|System: Wii (WiiWare)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Allied Kingdoms||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Allied Kingdoms||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 12, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The great thing about independent game developers is they often aren't afraid to feature quirky elements and mash strange concepts together in ways that make for some truly refreshing and often bizarre gaming. While the potential amusement that comes along with creating a game so jaw-dropping and off-the-wall that players can't help but be perplexed by it is enticing, developers also need to show a certain measure of restraint - at least enough to make their masterpiece actually playable. A game can successfully be weird and edgy, but it shouldn't spur players to want to embed their controller deeply into the opposing wall within mere seconds of firing it up.
Planet Pachinko, the latest in budget-priced WiiWare releases, may be one of the strangest downloads available on Nintendo's service to date. Combining the fast-paced action of an arena-style, 2D platforming shooter with the popular Japanese pachinko machines certainly had potential to develop into a crazy and addictive mixture, yet it results in an experience that's more over-stimulating and frustrating than it is enjoyable. Even the game's most endearing and humorous moments can't save it from the fact that any fun it might provide is ultimately dashed against the rocks of a poorly implemented gameplay design.
If the idea of playing an action shooter set inside a giant pachinko machine isn't odd enough to suit your tastes, the game's story should put things over the edge nicely. In the far distant future - "the future of the future" to be exact - a family of robots have lost their dog Piddles. Instead of being a robot pooch, their dog is in-fact a carbon-based, fur-covered life form. After failed attempts to locate the critter, their search leads them to the Planet Pachinko where the Pachinkeets have constructed giant pachinko temples filled with wealth in honor of the civilization's greatest rulers. The temples are also filled with danger. Blasting their way through one pachinko temple after another, players must help the robot family pick up the trail of their missing pet. The intro is particularly funny, and much of the dialogue throughout the game is laced with subtle humor. Boss battles against ninjas, a space dog, punk rocker octopi, and other goofy villains further punctuate the lightheartedness of the adventure. However, most players' smiles should quickly fade to a grimace, once they dig into the gameplay.
Each temple is arranged like a large, circular pachinko board with numerous platforms and other obstacles to run and jump around on. Playing initially as one of three robot family members, you'll leap and bound around the inside of the arena while blasting away at the scores of explosive pachinko balls that come tumbling down from above. Most of the balls will ricochet off small pegs littering the board and flow downward until they're destroyed; others will come into contact with cups that spit out monsters that attack you. The objective is to stay alive long enough to destroy a predetermined amount of balls required to move on to the next level. While this sounds straightforward, it takes only seconds for the action to devolve into complete and total chaos.
Jumping from platform-to-platform to dodge incoming fire and frantically destroy the increasing number of pachinko balls flittering around from all directions is extremely action-intensive to begin with. This main gameplay element might be more satisfying, if a heaping ton of frustration wasn't thrown on the fire. Standing in one area of the board for too long (more than a second or two in some cases) trigger's the temples automatic defense turrets. These sadistic devices pop up randomly on different sides of the temple and spray a constant stream of bullets, fire, and other dangerous substances while they work their way quickly across the length of the screen. With all the other deadly things flying around, it's almost impossible to dodge turret fire without taking damage from enemies or balls in your peripheral in the process, and they crop up incessantly. Without them, the game would be too easy, yet they're a huge irritance.