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Wii Fanboy Review: Namco Museum Remix


Even while gawking at the bizarre screenshots of Namco Museum Remix, I secreted away a bit of genuine hope in my heart. I had more interest in this game than I dared tell anyone. More than any other game, I saw the potential in Namco Museum Remix to express the Wii's charm to the widest possible audience. A retrogaming minigame collection, in my mind, was the perfect second Wii game for casual gamers or parties, combining the gee-whiz factor of Wii motion controls with familiar, beloved games. The reborn classics would interest retrogamers and lapsed gamers who have missed out on the last few years of video games; the unmodified arcade games on the disc would allow them to reconnect with "traditional" gaming. It would combine the strengths of Wii Sports and the Virtual Console, using the relative simplicity of old games as a substitute for casual-focused design. Somehow this potential allowed me to react positively to a demo of the game.

I'm pretty sure that I'm the only person who put so much hope into this game, which means that the reality of Namco Museum Remix hurts me more than it hurts anyone on Earth. The game, then, feels like a personal insult.

The main game involves five minigames, each a reimagining of a classic Namco arcade game with a 3D upgrade (except in the case of Gator Panic, which has naturally become less 3D in its transition from Whack-a-Mole machine to Wii game) and Pac-Man shoved in. The remakes range from faithful, like Rally-X, which is Rally-X with Pac-Man in the car and a different camera angle, to "as seen in a funhouse mirror on Bizarro World," like Galaga, which is now a light-gun type game in which you shoot Galaga ships in order to protect a spherical Pac-Man as he travels through space in a space tube.

Of course, the point of remaking these games on the Wii is to experiment with unusual control schemes, right? That's why three of the games are controlled entirely with the Wii's most innovative input, the "joystick." Oh, wait, joysticks have been around forever. That's right, anyone eager to see how the previously stylus-controlled Pac-n-Roll fares with motion controls can keep on waiting, because, defying all logic, it is totally joystick-controlled. And, without anything resembling the stylus gimmick, it is totally dull. All five games make use of the Nunchuk; Galaga and Gator Panic both use the Wiimote for logical purposes (Galaga to aim and shoot, Gator Panic to swing the mallet), but both also have totally unnecessary Nunchuk functions, as well. Gator Panic requires you to aim a Pac-Man cursor at a gator before swinging the Wiimote to hit it, complicating the game needlessly. Galaga uses the joystick to make Pac-Man jump to avoid obstacles, a move whose necessity is so infrequent that I had invariably forgotten about it by the time I needed it again, causing me to lose health. Rally-X's joystick controls are actually less responsive than they were in the original version. Unlike the other games, it does feature an optional Wiimote-only control scheme, but that is beyond unusable.

Why is the Nunchuk requirement a big deal? Because it prevents multiplayer gaming in many households, without adding any benefits to the control schemes for any of the games. If it made any sense to use the Nunchuk in any of these games, or if it were an optional "classic" control scheme, there wouldn't be any problem. Of course, the multiplayer point is moot, because nobody will ever want to play these games with you, nor will you ever want to show the game to another person.

Aside from the ruined minigames, Namco Museum Remix also contains a selection of unmolested classics. Namco actually deserves a bit of praise for their selections, as they have chosen non-obvious games from their back catalogue, many of which have yet to be ported 100 times. Pac-Mania (itself an updated version of a classic) remains a favorite, and the original arcade version of Xevious is a lovely bonus (and a knife in the back of anyone who bought the NES version on the Virtual Console.) It is, then, with regret that I say that the controls in these games are also ruined. Sensibly, all have multiple control schemes, including Wiimote d-pad and buttons, Classic Controller, and a unique one-handed Nunchuk scheme that should be admirable. However, the controls fail to achieve the responsiveness and accuracy of either the arcade version or any previous console ports, another waste of potential.

The most surprisingly playable game on the disc is 1979's Cutie Q, a pinball-Breakout hybrid that can be played with the joystick or the Wiimote pointer. The low-res, low-color-depth graphics couldn't be more charming, and the use of a pinball-style playfield in a block-breaking game remains novel. It's a perfect little time capsule of the arcade before Pac-Man, and it's genuinely fun to play. And, mercifully, the controls work okay.

Despite (or because of) the extra work that went into it, Namco Museum Remix is the worst Namco Museum yet. Galaga, the best "new" game in the set, is fun for a few minutes; the nine classic games would be fun if the controls worked, and the rest of the "Remixed" stuff wouldn't be worth much of anything even if the controls weren't ruined. Cutie Q would be a delightful standalone download, but it's certainly not worth the $40 required to get it on this disc.

Final verdict: 3/10

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