I wish I had let Kirby and Dr. Mario be my last memory of the Wii, because You, Me, and the Cubes just unleashed all of my hatred again. I was irritated with this game from the very start, and that irritation never let up. Yes, the concept is interesting; you have to throw little people onto floating cubes while trying to maintain their balance. Unfortunately, motion controls were invited to the party, requiring you to flick the Wii remote to throw the people at your selected targets and shake it a second time when you’re ready to arm more people. Why do I have to shake the remote again?! This second shake is a full-on “shake ’til your wrist hurts,” and I got flustered when the game wouldn’t recognize my shaking quickly enough for me to rectify a mistake I made in the last throw. Adding insult to injury are the shadow people that periodically appear and either tip the balance of your cubes as they wander around or maliciously push the normal people off. Could this game be any more annoying?! Oh, and you’re timed. I guess it can.
Whether you were a big fan of the original or not, this new iteration of Dr. Mario has all the makings of an addictive puzzle game. At first, the virus/pill setup seems a bit too basic, but you’ll soon find that the key to playing well is setting up chains. When played in versus, chains throw garbage on the other person’s screen, always a rewarding tactic. Multiplayer support is the heart of Dr. Mario, with local and online matches that are easy to set up (as long as you aren’t concerned with playing against friends online… we all know how that goes). The game’s been out so long that the online community is somewhat scarce, but if you do find a match, it’s definitely fun. Another addition to the series is a Virus Buster mode for up to four people (local only), where you point at the screen to move pills and work cooperatively on a single playing field. It’s a great change of pace from the normal mode, and I find I can fill up an evening by switching between this and versus when one or the other momentarily grows stale.
Although the name references disembodied spirits and a form of clinically treatable arousal, Ghost Mania is actually a puzzle game. Get like-colored blocks to evaporate, and a little ghost appears for the creepy main characters to capture. I wanted to like this game, because it reminds me of a childhood favorite: Dr. Mario. However, good, old challenge too often became mean, old impossibility. With game space this small, dropping blocks will fill the space quickly. Why, then, does the game push random blocks from the bottom? Keeping large color combinations together is hard enough. And why, then, should I have to wait for (and sometimes never receive) a specialty block to zap them away? Stacking games can be really fun but not when your success depends on too many variables. In the more difficult levels, I found myself acting in quick desperation, praying for lady luck to save me. Ghost Mania wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t the next Dr. Mario, either.
Broken motion controls, chunky, muddy graphics, and one of the worst user interfaces I’ve ever seen make Hubert the Teddy Bear the epitome of bad Wii games. It doesn’t help that the game falls into the stereotypical party mini-game genre, either. There are only a handful of mini-games to choose from that are all basic and completely devoid of entertainment value. Of the bunch, there was only one standout game. In it, you create short musical patterns that your opponent has to replicate. It’s a fun concept, but the motion controls are so unresponsive that it gets infuriating very quickly. The rest of the games are all generic winter activities with forced, equally terrible motion controls. In fact, one of the mini-games was so broken, it wouldn’t allow the second player to participate at all. If the controls aren’t enough to drive you mad, the grating sound effects and music will. There is one song that accompanies every mini-game, and it becomes tiresome after only a few minutes. Hubert the Teddy Bear is everything I’ve come to dislike about the Wii in one unfortunate package.
Not a lot has changed between the first Heavy Fire game and this one. The sound is still subdued. The overuse of motion blur is still sickening. The game still lacks a save/quit feature. At first, you might think the improvements that do exist are too minimal to even care about, but it’s the little things that count, and Black Arms manages to be a stronger experience than its predecessor. For one, the jungle environment is more fun to trek through, and being able to blow up cars and planes is a sweet addition. The camera has more movement, too, creating several opportunities where you actually have to be quick to react, or you’ll miss the chance to blow up a group of terrorists. While Black Arms feels a lot harder than Special Operations, levels have numerous checkpoints to restart from, so beating the game in one sitting isn’t as big of a chore. All of these changes are for the better, but this series has so much more room to grow. In the event that Teyon attempts a third Heavy Fire, things could really start taking off, because Black Arms is already a fun, cheap fix for fans of on-rails shooters.
Once upon a time, the Wii had the potential to be the go-to console for on-rails shooters. Now, all we get are basic, budget shooters like Heavy Fire. I have a soft spot for even bad light gun games, but Heavy Fire does the absolute bare minimum. Rather than walking through a level, shooting terrorists as they pop out, the camera quickly runs from static scene to static scene, almost like it sets itself up on a tripod each time and says, “Shoot stuff in this location while I take a nap.” The graphics are so blurry and hard on the eyes, though, it’s probably better that the camera isn’t more dynamic. The sound design is equally lacking. There’s no music, it’s hard to tell if your gun is firing, and the terrorists don’t even make satisfying “Waarrggghhh!” noises when they die. I probably wouldn’t have minded these issues so much if the game didn’t force you to beat all the levels in one sitting. That’s right, there’s no level select, no save/continue option. I told you: bare minimum. While the 500 Wii point price may match the effort, you’d be better off paying more for the far superior Ghost Squad port.