|System: Wii (WiiWare)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 18, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Oh, Japan, how I love thee. Only from the Land of the Rising Sun could a game such as Muscle March be born. In what seems to be a show of affection for the U.S, publisher Namco Bandai brings this quirky arcade-style game to American Wii owners. It's completely off the wall, nonsensical, and borderline offensive, but if you've got a good sense of humor and/or a love for all things otaku, then you won't want to miss out on this march of muscle madness.
So, what's the story behind Muscle March? Well, it's simple. A series of thieves will attempt to make off with a giant bottle of body building pills (take a trip to your local GNC sometime, and you'll see walls lined with such products) from your local gym, and it's up to you and your muscle-bound buddies to bring down the baddies and retrieve the stolen goods. It's a completely preposterous set-up, with tons of innuendo and clichés, but the game probably couldn't be more charming if it tried.
Muscle March also keeps things relatively basic gameplay-wise. With both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, you'll mimic the poses of each perpetrator as they crash through walls. Chases take place on-rails, and you simply need to point the controls up or down to form one of four different poses. At the beginning of each level, you're positioned at the rear of the parade, with body builders falling by the wayside one by one as the chase wears on. Eventually, you're left alone to close in on the thief and perform a "takedown."
Essentially, you're getting one mini-game here, but the entire experience harkens back to some of the more memorable moments in amusement-park history. You can rack up combos by successfully mimicking a series of poses, and a stamina bar with hearts represents your health. Each time you run through a wall incorrectly, you lose a heart; lose all your hearts and it's back to the beginning of the level. After completing an entire area, your points are tallied, and you're given a rating on your fitness. It's a silly yet compelling reason to justify countless replays.
Stamina also plays into the final takedown for each level. At a certain point in a chase, the visual perspective will change to a side-scrolling view, and you'll need to shake the controllers in order to get close enough to the assailant(s) to tackle him. It takes a bit of finesse, since building up momentum, rather than spastically jerking the controllers, helps you to close in on the thief. Unfortunately, there's no rumble feedback to cue you on how well you're doing, and therefore, there's quite a bit of trial and error involved in the takedown process.
The responsiveness of the controls for posing is also a significant issue, and it's probably my one major complaint with the game. Though you can eventually learn the nuances of a takedown, the controls for posing respond much too slowly for you to be skillful once the chase speed of a level ramps up. The final thief in each area runs insanely fast, often making mimicking his moves virtually impossible. That being said, Muscle March more than succeeds as a party game, and making it through the final level of each area isn't a requisite for enjoying this zany package.
There are three unique environments in single-player - City, Village, and Station - and seven body builders to choose from. The different characters all seem to play pretty much the same, though there are subtle changes to the sound effects they make when posing. Throughout the three main locales of the game there are also seven different enemies you'll be running after, but again, they all perform exactly alike. The poses the thieves make are random, so there is some luck involved when it comes to successfully completing the final stage for each area.