Review: Back To Nature (WiiWare)

Back to basics

It’s a well-known fact that Nintendo’s WiiWare service has its limitations. Developers must reportedly cram their games into a paltry 40MB, and the system’s lack of horsepower can no doubt play a considerable role in curbing some game design ideas. Nevertheless, many independent studios have risen to the challenge and we’ve seen some impressive efforts over the years.

When it comes to Back to Nature, however, it’s a completely different story. Developed by Kaasa Solution, the same people who brought us low-quality titles such as Flashlight and Discolight, this latest release can only be described as an absolute train wreck. There’s simply nothing worthwhile about this game. From its horrid visuals right through to its short, beyond-basic gameplay, it’s very clear that Back to Nature was developed in order to make a quick buck.

This title is essentially a mini-game collection, sewn together with an incredibly dull storyline. Tom the cat has gone missing and it’s up to his animal friends to find him. This plot is presented to the player in the form of static storyboards, which could have only been created using Microsoft Paint and a blindfold. What may well have been a half-hearted attempt to try to create an abstract art style comes off as appearing both rushed and laughable. These animals look anything but natural.

To make matters worse, this one contains a measly six mini-games to complete. If these activities were really fun and engaging, then perhaps you could forgive the developers for this apparent lack of content and the poor visuals. But instead, Back to Nature relies on ideas that are so simplistic that there’s just nothing enjoyable about it. For example, one stage has you swapping fish around over an open fire to stop them from burning. Another sees you chopping wood over and over before the timer runs out. Is this really the sort of stuff that today’s gamers are looking for?

The motion controls themselves feel responsive, but there’s simply no challenge or entertainment value. In fact, it’s possible to complete the entire game by simply doing nothing; just put the Wii remote down and select continue when the mini-game is over and you’ll still reach the end of the game. At one point you’re tasked with repairing a boat. Failing to do this in time or choosing not to has absolutely no impact on your success whatsoever. It moves on to the next mini-game (which, funnily enough, takes place in the boat you failed to repair) and still acts as if you finished the activity flawlessly.

The game scores you on your performance throughout, which at least serves as a good distraction to the horrible story mechanics. Successfully completing some mini-games within the allotted time will give you a bonus; in others, you just have to try and score as much as you can. A leaderboard system has been implemented in what can only be assumed is an attempt to get others to compete with you. The real challenge, however, comes not from your friends beating your scores, but rather, trying to convince them to even play this game in the first place.

Completing all of these mini-games takes no longer than 10 minutes. Once you've accomplished this less-than-impressive feat, that’s it. There’s a training mode where you can go straight to a mini-game of your choice, but when the gameplay is as dull as it is, why would you even bother?

Conclusion

To be blunt, this is a pathetic excuse for a video game. While some games simply miss the mark when it comes to key aspects such as game design, visuals or overall fun, Back to Nature manages to fail spectacularly in each and every single one of these areas. No effort has been made here to provide an entertaining experience, and this title is clearly nothing more than a blatant attempt to cash-in on unsuspecting gamers. Avoid at all costs.