Movie Tropes in 3-D
It’s rather hard to completely botch a rail shooter. Stuff pops up, the player shoots it. The camera moves a little. More stuff pops up. The player shoots it.
Somehow, though, developer Panic Button managed to get it all wrong with Attack of the Movies 3D. It’s not completely unplayable, but it’s thoroughly uninspiring, and the gimmicky if well-executed 3-D effect can’t salvage it.
The idea here is that in six short stages, you can play through various action-movie tropes alone or with up to three friends. There are robot and alien-insect invasions, of course, and the other settings include a zombie-infested graveyard, deep sea, and outer space. This could have been fun if the developers had loaded the game with movie references and clever gags. Instead, it seems they based the stages on movie clichés to avoid having to come up with an actual plot.
Of course, plenty of video games are great despite poorly executed or nonexistent plots. This is not one of them. Where other rail shooters (Dead Space: Extraction, House of the Dead Overkill, and the two Wii-exclusive Resident Evil games) are pushing the envelope with interesting mechanics (limb-shearing in Dead Space, for example), clever set-pieces, funny dialogue, and challenging boss fights, Attack of the Movies just throws a bunch of generic enemies and bosses at you and lets you shoot them with the level’s weapons of choice. Sometimes the enemies are hard to see, obscured behind your HUD. Even the power-ups are lame, rarely doing anything beyond adding health and adjusting the rate of fire of your weapon.
If you were stranded on a desert island with nothing to entertain you but this game, it would be better than nothing. Also, we suppose that the game’s family-friendliness will be a plus for parents (the ESRB rated the game T in part for “Animated Blood,” but we didn’t really notice any). However, when there are so many other options for shooter fans, even young shooter fans, it just doesn’t cut it. Stick with Link’s Crossbow Training and the Metroid Prime games, kids.
Putting the 3-D effects aside (you have the option of turning them off), the graphics are pretty abysmal. The enemy models and animations are crude, the textures provide little in the way of detail, and the environments, while not quite ugly, aren’t good-looking, either. For a game that’s supposed to feel like a summer blockbuster action movie, it looks awfully cartoonish and unpolished.
The 3-D effects themselves are the only thing that makes Attack of the Movies stand out at all. If you buy the game, it comes with four pairs of glasses, but our rented copy worked just fine with a cheap pair we bought online. When enemies hurl projectiles at you, the effect is quite striking, and it’s easier to spot your foes when they pop out of the screen a bit. Some might find the 3-D fatiguing, but because the stages are so short and there’s really no reason to play this game for hours at a time, we didn’t have a problem.
Except for true 3-D obsessives, this won’t make this terrible game worth buying, but it does make us excited for the future of 3-D shooters. On a game that wasn’t otherwise a complete failure, these effects would provide an enhancement rather than a gimmick.
The sound is handled reasonably well. The shooting effects can be slightly weak sometimes, but the music sounds like it comes from a real Hollywood movie. Like the 3-D, it won’t save the game as a whole, but at least you can suffer through all the mediocrity with some decent tunes.
If you decide to ignore our advice and buy this game, you have two platforms to choose from (assuming you own both consoles): the Xbox 360 and the Wii. The Xbox 360 has better graphical capabilities, obviously, and the 3-D effects do come off a little more naturally. However, the 360 version doesn’t exactly max out the system’s capabilities, so we highly recommend taking a slight graphical downgrade and going with the Wii version.
Why? The controls. On the Wii, not surprisingly, players simply point and shoot. It’s obvious and intuitive. If you’ve played a Wii shooter (rail or otherwise) before, it will seem perfectly natural, and if you haven’t, it won’t take more than a few minutes to get your bearings. On the Xbox 360, in contrast, players have to hold the left joystick at an angle to aim, and when they let it go, the cursor snaps back to the center of the screen. Thus, aiming anywhere but the center of the screen is a huge challenge until you master the controls.
To be fair, there’s no good way to handle a rail shooter with a traditional controller, and every attempt to do so (even the Nintendo 64/Virtual Console classic Sin & Punishment) has required a lot of getting-used-to on the player’s part. Still, the fact that you can’t adjust the controls to your liking, even to invert the Y axis, doesn’t help at all. Why spend hours learning the control scheme on the Xbox when you can jump right in on the Wii?
If we haven’t been sufficiently clear, even at its discount ($30) price, Attack of the Movies 3D is not a good buy. There are simply too many good action games for this to be a worthwhile investment of money and time. The well-done 3-D effects offer a glimpse into the future, but without a good game to back them up, they amount to no more than a gimmick.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.5 Graphics
Primitive, to say the least, but the 3-D is done well. 4.1 Control
These are well-done on both systems. Because of the inherent advantages of the Wii-mote for the rail-shooter genre, though, we recommend going with Nintendo’s console if you have a choice. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music, unlike the graphics, actually does a good job of making the game feel like an action movie. The sound effects can be weak, though. 2.2 Play Value
This game is short and thoroughly uninspiring. 2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.