WiiWare | Grendel Games | 1 Player / 2 Players (local co-operative play) | Out Now (
North America) | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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10th May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
You take on the role of a blue-tailed organism whose job is to fend off against swarms of bacterial creatures. You're thrown into a petri dish full of coloured water and as if a microscope were observing all the action on-screen, it's a battle to see who prevails in the end. Although there's no real story to speak of, players will get a sense of what's at stake just by playing for a few moments.
Controls are mapped to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, with the latter being used to direct movement of your on-screen creature. Using a quick snap of the Wii Remote, you can use your long tail to attack enemies. Hold the controller flat with the buttons facing upwards, and follow-through with a quick jerk in the direction you'd like to target. It takes some time to adapt to for sure, but with some practice and some forethought to your positioning, you'll be able to produce the desired effect. Pressing the A Button will activate your shield but in order to do that, you'll need to ensure you have enough energy in the blue gauge on the left-side of the screen. During this time, you'll be protected from enemy attacks, but your shield will also double as a containment unit which can hold bullets and fire them back at enemies. Again, you'll need to plan ahead, and use a quick swift of the Wii Remote to execute this defensive move properly.
The gauge on the right of the screen represents your Synergy, green orbs that emit from enemies when they are defeated. When you have enough power, you can press and hold the B Button to unleash a furious spin attack that will damage enemies. You can adjust the direction slightly with the Nunchuk, but because you're going at a fast pace, it's better to strategically position yourself towards the target before attacking. Each attack you use is linked to either a Offensive and Defensive attribute. Defensive moves are trickier to pull off, but they can net you significantly more points. Regardless of which tactic you use, combos are achieved for successful attacks made in sequence.
The game makes use of an interesting palette of enemy models that resemble alien starships. You have a mix of attack patterns as well, from thorn-spewing scorpion-like creatures, to bullet-shooting drones. You'll need to survive as long as you can and clear the screen of all infectious bacteria to the best of your ability. More importantly, though, are the red spawn creatures that serve as big threats to your progress in the game. These will grow gradually and if they get too big, an "Alert!" warning will flash on the screen, indicating that you're in danger. Shortly thereafter, it will begin to fire bombs at you at an increasingly-fast rate until you die. Thankfully, you can fire them back at them using your tail, but the pace will eventually get too fast if you don't defeat it fast enough. A couple spin attacks will be sufficient to defeat these creatures, so you'll need to think ahead, save enough Synergy for these moments, and plan carefully to maximize its effectiveness.
When it comes to the matter of content, there are 5 chapters with a total of over 70 levels. On occasion, you'll encounter bonus "Spinball" stages where you're under spin attack mode constantly, having to use a limited amount of Synergy to defeat as many spawn as you can. End-of-chapter stages also feature "Endurance" trials where you try to survive hordes of enemies for as long as possible. New chapters bring forth new music and background colours, so this certainly helps keep things varied and interesting. The music in the game certainly has a retro feel to it and the action can get very tense. So much so, that at some points, you may experience a slight slowdown in framerate. But otherwise, there's a lot of content included in this package.
The question is, though, will you get to see all of the stages in the game? Not very likely, I'm afraid. You see, there exists a single design flaw in Diatomic that will make this seemingly-great experience into a source of much frustration. The most aggravating part of the gameplay is the fact that you only have one life - get hit by enemies once, and you're eliminated and have to start over. No additional lives of any kind to keep you in the same level. There is a Continue option but while keeping your score in tact, you'll still need to start from the beginning of the stage. Considering that you'll need to dodge lots of enemies and bullets in many of the stages, the fact that there's only one life hampers the game tremenduously. What was a good concept and a potentially-fun experience becomes something that's just plain infuriating. And if you're the type of person that doesn't have patience for this sort of thing, you won't get very far.
As a result of this major flaw, just clearing a level gives you a big sense of accomplishment, never mind getting on the high-score table! It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour before you finally begin to try to manage playing in spite of this big annoyance over your shoulder. And even then, you might not even make it beyond the first two levels. It can be hard to keep a score alive, but there are two leaderboards where players can view their best Offensive and Defensive high-scores. Wherever your score lies depends on which behaviour you take advantage of most during your playthrough.
It's awfully frustrating for me to see how close Diatomic is to being a good game. It's terribly marred by a crippling design choice that will prevent you from enjoying this game as much as you should. As a result, Diatomic is just too challenging for its own good and impatient gamers will want to disregard this title completely. If there were some way to update the game with a life system, the game would be so much more enjoyable. And to be honest, had that been fixed, the game would've scored much higher and I would be able to suggest it to others with a clear conscience. But when reality hits, anyone who purchases this will just be left with negative emotions, and for that reason, I have a hard time recommending this to even the most patient of gamers.
15/30 - Very Poor
Gameplay 4/10 - One-life system destroys the game and prevents it from scoring higher, motion controls take time, swarms of tough enemies
Presentation 7/10 - Looks good overall, nice ripple effects, pleasing electro-themed music, specific leaderboards, cool enemy models, framerate dips
Enjoyment 1/5 - Even with much patience, it's still a lot more frustrating than fun, one-life system prevents you from enjoying it
Extra Content 4/5 - Lots of stages, unintentionally lengthy because of how hard it is to beat a stage, minimal co-op
Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)