Eduardo the Samurai Toaster
WiiWare | Semnat Studios | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now (North America) | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways); Classic Controller
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8th July 2009; By KnucklesSonic8
WiiWare has been home to many quirky titles with some pretty unique art directions since its inception last year, but few will come close to the unique art styles presented in Semnat Studios' first WiiWare game, Eduardo The Samurai Toaster. Semnat certainly has pioneered a winning title for the game with an interesting premise for a genre well-suited for WiiWare, but while the game may look the part, does the gameplay hold up?
Eduardo: The Samurai Toaster is, essentially, a run-and-gun 2D side-scroller. Players are tasked with defeating swarms of enemies in hope of reaching the end of each level. Controls are mapped very simply so anyone can just drop in to play the game and quickly get acquainted with the controls, which is great to see, especially when the game can be played co-operatively with up to three other gamers. With the Wii Remote held horizontally, the D-pad is used to move; the 1 Button is to use your melee attack (when up close) or to shoot out projectiles; and the 2 Button is to jump. Rather than simply leaving it at that, the developers also added in the B trigger which allows you to grab and throw enemy fire, and even enemies themselves.
Players can choose the difficulty setting to the way they wish and even choose how many lives they'd like to limit it to. You can set it to infinite lives if you want a more "relaxed" gameplay experience, or you can set it to one life to make for a more tense experience. The enemies come at a steady clip at first, but you'll soon notice that the difficulty can spike somewhat randomly in some of the levels beginning from the 4th stage onwards. Once again, this depends on the difficulty you play on. The game features a nice selection of enemies that range from giant grenade-throwing fruit, laser-shooting bumblebees, and spear-throwing carrots. After the first few stages, though, you'll have seen all the game has to offer as far as enemies are concerned. It would've been nice to see a greater variety of foes, especially since you'll be seeing them all throughout the game, even up to the last world.
The gameplay itself isn't terribly difficult, but it isn't very easy either. The difficulty is dependant, once again, on the settings you choose. Playing by yourself on the Normal difficulty can become a tad tricky once you reach the half-way point in the game, but generally, there isn't much strategy to the game as most will simply mash the 1 Button but others looking for more will make use of the B Button. Some enemies will release power-ups after you defeat them ranging from rapid-fire shots, to energy-seeking bombs, which also work nicely in mixing up the gameplay a bit.
While some may be very patient with Eduardo, others may quickly observe that the game gets rather repetitive early on, and the enemies are probably to blame for this. Thankfully, more patient gamers who stick it out to the end will notice that the level designs do improve when new elements are introduced, such as when the gameplay switches to more of a shooter, allowing you to knock enemies out of the sky, and when your character is able to manoeuvre through a stage or two with a vehicle that has a very useful laser gun. Sadly, something that's missing in all of the levels are any indications of obstacles. There are almost no puzzle or platforming elements to speak of, and that's very hard to overlook. Little things do well to mix up the gameplay a bit but they don't do much to change the fact that many of the game's stages have simplistic level design. What's worse is that these gameplay changes occur only at a few points in the game. If the game took advantage of these elements more, the game could have left a greater lasting impression.
Although Semnat Studios may not have created the most gripping gameplay experience, its the visual style of the game that gets the most praise. The game begins with a standard level decorated with some green hills, white blossom trees, and other samurai-esque landmarks. Slowly though, the game's visual style gradually changes and becomes more elaborate, from jumping across wooden platforms at night accompanied with some neat lighting effects, to worlds where ledges are made out of scribbles, as if done on paper. The game's a looker and Semnat Studios is to be applauded for its unique art style. All the way through, not once does Semnat forget the game they've designed by not going with artistic directions that are too "out there", but at the same time, they didn't work too closely within the boundaries either. At one point, there's even a volcano level where players must traverse across lava, dodge fiery rocks and more, and it's truly gratifying to see this.
What ties in nicely with the game's presentation is the game's music selection. While it doesn't ever convey a sense of intensity, the music helps portray more of a serene, calm mood whilst traversing through the stages. The mellow tunes very much suit the game, and the contrast of the challenging gameplay along with the relaxing music actually works really well!
Moreover, the focus on presentation in the game is evident from the very beginning, as one walks through hills through the opening credits before reaching the main hub, meaning that there are no real "menus" to speak of. It's too bad that the focus on art direction wasn't extended towards other elements in the game's presentation: the options in the Pause Menu use a very basic font and even when playing by yourself, the Health and Ammo Bars can be hard to see. It would've been nice if there was some sort of an in-game timer to add to the challenge or even have a high-score meter but alas, both are absent, although maybe Semnat Studios felt it was for the best in the end. On occasion, one may even experience some awkward camera angles when things zoom out to show an overview of a larger group of enemies and it can be hard to see your character amidst all of the action. These, however, are not game-breaking elements but rather just little nitpicks to contend with in the game's presentation.
With that in mind, when you look at all of the changes in level backgrounds and art styles, it's hard to ignore one of the game's biggest omissions: a storyline. It's very clear that a story could've been developed for this game, especially given the different environments the player must cross. When reaching the final stage and seeing the abrupt end, one can't help but wonder why a story was not included! It's really too bad that this was overlooked because a storyline would've worked really well in this scenario.
Eduardo The Samurai Toaster doesn't really do anything new or innovative but it does provide a fun experience - provided you stick with it. One may find the game overpriced, especially given the fact that the game can be played in a few short hours, but clearly, that wasn't the intention. As the game was being developed, Semnat Studios spoke highly of the game's co-op / multiplayer and there's a reason for that. The co-op is something that can be hugely enjoyed amongst friends, and for those looking for a nice companion to other WiiWare games that highlight a good co-op experience, this game should certainly appeal to you. Co-op games are a bit lacking on the WiiWare service, and it can be said that this is definitely one to add to the list of good co-operative titles. If you are mostly going to be playing by yourself, expect to plough through the game in its entirety in just a few sittings - maybe even one! However, more devoted fans can opt to go back and replay stages on harder difficulties or by adjusting the settings to make them more challenging with a lower number of lives, so both of those elements do well to extend the replay value a bit.
All in all, if Semnat Studios can learn from the flaws of their first WiiWare release (most notably, the game's length, the simple level designs and menu presentation, and the lack of a storyline) they could be well on their way towards making more inspired, art-focused games for the WiiWare service in the near future. For now though, Eduardo The Samurai Toaster is still a good first effort from the team, and it really shouldn't go ignored.
20/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Slight repetition and simplistic level designs; changes in gameplay really add to the experience
Presentation 8/10 - Art direction is pretty impressive, presentation not so impressive; music is very calming amidst some tense situations
Enjoyment 3/5 - While short, it is fun while it lasts; features an enjoyable co-op experience with 2-4 players
Extra Content 2/5 - Lack of a storyline is a big hit; little replay value for solo players, could've done more to reward devoted players
Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)