Robin Hood: The Return of Richard
WiiWare | Nordcurrent | 1 Player | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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18th July 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
Hopefully you're not expecting a full-on 3D adventure like Legendo's The Three Musketeers. Because what you have here is a simple, arcade shooter. Starting a new game will begin an adventure that will send you to 10 stages, each lasting three minutes in length. As you progress through the main game, you'll occasionally come across a screen of text that provides some back story for you, albeit it's nothing worth paying attention to. Now in each round, warriors and archers will run onto the playing field from either side of the screen. Using your Wii Remote with your hand pointed at the television screen, you press the A Button to shoot arrows at these targets. You only have a limited number of shots before you need to reload, so by pressing the B Button, you'll re-equip yourself with a full supply of arrows. Unfortunately, there's no strategy whatsoever in when to reload, so if you're expecting a reward for a wise use of ammo, you're sorely mistaken.
Bonus points are doled out for accuracy, though, which is nice. Making shots in succession without missing will earn you the maximum amount of points for each hit. In addition, phrases such as "Eagle Eye!" will appear on-screen to encourage the player for their good plays. Some stages also have special targets lying around that can be hit for bonus points as well, such as a bird, beehive, or even a vase. Conversely, you'll also lose points for shooting certain targets that you shouldn't, like putting down a villager who's stricken with panic. So taking all of these elements into consideration, it's a system that sharp shooters will be mildly-pleased over.
You'll only be able to see about a third of the playing field at any given time, so to move the background, aim your cursor towards the left or right of the screen. In the middle of the stage, there will sometimes be a tree or another structure that you can hide behind to protect yourself from the attacks of archers. From time to time, you'll also encounter an in-your-face enemy that may take a few hits to get rid of. The aforementioned units are the main attackers but as you get to later stages, you'll also have to watch out for peasants who use catapults to send giant boulders your way. But all of the other lackies just run across a field without engaging you in attack at all. There are some enemies that even carry torches in later stages, but these also just run along without even looking at you, much less burning down parts of an area.
And that's pretty much the gist of it. Beyond the central mode of play, there's also a Practice mode which acts as a Level Select option of sorts. Here you can play any of the levels you've already unlocked without having to sit through all the rounds before it. There's also a simple Options menu and a High Scores table. Surprisingly enough, there's no way to adjust difficulty settings at all. For many of the initial stages, you'll find that the game is quite easy, and you won't even come close to losing all of your HP. However, later stages introduce more enemies, requiring you to be a lot more quick on your feet. It's this kind of difficulty spike that's very frustrating if this forces you to lose all of your progress in the game. It's doubtful that you'll be motivated to pick up your bow and go through more than 10 minutes of playtime just to get back to where you were.
So, how does the game look? Well, as you can see from the screenshots, it's pretty mediocre. There's nothing flashy about it, and the animations don't stand out as being impressive at all. The layout is decent, with your health and time displayed at the top, and your quiver's ammo display on the bottom right. The timer blends in with the background sometimes which also isn't very good. While you play, it'll sound as if an army of soldiers is heading into battle, and hearing them exclaim battle cries constantly gets very annoying. Just as annoying is hearing the enemies utter a loud grunt everytime they are hit. Whenever you get hit with an attack, a white flash briefly appears on the screen. Sometimes, when you're off attacking enemies on one part of the playing field, you'll get hit by a giant boulder from another area. And since there's no warning sign or indication of danger, this can also get very irritating.
When I played this game, I expected some pretty dull music, given the atmosphere of the game. I was totally surprised by how good the songs in this game actually were! Most of the songs carry a medieval feel that start off decent. But slowly, they develop into what sounds like a mix of Euro, Dance and/or Electronica. This is easily the most impressive part of this release, and under normal circumstances, this would be a sad thing to say. But I think the music is a big strength that helps the player have a good time. If only the rest of the game had been given this kind of attention and effort.
Going through all of the levels in the game can get really repetitive, really fast. There's a handful of different backdrops that will set the stage for the task at hand, however, some of these are repeated very often, making the game feel very "samey". Added to the fact that there's only a few unit variations, and you'll soon realize that there's little variety to keep you motivated beyond the 5th Level. The game wouldn't be so bad if you had the ability to play in short bursts and coming back later. But here's the clincher: you're unable to pace yourself due to a lack of a proper save system. At the end of each new level that you encounter, a screen will pop up indicating that a save is in progress. So naturally, I thought to myself that all the progress I had made would be ready for me to pick up where I left off next time. Imagine my shock when I quit mid-way through the game only to find that nothing had been saved at all! I learned later on that this misleading save message referred to a new level being unlocked in Practice Mode. I'm sure you can just picture how frustrated I was, being forced to start from the very beginning.
To get through all stages in the game, you'll need to set aside at least 20 minutes of playtime and that's something not everyone will be prepared to do. And because the game wears off so quickly, it's extremely difficult to consider coming back to this if you even muster up the patience to make it all the way through. On the note of replayability, this game just screams for multiplayer support, and I'm rather unimpressed that this wasn't included in the final release. Although this is a port of an iPhone game, you would think the developers would go the extra mile to add in a competitive or co-operative multiplayer component. It would've made high-scores a more motivating feature, offered something to come back to and, most importantly, the game would be a more fun experience.
It occured to me that this would be the kind of game that would theoretically be good for an afternoon when you're tired of all your other games and want something new to play. But the incredibly-obvious flaws prevent me from recommending it, even for that purpose. This is a game that the most hardcore fans of this genre will struggle to develop an appreciation for. Although the music is surprisingly good, the structure and the lack of variety are just two of many inexcusable problems. These are heavy blows that should serve as a clear indication that Robin Hood: The Return of Richard is nothing more than a poorly-constructed, problem-filled port.
12/30 - Very Poor
Gameplay 5/10 - Inspiration is there but not fleshed out as well, definitely has the arcade feel down but the structure is problematic, far from compelling
Presentation 5/10 - The music in the game is far from dull, surprisingly good tunes, visuals aren't that great, animations need improvement
Enjoyment 1/5 - Initially offers some fun for arcade lovers, gets very boring, lack of variety and special effects, adventure is too long for a single session
Extra Content 1/5 - No additional modes, lacks multiplayer component (battle/co-op), lack of a proper save feature, high-scores aren't very motivating
Equivalent to a score of 40% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)