FlingSmash review: Just a fling

In general, I don't believe in factoring price into an evaluation of a game's quality. The artistic and entertainment value of a game is completely separate from its, you know, value. But there was basically never a point during my time with FlingSmash that I wasn't thinking about how it was about right at $10 -- which, if you take out the $40 that a Wii Remote Plus would cost on its own, is its effective cost.

In my defense, Nintendo must have looked at it the same way, since it is only selling the game in bundles with controllers, despite all indication that it was originally conceived as a "normal" retail game (it's been in development at least since October of 2008, when it was announced at Nintendo's media summit, and the E3-era box art showed it being sold separately from the MotionPlus). The production values are nice, but it bears the design hallmarks you'd expect from a budget game: it's extremely brief (like three hours), it's shallow, and it's built around one reasonably insane idea. Luckily, FlingSmash falls on the "stupid fun" side of the superficiality continuum I've just invented.

FlingSmash casts you as the legendary hero of an island civilization -- a smiling ball that bounces through auto-scrolling stages, busting blocks, collecting medals, and defeating enemies through the force of bodily impact. Players manipulate this hero (Zip or Pip, depending on your preference for the psychotic topknotted tennis ball's gender, or both in co-op) by smacking it like a ping-pong ball with movements of the Wiimote.

For the most part, the MotionPlus-enabled aiming of Zip or Pip works as you'd expect, aided by a little diagram on the bottom of the screen showing the movement of the Wiimote. Really, whether you are or aren't aiming where you want to is of little consequence in practice, because Zip's natural bounciness combined with the urgency of the automatic scrolling (which can easily render one of the three medals you need to collect out of reach) result in rushed, random swatting. Perhaps I lack finesse, but the average game of FlingSmash for me involved flinging as much as possible in a semi-coherent attempt to smash everything (In fact, the game told me several times that I didn't need to swing so frantically.)

And that worked! In the 24 non-boss stages, I only failed to pick up the minimum three medals once. And I never failed to effectively target each boss's weak point, despite my general inability to plan a path for the pinball-like protagonist. Some levels introduce new mechanics designed to make you switch up your strategy, like turning your character into a heavy metal ball, or making it lighter and bouncier, but those don't really make the experience any more strategic or difficult -- though they do add interest!

If you find you have a knack for the basic gameplay of FlingSmash, beyond willing yourself through the levels as I did, there's plenty of replayability. The levels are full of little branching paths to allow advanced players to boost their scores in replays, and earn access to minigames that also test advanced FlingSmashing skills. But unlike Ivy the Kiwi?, another 2010 Wii sidescroller with innovative locomotion, it's never necessary to learn any nuances of FlingSmash's control system -- you can just fling your way through every level, and successfully smash everything that needs to be smashed.

There's a parallel universe out there in which Nintendo decided to release this as a standalone product, with no fancy controllers in the box. And in that universe, people are totally pissed. But in this reality, I can confidently say that you won't feel bad about kicking in a little extra for FlingSmash if you were already planning to buy a Wii Remote Plus.

This review is based on the Wii retail version of FlingSmash flung at us by Nintendo.