One of the best things thus far about Xbox Live is the Marketplace. So far we have been privileged enough to enjoy several game demos, movie trailers, and of course new content for our favorite games. However the best aspect of this service is easily the Xbox Live Arcade system and its incredible lineup of addictive and low priced games. From the peculiar lemonade stand sim Outpost Kaloki X to the ridiculously addictive Geometry Wars XBLA has delivered some old school style goodness in a next generation environment. It also proves that games don’t necessarily need the latest technology to be incredibly fun and addictive. This is a great way to introduce today’s younger demographic to games that resemble what the industry was founded on.
All ranting aside we come to the story of the hour; Wik: The Fable of Souls from Reflexive Entertainment. This quirky puzzle/action title is hard to describe, addictive to play, and even quite pleasing to look at, but the best part about Wik is that it is simply an enjoyable experience that gamers of any age and preference can get into.
The premise of the game is quite simple, yet very different than you are probably expecting of a game of this type. The general style is less action based and more puzzle oriented focusing a more on position and angle than anything else. The gist of the game is to collect as many caterpillar-like Grubs and feed them to Slotham, a slow moving garbage disposal of sorts. The catch is that you don’t move Wik around like a normal action persona; in fact you cannot move him at all. Wik can only move around the stage by either jumping or latching his tongue onto object and swinging.
Jumping is achieved by angling your trajectory with the analog stick and simply pressing the jump button. Perfecting your position and landing in key areas to collect the Grubs are essential if you plan to master the game and collect everything on every stage, and trust me there are a ton of stages to get through, 120 to be precise, which should keep even the most avid gamer quite busy for a long time. Swinging is also another means of traveling throughout the game, in fact Wik even has an entire section of challenge stages designed to perfect the art of Loopnastics. Basically you can latch your tongue onto certain surfaces and swing yourself back and forth to reach higher levels. You can also loop yourself around object if you can master the speed and angle of any swing, mastering both jumping and swinging are the key ingredients to climbing to the top of the Wik leaderboards on Xbox Live.
There are of course other variables to consider on each level, for instance Slotham, your mobile garbage disposal, is constantly moving towards the end of the screen. If he manages to get there it is game over for Wik seeing as how you no longer have any way to store your Grubs. You can slow down his trek by chucking honey at his feet, or even slow down time by collecting certain power-ups scattered throughout the level. You will also run into plenty of opposition on every level including insects and even poisonous creatures that can steal the Grubs for themselves or simply annoy the hell out of Wik and keep him from completing his main goal of Grub collecting.
Even though Wik is simply an XBLA game the visuals looks surprisingly good in 720p high-definition. They are very reminiscent of the Oddworld and Heart of Darkness games on the original PSOne. The sound effects and audio are suffice, but are also standard fare and are not going to win any awards for design or creativity. Wik is all about gameplay and before you know it you will be snagging Grubs, looping around trees, and taking out bugs all in one fell swoop. The controls are smooth and the premise is addicting so if you are looking for a new XBLA game to check out, make it Wik, you certainly won’t be disappointed.
With over 100 story levels, tons of bonus and challenge levels, and even a local multi-player mode for up to four players there is certainly plenty to keep most gamers occupied for quite some time. While the addition of Live play would have been appreciate I really don’t think it hinders the experience in any fashion. You can however upload your score and compare them with the world or simply your buddies. There are also a handful of achievements to keep you trying new things within the game itself. If Wik is any indication of the quality of games coming to XBLA then I believe we have a bright future ahead of us, its simple charm and addictive game play is more than worth the price of admission. Download the demo today and I guarantee you will plenty to love about this quirky little action-puzzler.