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Copter Crisis - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Copter Crisis

WiiWare | Digital Leisure | 1 Player | Nintendo Wi-fi Connection Pay & Play DLC compatible | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points 
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote; Balance Board
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10th December 2009; By KnucklesSonic8

After having developed its share of puzzle and card games, it certainly was a nice surprise to hear that Digital Leisure was developing a game set in a completely different genre. Copter Crisis is an arcade/action game where players are tasked with piloting a copter in a series of set challenges. The game isn't a flight simulator of sorts, so if that's what you're looking for, then look elsewhere.

    As part of an elite squadron, you are first required to complete a series of training missions. After all, you can't possibly help lost hikers if you don't even know how to navigate the chopper! To control the helicopter, players wield the Wii Remote upwards like a joystick, gently tilting in the desired direction. To accelerate, you press and hold the A Button, and use the B Button to fire missiles. It may be surprising to some that the Nunchuk isn't employed at all since it seems like a natural fit. Still, the control scheme is a neat approach and for the most part, it does work. It's a bit of a relief, really, since other developers have tried to implement similar control schemes unsuccessfully.

Each mission is preceded by a little preamble by means of a briefing that covers what you're required to do whilst incorporating a bit of a back story. The story may not be terribly compelling but it does have its moments. Consider for a moment, that the game could've easily just been a series of missions with no sense of progression whatsoever. For that reason, the fact that there's a story period is a nice addition, especially with the dialogue boxes that appear during gameplay.

    The story is split up into three Acts, each containing roughly 10 missions each. As you go about completing missions, you'll have to keep an eye on your Health and Fuel Guages. If your helicopter sustains too much damage, or if you run out of petrol, then you'll crash and fail the mission entirely. Thankfully, there are a series of Fuel, Health and Missile refills littered throughout each stage, as well as a special Shield that grants invulnerability for a short time. You'll also find a series of point rings with varying increments (the maximum being 5,000) which can add to your total score on a given mission.

You'll also be ranked on your performance at the end of each mission. There are secondary objectives that can be met if you're aiming for a higher rank, so there is some replay value there. If you reach the end of a stage within the alotted time frame, achieve a certain amount of points and do so without crashing all over the place, then you'll be awarded up to a maximum of 5 Stars for your persistence. Admittedly, not everyone will be excited about the idea of going back to complete certain missions over again, aiming for the best possible ranks. Still, it's nice that this option was included for those that want to aim towards completion.

Mission objectives aren't too demanding in themselves but some of them can wear thin after a while. The game asks you to complete certain missions more than once, so by the third time you're asked to, say, drop off shipments, you may start to grow weary of the missions altogether. At first, the training missions in Act I can appear to be a bit tedious but thankfully, the game does improve a bit once Act II rolls around. Once you hit the second Act, you'll be able to explore dark, dangerous caves to help with some scientific research. In fact, the act of exploring and searching for crystals in the secret underground city is actually one of the better aspects about the game. You'll also encounter a couple missions where your copter will be equipped with a head light as you patrol areas at night, looking for lost tourists and the like while dodging falling rocks. These missions are a nice change of pace but the game's missions will still border on repetitive for many.

Once you clear all three acts, you'll unlock a set of side challenges where you can aim for high-scores. For example, you'll be asked to complete a mission in the fastest time possible and other times you'll have to see how far you can travel without crashing. The latter mission is particularly interesting because you're forced to maneuver through chasms since you're prevented from flying over them. These are a nice little diversion and they add a bit more replay value, something to come back to after you complete the main missions.

    Digital Leisure also decided to take things one step further by adding in Balance Board support - something you probably didn't expect to see in a game like this. Thankfully it works well, thanks to the fact that controls seem to have been tightened up for Balance Board usage. Needless to say, maneuvering the copter won't prove to be an easy task, let alone doing so in the missions when you're inside the tunnels. Still, it's a nice addition for those that want to use it.

It's also great to see that Digital Leisure added certain features to add to the replay value of the game, although it's possible that this could've been taken one step further. For example, online leaderboards seemed like a good fit for the extra missions to give people more incentive after all of the missions have been cleared. Also, perhaps the game could've used a co-op feature, where two players can work together to complete missions, delivering shipments and the like over a single screen. It's too bad that these features were overlooked as they could've helped with the overall package.

    No game is without its flaws and Copter Crisis has quite a few, most of which are evident the moment you begin playing. For starters, the controls could use some work. The gameplay feels a little sloppy in execution with movements not transitioning as fluidly as they should, especially when travelling at fast speeds. This may, in fact, be tied to the controls of the plane itself, however, the game does offer downloadable content consisting of additional copters with better handling, so that might be worth looking into. Even without the additional copters, after a couple of missions you do get used to the control scheme despite the clunky feel at the start.

A more pressing issue is the fact that firing missiles is harder than it should be, since basically, you have to be either in front of it or directly in its path. If you're coming towards targets at an angle, you'll have more trouble than you should. Moreover, it can be frustrating when you have to fire missiles at enemy turrets that are trying to shoot at you. This requires some precision and the controls aren't as tight as they should be; younger audiences, especially, will find this to be difficult. One can work around this, however, by grabbing a Shield power-up and positioning the copter straight at the target in question. Still, firing missiles definitely takes some adjusting to so expect to lose a couple times on the missions that require the use of these projectiles.

    The game also has a few flaws in its presentation. For starters, the game looks like it belongs to an older generation of gaming, sporting graphics that will leave you unimpressed and possibly even turn you off. Problems also stem from other aspects of the game's presentation. When you're inside the dark tunnels, it can be hard to tell where you're going, especially when the walls get tighter and begin to shake. If you have a decent-sized TV and good eyesight, though, you can work around it.

The game's music mostly stays the same throughout all the missions, with basically only 2 tracks to speak of (excluding those found on the menu screens). There are a couple variations, though, such as when the music speeds up, which is nice since it helps the audio from getting too dull. Even with these slight variations though, when you have to hear the same songs over and over again, you can't help but feel this aspect could've been improved.

    There are a few missions where the weather changes by adding in heavy rain, but the rain effects could've been represented a lot better. Although it's claimed that the game features some missions with "severe weather conditions", really, there's only a relatively small number of missions where the weather changes, making this an underused element. It would've been better if there were times when perhaps it snowed, or when players had to fly during a thunderstorm, since there was a good amount of potential here which sadly wasn't used to its full degree.

    As touched on earlier, 
Digital Leisure also incorporated DLC to further extend the gameplay experience for those that enjoy it. The developers have added a total of 10 additional copters that can be purchased for 100 Wii Points each, but most will see this as a tough sell. It would've been better if DLC was sold in groups/packs, for example, having 2 copters for 100 points, or 5 copters for 300 points. Some of the copters still seem quite appealing and they've been reported to improve gameplay, but it would've been an easier sell if they were grouped together instead of offering them individually.

    Don't expect a whole lot going into Copter Crisis. It's a good concept muddled by a large number of flaws and if you choose not to get the game, you're not missing out on much. That being said, Copter Crisis just barely avoids getting labelled as an underperforming release, containing a decent amount of content with a bit to go back to for those that have the patience for it.

18/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Controls could be better, can be challenging, some missions are dull, arcade feel
Presentation 5/10 - Not too appealing, some details could've been better, music repeats too often
Enjoyment 3/5 - Despite its flaws, the game can be enjoyable, controls can make the game frustrating at times
Extra Content 4/5 - Rankings for each stage, DLC, additional challenges, and Balance Board support for the adventurous

Copter Crisis
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