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Wipeout 3 (Wii U) artwork

Wipeout 3 (Wii U) review

"Courses in Wipeout 3 feature a variety of obstacles, but for the most part the differences between one hazard and the next are cosmetic. Youíll need to swim across pools of murky water sometimes, but in general you are running along platforms that are suspended above a massive liquid field. Falling into soup when youíre not supposed to will knock you back to the last checkpoint."

I hope you wonít be surprised to learn that Wipeout 3 for Wii U has nothing to do with the futuristic racing series made famous on Sony hardware. This other series actually draws inspiration from the ďWipeoutĒ show on ABC, which showcases families trying to navigate zany obstacle courses in hopes that they will collect a cash prize at the end of the day.

Courses in Wipeout 3 feature a variety of obstacles, but for the most part the differences between one hazard and the next are cosmetic. Youíll need to swim across pools of murky water sometimes, but in general you are running along platforms that are suspended above a massive liquid field. Falling into soup when youíre not supposed to will knock you back to the last checkpoint. You might fall for a variety of reasons, but usually an unexpected dunk can be blamed on an obstacle that bumped you from the side when you werenít paying attention. Or perhaps you made a leap and bounced from a rubbery ball and things just didnít go as planned.

In a transparent attempt to add some personality, the gameís developers have included a number of themed courses. Thus, the cylindrical tube that bumps you from solid ground might be a pencil in one zone, but in another one itíll be a French fry. That sounds underwhelming, I know, but actually the various themes work well and some of them are quite interesting. The romantic oneówith giant hearts that slap you into purplish liquidóis cute, and thereís another one based on old school video games that has some funky arcade music. Stepping to the sides to avoid rolling barrels or racecars that look like giant vacuum cleaners is pretty cool, if you can remember playing whole games built around such simple concepts way back in the day.

Play control is kept necessarily simple, and thereís no need to screw around with a wonky camera or make guesses about the distance to another platform you have to reach. You can simply press forward or back on the analog stick and run along the course, automatically turning as necessary along the way. In general, you only have to worry about timing. Exceptions occur when you must bounce along a series of balls or press left and right on the analog stick to cross a spinning platform, or when you have to tap buttons as prompted (almost like a quick time event), but those situations donít come up especially often.

If youíre playing in a group, the first player uses the gamepad and any additional players can join in by grabbing Wii Remote and Nunchuck controllers. Transitioning from one to the other isnít difficult, though the buttons that you press to slide and jump are slightly different depending on the device youíre using. That can be confusing for a few seconds until you get used to it. Then you probably wonít think of it again. In one mode, the player with the gamepad can also tap icons on his or her screen to bring traps to life on the course that players are navigating, but otherwise thereís not really any reason to care which controller youíre holding (unless you find that you prefer playing on the smaller screen for some reason).

As you might expect, Wipeout 3 offers the most enjoyable experience when youíre able to play it with friends. You can either team up or go for a free-for-all experience (I recommend the latter). Though in the single-player mode itís difficult to care what sort of performance you manage, the existence of competition in the same room lends the courses some welcome urgency. Getting knocked off a platform is still annoying, but suddenly it also is interesting because it could mean that your friend manages to finish in less time than you do. Jeers from the other players also motivate you to do better, and itís always fun to talk trash if your buddy falls for a trap that you evaded. The first player to attempt a new course is at a disadvantage, since he or she will have to encounter all the traps first and the other players can learn from any mistakes, but thatís not a huge deal.

Disappointingly, the developers set things up so that you must play the game alone to unlock any of the later courses. That design decision shows a lack of foresight. When I played with my friends, for instance, we wanted to ignore the single-player mode and just play through the courses. We couldnít sample most of the game, though, until we waited while one of us played through the same course weíd just cleared competitively. Unlocking more courses isnít even difficult. Doing so just takes time.

If youíre playing alone, there are some unique elements. You receive in-game currency based on your performance. Then you can buy gloves and hats and such that give your character slightly better stats, but it doesnít make such a difference that youíd really notice. Your character also gains levels, which grants access to additional characters. Again, though, accessing new content is absurdly easy and offers no sense of accomplishment. The developers seem to grasp that some gamers like unlockable rewards, but the design here suggests they donít understand that the effort is half the appeal.

Visually, the game is unremarkable. Itís easy to see everything you need to see, and the art style is suitably cartoony, but donít expect to be dazzled. Character animations are also reused a lot. There are plenty of characters from which to choose (once you unlock them all) and they each have their own personalities thanks to quite a few one-liners from some very capable voice actors, but those models mostly move in the same way, like they all own the same skeleton but with different skin and more or less body weight.

The game is a bit rough around the edges in a number of ways, actually. I was recently playing and tapping the A button a lot to skip through the color commentary Iíd already heard, and the sound suddenly cut out. The commentators fell silent and the background music disappeared. I had to exit out of the game before the problem righted itself. That was an unusual issue, though. Iím actually more bothered by the sloppy menus. The gameís interface simply isnít intuitive. I often find myself starting to make character modifications when all I really want to do is start another course. If youíve played games that let you hastily breeze through familiar options, know that here youíll need to slow down and take your time if you want smooth navigation.

If you have some friends and extra controllers handy, Wipeout 3 can be a lot of fun in small doses. It does lose some of its appeal if you try to play it for extended sessions, particularly if youíre doing so alone, but itís not a bad little diversion otherwise. Youíll probably enjoy its simple charms for a several hours, and younger gamers might find even more lasting appeal. I donít imagine anyone falling madly in love with the experience, but I had quite a bit of fun in spite of myself. Maybe you will tooÖ

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Staff review by Jason Venter (December 07, 2012)

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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