Mine eyes, they burn!
The current WiiWare lineup covers the gamut from casual to hardcore gaming, and Gyrostarr is perhaps the best release yet in the latter category. If I compare it to Tempest, F-Zero, Audiosurf, and even Geometry Wars, perhaps that will give you an idea of how simple and addictive this arcade shooter is.
Gyrostarr is clearly inspired by Tempest at some level, as the gameplay and visual design are both similar. You control a space ship that automatically moves forward (into the screen) at a steadily increasing speed. The goal is to collect enough balls of energy to open a gate at the end of the level; basically, this means the levels are timed. There are tons of enemies in the way, mainly serving as (highly effective) distractions to keep you from collecting the energy balls whizzing by. The presentation makes the game look like F-Zero or Audiosurf, but it's not about racing or music—just shooting and collecting.
Aside from destroying enemies, your shots also push away valuable power-ups and energy balls, making it harder to collect them. Also, you may not want to wait for these items to come down the track, as the enemies will take advantage of your hesitance. That's where the grappling hook comes into play; you can fire it anytime by pressing up or down. It shoots out very far along the track and collects items along the way, allowing you to focus on shooting and dodging enemies for a few seconds. Knowing when to shoot, when to fling out the hook, and when to get out of the way proves to be a satisfying recipe for strategic gameplay.
It doesn't hurt that the game moves at a blistering pace. Gyrostarr eventually builds to such an insane speed that your fingers seem to skip the brain and connect directly to your eyes. I like to call that "twitch", and this game pulls it off extremely well. Bonus levels temporarily disable your guns and hook (and are free of enemies), requiring you to simply collect energy at even more ridiculous velocities than before.
The twisting tracks change shape and sometimes turn transparent, resulting in a clever optical illusion that can throw off your prediction of where the energy will appear. Backgrounds are based on Hubble Space Telescope images (no joke), while the music is spacey techno that gets old quickly. It may not have been possible to generate levels based on music tracks (as in Audiosurf), but custom soundtrack support from the SD card would have been appreciated. This is, after all, the kind of game that makes you want to zone out to your favorite tunes.
The package is rounded out by an interesting offline multiplayer mode with simultaneous cooperative and competitive elements. Up to four players vie for the top score while pooling collected energy to open the gate at the end. You can even line up a certain way for more powerful shots. The 50+ levels don't differ greatly from each other, but the challenge definitely ramps up as you go. Gyrostarr is a high score game at heart, so the lack of online leader boards to compete with distant friends is a shame. Still, fans of arcade-style twitch shooters should get plenty of entertainment out of the game, and it's reasonably priced.