Who doesn’t like to break things? Seriously, think about it. I have yet to meet a little kid who hasn’t at least gone through a phase of building something up like LEGOs and tearing it down. Be it stacking boxes or designing intricate structures, we have all found enjoyment in tearing those sorts of things down to their foundation. Thankfully, as we have gotten older it has become easier to satisfy that urge thanks to the world of video games. Over the past couple of years, the genre of physics-based, destruction games has grown immensely on the mobile platform.
Considering the popularity that games like Angry Birds on mobile platforms, it is amazing that the trend hasn’t made its way to consoles (yet). That is about to change thanks to Iron Galaxy Studios and Wreckateer for the Xbox Live Arcade. The title has been making waves at various trade shows such as E3 and PAX over the past year and is about to be unleashed upon the public later this month. I had a chance to spend some time with a preview build of the game recently and have to admit, I have been very impressed. Sure, it is a formulaic and simple concept, but on top of that it is also an absolute ton of fun.
The premise is simple, you are the newest recruit of the Wreck & Tinker Destruction Company. It is your job to assist your company in the demolition of goblin-infested castles throughout the kingdom. We aren’t talking about organized destruction with explosives and construction equipment; this is medieval times and your tool(s) of the trade consist of a giant ballista and an assortment of ammunition.
Firing one’s ballista is truly a hands-on experience, using the Kinect camera you will reach your arms out in front of you, grab hold of your loaded ammunition, pull back and release it to fire! Before releasing you can adjust your aim both in terms of your direction and vertical trajectory. I found the firing controls to be extremely responsive and your Avatar, who appears on screen, reacts one to one to your movements. If you want to strut around and pose or set off your weapon in style, you can and it will be reflected on screen. Firing your ballista is just the start of the experience as this is a Kinect game after all.
Once your ammo is in the air, the fun is just beginning. Each of the six types of ammunition in the game can be manipulated after it has been launched in the air. This manipulation ranges from being as simple as using your hands to alter the trajectory to triggering a variety of special abilities such as explosive capabilities and splitting your shot into numerous, little shots. They all serve the same purpose though which is to give you ample opportunities to destroying everything in your path. The more you destroy the more points you are awarded. The goal is to hit specific scoring benchmarks which will earn you bronze, silver, or gold medals.
Destruction isn’t the only way to score points though; bonuses are given out for hitting strategically placed targets on each stage such as bonus shields, goblins (who like to taunt you), and earning score multipliers. You don’t really need this early on but as the game progresses, they become necessary to hit your scoring targets. The simple premise of destroying everything in your path is quickly replaced with the need for strategic destruction; that is assuming that you want to achieve the top ranking on all of the stages.
While the game doesn’t feature “traditional” multiplayer it does keep detailed records of you and your friends’ scores and statistics. This is meant to keep you in constant competition and contact with the scores and progress of everyone on your friends’ list. It is very easy to see where you rank amongst your friends and where and how you need to improve on your skills. This also serve to give you a reason to replay the game as, over time, you will learn more skills and tactics which you will want to go back and apply to earlier stages.
Wreckateer sounds like a simple game and in reality it is; in addition to being simple, it is also a lot of fun. There is a certain joy found in the destruction of large structures, especially when it is done in grand fashion. The physics engine used to power the game performs quite well, especially when one of your shots is blasting through the walls of a structure. Collateral damage becomes your most important asset in the end. There are a lot of stages to cover throughout the kingdom and they all offer their own unique challenges in terms of their physical design. It isn’t always about knocking down the biggest tower visible, before you know it you will need to operate like a true wrecking company and apply planning and strategy.
That fun factor is also amplified by the “replayability” factor of the game. This game begs you to come back to it again and again, which speaks volumes for the dedication of the development team. Most people are simply going to look over the game and pass it off as a run of the mill physics-destruction game; they are losing out. Do yourself a favor and at least check out the demo, you will be pleasantly surprised. Wreckateer will be releasing on the Xbox Live Arcade as a part of Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade promotion on July 25, 2012.