Already freely available for PC, Toribash has landed on WiiWare with a 1,000 point price tag and a lot to live up to.
A turn-based fighting game, this title is seemingly impenetrable at first despite a series of tutorials that teach you your first basic moves: how to jump, to kick and to decapitate your opponent and throw their head out of the ring. You select a joint or muscle with the control stick and toggle it through four basic states – hold, relax, force or go back – with a press of A, and when you’re satisfied with your selection, a tap of B moves forward one turn. A ghost figure appears onscreen to show the result, proving invaluable in the early stages as you desperately flail your limbs against your opponent.
The sometimes fiddly controls are as much an obstacle at this stage as the game mechanics. Combinations of Z, C and the Control Stick zoom in and pan out, but when attempting a complex move or while the two fighters are tangled together, accurately highlighting the correct joint can prove quite difficult. It’s surprising that the developers neglected to include pointer control as the mouse option for the PC original works far better. With patience, the controls begin to feel more comfortable, but this only adds to your already full plate as you attempt to learn how to cause some pain.
Unlike most other fighting games, Toribash features no health gauges, instead awarding points as you inflict damage on your opponent. If both fighters are standing at the end of the round, the player with more points is the victor, but you can also win if any part of your opponent beside their hands or feet touches the floor or if they land outside of the ring. Playing solo sees you go up against a stationary figure, letting you practise your moves as you like. With a wealth of options allowing you to tailor everything from starting distance to the level of force required for dismemberment, you’d be well-advised to spend a few hours here before heading online.
WiFi play, however, is the real meat of the game. There’s no matchmaking, so you’re just as likely to meet up with a 5th Dan master as you are a white belt scrub, but the balance of planned moves and counter-attacking is brilliantly poised and makes each bout engaging and tense to the last. There’s a ranking system to show your level of skill and experience, and you can save and replay every match to your heart’s content should you succeed in, say, tearing the arms off a stranger at 2 A.M. You can then easily send these to friends or tinker with them from single-player mode, pressing the minus button to jump into the action, a very welcome feature that lets you sharpen each move to a deadly point. You're also able to customise your character, though sadly with not quite as much depth as that seen in designing custom game types.
The visuals are similarly sharp, but their sparse style may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Arterial sprays are really the only splash of colour on the default setting, and until the round is over there isn’t a huge amount of visual spectacle. Some uncomfortable slowdown occurs when rendering complicated ghost predictions, but on the whole there’s little about which to complain. Things are even simpler on the audio end, with only a few grunts and impact noises to accompany your beatings. There’s no music either, so you likely won’t want to break out the headphones for this one.
Toribash is a demanding master, at times completely frustrating and at others joyously fluid, though there’s a steep learning curve augmented in difficulty by some initially awkward controls. Take the time to learn the mechanics and master the controls and you have a potentially limitless array of moves and an enjoyable online mode in which to show them off. Is there enough content here to justify a 1000 point price increase over its free PC brother? The tough answer is no, probably not, but this is still a fascinating and unique WiiWare game that deserves to stand on its own merits.