Niki: Rock & Ball Review for Nintendo Wii

Niki: Rock & Ball Review for Nintendo Wii

The WiiWare service has been putting out a few interesting titles lately. It’s allowed players with smaller budgets to obtain new games for their Nintendo Wii, and it has even managed to reduce the amount of “shovelware” being thrown into a disc and sold for at least $20. We have to be thankful for it, that’s for sure!

Niki: Rock & Ball screenshot

Since WiiWare games are cheaper than retail titles, the level of expectation for these games is not as high as it would be for the latter ones. However, that doesn’t mean we’ll be able to look past the flaws and annoyances we will often encounter in titles such as this one, Niki: Rock & Ball.

To be fair, Niki: Rock & Ball is an old-school-style, arcade game with an interesting concept some of you may find enticing. You will be in control of a bouncy ball named Niki. Each stage will have a certain amount of enemies and six shiny ZeLeLi pearls of different colors. The goal is to get rid of the enemies by squashing them or bouncing against them, as well as picking up each and every one of the pearls.

You’ll be repeating this task level after level, but you’ll also encounter different kinds of enemies that require special power-ups before you can wipe them out. For example, a special amulet will allow Niki to turn into stone as you press and hold the B button, which is necessary in order to kill spiky enemies. Another power-up will transform Niki into an unstoppable fireball, which is very effective against some enemies too, but it’s also out of control!

As you know, bouncy balls have never been easy to handle. They go back and forth, they bounce, ricochet from wall to wall, and even reach unbelievable heights. The game mimics these physics quite well, although it’s not exactly perfect. Because of its bouncy nature, controlling the ball is not an easy task. More than half of the time, the game will drive you crazy with inconsistent controls, unexpected rebounds, and so forth. There are two control styles to choose from, but even when using the retro-style controls, you’ll run into issues that do nothing but feed your frustration.

Niki: Rock & Ball screenshot

Even still, the retro-style controls are the better choice, as they’re more precise. You’ll simply hold the Wii Remote horizontally and direct Niki with the D-Pad, while making it bounce with the 2 button. The other control style requires you to hold the Wii-mote vertically and guide the little dude by tilting the controller to one side or the other. You can make Niki jump by pressing the A button, or by giving the controller a quick shake.

Two things (other than the questionable controls) make this game exasperating at times. First of all, the game is divided into four different worlds, each of them offering ten different stages. When you lose your five lives, the game will send you to the beginning of the world you were at, forcing you to repeat all the previous stages within that level. This makes the gameplay that much more repetitive; needless to say, it will be irritating when you had just finally beat a difficult stage and were ready for the challenges ahead.

Niki: Rock & Ball screenshot

The other problem is the time limit. Even though it seems fair, the game is not forgiving at all, whether you’re playing a beginners’ stage or a more challenging one. You better stop bouncing around and beat the stage in about three minutes, or else… the screen will fill up with an orange liquid that makes the task even more arduous than it was originally. Although, I have to admit the fluid actually helped me to beat a stage on a couple of occasions, when the pearls were so up high I just couldn’t reach them on my own.

Niki: Rock & Ball screenshot

Unfortunately, the game’s visuals are also quite disappointing. Original screenshots of Niki: Roll ‘n’ Ball piqued my interest when I first saw them online, but once you actually see the game on your TV screen, you’ll find the graphics quite lackluster. Not only that, but the typical Wii “jaggies,” as annoying as always, are also there to be seen. There’s a very low amount of detail, and the level design, though it’s apt for this kind of arcade experience, lacks some imagination. It must be because we’ve seen too many similar games in the past, even if none were controlled with the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote. The levels are pretty much what you would have found in games like Buster Bros. (Pang), N+, or an old-school pinball. The one thing I did like is the character design, as Niki and the numerous enemies are interesting and original, even if they can’t quite compare to those you’d see in a Kirby or a Wario game.

The background music is not remarkable either. It gets repetitive when you repeat levels, and it’s a bit too generic for today’s standards. In its defense, it does fit the game and makes sense for it to be there, considering the game is sold for just $5.

One last thing to consider is it’s co-op offering. Though both players will share the amount of lives and power-ups, playing together will help to alleviate some of the frustration. What’s best, the second player can drop in and out at his/her own leisure, which is fitting for a game like this. The tracking of your high scores (completion time) at the end of each level also adds some play value, as it will motivate you to try to beat your own records.

As you can imagine, this game is not the kind you recommend to your friends. It could have been much more exciting if the controls were just right. However, the low price-point may be good enough to help some casual gamers decide to try out. After all, the game is not terrible. It’s just very low-budget and decidedly frustrating in some occasions. If you’re up for the challenge, I’d say go ahead and give it a try. Just don’t expect a cool arcade game with all the bells and whistles, because this one just comes with the bells. I mean…balls.

Very lackluster, as far as image quality; there’s a low level of detail and the Wii anti-aliasing “jaggies” are present once more. The overall presentation and character design is pleasing though. 2.7 Control
Very lackluster, as far as image quality; there’s a low level of detail and the Wii anti-aliasing “jaggies” are present once more. The overall presentation and character design is pleasing though. 2.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The background music is too repetitive and even slightly primitive for a game this day and age. 3.0

Play Value
This game has a good amount of levels to offer (40 to be exact), and the gameplay could be very addictive for those with patience. Two-player co-op is nice too.

2.7 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Roll along with Niki through fantastic worlds, find all the ZeLeLi pearls, and liberate your village from cuddly as well as evil monsters before it is too late!
  • Timing is everything! Jump in the nick of time to avoid landing amidst barbs and hop about across the stages, thanks to the realistic gaming physics. Snap on the ZeLeLi amulet, transform yourself into Niki Rock, and force even the most obstinate monster to its knees!
  • Explore all the stages and win valuable medals dribbling through them alone or with a friend.
  • Play Niki: Rock & Ball with all the familiar controls in the Retro style or experience the novel controls in the Wii style.

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