motion controls

Fluidity

Full Review

Fluidity CoverThanks to the indie uprising, we have a heightened visibility for games that might have gone unnoticed just five years ago. A garage developer's labor of love can now share front page headlines with the AAA behemoths of the industry. Many fine media outlets even make a special effort to cover these smaller productions. Indie games have become the punk rockers of the industry, offering a lean alternative to overproduced AAA formulas, often with rebellious verve and spunk that resonates with us ninety-nine percenters (and at a price we ninety-nine percenters can afford).

But even in this new era, where the little guys yield as many pageviews as their big budget competition, an indie game needs to have some innovative hook or bombastic message in order to rise to the top. I can think of no other reason why Fluidity, a brilliant puzzle platformer with Metroidvania elements, has gone largely unnoticed. (Except that the game is marooned on Wii's invisible WiiWare digital distribution service, that is.)

It makes sense, though, doesn't it? So many indie darlings that went big had some kind of divergent aura about them. Limbo and Braid made their names with artsy themes and visuals that you just don't see in big money productions. The cheery brutality of Super Meat Boy, Magicka, and Castle Crashers upgraded them from mere mechanical joys to acclaimed game experiences. Fluidity, on the other hand, lifts its style and mood from airline safety manuals, of all things.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Full Review

Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword CoverThe lasting impression from my recent introduction to the original Legend of Zelda was its unstructured progression. With only a ghost of a narrative driving the action and few barriers to limit wanderlust, the course of my trip through Hyrule was almost entirely up to me. Having played Ocarina of Time before any other Zelda game, I was surprised to see just how hands-off the original was.

In contrast, last month's Skyward Sword may be the most linear Zelda experience yet. The newest quest sees Link flying from one compact landmass to the next with hardly any room for side trips. The vast sky of islands is sparser than Wind Waker's nearly endless ocean, and even the surface world below is but three masses of land separated by impenetrable mountain ranges and deserts and forests. This is a Zelda where the path to the next waypoint is often the only path.

Every game in the series since the eighties original has trended towards structure and direction as story progression and ability acquisition gained a greater share of the Zelda spirit. Aesthetic similarities and recurring tropes aside, The Legend of Zelda and Skyward Sword could be mistaken for two wholly separate franchises. For better or worse, Skyward Sword feels like the end state of a slow evolution that Nintendo has been cooking for twenty-five years.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword [Video]

First Hour Review

Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword CoverWith so many Legend of Zelda re-releases in 2011, I've had several excuses to reacquaint myself with the series for the last six months. I awakened Link for the first time, replayed bits of the first Zelda game I ever experienced, tried out a solo retrofit of the franchise's multiplayer experiment, and even charted my way through the legend that begot legends. For me, 2011 has been the year of Zelda.

Through this trip back through time, I've reevaluated my regard for Nintendo's beloved adventure franchise, and just in time for the newest iteration. Skyward Sword, at a glance, looks like just another Zelda, which is enough for most fans but insufficient for me. On top of that, the game boasts a distinct watercolor style, a sky/land dichotomy, and what appears to be an origin story for many of the franchise's trademark elements.

What has me excited is the motion-controlled combat. I loved the MotionPlus combat in Red Steel 2, and Skyward Sword uses the gyroscope add-on to provide needed nuance to Zelda's normally dull swordplay. Comparisons to Punch Out's puzzle-like duels have me salivating all the more.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to experience much of that in Skyward Sword's opening sixty. That's disheartening enough, but Skyward Sword doesn't stop at mere disappointment...the game outright insults me. Take a look:

Wii Play Motion - Video

First Hour Review

wii Play Motion Cover"Gathering dust" has become the meme of regretful Wii owners everywhere. I can't even count the number of times I've seen these words used to complain about the dearth of worthwhile Wii games. As someone who has found plenty of variety and quality in Gamecube 1.1's software lineup, I've let out innumerable deep sighs in response.

And yet, I must admit that my Wii has sat silent for over six months now. After a year that I wouldn't hesitate to call the system's very best, even the most forgiving Nintendo fanboys couldn't deny that Wii has been a ghost town in 2011.

But all that changes now, as I just picked up the brand new Wii Play Motion! Yes, I think it's safe to say that the 2011 Wii drought is officially over. Because if anything can get hardcore gamers excited about Wii again, it's a minigame collection bundled with a controller!

All sarcasm aside, Wii Play Motion's various motion-centric minigames were created by several different studios, tasked with outdoing each other in finding a fun and unique use of the bundled-in Wii Remote+'s capabilities. Featuring such contributors as Prope (Yuji Naka's new studio) and Good-Feel (the minds behind the excellent Wario Land: Shake It and Kirby's Epic Yarn), it at least has an interesting pedigree. Or a collection of interesting pedigrees, I guess.

So I synced my pretty new Wii Remote+ and popped in the disc. In just over an hour, I tried out every singleplayer minigame in the collection (as far as I know). And lucky you, I recorded video of all of them! Hopefully each video will give you an idea of how the player interacts with the minigame and what kind of depth it may offer.

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