One of the nice things about
newer game download services on the current generation of consoles
is the ability for companies to once again offer some quirky,
innovative (or even just retro) titles that wouldn't survive in a
"burned disc/cartridge, sitting on the shelf" ecosystem. Newly
getting into the arena is Digital Leisure, whose products we've had
the fortune to look at in the past. Their usual fare has been the
old, heavily-video arcade games of the Laserdisc era but they're
branching out to bring a few more things into the market. The first
on their list is The Amazing Maze, which is available over the Wii
Shop Channel for a pretty reasonable price of 500 Nintendo Points.
If you're thinking this one looks
familiar, you're probably right; the basis for the game is a
favorite old kids' toy, the wooden Labyrinth, which has kids tilting
the field (with a pair of little wooden knobs) to
roll a marble around a track. These things have been around for
ages, and the goal is to get faster and faster, moving the marble
around and learning the available shortcuts.
The Incredible Maze takes this to
a new level, by transferring the feel of the gameplay almost
seamlessly while integrating the strengths of software; the ability
to present differing puzzles and change up the occasional rule. A
few sample screenshots (courtesy of Digital Leisure) below will give
you an idea what's possible:
Yes, that's what it looks like -
the computerization of the challenge offers several new options.
There are larger or smaller boards, sectioned and unsectioned,
obstacles and game-changing spots, larger "blank" areas, and even
Instead of "bumping"
the board (flipping the spinner fast enough to cause the marble to
jump), jumping is managed by hitting the A button, but this has its
limitations; the closer to the board's edge, the larger the bump (in
the marble's current traveling direction). Obstacles near the
board's center can't be bypassed, and trying to jump too close to
the edge is equally risky. In the more advanced boards, a good sense
of timing and grasp of the "jump" option can be necessary to pass by
obstacles; the 7th map above is one such example.
This isn't the
only spot where the game gets innovated, however; they were kind
enough (or savvy enough) to offer players a pair of input options.
In standard mode, The Incredible Maze is controlled by tilting a
Wiimote; the angle of tilt will tilt the board, making the marble
roll. Instead of "bumping" the board (flipping the spinner fast
enough to cause the marble to jump), jumping is managed by hitting
the A button, but this has its limitations; the closer to the
board's edge, the larger the bump (in the marble's current traveling
direction). Obstacles near the board's center can't be bypassed, and
trying to jump too close to the edge is equally risky.
The secondary mode offers even
more of a challenge. If you've got a Wii Fit balance board, rather
than using the controller's tilt sensors, the game can actually tune
the board's tilt to the player's standing balance. Yes, that's
right... lean forward, the marble moves forward. Lean left or right,
it moves in the corresponding direction. Fall off the board trying
to slow the marble down... and the game yells at you. I'd provide a
youtube video of myself doing this (quite a few times actually) but
truth be told, it's embarassing enough just admitting I've done it.
In addition to the basic puzzle
mode which unlocks the boards available in sequence, there's also a
"time attack" mode for training to get through levels faster and
faster, and a "challenge" mode with gems to collect, making players
carefully travel every section of the boards. Some players might
gravitate towards one or the other, but they do a lot to give the
game a challenge beyond the basics, just like the old numbered
points on the wooden version did.
So.... 500 Nintendo Points (US
currency equivalent, $5), for a solid and innovative take on a
classic game that expands it to a whole new wealth of possibilities.
I don't see a downside here, and it's certainly worth the risk,
especially for parents worrying about their young kids getting
"violent" games. Plus, it's something else to do with your Wii Fit
board. Pick it up if you have the chance.