Holy Crap! Mukaitoge tries to drop another Elebits and fails!
Last December, Shingo Mukaitoge and Konami delivered unto Wii owners the kid-friendly FPS title Elebits. The game was praised for its childish and colorful take on the genre as well as its unique assortment of “weapons” and gameplay mechanics. Keeping to form, Mukaitoge and Konami have dropped yet another kid-friendly title on us, Dewy’s Adventure. This colorful, squeaky, and exceedingly frustrating title certainly has all the right stuff to guarantee it clicks with the target demographic; however considering the ridiculous difficulty ramping, it’s doubtful any child would have the patience to develop an ardor for the game.
The story goes a little something like this: In an obscure fantasy world occurring within the pages of a storybook, a happy race of mushroom-puff people named the Eau lived peacefully until the foul black rain of the evil Don Hedron poisoned the land. In response, the Tree of Seven Colors, which provided all magical energy for the world, used the last of its power to produce a single drop of water, Dewy. The player is asked with controlling Dewy (and the world around him) to wipe out the dastardly menace of Don Hedron - using the sweetest and most non-violent methods possible, of course.
The instant you start up Dewy’s Adventure you’ll immediately notice how the game was geared for children from the get go; the characters all squeak, chirp and beep, the environments are extremely colorful and friendly (along with just about everything else), and the interface is easy to navigate, full of bubbly menus and bright color schemes. All of this cheerful sweetness is carried over into the gameplay as well; unfortunately narrowing the target demographic down even more, rather than leaving it open for a wide range of age groups to enjoy as Elebits was. However, several aspects of the game do remain similar to Elebits, most notable of which are the absolutely gorgeous illustrations used during cutscenes, the memorable and catchy musical score, and the painfully bad English voice acting. The English dub of Dewy’s Adventure is almost certainly performed by the same actors and actresses that did Elebits, and it’s every bit as wretch-inducing as the previous game.
Elebits won over most reviewers despite its childish design principles due to the unique way in which it handled the FPS genre and utilized the Wii’s excellent control scheme. Even adults could have fun with Elebits, not just the children it was obviously developed in mind for. Unfortunately, Dewy’s Adventure features no such unique appeal, and while Elebits might have taken a new twist to the FPS genre, Dewy’s Adventure utilizes a ¾ isometric point of view, and controls similarly to Marble Madness. Just incase you don’t remember, Marble Madness was damned tough, and the Wiimote, while generally one of the most precise control schemes on the market, embodies a complete lack of precision in Dewy’s Adventure.
The player controls Dewy by using the Wiimote in “classic” mode, horizontally. The controller is tilted back and forth and side to side to correspondingly tilt the world around Dewy, making him slide around on his ass to get from point to point. The 1 and 2 buttons work to perform jumps and attacks. Dewy’s Adventure uses the motion control of the Wiimote to generate environmental effects as well, as shaking the controller up and down will trigger a violent burst of wind, whereas shaking it side to side to create a powerful earthquake. These abilities are useful mostly for stunning enemies and activating switches, although they do occasionally come in handy while activating platforms and whatnot that require them.
While this is all well and good, the most unique aspect of the game lies in the ability to change the temperature of the environment at will. Pressing the directional pad up will cause the temperature to rise, turning Dewy into a cloud of mist or steam. This enables the player to perform a powerful lightning attack, striking many enemies at once. Conversely, pressing down on the directional pad drops the temperature significantly, and Dewy will become Ice. Aside from altering the slipperiness of the geometry, this will give Dewy several powerful physical attacks as well. In response to these dramatic shifts in temperature, the world around Dewy will appropriately freeze over or display signs of intense heat; ice will melt or solidify, plants will wilt or close up, water will rise or freeze over, etc. Changing the temperature brings with it a sort of timer that slowly equalizes the temperature back to what’s considered “normal”, giving an extra little bit of frustration towards solving puzzles that depend on the temperature being low or high.
While the controls of the game offer it’s most unique aspect, they also lead to the game being incredibly frustrating, due to their imprecise response to player movement. Tilt the controller a little to the side and nothing seems to happen. Tilt it too much and Dewy will go flying off the platforms that comprise the level geometry. Every time Dewy falls off a ledge, he loses a bit of health, and while this would be perfectly acceptable if there were enough health power-ups present in a level to stave off imminent death, there simply aren’t. Health-giving objects, and enemies that might drop health do not respawn, so once they’re gone, they’re gone. Now compound this with the fact that Dewy tends to drown in water. Let me repeat that: Dewy, a drop of water drowns in water. He doesn’t die outright of course, but he does take damage if he comes into contact with the very substance that is him. These facts, combined with a ridiculously unbalanced difficulty ramping system, make the game far too frustrating for any child to possibly enjoy.
So where does that leave us? What we’ve got here is a game made for children but lacking any gameplay features that might draw in an older crowd of players. Add to this recipe a frustrating and imperfect control scheme with an unbalanced increase of difficulty over the first couple of levels, and our triptych from hell is complete. Oh, did I mention the title is laced with in-game advertising for one of Nestlé’s drinking water products? It really shows Konami’s commitment to the player to be willing to sacrifice what little of the 4th Wall that exists in this game to make an extra buck on the side.
While I praise Shingo Mukaitoge for trying, this time around it just didn’t come together that well. Elebits was successful in part because it played off one of the most popular genres of game design and twisted it into a unique format that people were genuinely interested in playing. Dewy’s Adventure does that too, but with whatever genre Super Monkey Ball or Marble Madness falls into, and while those games were certainly popular, they don’t have an incontrovertible hold on the industry that allowed Elebits to be as popular as it was. Please, try again Mukaitoge-san, I’ll be waiting for your next game.