SPRay Review for Nintendo Wii

SPRay Review for Nintendo Wii

With the unique functionality of the Wii and the already incredibly large library of games for the system, one might expect there to be a plethora of interesting titles that put the motion mechanics to good use. In reality, most Wii games either use the system’s capabilities in very limited and gimmicky ways or not at all. So, it was with great pleasure we took off on Tecmo’s latest Wii adventure, SPRay. Together with the somewhat-fledging developer, Eko System, the publisher that created franchises such as Ninja Gaiden, Fatal Frame, and Tecmo Bowl, now brings one of the most unique and quirky experiences to Wii.

SPRay screenshot

SPRay, whose name is a play on both the game’s basic mechanic and the main character, Ray, is about a fairytale kingdom that comes under siege by an evil queen and her minions of antimatter. When the king is sucked into the void during the assault, Ray then takes up his father’s magical crown in an attempt to save his people. Though divided by dimensions, Ray and his father can still communicate, and Ray is tasked with collecting a bunch of crystals. Only through the power of these crystals can he bring order back to his castle and kingdom.

Once the game’s opening wraps up, Ray’s dad instructs him to visit the town where the first of the game’s many crystals can be found. From the castle, Ray makes his way through the first portal, and the game then walks you through the basics. There are a total of six portals in the game, each home to a unique dungeon. The castle is the game’s hub, and after finding a certain number of crystals, you’ll make your way back there periodically for further instruction from dear, old Dad.

You move Ray with the Nunchuk’s control stick and jump with the A button. You can also perform a sort of ground pound by pressing A while in midair (this action will be especially useful against ice spiders or other enemies that are impervious to Ray’s basic attack). However, the game’s main feature, and what most of the many puzzles are based around, is the spray mechanic. When you first put on your father’s crown, two imps appear – one an angelic creature, the other a demon. The angel can spray liquids such as water and ice, and the demon can spray things like slime and vomit…yeah, vomit. Spraying the environment doesn’t just play heavily into the gameplay, it is the game’s mainstay. Thankfully, the use of the various sprays and how they figure into puzzles is incredibly entertaining.

SPRay screenshot

In the first chapter, you’ll be using the spray mechanic in fairly simple ways. You’ll reveal hidden bridges with vomit or put out fires with water. However, the game wastes no time in introducing new and somewhat-devious platforming elements that will require players to think outside the box. Almost every time Ray reports back to his father, his dad is able to upgrade his abilities through the power of the crystals. Once you acquire the slime spray, things really get going. For instance, during the third chapter (of the first portal), you’ll have to slime up a reversible walkway, shoot a lever with water to flip the platform, and then walk upside-down to get to the next area. Other obstacles will require you to line a wall with slime and then jump up onto the now-sticky siding in order to get to an area otherwise unreachable.

The ice spray, on the other hand, allows Ray to move faster along the ground – literally ice skating. Ice will also enable Ray to jump far across long distances or belly flop onto slanted platforms. Things really get interesting when you have to use different sprays in conjunction with one another. One example is a puzzle that requires you to line a walkway with ice, race through a fast-closing gate, and then jump onto a sticky wall you previously slimed in order to make your way up a tall platform. There are a ton of such puzzle-platforming jaunts – it’s what the game’s all about, really – and SPRay, surprisingly, does a bang-up job of constantly throwing new challenges at you.

SPRay screenshot

The levels start out fairly brief, but later become a labyrinth of crazy platforms. The game’s very forgiving in terms of dying, and when Ray does lose all his health, he’ll generally restart from just before where he died. He’s got a health bar that sits up in the top-left corner of the screen, as well as an icon that displays the spray he’s currently using and the energy tank for it. Both Ray’s health and spray energy can be replenished by spraying flowers found throughout levels.

Now, from what we’ve told you, SPRay may sound like a great game, and it does, in fact, have greatness in it. There is platforming here that rivals any Super Mario game and puzzles that stand up to The Legend of Zelda. However, SPRay simply stumbles far too often due to poor execution in a few key areas.

For one, combat is a wrist-breaking waggle-fest that is not only a chore, but also pure frustration when attempting to negotiate some of the game’s later, more challenging platforms. For early enemies, all you really need to do is spray them with any liquid and they’ll wash back to the void from whence they came. However, the game soon starts throwing armored enemies at you that not only require you to waggle-attack their armor off, but you literally have to hit them about 30 times before they’re then vulnerable to spray. Sadly, this is one of the first games to come close to making waggle attacking fun, as you can lock onto enemies with the Z button, and both the rumble and audio feedback make attacking and breaking objects viscerally satisfying. But 30 waggles? Come on!

SPRay screenshot

The other, and main, culprit in the game’s downfall is the camera. This is the one issue that corrupts SPRay almost fatally. Though you control the various spray liquids with the Wii-mote, the camera doesn’t move with the aiming reticule in the same way a first-person shooter on Wii does. The only real control you have over the camera is that of pressing the Z button, which re-positions the camera behind Ray’s back. The problem there is it moves into position much too slowly and without any level of precision. Since this is a puzzle-platforming game, the poor camera control leads to endless frustration.

Other issues include the lack of any sort of map system, collision detection that will often cause you to become one with the void, and backtracking that is so utterly asinine it rivals the worst of what’s out there in terms of retreading old ground. All of SPRay’s problems are amplified because of just how good the puzzle-platform gameplay and level design are. There are fantastic ideas here that could have made this a paragon for third-party publishers creating games for Wii. In many respects, it still is, but the flaws (and there are others we just don’t have space to discuss) are simply too great to overlook.

The game’s presentation adds insult to injury by rushing players through story elements, giving you no time to grasp what’s been said or any reason to identify or sympathize with Ray. He’s a plain-Jane hero from a plain-Jane land, and the story is glaringly underdeveloped.

SPRay has a decent enough look, though almost all of its aspects are PS2 quality. Some environments are more pleasing than others, and nothing’s ever truly ugly, but a few background elements stick out as though they were relics from generations ago. The framerate stays predominantly steady throughout, though that’s not saying much, since its pace is somewhat sluggish. Character models are perhaps the visual highlight, with the cute Wind Waker-esque citizenry exhibiting nice detail and design, though Ray himself isn’t anything much to look at.

The game’s aural complements, however, fare a bit better, and both sound effects and music are pleasing. SPRay’s a bit frugal in terms of variety, but themes fit nicely alongside the gameplay. There are a few noises that emanate from the Wii-mote that sound like interference from a radio signal, but most other ambient sounds and audio cues are quite satisfying.

SPRay has been one of the most difficult games to evaluate. It’s impossible to recommend as a purchase due to a handful of flaws that have a major, negative impact on the gameplay. At On the same token, it’s bursting with great platforming ideas that rival gaming’s top franchises. If you’re curious, we suggest a rental, but beware of inevitable frustration.

The visuals are serviceable and even occasionally pleasing to look upon, but there’s little here that pushes beyond what last-gen gaming could do. 3.0 Control
The controls are pretty solid. Gesturing to break objects is satisfying, and the jump and movement mechanics work well. The camera system and excessive use of waggle during combat, however, are just two main problems that drag this game down. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Though there’s little musical variety, the themes and sounds generally fit well into the presentation. 3.0

Play Value
There’s a lot to do, and the game rarely lags in terms of adventure. There’s even a bit of multiplayer, though nothing that adds great value to the package. In the end, however, the game has some serious issues that are reflected in our final score.

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

Game Features:

  • Perform gravity-defying moves as you spray, stick, and slide your way through challenging puzzles
  • Play your way through five different missions in six unique levels in story mode
  • Creatively fight enemies by blasting various liquids on them and finishing them with a flurry of sword slashes!

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