Review: Gnomz (WiiWare)

Fun with a capital Z?

When we first started playing Gnomz, we were excited: here's a game that's joyously silly, bizarre and simple enough that anyone willing to pick up the controller could play it and have an absolute blast. The graphics are colourful. The soundtrack has a giddy urgency to it. It's got a good sense of humour. WiiWare's Angry Birds? Possibly.

As it turns out, Gnomz is strikingly similar to copyright-infringing fan game Super Mario War; a mixture of the original Mario Bros. arcade game, Super Smash Bros. and just a pinch of the colourful weirdness of Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya's bizarre early experiments like Glasses. The matches take place on a single stage — think Super Mario Bros. with fewer baddies and more obstacles — and the goal is simply to hop on your opponents' heads more times then they hop on yours. That's all; just jump on those heads. Except of course there's up to six gnomes on the stage at any given time, the bonkers power-ups of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, springs, traps and other mess-you-upperies. In a word: it's chaos, and at times, it's beautiful chaos. You can even customise time and stock options as well, speaking of Brawl.

Gnomz does grab its gameplay from a stack of sources, but it ultimately does have its own vibe. It's fun, but not in a nostalgic way as is SMW — Gnomz is wacky, like a WarioWare microgame stretched to a whole game. Unoriginal, yes, but not without its charms.

It's not a bad looking game either, as you've probably noticed from the screenshots by now. Those gnomes, and the levels where the game takes place have an appealing and colourful hand-drawn look about them, although unfortunately the levels and characters have a stagnancy that at times causes you to feel like you are, in fact, just interacting with colourful screenshots. But of course when you end your game's name with a Z and you're not MotoHeroz, one assumes you're not aiming for high art.

What Gnomz is aiming for is pick-up-and play, charming, family-friendly fun, and at this it succeeds. There's only one button in play here — that'd be the 2 button to jump — meaning that anyone willing to pick up the controller, even Mom and Dad, will be able to enjoy the chaos in no time. They'll even be treated to a couple variations of the main brawl mode, though their mileage may vary. Socker has you collecting as many socks as possible within a pre-set time limit; if you like this sort of thing, you'll like Socker. Capture the Sock is probably the weakest of the game modes, recalling the King of the Hill multiplayer mode from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, but not as well-balanced, and in more cramped surroundings.

Conclusion

All this sounds well and good, but does it sound 1000 Points good? It's priced right at the tip of its value, and while we would have preferred 800 Points or less, you might want to download Gnomz if you're looking for something accessible and fun that you can play with your whole family — not because you're looking for something original.

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