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Joystiq impressions: Spyborgs (Wii)

Justin McElroy

"Most of the stuff on the Wii is ports or micro-game stuff and I think most gamers are getting pretty sick of it. I don't want to mince words: We actually wanted to make a game."

It was with those fightin' words that Bionic Games designer Mike Stout started his Captivate 08 presentation of Spyborgs in Las Vegas this week. Though we've seen a couple of early stages and the same debut trailer as you, we're still not sure if the game's living up to the gauntlet being thrown down.

Gallery: Spyborgs (Wii) | 24 Photos

Let us first just issue a few qualifiers. 1. What we saw was really early. 2. With any title that strives for humor, taking stuff out of context rarely works. 3. We're not exactly the target audience (sort of).

We're told that the game is being designed like a Saturday Morning cartoon, with the game representing a "season" of episodes. As for the roots of the game's humor, the words we keep hearing are "A.D.D." and "Adult Swim," if that gives you some idea of where they're coming from. (Though, admittedly, after seeing the demo, we'd been more inclined to namedrop some Nickelodeon shows than Squidbillies or Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.)

So, with that out of the way, let's talk about the walkthrough.

Despite the tough talk about other games on the Wii, Spyborgs immediately presents to us like one of the many character-based action platformers on the system (like Ben 10, for example). Mind you, this title has one of the best cameras for this sort of thing we've seen, effortlessly keeping a great view of the heroes.

For the demo we saw, those heroes are Kinetic, an extreme sports junkie, and Bouncer, which you've probably seen described by trailers as a "death machine ... with attitude ... sort of." You're probably thinking that so far this reeks of character design by marketing committee, but ... no, actually there's no "but." We're right right there with you.

What's intriguing is that each character has their own specific actions that must be performed with the Wiimote and Nunchuk. For instance, the player controlling beefy Bouncer has to make punching motions to fight. Later, we see this put to further use when the same player has to pretend to bash a door down to ... well, to bash a door down.

Graphically, it looks like most other things on the Wii. It's cartoony and not super detailed. But it's so early we're not willing to knock it for that.

After battling a few enemies in the sewer level we're being shown, we're told that in order to enhance the "Saturday morning cartoon feel," the game will include commercials in the form of minigames smack dab in the middle of levels. The first we're shown is a take off on Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots with players imitating actions from Wii Boxing to battle each other.

The next one? Hmm, how to put this ... OK, so the second commercial we see forces the players to pretend to strum a banjo with the Wiimote and Nunchuk while two bionic, human-sized goldfish sit in a river of defecation and sing a country song about plumbing issues.

Still with us? Well then, you're probably totally going to buy Spyborgs. We believe there are only two sorts of people in this world: People who can own a game featuring bionic goldfish sitting in a river of defecation and those who can't.

We're told that the team wants these commercials to interrupt the gameplay every hour or so, just enough to keep things fresh but without being annoying. They're still not sure how many they'll be able to make before the game's planned 2009 release.

So, what's the verdict so far? Is this a game you should keep on your radar? Honestly, at this point, we just can't say. Because what we still can't seem to figure out (even after asking the developers directly) is what audience they're making the game for. It's got humor that some would consider mature, character designs that would appeal to kids and controls that are too early to put into either category.

When you make a game that's all over the place like that, it's either going to be a product for everyone or no one. You can probably guess which one Bionic Games says they're shooting for, but it's still far too early to say exactly which one they'll hit.

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