Developer: Heavy Iron Studios
Release Date: June 24, 2008
Any way you look at it, WALL-E and Nintendo seem like a winning combination of high production quality, family-friendly content, and a nearly silent protagonist. Seeing the WALL-E game come to the DS and Wii is no surprise, but what is surprising is just how well both games adapt to their respective unique platforms.
The developers seemed to know their limits in both cases. The DS title was a low-tech puzzle game that told its own simplified version of WALL-E's story with simple graphics and two distinct level types. WALL-E on the Wii uses simple and intuitive shakes of the Wiimote and point-and-click interface to direct your little robots across the same epic adventure in full 3-D.
The main game is essentially no different than any other platformer. Most levels have you playing as the last surviving WALL-E unit on Earth, following the basic story of the movie very closely. In between pre-rendered cinematics you'll roll your way across levels while gathering up to five different types of collectibles (radios, sketchbooks, souvenirs, suitcases and wallops). Every level has 30 wallops for you to find, and you redeem them to unlock new multiplayer levels. Briefcases unlock different costumes to be used in multiplayer matches, and radios unlock new sound effects. If you collect every sketchbook item in a level, you'll unlock some new concept art or movie stills. All of these are optional collectibles, and they're not required for you to progress, unlike Ratchet and Clank's bolts or Mario's stars. Your primary concern in the main story campaign is simply getting WALL-E and/or EVE from point A to point B, usually going through points C, D, E, F and G along the way.
As WALL-E on his own, you're pretty much defenseless. You have two essential abilities: box form and cube-throwing. You automatically enter box form when you jump, and it can be held for a while if you continue holding the jump button. As long as you're in box form, you can roll fairly well, and you don't take as much damage. Throwing your cubed body at certain objects can also push them, which is useful for some puzzles in the game. You also automatically enter box form when you land on certain surfaces, including conveyor belts and oil slicks. It's all handy, especially since you're still pretty maneuverable in this form, but the major disadvantage is that you drop any cubes you happen to be carrying.
WALL-E can create trash cubes at any Buy n Large vending machine, which are only activated after acquiring a battery for them. The trash cubes come in four varieties (charge, heavy, magnetic and regular) and each has its own particular uses. Charge cubes explode and charge up electrical pylons, and heavy cubes don't travel far but can weigh down switches. Magnetic cubes deflect certain metallic objects, and regular cubes go can be thrown to activate switches. Each one only shows up when it's useful, so you'll never find yourself conflicted about which to carry.
You pick up trash with a simple shake of the Wiimote, and WALL-E quickly compacts it. You can pick up as many as three of them at a time, but anything that throws WALL-E off balance or into box form will cause him to drop all of the cubes he's carrying. This can have disastrous results when carrying a boatload of charge cubes, which then explode in a circle around you, neatly taking away half of your health.
Health will rarely be a concern, though. While it's true that you'll be fighting fierce laser-firing robots, most deaths come in the form of bottomless pits, untraversable sludge, or the fearsome red-paneled floor. One of WALL-E's biggest flaws is his tiny little treads, which make him control about as well as a penguin on a Slip 'n Slide. He goes at a pretty good pace, but getting him to stop, turn around, pick up trash, or do just about anything else is a big no-no. Jumping is one of the best ways to slow your motion, but even this isn't a 100 percent guarantee of survival. Fortunately, a death simply means you start over at the beginning of the area. Each load screen acts as a checkpoint and a save point, to save you a little frustration.
As WALL-E, you generally throw boxes; this simple advice will get you through most of the game segments with little trouble. If you have EVE's laser at your disposal, you can shoot everything in sight. For some reason, at the halfway point, WALL-E becomes a shooter/platformer, at which point the game starts to suffer. What it really means is that you'll spend several seconds at the beginning of every area tracking down and shooting enemy robots to death, and then you can get on with the jumping and puzzle-solving.
Fortunately, to complement this sudden change of pace, you're instantly thrust into the shoes of EVE. As EVE, you either explore territory to find different things in the environment, fly through hoops, chase WALL-E or blast garbage. EVE's gameplay is an odd mishmash of shooting, dodging, racing and maneuvering, but it works out better than expected. The Wiimote makes controlling her a bit clumsy, but also adds a decent amount of challenge to an otherwise uninteresting portion of the game.
Before long, you're back to bumbling your way around as WALL-E. The collision detection and landscape boundaries are a bit fuzzy through most of the game, and while this leads to a few untimely deaths, it also saved my sloppy joe of a robot from sliding his way off more than a few ledges in the WALL-E segments. Most of the glitches that survived to the final game are negligible, but the ones that don't save you are the mostly forgivable graphical glitches, where characters will pop in and out of reality for split seconds. Overall, the broken bits of the game don't feel very broken, just a little wobbly.
The camera, however, is definitely beyond repair. Thanks to the Wii's, ahem, "unique" control setup, controlling the camera is a clumsy and confusing affair. Getting your finger to the directional pad is an exercise in frustration when the action is frantic and you need to aim EVE's laser at something directly behind you. It doesn't help that during the jumping puzzles, it has this bizarre tendency to float around to the least convenient possible location. I honestly believe it was programmed to work against me, much like the robots onboard the space cruise ship, where you spend most of the game.
The visuals are decent. They aren't on par with the "true" next-generation 360 and PlayStation 3, but it still looks fine. The rendered cut scenes in particular look fantastic, though nothing can hold a candle to the meticulously rendered CG movie.
The sound, unfortunately, brings down WALL-E from being a really good licensed game to a merely adequate one. While it has all of the appropriate sound effects from the movie and the necessary voice acting is all present and accounted for, the music is teeth-grindingly awful. The first stage starts with a 20-second clip of the "Hello, Dolly!" show tune ripped from the movie, and things only go downhill from there, with an unending stream of sloppily produced filler music. The "action" scenes of the game are accompanied by 10-second loops of frantic music and sound effects run together over and over until you want to rush to the exit just to please make it stop. The poorly made music clips are even played over most of the cut scenes, rendering some of the finer dialogue inaudible to boot.
Music isn't entirely to blame for WALL-E's mediocre performance. The other culprit is the game's length: Somehow, they managed to produce a licensed game that feels shorter than the movie on which it's based. It isn't really, but at five solid hours and only nine levels, it almost had me fooled. I'd like to say that the multiplayer is where the rest of your $50 went, but I can't.
The multiplayer is nothing special. There are modes resembling a hectic deathmatch, an "extreme collecting" mode, an EVE race, and even a co-op minigame. Unfortunately, it's all about as lackluster as it sounds. Platforming characters, even when given a laser, are not really meant to go head-to-head against other platformers in a free-for-all kill-fest. Super Smash Bros. this is not, nor are the almost-too-clumsy Wii controls suited to a race when the screen is split four ways. Just about the only interesting mode is the "extreme collecting," where you're tasked with picking up more wallops than anyone else. The trick to this is to not be caught on the platform when it rotates because you'll have to wait about five seconds to respawn while everyone else roams freely and gathers wallops. It's a novel try, but it's not good for more than a dozen rounds at best, adding maybe a half-hour to the time you can spend with WALL-E.
Normally, cooperative modes are my favorite, but rather than letting you play through WALL-E and EVE levels as two separate characters, the developers thought that it was good enough to give you one minigame where you have to share a trash cube. You toss the thing between each other so that you can throw it into switches and big garbage cans to extend the time on the clock. It's all hectic, poorly explained and doesn't really require much cooperation. In practice, one person could play it, passing the cube between himself the whole time.
While the main platforming gameplay in WALL-E for the Wii is solid and fun, it's really not good for more than a single playthrough and a collecting run. You'll be lucky to get more than a few hours of fun out of this, even if you have a houseful of kids eagerly dedicated to WALL-E. While it's not bad, the higher price tag of home consoles makes it difficult to recommend this. Consider picking up the movie DVD when it comes out instead.
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