What lurks inside your Wii's CPU? An awesome game, that's what!
Have you ever wondered what is going on in your Wii's CPU? No? Well, maybe you will after playing Australian developer Nnooo's newest WiiWare product escapeVektor Chapter 1: Combat Power Unleashed. In the first episode of this brand new series, we meet Vektor. He has been trapped inside your Wii for longer than he can remember and you are the first person he has successfully made contact with. He doesn't remember anything of his past or why he is trapped, but if you help him you might learn a thing or two about Vektor. However, this is not as easy as it sounds. The CPU is fully aware of your actions and tries to stop you at any cost. Luckily for you, Vektor has coding skills which can come in handy, but I am getting ahead of myself.
In escapeVektor, you use either the Wii Remote in the NES horizontal position or the Classic Controller. Towards the beginning you just grind along the lines, fill in the various cells in the level, and try to stay away from enemies as much as possible. Filling in these cells gives me weird mix of nostalgia; in particular the games Pac-Man and Qix come to mind. Later on when Vektor has done his coding job, he will be able to grant you two abilities: detonation and boost. With detonation you will, after completely bordering a cell, be able to a use shockwave that destroys all the enemies in your reach. Boost does what it says on the tin. You will be able to travel at this higher speed by simply filling in parts of the playing field. With both abilities it goes without saying that they won't be strong at the beginning of your adventure. The amount of detonation and boosts you can save up is limited and the radius of your detonation blast will be very small. Later on they will become stronger, thanks to Vektor, but in the beginning you can't be reckless and really have to keep focus on the screen.
The enemies in this first chapter come in three different varieties. First up are the patrols, which are basically the grunts. They will always follow a certain path and won't follow you around the level. That doesn't mean you don't have to be cautious. As soon as they see you, they will enter their alert mode and will go faster. Hunters are slightly more intelligent than the patrols. These enemies will scroll around the entirety of the level in search of one person, you. When they spot you, they will follow you around for a bit. There a chance a Hunter on your tail will lose you while going around a corner,so take advantage of that. Finally, we have Interceptors. These bullies are always aware of you and will try to hunt you down at full speed. While the Interceptors are strong, they also have a weakness. They can only cross a certain amount of junctions before they blow up and destroy themselves. The best strategy against them is to force the Interceptors to turn as many corners as possible.
Progressing through the game is pretty straight forward. You use a map screen to pick the world and level of your choice, again very nostalgic towards older games. Just like the games of the yesteryear, you can also finish the game through multiple means. While you can progress through normally and see almost everything, there are hidden bonus stages to find by bordering an additional amount of cells in existing levels. These will make a new exit appear and unlock a hidden challenge. After finishing this challenge, a gate will appear to a new world. The challenge can be a harder level, or a timed version of a previous stage. When your challenge is timed, you will have to make it to exit before the timer runs out or else you fail. There is also another type of level called eraser, but there aren't many of them in this chapter. All of them in fact can be found in a sixth bonus world, which only unlocks if you buy future chapters or own Pop (their previous title).
After you have finished the game, you are definitely not done by a long shot. There are over thirty badges to collect, high scores to beat, and levels to perfect. By not using detonation in a stage, you earn a star on each individual level. Even with your boost at full capacity, this isn't simple because enemies still come at you with brute force, which makes using the ability extremely tempting. For some people having no leaderboards, both local and online, might be a bummer, but it didn't really bother me too much.
At the end of the day, I was very satisfied with escapeVektor. The conclusion left me wanting more and the experience was as smooth as silk. It was addictive, fun, and strikes the perfect balance between an arcade and puzzle game. Some might become a little frustrated with the difficulty or the lack of leaderboards, but it wasn't a major annoyance. I don't know how they are going to top the first chapter's strong start, but I hope by the end of the series that escapeVektor will be the great final adventure that WiiWare deserves. For just 500 points, this is a title that certainly can't be missed.