FlingSmash, in both its choice of title and its apparently shallow game mechanic, doesn’t seem like it could be anything other than a mindless waggle-fest. Instead, it’s a fun exercise in taking advantage of the Wii’s biggest strengths. It comes bundled with the new (in sexy black) Wii remote plus, which looks just like a regular remote but has MotionPlus built right into it. The central mechanic of the game is indeed just swinging the remote, but with MotionPlus designed into it, it’s actually a precision-based affair rather than random flailing.
Above: The somewhat handy miniature representation of your Wii remote in the bottom-right lets you know what angle you're swinging at - although we didn't look at it much
The cohesive aesthetic of FlingSmash is one of its strongest points: we’re not easily wooed by cute things, but the central hero amused us over and over with his unflappable grin (he’s basically a ball with arms, legs, a rudimentary face, and a glorious single tuft of hair that sticks up like a candle flame). The music is infectious and irresistibly upbeat, the sound effects continuously charm, and the story is utterly simple while serving its purpose – to create a reason for smashing everything in your path.
The paper-thin (and not remotely original) premise is that evil has befallen a tropical island, and to stop it the nature spirits release a slumbering hero from his locked box, and the hero must collect magic pearls around the island to gather enough power to defeat the evil. The game then tosses our grinning goofball into a series of 2D, side-scrolling levels. Instead of controlling the hero in a traditional manner, you simply swing the remote to “bat” him around the screen. It’s a difficult concept to explain, but you act as though the remote is attached to the character – whatever direction you swing alters his flight path accordingly. So, for example, let’s say he starts on the right side of the screen. He’ll float to the ground and then wait for you to swing. If you swing straight from right to left, he’ll go shooting straight to the left. While he’s flying, if you swing straight up and then down, he’ll shoot straight down at whatever point you completed the swing and “hit” him.
Above: Underwater, your movement is a bit slower. Also, we just love his little tuft of hair
With MotionPlus, though, your swings can be extremely subtle. You can cause changes in angle by mere degrees, just barely altering the flight path. If you manage to remain calm and hit without too much force, it pretty much works how you want, although not always perfectly. In the heat of the moment, though, we often found our hero flying in drastically different directions than what we intended, and we weren’t swinging like a crazy person. So the average player will experience some level of lack of control, and for those who naturally go a bit crazy swinging remotes (a large number of the Wii’s core audience) it may be even more unreliable. Still, the game is so incredibly easy that we can’t imagine it will frustrate many players.
So the next question becomes: “Ok, so I fling this guy around and smash things, but is there more than that?” Thankfully, yes. FlingSmash shows off the reliable Nintendo inventiveness, expanding on its simple concept in many interesting ways. At first, you just bounce around the stages and smash as much stuff as possible – although you always have to collect three coins in each stage to complete it, and some of them do take some skill to nab. Then, the villain comes along and casts a spell on you that turns you into metal. Now you’re heavy, changing the physics of how you are propelled with each hit. After that, you get shrunk down small. There are also underwater levels, windy levels, levels littered with cannons, and many, many other ways to play with the physics and puzzle possibilities of a hero who bounces around the screen.
Above: Here we are turned into metal, but also have collected the "big" powerup
There are also boss battles, mini timed challenges, and some fun powerups. Really, the game never runs out of ideas. But the main reason for that is also the game’s biggest problem: it’s over before you know it. There are eight worlds, each with three levels and a boss battle. Each level takes no more than a few minutes to complete. So, even with a player who can’t complete everything on the first try (which won’t be many players, as the game is incredibly easy), the whole thing is over in a couple of hours. There are attempts at replay value by assigning you scores and ranking that can unlock a few additional levels and minigames, but we can’t see anyone being motivated to go back and replay levels unless they’re kids with tons of free time on their hands and no other games to play.
Above: For the most part, the bosses are disappointingly easy, feeling like barely a threat at all
FlingSmash is cute, low-stress, and fun, but it’s only ever mildly fun. It throws in the towel before it can really come up with some crazy, imaginative twists on its formula. Kids will almost certainly get a kick out of it, but for how long is questionable. On the other hand, it does come with a shiny new remote, so in a way it’s a nice throwaway bonus if you’re on the market for MotionPlus. But we’re here to review the game itself. If it had been expanded upon with significantly more content that could broaden its gameplay and its pure length, it could have been a really good game. As it is, it’s the core of a good game that pops in and out of the consciousness without leaving a lasting impression.
Nov 7, 2010