The Munchables (Wii) - Review by Chris
The Wii has become the home of many weird and wonderful titles over the past two years or so since its initial release. Thankfully, developers have seen fit to release titles made specifically for the console that incorporate good wholesome fun while giving that necessary depth of play to keep seasoned gamers coming back. So, here we have a title that does just that, coming from Namco Bandai, and was literally only announced for release on the Wii a few months ago. But is this a title that's easily digestible or will it leave you with an upset stomach?
The game focuses around the planet of Star Ving, home to a collection of hungry creatures, which has been taken over by pirate Tabemon, mutant fruits and vegetables of various sizes, led by the evil Don Onion who is out to take over the known world by using the legendary orbs. It is your job to prevent Don Onion from succeeding and you do this by taking control of the Munchables team. Comprising of the Great Elder and Munchables Chomper and Munchy, with a third playable character unlocked after completing the game, you must retrieve the legendary orbs by eating your way through various enemies and bosses across variety of locations. The game incorporates elements seen in other titles, such as those in Katamari Damacy, another of Namco Bandai's titles, as well as those seen in one of Xbox Live Arcade's titles, The Maw. It's an interesting concept and does make for an interesting game. As you travel through the levels, you'll have a goal that you must reach or achieve and to do this, you'll need to consume large numbers of enemies. As you eat your way through, the level of you character will increase and at various stages, it will change physically growing horns and generally growing larger allowing you to eat higher levelled enemies.
As I've said, it's a very interesting concept and does work well, as you'll never be lost for things to eat to help you progress. There are the occasional hazards to avoid, such as bombs, but there are also a couple of nice power-ups that make meal time more interesting and easy. Not that the game needs to be made any easier though. While the games 16 levels and 8 boss fights are littered with consumables, you'll never really be troubled in your progression. At times, the game does step up in its difficulty, only to step down again in the next level. It's strange and does detract from the experience somewhat but it doesn't take away from the fun that you have or any of the charm and wit of the title. The boss fights take place in large arenas where you'll have to work out their weaknesses and then act on them to bring them down to an eatable size. But even these pose no real challenge as attack patterns are predictable and even if you are hit, you don't have a life bar so you don't die. You merely enter a state of shock where you'll lose some of the combo you've made up from eating enemies. The game also suffers from a lack of longevity as the game isn't particularly lengthy and once completed, you do unlock a mirror mode to play through the levels again but it's not really something that many will find themselves doing because you'll have seen all the game has to offer by the end. It's a shame that such an original title as this has such short playability but it was otherwise inevitable given the game's mechanics.
The game isn't heavy on its control use. It does make you use both the Wii-mote and Nunchuk but the control scheme is minimal and the game is better for it. The only buttons necessary to use are the A button, to initiate in eating, the B button, to initiate a dash attack, and the Z button on the Nunchuk for locking on to enemies or objects. That's it really, and with the only other necessary utilisation being a flick of the controller to jump, it's simplistic but effective, very easy to get a hang of for both newcomers and seasoned gamers. The game provides a fixed camera angle, over which you have no control which can be a nuisance but it's not a huge downfall. There is also the option to use the classic controller and even the Gamecube controller so all playing styles are catered for.
Taking cues from the likes of Katamari Damacy, The Munchables continues the same colourful visage seen in that. The graphics are vibrant, bringing in a whole spectrum of light and dark colours that really make the visual presentation stand out. The character models are crisp and cleanly designed, even in there 'evolved' states, and the players have to opportunity to customise them through various accessories which you unlock throughout the game, just as a Mohawk headpiece or 3d glasses. The water effects are superb, mixing both realistic with cel-shaded to great effect. The game is slightly let down by the environments, not in terms of their design because they are varied and well put together. But there are a lot of jagged visuals in the levels and quite a lot of muddy textures. The game's cutscenes come in two flavours: the first is a paper craft style of stop motion that is great in portraying the visual slapstick that the game incorporates so well while the second takes on a sepia tone where the cutscenes are hand drawn, but these don't appear very often. Unfortunately, due to the way in which the game is played, there is some significant slow down as a result of screen cluttering.
The music chosen for the game and its levels is aptly chirpy and cheery, lending some character to the almost sinister atmosphere of the gameplay. The game does stray away from this for boss fights, where a more rugged tone is picked up in the form of some rock music and while it is used to convey the hurry and the size of the task in taking on the boss, it's nowhere near as pleasant to hear as the majority of the music in the levels.
The Munchables is another perfect example of Namco Bandai's continuing ingenuity and strong support for the Wii. It's a unique concept done to a high standard, utilising some good graphics, sound and gameplay. It has its shortcomings, such as being quite short and the slow down when things get hectic on screen, but given the game's budget retail price, these are small problems that can easily be overlooked for what is a truly enjoyable title from start to finish.
Pro: Unique concept, good sound and graphics, thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish
Con: Quite short with little replayability, drop in frame rate, graphics are jagged and muddy at points
Final Score: 7.7