Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: March 10, 2009
One part "Sin City," one part Smash TV and one part Streets of Rage, Madworld combines a striking visual style with intense violence and a simple goal: survive or die trying.
After the outbreak of a deadly virus, the citizens of Varrigan City found themselves cut off from the outside world and under a strict quarantine. Prompted by the chaos, unsavory power brokers founded "Death Watch," a new form of entertainment in which the citizens of Varrigan City fight for money, prizes and their very survival. For the contestants on Death Watch, losing is not an option.
Players enter the world of Varrigan City as Jack, an everyman who just so happens to have a chainsaw attached to his right arm. With a virtual army of bad guys in the way, it's up to you to rip, shred, maim, impale and otherwise eliminate the opposition as efficiently and creatively as possible. Sure, you can simply survive, but remember, you're on TV. To score the big money, you need to be as visceral as possible.
Attacking in Madworld is done via a combination of gestures and buttons on the Wiimote, while movement is handled with the Nunchuk. Default attacks are easy to perform but quickly start to feel repetitive. Where Madworld's combat system shines is with the combos. Mixing up the basic attacks can result in some pretty brutal kills. One-on-one spreading the gore is good for the score, but when you're surrounded by foes, the more violent moves can also be an easy way to clear some much-needed breathing room between you and the mob.
Interestingly enough, Madworld isn't dependent on the Wii's IR sensor for its controls. Instead, the game relies entirely on the accelerometer for recognizing movement. This allows for greater freedom when playing simply because you don't need to worry about precision aiming. So long as your character is facing an enemy on-screen, you are free to wave the Wiimote in any direction.
There is something of a learning curve while chaining attacks due to the way the game recognizes each movement. Rather than flowing from one gesture into the next, things actually seemed to be more consistent when there was a brief pause between each attack thrust.
Within the confines of each level, you are free to wander about. Goals are marked on the mini-map, but exactly how you make your way to the target is entirely up to you. Basic enemies continually respawn, so it's impossible to completely clear an area of opponents before moving on. The threat of attack is the only constant in the game.
In addition to standard attacks, you also have the ability to use the environment to your advantage. Pretty much everything in Varrigan City has a sharp edge, making it easy to impale an unsuspecting opponent. If you're not the throwing type, just look for a spinning cog wheel. Grabbing an enemy and slowly forcing him against the cog wheel face-first makes for some bloody good entertainment.
Some of the larger environmental hazards take the form of mini-games. The first one we ran into looked something like an open-air trash compactor. The rules were simple: Toss as many enemies as possible under the descending spikes. Since the spikes drop on a timer, the trick is making sure the enemies are in the pit when the spikes drop. Toss them in too early and they'll climb out. Toss them in too late, and they'll bounce harmlessly off the flat top of the spike compactor.
Our second mini-game was the appropriately titled "Man Darts." One side of a large, open arena had a massive dart board hanging on the wall. As enemies flooded in, we grabbed a baseball bat and started swinging. Winning at Man Darts is just like winning at real darts in that it's all about where the dart hits the board. Hit an enemy dead on, and he goes flying toward the bull's-eye. Hit an enemy at an angle, and he'll hit the lower scoring edge of the board or possibly miss it altogether.
Visually, Madworld is a cut above other Wii titles, thanks to its graphic novel-inspired visuals. Aside from the occasional splashes of red and yellow accents, nearly the entire game is drawn in black and white. This results in a very clean look that could almost be high-definition. It also stands out simply because it is different. Put this game on display among a group of any other titles, and Madworld is the one you're going to notice.
Where we start to worry about Madworld is in the depth of gameplay. Until recently, all of the Sega previews for the game have been strictly hands-off, and what Sega has allowed media to play has been very limited chunks of the game. While it's fun as hell in 15-minute chunks, we do wonder how Madworld is going to play out after a few hours of consistent play. Will the story be engaging, or will it fall flat? Will players keep learning new ways to dispose of enemies, or will the same basic set of moves carry you through the entire title?
It's safe to say that the taste has whet our appetite for more, but only time will tell if Madworld ends up feeling like a main course rather than just a flashy appetizer. We'll be able to color in the whole picture for you next month, when the game debuts exclusively on the Wii.
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