Totilo At Play

April 27, 2009

Game Diary - April 27, 2009: Three Wii Games Later…

Filed under: Totilo Game Diary — stephentotilo @ 10:00 am


Welcome to the new home of my Game Diary. No need for much explanation. You all know how I got here, don’t you?

I spent the past weekend beginning my week-long vacation tackle of leftover games. Some Diary readers said that the list wasn’t pretty. But so far I’ve had a lot of fun with it.

On Saturday, I tried “Excitebots.” The game hadn’t been on my vacation-game list, but I’d wanted to play it most of last week. I had been tickled by it at GDC — an odd choice of verbs, I know, but how else to describe the effect of a game that seems designed purely to keep you laughing? The review takeaway is true in that the game feels a lot like “ExciteTruck,” for good or ill. It’s a racing game with huge jumps that, if made in the wrong angle, send you into close invisible walls. It’s a racing game with Wii-standard graphics, which is a disappointment in and of itself. But it is fun: a constant goof of a game that charges players to use a transforming frog-car-robot to race, air-spin, kick soccer balls into track-side goals and other silliness.

The maddest “Excitebots” mode might be the Poker Race side challenge, which requires the player to do much of the above while also driving through their choice of a cards in several track-blocking rows of cards. Imagine holding a hand that is one card shourt of a flush. Spot that row of cards in the middle of the road? See that eight of hearts that would complete the flush? Drive into it to finish the hand. Press a button to call the hand. Win your points and — oh yeah — keep racing as you play more poker.

I enjoy nuttiness, but I don’t need a lot of it. So “Excitebots” didn’t hold my interest for long. I’m not much of a racing game fan anyway, which made it easy to bail.

My racing game tastes have changed since I imported the Japan-only Game Boy Advance game “Dotstream” a few years ago. The game stripped most of the visual complexity of  racing games, making “Pole Position” seem over-developed. The game just has dots racing in lines from left to right, allowing for a little bit of steering. That’s it. And, since I played it, I’ve felt like no new racing games added anything that could make me prefer them to the distillation that is “Dotstream.”

(My enjoyment of “Burnout Paradise” doesn’t violate my post-”Dotstream” dismissal of the racing genre. I still see it as a crashing game, an exploration game and as an asynchronous competitive game than I see it as yet another car-vs-car-on-the-same-track racing experience.)

On Sunday, I finished “Mushroom Men,” which like a who lot of Wii games I’ve played lately isn’t bad at all. It’s a solid little platform/adventure game with superb fungal character design, an interesting world and mediocre controls. There are many bizarre and interesting moments in it and a great weapon system that has the lead character collecting small household objects like tweezers and paperclips to craft them into weapons. Some of this game is so bizarre, though, that I can’t share the details for free. I think I found material for one of my first Kotaku posts in this game.

The third Wii game I played and put aside is “Order Up!,” the cooking and restaurant management game I’ve praised a few times before in this diary. It’s got the basic gesture cooking mechanics you expect from the genre, the time pressure of preparing multiple recipes while customers wait, and the strategy of improving one’s restaurant menu, equipment and support staff in the interest of earning a four-star rating. Once that rating is achieved, a food critic arrives. The player has to cook well for him. Success produces a five-star rating. I like the game, but, unlike “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band,” it suffers from not having a very fun core mechanic. Casual, streamlined game design is cool, but a whole lot of repetition of some repetitious chopping, grilling and frying motions wears thin.

Next: I’m off to play more “F.E.A.R. 2” and wondering … should I still put these game titles in quotes? Or is that another part of MTV to leave behind?


  1. Austin mentioned you were playing Mushroom Men, looking forward to your post regarding it but tell me this one thing - will it keep me entertained longer than a week? Right now I’m jumping between games like your aforementioned Burnout Paradise and Left 4 Dead. Need something to stick!

    Comment by Shaun McIlroy — April 27, 2009 @ 10:07 am

  2. @Shaun, The game will barely keep you for a weekend. It took me fewer than seven hours to complete. I didn’t find all the collectibles in the game, but I did unlock most of the weapons in my first play-through. Have you played Chinatown Wars? That’s one of the better time-sinks that I’ve played lately.

    Comment by stephentotilo — April 27, 2009 @ 10:17 am

  3. That DotStream thing looks… different, and nice! I guess excitebots is a nice game to have if you expect friends to visit often.. should be good as a “party game” (It has split screen MP right?)

    The only experience I had with MushroomMen is the Quick Look at Giantbomb. It reminded me,a lot, of “Toy story 2″ game which was a good platformer IMO. However, yes.. dead rats with fungus growing out of them and twirling eyes sure can be a bit bizarre!

    Let the Quotes stay (or atleast Bold them ) It helps in deciding if it should be read now or kept for later :P (by skimming through the names)

    Comment by Reeteshinator — April 27, 2009 @ 10:24 am

  4. Reeteshinator, thanks for following me over here! It’s like I never left. Mushroom Men has some of that Toy Story vibe, but in that regard Chibi Robo tops it.

    Comment by stephentotilo — April 27, 2009 @ 10:35 am

  5. I think as far as putting the titles in quotes, bolding them is probably enough. Or just quoting them. But this is the internet, so you have the freedom to format text!

    I vote just bold.

    Comment by Ari Velazquez — April 27, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  6. @ 2) stephentotilo Nope, I haven’t played it yet though I was forced to slog through Blue Dragon Plus on the DS. Not awesome, but not awful either. Chibi Robo never had a wide release here in the U.K. but I would definitely be interested in having a duke at that!

    Comment by Shaun McIlroy — April 27, 2009 @ 11:03 am

  7. Your aversion to racing games fascinates me in that I share a similar outlook to the genre. Only my game of choice isn’t Dotstream but the wipeout series, my current obsession being Wipeout HD. I see alot of similarities between the two and I’m curious what you think about the wipeout series?
    Also, what do you think racing games are missing that would attract you back to them? For me, what I would like to see more of is the innovation of track design. While the tracks in wipeout are visually interesting, your still running on the tracks of a roller coaster with little to no deviation. That is why I was so dissapointed that I didn’t like Motorstorm all that much. I was so intrigued in how they decided to balance their vehicle classes not just by stats but also by their track design. It just seemed to add a different feel to races that no other racing game has ever seemed to capture.

    Comment by nouseforaname — April 27, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

  8. @nouseforaname, I never had a PSOne, so the whole wipEout thing kind of passed me by. My aversion to racing games is, sadly, due to my aversion to most reflex-based games. I’m not big on playing games that require me to repeatedly experience the same content in order to get good at them. That’s why I’m not into fighting games, racing games, multiplayer shooters, and sports games. I’m the kind of person who prefers to play through the length of a game, improving only because new content requires that my skills be improved. So what I liked about Dotstream was that, even though it was the kind of game I usually avoid, it had so few variables that it didn’t scare me off. I didn’t need to learn a lot about track design, didn’t need to worry about physics. There are a few key movement rules: just two ways to turn before course-correcting, just one simple rule of acceleration — that you go faster if you’re as close to the next racer without colliding into them… and the graphics are hypnotic. Plus, now that I think of it, it’s a side-scrolling racing game, which probably means that my anxiety about it is as diminished as the anxiety is of those who can’t handle 3D platforming games but can enjoy a 2D platformer.

    Comment by stephentotilo — April 27, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

  9. Awesome! I cant wait for wii sports resort to come out.

    Comment by Wii Sports Resort — June 27, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

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    Comment by cavado28 — September 18, 2009 @ 8:38 pm

  11. so why do you think so?

    Comment by clergocoB — April 4, 2010 @ 7:19 am

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