If you're feeling pretty impressed with your concentration skills, finger dexterity, and lack of RSI these days, then the new release Sin & Punishment – Star Successor might be the perfect title to either confirm or deny that belief. It's a hyper rails-shooter that is long on frenetic bursts of opponents and short on breaks. It's a button masher to match the most relentless of them, kids, so if that's what you're looking for then satisfaction may be near.
I won't spend too much time on the backstory, because the game doesn't either. It's not that there isn't one (as the booklet can attest) but it's horribly confusing and really only referenced in detail off-game. Once you actually start playing, all that matters is that you are one of a couple of protagonists trying to escape the evil clutches of a whole lot of other people. Bad people. People with a slew of weapons. You play as either Isa or Kachi, two elvin looking anime teens, each with their own attack modes and means of hover transport. The game is structured as a third-person rails shooter, but you don't really see the other main character that much expect for in cut scenes (more on this later regarding the two player mode). So with just a minimal amount of story prep that amounts to "You done bad, now you must die. DIE!" you are off to the races.
Controls are mainly handled by using the remote and nunchuk. If you've played Wii games like Metroid then you should feel right at home. Here it's a bit more simplistic, as your movement commands do not affect forward or backward motion, but simply the up-down and left-right aspect of the rails guidance system. You'll need to be quick in order to pick up powerups and bonuses, but the rails mechanism wants to quickly move you past those opportunities. If you're more of a traditionalist, you can also plug in the classic controller and kick it like we did with quarters, but to be honest, the standard Wii controls work very intuitively and there isn't much of a need to seek out other options.
The game opens up with an abbreviated level zero that, one step at a time, introduces you to the control scheme and gives you a few pointers on shooting and strategy. It also gives you a more gentle set of opponents to knock out and generally moves at a more relaxed warm up pace compared to the proper levels that follow. Once into the main levels, they are, well, fast. In typical fashion, there is a big boss fight at the end of each, but there are also mini-boss fights along the way that serve to give each level more of a journey feel. The general fighting in between is simply a constant barrage of bombs, space snipers, enemy ships, and anything else that can fill an empty inch of screen. And far from being a mind-numbing monotony of gunfire, it's actually exciting.
Part of this is due to surprisingly good design of the levels, as this is simply one of the nicest looking (and lag-free!) games for the Wii. There is a great attention to detail in each of the environments you move through, but also with the flow of the action on rails for your character. They've really thought out different avenues for variety on what might otherwise seem a very limited rails experience. This isn't just a run-and-jump or a fly-and-dodge, it's those and more, and the play constantly changes from one type to another. One minute you are flying high over (and around, and under, and through) skyscrapers in an industrial war zone, and then the next you're running down a tunnel blasting barrels and baddies, and then ducking for your life in order to land shots during a boss fight. The game never lets you stay too comfortably on one task, but that's also what keeps it fresh.
The end-of-level boss fights are appropriately hairy and although doable, they are certainly not something you're likely to get through without some trial and error first (or in my case, quite a bit of trial and error and a healthy amount of sportsman-like cursing). Throughout the course of seven levels, this formula of gameplay doesn't change, although the settings, maneuvers, and antagonists do. What actually gives the game replay value is that there's such a ridiculous amount of things on the screen for you to shoot, you can't possibly get to everything. Or can you? The online leaderboard and your own sense of pride makes you wonder if "this time" you can't totally own it. But plan on doing it alone, because the two-player mode is almost just there in name only. Without too much exaggeration, it more or less just gives you the ability to have an extra trigger finger. Player two does not show onscreen, but instead gets an extra gun sight to help knock out whatever might be coming your way. As helpful as that might be, it is a far cry from true two-player action. As long as you approach the game as a single player quest, your expectations should be easily met.
Sin & Punishment – Star Successor takes a very tried and true gaming formula and really puts a polish on it. Given that the Wii platform isn't really known as a graphics workhorse, the title does a fantastic job of maximizing what is there. As a relentless rails shooter, it combines just enough glitz and variation to keep things very engaging. Far from becoming stale too quickly, it actually has the potential to be a dangerous time thief. If you are a fan of the genre, proceed at the risk of your productivity.
Sin & Punishment – Star Successor is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence.
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