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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Ghostfire Games
GENRE: Music
PLAYERS:   1-2
August 25, 2008
 Written by David Taylor  on September 04, 2008

Reviews: No thanks, Mr. Roboto.

The rhythm genre began in the 32-bit generation with a group of niche games like in the PaRappa the Rappa and UmJammer Lammy. Since that time, rhythm games have gone mainstream with mega-hit titles like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Considering this success, it is no small wonder why new developers would desire to have a piece of the rhythm game pie. Enter nascent developer Ghostfire Games, and its Wii-exclusive rhythm game Helix. The title is another entry in the Wii's ever expanding catalogue of downloadable WiiWare games. The question is whether or not the game does enough different with the rhythm genre to warrant its $10 price tag.

Helix's premise and game play are exceedingly simple. A blue robot moves its arms to music. The player mimics these arm movements by using two Wii remotes (one in each hand). The robot avatar actually has a wide variety of movies that range from simple punches to the cabbage patch. The player must complete the given movement in a specified amount of time, indicated by a beat meter that scrolls across the top of the screen. If the player performs a move incorrectly, then he or she loses life. If the life bar reaches zero, it's game over.

The game features three difficulty settings: easy, medium, and hard. As expected, the higher the difficulty, the more movements the game requires the player to perform. The game does get fairly difficult on hard mode, but normal mode is actually pretty easy.

This brings me to one of the biggest criticisms of the game ? the controls. Simply put, they are too forgiving. After playing for a while, I noticed that the game would indicate that I had completed a movement when I clearly had not. I quickly discovered that I could complete many of the movements simply by waving the Wii remotes up and down in front of me as if I were banging on drums. The game even registered my "drumming" as correct with moves that theoretically required me to extend my arms far from my body. The game seemingly cared more about whether or not I was moving at the appropriate time than what movement I was actually performing.

Players contemplating purchasing Helix had better evaluate how much they enjoy techno or trance music. This is because all of Helix's 26 songs can be classified as electronica. This in and of itself is not a bad thing. The songs, however, often sound similar. There are few stand-out selections, and after a few tunes many players will yearn for a hip-hop track.

Most of the songs are locked at the game's beginning. The player unlocks new songs by completing the available ones a certain number of times. This required repetition feels like a cheap way to increase the game's replay value.

Helix's graphics are likewise exceedingly simple. The blue 3D rendered robot is well animated and takes up almost the entire play screen. The rest of the screen contains the player's health bar, the beat meter, and some strobe-like colors in the background behind the robot. These colors are usually the only thing about the screen that varies from track to track (other than the beats).

An issue I found with the presentation is that the beat bar is located above the robot. Naturally the player will want to watch both the robot, to see what movement to perform, and the beat bar, to tell how long he or she needs to move to perform it. However, their location in relation to one another makes this difficult. This is because focusing on one makes it difficult to see the other with great clarity (unless the player possesses mutant-level peripheral vision). This is especially troublesome when the robot begins moving faster and the player misses a few moves because his or her attention is on the beat meter. In fairness, this is actually a common problem with rhythm games. For instance, in Gitaroo Hero, it is hard to concentrate on anything but the guitar riffs. The difference, however, is that in Gitaroo Hero all the player is missing is the game's entertaining background animation. With Helix, it actually affects the gameplay.

Two Wii remotes are definitely recommended for playing the game. The player can use one Wii remote, but this isn't as fulfilling since he or she will subsequently only be able to mimic one of the robot's arms. In this mode, the game will automatically give the player points for the arm without the Wii remote. Although there is no two-player option, the game suggests that two players can play, each controlling one arm each. This is actually an awkward way to play the game unless your coordination is super-precise.

Bottom Line
Ghostfire Games must be applauded for attempting to do something innovative with the rhythm game and Wii remote. Unfortunately, the lack of precise movement, uneven challenge, and uninspired music selection serve to make the game boring. A wider range of songs combined with the enhanced abilities of the Wii Motion Plus would perhaps give any potential sequel more of a punch. As it stands now, however, those Wii owners craving a WiiWare title would be better-served buying Dr. Mario, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, or the newly released Super Mario RPG on the Virtual Console.

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