Evasive Space Review
Evasive Space box art
System: Wii (WiiWare) Review Rating Legend
Dev: High Voltage Software 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Yuke's Company of America 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Feb. 16, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

It's hard to find an observer of the video game industry who isn't excited about High Voltage Software. The company promises, through its upcoming Wii title The Conduit, to bring Nintendo's console up-to-speed with the first-person shooter genre, in terms of both graphics and gameplay.

Evasive Space screenshot

Unfortunately, the developer could undermine that excitement with Evasive Space (ES), an somewhat unimpressive WiiWare download that runs on the same engine that The Conduit will - Quantum3. The graphics are indeed nice, but Evasive Space's bland and frustrating gameplay calls into question the developer's ability to polish levels and fine-tune a control scheme.

High Voltage has made the claim that Quantum3 will enable Xbox 360/PlayStation 3-caliber graphics on the Wii. Adjusting for the Wii's 480p resolution cap, Evasive Space makes that assertion believable, even if it doesn't quite prove it. ES looks a lot like an Xbox Live Arcade shooter, with detailed and colorful environments rendered in 3-D despite the 2-D gameplay. You'll notice lots of well-done effects like shading and particles as well. This game is very simple, so it's not clear whether Quantum3 will perform so well in a first-person environment with lots of textures and complex enemy A.I., but the visuals in Evasive Space are a positive sign.

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Viewed as a game in itself rather than a technology demo, however, Evasive Space doesn't fare well. It's very innovative in several ways, but those innovations end up being the game's downfall: they're either poorly executed or downright unworkable.

Evasive Space screenshot

Evasive Space is essentially a maze game that looks like a 2-D top-down shooter, or perhaps it's better described as a 2-D top-down shooter in which you can't shoot. The idea is to get from each level's beginning to its end within the time limit, collecting various items as you go. You lose time recovering from run-ins with enemies and walls, and some stages have one-hit-fatal hazards.

This isn't a terrible idea for a game. It capitalizes on the current arcade-shooter fad without resigning to the genre's played-out conventions. By cutting out the shooting component, Evasive Space puts the emphasis on fast, agile, precise movements. The problem is that the idea wasn't executed well: the level design isn't that great.

Evasive Space screenshot

In some levels, you wind your way through ridiculously tight spaces, trying to figure out which warps to go through to finish the level. It often seems like a random jumble of paths with cheap-shot enemies placed here and there. What's especially frustrating is that when you run out of time, you can't keep exploring the level to figure out how to play it next time the countdown starts (actually, for some reason, it counts up). You have to keep starting from the beginning, trying out each prong of each fork in the road until you find the right ones. Most of the levels aren't long, so it's not like they'll take hours to figure out, but it's annoying to learn to navigate a maze in 45-second chunks of time. At the very least, High Voltage could have let us control the zoom so we could see the entire maze at once.

Other levels take place in open space, asking you to accomplish tasks like "collect X number of Y-type power-ups in Z seconds." These levels will often change the rules to make the game more hazardous, like making the screen move on its own, killing you if you touch the edge. These are more manageable, as there isn't as much emphasis on memorizing each and every turn, but they're not as innovative, as the maze element is just about gone.

Screenshots / Images
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