5 Arcade Gems Review
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Who doesn’t love a good party? When it comes to party games, Nintendo seems to have cornered the market not only in the console realm but in the sheer amount of party games available for the Wii. The Mario Party titles and their mini-games set a benchmark for four player fun and others like Raving Rabbids surpasses it, so it’s no surprise that other developers would want to take a shot at being the next staple of gaming get-togethers, particularly when it’s so easy to distribute them via the Wii online Shop. That’s where we were introduced to 5 Arcade Gems.
As the title might suggest, 5 Arcade Gems is a collection of five arcade-like mini games for up to four players. There’s no over-arcing board game ‘shell’ or any type of theme tying them all together, just 5 straight forward, quick-play titles for around 7 bucks. Nordcurrent, a European publisher/developer combines a space shooter, an obstacle course, an item collector, target shooting and…tether-ball? Yes, even tether ball.
First up is Jungle Pizza Delivery. 4 delivery boys are lined up on screen and players have to alternate pumping the Wiimote and nunchuck up and down to keep the onscreen avatar running ahead of the head-hunting natives chasing them down. Along the way to the finish line you’ll have to press duck and jump buttons to avoid obstacles like downed trees and buzzards that swoop in for a slice. If you get knocked down too many times, one of the natives will catch up and you’ll be eliminated.
Next comes Whirling Rangers, and oddly titled space shooter. Each player pilots their own brightly colored ship around a wormhole (a la Tempest) avoiding asteroids and shooting down as many enemy fighters as possible. Controls are basic analog stick movement (forward, back and left/right around the circle) while A fires.
The aforementioned tether-ball comes in the form of Templar Bashing. 4 colorful medieval knights stand on platforms at the top of a castle where a giant steel mace is set spinning by the Evil Wizard who bears a not-so-passing resemblance to Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python fame. As the ball spins around the circle, each knight has to choose to jump over or send it flying in the opposite direction. Well timed flicks of the Wiimote smack the ball, while flicks of the nunchuck jump. Last one standing wins.
Lumberjack Trials aren’t so much a series of tests, but a single event: Axe throwing. Targets of different colors are launched into the air as players take aim by pointing the Wiimote at the screen and a flick of the wrist with the nunchuck sends an axe flying. Hitting your own color target nets you more points than others’ and hitting bomb targets loses you one of 4 lives. After each round, scores are tallied and players are moved farther from the target launch pad. Play continues until all but one player has run out of lives.
Finally RC Buggy Madness puts players in control of a remote control car on the hunt collecting batteries in a small square arena. Gather your fill of AAs and get back to your home color square to collect. Slam into opponents using a quick turbo boost to cause them to lose their batteries and steal them away, using the analog stick to steer and the A button to boost.
The visuals are colorful and cutesy with large character models that kids will likely lap up. The lumberjacks and knights in particular are goofy and fun to watch. The animation is cartoony without being obnoxious and the sound is equally unobtrusive, fitting well with the visuals.
The games themselves embody the term “mini-game” with each lasting no more than about 3-5 minutes at most. As I mentioned before, there isn’t a themed shell tying them all together, just pick your favorite and go. When you’re done, retry or pick another. You don’t need to work your way around a board or unlock the privilege to play.
I wish I could say the good points filled more than 2 short paragraphs because the not-so-good points fill plenty more. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m an adult gamer, one who’s had a controller in his hand for a good portion of his life, so this title just may not be meant for someone of my age and play tendencies. That said, 5 Arcade Gems suffers first and foremost by being a one trick pony. I applauded each game for being short, but they get boring very quickly and each game falls to its own issues.
Whirling Rangers had so much going on on-screen that it was very easy to lose where your fighter was, making it difficult to ‘purposefully’ score. The challenge was more in knowing where you actually were to avoid the asteroids while holding down the fire button and hoping you hit something.
RC Buggy Madness puts players behind the wheel, but there’s no racing here. Instead you’re rushing to pick up items in a very small, never changing square play area. The whole thing seems illogical and largely unengaging.
Jungle Pizza Delivery works okay, but your arms get tired quickly and we observed a good amount of the rubber-banding effect, wherein if a player falls behind in the race, it made little difference because he would jump up to being near first after a fall or two, eliminating any real challenge.
Templar Bashing initially held my interest, but once it gets down to two players, especially if they happen to be standing next to each other on screen, it becomes the slowest moving game of ping pong you’ll ever participate in.
Each game forces 4 total players, so if you don’t have a party to play with, the computer fills in for your missing companions which, for me, takes the fun out of competing with friends if I’ve only got one or two people over.
One inexcusable flaw in the title occurs during the load screen for each game. After choosing your adventure, a load screen appears that offers a brief set of instructions on how to play and how to use the controls. That makes sense, but the screen itself is blurry and very difficult to read. It only clears up a fraction of a second before the game starts. That’s just bad quality assurance ladies and gentlemen, and one that should have been caught and fixed before shipping. I’m kind of disappointed that Nintendo let it pass muster before being offered online through their store.
The Final Word
I actually enjoyed the Lumberjack Trials, brief though it may have been. The targeting and physics of the throwing seemed pretty spot on, but like the other games, a distinct lack of variety will have you looking for something else after 10 minutes. For a piddly $7, this might be a good way to entertain the kids on a rainy Saturday afternoon, but even then, don’t expect an encore performance the week after.