FlingSmash (included in Wii Remote Plus bundle)

FlingSmash (included in Wii Remote Plus bundle)

As for the Wii Remote Plus, it’s great. It’s the same size and weight as a traditional Wii remote, but offering all the functionality of Wii MotionPlus built right in. Your next Wii remote should most certainly be a Wii Remote Plus. The question is, should you get it with or without FlingSmash?

FlingSmash feels like a budget game from the start. Developed by Artoon (who brought us Blinx, Blue Dragon, and Yoshi’s Island DS), it’s built with simplistic visuals and repetitive MIDI music, and the controls aren’t exactly ideal. But the gameplay is unique, and the total experience—albeit only featuring 32 levels in total (plus boss battles)—is quite a lot of fun with a friend or significant other… notwithstanding its flaws.

Arcade action that (for the most part) won't make you want to kill your significant other
Arcade action that (for the most part) won’t make you want to kill your significant other

It takes balls to save the world

The game begins with a predictably lame story about a tropical island protected by a Great Palm Tree. Before long, an evil villain (who looks like he’s wearing a Phanto mask from Super Mario Bros. 2) comes and trashes the tree, prompting the locals to turn to a locked treasure chest which stores the body of a legendary hero: Zip, who happens to be a ball.

Following the short tutorial thereafter, you’re plunged into level 1-1. Your job: to fling the Wii remote in any particular direction (gently; it doesn’t take much) to send Zip barreling that way, smashing into blocks, defeating enemies, and collecting goodies. Pressing A at any point during Zip’s movement stops him immediately, which is convenient. And if you happen to fling while Zip is glowing (which happens quite often and is merely a matter of timing and attention), you’ll perform a power shot, which blasts right through most objects and destroys everything behind them as well.

That’s it for the basic gameplay; it’s a cinch, and clearly quite accessible. Accessible enough, in fact, that you should enlist a friend or significant other and share the experience with them—as the game’s true strength is in co-op.

Once you turn metal, the game transforms into a bit of a platformer
Once you turn metal, the game transforms into a bit of a platformer

However, in spite of the simplicity of the template, the designers have wisely implemented enough modifiers and variations to keep things interesting throughout the course of the action. For starters, the levels are filled with various obstacles which require more precision than simple mayhem—things like tubes, tracks, rotating walls, keys and locks, and “dark space” moments where you must break numbered blocks in a particular order to win a bonus. Each stage also features five medals strewn throughout, three of which you must collect to progress.

There are power-ups too, leveraged by collecting three of any number of matching emblems. These allow you to split in two for ten seconds, grow large, bounce around wildly, or accompany your destruction with explosive fireworks to really wreak some havoc. Particular worlds even heavily revise the gameplay, imbuing the formula with gimmicks such as heavy, metallic bodies (causing you to roll through the levels), gusts of wind (which you can ride), or shrunken balls (a serious problem no matter who you are).

Scoring, meanwhile, also provides some welcomed complexity. It’s all point-based arcade-style, of course, and if you want to achieve an S-Rank on every level, you’ll need to pay attention to such particulars as red combo blocks (which, if destroyed in quick succession, result in score multipliers) and gem switches (which turn every block on the screen into a valuable gem for a short time). The game displays a graph at the end of each level indicating your point accumulation throughout the course of the action. An A-Rank or better is required if you want to unlock the eight mini-games, and S-Ranks will earn you an equivalent number of bonus levels.

Bosses range from ho-hum to fairly creative
Bosses range from ho-hum to fairly creative

Finally, there’s the bosses. While most of them are pretty monotonous, there are a couple of bright spots. The best is probably the fourth boss, which summons odd structures of blocks that, after some time, move or shrink and crush anything in their path. The goal is to navigate safely around the masses of blocks, reaching the boss and damaging him. It’s not all that challenging, but it’s pretty cool.

Outside of all the central action, there are some well-intentioned mini-games as well. Most of them are pedestrian filler, but there is some two-player fun to be had especially in the Cannon Challenge game, which is a lot like an extended co-op rendition of DKC’s barrel blasting sequences. Apart from that, the aforementioned extra levels you earn (eight total; one per world) from achieving S-Ranks on all levels of each world are a good reward for the dedicated.

Really the biggest problem, though, is the fact that once the player moves beyond mere party play and begins paying attention to scoring and ranks (and unlockables), the game requires a significant degree of precision. That precision is practically impossible to achieve, however, because of the inconsistent control scheme. You see, while flicking in a direction to move isn’t bad for most purposes, it still only guarantees accuracy of, say, somewhere within a 20° arc—at best. Worse yet, in co-op mode, players can bump into one another, throwing them off course. There is nothing more frustrating than watching that final medal in the level fly by you after trying unsuccessfully three or four times to fling yourself into it. The grand rule of challenge in a videogame is that the game must convince the player that it is his fault when he loses; here, FlingSmash fails.

Knowing what to expect before powering up FlingSmash will go a long way toward managing your enjoyment of the title.  It’s one of those rare games where hardcore perfectionists are going to need to voluntarily opt out of completionism, else they may find a Wii remote lodged in their drywall before long.  Speaking of which, whether or not that ends up being the case, it ought to be a Wii Remote Plus; the new iteration of the Wii remote is excellent and should most certainly be your next.  As for the ten dollar premium for the FlingSmash pack-in… whether or not it’s worth your time is a decision you will have to make for yourself.