If you’ve owned or touched a smart phone in the last several years then you’ve probably played Angry Birds. The original (and multiple iterations thereafter) caught fire in large part because of simple controls and the fun of throwing birds at pigs. Wreckateer attempts to follow that same formula, as you use a giant catapult to take down medieval castles inhabited with goblins. The formula is followed almost exactly though, and the result is a decently fun game with some rough edges that fails to distinguish itself in any meaningful way.
In Wreckateer, you’re an apprentice working for Wreck & Tinker’s Destruction Company, learning the trade of castle destruction. Using gestures you’ll pull back and aim a giant catapult, launching one of several types of shots at your targets. You can control the left and right aim as well as the height of your shot, and the amount you pull back the catapult affects the power and speed of your projectile.
Pulling back and aiming your shots is intuitive and unique, but unfortunately really good shooting requires a degree of precision that Kinect lacks. As you pull the catapult back, any small movement (or perceived movement) can change your aim, sometimes dramatically, making it a challenge to stay on target or fine tune your aim. The game attempts to balance this by highlighting targets as you aim at them, but those highlights proved inaccurate on more than one occasion, especially when aiming for powerups or score bonuses.
You have a set number and type of shots in each round with which you’ll attempt to do as much damage as possible. There are basic, bomb, split and speed shots, all of which can be manipulated to some degree after firing. The flying shot gives the most control, allowing you to guide it like a glider. You can earn bonuses for things like banking a shot off a mountain into a target or not manipulating a shot at all, and as you do more damage your score multiplier for each shot goes up. There are bronze, silver and gold ranks to be achieved in each level, and gold ranks for all of the levels in an area unlock a challenge course.
The game looks good, and Wreck and Tinker are enjoyably goofy, occasionally throwing out something humorous. The music works, and it’s a nice background without getting in the way. The after shot camera can be strange though. Shots can go through multiple towers, but often after the first impact you’re left with a camera angle that gives you no clear view of where your shot has gone after that. At times you’ll be left staring at a particular piece of rubble for 5-10 seconds waiting for your shot to finally come to rest somewhere.
Aside from aiming your projectiles, there is no real strategy to the game. Taking out a tower will cause it to fall, but have no real effect on anything nearby. While I realize the game’s goal is to stay simple and accessible, it would have added a nice layer of strategy if, for example, hitting the base of a tower on the left would cause it to fall left, damaging or taking out another tower. Wreckateer is the first game to support Avatar FameStar, which allows you to complete challenges and unlock costumes and bonuses across other games that have the feature, separate from standard achievements.
One of the problems that Kinect games face more than traditional games is the potential for the novelty of the concept to wear off. In the case of Wreckateer this is magnified because the game isn’t very novel to begin with; it takes almost all of its concept, scoring, and shooting elements from Angry Birds. There are plenty of levels and a two player mode to provide replay value, but after a few hours you may have no interest in coming back. It’s a solid game and can definitely provide some fun, but it’s not anything unique that you’ll be itching to invite people over to play.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.