When the Wii U was unveiled back at E3 2011 much was shown off in the way of its special abilities and functions, especially when regarding the system's controller. Unfortunately, the GamePad's many perks (such as its impressive use of motion controls) have been relatively untapped in the years since, and use of its built in gyroscope and accelerometer has been extremely limited. So, when a title that fully embraces these abilities like Madskull's Guac' a Mole makes its way onto the Wii U eShop, it's worth giving it the attention it deserves for that sole reason. Not to mention its puntastic title.
The "plot" of Guac' a Mole is as nonsensical as they come: you are tasked with protecting your planet from the "Hideous Avocado Mutants" that are destroying you from the inside. But Guac' a Mole's strengths don't lie in its storytelling abilities, and unless you come into the title expecting a Lucas-esque Space opera - you will not be disappointed. Like with any true arcade experience the story is launched into the stratosphere and, instead, truly addictive gameplay takes centre stage. Guac' a Mole is no exception, and its globe gyrating action is as compelling as they come.
The aforementioned Avocado Moles must be destroyed by rotating your planet using the Wii U GamePad, aligning them with the trajectory of one of the many incoming asteroids raining down upon your planet. The fact the moles pose more of a threat to your planet's wellbeing than the hell-fire of asteroids hurtling down upon it is rather bizarre (someone at Madskull Creations must have serious issues with their lawn control), but this all allows for some truly frantic gameplay and makes great use of the GamePad's motion sensors.
To begin with, the asteroids begin to rain down fairly leisurely before gradually falling thick and fast, increasing in frequency. The key to keeping your planet in existence is by attempting to land each of these Asteroids slap bang on top of a Mutant's head. Missing - and hitting the planet instead - will result in your life (which is represented by the healthy green number on the planet) decreasing and becoming red; the planet explodes like a cosmic timebomb when your life is depleted to zero. An orangey glow to the edge of the screen is a helpful indicator of where the asteroids are heading from, and helps during the more hectic moments.
Every so often the "King Mole" will appear, acting as a mini-boss of sorts. The King Mole requires three hits to be destroyed but there is no room for error, and missing even a single asteroid hit during his time on screen will result in him burrowing back to safety and inflicting a large amount of damage to your planet. Defeating him will result in you gaining his crown, and by collecting a total of three crowns you will receive a Bonus power up in the form of the "Time Slower" that does exactly what you'd expect - slowing down the action and giving you the ability to compose yourself when you need it most.
Successfully annihilating the mutants, however, will see your health increase - racking up your high-score and "consecutive hits" meter. Keeping your "consecutive hits" meter going will help rack up your high score and improve your likelihood of receiving bonuses; landing successfull hits on the Mutant Moles will also see your special attack bars fill up. Upon filling these meters, you will be free to use them by pressing the ZL or ZR buttons. These special attacks unleash a freezing blizzard (freezing the moles in place for longer) or the "Infernal Meteor" - a heavy artillery attack that swipes the planet clean from moles. Both of these abilities are especially useful when the number of moles becomes overwhelming, and can help you out of a tricky situation as the difficulty racks up and multiple moles appear at once. This gives you the ability to do tricky yet rewarding "combo attacks". This is performed by lining up each of the moles in range of the corresponding number of meteors crashing down, requiring an extremely intricate placement.
Where Guac' a Mole's biggest strength and most admirable quality lies is in its use of the GamePad and its replayability is almost entirely down to the perfect implementation of its gyroscopic motion controls. Upon hearing that Guac' a Mole plays by rotating the Wii U GamePad around like you're driving some invisible car, it's understandable that anyone would feel somewhat put off. After all, when the gyroscopic controls have been implemented into Nintendo games previously, they haven't always been a welcome or even necessary inclusion, often dividing opinion. Guac' a Mole, on the other hand, feels incredibly natural and extremely self intuitive with little explanation required, enabling you to delve right in and start challenging for the high scores. Few developers (Nintendo included) have turned the Wii U's many quirky and unique hardware features into a video game experience that uses them in a substantial way, so it's nice to see the likes of Madskull Creations bucking the trend.
If there's one thing about Guac' a Mole that doesn't feel quite so top-notch, it's that it shares many similarities between the likes of Angry Birds Space and Gravity Badgers, to name just a few. The "Intergalactic" setting is fairly safe ground for indie developers, and unfortunately Guac' a Mole falls into too familiar territory in its theme, not quite complimenting its more ground-breaking game mechanics. Despite this, the visuals look pleasant enough, despite their generic space theme; the hand-drawn aesthetic (whilst looking cheap on the home menu) provides a nice stylised look in-game.
The accompanying soundtrack is also appropriately retro, and whilst not being exceptionally noteworthy - it helps preserve the arcade feel throughout. The sound effects aren't quite so pleasing, however, with what can only be described as "fart" noises emanating from a defeated Mutant Mole - cheapening the experience a little. Thankfully, the audio options allow you to tweak the music and SFX, resulting in the ability to turn down the noises altogether if (like with this reviewer) they become rather grating.
As arcade experiences come on the Wii U, Guac' a Mole is up there with the best. It's chaotic and addictive action, and well implemented motion controls leave you with a "just one more go" addiction, and upon reaching a GAME OVER it's tough to resist the urge to dispense a fist-full of quarters into the Wii U's disc-slot. Besides the core game itself, there isn't much more to Guac' a Mole besides option menus and high score leaderboards, and the lack of separate stages and variety in the backdrops is a little disappointing.
Fortunately, the price reflects this and is a justifiable charge for what's on offer. All in all, Madskull Creations has taken the traditional arcade formula and applied modern day controls to create a classic yet refreshing little Wii U title. For the little money being asked, it's well worth checking out.