There’s just nothing quite like watching people getting bashed in the face, unintentionally flipped in the air or taking a hit where the sun doesn’t shine. Some folks claim that laughter is the cure for a broken heart, but witnessing these types of antics can actually make you laugh until you hurt instead. ABC has harnessed this perfectly in its hit television show, Wipeout. A watery obstacle course filled with hundreds of moving padded beams is just ripe for a hilarious takedown and the prize of $50,000 ensures that they’ll take the punishment repeatedly for our viewing pleasure too.
Taking a dive to bring the hit television series from the digital airwaves into the palm of your hands, Wipeout 2 encourages you to get friends and family together and compete against each other on two updated courses inspired by those actually found in the show. The show's witty announcers and host have been digitally recreated to give the game the feeling of being a real contestant on the show, but even though you won’t actually take a beam to the face, you might just end up feeling like you did.
The two courses offered here are based on those found in the Summer and Winter seasons of the game show and they transition into 2D platforming style quite well. The colourful obstacle courses are as inviting as the ensuing laughter from the slo-mo replays of the frequently brutal wipe-outs. And yes we did just say ‘frequently,’ as you’ll find yourself being constantly bashed off the courses, which is hysterical when playing with friends but simply frustrating when playing alone. Wipeout 2 is obviously aimed at those looking for a local party game, as only in the game's two-player mode can you hurl random objects at your opponents; adding treachery to the courses and ensuring those watching keep laughing.
In each of the game's two seasons you can participate in four different episodes, each broken down into four separate stages: Qualifier Round, Elimination Round, Final Four and finally the Wipeout Zone. The Qualifier Rounds and Wipeout Zones are basically gauntlet runs through two different courses; Elimination Round is simply a jump/duck mini-game against a spinning beam until the last person remains standing, and Final Four is where you’ll face off against an opponent, pushing and shoving to be the first across the finish line. Sadly, the only difference in each episode is a small progression in difficulty, meaning that there are only three real stages per season and six in the entire game; repetition sets in quickly here, especially when the entire game can easily be played through in one sitting.
Where Wipeout 2 lets its creativity flow is in its approach to controls with Move. As in most 2D platformers you run from left to right across the screen, but with only Move and no analogue stick and/or D-Pad, the T trigger is instead used to run or walk forward, depending on the amount of pressure applied. The Move button is used to instantly stop forward momentum and if held down will allow you to backpedal. Motion controls are therefore used to jump and duck via quick upward or downward motions, and also used when controlling your character in the air or on balance beams by simple left and right motions. A quick tutorial will help you to acclimate to the controls and once you’re finished you’ll find they work quite well and are easy to grasp, but difficult to master.
This creative way to control a 2D platformer doesn’t come without its flaws though. Many segments of the courses require precision platforming and it’s easy to pull the trigger completely by accident — initiating a run — when used in combination with motion controls, leading to many unintended wipe-outs. The last episode in both seasons can be especially frustrating, as between the controls and some seemingly unfair sections, one’s frustration levels will rise quickly.
It’s not all frustration though, as there are some nice little touches thrown in. We’ve stated it before, but the announcers, John Henson and John Anderson, narrate the entire game with whimsical one-liners and below-the-belt cheap shots – fitting as one of the show’s most popular obstacles are large rubber balls, called Big Balls – which become even funnier when you unlock the hosts as playable characters. Speaking of unlockable characters, there are quite a few to unlock and each of them are seemingly zanier than the last, which become quick fodder for the announcers to poke fun at for a few laughs as well.
While the game comes from a big budget game show, it has a seemingly low budget feel to it, with last-gen graphics, poor soundtrack and more. While no game breaking glitches were found in our playtime, we did come across a few annoying ones: a moveable lift in a course wouldn’t activate correctly during respawns and in Final Four rounds where you compete against another opponent, we spawned to our instant death far too many times, resulting in unavoidable ten-second penalties each time. Also, Xbox 360 owners can download a free title on XBLA called Crash Course, which offers an all-around improved game in this genre: graphics, sound, controls, courses, Avatar implementation, online leaderboards, etc., making this title feel extremely shallow for a retail purchase, especially for those who own a 360 too.
Bringing the thrills and spills of Wipeout to PlayStation 3 with Move seems like an instant win, and while it definitely can bring hours of laughs to a good party, there’s simply not enough content to keep single players entertained for much longer than a few hours. If you feel the urge to Wipeout anytime soon, you’ll be better off sticking to the TV.