When you just look at Wipeout: The Game, a Wii party game based on an ABC game show that seems to revolve around knocking people over and making jokes about balls, it seems very promising. The graphics are above average, the voiceovers and music are nice, and the minigames look like a throwback to old school 2D platforming. It’s obvious that, at some point, people were putting a lot of time and effort into this game in order to produce something that perfectly mimicked the show. What’s equally obvious, however, is that at some point, all of that effort completely disintegrated. Wipeout: The Game, though it boasts some superficial advantages over a lot of the nearly unplayable shovelware available for the Wii, suffers a similar fate to those titles.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, the presentation certainly isn’t to blame for the fact that this game is miserable to play. The show it’s based on is perfectly mimicked, complete with the proper music, which is very clear sounding, and the hosts all do their own voices to good effect. Their banter does get more than a little repetitive in long play sessions, but since most people won’t be able to sit through it long enough to actually have a long play session, it isn’t too problematic.
The graphics in Wipeout: The Game are also quite nice. Although they aren’t spectacular by any means, they’re bright, cheerful, cartoony, and pleasant to look at. The hosts are presented as caricatures, but they actually resemble their real world selves, and though the playable characters are broad and somewhat generic, that doesn’t differ too much from the way that actual contestants portray themselves on current game shows. Although the graphics in some areas lack detail or suffer from fuzzy textures, their cartoon style is pulled off so nicely, with very little slowdown and fairly nice animation, that those issues are easy to forgive.
Another thing that makes the poor gameplay found in this title such a disappoint is the fact that it made sure that the game had plenty of things for players to do. There are dozens of unlockable characters, including the game’s hosts, and each character has three very distinct outfits to unlock on top of that, adding a lot of replay value for completists. The game’s three difficulty levels also add more to it than superficial alterations to the A.I., adding more complex challenges as the difficulty rises. There is even a challenge mode that allows players to practice individual challenges included in the main game. If the game were at all fun, all of these things would be brilliant inclusions, but their quality is negated by the low quality of the game itself.
The gameplay itself, as many of you have probably gathered at this point, is what takes Wipeout: The Game from being an above average licensed title to an absolute train wreck. Each round of the game, set up as an episode of the game show that even goes so far as to last roughly 30 minutes, consists of a string of minigames based on obstacles included on the show. Though it is possible to describe all of these minigames individual, it is easier to summarize them by saying that playing Wipeout: The Game is like having to play all of the most difficult platforming sections of Super Mario World in a row with live puppies strapped to your hands. Though a few of the minigames are almost insultingly easy, most of them consist of 2D platforming that requires incredibly precise timing and jumps, which would be fine if the jump and duck buttons actually worked in a consistent fashion and if the controls to make your character run weren’t so sensitive that it seems like a light breeze on the control stick could send them running to their death. If that weren’t bad enough, the game is also plagued with glitches. Characters get stuck inside poles, knocked down by projectiles that are three feet from their faces, and occasionally struggle to run along flat surfaces like they’re being forced up mountains. There is a little bit of fun to be had from the fact that the game lets you throw stuff at your opponents when it’s not your turn, but even the controls for that are inconsistent and difficult to predict.
Even though Wipeout: The Game appears to be a well-made game sitting on top of a pile of cheap, but horrible Wii titles, all of its quality is superficial. Even though it looks and sounds great, with plenty of extras to keep players going, the game that all of this nice presentation rests upon is an unplayable mess.