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"Not a port." Those were the words used by Overlord: Dark Legend producer, Carl Johnson, used convey the fact that the Wii's first taste of the darkly humorous action-strategy series is, well, not a port of the upcoming Overlord II for the HD crowd. No, this is every bit its own game -- apart from the basic premise, that is -- that takes good advantage of the Wii's controls, doesn't phone in its visuals and, so far, is a fun (yet sinister) adventure best described as a sort of "Pikmin Gone Wild."
Dark Legend serves as a prequel to the other Overlord games -- which, if you're not hip to their premise, cast players as the Overlord, an individual bestowed with the power to control an army of vile minions and marching orders to wreak havoc on the land. For this game, developer Climax has reigned in some of the series' naughtier aspects (minions who urinate on enemies, the Overlord's foxy girlfriends) and, perhaps as a result of Wii's appeal to The Kids, the Overlord himself is a relative young'n. That is not to say this is a "kids game."
No, once you get past the charming visual style -- reminiscent in some respects to the original Fable -- storybook touches (witches, gingerbread men and a variant of Little Red Riding Hood, for example) and script by famed game scribe (and writer of the original Overlord) Rhianna Pratchett, it's a nasty little romp.
This manifestation of the Overlord formula gives players a greater degree of control over their minions that any other. Within moments of grabbing the Wii Remote (used for controlling them) and Nunchuk (moves the Overlord and performs his attacks) we were sicking our sickening, imp-like crew on enemies like we'd been doing it for ... well, longer than 10 minutes. Off they went, lobbing fireballs at range and jumping onto enemies to saw their heads off. Saw their heads off.
The early version of the game we played only allowed access to the brutish brown and flame-lobbing red minions. (There are four types in total.) It also bugged out when we tried magic attacks, yet we were still able to get a good feel for the basics.
Aiming the Wiimote at enemies and pulling "B" sicks minions on them; one for each pull. As in Pikmin, we encountered obstacles, switches and carriable objects requiring a set amount of minions to be lobbed at/on them. We also came to spiked gates that would harm the Overlord -- that's where shaking minions came into play. This mechanic felt really satisfying. You hold the Wiimote vertically and "pinch" and "A" and "B" buttons to grab a minion. Then you shake 'em. Do this enough and they become volatile. Let them go and they'll run towards the nearest enemy (or obstacle, in this case) and explode. (You can also grab a minion and clock them with your axe, sacrificing them to regain your own health.)
There's a good amount of "sweeping" the minions over the abundant crates, boxes and other breakable objects in the world in order to loot them. The area of the game we explored -- which was early in the overall story -- didn't have much to do, but it did manage to prove third-parties can "get" Wii and produce original games for the system which feel fresh, don't overdo the motion controls or prove to be total minigame fests.