(WiiWare)

Game Review

Newton Vs The Horde Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

An experiment to be ab-horde

We're going to say this up front because there won't be much room to say nice things later on in the review: Newton Vs The Horde has an utterly fantastic concept.

The idea is to destroy approaching zombie-like creatures by using physics puzzles either found in your environment or created by you. That's an interesting twist on a classic formula; instead of mowing down the undead with a machine gun — which is certainly fun in its own right — Newton Vs The Horde would like you to use science, brainpower, and a strong sense of resourcefulness in your fight for survival, wise-cracking like an action hero all the way.

Of course, that's the kind of game Newton Vs The Horde wants to be. In reality, you'll be repetitively pitching lightbulbs at approaching stickmen while you attempt to stave off boredom long enough to see the next level, which you hope will be more fun. Spoiler: it won't be.

On Newton's first day of work in his new lab he gets himself and his colleague stranded in an alternate dimension where poorly-animated stick-people shamble pointlessly through caves, waiting for scientists to appear and crush them with interchangeable background objects, we guess. You accomplish this, ostensibly, with the Wii Remote, but you'll spend more time fighting the controls than you will the adversary.

For starters, there's almost no in-game guidance as to what you're meant to be doing. This, in itself, we like. What we don't like is that the instructions appear as part of your cursor when you hover over items, and that's problematic for several reasons.

For starters, the text is simply much too small. We tested this on a decently-sized television and we still had to stand up and walk halfway across the room to read anything. Secondly, the instructional text is tied to the position of your cursor, so unless you have the rock-steady hands of a brain surgeon you'll be straining to read tiny text that's jittering around the screen. And thirdly, the instructions disappear if you move the cursor even one pixel away from the object, and as the objects are extremely tiny, too, you'll see the instructions winking in and out of existence as you're trying to read them.

None of this should sound like fun, and, believe us, none of it is.

The third point above is actually a major problem with the game overall: the cursor is simply too precise. In order for this game to be much fun, there needs to be at least a little bit of wiggle room in terms of input. In other words, if you're expected to cut a rope that only occupies about two pixels of screen space, it's not fun to keep failing because the object is simply too small to click on. A little bit of leeway, anything at all, would have made the experience much more enjoyable. As it stands, you're not likely to enjoy much of the undead-killing chaos when you spend the entire time clicking repeatedly in hopes that the game will eventually accept your input.

Of course, even if you do get the game to obey your commands within the first dozen or attempts, you're not likely to enjoy the result very much as these physics are, quite simply, laughable. We saw boulders roll up hills, we saw steel beams rise ridiculously into the air without anything having touched them, and we saw some other unidentifiable object glitch instantly through a wall where we could never reach it again. We're going to say this explicitly, even though we think it should have been common sense: if you're going to base a game around physics puzzles, you need to make sure those physics are good.

It's here that Newton Vs The Horde started to remind us of the equally terrible Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time, and it was not a comparison we were easily able to shake. After all, just as Doc Clock attempted to shape physics puzzles around physics that simply didn't work, both games also share an embarrassingly shallow attempt at humorous dialogue.

A game that expects you to spend so much time clicking through dialogue windows — which you must do both before and after every objective — needs to provide the player with text that is either interesting, informative, or funny. Newton Vs The Horde does none of this, and contents itself with schoolyard-level tittering in place of any real wit or comedy. Remember that kid you sat next to in biology who wet himself laughing every time he saw the word "sphincter" in a text book? Well, now you know what happened to him: he grew up and starred in Newton Vs The Horde.

What's more, the puzzles in the game frequently boil down to killing enough zombies to progress. Early in the game you learn how to throw lightbulbs, which kill zombies on contact. It won't take you long to realize that you can just keep doing this, one by one, until the requisite number of zombies has been vanquished, and you never need to worry about triggering elaborate physics-based traps that don't work anyway.

There's really nothing to recommend this game, though, again, we do have to give it credit for what should have been a solid idea. It’s let down by controls that require far too much precision to be any fun, physics that are never reliable, and a gameplay experience that simply fails to be, in any way, fun.

Toss in some abysmal dialogue, inconsistent art design, puzzles that require no thought, tedious environments and an almost hilariously poor soundtrack, and you have a game that definitely fails to rise from the dead.

Conclusion

Newton Vs The Horde has a lot of great ideas, but literally everything it attempts to do fails in the execution. While we at Nintendo Life would have loved the creative, versatile zombie bash-fest chock full of hilarious dialogue that Newton Vs The Horde so wants to be, what we got instead was an impenetrable, horribly-controlled slog through tedious situations and offensively unfunny palaver. As much as we respect the game's good intentions, the fact of the matter is that the final product just isn't very good. In the end, we sympathised most with the Horde; we, too, wanted to shut Newton up permanently.

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User Comments (28)

longtimegamer

#3

longtimegamer said:

I got this and you can't just use lightbulbs through the whole game. At first it seems to be the case, but later you can't do that. I'm well over the halfway point of the first run thru, tho I still need to go back and do the stared goals. I've been able to set off traps too. I'm actually suprised that the humor in this was actually seen as a negative with you guys. To me it was a positive. It got some laughs from me.

Edit: Where are the small words that you were talking about?

AbuJaffer

#5

AbuJaffer said:

Very harsh review... the development team is probably hanging itself right now. They obviously worked hard on it; from the innovative premise to the pleasant graphics, it's obvious they put some effort in it... but sadly if working hard made a good product life would be a lot simpler... though not really easier in any way.

chewytapeworm

#6

chewytapeworm said:

This does sound like a really good idea. Maybe in a few years, nay, decades, we'll get a good "physics based holocaust game," as mowing down zombies endlessly doesn't appeal to me one iota.

V8_Ninja

#7

V8_Ninja said:

I like the idea of running into a zombie apocalypse with an LED-firing Gatling gun. Someone needs to make that Flash game ASAP!

OldBoy

#8

OldBoy said:

Ha. As soon as I saw @Brutus had reviewed this I just new it would be bad.
~though I did laugh at the word sphincter (come on, ...IT is a funny word!!) so maybe I'd like this~ :|
Nice review Phil. Keep taking these hits for us :P

Capt_N

#9

Capt_N said:

I'm convinced Chicken_Brutus did something evil earlier in his life, that we don't know about. No really, the game does sound like it tries something @ least interesting, but perhaps not new. I hope Wii U's shop won't suffer this fate of bad games, but I'm sure it will.

@theblackdragon: Starfox 64 reference?

longtimegamer

#10

longtimegamer said:

I just got done playing some of this and, unless I forgot something earlier in the game, I don't see any hard to read words. What I saw was easily readable.

Dodger

#11

Dodger said:

Too bad. I actually was kind of curious about this one. It looked rather fun and I like supporting small developers...When they make a game worth my money. If the physics engine is weird then that could easily ruin a game like this.

Gstewart

#17

Gstewart said:

Ouch. That does indeed hurt, and I thought it did badly when it got a 7/10 the other day.
When we tested the game out on people we did have a marmite like response. People seemed to either loved it or hated it.
Oddly the controls issue never came up.
I'm just going to have to take this on the chin and move on.
Hope our next title gets a better review.

Gstewart

#18

Gstewart said:

@17 I guess if you hate the game it is a rip off of Dr Horrible.
If you like the game it's a homage though.
I'm glad you noticed either way.

Gstewart

#19

Gstewart said:

@3 Glad you are enjoying it and thanks for saying you enjoy it. Even if one person buys the game and likes it it means our efforts wern't a total waste.
Have you found the challenges yet?
We pretty much hid everything in the game. As you probably figured out, getting through the game is about doing whatever you want. Only gets hard half way through. The Challenges on the other hand can be super hard. Hope you continue to enjoy it.

I imagine the reviewer is talking about the pop up help text. It may well be hard to read on smaller TV's we only had 3 to test on and the smallest one is an old 28" CRT. If he has something smaller than that it may well be hard to see.

longtimegamer

#20

longtimegamer said:

I found a least one. killing 3 in a roll, I think. I was going to go back and try to do the stared ones after I finish. Of course if they're hidden, it'll take a little time. I think the monsters are creepy enough (hate getting munched by them tho. :P )

I also like seeing the different ways that things can be used from whats set up. It gives me a clue to what can be done.
Two things that I thought would have been good on here: Having a counter that shows how many kills you got and just being able to zoom out and see the whole screen, when I want to. I have to worry whether there're going to sneak up on me while I'm doing something this way. (Tho I did like you having him say "HEY" to let me know something was close to them).

The first part of the music reminded me of Zombies Ate My Neighbors btw. :)

Hopefully you'll get to do that one game you wanted to do.

Gstewart

#21

Gstewart said:

@21
After you complete a level you can do the challenge.
There is a clue under the scrore for that level.
e.g. "exit stage left" for level 1-1 means you have to get an enemy to die by getting chucked out of the left hand side of the play area.
Thanks again for saying you enjoyed it.

I better stop treating the comments thread like a forum now. :)

MattL

#23

MattL said:

Despite the poor review, I'd be willing to give this a try when it's released over here. I love the art style and the premise of the game. I'd like to make the judgement myself whether the physics of the game is below standard, and if it is then it is. Can't say I'd really miss 500 points. Besides, killing zombies is always welcome, especially after what they did to my shoes. Shambling hooligans!

Mattiator

#24

Mattiator said:

@Gstewart It's always good to see the developers paying attention to their reviews, and while I have yet to play a single WiiWare title (and a 2/10 review isn't inclining me to get this one, plus the fact that I'm not one for physics puzzlers), I'll keep an eye out for whatever you guys make next, since you clearly have some great ideas up your sleeves.

Henmii

#25

Henmii said:

Another week, another zombie themed wiiware game, and even a lower score....

Nilkad_Naquada

#26

Nilkad_Naquada said:

@gstewart: it is pretty great to see a dever taking interest in what us average joes have to say about your game. honestly i think the premise is amazing, But it doesn't work with an engine thats not up to scratch. besides that i can say my only complaints are that a lot of the trap pieces are indeed too small to use well and the lightbulbs should just be taken out because they, combined with the difficulty of just activating the traps, discouraged me from experimenting with the traps almost at all. also, me and some people are starting a development group and i was wondering if you could give us some pointers as far as how to get in the public eye and become known. i'd really appreciate it.

Gstewart

#27

Gstewart said:

@27 We thought about it and went for the approach of "let the player do whatever they want" it was a risk and I think some people will take the path of least resistance and just throw light bulbs. However, that strategy will fall on it's face a bit into the game and won't help you beat the challenges.

As for starting up a dev group. That's cool. We're not the ones to ask about getting exposure though. We're no good at it. Other indie devs can not release a game for years and get coverage in kotaku every other month, Best to ask one of them. We just make games that you haven't played before.(and sometimes they don't work too well on smaller TV's it seems) :P

Nilkad_Naquada

#28

Nilkad_Naquada said:

oh ok haha aint that the way it goes? i finally get to talk to a dev and They aren't gettin exposure either. from what i've seen its pretty hard to break into this business. and yeah i see what you mean it always kinda annoys me when games only work using one play style but i wanna experiment and that is a pretty big risk. but i'll have to play farther into it to get to the parts where i have to stop using lightbulbs (theres something i never thought id say haha) anyway please continue to make imaginative games! like i said the only real problems were the physics engine and the size of of the trap activation points ( and yes activation points is a term i just made up)

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