(Wii U eShop)

Wooden Sen'SeY (Wii U eShop)

Game Review

Wooden Sen'SeY Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

More training required

The Wii U eShop, unsurprisingly, isn't short of options when it comes to platformers, especially as it's a genre typically associated with Nintendo systems and their gamers. Wooden Sen'Sey, published by Neko Entertainment, aims to capitalise on that popularity and remind gamers of old-fashioned difficulty; these are noble yet tricky goals.

Though the level of challenge may bring controller-throwing 8-bit titles to mind, this isn't a retro-styled title in the sense of Shovel Knight, but very much in the modern school. It should be highlighted that it's also one of the better-looking download efforts on Wii U, with a playful art style and tone being accompanied by some stylish effects. Shifting camera angles add some pizazz, and there are only occasional hints of slow-down; throw in some decent, Japan-themed music and this title delivers some top-notch presentation values.

That's a positive first start, and the first level gradually introduces you to the core mechanics of play — it's immediately striking that our hero darts along at quite a zip, careering along with a decent leap. In time you're introduced to basic melee attacks and grappling hooks, used both for swinging on wooden beams and ceilings and for a pound attack; the latter is also vital for boosted jumps. The mapping of these moves is relatively instinctive with a combination of the face buttons and a shoulder button, yet can be frustrating to execute. That's the overriding issue with Wooden Sen'Sey — there are good ideas, but it falls down on what matters the most.

The physics are a primary issue, as our hero doesn't always react realistically to the world. The uninspiring enemy design — the majority are variations on black blobs — doesn't help, but using some as platforms immediately feels a little strange. The standard melee attack has such a poor range, meanwhile, while also bringing a struggle to strike indeterminate hit-boxes on some of the weaker enemies; while it builds up to a little combo, any but the standard grunts generally take you to the cleaners if you tackle them with a melee attack.

As a result of this the best method of attack is the pound attack, rather like an extended bounce attack that brings DuckTales to mind. It doesn't feel as sharp as that retro example, however, and as the game insists on using the left analogue stick for movement can be missed at times; it's a one-hit move, too, so you may find yourself in a pattern of attack / position / attack again. It lacks flow, and can be frustrating in tougher encounters.

This is a particularly difficult game, too, and in our view goes beyond retro-level challenge to unadulterated cheapness. There aren't many levels, with an unlockable Time Trial mode, but actually seeing the content on offer is outrageously difficult; the level designs are often reasonable, yet it's the off-kilter physics, slippery and unreliable, that let the experience down. The grapple should allow you to swing around environments with a sense of joy, yet maintaining momentum is surprisingly awkward, as the analogue control leads to unplanned shortening of the rope; another good idea with poor execution.

That's not to say that there aren't irritating moments of level design, with the star-throwing villains generally the greatest sinners. The title's habit of shutting off a small area for a battle is normally acceptable, but one section places these menaces at either side on high, narrow platforms. You have to swing up there, but the narrow gap makes momentum an issue; as you position yourself they throw a star and cause you to fall. Considering you're limited to four hits, even the regular energy boost in this area isn't enough to make it fair. Challenging? Absolutely. Good design? Certainly not.

Battling through the campaign can feel like a chore, ultimately, and this player generally considers himself thoroughly competent through beating many action platformers. As for the Time Trials, getting past the first half dozen or so with bronze awards is punishing, and infuriating enough that getting to the latter challenges will be a pipe dream for all but the best players. It's a case, it seems to us, of the developers having over-familiarity and strong skill levels and considering the challenge to be a virtue, but this game has simply gone too far.

It's a pity, too, as there are some moments of real quality here. We've already highlighted the presentation, but there are also some playful diversions from the norm, such as an underwater level — not as difficult as standard stages — and some cute retro references. As an IP this has the potential to be a success, while the developers have gone to the effort to throw in off-TV play, second screen GamePad info when using the TV, and some alternative control schemes. All, sadly, undermined by a level of difficulty and unrefined physics that succeed in causing a great deal of frustration.

Conclusion

Wooden Sen'SeY has all of the materials to be a winner — sharp visuals, clever touches and plenty of charm. The execution falls down, however, as the intention to offer 'old-school' difficulty isn't backed up by polished physics and impeccably structured level design. Those factors all need to come together for this approach to work, but what we have is an overly difficult, at times intensely irritating, platformer. If you're a seriously skilled player, the kind that can boast of beating the most gruelling of games, then this may be worth a punt. For everyone else, we suggest finding an alternative Master.

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User Comments (30)

Dawn-Shade

#1

Dawn-Shade said:

I read in the Miiverse that you control using motion control.
Is that correct? because that would be so unprecise on a platformer game.

Spoony_Tech

#2

Spoony_Tech said:

Aww, that's disappointing as it does look interesting. I guess money is saved today for another quality game instead. Thanks for the review.

TheJebou

#3

TheJebou said:

I really dislike overly difficult games, so thanks for the heads up. I was going to get it, but I guess I'll save my tv from a flying wii u gamepad :D

Tops

#5

Tops said:

Thanks for the review! I wanted to give this a shot but I think I'll pass; I have no patience for overly-frustrating games. :(

ekreig

#6

ekreig said:

Wow, those graphics look great! It's a pity the gameplay wasn't given the same level of polish, but you can't win 'em all I suppose.

sinalefa

#8

sinalefa said:

Thanks for the review. I will rather get Kung Fu Rabbit or maybe even Chubbins. I also need to get Rabi Laby. So many rabbits to choose from!

BearHunger

#9

BearHunger said:

I may get this if it goes on sale. It sounds pretty fun. For now I'll make like usual and stick with the oldies and the games I already have.

SetupDisk

#11

SetupDisk said:

The only problem I have with it as mentioned in the review is the analogue only controls for movement. Maybe if it sells well they might patch it for use of the D-pad?

ACK

#12

ACK said:

Yikes, this is one clumsily written review. Bit of a chore to plow through this one!

maxcriden

#13

maxcriden said:

Thomas, what controller did you use? I used the Wiimote sans motion controls, and apart from some issues with grappling, I haven't had any real issue with the controls.

Edit: I see you used analog controls. I wonder how much easier you would've found the controls if you used the Wiimote d-pad. Also, as it stands it does kind of sound like in the review that you're forced to use analog controls; this is true if you use the GamePad but not if you use the Wiimote.

Double edit: I finished the review and I see you did mention alternative control schemes. I really wish you would've given it a shot with the Wiimote. I wonder if you might've enjoyed it much more that way. The grappling and general movement work pretty well that way (I'd imagine much better than with the analog stick).

NodesforNoids

#14

NodesforNoids said:

And yet, still not as frustrating as Puddle.
I found it much more enjoyable than Scram Kitty.
Very similar to Castlevania IV's whip swinging (where the whip would sometimes pull in inexplicably after certain sections).

NodesforNoids

#15

NodesforNoids said:

For reference, I played the first two levels with motion and the Gamepad. The boost jump is MUCH easier with motion, executed by swiping the 'pad itself downwards.
It's actually a pretty natural feeling movement, not something I can the same about the corresponding button combination.
I can't imagine patching D-pad support would be impossible (the Wiimote allows it already), something that would really help the game.
Let's be honest though, the EXACT same issues are present here as with Sonic: TLW and that got a higher score so it could sell more copies.
Seriously, every single issue with that game came down to control.
Sega, like Upper Byte / Neko doesn't know how their character SHOULD move. One, like Spiderman (I guess), another, more like Mario (apparently), but these aren't judgements placed upon them in comparison to current platformers.
Those are judgments placed upon them, through weighty nostalgia.
Both could be much better and both are deserving of lowered scores.
But Nintendolife's scoring has become more and more skewed towards key retail titles these last 12 months. I'm thinking self-preservation may have something to do with it.

ricklongo

#16

ricklongo said:

I love platformers, and I especially love hard ones. I can't condone cheapness, however; I like my challenges coming from plain good design. It's a pity this didn't get a good review, since it's very easy on the eyes.

I'll probably get it, but I guess I'll wait for a discount.

Action51

#17

Action51 said:

Usually I can spot these sorts of games: The kind that appear to have potential but end up being fairly flat in delivering a solid experience.

I saw the bland character design, the overused silhouette asthetic, and the completely generic enemies and I figured this one would probably end up in the "forgettable" bin.

Jockk

#18

Jockk said:

I had to create an account just because i wanted to say this review is wrong. Its not to hard, not even close to Giana sisters or DK TF not to forget Sonic LW. Nothing wrong with the controls i have been using both gamepad and pro controller. It deserved a 6 or 7, well worth the money!.

Jockk

#19

Jockk said:

As far as the silhouette design, looks great and as far as i know its only one level, hardly overused.

WindWakerLink

#20

WindWakerLink said:

It's a fun game. I was surprise how sudden the stages got harder especially in stage 4. I enjoy the visuals and the music is really nice and catchy especially stage 4 & 5. However! I really do hate the swing mechanics in this game. It feels so off and weird. I died several times in stage 5 because of it. but whatever. It's worth the $9.99 they asked for I think.

reali-tglitch

#21

reali-tglitch said:

It honestly didn't seem like it would be anything very special. Maybe I'll pick it up on sale, at some point.

Smooty

#22

Smooty said:

another crappy generoc game, not a surprise, theres very little good games on the eshop

Jockk

#23

Jockk said:

I can't understand how the game physics is wrong !? it controls and works fine in my book. Its a low priced download game, so anyone who is interested in it should try it out. The checkpoints and extra lives are placed smartly were the levels gets harder, just as DK or Giana sisters one have to repeat sections of a stage to learn how to master it, yes it do get frustrating at some points but in my book its not because of bad controls or funky physics, its just some old school plattforming skills that is required.

BertoFlyingFox

#24

BertoFlyingFox said:

Aw that sucks, I was looking forward to this game but have to admit the videos I saw didnt inspire much confidence.

Genesaur

#25

Genesaur said:

What is with sidescrollers limiting players to using the analogue stick/Circle Pad? DKC Returns 3D, that mediocre 3DS Castlevania, Wooden Sen'SeY, probably others... It's absurd, and I don't understand it. Heck, I prefer the D-pad even on some 3D games. Not many, mind you, and usually for stuff with "tank" controls, like classic Resident Evil.

Rob_mc_1

#27

Rob_mc_1 said:

@ NNID_DESS-M-8

I do not believe that ThomasBW84 thinks he is above you. The comments of "Review is wrong beyond description. This game is brilliant." and "Could I please be commissioned to have a real review published on your site for this title?" shows a lack of the art of criticism.

It is not appropriate to just say some one is flat out wrong. Constructive feed back is needed if you feeling something is incorrect. For example, Thomas referred to other games like Retro's DK and Ducktales at different points in the review to give a sense of how he felt the physics are to relate with the audience.

In the case of differing opinions a well thought out counter argument can convey how your impressions of the controls are.

Regardless of the industry the first impressions of the person you are selling to are never incorrect. Some people just do not like it and they are not wrong about it. Feed back makes a better product.

If you you want to write your own review then please do and leave it in the forums to let other people see. there is no need to be commissioned to do so as most game reviewers start off writing as a labour of love. As they get better and prove themselves then they get to make a living from it.

Remember, Just saying it is wrong does not help. Saying why you feel it is can be helpful. How you do brings it to an art.

Try I found my experience with the game to be different. This is what I liked. These are some things I found to be different then what I saw in this review.

Words seasoned with salt.

ThomasBW84Admin

#29

ThomasBW84 said:

@maxcriden I alternated between the analogue controls with GamePad and Pro Controller, I tried the Wii Remote too but I'm not generally a fan of its D-Pad (small!). As I've outlined above I didn't get on with the mechanics despite my best efforts, this felt off to me. The grapple was particularly problematic.

That's just me though, I can only write the review from my experience :)

maxcriden

#30

maxcriden said:

@ThomasBW84, I appreciate the reply, thanks. I hadn't realized you were already being given such a hard time in here, haha. I didn't mean to add to that certainly. I appreciate the perspective and I'm sorry you didn't have a better time with the game, but I can definitely see its flaws so I understand your opinion. Thanks.

(BTW, Wiimote's d-pad too small? Next thing you're doing to tell me you don't like the amazing DS Lite d-pad.... ;))

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