If you thought the shoot’em-up (SHMUP) genre was all but dead, then you haven’t been paying close attention to the WiiWare platform. With games such as Star Soldier R, Protöthea, and Gyrostar, there’s now an ample selection for Wii owners to get their SHMUP on. Semnat Studio now tries their hand at a shooter game with Eduardo the Samurai Toaster. Does this quirky title serve up a balanced adventure, or will gamers simply be burning their bread on this one?
If you’re hoping for some type of story out of Samurai Toaster, we’re sorry to be the bringers of bad news. When you load up the game, you’re presented with a very clever title screen that allows you to scroll sideways with your character in order to read the credits and gloss over the control instructions. There is, however, no rhyme or reason behind the experience, and you’ll just have to take the lot for what it is – a zany, very stylistic ride through bullet hell.
If you’ve played any of the Metal Slug games, you’ll immediately notice how Samurai Toaster borrows heavily from that series. That’s not at all a bad thing, and the developers did a great job here of making the controls tight, the collision detection spot on, and the level of difficulty can be set to match any player’s optimal preference.
You can choose to play with either the Classic Controller or the Wii Remote held sideways, and either scheme works just fine. It can feel a tad awkward, however, using the B button on the Wii Remote to toss enemies, but the rest of the button mapping is simple and comfortable. The D-pad moves your character, the 1 button fires (yes, even though you’re playing as a samurai, you’re still mostly firing projectiles), and the 2 button lets you jump.
Like Metal Slug, you’ll run through a collection of mostly side-scrolling levels, shooting tons of enemies along the way. The first handful of levels get off to a somewhat slow start, and a feeling of repetition quickly sets in. Luckily, there’s a nice diversity in terms of level design as you move deeper into the game. Some levels allow you to set the pace of level movement, while others scroll on their own, forcing you to keep up. Additionally, you’ll often find yourself moving vertically through levels, and other levels have you flying similar to games like Nanostray 2 (DS) or the recently released BlastWorks (Wii).
As interesting (and neat to look at) as the levels are, Samurai Toaster is, without a doubt, a one-trick pony. What you see within the first few minutes of gameplay is what you’ll get for duration of the adventure. There’s no rapid-fire option, either, so you’ll have to keep on clicking that 1 button ’til the cows come home. You’re also not going to see much variety, as far as enemies go, and though the game will throw a few new baddies into the mix here and there, you’ll be fighting mostly the same few foes the entire way through. It’s an interesting selection, to be sure – spear-tossing, Pop-Tart-looking dudes, hippie bumblebees, and fuzzy bosses that toss explosive coconuts at you – but you’ll never be forced to do more than run, jump, and shoot.
That actually might prove more entertaining if the game itself were more dynamic. There’s no comic relief, and with such a clever art style, it’s truly sad the game completely lacks any type of story. There are also no collectibles in the game, nor a leaderboard or achievements. Without some incentive to keep you going, it’s hard to muster the desire to see this very short journey to its end.
One saving grace for the game is that up to four players can play cooperatively (local only), with players jumping in and out at any time throughout the adventure; it definitely helps, too. The gameplay remains the same, but it’s certainly a good deal more fun to have a handful of buddies to act silly with. There’s also a friendly fire option, and though it doesn’t actually allow you to shoot your friends, you can toss them and things tossed at them do damage.
On the production front, Samurai Toaster is one heck of a great-looking game. It features a very unique and playful art style that uses hand-drawn, 2D sprites and backgrounds alongside various 3D elements and a host of interesting visual effects. To be honest, some of it can be a true strain on the eyes, and one particular level should come with a seizure warning, but on the whole, it’s a wonderful game to look at. The variety (sans enemies) is robust, but we did have occasional issues with seeing platforms within some of the more active backgrounds.
The music is decent, but it’s also unremarkable. Most of the tunes sound like stock themes, and they do little to add excitement to the gameplay. The music never ramps up or cues you when you’re fighting a boss, and the trance-like loops only add another layer of blandness to the game. The sound effects are equally flat, though; considering you’ll be doing little more than shooting nonstop for an hour, that’s perhaps for the best. Enemies make almost no sound when they’re defeated, and for a shooter, the overall experience is a bit too relaxed.
Eduardo the Samurai Toaster gets high marks for originality in style and visual appeal, but in the end it’s a mostly uninteresting and repetitive shooter. There are some bright spots to be found in the level design, and the controls and game construction are spot on. However, it just has so little to offer, especially for an $8 WiiWare title. It will take you little more than an hour to run through the entire game, and once you’re done, that’s it – no editing features, no extras, and certainly little reason to go back. There are some great raw materials here, but the developer doesn’t really go anywhere with them.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
A really fun, stylized look and presentation fitting for the WiiWare platform. 3.9 Control
The simple and straightforward control set-up works very well, though tossing enemies with the B button feels a tad clumsy. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s a decent variety of music, and to some extent it works fine. However, the soundtrack does little to accent changes in levels or to introduce bosses. 2.5
There are some enjoyable basics to be found here. The game construction is sound and polished; it just isn’t interesting for more than a few minutes. The subtle change-ups from level to level are the only minor star of this package.
3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.