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WireWay (DS) artwork

WireWay (DS) review


"I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've landed on spikes, flew into an electrified enemy, and fell to the very bottom of a vertically huge stage..."



On its surface, WireWay appears to be a very simple-looking, basic-sounding, throwaway release, with a gimmick you've likely come across in other games; as a dark-colored alien protagonist who looks like a mesh between an astronaut and a light bulb, the premise begins with an Earth visit to collect a valuable, star-shaped energy source, called Elan, unseen to the human eye. And, for some unexplainable reason (i.e. video games), the main means of obtaining these Elan through travel, whether it'd be in a forest, the city, or a space station, is by flinging through the landscape from one conspicuously-placed elastic wire to another. This is done using the DS' stylus to grab your alien buddy, Wiley, when he's on a wire, pulling back in a direction to stretch, and letting go to see him get flung great distances, depending on how hard the wire was pulled.

I easily could've dismissed WireWay in favor of a more well-known IP, but the thing with games featuring very basic concepts, a slingshot mechanic in this case, is that they usually have the biggest potential for surprisingly in-depth gameplay. The good ones always start off innocent, but quickly boil into addicting, challenging hurdles that take the foundations and jack them up to 11. So I took a chance with WireWay, hoping that my gamble would be rewarded with an enjoyable experience. Quite the opposite, actually...



You know why those simple games can be fun and addicting? Because of solid design, clever layouts, and circumstances that push players into using their skills in creative and speedy ways. WireWay's problem is that it doesn't take full advantage of the main mode's 48 stage library, to the point where it feels like half the stages are filler. In almost every scenario, you're simply guiding your character towards the top of a stage where the spaceship exit is seated, and it's really rare that the ship is placed in another position. Granted, you need to collect the required amount of Elan in each stage to advance, but this isn't really a hassle since most of the needed Elan are planted along the path you're moving through.

In itself, this would've been fine had the level designs been engaging in various ways, but usually all that's asked of your skills is to leap from one wire to another. That's not to say the game is utterly devoid of any variety in gameplay, as you occasionally need to do minor tricks, like a boost jump that flings your character farther into the air, or having to manipulate a supposedly out-of-reach wire into snatching a falling Wiley with fast reflexes. There's also Sonic-style bumpers placed about, which are pretty much a less-manipulative version of wires, and even include blue bumpers that knock you downward if Wiley is unfortunate to meet one. There's hazards to contend with, too, the likes of which comprise of falling debris, opposing aliens on wires, bees, and spikes, as well as locations that influence Wiley's propulsion, such as the space station's zero gravity or the slowness of moving in water.

But the thing with WireWay is how it undermines these obstacles in such a way that the difficulty, or lack of, is really unbalanced; whenever the game introduces a new enemy or hazard, it scarcely expands on these elements in the following stages. Instead, it usually does this odd thing of removing the obstacle in the next stage, and you're left with a typical wire/bumper layout. Like, when the bee was presented in the first area, the forest, I automatically assumed it was going to be a mainstay for the rest of the game, but then it stopped showing up for stages on end. When the bee finally reappeared, my reaction was something like, "I forgot you were a thing..." For every step the game makes, it takes two steps backwards, almost as if the devs were afraid to evolve anything past their initial phase that would make WireWay an actual challenge.



Them's the breaks, though, and what you're left with is a strictly average playthrough that can be completed with ease... had it not been for one specific, glaring flaw that forces an irritating, artificial difficulty on unsuspecting players.

WireWay's largest problem is the fact that you're, for an overwhelming percentage of the game, blindly flinging Wiley into the air, hoping to latch on to another wire. The game does take advantage of the DS' top screen to show what's above, but this raises another issue, as it's not displaying what's immediately above your main screen, but a couple inches higher than that. This is ridiculous, because, miraculously, a lot of wires, bumpers, and platforms that you need to reach are normally situated in those unseen inches. As another supposed aid, you're also given the ability to move the camera slightly away from Wiley. This could've made the whole inches debacle moot, but one more complication arises, since you can't fully pull back a wire when angling the camera, as the stylus quickly reaches the side of the screen you're pulling back to.

So despite the game's "efforts" to help, you're still stuck with stages revolving around the concept of shooting into the dark and wishing for the best. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've landed on spikes, flew into an electrified enemy, and fell to the very bottom of a vertically huge stage, just because WireWay doesn't want me to see what's ahead. It reminds of certain platforming games I used to play during the 8/16-bit era where the screen is positioned in such a way that I couldn't tell if there was a platform or a bottomless pit below, and I'd have to find out the hard way. Sadly, the most enjoyment I had with this title was with the two side modes, one where you draw your own wires and bumpers on the field, and another where you must complete a stage in the number of flings provided to you. Even with the awkward perspective, they were actually fun challenges... but both modes only have 16 stages each that are extremely short! Why??



Regrettably, in a medium where something super simple can have amazing complexity, WireWay not only fumbles at giving most of its gameplay any type of true depth, but succeeds in making it anything but a pleasing, simple experience.

Rating: 3/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (June 12, 2014)

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