Preview: Wreckateer

After our behind-closed-door sessions at the Xbox Spring Showcase, as Cody wandered off for some coffee, I made my way over to the Xbox Live Arcade section, which featured a wealth of great titles tucked away in one room, including Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD, Trials Evolution, Bloodforge, and South Park: Tenorman’s Revenge. The first booth as I entered, however, was for a game that had just been announced.

Wreckateer can be best described as a cross between Angry Birds and Idol Minds’ ridiculous (and I mean that in a good way) PSN release Pain. You load up a massive ballista with a cannon ball and toss it towards a castle, aiming to take it down in as few hits as possible. Sounds simple enough, right? But there’s a lot more to this game than initially meets the eye. For one, this game is entirely Kinect-driven, so from loading up the canon ball, to aiming the ballista, to steering the cannon ball mid-air as it makes its way towards its target, it’s all handled using movements and gestures.

Like Angry Birds, there are various kinds of cannon balls that you must use to take down these castles that are held up using a surprisingly convincing physics engine. There are some that explode, some that split into multiple smaller shots, some that can glide over obstacles, and others that rocket towards the target, all on your command. As expected, you rack up points the more damage you inflict on the castle, but along the way, you can also pick up combos and bonuses by steering through various mid-air pick-ups. In addition, there are bonuses that can only be discovered by earning them, such as nearly missing a pillar or steering the cannon ball into an open gate.

The game doesn’t require a whole lot of intricate controlling, but that said, gameplay via Kinect is instinctive and effortless. Even steering a cannon ball in mid-air is surprisingly easy. As with Angry Birds, there’s always a strategy involved in taking a castle down, but unlike the side-on perspective of Rovio’s title, here, only the front of the castle is visible to you; the rest reveals itself as your cannon ball takes flight. There are 60 castles and while the early ones are simple enough, the game does get quite challenging in the later stages. There’s also turn-based multiplayer for two players, and all your scores are tracked on the online leaderboard and compared with your friends’ performances.

Wreckateer is a charming little game that seems perfect for the entire family, and at the same time, it presents quite a challenge for serious players. Each fling of the ballista is an opportunity for a different approach and a new strategy, lending it near limitless replay value.

Wreckateer for Kinect is scheduled for release on Xbox Live Arcade sometime over the next three months.

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