Wii Fanboy Review: Actionloop Twist
Developers of the world, repeat after me: just because the Wii Remote offers a new and different way of controlling games, this does not mean that motion-based controls are suitable for everything. Got that? Good. Now write it down on a sheet of luminous yellow A3 card, and pin it to the walls of your offices (or, better still, your foreheads). Learn it, live it, breathe it, and with any luck promising games such as Actionloop Twist (or Magnetica Twist as it will be known stateside, or Minna de Puzzloop in Japan) will never again be marred with awkward, Wiimote-only configurations that are a pain to use.
Oh, and I mean pain literally.
Let's say that again, shall we: Actionloop Twist actually hurts to play for extended periods, and it's all down to the Twist part of the title. In a stroke of stupidity, developer Mitchell neglected to include support for the GameCube or Classic controller, and instead expected us to play the game by twisting the Wiimote in our hands. This would be fine if our wrists rotated and contorted as much as we pleased, but they can't. For this game, an analog stick would have been perfect.
This oversight is disappointing, because there's a potentially addictive concept that drives Actionloop Twist. It's based on 1988 arcade title Puzz Loop (and its many follow-ups, including Nintendo DS puzzle game Magnetica), in which players occupied a cannon to fire colored marbles at a long chain of other colored marbles, themselves rolling slowly along a preset path to a Black Hole 'O Doom. Combine three marbles of the same color, and they disappear, abbreviating the chain. Any remaining marbles of the same color are then dragged towards one another (like magnets, hence Magnetica), which in turn can set off chains of disappearing marbles. Let the front marble reach the end of the track, and it's game over.
Basically, it's pretty much Bust-a-Move, only rather than firing a cannon upwards at your bubbles/marbles, your targets are slowly encircling you. Immediately, controlling the cannon (which is manned by your Mii) with the Wii Remote feels imprecise and lumbering, and it gets worse when your wrist runs out of twist. This means that you have to spin your cannon around in the opposite direction to reach the marble you're targeting, losing precious split seconds in the process. You can play with the Wiimote on its side, tilting it forwards and backwards to turn your cannon and using the '2' button to fire marbles, but this is hardly ideal either.
Shorter bursts of play are far more tolerable, and there are plenty of modes and variations to sink your teeth into. Quick Play is all about beating your high score over the first 100 levels (if 100 levels sounds like a lot, know that each game lasts no more than eight or nine minutes), Challenge mode is essentially "play until you lose/your wrist seizes up" mode, and Quest mode throws various small challenges at you (example: clear a number of marbles of a certain color).
While each has its merits, far more enjoyment can be eked out of Actionloop's multiplayer modes, which support both human and AI-controlled opponents/allies. It goes without saying that playing with/against friends is more engaging, but the bots are also nicely balanced, being neither too strong nor too weak. Actionloop's lob shot is especially useful during multiplayer games, allowing you to fire at marbles located behind another player's cannon. I managed to get a three-player (all-human) co-op session going, and a good time was had by all for the best part of an hour.
It is not long, however, before Actionloop's flaws begin to show -- and it's not only the tiresome controls that grate. The lack of an online mode (or, indeed, any online functionality whatsoever) does the game no favors, and only pushes it further below the likes of the excellent Dr. Mario; even something as basic as leaderboards may have added some much-needed longevity. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is missing the simple, hummable charm of the music in Mario's game. In fact, comparing Actionloop and Dr. Mario is probably a good way to end this review. After all, both are puzzle games, both are 1000 Wii Points, and yet only one is worth your time and money. And it ain't Actionloop Twist.
Final score: 5/10