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Stop Stress: A Day of Fury - WiiWare Review

Game Info
Stop Stress: A Day of Fury

WiiWare | Abylight | 1 Player | Out Now | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility:  Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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5th December 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

The concept of having a game based on the idea of relieving stress is a novel one to say the least. Marketed as being the "funniest antistress game" with tons of potential, Abylight hopes to appeal to stressed-out Wii owners with the release of Stop Stress: A Day of Fury. The game is one of a kind, filled with action-packed gameplay around every corner, but is it really "100% fun" as the developers say it is? Not even in the slightest.

    You take control of Jack, a maniac of sorts who's apparently the most stressed-out man alive, with a creepy laugh and everything! Using FPS-style controls, players proceed through the game's levels, destroying environments and killing enemies as you make your way to the boss at the end of the chapter. The game contains three different difficulty levels, Easy Medium and Hard but no matter what difficulty you play on, you'll be tasked with the same mission objectives for each chapter. For instance, in the first stage, you'll wake up from a bad dream and have to go around your house smashing a series of annoying alarm clocks. Not only do you have no idea where the alarm clocks are, but in some areas, enemies will pop out of nowhere, forcing you to act quickly to avoid what could be an onslaught of attacks from different parts of a room. 

    For example, you'll find creepy crawlies such as roaches and hairy spiders that will jump and attack you from the floor, requiring you to crouch down to squish them. You'll also have to deal with annoying flies, creepy rats, and even zombie police officers. There are also some little mini-events and even boss fights which must be cleared before one can advance. These events are rather quirky and they make the game feel less of a chore with some pretty original confrontations. After all, where else are you going to be able to have a boxing match with a giant photocopier? Although the enemies fit with the nature of the game, they can be a source for much frustration when they appear in large clumps. We'll come back to this later so for now let's get into the game's controls.

    It would be unreasonable for someone to expect a deep control scheme like something you'd see out of Elebits (especially with a small-scale developer), but surely you'd expect the controls to work well either way. Unfortunately, controls will appear awkward at first for many once they first start playing. Instead of using the Nunchuk for movement, the device is used to control the camera, something that would've been much better suited to IR support. Pressing the Z Button will allow you to crouch down to have a better view of creepy crawlies on the floor or even to dodge attacks from enemies. Rather than allowing free roam movement, the developers decided to have fixed pathways whereby players use the D-Pad to move their character towards highlighted circles on the floor that tell you where you can go. After the second stage, you may start to get used to the controls but others will find the scheme to be a bit on the clunky side. 

At the start, you'll only be able to make use of a bed slipper to destroy items but as you progress in the game, you'll uncover new weapons to use including a mallet and a baseball bat. In the second stage, you'll even pick up a back of bricks and rocks that you can throw by holding the B Button as you swing the Wii Remote forward. Players can reduce their stress levels simply by destroying parts of the environment, earning them points for doing so. Although the swings are pretty responsive, the weapons in the game appear lighter than they really should be, where one thwack of a baseball bat is not good enough to demolish a whole bookshelf. You would think that you'd be able to shatter things or put a couple dents into something like a TV, but there's also no damage indication on any of the items you hit. As a result, players won't feel as satisfied as they should in being able to break things out of rage. 

    Occasionally, you'll also find bonus items that will help calm you down. Finding a steaming hot cup of tea or even gold bars can also help bring down your stress meter significantly. Thankfully these are used to a balanced degree: not too little to frustrate you on Hard Mode, but not too much that the game becomes a bit of a pushover. On the other hand, there are a series of negative bonus items that can also be uncovered. You'll also come across ticking time bombs that will cause a good deal of damage if you don't get out of the area. But don't worry: if you so happen to find one and enemies appear shortly thereafter, the hidden timer will pause until all of the enemies are defeated. 

The games uses a well-organized HUD to try to help players feel that sense of character interaction. There's a stress meter in the bottom-left hand corner of the screen that's represented by a picture of a beating heart that gets more and more red with each passing hit you sustain. As you sustain attacks and get closer to filling the meter, the edges around the screen will flash more and more red, and your vision will even become blurry as you reach the point of having a meltdown. This is a really nice touch and the developers should be applauded for trying to make the game appear more interactive. The rumble could've been put to good use here to represent the heart beat and sounds of phones and alarm clocks could've come out of the Wii Remote to engage the player even further but otherwise, the level of engagement is pretty good.

    All of the game's cinematics are presented in comic book-like animations with weird stylings that are, oddly enough, kind of cool. The menu layout is also really well done, especially with the large beating heart in the background. Although there are some good aspects to the game's presentation, the music is rather unappealing and repetitive. The game's graphics during gameplay aren't bad for a WiiWare game, but they won't leave you too impressed either. But considering the size restraints of the platform, you can tell they tried hard to make the graphics work and make the levels have some structure and substance to them. Equally commendable is the fact that the frame rate is mostly consistent, give or take a couple instances where it dips a bit.

    Despite some good gameplay elements, Stop Stress has a whole slew of flaws that make it more frustrating than anything else, and prevent the game from being as enjoyable as it should be. Let's start by discussing the game's replay value. Although the price tag could suggest a quest of lengthy stature, the game only contains four levels to speak of. Once you complete the final chapter, you'll be taken to your tropical island getaway and the final cinematic will play for you on screen. This can be quite disappointing for those that may have expected more out of a game like this because of the potential the game had. For example, it would've been nice to go to a Factory to fight off against evil robots, or even stroll through a park. 

    The game doesn't give you clear directives as to where certain objects are located so you have to go search out for them. As a result, players will find that too much time is spent just trying to figure out where to go, and this sort of trial-and-error system doesn't work too well here. Normally this wouldn't be annoying in itself if it weren't for one glaring issue: enemies respawning. It's very aggravating to have a swarm of spiders and other creepy crawlies re-appear when you just defeated them a few seconds ago. Probably the most annoying enemy of all is this creepy one-eyed monster that randomly appears, floating around your head attacking you every couple seconds. We can understand that the developers wanted to go for elements of randomness and surprise but really, this enemy does nothing but aggravate you. What makes it even more frustrating is the fact that the game gives no indication to tell you what direction an enemy attack is coming from and when you're already stressed out, this doesn't exactly lend itself to relaxing gameplay.    

    As if the game wasn't already unforgiving, the Hard difficulty setting is really only for patient, mild-tempered people. Not only are there are harder time constraints, but the stress meter fills a lot more easily. What complicates this further is the fact that bosses are even more ruthless on this difficulty setting and will only get you to lose your temper when Jack passes out from all the stress.

For those that feel so inclined, you're given the opportunity to return to the game whenever you feel like "de-stressing" on any difficulty level. High-scores are recorded for each chapter so you can return to beat your high-scores but there's wasted potential here as well without a leaderboard system. It would've been nice to be able to see how fast you can complete a stage but the game doesn't make records of this either. Ultimately, high-scores provide little to go back to beyond the main concept of using the game to relax so if you don't find the game compelling enough to return to it, you'll feel a bit short-changed for your points.

    I can't help but question what Abylight's motivation was as they approached some of the elements in this game. Just like some of its gameplay, their direction with Stop Stress is almost confusing. The developers have marketed the game to be the "most enjoyable antistress game" but really, I can't see why anyone would find the overall experience to be enjoyable. Even with a great deal of patience, the game is still very frustrating and you'll find yourself sighing a lot over many of the gameplay elements. Oddly enough, there are some moments in the game where a person can feel a bit of stress relief but Stop Stress ultimately causes more stress than anything else.

    Even on WiiWare, t
here are much better stress relief games that won't irritate you as much as Stop Stress. There is this idea of coming back whenever you need a break from a stressful day but that's assuming, of course, that the game won't turn you away in the process. There are definitely some good aspects to the game which is why I'd like to see Abylight try and develop another stress relief game. Still, despite the potential the game had, the game contains more frustrating elements than good, and it leaves players with a rather dissatisfying gameplay experience. For that reason, I can't possibly recommend Stop Stress to anyone.

17/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 7/10 - Controls could've been better, fundamentals are okay, overpowered by flaws, purpose of the game is lost
Presentation 6/10 - Repetitive music, average graphics, nice menus, HUD display and cutscenes, some spacious levels
Enjoyment 2/5 - One may be able to enjoy some aspects of the game, but overall it's just too frustrating
Extra Content 2/5 - The idea of coming back to "de-stress" falls apart when gameplay is a turn-off, high-scores are a wasted opportunity

Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Stop Stress: A Day of Fury
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