• FlingSmash review - Nintendo Wii

    A small, peaceful, colourful island, populated by a colourful race of cutesy characters. An ancient hero, locked in a box until the island needs help in its darkest hour. An ancient evil, with a laugh that sounds suspiciously like Bowser's, attacking the island with blocks. Luckily the shoehorned plot is all over and done with in the opening scene, leaving the rest of Fling Smash to be a simple, yet compelling arcade game.

    If you imagine playing Breakout, but instead of controlling a bat, the included Motion Plus controller flings the conveniently ball-shaped heroes, Zip and Pip around the screen and through the blocks. Most of the levels are side-scrolling, so fast block breaking is needed to avoid being pushed off the edge of the screen (Besides which, hanging around at the edge will see you eaten by a chasing three-headed dragon). Some of the levels scroll vertically, so the fight against gravity is a bit more intense. The ball flies in exactly the direction the controller is flicked in and is spookily accurate. So much so that wildly flailing around with the remote will get you pretty much nowhere fast. Instead of having to wait for the ball to return to the side/bottom of the screen, any flick of the wrist will cancel the current trajectory and start another. Additionally, the A button can be pressed to cancel and just let the ball fall with gravity. Staying still for a couple of seconds charges a super-shot that can clear tougher blocks that normal flings bounce off of.

    In a tight spot panic does set in, but when the urge to swing about randomly does overcome your self-control, a message reminds you that it's not necessary to be violent with the remote. Small movements work far better than swinging the controller around the room, somewhat contrary to the picture of someone seemingly playing tennis on the back of the box. This is altogether very pleasing and frankly unexpected, especially considering some of the negativity being aimed at the motion control in many other reviews. This provision of such a delicate control scheme means that level design can afford to be quite devious, with later stages featuring multiple narrow pathways and the need for quick cancels and direction changes. A game that at first glance looks like it should be for kids has instead proved to be quite challenging. Each level is ranked at the end, presuming you collect enough medals along the way to even qualify as "finishing" it. S-ranking or even A-ranking on first attempt is unlikely because the level needs to be learnt to gain the maximum amount of points available. Yes, it's really a score attack game.

    Points are boosted in numerous ways. Combo blocks flash in unison once the first is broken, so quickly grab all the others nearby before they disappear off behind you. Pinball-style light trails can be travelled through to light them all up for extra points. Gem switches change all the nearby blocks into high scoring gems. Number blocks get bounced around when hit and must be broken the displayed number of times to reveal a medal, but where they land might be hard to get to fast enough, needing some quick thinking and on some levels, some planning from prior knowledge of the stage layout. Do not mistake this for a mindless action game because it will eat you alive.

    Power-ups need to be collected in threes to activate them, with traditional Breakout style options like Split (into 3 balls), Big (ball, instead of bat) to make it easier to grab score items, Power where every shot is a Super Shot and a new one, Fireworks, that has a ripple effect on nearby blocks. Each of the eight worlds has three initial levels followed by a Boss, which these power-ups will help you make quick work of if grabbed in time. The bosses require very accurate targeting and timing, with smart use of the movement cancels to escape death. However, they aren't quite as fun as the more platform oriented gameplay of the main levels. According to reports on the interwebs, if you S-rank all three levels in a world, an extra one becomes available for that world which, if you thought the main levels were hard, will make you cry. We can't report on these because so far we only have four levels S-ranked and only two of them are in the same world, but we are having a lot of fun trying to unlock them.

    However, there are some easier to come by mini-games - "just" A-rank all three levels in a world to unlock one of eight minigames. There's a Pong-style tennis game, requiring perfect timing and precision aiming. Another has you navigating entire levels being fired by a cannon, but they move about and rotate so you must time the exits just right to continue to the next cannon - hilarious in 2-player mode, with you taking turns according to colour of cannons, but not necessarily alternately! A third makes your ball heavy and tests your ability to climb the screen with flings to grab as many power symbols as possible. They aren't all particularly good though - one of them just requires you to count number of seconds in your head and fire a cannon at the right number of seconds.

    Without bothering to S-rank, this isn't going to take long to progress through the initial levels (once you have got to grips with the controls). If you are happy sailing through games on B-ranks, this is not going to represent value for money; but if you like a challenge and are prepared to learn the levels and the nuances of the controls, there's a worthwhile game here, especially since it's really a budget game bundled in with a Motion Plus controller.
    Score: 8/10

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