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Urbanix (Wii) artwork

Urbanix (Wii) review

"There's a lot of content to clear in Urbanix and the design is generally inviting, but most of the experience is similar enough that you might not appreciate the volume."

Urbanix offers gamers yet another take on the Taito arcade classic, Qix. It features colorful visuals, a multi-player mode, a slew of stages and a selection of power-ups that try to spice things up, but its core design is about as simple as things get.

As you begin playing after setting up a save file, you are presented with three environments where you are supposed to construct cities. The first of those environments is available immediately, and resembles a grassy field. Once you clear at least ten stages in that zone, you gain access to the North Pole. From there, you can eventually unlock the Dark Side of the Moon.

Urbanix (Wii) image

Cities develop automatically once you clear away a space by ploughing its perimeter. This process is made somewhat more difficult by a small selection of hazards. Your main opponents are Landrunners, which zip around the area like out-of-control jackhammers. If they collide with your character while it is in the process of ploughing, or if they break through an incomplete dozed line, you lose a life. Once your supply of lives is exhausted, you can either continue immediately from where you left off, at the cost of 5000 points, or you can return to the main screen and take advantage of the option to resume play from any level of your choice that you have accessed to date.

Once you get fairly good at the game, the Landrunners are unlikely to end your runs with any real frequency, but there are a few other ways to lose. Stages come with a time limit, and it grows less generous as you advance through a given area. Also, the percentage of a given map that you are required to claim (versus the portion that you are free to surrender to the Landrunners in the process of trapping them) also increases. If you fail to meet either objective, you automatically fail, even if you have several lives remaining. By the time you reach stage 30 or so in a given area, the demands are quite severe, and that condition only worsens the closer you get to 50.

One interesting point about Urbanix, and not in the positive sense of the word, is that you canít ever see an entire map at once like was possible in Qix. The Landrunners zip about at a fairly good clip, and they grow more numerous as you progress, so youíre never safe being greedy as you map out your zones, even though sometimes thatís the only way to finish up in time. Thereís a slight learning curve as you get used to how the Landrunners move, and you must learn to anticipate their patterns. Not only that, but you have to deal with mobile cranes that demolish your city over time--so that entire blocks may not count in favor of your total, if you donít chase them away from your precious structures--and also giant flying sharks with helicopter blades that will swoop down and chomp on your dozer if they get close. In such cases, you must quickly shake the Wii Remote to break free, which usually shaves a precious second or two off your timer.

Urbanix (Wii) image

While you work, youíll sometimes find special power-ups that briefly appear, but they have relatively little obvious impact on the proceedings unless you run into one that slows your movement and temporarily leaves you a sitting duck. Another one seems to have that effect on the Landrunners instead, though, which is a welcome reprieve. Thereís also a wrench to repair damage, and a saw blade. However, each of those goodies quite often appear in dangerous locations. Itís not always wise to risk grabbing them, even when you might like to. Worse, they have a way of disappearing just before you reach them, which is exasperating to say the least (especially if you took a chance going after them and wind up with nothing to show for it).

A final gameplay consideration is the difficulty that you will face producing structures in the second and third environments. At the North Pole, you have to go over a plot of land once to mark it out, then a second time to actually clear it. That feels redundant, but itís not as bad as the situation on the Dark Side of the Moon maps, where you are required to plough the same space three timesÖ and without a particularly forgiving timer to help you out. Honestly, there are times when the whole process feels more demanding than it does fun, but at least the difficulty ramps up rather evenly.

Itís also worth noting that the action is easily controlled, with the Wii Remote held sideways during gameplay so that it functions similarly to an NES controller. To navigate menus, however, youíll need to hold it upright like a television remote. Thereís no apparent reason for the lack of consistency. The developers simply appear not to have thought things through when they were designing the interface. Of course, thatís not exactly an uncommon flaw in budget WiiWare titles.

Urbanix (Wii) image

Thankfully, everything looks very good, featuring thick lines and bright colors that should appeal to gamers young and old. Urbanix serves as a nice option whether youíre gaming with a young child or just an inexperienced gamer, thanks to the welcoming aesthetic and the multi-player mode that splits the screen in half and allows two players to work cooperatively to clear areas.

If you like Qix or if youíve never experienced it and youíd like to tackle a more recent take on that classic design, Urbanix is a nice option and available for only 500 Wii Points. At that price, it feels like a steal compared to some of its contemporaries. It offers dozens of maps in each region, also, and separate leaderboards for each zone that let you track your best scores over time, but itís a little too simplistic to inspire the sort of repeated play sessions that would turn that last feature into anything meaningful.

In the end, the lack of meaningful variety makes it difficult to recommend Urbanix to the gaming masses, despite the generous supply of content and the mostly accessible design, but thereís an audience for this specific sort of experience that should find it satisfying just the same. If youíre intrigued by the concept and you have a few Wii Points to spare, youíre probably safe taking the plungeÖ


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (March 29, 2014)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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