I love playing games on the Wii U, but I run in to the same problem with every one of them. I find myself looking down at the screen on the GamePad more than up at the beautiful HD visuals on the TV in front of me. I play games on the Wii U as if I'm playing a handheld like the 3DS; head down, shoulders slouched, never looking up. It's a weird sensation, as I always feel like I should be watching the screen, but I'm a creature of habit.
Evidently, Two Tribes has ported its PC puzzle game Rush over to Wii U with me in mind. The entire game focuses solely on the GamePad's screen itself, and utilizes its unique control scheme to that effect as well.
Oh, and it's excellent.
Rush (Wii U) Developer: Two Tribes Publisher: Two Tribes Release Date: December 12, 2013 MSRP: $1.99
Rush released on PC in 2010, and much like that mouse-centric version, the Wii U release relies on only one way to control the game: the touch screen. In each three-dimensional level, you must guide cubes by placing directional signs, stop signs, conveyor belts, and more tricks to get the cubes to their correspondingly colored exit boxes. With the stylus, you'll rotate the level, zoom in and out, and place each piece as needed before clicking the check mark to release the cubes and watch them rush in hopefully the right direction to their proper zone.
You're only given a certain number of signs to use to get the cubes home, and the strategy here it to place them in the right spots so everything flows once you hit the button to release the cubes. If you misplace something, or the cubes don't move in the way that you'd expect, you just try again. Most levels allow you to ask for hints if you're stumped, of which there are two kinds: one hint tells you if the signs are placed correctly, while the other where signs should be placed -- though it won't tell you specifically what should be placed there.
There are multiple difficulty levels, though the jump from easy to medium is noticeably off-balance. All the puzzles on easy can be solved very quickly, while medium seems to ramp the difficulty up more than "medium" would be categorized. Having to place signs and belts in precarious caverns that the cubes drop down into becomes very difficult, and hard only amps that.
However, for the majority of the levels, you'll have your hints, and that's both a help and a hindrance. I didn't want to rely on them too much but if I got stumped, they'd be there and would help me figure out where I needed to place my signs. The issue I have however is that there's really no benefit or deterrent from using them. As there is no score, and you can use the hints as many times as you need, it sort of seems like an unfair advantage to have them at all.
Still, on some of the harder difficulty levels, you don't have any hints at all. The best -- and most aggravating -- levels are the ones listed as ACTUAL challenge, where GlaDOS from Portal narrates (and berates you) as you guide companion cubes to the properly-colored exits. I have yet to beat a single level in this difficulty setting.
What it comes down to, however, is the level design. Each stage is so intricately set and laid out that half the fun is watching it appear before you, noting where the cubes start and where they need to end up, and saying "Ooh, I wonder how I'm going to get them there!" Seeing how many signs you have only amplifies that, and the challenge of where to place what is simple, brain-teasing fun.
For the price, it's an excellent value, giving puzzle fans over 70 levels at various stages of difficulty. While there isn't much control other than with the stylus -- you can actually zoom using the GamePad's trigger buttons, but not really anything else -- you honestly don't need it, as rotating the levels and placing the signs is all handled beautifully with the touch screen. Still, you'll spend all your gameplay hunched over your GamePad trying to place things. At least other people in the room can see what you're doing on the TV, but it's not much of a spectator sport. At least, not until you click the bottom to have the cubes start to rush home.
Charming - Not perfect, but it's easy to ignore the rough spots when faced with so many engaging design decisions and entertaining moments. A memorable game that's hard not to like and recommend to others.
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