Review: FlingSmash (Wii)

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We really hope people don't judge the Wii RemotePlus based solely on this, because it's really capable of so much more. FlingSmash is a take on the paddle-and-ball genre that has you assuming the role of Zip, a dull yellow dot creature. Your mission is to liberate Suthon Island from a bad guy named Omminus and yes, the entire story uses uninspired puns as proper nouns. It's an attempt at an inside joke that quickly gets tired because of the lacklustre gameplay; asuperior game could get away with such a safe and lazy approach to storytelling because of exciting mechanics or a good gimmick, but when it already seems like no one was paying attention to detail in the development stage, corny and obvious humour just adds insult to injury. You also have to save a bland princess from the generically dangerous situation of falling under a sleeping spell: the number of painful cliches used to present the story is astounding.

As a game that includes Wii RemotePlus you would hope that the controls would be spot on in order to showcase the capabilities of a new and shiny peripheral. Not this time, as they're incredibly inaccurate and disapointing. The idea is that you bat Zip along with the Wii Remote to smash blocks, collect power-ups and progress through the stages. It's supposed to sense the angle that you're swinging the controller to send Zip flying accordingly, but it doesn't. You can also use the A button to stop him in mid-air, but you'll be most of the way through the game before you have to use it.

The random nature of when your swing will connect and the equally random timing of how long before you can hit again ruins everything. The game never feels like it has any weight to it, leaving the player feeling disconnected from the action. Most people will find themselves waggling and swinging in frustration because it has decided to ignore their calm, calculated aiming, and the game even has the audacity to scold you if you swing the Remote too fast. Panicked flailing often becomes necessary when the game is only picking up every other movement and your last opportunity to collect an essential item to pass the level is passing you by.

There are eight worlds to progress through, and most of them try to differ from each other by introducing a unique twist. The first couple are standard island-themed stages that pretty much serve as a tutorial, and after trudging your way through those the game hits an odd bright spot. The third and fourth worlds are brilliant and fun as our little hero is given some weight. In the third world Omminus curses you to become very heavy, which strangely becomes a blessing in disguise as the controls suddenly feel more responsive, letting you feel a connection to Zip for the first time through the simulated gravity. In the fourth world Zip is cursed with becoming very small, causing him to fly faster and bounce farther, also preferable to the standard weightless feeling that plagues the game play.

Some of the most fun to be had here is flying around quickly as mini-Zip, bouncing rapidly: it's fast paced, interesting and a welcome change from the nightmare zone that was the first couple of worlds. Sadly, the remainder of the game after the fourth environment reverts back to the irritating normal gameplay, employing some truly lazy gimmicks. Many of the later levels remove half the playing screen by filling the bottom with water or air currents, and although you won't lose a life if you sink below the halfway point, you simply can't move below it. The result is a claustrophobic and simple playing environment that is much too easy, even in an easy game like this.

One thing FlingSmash does well is keep track of how well you’re doing and reward you for it. You have to collect at least three of the five talismans in each level to pass it, and each time you complete a stage you are ranked based on your point score, which is saved so that you can go back and try for a higher one later. If you achieve at least an A rank in each level of a given world, you can unlock a mini-game that corresponds to a challenge you’ve faced in the storyline. These range from traditional block-breaking exercises to a tennis activity that’s similar to Pong. Most of these can be played with two players, so a friend can enjoy the mediocrity with you. It should be noted that you can actually play the entire game with another person, which makes it just a bit more tantalising to play if you have an extra RemotePlus or MotionPlus laying around. However, the already cramped and easy game play becomes more suffocating, and more frustration is the last thing someone playing FlingSmash needs.

The graphics are simple but not horrible, and would’ve been better if the game kept a faster pace, as most of the time you’ll be moving along at the speed of a scrolling level from Super Mario Bros 3. Once you’re in the swing of things, you realise just how slowly everything is going. Relatively few objects flash, sparkle, explode, twirl, shake or draw very much attention at all, leaving the visual presentation firmly on the dull side.

Conclusion

FlingSmash is a waste of an intriguing game mechanic. There is a glimmer of a good game in there somewhere, but it’s buried beneath lazy design choices and boring characters. You’ll want to keep in mind how short it is and that you can obtain a RemotePlus controller in other ways: your first experience with it shouldn’t be such a disappointing one. Nintendo might want to quietly sweep this one under the rug and just wait until everyone buys The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword before expecting RemotePlus to truly take off.

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