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SPRay

Platform(s): Wii
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Tecmo Koei

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox 360 is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.

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Wii Review - 'SPRay'

by Brian Dumlao on Dec. 18, 2008 @ 4:09 a.m. PST

SPRay is an action-adventure game in which you play an eccentric Prince who must save his village from a banished evil Queen who’s returned to capture and enslave the villagers. After donning a magic crown which summons two liquid spraying spirits of the Prince’s personality, he sets out to defeat the evil Queen and her army of anti-matter soldiers. Use the “angelic” and “wicked” spirits to spray water, oil, goo, and other liquids on enemies and surfaces to help you solve puzzles and wipe out evil!

Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: EKO Software
Release Date: December 3, 2008

Every system has them: games that appear out of nowhere and on to store shelves without advertising, magazine and Web site previews, or pre-order programs from game retailers. In this day and age, that usually tells people that the game is going to be a dud. There have been a few exceptions to the rule, and in those cases, gamers who are willing to take a chance are rewarded with some great experiences. SPRay is not one of those diamonds in the rough. It's actually more of a disappointment simply because it comes from such a respected game publisher.

As the story goes, SPRay starts off in a peaceful land where they worship a crystal sun that is the source of all good things for the people. One day, during the celebration of the sun, a dark queen arrives, spreading her antimatter and minions through the land and enslaving the people. She also destroys the crystal sun and kills the king in the process. As the adopted son of the now-slain monarch, you take it upon yourself to rid the land of evil and restore the crystal sun once and for all. Upon the advice of your father's ethereal form, you take the crown and find yourself accompanied by two spirits whose powers are to spray different liquids to help you in your journey.

From a gameplay perspective, SPRay isn't exactly the next big thing in platforming titles. Your main functions are to run around and swing your weapon at enemies in order to get rid of them. Borrowing a mechanic from the GameCube title Super Mario Sunshine, you can spray your enemies with any sort of liquid in order to defeat them. You can also use the liquids to clear the path of antimatter or perform puzzle-solving tasks, such as uncovering hidden walkways or putting out fires.

Borrowing game mechanics certainly isn't a bad thing. What is bad, however, is that the game forces you to do plenty of backtracking. For example, when you solve one mission in one world, you get sent all the way back to the king's spirit located in a cave deep in the central town hub. Once you hear about the next task, you have to fight your way through the town to get to the portal for the same level and get to the now-unlocked spot before continuing on your journey. It's one thing if the backtracking were optional and players who wanted more of a challenge could figure things out on their own or try to defeat enemies with weaker weaponry. It's another thing to have the game force you to do the backtracking anytime you complete one of the 30 missions. Couple that with the fact that the same enemies and antimatter puddles respawn every time you enter an area, and you get a title that seems to be artificially lengthened by bad design choices.

SPRay has a multiplayer component in the form of co-op and mini-games. Co-op fares better than the single-player mode since one person can concentrate on the activities the prince needs to do while the other player can simply spray away at anything that he pleases. The concept is simple but effective, making the adventure a bit more bearable. There are four mini-games, and they're all related to the liquid theme that the game is going for. While you might not find that you and your friends will play them for long stretches of time, they do prove to be fun little time wasters.

The controls do their job, but they do so rather poorly. The analog stick for the Nunchuk is used for character movement, while the Wiimote serves as both the sword and the aiming device for the liquid-spewing spirits. This wouldn't be too much of an issue except for the fact that some enemies and obstacles require very quick spray and slash combinations. The lock-on feature helps barely, since it has the tendency to lock onto certain objects that it doesn't need to. The camera angles don't seem to be helpful most of the time, forcing you to always have it reset in order for you to play. Opening gates requires drawing on the lock, which is a novel concept except that the gates require too much precision in order for it to work. Everything else, from the jumping to the general movement, is good, but these highlighted flaws don't make the experience an enjoyable one.

The graphics are a good indication that the developer didn't really want to push any part of the system. The texture art seems generic and uninspired. Except for the antimatter, almost all of the colors seem muted. Character models for both enemies and allies all have their distinct art styles, which is fine except for the animations seeming a bit off. The antimatter can sometimes look like blown-up pixels instead of a living liquid. If there's anything that prevents the graphical package from being a total loss, it's the vomit and slime. They stay in the world until they're washed away by another liquid, which is amazing to see, since some games still don't keep persistent damage. Too bad the game is only running at 480i, or else it could look a little better.

The sound for SPRay is generic at best, and the sound effects do a serviceable job. There's nothing that really stands out when you break bottles, put out fires or vomit all over the place. The same can be said for the music in the game, which isn't bad but you won't want to turn up the speakers either. It's just generic adventure music played in regular stereo sound. The most disappointing are the voices, or lack thereof. Grunts from the enemies and villagers are all you get whenever you speak to someone or fight a creature. Nowadays, with voices being the norm in just about any third-party game, it's a shame that even bad voice actors weren't used to help spruce up SPRay a little.

Almost everything about SPRay lacks inspiration. The controls suffer from being unintuitive and clumsy, the graphics are barely GameCube caliber, and the sound is lacking. There's just about no reason to consider looking at the title. If you really want a similar game, go pick up Super Mario Sunshine instead. It may be a GameCube title, but it's leagues better than this late knock-off.

Score: 4.5/10


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