Wipeout: Create & Crash Review
Posted by Morgan Sleeper
ABC's Wipeout - transatlantic cousin to the BBC's Total Wipeout - is a long running television show that sees a motley crew of caricatured contestants enthusiastically flinging themselves through, over, and off of the real-life equivalents of foam-padded platforming levels. It's also had quite a few video game adaptations over the years, with Wipeout 3 launching alongside the Wii U last fall. Create & Crash is the latest instalment to hit Nintendo's newest console, and while a lack of challenge and budget presentation limit its appeal to fans of the show, for its target audience it's a sure-fire hit.
Unsurprisingly, the gameshow's formula translates easily to the digital realm, and the gameplay is accordingly straightforward. Players pick a contestant from among the wacky Wipeout warriors (sample dialogue from the pint-sized viking maiden: "That's gonna leave a Denmark!") and set off through a linear course, running, jumping, climbing, and dodging all manner of creative obstructions on the way to the goal. Outside of some specific areas, your movement is restricted to a single plane - you can always move forward and back, but you'll only rarely have to worry about sidestepping, and you'll never fall off the narrow platforms on account of an accidental flick of the analogue stick.
For platforming veterans, this might sound like blasphemy, but it works well within the context. The emphasis is on avoiding - and on being unceremoniously flung across the course by - the obstacles, and the simplified gameplay allows players to focus on the fun bits without worrying about guiding their characters in a perfectly straight line. The controls are equally easy to grasp: along with the analogue stick, players only need to concern themselves with a few face buttons for jumping, sliding, and ducking. There are also some Quick-Timing Events where any of the buttons or D-Pad directions are fair game, but these are relatively infrequent, and fairly forgiving.
The main single-player experience is a progression of twelve 'Episodes', each of which contains four events: an opening obstacle course, an endurance event, a second, slightly more challenging obstacle course, and the final Wipeout Zone - a dramatic finishing stage that determines the overall winner. Bronze, silver, and gold trophies are awarded for each individual event based on your time. The Episodes are all tightly designed around a particular theme, so while the obstacles function similarly across the board - you'll see lots of bumpers, balance beams, tilting platforms, and pop-outs, for instance - each one feels appreciably distinct. You'll be tossed around by Fairy Tale, Halloween, Wild West, Boot Camp, Pirate, Tiki, Dinosaur, and Fast Food-themed courses, among others, and the tailored announcer commentary for each stage will be a treat for fans of the show's humour.
Along with dodging dinos and taking tiki-themed Thwomps to the face, each course offers some collectables to encourage repeat play. There are Sonic-style rings scattered about, and series mascot Ballsy makes a point to hide in every stage - some of which now have branching paths - giving more experienced gamers something a little trickier to shoot for. You'll also earn plenty of the subtly-named Ballsy Bucks as you play, which you can spend on new characters, costumes, and other unlockables.
Even with these extras, however, the level of challenge in Create & Crash is very, very low. There's a "Black & Blue" difficulty setting that makes things a bit tougher, but as in Wipeout 3, there's literally no way to fail a course outside of quitting to the menu. The worst you can do is clock up an embarrassingly glacial time on your way to the goal, and even that takes some effort; since failing an obstacle three times in a row will allow you to simply skip it and move on, even particularly tricky portions of the course can't keep you for very long. If you forget to pause the game and go to lunch before finishing your run, you'll still advance - a leaderboard between rounds stacks your time next to hypothetical performances from CPU "opponents", but no matter how slow you go, someone else will always be bringing up the rear.
This lack of difficulty certainly isn't a bad thing in and of itself, and for less experienced gamers it's a definite plus; the low barrier to success combined with the simplified gameplay means people who love Wipeout but don't necessarily play games can still get plenty of enjoyment out of Create & Crash. But it's worth noting that anyone who regularly hops and bops their way through platforming games will find Wipeout's courses incredibly easy by comparison, and will breeze through the game with little resistance.
Perhaps aiming to combat that somewhat, Create & Crash includes a new Wipeout Max mode, which lets you tackle an endless stream of as many randomly generating levels as you can handle. The levels increase in difficulty as you go, and you'll have to meet a target time in order to move on to the next stage. This sounds nice in theory, and it's admittedly more challenging than the main mode, but since the courses are randomly generated, they lack the thoughtful designs (and interesting themes) of the main Episode tracks, and just aren't as much fun to play through as a result.
The headlining new feature in Create & Crash, of course, is the Course Creator, which lets you design up to ten Wipeout routes of your own using pre-set obstacles from the game. It's an excellent addition, and while it doesn't offer any fine-grained control, its simplicity helps keep it as accessible as the main game. After picking a course layout and a theme - which only affects the backgrounds, not the obstacles, unfortunately - you'll be presented with a linear, side-view of the course split into discreet areas. Moving between these with the D-Pad, you can cycle through several obstacle options of varying difficulties (including choices which need to be bought with Ballsy Bucks) for each section. When everything's set how you like, a quick tap will let you try out your creation.
While the Course Creator makes it wonderfully easy to get your own course up and running, it does come with some disappointing limitations. It's a shame that every obstacle available comes from vanilla Wipeout theme, for instance, instead of offering some of the more outlandish designs from the eclectic main Episodes, and that your choice of traps is dictated by the position of each course segment. And though there are eight base layouts to choose from, the fact that they're all preset means the courses you'll create feel more like variations on a preexisting theme, rather than levels of your own design.
Still, even with these restrictions, the Course Creator is fun, and perhaps it's these constraints which allow for one of its best features: the ability to share custom stages with other players by exchanging short codes. It may not be a seamlessly integrated process, but combined with Miiverse, it's a snappy and convenient way to swap courses: just post your code to the community and anyone will be able to dial it up in one of their ten course slots. While there doesn't seem to be a great deal of this going on at the time of writing, the potential is certainly there - and online or off, the Course Creator will extend the game's replay value for creative contestants.
For those who prefer to get their thrills from falling with friends, two multiplayer modes return from Wipeout 3, for up to four players. The Wipeout Party mode lets two to four players run through any of the Episodes unlocked in the single-player campaign, or compete in randomly generated rounds of Wipeout Max. Play is simultaneous split-screen (with the GamePad player having their own view), and other players appear as ghosts, so there's no shoving each other off the sides of the track.
The Wii U-exclusive Trap Attack mode also makes a comeback, letting one lucky GamePad-wielding player play Wipeout dungeon master for the other contestants, triggering traps, activating obstacles, moving platforms, and causing all kinds of grief for your friends and family as they try to make it through the course. It's a great use of the Wii U's unique capabilities, and while - like the Course Creator - there's limited freedom in how you actually interact with the course, it's still good fun.
Graphically, Create & Crash gets along fine, but it's not about to impress anyone. High-definition aside, the hyper-stylized character models and sparse environments could easily be realized on the Wii or even the GameCube, and not much has changed since Wipeout 3. Water and mud are both still flat, nearly static textures, and characters' interactions with the course obstacles are mostly still limited to bone-chillingly solid slams, with none of the give or bounce you'd expect to see from the presumably padded bumpers or barriers. The one happy exception is the iconic Big Red Balls, which now react more like rubber and less like cement when your contestant catches one in the chest. There's also a new slo-mo effect at certain acrobatic apexes, which adds some welcome flair to wipeouts and helps enormously with timing your traversal of those Big Red Balls.
For a game where wiping out is a way of life, the sound effects should be satisfying, flamboyant displays of first-rate foley work, and that's mostly the case here - the cartoony sproings, boings, splats, and thuds sound great, but the more realistic effects ring eerily hollow, making your character sound like a wadded up piece of paper instead of an impressively durable human when they tumble across the mat. The background music isn't terribly memorable, but there are a few nice upbeat tracks along the way, themed to match each Episode. The voice acting, meanwhile, is the star of the show - between the original TV hosts' colourful, deliciously cheesy commentary and each contestant's surprisingly well-realized audio personality, you could easily close your eyes and believe you're listening to the show instead of the game.
In fact, this is far and away Create & Crash's best trick - it completely captures the feel of its source material. Writing that expertly mirrors the show, streamlined gameplay, fun cutscenes, meta-commentary, and frequent smashing of the fourth wall all contribute to the feel of "playing Wipeout", rather than simply playing a Wipeout game. That's something that many licensed games just can't pull off, and it's a commendable feat for Create & Crash.
Wipeout: Create & Crash isn't a top-tier, must-play video game, but it's not trying to be; instead, this is a fun, accessible, and well made game that's perfect for fans of the show - including less skilled players. Its simple graphics and undemanding gameplay mean that it won't be for everyone, but it appreciably improves on its predecessor, brings plenty of the series' trademark thrills and spills, and includes a course creation element that - while limited in creative scope - adds some welcome longevity to the experience. If you're at all a Wipeout junkie, then by all means take the plunge - you'll have a blast with Create & Crash.