If there is one thing that Nintendo’s motion-controlled console does better than anything else, it’s making gamers look absolutely ridiculous while playing it. After the quiet roll-out of WiiWare it was only a matter of time before someone cashed in on the idea of a John Travolta simulator that has us flailing our arms around like the fabled star in Saturday Night Fever. Helix is that game, and for only 1000 points (or ten dollars in human lingo) you too can look completely ridiculous while playing a moderately entertaining dance simulation. If you have a complex about looking like an idiot while playing a videogame then this title may not be for you; however, if you have no qualms about waving your arms around in pure delight Helix is easily recommendable to fans of the dance game genre.
The premise behind Helix is like a modified version of Simon Says. There is a robot onscreen that performs various movements that you must mimic in time with the music. These can range from simple motions such as sliding your arm left or right to more complex actions that resemble more intricate dance moves. Granted the game cannot tell if you are actually complementing the robot’s every move or simply moving the Wii remote to the desired location, the end result remains the same. Besides who wants to play a game of this type without looking completely absurd? After each round you are awarded a letter score depending on your percentage of accuracy, much like Konami’s DDR series.
Helix offers up three very different difficulty levels that are balanced for each type of player. On easy the game is simple enough and will have you dancing the night away feeling like a pro. Crank it up to medium and the challenge will start to make you feel the burn of more complex and faster movement. Attempt to play the game on hard and you had better be in peak physical condition as the game moves a blistering pace. You have a health bar that will deplete as you miss moves and regenerate as you hit combos. String enough moves together and you will earn a combo multiplier that will rack up your score exponentially.
Probably one of the most unique things about Helix is that control setup. You can opt to play with one Wii remote, but you will only get half of the experience. While expensive in theory the game recommends playing with one Wii remote in each hand. As I mentioned earlier the motion detection is admirable but not infallible. Flailing your arms about will still net you some points, but it will detract far more thus eliminating the ability to cheat the game. There is a way to play multi-player but it is not recommended as it makes the game much more confusing than it needs to be.
The core of any good rhythm-based game is the music and Helix does a nice job of mixing variety with relevance. While none of the artists are well-known the tracks are catchy enough to keep the game flowing smoothly. There are a total of twenty-six tracks in the game, some available from the outset while the rest require you to unlock them, and they all have a trance vibe reminiscent of a Euro dance club. In an interesting move the developers have made the Wii remote pulse to the beat of the song which helps add to the immersion. The music also sounds surprisingly good considering this a downloadable title so if you have the setup, make sure you crank up the volume for maximum effect.
If you purchase rhythm-based games for their visual fidelity you have problems outside of most people. Helix is certainly not a visual powerhouse and for good reason. The developers have decided to focus their efforts on the soundtrack and mechanics, which is a great idea. The game sports a dark color palette and outside of the robot you imitate there really isn’t much to see here. The audio on the other hand has been carefully crafted to sound great in condensed form to keep the size of the game to a minimum. While the overall presentation of the game may feel lackluster, what is behind it is much more impressive technically.
Helix is a simple game that can be a lot of fun if you don’t mind looking bizarre while playing. There is no structure here; basically you just wave your arms in motion through twenty-six tracks at increasing difficulties. The Wii has ushered in a new type of gaming experience and Helix fits that category nicely. For ten bucks it is hard not to recommend this title to fans of dance simulation games or people who simply love flailing their arms around in a fit of joy. Helix won’t win any awards and will probably fall under many a gamer’s radar as simply another excuse to use motion control, but it is evident from the minute you pick up this game that it really is a lot of fun to play.