2 Fast 4 Gnomz
3DS Download | QubicGames | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | $4.99 / £4.49
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23rd November 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
For those who (wisely) overlooked the game the first time around, the throwaway story goes that you're a gnome who is on a mission, at the King's request, to rescue the royal princess, and to do so while also collecting socks scattered about the land. The only real change over the WiiWare version is the presence of a new ranking system, where up to nine stars can be earned on each level for collecting all of the available socks, completing it in record time, and not losing a life. There are some minor adjustments in the way the game is arranged, now that this is a two-screen experience, but the overall aesthetic has remained the same and contributes to the same effect. You'd think the varied layering of solid colours and silhouettes against physical entities would lend itself to added enhancement through 3D implementation, but it doesn't. This blending effect was to the downfall of the WiiWare version, and, while not being as damaging, it is still somewhat in effect here. Oh well. At least they did away with those terrible stage names, so I can at least be content about that.
Gameplay takes the form of an endless runner, where the main control scheme to complicate otherwise single-button traversal rests entirely with the Circle Pad. Each of the four directions will allow you shape-shift and take on a different form. Each of these are designed for overcoming or interacting with specific elements, gradually being made available to you upon visiting castles that don't contain the damsel you're looking for. These are: gliding (Up) to skip over gaps or use vertical wind tunnels to get to a place higher up; super strength (Down) for demolishing trees and crossing tornadoes; super speed (Right) to dodge net traps and make longer leaps; and time control (Left) to briefly move in reverse, in conjunction with cuckoo clocks.
Separating these abilities into their own spaces, they're not bad ideas; nor are they poor grounding methods for the experience. As a matter of fact, the matter of controlling every which way during automatic movement isn't a concern due to the speedy responses whenever they are initiated. And the way they progressively add to the platforming component is done in such a way that the individual level designs demand quick-paced usage of these over the course of a stage. Adding to the validation is the way these abilities simultaneously tie in with seasonal changes seen in the environments visited. So with all this in mind, it can be said that there's been some attention to cohesion. Doing so, however, has resulted in the level designs suffering for a lack of thoughtful treatment.
It's interesting for me personally to once again be able to track how the order in which new abilities are added and the effects these have on the overall flow compound the experience like a slowly-delivered toxin. More and more, messy design begins to plague the experience, and you're reminded of this repeatedly. Too many times will players have to stop abruptly in the middle of a running motion to transform into the Viking, often for the purpose of slamming down to the ground to avoid hitting the edge of a platform that you'd otherwise hit with a normal jump. Following that, you often have to quickly bounce back from this phase to do something else for half a second, before switching to another, and then back again. The patterns, in line with what's being demanded from a layout standpoint, aren't fluid, and that's really because the designs themselves aren't well-designed. Besides just bringing out a frustrating dynamic to dilute the satisfaction of challenging, on-the-fly arrangements, the design is messy in a number of places, even erratic in the sort of behaviours players are expected to perform.
In terms of overall feel, aside from some minor technical concerns, I feel this is one of those cases where the handheld iterations functions and plays comparatively better than its console counterpart. But it still remains that what this game calls for isn't redeemed or scaled in tune with the widespread nature of the level designs. Some may be willing to give the game a chance just by reason of the sort of gameplay style that it caters to, but its irregularity in translating these ideas to a welcoming space is ultimately what will get you to think otherwise.
The handheld version of 2 Fast 4 Gnomz only reconfirms what I learned months ago with the WiiWare version. The main system of jumping between four different character states is made a frustrating affair due to level designs that truthfully aren't executed well, which not only casts doubt on the meaning of satisfaction as explored in this space, but also demonstrates how much mending is in order. Unless you're a really avid fan of endless runners and think you can put up with aggravation brought on by questionable design, you're better off devoting your time elsewhere.
15/30 - Very Poor
Gameplay 5/10 - Issues largely stem from the level designs, controls are mostly up to the task but the effectiveness of the mechanics is dulled
Presentation 6/10 - Blending effect caused by the backgrounds isn't as bad as before, wisely removed stage names, 3D isn't a strength, technical issues
Enjoyment 1/5 - Slightly better in feel than the WiiWare version but still predominantly frustrating, attempted satisfaction levels aren't genuine
Extra Content 3/5 - Incorporates a new and improved ranking system to try and motivate replay value, flaws produce a distancing effect
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