Muscle March Review for Nintendo Wii

Muscle March Review for Nintendo Wii

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.

Muscle March screenshot

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.

Muscle March screenshot

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.

Muscle March screenshot

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.

In addition to the single-player portion (Muscle March), there’s a multiplayer component for up to four players called Endless Rush. It’s an hot-seat affair where you pass a single set of controllers around, and each player takes turns racking up as many poses and combos as possible. It’s kind of a shame there’s no split-screen option, but Endless Rush is still a nice feature that is sure to elicit a few laughs at parties and such.

Muscle March screenshot

On the production side of things, Muscle March is wonderfully bad. The textures are all very low-res, often pixelated, and the animations are deliberately overdone. Though the body builders are each cut, exhibiting a decent level of detail, background characters are represented by flat models that are a muddy mess when seen up close. The framerate, however, moves along without a snag, keeping the gameplay flowing at a steady pace. Giraffes, polar bears, and an assortment of other whacky tributes to Japanese excess are flaunted proudly here, and it’s simply impossible to not be won over by the game’s imaginative personality.

The music consists of a small selection of bubblegum J-pop, and it, too, makes a wonderful match for the gameplay and presentation of Muscle March. As chases ramp up to a fevered pitch, the music also speeds up, giving the songs’ vocals a Chipmunks-like sound that’s simply delightful. The sound effects also fit the bill quite nicely, though again, we’re a bit disappointed by the lack of rumble feedback, something that’s kind of essential for this style of arcade gameplay.

So, who should buy Muscle March? At 500 Wii Points and an E10+ ESRB rating, it’s really a game everyone and anyone can enjoy. Keep in mind it’s a novelty – nothing more. You might find yourself addicted to it for a short while, but you’ll likely lose interest after that. Obviously, though, it’s an endearing conversation piece that is sure to bring some life to a party. The visuals are bad, the music is saccharine sweet, and the controls are almost broken. This, however, is one of those rare cases where a game’s warts are also its best features. “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

Bad, but mostly in a good way. Sad texture work, low-poly, and working with colors that look like something out of a 60s frug. The developers probably could have gotten their point across with higher-quality visuals, but the expression is greatly appreciated all the same. 3.0 Control
It’s a very simple premise, but it’s one that is overflowing with personality. Unfortunately, slow responsiveness when gesturing with the controllers makes the latter portions of levels extremely, and unnecessarily, difficult. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
For a $5 WiiWare game, there’s a surprising amount of variety and character to the soundtrack. For the most part, everything is quite fitting for this over-the-top action game. 4.0

Play Value
It’s short, addictive, and a wonderful novelty for gatherings. An online leaderboard would have been cool, but Wii owners are still getting a worthwhile addition to their library with this one.

3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Seven excited bodybuilders ready for action!
  • Endless Rush mode for up to four players!
  • A polar bear!

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