Wreckateer – Review

Platform | Release Date
360 | July 25, 2012
Developed by Iron Galaxy
Published by Microsoft Studios

The Pitch:

“Wreckateer” uses Kinect for Xbox 360 to put you in control of a massive castle-wrecking ballista. With the help of Wreck and Tinker, travel the land and destroy sixty goblin-infested castles using six magical projectiles. Aim and fire each shot and then control it in mid-air, motion-activating special powers and guiding them toward their target. Utilize an arsenal of Flying, Explosive, Splitting, and rocketing Speed shots to explore the infinite ways you can wreak havoc with “Wreckateer”’s fully-dynamic destruction

I honestly can’t tell you how many times I heard Wreckateer compared to Angry Birds before it launched. At face value, yeah I guess it’s kind of like that. You fire projectiles with varying qualities at buildings to knock them over. There are goblins to take out instead of pigs, and you’re using a ballista from an over-the-shoulder view. Use as few shots as possible to cause as much damage and get enough points for your gold medal, but those pieces alone won’t make a great, or addicting game.

Instead of finger swipe controls with your iPhone, you get to use arm swipes with your Kinect. Each wave helps guide the boulders where you want them to go. These controls are one of Wreckateer’s strengths; if you were using a controller, it would be an absolute snore. Instead, the almost tactile way you line up and fire the ballista is quite enjoyable and using the different boulders is a bunch of fun.

Being Kinect, I did have issues from time to time. You’re able to earn mulligans by killing three goblins in one shot. To use them you have to hold up your left hand for a few seconds. Sometimes the hand tracking doesn’t work great in that regard and once made the level end for me before it activated. Additionally, to activate the special power of each projectile, you thrust your hands outwards and pretend you’re an airplane. Again, the tracking sometimes failed.

Where Wreckateer really falls apart is in the actual destruction. Angry Birds uses its physics engine for random acts of chaos, but for whatever reason, Iron Galaxy is very specific in what their buildings can do. If you throw a boulder into the base of a towering spire, it will crumble down onto itself instead of toppling to the side. You’re forced to use pre-lain explosive charges to really bust buildings apart, but even then the carnage feels largely contained.

I never felt like anything I did accidentally made my scores higher, it was all about where my shots landed and what the game had planned for that instance. Instead of experimenting with what the buildings would do, I always felt like I was trying to hit where the developers decided I should hit. While that approach is generally fine, you won’t catch me poking at the engine over and over to get higher scores; I’m one and done here as it doesn’t compel.

Maybe even the scripted nature of destruction could be forgiven if Wreckateer was a looker, but nope. Blocks seem to disappear wholesale when they’re collapsing, and there’s very little in terms of particles on screen except for a strange Fantavision-esque firework every now and then. When a game about blowing shit up makes blowing shit up seem dull, there’s a problem.

Despite its clear inspiration, Wreckateer isn’t Angry Birds, or even Boom Blox. I had high hopes going in, but they were ultimately dashed by its overall mediocrity and lacking physics system. Had one aspect have been outstanding, the rest may have been forgiven. Instead, it’s just a thing you’ll likely tire of within an hour.

About Jim Hunter

Jim Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Splitkick and host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He has three kids and is constantly cranky, but also highly awesome.
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