if it was just an incredibly long game, I could understand putting up the review a little early, but in this case I'm sure you could've finished it with a few days of serious play. Who knows, perhaps your opinion of it might have changed further down the line.



postmanX3 said:

Pretty much agree with every point on the review.

And I still can't figure out why everyone's treating the 2 extra dollars as "SUPER DUPER EXTRA BEYOND ALL REASONABLE BELIEF" expensive. It's two more dollars, people.



Bassman_Q said:

I think I will buy this when I get a points card. Thanx, Mr. Chicken!

Just hoping Shantae won't be 1000 points, too.

I agree with postmanX3. Its not much different from an 800 point price tag. Perhaps its because 4 digit numbers are A LOT more scary than 3 digit numbers



Armand said:

It's a good game and has nice graphics, but some missions are too difficult , and the controls of some vehicles tends to be a little bit awkward .



Meffaliss said:

At first glanced of the icon, i thought it was Tetris :/ lol
At least i know now that the game is pretty good. Let'S see if nintendo releases more of them like this one -



Sylverstone said:

NLife does the best Nintendo reviews in my opinion.

For example, Corbie's review for Mixed Messages score a 2/10 while IGN (who obviously never played, tried or much less heard about the game) scored it a nifty 8/10.

Now who does the better Nintendo reviews?



HanuKwanzMasBif said:

The hardness is justified though because it's like an arcade game: If it were actually in an arcade, you'd be paying a LOT more then $10 trying to beat this game.



Bassman_Q said:

The game is hard, but still deserves the right to be called the best DSiWare release, if not tied with other games like X-Scape.



lOnE-WolF said:

It's hard. It costs alot. I nearly feel "taken in" for buying it. In honety, it's not a bad game. But the learning curve is rather steep, and the flying missions are rather dull. If you have the points and really, really enjoy this type of game, buy it, it'll be worth it. But if you are still unsure if you want this, reread some other reviews and windowshop the DSi store a little more. Like I said, it not bad, but I'm kicking myself for getting this, especially with Nintendo releasing a bunch of rather good titles in the store now.



ExploderReviews said:

My own little review.
Graphics: Very good for the dsi.
Control: Very, very good. Theres a lot of custimability here, and the only problem with aiming i encountered was that in space sometime you shoot a little to the left or right of the crosshair.
Challenge: Hard. Thats not a bad thing, but if you suck at Fps's you should stay away from this. It offers standard and expert modes, but its pretty much hard and harder.
Length:This game took me a long time to beat, and even when your done missions are actually pretty fun to replay. Plus theres bonus items to try to find and you could try it agin on expert mode.
Fun Aspect: This is overall a really fun Fps, (though you are always in a vehicle) and each level offers new and different challenges. The only repetitiveness there is is when you're stuck on a level.
Overall: Id give Thorium wars at least a 9/10.



sam322 said:

@ExploderReviews i agree with you
it's graphics are excellent for a dsiware title (almost like metroid prime hunters)
controls are easy to use,might be a bit annoying
challenge of course hard is better than easy,so according to what i said it will take you a while to beat the game
it's fun,but if it's the only game you keep on playing you'll get bored but try to play other games then come back to it and you might find it fun!
and what i can't believe is that......



sam322 said:

anyways,have ign ever played this game to start rating it's graphics and length of it so LOW?



armoredghor said:

I'd give it a 6.5 tops. one shot does more damage than a health kit restores, I'm never impressed by graphics on a handheld, half of the enemies are buzzing around your head and level 4 has mines that are dang near impossible to see. It does not fare well.



triforceofcourage said:

i wish it had a bit more content but it has good replay value and its a good challenge. But sadly my L and R buttons are broken.



Laytonmobile said:

It's hard to agree more with this review, but I could see where they were going with the drone thing so that you're never out of the action (at least there aren't any on that stupid munich level). The lack of an aiming reticule when you're in a tank or boat was pretty annoying as well.

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