2 Fast 4 Gnomz
WiiWare | Qubic Games | 1 Player | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways)
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13th April 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
2 Fast 4 Gnomz gets players started by instructing them to find the princess and collect hundreds of socks. With that super simple premise in mind as a workable "story", you're sent off sooner than a vending machine spews out purchasable food articles. The game takes the form of an on-rails platformer where (get this!) the character is always on the move and you simply press buttons to change his response to oncoming tribulations. Without going any further, once I came to this realization after playing the first level, my first impression of the game gravitated towards viewing this as childish version of the mightily-successful BIT.TRIP RUNNER. However, the design quickly morphed my opinion of the game into something different, as you will soon learn.
Controls first involve using the 2 Button to jump over holes and traps, with only a set angle and distance ruling out high and low launches based on how much you hold down the button. While aloft, pressing Up on the D-Pad will open up your parachute so you can glide in the air for a short while. As you progress in the game, the Down, Right, and Left buttons will be used to alter your character's behaviour to get past certain kinds of obstacles (more on that in a second). Almost as though it were trying to ensure sympathy votes over RUNNER's strict performance system, the game also incorporates checkpoints to segment the action better and have you returning to these as the need arises. Before you label this as a knock-off, though, there are some aspects that make it a little unique.
The main gimmick seen here lies in the ability to change forms. You will go from being the normal character with standard properties, to a heavyweight that can go through tornadoes untouched and knock specific obstacles out of the way; a blue gnome that runs at faster speeds; or an elderly time wizard that can literally turn back the clock -- cuckoo clocks, to be exact -- and rewind time for a short spurt. These character changes are introduced gradually as the main character visits each new castle along his journey, and as he does so, the levels adapt by forcing you to make use of these different forms as the types of obstacles you're faced with alternate more and more.
With a goal of trying to create an atmosphere of challenge, a greater number of the level layouts actually present frustrating designs. In some cases, it's as if they got the basic level structure down and went back to add in additional traps just for the sake of being difficult. These are, in fact, gimmicky attempts that simply reflect carelessness over creativity. The degree to which this component becomes a point of frustration is minimized slightly by the brevity of some of the levels, as well as the intentional presence of a checkpoint system. Still, the sometimes tight reflexes that are required don't actually prove to instill a sense of satisfaction even when you manage to collect all the socks in the end.
One of the common issues I have with the level designs is the fact that obstacles are hard to distinguish apart from the rest of the environment. Stumps and spike traps blend into the background too much, while rocks and patches of grass having the same appearance can actually be bypassed as they actually are a part of the background visuals. This confusion happens a lot throughout the experience, and when you're traveling at fast speeds as the blue Viking, it can be hard to judge when to jump at times.
On a related note, it must be noted that until this second form change comes along, the game feels like a chore to play. Because the level of frustration attributed to the level design leading up to this point proves to be more of a downer than anything else, the introduction of this fast-moving character gives players a bit of stability as they prepare to mentally give the game a second chance. Sadly, it's not long before you realize that the flaws with the design go deeper than just the layouts. It's also the execution of the form-changing system that actually puts a damper on the experience as you move forward.
Although the game usually provides warning signs to indicate upcoming control switches that will be required, these changes don't lend themselves to instinctive reactions from the player when something like this is suddenly asked of them. Time and time again, you'll encounter segments where you need to switch out of one phase and go straight to the other two transformations almost back to back. It feels clumsy at best, especially having to continuously jump back and forth between the red and blue forms across a series of obstacles, since they are the slowest and fastest of the bunch.
Just in looking at the third form change with its integration of time travel, what this does is it turns the otherwise linear flow of each level into something a little more interesting. Jumping on or colliding with a switch, then triggering the rewind will allow you to travel down one or two other different paths as you make your way to the very end. This also gives you a second chance at collecting socks that you missed along the main path, so that's a plus. But in all honesty, I couldn't see this as a justifiable element to the game. This addition is something the game could easily have done without it, but they probably felt they needed something to continue the changes occurring at every castle marker.
It's interesting to see how developers chose to emulate the stylings of another developer once they've capitalized on and really owned a concept or method of execution. In the entire time that I played 2 Fast 4 Gnomz, I kept thinking how much the gameplay resembled that of RUNNER and how much I wanted to play that game instead. The abrupt changes between forms seen at the base of the design is something both games share, but the more you play this, the more you begin to appreciate how careful tailoring has led RUNNER to be the success that it is. When you try to do something similar but fail to consider all the available elements as a whole piece for creating immersion, the design suffers.
2 Fast 4 Gnomz picks up on the same style that was present in Qubic Games' earlier WiiWare title without ever adding to it. Some backgrounds look like they were put together somewhat quickly, with white lines that divide up the different units being visible in some areas. Although layering is explored, the background visuals along with the other little touches don't add to the game's shying away from instant appeal. And just like the gameplay, the music is repetitive and irritating after a while. Minor glitches are also seen on occasion. There was one segment where there was a tornado, followed by some inconspicuous spikes, with a tree right after. Every other time I tried knocking that tree down, I was the one who found himself knocked out. I had to try at least five times before that tree would break even though I was running with the red transformation in play. There are a couple other minor things, like when the on-screen character would bounce after landing on a platform when it shouldn't have, but they're not really worth going into detail. Just knowing that they exist is sufficient.
In hopes of trying to add light-hearted appeal of humor to the game's thin laurels, simply-illustrated cutscenes are added at certain points in the adventure. You'll watch as the main character kisses a frog inside a castle thinking it'll turn into a princess, when in fact it's actually a unicorn or a ninja in disguise. Presumably adding to the humor exhibited by the developers, the naming of the stages seems really odd; names such as Painless, No Problem, Obvious, and... No Bother? More like don't bother (sorry, couldn't help myself). I'm not quite sure how they thought this would be a clever way of approaching it, unless they considered this would somehow encourage reverse psychology.
Just when you think the game is over, the 40th stage will lead you to the back of the map for an additional set of levels that not only take place at night, but the layouts will have a reversed order to them where players will run from right to left (along with a minor change in the controls). Because the game has you in this set route all the time, a change such as this feels really weird when you actually witness it. It's almost like looking at an optical illusion for a period of time and suddenly seeing an image pop up from what you were staring at for so long. At any rate, it doesn't really make a difference as you will have absolutely zero interest in continuing to put up with the game if you even have the patience to get to this point in the first place. The very thought of going for all the socks on every single level isn't appealing either, so although they've made room for replay value, it's ultimately a moot point since players will resist getting to the end of the game, much less making plans to hang around.
All things considered, 2 Fast 4 Gnomz is kind of lousy for a game that portrays a style resembling a like-natured game. The main difference here is the design, which leads to feelings of frustration on a frequent basis. That, and the fact that 2 Fast 4 Gnomz isn't fun. Funny, maybe. But fun? No. The total absence of any kind of satisfaction sends you packing fairly quickly, even as the game presents new elements to try and hold your attention. Whichever audience the developers had in mind in the making of this game, I can't see anyone genuinely wanting to give this the time of day.
12/30 - Very Poor
Gameplay 5/10 - Gradually adds new elements but not all work well, problems with the level designs, frustrations still arise despite the checkpoint system
Presentation 4/10 - Same style as Gnomz, personality seen in cutscenes, not very appealing, odd stage names, traps blend in, irritating music, glitches
Enjoyment 1/5 - Flaws make it much more frustrating than fun, a chore to play until the second form change, feels abrupt in places and clumsy in others
Extra Content 2/5 - A bunch of stages to conquer but you won't be willing to tough it out, grabbing collectibles isn't satisfying due to the flaws present
Equivalent to a score of 40% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System