Wii Fanboy Review: Gyrostarr

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JC Fletcher
June 25th, 2008
Wii Fanboy Review: Gyrostarr

High Voltage Software created the Saturn and PlayStation ports of Jeff Minter's Jaguar shooter Tempest 2000. This means, amusingly enough, that they have previous experience literally cloning Tempest. Based on its appearance, it would be tempting to call the company's WiiWare shooter Gyrostarr an application of this specialized knowledge. However, for a game about shooting spaceships in a chute, Gyrostarr has surprisingly little to do with the Tempest series. In fact, it diverges from the entire shooter genre in a few fundamental ways.

Gyrostarr is a third-person shooting game that puts the player behind the spaceship -- the perspective, combined with the tube-based level design, gives the impression of playing a shooter on the note chart of Guitar Hero or Amplitude, to give a modern analogue. The player's ship moves left to right along the surface of a scrolling chute, shooting enemies and collecting powerups as they approach. In addition to a projectile weapon, the ship is also equipped with a grappling cable that can be fired out forward to collect powerup items.

The perspective and the fact that you can shoot are really all it has in common with Tempest. Oddly enough, the goal of Gyrostarr's levels isn't the shooting of enemies. Instead, your ship must pick up small white clouds around the level, which represent energy. Energy can be grabbed by running into it or by shooting the grappling hook at it. Each pickup increments a progress bar at the top of the screen, which also shows your movement through the level. Pick up sufficient energy before the end of the level, and you warp out in an awesome-looking effect, on to the next level. Fail, and you die! Fill up the entire progress bar, and you go to a bonus level. Along the way, you can pick up timed powerups that give you more powerful, faster, or charged shots, slow down enemies, or add other effects.

As you progress through the level, you'll pass checkpoints that periodically speed your movement through the tube. Each level starts off really slow and picks up significantly. The bonus levels are just like the regular levels with no enemies, no shooting, and no grappling -- just energy clouds and checkpoints. These levels accelerate to ridiculous speeds, and end when you finally succumb to motion sickness.

For the most part, Gyrostarr is really, really easy. The energy clouds aren't always blocked by enemies -- in fact, enemies tend to appear on the opposite side, meaning you can pretty much avoid them if you want. It also means that you'll see bonus stage after bonus stage, since the only thing keeping you from grabbing every energy pickup is the fact that they sometimes look too similar to the background. In addition to not really obscuring items, the enemies don't do much to hinder you at all for the first ten or fifteen (out of fifty) levels. Sometimes they'll leave easily avoidable mine-like projectiles on your path; most of the time they'll just kind of sit there. Eventually they do start chasing and/or shooting at you.

Furthermore, shooting at the energy clouds pushes them away from you. That means that, for the second time since WiiWare launched, a shooting-type game punishes too much shooting. That's not to say that Gyrostarr is as dire a case as Protöthea, at all. It's just not a traditional shooter. Like a traditional shooter, though, the real impetus for blowing stuff up isn't progression, but competition -- filling up the high score charts. You can still shoot all you want, anyway, if you're deft enough with the grappling hook to grab energy and powerups before you accidentally shoot it past the horizon.

Competition is also present in the form of an excellent multiplayer mode. Up to four players can challenge the tube together, using any of the game's available control schemes. You can play with the sideways Wiimote (with or without waggle), the Nunchuk (with or without waggle) or the Classic Controller. The game even lets two players share a Wiimote/Nunchuk combo, with one on the Wiimote and another on the Nunchuk. All of these schemes have multiple button layouts. Every game should support versatile control schemes, and the Nunchuk-only method is actually quite comfortable. It also ensures that every Wii is capable of at least two-player play (because the system includes a Wiimote and Nunchuk), and probably more.

Gyrostarr never becomes exceptionally difficult. However, if you can endure the first ten levels or so, which are so simple as to be a bit tedious, you'll find a high-energy, fast-paced shooting/racing ... thing that is worth playing. As the game picks up in speed and intensity, it entrances you with its hypnotic, pulsing music and swirly, colorful appearance. Luckily, once you've completed a level, you can skip it in future play, allowing you to start at a later, more exciting stage. Of course, if you have friends around, Gyrostarr is entertaining from the very beginning.

Final score: 7/10

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