April 29th, 2010
This is something of a special take on my regular ‘Play Impressions‘ feature. Klonoa and House of the Dead: Overkill, despite their differences in content, are great examples of games which channel the ethos that the Wii was founded on: accessible gameplay that breaks down the barriers between beginner and seasoned players. Both of these titles are of genres of relatively low complexity which further adds to their expansive appeal. I will focus on how their designs are logical to players and ultimately very successful games.
Klonoa is a remake of the 2.5D PSone platformer Klonoa: Door to Phantomile for Wii. The platforming borrows mechanics from Yoshi’s Island and Wario Land, but alters and combines them in a refreshing way. Like Yoshi, Klonoa has a flutter move where he can temporarily keep himself afloat in mid-air and like Wario, Klonoa can pick up enemies and launch off them to gain extra height. When these mechanics are combined in succession, Klonoa comes into its own, offering an emergent technique for more capable players which allows Klonoa to travel great horizontal and vertical distances without touching the ground.
Klonoa can also toss enemies in front of him or at objects in the back and fore grounds, allowing for some nifty puzzles. In fact, I’ve never played a game which has so dynamically implemented 3D environments on a 2D plane. It’s all quite impressive the way paths spiral around and Klonoa shifts to layers which were previously a part of the back/fore ground. As with the combination of jumping mechanics, it’s when the backgrounds and foregrounds interconnect and loop around to create multilayered puzzles where Klonoa excels.
It’s the bridging of separate, easy-to-understand constituents which make Klonoa a joy to play for experienced and inexperienced players. In fact, Klonoa is an ideal game for children; I would have loved to play his game growing up. The story in particular deserves special mention in this regard. Unlike Jak and Daxter or Rachet and Clank who play on youthful, adventure-seeking archetypes, Klonoa and his blue-ball sidekick Huepo are adventurous but reserved, displaying a natural pure-heartedness rarely seen in video games. The sense of friendship shared between the two is heartfelt and the conclusion to their tale is one of the most touching I’ve experienced a video game—less we forget this is a production made for children. Playing Klonoa had reminded me of the importance of developing games for a young audience. However, even if you’ve long since past primary school, as a fan of 2D platformers, I can’t recommend this under-appreciated gem enough. The best platformer on the Wii bar Mario.
House of the Dead: Overkill
There is surprisingly very little to say about House of the Head: Overkill from a mechanical standpoint. As I mentioned in my rail shooter guide on Racketboy, Overkill employs a simple combo system where flawless, no-miss kills tally a tiered combo system with each multiplier assigned to over-the-top names like like ‘psychotic’ and ‘goregasm’. Shots are divided into head shots and body shots.
Players can now choose a two weapon loadout prior to each mission, supported by a shop system where players can tweak and add weapons to their arsenal. In many respects, the two weapon loadout—arguably the only “new” addition to this installment, if you’re into series progression and all—injects a strategic dynamic into the core gameplay since players can switch weapons to conserve ammo or for tactical efficiency. There’s a degree of strategy in pairing up clunky, rapid-fire or standard weapons depending on your strengths. It quickly becomes apparent though that the shotgun, with its wider target area—as represented by the large reticle—awesome power and lack of ineffectiveness when shot into the distance, is the most efficient weapon for high score chasing, and once you’ve maxed it out, you’ll almost never use the other weapons. Personally, I’m hardly a high score chaser, but the scoring system in Overkill, due to it’s simplicity and prevelance in the UI, is more apparent than in prior games, which piqued my interest. High scores are rewarded with cash, so it all ties back to the upgrades system which is scrimpy at best, ensuring that you’ll need to play every level at least 3 times before you earn enough dough to max out all the weapons.
The player also has a substantial health bar which on depletion offers the option of sacrificing half your score to continue. Branching paths have been removed entirely which give more focus to the narrative—and with plenty of health packs, slow motion prompts, grenades and ‘save the civilian’ moments, Overkill is quick to orientate the players concentration towards accurate shooting and the rewards subsequently accumulated from the combo system. The novel grindhouse presentation may appear to distract from possible lacking amenities, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. All components of House of the Dead: Overkill: the linear progression, health bar, cash system, in-game trinkets, UI, all work to consolidate accurate shooting: the game’s core gameplay premise. In addition to the excellent production values and comedy-driven narrative (the latter of which, I think anyone could enjoy), Overkill, just like Klonoa, is a fantastic game for both seasoned and new players alike. I think that it’d also be a good introductory game for players wanting to further explore the rail shooter genre as it focuses so heavily on accurate shooting: an integral skill required in these games.
Overkill also provides incentive for players to keep working on their accuracy with a standard story mode, the option to add more mutants and a final “director’s cut” version which adds a significant amount of content per level. The final pay off is the ability to dual wield with too Wiimotes which is a rather handsome reward. Again, this plugs into the accuracy element of the game.