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HoopWorld - WiiWare Review

Game Info

WiiWare | Virtual Toys | 1 Player / 2 Players (local multiplayer) | Nintendo Wi-fi Connection Pay & Play DLC available | 
Out Now | 1,000 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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2nd August 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

Since it was announced for WiiWare, I've been keeping my eye on this game. What you may not know is that HoopWorld was originally destined for the XBLA platform, but was later developed for WiiWare with the help of Virtual Toys. And boy am I ever glad they jumped ship. HoopWorld is one of the most exhilarating WiiWare games I've purchased this year. 

    The game is based in the roots of the classic sport of Basketball, with items and a stronger offensive focus creating a new dimension of gameplay. The HoopWorld universe has brought a selection of teams together to face off against one another. Each threesome has their own reason for arriving on the scene, whether it be to look for hidden power, or just relax. At the heart of this special world lies dormant secrets found within sacred temples that have been lost for some years. It's a nice fantasy plot to tie things together, and I only wish it were explored a bit more. But I digress. 

    Here's how you play the game: at the start of a match, one person from both teams will converge in the middle to see who gains possession of the ball first. Jump in the air by holding B as you shake the Wii Remote. When the match begins, you control your active character by using the Control Stick on the Nunchuk, and when you're on defense, you can switch teammates by tapping the Z Button. Shaking the Wii Remote with the ball in your hand will pass it to a nearby team member, but if you can also direct your passes manually by holding down the Control Stick in the appropriate direction. And when the other team has possession of the ball, you can shake to attack and try to nab a steal.

Shooting involves raising both controllers with a quick jerk upwards. And if you get a swish, points are awarded depending on the zone you're standing in when you make the shot, just like in a standard game of B-Ball. Short-range attacks are fairly easy to get in, but long-range attacks are more tricky. Advanced players do have the option of holding the Z Button as they shoot the ball to pull up a Precision Meter. This special gauge will allow you to have more of a say over the accuracy of your shot. The catch? You need to act quickly to follow the needle, and if you take too long, your shot will be a complete dud. Getting the needle in or close to the red zone is your best bet of making a successful shot, but make no mistake that it's no guarantee that you'll get it in for sure. This will only happen if you time things perfectly and land in the red zone, with the word "OK" appearing.

    You also have a few other moves in your arsenal. Holding B and shaking the Wii Remote can be used to deke and get around an annoying opponent, or when someone is taking a shot at your net, this same move can be used to jump in the air in attempts to block the ball from going on. Pressing the C Button will give your team members a temporary speed boost that will leave behind a trail of blue sparks. Both boosting and deking will zap power from the energy meter shown underneath your highlighted character. Energy automatically recharges as you play, so just be conscious of making too many moves in one play.

    From time to time, i
tem boxes will magically appear on the court. These can give you an upper hand when you're down for the count or when you want to secure your lead. Walking over them will start a roulette and once it has stopped, you can activate your power-up by pressing the A Button. Some like the 'Energy Surge' last for 15 seconds, some effects are instantaneous such as the 'Bomb Ball', while others like the Golden or Shadow Ball remain active until a goal has been made. There's a good number of items in the game, and none of them feel overpowered. Using them requires careful forethought and strategy, as poor timing can either be a big waste or end up putting your team at a disadvantage. 

    There's a total of 6 different courts to play on, a third of which aren't unlocked from the get-go. There are even some nods that hark back to the overarching premise of ancient ruins and such. All of the environments are fantastic in appearance, as are all of the character models, menu designs, and layouts that make up the entire game. And seeing yourself perform dunks, causing rims to go on fire is pretty sweet. It's really impressive stuff for WiiWare standards, with no evidence of slowdown whatsoever! And the musical soundtrack for the game is just as memorable. There's a handful of bass-bumping tracks that are incredibly catchy, to the point that I found myself humming along with a good chunk of them. 

HoopWorld has 3 different modes to choose from: there's Quick Match where you can face a friend or CPU in a pick-up game, Tournament Mode where you go through four rounds of battles to earn trophies, and Survival Mode where you continuously play until a team defeats you. Tournament Mode will be your main venue of choice when playing on your own, as you try to understand the controls and unlock everything this game has to offer. Four difficulty settings are offered: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Crazy. So, how's the difficulty range? Well, it's certainly very challenging, I'll tell you that much!

    In particular, once you unlock Crazy mode, your opinions on the game could very well change. The fact of the matter is that trying to clear an entire four-round tourney on this setting will prove to be very frustrating. The AI here has some of the strongest skills I've seen in recent games, and it instantly reminded me of the difficult computers from Mario Strikers Charged. If you want to have any hope of coming out on top, you had better be really good at the game. Intercepting, and blocking are an absolute must if you want to succeed, as is having a good deal of patience.

    Matches can be extremely intense, where anything can happen during the last few seconds. Just when you think you have a strong lead, the computer will pull out all the stops to make sure you don't advance to the next round. My heart was racing as I was playing, and at one point, I had to take a break to relieve all the tension that had built up inside of me. It's downright aggravating when the computer consistently sinks in shots from half court, and when they seemingly don't have a limit on the number of boosts they can make. But those who actually stick through it will come to a realization about the game.

After I got passed that ridiculous hurdle, what happened next was an experience that made me feel good inside. I went back to play against Hard CPU's and I noticed a drastic improvement in my skills. Opponents I had once considered to be tough were now trailing behind by a significant margin. Only on select occasions did the computers actually pose a threat to my success. And to think, I only had to a defeat a really, really difficult bunch of teams to realize it. If anything, facing off against the AI served as a great training exercise, and it kept me motivated to see everything the game has to offer.

    Seeing the fruits of your labor really come into play when you play multiplayer matches with friends. Not only are games really suspenseful on an even playing field, but you'll find yourself literally fighting and trying to outsmart your rival just to sink a basket. It's a huge shame that you can't take your skills online, and this is ultimately my biggest gripe with the game. HoopWorld's mechanics and incredibly fun gameplay are perfect for online gameplay. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that you can send your scores from Survival Mode to the worldwide leaderboards. But had the developers taken the time to add online, the appeal and longevity would've grown very much.

I was surprised to see that there were no Achievements in this game, since this also seemed like a perfect fit. Unlocking medals of some kind for performing special tasks like having an opposing team end with no points at all, would've added even more motivation to continue playing. However, Virtual Toys plans to follow up interest in this game by DLC to the already-included Shop option. At this time, there's no downloadable content to speak of, but I sincerely hope fans of this game express themselves on what they'd like to see. Then it'll be up to the developers to listen to the fans. So long as this opportunity isn't wasted, I'll be happy to pay for worthwhile add-on's.

    Despite the noteworthy amount of frustration I encountered with the game's Tournament Mode, HoopWorld is still one of the best games I've played all year. This game is a lot of fun, and I had a much more enjoyable time with this than I did with a majority of WiiWare games I've played to date. I still wish online was added, as HoopWorld would've been a blast to play online. But I'm hopeful that Virtual Toys will at least follow through on their promise to add fan-requested downloadable content. As if you couldn't already tell, I highly recommend you give HoopWorld a purchase. If you're worried about the controls, all you need to do is just let loose and have fun. Mastering them will come in time, as was the case with me. It's totally worth the points, especially if you're looking for a new multiplayer game for your Wii.

27/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - Controls may be tricky at first but with persistence you can master them, the wacky nature keeps things interesting, progression of skills
Presentation 10/10 - Good-looking environments, cool effects, variety of likeable character models, contains some really catchy music, no slowdown at all
Enjoyment 4/5 - Even facing the CPU can be a lot of fun, matches can get very tense keeping you engaged constantly, Crazy mode can be very frustrating
Extra Content 4/5 - Local multiplayer, unlockable teams and courts, Survival Mode, online leaderboards, downloadable content, no online is disappointing

Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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