Let’s set the scene … I have my comfy gaming pants on, my gaming beverage ready (so I can maximise my performance) – water – it’s important to stay hydrated! I press A and the back of Fox Mcleod’s head in an Arwing cockpit is shown on my GamePad and TV screen. The voice of Peppy Hare comes out of the GamePad instructing me on how to pilot my futuristic space ship. I follow the instructions and something happens! Something that hasn’t happened to me for a long time. I start questioning my life as I know it … I am struggling to do a tutorial of a game. Taking a good hard look at myself, I ask the tough questions, did I loose my gaming ability while on my honeymoon in Bali? Was it all the Bintangs? Do I have jet lag induced co-ordination problems from the 1.5 hour time difference and need to have a nap? Am I no longer the best gamer of the JG team? Then it hits me – I don’t believe the problems are to do with me at all, but the game’s control design.
From the GamePad you will see through the eyes of Fox Mcleod. When you move the GamePad you will be moving Mcleod’s head to see the universe from out of the cockpit, which in turn will aim your powerful weapons. Your TV screen will show a traditional third-person view of the craft you are navigating at the time, with the ability to focus on enemies using the ZL button on the GamePad. In theory, you would then be able to use your cockpit view to aim at the enemy while being able to focus on their position relative to you from the TV screen’s third-person view. This sets up an awkward balance that I had to try and maintain … which screen should I look at? There are different options available for the controls including inverted flight. However, the Motion Controls cannot be fully disabled in the game. I would suggest setting the Motion Controls option to “On While Using ZR” and mainly focusing on your TV and ignoring the GamePad screen.
The game features a similar level design and styling from the Star Fox 64 game, where a lot of the combat is “on-rails”, trying to destroy as many enemies as possible, all the while avoiding obstacles with the constant forward motion. There is also “free-range” combat where you can have epic space battles against other AI controlled pilots, or fighting giant metal worms from out of the dessert. The “free-range” is an illusion! If you hit the edge of the combat area you will suddenly do a U-Turn which can be quite annoying! Especially if you were about to put that one last laser shot into an arrogant pig’s ship.
The styling is quite dated with a lot of the enemies having dull colours and shapes like triangles, squares and rectangles, similar to my godson’s wooden play-set. Nintendo may have been a bit limited in what they could do with hardware constraints, and the game attempting to do 60 fps on both the GamePad and TV. There were a few frame drops when I caused massive explosions from destroying enemy space ships, or when I was fighting in some of the bigger combat areas and there was a lot of action on the screen.
Along with your Arwing you also get to control a battle tank and a gyrocopter, which has a little robot that descends from the bottom that can access tight spaces needed for collectables or progression in the levels. The little robot was a highlight for me, as it reminded me of walking my dog (which in reality is my dog walking me). The “leash” on the robot only extends so much so if you go a bit too far you will drag the gyrocopter behind you.
I found the Arwing the best of the bunch, which was good as that is the vehicle of choice for the majority of the campaign. Speaking of the campaign it took me under 3 hours to complete in one play-through. On completion you can try and find the various paths in the levels, or do some of the levels again in a different vehicle. I did enjoy some of the levels again in different vehicles, however, not all levels had this option available. For someone like myself the re-playability is low, which doesn’t mean die hard fans of the series won’t have many hours of gaming left whether it be getting a gold in all missions, or getting every collectable in the game.
I haven’t spoken much about the story and I will be honest, I don’t think there is much of one. At times I totally forgot I was Fox Mcleod trying to save the universe from Andross and numerous other baddies, and was only reminded when some of my team-mates said one of their various one-liners. I even got excited for a potential love interest for my character however SPOILERS nothing happens (just like my teenage years).
In summary, the controls completely ruined the experience for me. I found myself not being able to enjoy the game due to the sheer frustration of feeling uncoordinated. Star Fox series fans who are Motion Control enthusiasts would love this game and if that is you I would highly recommend it. However, for gamers like myself who don’t really dabble in Motion Control games, I would say to give this one a pass as you may find yourself breaking your Wii U controller through the very real issue of ‘game induced frustration’.