When I first got a Wii, my mind was racing with the endless possibilities the console had to offer. Sure, I was amazed with the Wii controls just like the rest of the world. But more than that, I was thrilled at the possibilities for a Nintendo console to finally go online. The world wide web and my television have never been fully acquainted. Thanks to the Wii, that was finally going to happen.
The first thing most people think of when they hear "online" and "gaming" in the same sentence is multi-player, be it in form of a massive RPG experience like World of Warcraft, or in a First Person Shooter like Halo or Quake. But not me. I'm too old for that new fangled stuff. When I think "online" and "gaming", I think homebrew. The internet offers an opportunity for budding game developers to distribute their games free of charge to both themselves or their audience. This gives them the opportunity to create small, independent gaming experiences with only a working online computer, programming skill, creativity, and strength of will.
Knowing this, I patiently waited for a homebrew game programmed specifically for the Wii's Web browser to come along and blow my mind. Now, 11 months since I first connected my Wii to the internet, a game fitting just that description, in theory anyway, has just been launched. It's called Hullbreach. And I just finished playing it for the first time.
First things first, Hullbreach is still in it's beta phase. And I don't mean "beta" like the Halo 3 beta released with Crackdown on the 360 earlier this year. I mean "beta" as in "amateur game developers still figuring out everything on their own program a game on their own" phase.
With that said, I'm still not sure if I'll ever enjoy this game.
It starts off strong with a highly detailed customization screen, where you can choose your ingame character's profession from a list of multiple options, including Android, Politician, (aren't they the same thing? Yuk, yuk, yuk) Space Pirate, and Bounty Hunter., among many others. I was half expecting to see Samus Aran or Ridley for Metroid show up next. I'd always hoped my free Web browser based Metroid MMORPG would be of the Lego variety. But beggers can't be choosers.
In the games pre-play creation mode you can also write up your characters bio, and tool around with multiple other features. You're given stats like in Dungeons and Dragons (+1 Intelligence, yadda yadda yadda) and can presumably choose from multiple ships, though I couldn't get this option to work. There were no instructions of tutorials to be seen, but I took that as a good sign, hoping that the game would be so easy to play that such things wouldn't be necessary.
And screen shots of the game looked like it may be a cross between the original Star Craft and and the Commodore 64 classic Elite. Hope was alive in my heart.
Only took a few seconds for my hope filled heart to be clogged with fatty suckage.
The game's gameplay, at this point in development, is non-existent. I don't feel it's even fair to critique it, because there is no way in heaven that this build of the game reflects anything that the game's developers envision for the final product. More or less, the only thing you can do in the game is turn your ship around.... slowly. This is done with the control pad on the Wii-Remote, left to turn left and right to turn right. After holding down left for a full two seconds, my ship had finally done a full 360 degree turn. Asteroids had better controls than this more than 20 years ago.
So, now I can turn my ship, but how about getting it to move? That I really couldn't comment on. My ship seemed to be moving, because the stars behind my ship (which I could only see after getting up and staring at my tv screen from 3 inches away) were moving around. But they weren't moving in any particular direction. So my ship could have been moving up, down, diagonal sideways, or completely stationary and I wouldn't know.
At one point, my ship did fly past a planet. I pressed every button on the Wii-remote to try and shoot it, turn towards it, slow down, speed up, do ANYTHING that would resemble gamplay. Nope. No dice. The planet just went sailing by, and with it any last hope that I would enjoy this beta.
Did I mention that this game was touted to be a Massive Multiplayer Online RPG? Well if I didn't it's because I probably forgot, as there were no other players to be found in the game's landscape. I know this isn't because there are no other players on the game, as when you first boot up the game's site it shows the most recent players who have registered to play. There were quite a few, so I knew there had to be some players on there somewhere. But as hard as I looked, I couldn't see anybody.
Plus and Minus buttons control zooming in and out of the area immediately surrounding your ship, and the 2 button brings up a screen alowing you to warp to other areas, places like "Aug Freeze" and "Sigma Gamma Sigma". The controls for this warp screen are almost completely broken, but after pressing the A and B buttons together about 10 times, eventually the game's HUD told me I had warped to a new area.
No matter how many times I warped, zoomed in or zoomed out, I could not find another living soul in the world of Hullbreach.
The game also featured some tabs in the bottom left corner labled "character's profile", "locations selected", "current missions", and "other ships in that sector". I clicked them by moving the Wii browser's cursor over to them and pressing the A button. After pressing each one pf them, they had one word to tell me.
My thoughts exactly. "None" chances I'm going to waste any more time trying to find some fun in this game.
Also on the site were playable game engine demos that only work on the Wii web browser. One called SpaceFox was a visual clone of StarFox on the SNES. Ugh. But it actually looked pretty great considering it was streaming live through the browser, and it played better than Hullbreach (not that that's saying much).
Screen Shot of SpaceFox Dogfight mode.
All in all, there is potential to be found with Hullbreach and the other projects at Hullbreachonline
. I am optimistic that either these games or other yet uncreated Wii web browser homebrew projects will give me an entertaining, unique, and most of all free of charge gaming experience on my Wii. But this beta isn't it there yet, and it may never be.
If I could just shoot, talk to, or at least see other players, and actually move my ship at all, then this game would have been fun. That's not asking a lot of a spaceship MMO RPG, even a free one. If those options are implemented and this game blows up to be the next big thing, expect me to brag about being one of the first to ever play this beta.
If not, then remind me to forget that this game ever even existed.