WiiWare – Nintendo’s relatively new service, hosting original, downloadable games for Wii – is a splendid thing. System owners can now look forward to unique, Wii-centric content each Monday, and the price for most games falls somewhere between $5-10.
The WiiWare platform is also quite inviting for developers, since they can sell their wares directly, without the large costs involved with manufacturing boxed, retail games. Gameloft, developer of several other WiiWare titles, including Block Breaker Deluxe and TV Show King, are showing a lot of love to the platform and have now added Wild West Guns – a light-gun game of the uber-casual kind – to their list of offerings. But is this shooter worth your 1000 Wii Points ($10)? Remember the Nintendo Entertainment System classic, Duck Hunt? Well, Wild West Guns doesn’t deviate too far from that very same type of gameplay. From a first-person view, players shoot at various targets, including badges, tin cans, suicide bombers, and…oh yeah, bandits. As the title implies, the game is set in the “Wild West” – cowboys and Indians – and you’re the new marshal, hired to bring law and order to the land.
The single-player offering consists of six levels with three challenges in each. You’ll be required to earn a certain amount of money in order to unlock each proceeding level. By shooting well – accuracy over quantity – you’ll earn more bounty for the baddies you defeat. A typical level plays out thusly: The first challenge might have you shoot strings of badges without shooting any red ones; the next challenge will perhaps have you shooting as many balloons as you can before a timer runs out; and the last challenge will tell you to defeat the bandits or defend the town (which also consists of you shooting at bandits). Each of the three challenges is about one-to-five minutes in length.
Honestly, the game starts out very predictable, but as you progress, the challenge and requirement to do well offer a good bit of entertainment. While you’re concentrating on shooting targets or preventing tins cans from hitting the ground, there will be enemies charging the screen trying to attack you.
There are two levels of difficulty – normal and hard – though you’ll only get the normal setting from the onset. But the game does offer a fair amount of challenge, and merely flailing away on the Wii-mote won’t earn you enough money at the end of a level to unlock the next portion of the game. The controls, however, are as simple as pointing the Wii-mote at the screen and using either the A or B button to fire. Additionally, when a smoke cloud impairs your view, you can waggle the remote to clear the screen faster, or should an enemy run up and grab hold of you, you can shake him off with the same waggle gesture.
Wild West Guns does have its shortcomings, though, and as you might have already guessed, they lie solely in the repetitive and overly simplistic nature of the gameplay. If you bought the WiiPlay package, you already own something almost comparable to Wild West Guns, though the achievements here do offer a bit more incentive to plug away longer. Additionally, there is a multiplayer option (for two players) that would make a very accessible novelty at parties, but even casual gamers might find the game to be a bit too…casual. Multiplayer is basically more of the same, and both the versus and cooperative options have you shooting your way through the same levels and doing the same things from the single-player experience
On the presentation front, Wild West Guns is actually quite attractive. The backgrounds and enemies are fully three-dimensional and there are some touches of cel-shading, which give the game a more vibrant, cowboy theme. The water effects are also very impressive, the framerate is pretty solid (though the game seemed to exhibit some slight lag during multiplayer), and overall it’s a good-looking package.
The sound effects and music are serviceable, though hearing constant shooting noises coming from the Wii-mote can become annoying after just a short while. The music is Western-themed, as one would expect, and it fits well alongside the gameplay. This isn’t a gritty cowboy game, though, and the presentation is more akin to something you’d come across in an arcade at Disney World.
There’s an options menu, which allows you to fine tune various elements of the sound, as well as select your preferred control set-up. The game can be played with either just the Wii-mote or the Wii Zapper, though both configurations control basically the same. The Zapper option might be fun for a brief time, for those interested, but your arms will likely get tired fast holding the peripheral up in the same steady position.
Wild West Guns is an okay WiiWare offering. It has a good-looking presentation, a solid control set-up, relatively quick load times, and it’s a game that’s as casual as they come. But it’s also a game built on a formula that is extremely dated, and when compared to the innovation and unique fun of something like LostWinds (also available on WiiWare), Wild West Guns is a hard sell. It’s even harder to recommend at $10, the higher end of the pricing spectrum for current WiiWare titles. If you’ve already got WiiPlay in your collection, you probably shouldn’t bother with Wild West Guns. If don’t have one of these ultra-light-gun games as part of your library, it could perhaps provide mild entertainment when having company over. But also bear in mind, the game takes up 300 blocks on your system – that’s more space required than even the rather epic city builder, My Life As A King.
As an aside, we’re pleased to see WiiWare off and running, and we’re equally pleased that Gameloft is jumping in with both feet when it comes to developing for the platform. But the Wii is, if nothing else, arguably the most innovative gaming system currently available when it comes solely to gameplay possibilities, and we’d love to see the developer break out a bit and experiment. That’s what this system was made for. That’s the philosophy the WiiWare platform was born out of.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
For a $10 WiiWare title, Wild West Guns looks impressive. There is a nice variety of backgrounds. Everything runs smoothly, though enemy character models are a tad flat. 3.5 Control
Very simple – just point and shoot. But it’s a little too simple, and what you see in the first few minutes of gameplay is pretty much what you’ll get the entire way through. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music fits nicely with the gameplay, and the sound effects are serviceable. However, nothing in the audio department stands out, and the shooting sounds coming from the Wii-mote get old fast. 2.5
Though the presentation is tight, the gameplay is quite dated and repetitive, and at $10 (and 300 blocks of Wii memory) it’s no bargain.
2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.