PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

'Wreckateer' Is Like 'Angry Birds' for the Kinect

Blowing stuff up should be entertaining, right? Wreckateer turns it into a grind.


Wreckateer

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Rated: E10+
Players: 1-2 players
Price: $10.00
Platform: XBLA
Developer: Iron Galaxy
Release Date: 2012-07-25

Wreckateer is best described as Angry Birds for the Kinect. There’s more to it than that, but the similarities make the comparison easy. Instead of using a slingshot to shoot birds at blocks, you’re using a medieval ballista to shoot cannon balls at castles. It’s a proven formula since destruction is always entertaining, and thankfully Wreckateer adds more to this formula by making you work for points, not just total destruction. The game’s not just about destroying castles but how well you can destroy castles. This added depth makes it more than a mindless toy, but it all falls apart in higher level play.

The gestures that you use to control the ballista are wonderfully simple and intuitive. You have to step forward and clasp your hands together as if you were grabbing the end of a slingshot, then you step back to stretch out the slingshot, and finally, open your arms to let it go. You can control the strength of the shot by how far back you move, and you aim by stepping left or right while pushing your clasped hands up or down. The movements make sense and create an experience unique to the Kinect. Instead of just dancing or flailing in front of the TV, Wreckateer actually makes use of the three-dimensional space around you. It’s the first Kinect game that I’ve played that doesn’t feel like it originated on the Wii.

Each type of shot has its own unique gesture controls. Some, like the exploding shot, only need to be activated once. Others, like the flying shot, need to be activated and then steered through the air. Before activating those special tricks, you can change a shot’s course by swiping in the air -- a gesture so natural you might even find yourself doing it without realizing it. At no point are the controls ever confusing.

When you’re just messing with the controls and blowing stuff up, Wreckateer works brilliantly. The Kinect has no trouble recognizing these sweeping, full-body motions, and the tone is lighthearted and charming. The levels are designed like puzzles with enough depth to prevent Wreckateer from being just a mindless toy, but a huge spike in difficulty around the halfway point turns that depth into a frustrating brick wall.

You can earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal on each level, depending on how many points you get. If you fail to earn at least a bronze, you can’t progress to the next level. Progression is easy at first, but as the game starts to ask more of you, the controls and physics seem to work together to sabotage you, and you’re forced to play and replay the same level over and over again.

When trying to aim, the Kinect can follow your arms for the most part, but there’s a dead zone between the middle and high angles. You might move your arms just slightly, looking for the perfect angle, but the ballista will jerk up and down from one seemingly preset angle to another. This problem only exists when adjusting the angle, though. When you’re stepping left or right to turn, the Kinect can easily track your full body, but it has trouble making sense of your subtle arm movements. This makes it impossible to shoot with consistent precision.

And yet the physics seem designed with precision in mind. Sometimes you’ll hit a tower and bring the whole thing crashing down. Other times you’ll destroy a chunk, yet the rest of the structure remains standing with a complete disregard for the laws of gravity. It looks like both shots hit the same area, though maybe they were actually inches apart and the game reacted accordingly. That would be fine if you could aim with a similar precision, but since you can’t, the destruction often feels random. You’ll spend a lot of time resetting and retrying until you get that one perfect shot, and when you do, it feels more a matter of luck than skill.

Wreckateer is the first XBLA game to incorporate a new Xbox LIVE feature called Avatar Famestar. At it’s core, Famestar is a system of in-game achievements similar to… well… achievements, but this new system seems designed for more casual players. For one, the “weekly fame challenges” reset each week, meaning you don’t have to keep buying new games to increase your fame, which is a surprisingly consumer friendly tweak. As you earn more fame you’ll unlock Avatar costumes, but this isn’t all that different from the Avatar Rewards you already unlock in some games. Overall, it’s a fine source of more meta challenges.

Wreckateer is fun as long as you don’t take it seriously. Playing for points will have you throwing your arms up in frustration or making offensive gestures at your television. It's the smartest use of the Kinect to date, which makes it maddening that the one gesture that it has trouble recognizing is so integral to the gameplay. Blowing stuff up should be entertaining, right? Wreckateer turns it into a grind.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.