Art of Balance (WiiWare)

Game Review

Art of Balance Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Who would have thought stacking could be so much fun?

Shin'en, probably best known for their Nanostray shooters on the Nintendo DS, decided to toss their hat in the increasingly crowded ring of WiiWare puzzlers. Instead of rehashing another dumbed-down clone of an existing idea, however, they've instead taken the basic idea of stacking and built one of the most unique WiiWare titles to date around it all.

The basic premise of Art of Balance is a simple one - stack a given set of shapes up without having them fall into the water below. While this starts out simple enough, you'll soon get shapes with rounded edges to deal with, not to mention blocks with certain unique limitations on them. Some shapes have a timer on them that will start counting down once a shape is stacked on top of them: when the timer reaches zero, the blocks will break, causing all blocks stacked on top of them to fall. There are also shapes that have weight limits, which means that you can only stack a certain number of shapes on top of them until they break. As you progress through some of the tougher challenges, these stipulations can start to make for a tricky stacking process and one that will need some serious trial and error in order to complete.

There are two modes of play in Art of Balance. Arcade Mode is the story mode of the game and allows you to progress through the many levels in the game at your leisure. You can even bring in a second player to help you out in a cooperative fashion, although this can lead to arguments when the other player causes your beautiful stack to come crashing down. This mode presents you with various types of challenges: the normal levels merely require you to stack the given set of shapes up without having them fall into the waiting water below. Once you place the last block in place, the structure must stay above water for three seconds, indicated by three lights at the bottom of the screen. Some levels will also set a time or height limit that must be met in order to add even more challenge to the mix.

If you feel like a little competitive action, you can play the game's Versus Mode. In this mode, the screen is split and you'll take on an opponent in a race to complete a puzzle and win the round. You can even set the number of rounds for each match to five, seven or nine rounds, depending on your preference for the length of time you want to play. These versus matches are basically the same levels you'll unlock in the Arcade mode, so don't expect anything you haven't seen before if you've played through the main game. It does add a nice layer of intensity to the overall experience and is a great way for two players to enjoy the game at the same time.

Shin'en have done a fantastic job of taking such a rudimentary gameplay idea and turning it into one of the most addictive puzzler experiences available on WiiWare to date. The game features the same type of engaging gameplay that made World of Goo such a hit on the service. The controls are easy to pick up and perfectly implemented using the Wii Remote's motion sensors. The game also features a very smooth and gradual increase in difficulty to allow players of all ages and skill levels to get into and enjoy what the game has to offer. About the only downside to the game is that once you begin playing it, you won't want to put it down.

Visually, Art of Balance is a bit hit or miss at times. Some areas are quite polished, but some of the backdrops tend to display a lot of jagged edges in their 3D designs. The rather smooth look of the blocks and shapes tend to make this stand out even more by comparison. There's a lot of eccentric artwork in the various scenery that adds charm to the surroundings, but you can't help but wish that the developers had gone with a more 2D look to smooth things out a bit more.

The music is almost as offbeat as the surroundings in the game. There's plenty of booming bass beats and quirky sound effects to enjoy throughout the game's many levels, though most tracks tend to sound very similar in style, so they can become a bit repetitive for those who spend large chunks of time with the game during overly lengthy playing sessions. Given the fact that it's a puzzler, it's difficult to complain too much about the slightly average audio presentation.


At its core, Art of Balance is an extremely simple gameplay idea that's executed perfectly. Not only are the physics absolutely spot-on, but the intuitive control scheme made possible by the Wii Remote makes playing the game easy and fun. It might lack a bit of the visual and musical polish that World of Goo featured, but there's a similarly addictive gameplay experience that's nearly impossible to put down once you begin playing it. Art of Balance is easily one of the most engaging titles to hit WiiWare in a very long time and with 100 levels to tackle, it's well worth the 800 Wii Points it will cost you.

From the web

User Comments (55)



SwerdMurd said:

NICE! Completely unexpected review score..been quite some time. Somebody may have some points appearing on his Wii soon...and his name rhymes with Flird Murd.



Corbs said:

You're telling me. I wasn't sure what to expect, but this was a gem. One of the most additive games I've played since Goo.



Manfred said:

Hey Corbie, thanks for the great review!
We wish everyone as much fun playing AoB as we had with developing it for you.



primeris said:

I will need a puzzler soon. I played the heck out of World of Goo, and I've gotten my action fill lately, so this might be my next purchase.



Gizmo said:

Awesome! Day 1 download for me =).

@ Manfred: Is there a release date for Europe?



Sean_Aaron said:

Wow, wasn't expecting that score - nicely done! It does look very pretty and physics-based puzzlers like Boom Blox (and this) do seem to work well with the Wii.



PhoenixRising said:

Yawn. Another puzzler ... wake me up when Wiiware gets remotely interesting.

Personally I wouldn't expect anything less from a Nintendo Life review score. Rubiks Galaxy was given a high score and that was god-awful so as long as you stick to the -2 principle (i.e. take 2 points away from anything these guys score) you'll have a better instant idea of what the game is like. So here it'd be a 7 out of ten which is good but nothing like the almost spectacular that a 9 out of 10 score would indicate. Really guys, please use sense when giving out scores.

By the way, using World of Goo as a bench mark is so horibly flawed - that game was waaaay to easy and truly boring by the time you reached the third world. Ultimately it's the proble with Wiiware and the Wii in general - there's so much garbage out there that something remotely good looks golden.



Corbs said:

Ah cool, you have a "-2" principle. I generally stick to the "I'm never wrong" principle myself, but whatever gets you through the day.



ericb said:

I think maybe PhoenixRising should try the 'I know the correct spelling of principle' principle before he starts handing out advice. LMAO.



Manfred said:

@ Gizmo: Is there a release date for Europe?

Hi Gizmo, unfortunately not yet. We wait every day for Nintendo to tell us.



ericb said:

What a coincidence, I was thinking the same thing about your point in your above #7 post as well. I'd also be willing to bet that you haven't even played the game.



Gizmo said:

@ PhoenixRising: If you look at other reviews of World of Goo and Rubik's Puzzle Galaxy: RUSH you should notice that these games are generally highly regarded, not only on Nintendolife...

Maybe your taste is just a bit different.

@ Manfred: Too bad, but thanks for the answer.



PhoenixRising said:

Nah, my taste is in good games. I agree that World of Goo is a good game but it's nothing so special that it deserved a 10/10 score. Rush was just a shoddy puzzler with awkward controls, blurry ugly graphics (the cube explosions were particularly awful) and audio that begged to be muted. Oh, and the difficulty curve was terrible forcing players through tens of mundane layouts until they eventually get stuck for a few minutes - great principle.

Like I said, so much garbage tends to make people appreciate good things more. Its no different for the 360 or PS3 either. It's just that today's expectations of games are such that any moron can write a game in a month and it'll suddenly gain 'internet popularity' and become an instant candidate for ripping people off on Nintendo's less than flexible pricing scheme. Apple and Microsoft have considerably more sense than Nintendo when it comes to distributing these 'wonderful' games.



Damo said:

Assuming the -2 notion is correct, does that mean that Warmen Tactics got -1 out of 10?



Corbs said:

Okay guys. Nothing wrong with some good solid discussions, but let's not go at each other personally.

And now we're giving negative scores? What's next, fractions?



PhoenixRising said:

@Damo: Sounds about right. That -1 might just put people off of it good and proper Then again,, assuming your database only uses positive integers for scoring you'd be screwed, but a big fat zero would do nicely.

@Corbie: What about medals (platinum, gold, silver, bronze for 10 to 3 scores and a rusty tin can for 1 and 2/10 achievers?



PopeReal said:

The problem is it sounds like PhoenixRising has never played the game... if you play it and hate it then fine, but arguing a score one way or another without actually playing it makes little sense.



PhoenixRising said:

You're missing my point. I won't play the game because it's yet another generic puzzler. My overall criticism was over the scoring of games, not just by Nintendo Life but by many internet sites and magazines. I just think scores are too high these days and hence skew people's perception of what makes a game truly exceptional.



Corbs said:

They vetoed my idea about sending out scratch & sniff cards for each review. I wanted a really nice perfume for a 10 all the way down to dog sh*t for a 1. Ah well, what are you gonna do?



VilicoBRA said:

Great review, Corbie. Otherwise, how could I know this is a good game?
Nintendo should put Nintendolife reviews along with the games on Wiiware and DSiware.

All this score talk is really necessary?



primeris said:

Smell emitters on the Wiimote... To actually get a whiff of a game on the Shop Channel...
Mmm... Great review or not, I don't think I'd want to smell World of Goo. Or Castlevania ReBirth...



Machu said:

Day 1 for me! In fact I really wish I could play it right now, it looks so relaxing and fun. Great review Corbie.

I hope it hits EU soon!



Porky said:

This game plays like the game I play on school computers which is a good thing because I like it! Downloading right now!



XCWarrior said:

I am so far backlogged and currently playing 3 different puzzle games, but after reading this review and loving the sound of it, it will be a purchase down the road. 100 levels for 800 points is a good value, plus mutliplayer.

My only gripe Mafred would be if I read correctly no online function - like something as simple as an online leaderobard. Could you maybe explain why WiiWare developers shy away from online stuff 80% of the time?



Ren said:

I, too, am a cynical jerk but I've been playing video games consciously since the Atari 2600 and games really are just better overall because of the technology (though maybe a little easier overall for the same reason) so I'm not going to gripe over high scores or try to arbitrarily raise my standards impossibly.

I'm more than satisfied with a lot of games I get, because I understand that a review is an opinion of one person that helps give me a general idea of what kind of game it is, how it plays, etc, and how much that person enjoys it. I expect a Nintendo centered site to score a game like this pretty highly, but also to write a detailed account of why and whats involved. Detailed, articulate reviews like Corbies' are why I come here, even if I don't always love the same games he does. If this was called like "actiongaminglife.com" or something I might expect a lower score but I still wouldn't gripe about it. We all do some number score adjusting, internally, but I think it should kind of stay internal.



Adroitone said:


Your taste are different. Personally for me, Rubik's is my second favorite WW game behind Swords and Soldiers (and I have a bunch of WW games). Rubik's is a great game, but it's just not something you like, in which is understandable since everyone is not going to like the same thing. For instance, I don't like those games trying to be like movies coming out on the 360/PS3, (and I have both systems).

@Post 20

I agree, those Heavy Rain, Mass Effect 2 and FFXIII reviews are way to high. Especially what I've played of Heavy Rain, it's terrible as a game and only decent as a interactive movie.



MrMartinLee said:

Good review is good news. This will be the next download for my wife; I'm not a big fan of puzzlers, but she gets obsessed and it's fun to watch her play. Manfred and team, please enjoy my money while you work on that WiiWare shmup... right?



VilicoBRA said:

Well said, Adroitone!

And Ren, this was kind of poetic: "We all do some number score adjusting, internally, but I think it should kind of stay internal."



JebbyDeringer said:

I wasn't interested but after reading your review it sounds quite fun. I like the fact that there are a lot of little intricate details like weight limits and such for certain blocks.



Kid_A said:

Sounds cool. I thought it used Wii Motion Plus but I didn't see anything about it in the review...



koopa85 said:

Great review as usual Corbie! I just played the game and it's good addictive fun. Finished 33% so far, but the puzzles keep getting tougher. Had I not read your review I would've passed this one up.

By the way, I don't mean to criticize NintendoLife because I love the detailed, informative reviews, but I think this site should change it's review scores from 0-10 to a grading system not unlike that of 1up.com. A+ down to a D- or F.
A is for great games
B is for good games
C is for average games
D is for bad games
F is for terrible games, the worst of the worst
The numbering system has been widely accepted for ratings sites and magazines, yet it's flawed and I think the grading system would work better.



Bigby said:

Sweeet... i'm in the mood for another puzzler. Just completed Christmas Clix a couple a weeks ago.



Manfred said:

My only gripe Mafred ...WiiWare developers shy away from online stuff 80% of the time?

I know, from the users eye adding online features may look like spending a week and done. Adding complete online play means around doubling the development time and costs. That means in the end doubling the price. Even only adding leaderboards will extend the dev cycle for a couple of months. You first need an approval at Nintendo for it, then you have to build in custom libraries into your code, etc.In the end the check at Nintendo is very hard to get at the first time as their are literally hundreds of issues that may come up when using the internet connection. Especially for WiiWare games the extra costs are a heavy burden.



Sean_Aaron said:

I suspected online added a decent overhead, so I'm not surprised. When it comes to leaderboards, local is sufficient for me.



nintenden said:


9 out of 10 that's very high. Hope you wont dissapoint people by creating such high expectations for this game. I hope your not considering the price and the fact that it is a downloadable game when scoring this game. Because a game should simply be judged by it's quality and how mutch fun it is. Just some scores: Twilight Princess 8, Fire emblem 8, warioland shake it 8, wii sports 8 etc. Art of balance must be way better than these games, or your judgment is influenced by the fact that this is a downloadable game, which leads to acceptance of lower quality and giving high scores like a 9 to games that are only worth a 9 within a certain context. Being cheap and downloadable doesn't make a game any better.



Corbs said:

I do take into account pricing when it comes to reviews because it would be completely unfair to judge an $8 game that was developed by two or three people against one that had millions of dollars put into its R&D, hundreds of people working on it, and retailed for $50. And given that I don't review every game on this site, specifically those you mentioned, I can't always stay within that parameter either. This is a very enjoyable game and a very fun ride for $8. Take it for what it is. If you want to over-analyze these things, you could go a lot farther than you did above. Do yourself a favor and put less stock in the number and more into the written words.



Gizmo said:

Of course you have to take into account that a WiiWare title is a download game and much cheaper than a retail one, anything else would make no sense and would be unfair, too. Also that doesn't mean that a game with a 9 doesn't deserve it.



Twilight_Crow said:

Alright, I knew I'd find this review ready for the weekend, and what a nice surprise a 9, this game sounds cool. Well reviewed Corbie, thanks, this goes directly to the games to DL list (if only I weren't that broken ).

Why is people complaining?, it is Corbie's opinion, you shouldn't be mad at someone else opinion.



DXZeke said:

@Corbie --- Great Review. The game is better than I was expecting it to be. As for the topic of others comparing WiiWare games to big budget games and the quality... Millions of R&D money vs Thousands... It's not even a fair fight. I love these "cheap" games for what they are. Quite a few of them are fun and in some cases innovative. I'm enjoying games like Art of Balance, World of Goo, Pop, etc over the retail games now (same goes or PSN and XBLA games). I hope that you guys who are on the fence give Art of Balance a chance.



sparkx said:

I played through this game all weekend. It's clean, stylish and incredibly addictive. The gf and I cracked open a bottle of wine and decided to play a couple games before going out. 5 hours later we were still playing and complete blew off our original plans. Her comment "this actually kinda feels like we're in a club. Except this is better!"

My only criticism: the game is way too short. Once you get through level D, thats it. Kind of a bummer. But I concur with the 9/10 rating. Physics are perfect, music is hypnotizing, atmosphere is engaging. One of my all time fav wii games.



Carlos27 said:

A couple of questions...

I want to know if there are complex levels with more than 5 or 10 or 20 pieces to stack up... or there are all the same. How much replay value this have?



Leshclen said:

I disagree with the score, though it's probably because everybody who liked this game was a puzzle lover. I would've given it a 7 or a 6.



mnementh said:

is this game really that good? it's almost a 90 on metacritic... hopefully another review will give it a 9 to give it a 'star'



Edwrd said:

I am playing this with my mom, shes in her 70s. Well actually, i'm teaching her how to play it, because we have only one wiimote.

Yes, she is enjoying this (me too actually), I bought this for her, so I'm very glad she is enjoying herself, thanks for this good review, we would have never found this game otherwise.



joozee said:

Happy new year to everybody! I suggest to play the demo. If you think it's a bit too easy to play through, the same should be true for the whole game. I liked the feel and the perfect finish of the game and the rating here finally made me buy it, but was disappointed in the end. I expected more fun and more tricky levels in later stages of the game, but there were just a few of those. Level design and game progress just seem much too unbalanced to me. I love the idea and everything, so with more than one full-time level designer contributing to a possible part two, I would love to buy it!
I would also love to see that introductions to new elements could be skipped (in each but the first try, at least). The rest, and that's most likely hard enough to achieve, just seems to be perfect, so please do not get me wrong! (ok, flickering shadows of the flowers in world D come to mind, but that should be it...)



MeloMan said:

I'm still in tears at the earlier posts from Corbs... a 1 for dog sh*t scent?!
I give that comment a 3^2/10 easily. I might have to pull logarithms out

Anyway, how much shorter is your name gonna get? Next someone will call you Cobs and you'll keep that, lol

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...