Partnering with Tearfund

Disaster: Day of Crisis (Wii)

Rated: 16+ (which, to be honest, is extremely harsh for some gore-free shooting and a bit of mild swearing).

Story: You are Raymond Bryce, the only guy on the planet with worse luck than Jack Bauer. While working for a crisis management team in a West Coast US city, Ray discovers that the sister of an old friend has been kidnapped and he sets out to rescue her. His day starts with terrorists, then moves on to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, a grizzly bear and the threat of nuclear detonation. About the only thing not after him is a plague of locusts.

Gameplay: This is an odd one. It's a third-person adventure game where you wander round relatively confined areas searching for survivors to rescue and trying to find the way forward. You can jump and pull yourself up onto ledges but it's hardly Tomb Raider. Supplies, such as ammo and first aid kits, are hidden in crates you have to smash.

You don't get to shoot while exploring, though. When the bad guys show up, the action switches to a first-person lightgun style affair, where you point and fire with the wiimote. You can duck into cover but the game controls when you move forward. Good marksmanship earns points which can be used to buy new guns, upgrade existing ones and access shooting ranges.

There are also driving sections where you tilt the wiimote to steer as you avoid all manner of obstacles while attempting to outrun whichever cataclysmic disaster Ray is currently fleeing from.

As if this wasn't enough variety, there are also a number of wiimote-waggling minigames that come into play when aiding survivors. These include putting out fires, bandaging wounds and performing CPR. Successful rescues earn points that can be spent between stages to enhance Ray's abilities.

Completed stages can be replayed to gain more points, rescue any missed survivors and attempt a bonus challenge where hidden placards have to be collected.

Save System: The game can be saved properly after each stage but quitting to the main menu allows the last checkpoint reached to be saved as well. This is useful because some stages are half an hour long but it could be a problem if multiple people are working through the game at the same time - there only seems to be one mid-level save slot.

Comments: Imagine a straight-to-DVD action movie with added volcanoes and tidal waves and you'll have a pretty good idea of the plot of Disaster: Day of Crisis. The first sections are peppered with melodramatic cutscenes full of clunky dialogue that are particularly tedious if you've watched the video montage before the title screen, since this gives away most of the plot. Before long, however, everything becomes so cheesy and implausible, it's hilarious.

As far as the actual game is concerned, almost every aspect, from the graphics to the design, seems ripped from stuff that came out nearly ten years ago. It's SOS, Time Crisis and Stuntman all jumbled together with a distinct lack of polish. If it was on PS3 or 360 it would be laughable.

And yet, somehow, it works.

The developers clearly used the time they could have spent improving the script thinking up genuinely interesting stuff to do with the unique features of the Wii instead. Locating and saving the survivors is great fun, with the waggling actually adding to the experience for a change. Radio messages come in over the wiimote speaker, the shooting is entertaining and having to shake the controllers frantically to escape a tsunami adds to the immersion. The only issue is with the driving sections - the tilt control is good but the checkpoints are too far apart, leading to some frustration.

None of the gameplay elements on their own is done well enough to compete with other games but the mix produces something charming and original. Compared with so many other Wii games, Disaster is a delight.

Conclusion: Ugly, daft and archaic but still the best fun I've had on Wii in ages. Definitely worth a rental if you like adventure games and 24. (Works even better with jOG.)

Graphics: Reminiscent of an early PS2 game, complete with jagged edges, dodgy camera and dreadful textures. The moments when Ray has to munch on hamburgers the size of his own head are a particular highlight. It's a game you definitely have to love for its personality.

Length: Medium, provided you take the time to rescue all the hostages and investigate some of the extras.

Rating: 4/5.

No comments: