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July 2019

Giga Wrecker Alt.

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: May 3, 2019


Switch Review - 'Giga Wrecker Alt.'

by Cody Medellin on April 30, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Giga Wrecker Alt. is a 2D action/adventure and metroidvania inspired game where you play as Reika, a girl who has the ability to manipulate debris and explore a world invaded by an army of evil robots.

Buy Giga Wrecker Alt.

Mention the name Game Freak, and the first thing that comes to mind is the Pokemon series of games. That should come as no surprise, considering how much of a cultural juggernaut that continues to be. What may surprise people is that the developer has dabbled in a few other titles, like HarmoKnight and Pocket Card Jockey for the 3DS and Tembo the Badass Elephant for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. They also released a PC-only game called Giga Wrecker, which has received very positive reviews on Steam since 2017. It has taken two years, but Game Freak and publisher Rising Star games have finally seen fit to put the title on consoles with a few tweaks and a new name: Giga Wrecker Alt.

In the not-so-distant future, robots appear on Earth and are begin to tear through cities. No one knows where they came from, but everyone knows that humanity's days are numbered. Three years later, most of the surviving humans live in hiding because the metallic beings make people factory slaves or exterminate them if they aren't useful. You play the role of Reika, a young 19-year-old woman imprisoned by the robots when a mysterious white-haired girl appears and shoots you instead of trying to rescue you. You're found by an eccentric scientist and given a robotic arm and a second chance at life, which you use to find the girl who shot you and help take down the robots that took over the world.

Giga Wrecker Alt is set up from a 2D perspective, and at first glance, it feels like any other platformer out there. You can run and jump, and you can hit robots with your metal arm to kill them or knock them back. The game is laid out in a way that mimics the style of a Metroidvania title, where there are locked doors and you need to find terminals to unlock them to progress. Plenty of roadblocks are in your way, so backtracking is needed, and finding the necessary upgrades gives you the impetus to unlock the roadblocks. Luckily, the games peppers the world with beacons that let you fast-travel between locations, and enemies rarely respawn.

Your metal arm makes a real difference, since it grants a host of abilities. The most important ability is using your arm as a magnet to gather nanotech-infused debris. The more debris you find, the bigger the metal ball gets, and you can do plenty with it. You can toss the metal ball at an enemy, and it returns like a boomerang. There are a few spots on the map, like the rubber fountain, that can make the ball bouncy, so you can lay it down to launch yourself to higher places. You can turn the metal ball into a cube to use as a stepping stone, or you can temporarily transform the ball into a drill, javelin or sword. The changes aren't permanent, so you can use it as a stepping stool first, reach the desired platform, recall the block, and quickly transform it into a sword without having to scavenge for more materials.

Once you get into combat, the junk collection gameplay mechanic and the accompanying abilities start to shine. The game doesn't have an extensive amount of fighting to deal with, but there's a decent selection of robots to pummel, each requiring a different strategy. Enemies are also color-coded, so you know if you have enough debris to kill them or if you only have enough to push them backward. As such, most of the good fights have a rhythm where you'll kill a small enemy, immediately grab the debris they leave behind, and toss that into another foe. Get more debris from that, and you go up the chain; the debris ball gets bigger and bigger until everyone becomes vulnerable. While those small encounters feel satisfying, the same can be said for the few boss fights, which let you play with a full gamut of your powers while also returning to the days of fixed pattern recognition.

Aside from the measured trickle of new abilities, Giga Wrecker Alt gives you a pretty extensive skill tree that requires crystals to power up. The crystals are easy enough to obtain, since you can find them in the wild and get them via killing robots or breaking walls. The massive skill tree is accessible at any time via the pause menu, but none of it gives you access to new abilities. Instead, you'll mostly get things like health upgrades, the ability to regenerate health over time, and augments to existing powers, like being able to throw the junk ball further or more accurately.

The main draw of Giga Wrecker Alt is in the puzzles. Unlike most games, the puzzles are physics-based, so you'll hit the environment in certain ways to create pathways to new platforms. For example, one puzzle may require you to use rubber-coated debris to bounce a rock platform high enough so you can clear a jump and hit the switch to a locked door. Other puzzles may call on some dexterity, so you'll need to bounce high enough to collect some debris and then quickly use your sword to cut a rope to send a platform crashing down at an angle so you can walk up to a switch. Many puzzles lead to more than just switches, including pathways to secret rooms or more crystals. The good news is that messing up isn't too problematic, since every room with a puzzle contains a portal that lets you rewind time, so the environmental structures get reset, which is essential to retrying puzzles and uncovering secrets.

Thanks to the "Alt." addition to the title, console players can expect a few things that PC players didn't get. For starters, there are about 20 new challenge rooms that are great for farming upgrade crystals as well as skins and weapons for Reika. There's also the addition of a robot helper that can provide hints for the puzzle segments, which can sometimes be tricky. For those already versed in the game, there's also a newer difficulty level that increases the damage you take; you can attempt perfect runs, making the title akin to those masochistic platformers that ruled the indie scene for a while. With all of these additions comes one subtraction, as the ability to create levels and download user-made levels isn't present. It shouldn't be that surprising, since the inclusion of user-made content is still in its infancy in the console space.

Giga Wrecker Alt has a few annoying issues that can crop up. As is the case in most physics-based titles, there are moments when the physics don't cooperate. The unpredictable nature of this means that the results can vary, even if the same action is performed in the same spot, sometimes ruining a good jump or making you accomplish the task in seemingly unnatural ways. The physics also affect your magnetic ability, as you can sometimes call for your debris and have a few pieces get stuck in the environment even though the path is clear. The physics also contribute to the game's issue with collision, as some structures that you can normally stand on sometimes have you going straight through them instead because the platform is at a steeper angle. There are safeguards to compensate for this, such as the aforementioned time travel stations and the fact that you have infinite lives and generous checkpoints, but they're still a pain to deal with. Finally, the game doesn't let you skip dialogue, so dying without hitting a checkpoint beforehand means that you'll have to sit through repeated dialogue sequences.

Presentation-wise, the game is mostly good. The soundtrack is surprisingly calm most of the time, but it works well since you're spending most of that time trying to figure out the platforming puzzles instead of fighting the robots. The soundtrack appropriately ramps up whenever you're in a boss fight, and it sounds great. Meanwhile, the sound effects and scant few shouts from jumping and getting hurt sound fine on their own. Graphically, the game adopts an anime style that's composed of sharp lines and muted colors for gorgeous-looking cut scenes. During gameplay, the style works for Reika, but her somewhat stiff movement look strange, so she seems pasted into the environments rather than being a natural part of the game. The robot designs are inventive, and the backgrounds do a great job of presenting a postapocalyptic robot future where ruins are intermingled with stark metallic structures. While it all looks great, the visuals are marred by hosts of blurry textures. For example, the far background ruins are recognizable as being low-resolution instead of having an artistic blur.

Giga Wrecker Alt. is still a solid Metroidvania game, even though we're getting more of them nowadays. Even though the collision and physics can sometimes be wonky, the puzzle platforming is inventive and matches well with the combat, which goes at a nice flow once you master the rhythm of the controls. Despite some blurry parts here and there, the graphical art style is good, and the soundtrack is absolutely perfect for the genre. The additions made at the sacrifice of the level builder are worth the exchange, so adventure fans will find Giga Wrecker Alt. to be well worth checking out.

Score: 8.0/10

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