Wreckateer is, basically, a Kinect Crush the Castle/Angry Birds amalgamation, going so far as to fill its levels with green goblins who bare an uncanny resemblance to the pigs from Rovio’s megahit. That’s going to be enough to turn some people off immediately, but it shouldn’t – Angry Birds didn’t shift such insane numbers just to spite the industry, but because it offered a ton of fun and addictive content for very little money. Wreckateer isn’t nearly as cheap as Angry Birds, nor is it as addictive…but it has managed to get the ‘fun’ part more or less right.
The set-up is familiar – there’s a bunch of castles and castle-esque buildings that need to be smashed, because they’re full of goblins. You use motion controls to fire at said castles with a catapult, loading up the shots, pulling them back, aiming and releasing with fairly intuitive actions. There are numerous different shots to fire, all with different functions, and the aim is to cause as much family-friendly destruction and death as possible. The differences between the numerous shots mean that you’ll need to use them strategically, knowing which shots to aim where and when and how to deploy their special powers to bring down as many structures as possible. All of them have different functions once they’re in the air – standard shots can be shifted by simply waving your hands over them, while fancier shots need to be ‘activated’ with poses, or controlled in other ways. By far the most fun shots are the ‘Split Shots’, which break into four balls that stay within the area between your on-screen hands. You can stretch them out, rotate them, do whatever suits the situation with simple hand movements. It’s these shots that best exemplify why a game like this is well suited to the Kinect.
There is, sadly, still a degree of novelty to playing a Kinect game that actually works most of the time. Wreckateer manages to elicit that ‘oh wow, the controls actually sort of work’ reaction that so many of the Kinect’s better games do, although it’s far from perfect. While plenty of Kinect games ask you to clear a fair bit of space, Wreckateer really is probably best played in, say, an open field. It requires a lot of space to really work properly, and hitting the absolute limits of the room you’re in while trying to adjust a shot is frustrating.
For some this won’t be a problem, but the finicky detection of a few other movements might be. Quite often the game completely misread our actions when both lining up a shot and adjusting its trajectory in the air. The flying shots that you can directly control with your arms are particularly frustrating; occasionally our frentic tilting was completely ignored and the shots missed everything completely.
This would all be far more frustrating if Wreckateer was the sort of game you were likely to take seriously. The fact that the high score tables don’t have the same addictive hold as its bird-heavy brethren actually works in the game’s favour – we were happy to smash up a building, be awarded with a gold or silver medal, and move on. The true competition is in the multiplayer, not the leaderboards. The Kinect has become an increasingly worthwhile addition to games nights, and Wreckateer is well worth a quick boozy whirl with friends.
Wreckateer is, surprisingly, the best of the first three ‘Winter of Arcade’ releases. It’s not a particularly ambitious or exciting game, but it meets its own fairly modest goals with only a few hiccups, and shows that full body motion controls can be fun, even when they don’t always work the way you’d like them to.