Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Closer Look at Muscle March for WiiWare

A Closer Look at Muscle March for WiiWare

Some video games are all about strategy, be they puzzle games, turn based battle games, or what have you.  Some video games are about precision asking you to make the exact right moves at the exact right time or else.  Then there are games that all about action, full-on in your face, guns blazing, fire pits roaring action.  And then there are games about muscles.  You heard me.  Muscles.
Yeah, you heard me.  Wait until you see this...

So my friend Chris comes over to the house one night last month and amidst our various goings on about how hard it is to find Atari 2600 games in the wild anymore and which NES games are worth $5, the boy says to me “Have you seen that Muscle game for the WiiWare yet?”  Obviously I had not.  So we pull up the trailer for said game on the interweb and oh my dear lord.  One cannot describe what bombards the senses next, so I’ll not try.  Instead, I’ll allow you to judge for yourself.  Here, take a watch:

What the hell was that?  That my friends is the greatest game for the WiiWare yet.  Yes, delete Mega Man 10 and that new Blaster Master game and make room for Muscle March.  The game is insane.  Pure Japanese insanity in all of its glory.  If you thought Katamari Damacy was a head trip you ain’t seen nothing yet. Imagine Katamari, but with nothing held back.  Nothing.  I think that trailer is proof enough.

The premise, if you dare say the game has one, is centered around a group of extremely zealous body builders who are incensed because people keep stealing their protein powder.  The protein nabbing invariably results in a madcap chase wherein the body builders pursue the perpetrator through cities, jungle villages, space stations and even the heavens themselves!  The protein thief will stop at nothing to escape and this means crashing through anything standing in their way, walls, doors, subway cars, forests, asteroids, you name it.  If the body builders are to nab the protein bandit, they must follow suit, literally.  Each time the perp smashes through something they do so in a very specific pose.  The body builders must mimic this pose or be knocked out of the chase.  That’s it.  Run fast enough and pose correctly and you’ll eventually have an opportunity to tackle the vandal and retrieve your precious protein…or will you….

Honestly, the game is ridiculously simple.  Too simple to be as damn challenging as it is.  When you break it down, the game is essentially Simon Says with poses instead of colors.  There are only four poses to play with and all you have to do is copy the fleeing criminal’s pose as it goes through the wall.  It is just that easy, and yet, it’s not.

The game is dizzying.  From the stereotypical J-Pop music to the absurd environments the game does not allow you to concentrate for a single second.  The backgrounds are just plain crazy.  Nevermind the fact that your chase will have you defying gravity, running through all kinds of buildings, subway cars, jungles, mines, space ships, and so on, as you bust through these surroundings there are innumerable distractions screaming for your attention all over the place.  Most of these distractions are in the inexplicable form of cardboard cut-outs of people and animals that are hopping and gyrating about as if they were on popsicle sticks and being puppeteered by hyperglycemic eight-year olds.  Just don’t pay them any attention. In the immortal words of Happy Gilmore when the “earthquake” rocks the miniature golf course, “how the hell am I supposed to do that?”  It will take a strong mind, but it can be done.

And it isn’t just the backgrounds that will have your mind reeling.  The action gets to be intense.  The chase starts out brisk, but manageable.  As you get closer and closer to the protein bandit, the speed of the chase ramps considerably.  Considerably.  The farther you get in the game, the faster you are going to have to react and match poses or be eliminated.  There are times when instinct and luck will benefit you more than reflexes.  That said, the game gets tough, fast.  And if you get too good at the main game, you can always try your luck at the endless chase game variation where you just run as fast and as long as you can.  Of course, that also makes very good practice for the main game.

That is all there really is to it, but let’s call a spade a spade, you’re not going to buy this game (for a paltry 500 Wii Points) for its complexities and depth.  If you’re looking for Final Fantasy XIII, it ain’t here. No, you’re going to buy Muscle March for the head trip, plain and simple.  This is a zany game all about the laughs and absurdity and the “what the frok was that” factor.  The game play is nothing special, but the game is. Muscle March is funny AND fun.

We’ve been playing the game for some time now and I cannot seem to rescue the protein from the Muscle Mech character to save my life.  And yet I keep trying.  Look, I’m not a big downloadable content guy, I think you know that.  I enjoy the Mega Man games and the Virtual Console has finally allowed me to play Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, but all in all, I’m not over the moon about downloadable games the way most people are.  I would not tell you to make Muscle March your next video game purchase if I wasn’t absolutely certain that it would blow your mind.  I’ll not waste your time with more of my nonsense this month, just go play Muscle March and try to reconcile its madness with your rational, sequential brain.

I’ll see you back here next month when I’ll tell you how we got where we are today and why we are worse for it…

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