Because of its vast and varied installed base, the Wii has got to be a difficult system to make a new game for. Of course, you’d want it to sell a ton of copies, but who should you target as an audience? The divide between casual and core players on the Wii blurs from time to time, but in some instances it can seem like the two are worlds apart as far as tastes go. Trying to appease both crowds is certainly the more lucrative way to go but only if it works. Unfortunately, Spyborgs is the perfect example of what happens when you try to please everyone but wind up not really making anyone particularly happy.
When Spyborgs was initially shown off to the press, it was a completely different game than what it eventually became. Originally, the game was meant to be a bright and humorous, Saturday morning cartoon parody, action game romp that would probably appeal more to younger players. After an early and fairly unenthusiastic response from the gaming press, the title was largely overhauled and turned into more of a straightforward brawler. The end result of this decision appears to be a game that is probably a little too bland, repetitive, and difficult to appeal to the younger crowd but still too puerile to draw in more mature gamers.
The story in Spyborgs is still reminiscent of the Saturday morning cartoon fare but includes a touch of seriousness that doesn’t really seem to fit it. The Spyborg Initiative is a group of cybernetically enhanced super-soldiers put in place to protect the country. Things start going wrong for the organization as soldiers begin to mysteriously go missing. You quickly find out that some members of the Initiative have gone rogue and are responsible for the disappearances, and it’s up to the remaining group to find them and put a stop to their betrayal.
Spyborgs gives you your choice of two of the three different super-soldiers to take into levels. Bouncer is more machine than man, and his hulking frame and sluggish but strong attacks makes him the bruiser of the group. Clandestine is a quick and agile female ninja who is much better at hit and run combat since she is also seems easier to damage. Probably the most balanced of the three is Stringer. He is fairly strong, can take a moderate beating, and even has a gun for a hand, allowing him to attack distant enemies.
No matter which characters you choose, the gameplay boils down to being a basic old-school brawler. Players will walk through numerous levels in which they’ll enter countless arenas to pummel waves of pretty uninteresting baddies. There isn’t much pizzazz inherent in the combat either; you’re resigned to light and heavy attacks and the limited combos that alternating between them will produce. In fact, the only attacks that stand out are the team up attacks that need to be charged in order to use. After an on-screen gauge fills, you are able to initiate one of these attacks which pulls you, your teammate, and one enemy into an enclosed blue arena in which you can perform a quick-time event (QTE) to finish him off. The problem with this is similar to that of the rest of the game, these become repetitive almost instantly due to a severe lack of variety.
Repetition becomes an even more prevalent problem due to the game’s absurd difficulty and punishing level design. If you play Spyborgs on the difficulty that the game indicates it was designed for, plan on becoming incredibly frustrated. Even after you’ve gotten the hang of properly using blocking, dodging, and all of your attacks, it is far too easy to get decimated by your opponents, even early on in the game. You also won’t find any checkpoints in any of the levels to bail you out. You can be ten to fifteen minutes into a level and unexpectedly die and be forced to start the level over again from the very beginning. This can get discouraging very easily and pretty much ensures that anyone who actually wants to make the entire way through will need to try again on a lower difficulty.
Although you can alternate between either of your chosen characters at any time while playing by yourself in order to take advantage of their particular strengths, it’s not exactly the ideal way to play. That’s because the game is more fun if you have a friend handy. At any point a second player can take control of your secondary character to help you cut a path through wave after wave of cybernetic enemies. Besides the obvious benefits of playing with a friend, having two players also alleviates some A.I. issues that can become pretty annoying. The major problem being that your A.I. teammate loves to get in your way. Whether standing in front of your gunfire, protecting your potential target, or charging in to attack the enemy you’re beating up, preventing you from making contact, your teammate can become more of a hindrance than a help much of the time.
Besides the constant melee combat, you’ll also find tons of crates and destructible items to destroy. While most of these are immediately visible, some are seemingly cloaked and require you to point at them with the Wii-mote and perform a motion to make them fully appear. This can also get rather annoying after the hundredth time but fortunately, it’s slightly less aggravating with the game’s motion controls turned off, then requiring only two button presses. Destroying these items and crates will provide you with health, power-ups, team attack fuel, and red orbs. At the end of each level, you’re able to spend these orbs on enhancements such as more health, damage increases, more attacks, and a quicker refilling team attack meter. These are some pretty basic upgrades and you won’t necessarily even notice the difference after purchasing many of them.
While the gameplay doesn’t do much to win you over, the game itself actually looks quite good. The members of the Spyborg Initiative all have a distinct look and their character models are fairly well detailed. The same can be said of the game’s environments, although there isn’t a ton of variety to be had. Sadly, that’s the crux of most of this game’s shortcomings; there is just too much repetition and not enough incentive to endure it. That and the concept of the game has been altered to the point where it doesn’t really appeal to either of its potential audiences – in the end, it comes off as just a rather soulless brawler. Honestly, a game based on cyborg spies should be far more entertaining than what Spyborgs provides.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
If Spyborgs gets one thing right it’s the graphics. The game looks pretty good for a Wii title 2.9 Control
The motion controls in the game feel completely tacked on, although they can be turned off. Even so, button presses don’t feel as responsive as they should be, and accurately aiming with Stringer’s gun is next to impossible. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice work is competently done, but the sound effects can eventually get a tad grating. 2.7
The game itself is somewhat lengthy, but every level feels almost exactly the same as the last. Also, the recommended difficulty level is completely unforgiving, while lower settings are a bit too easy.
2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.