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Wii Review - 'Twin Strike: Operation Thunder'

by Jesse Littlefield on Jan. 25, 2009 @ 11:35 a.m. PST

You are the newest recruit of the United Nations Air Force-a top secret agency set up to protect citizens against the threat of unknown forces without breaking down international agreements or diplomatic acts.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Zoo Digital Publishing
Developer: DSI Games
Release Date: October 28, 2008

Twin Strike: Operation Thunder is a game that flies under games that fly under the radar. This budget title has so little publicity that retail video game stores, such as Gamestop, don't even acknowledge this game's existence. It's not a complete disaster, though. This helicopter combat game is one of those budget titles that will go completely and utterly unnoticed. It's not a big enough train wreck to become a punch line within the gaming community (Who remembers Big Rigs?), but it doesn't do anything out of the ordinary or surprisingly well to stand out as "that awesome budget game." It's not the worst the Wii has to offer, but among the hundreds of "shovelware" and budget titles hitting the Wii lately, that's not saying very much.

Twin Strike: Operation Thunder is your standard arcade flight game in which realism has been thrown out the window for the sake of arcade shooting and fun. This can often be a good thing, so long as the core gameplay is fun, but Twin Strike manages to fall short of mediocre on virtually every front, which makes you feel like you just wasted money on a bad arcade game.

As soon as you start it up, it's apparent that you're either playing an arcade port of an old game or a budget title; this is not a good-looking game by any stretch of the imagination. While the environments seem like they're pretty large, it's hard to tell how far they really extend, as the missions themselves rarely last longer than about five minutes. The helicopters in which you fly around look passable for a Wii game, but they're neither memorable nor impressive. The environments and the enemies you'll be facing may look OK at a distance, but once you get close to either, the title's short development time really shows. Extremely low-resolution textures run rampant, and the poorly designed environments remind me of games from the late 1990s. The sole redemption of the graphics is a well-done motion blur around the edges of the screen when you hit high speeds in the helicopter, but this is more of an instance of the game approaching the genre norms instead of falling short.

The meat and bones of Twin Strike: Operation Thunder is the campaign mode. That's not to say it's much, as most players will be able to power through the 20 missions in two to three hours. Missions can range from defending locations to battles against gigantic tanks to timed search-and-destroy missions. Some of these missions can be a reasonable amount of fun to play. My personal favorite stuck you in a canyon on a time limit, and you had to bob and weave through this canyon to destroy several squads of enemy planes that are trying to escape. Objectives are usually some variant of "destroy everything," with only the reasons behind why you're killing everything changing from mission to mission.

There is a story, but virtually none of the game's budget was allocated for it. The story is poorly written and cringe-inducing in every way, and the dialogue between the characters is just bad. Every cut scene is delivered by static anime style heads popping in to show who's talking, and I'm almost relieved that there's no voice acting to accompany the script. The humor from these cut scenes come from the fact that the characters all have only a single drawing of them. No matter what mood the transport chopper pilot is in, he'll always have an enormous grin on his face, which makes it difficult to take seriously his lines about his tough upbringing. Eventually, you'll find yourself skipping the cut scenes because they're just a bare bones filler to try and piece together the 20 missions in some way.

The core gameplay can be fun, but that's only when the controls aren't getting in the way. Twin Strike gives you control of two helicopters at once, and you can switch between them. One is fast and has powerful machine guns and anti-air missiles, but it gets damaged pretty easily. The other helicopter is big and slow and has anti-ground unit missiles, and it can withstand a lot of damage. You can switch between the two at any time and generally, each mission usually caters to one helicopter's strengths. However, you'll quickly come to find that while you can see the other helicopter when you're flying around, he doesn't actually do anything. He won't fire and doesn't take damage; he just flies in circles around you and occasionally spouts garbage that makes little to no sense. As a result, you'll just start using the other helicopter as a second life if you get too hurt.

Unfortunately, any fun that can be had by the game can quickly be hampered by the wonky controls. There are two options that can be used: one only utilizes the Wiimote and the other brings in the Nunchuk. While both work, I found the "advanced" control scheme with the Wiimote and Nunchuk to be the most agreeable for the average player. It's much harder to make an accidental move that causes you to touch the game environment. As a word of caution, brushing up against anything else in the game world will kill you; if you clip a tree at 1 mph, your chopper is going to explode in a laughable blaze. Thankfully there are frequent checkpoints in most missions to remove some of the frustration, although it doesn't matter much since most missions last about five minutes. The advanced control scheme is also much better because it offers a button that you can press to reduce your mobility but allows you to use the Wiimote as a light gun, which makes shooting down planes in dogfights significantly less frustrating than the alternative of trying to keep them in the middle of your screen while using imperfect Wiimote controls.

There's a little bit of replay value in Twin Strike's arcade mode. Once you beat a mission in campaign mode, you unlock the arcade mode for it. In arcade mode, you're given a time limit and a lot of enemies to kill, and that's about it. There are a few training missions tossed in so you can get used to the controls. There's no multiplayer mode of any kind, no difficulty settings, and no extras. This is a very bare-bones package, and you can probably exhaust all of the content in within five hours.

Everything about Twin Strike: Operation Thunder screams "budget." This game strives to reach levels of mediocrity, and the art direction, audio, gameplay, graphics, options and writing all fail to reach those levels of mediocrity. There are a few scattered moments of excitement, but it's not enough to overpower the fact that the rest of the game is one you'll forget within a day or two of playing it. I've seen worse ways to waste $20 on a rainy Saturday afternoon, but you could do a lot better than this Wii budget title.

Score: 5.1/10

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