Thursday, November 6, 2014

Art of Balance (Wii U eShop) Review

If you're looking for a game to rock your block off and you're a Nintendo enthusiast, you've no doubt come across or at least have heard of Shin'en Multimedia's Art of Balance series. If not, are you ever lucky because I have just the review for you! It's Art of Balance of the Wii U eShop.

Easy does it, now... Easy does it..!

Shin'en Multimedia is a German independent developer that is no stranger to Nintendo platforms, having worked on several Game Boy Color, Advance, Nintendo DS, Wii, and Wii U titles. With Nano Assault Neo X having just released on the PlayStation 4 and with FAST Racing Neo releasing soon on Wii U, Shin'en is as busy as ever. Despite this, that hasn't stopped the studio from releasing a peaceful, almost zen-like experience on the Wii U eShop with Art of Balance, which had games in the series on WiiWare and the 3DS eShop in the past. If you've yet to see what Art of Balance as a series offers players, now is as good a time as any to open your eyes!

The gang at Shin'en is known for their expertise with getting the most out of the systems the studio works with. This holds true with the Wii U and Art of Balance, whether it's in the amazing backgrounds, brilliant water and accompanying water effects, and the physics system in place. It's pretty much nice design all over.

That review tagline wasn't any joke.
Easy does it, now, indeed!
The nice design oozes into the game's menus, which are sleek, stylish, and user-friendly. You can select options with the touch screen of the Wii U GamePad or opt to use the analog stick and buttons, if that is what floats your boat.

The design pours over to the world and level selection menus, showing off the levels available to play in each of Art of Balance's eight worlds. Levels are selected among a series of blocks. As one block or level is completed, the ones surrounding it open up. This means that if one level's balancing act has got you frizzled, you can sidestep it and take an alternate path to the final level.

This level select system is in the other Art of
Balance games, but stick with what works, y'know?
Each level has a ring amount that is added to your total as you complete it, from 1-3. The harder the level, the more rings it has attached to it, with the three ring levels generally saved as the final challenge of each world. Rings unlock new worlds to challenge your brain, concentration, and coordination, so if you're at a roadblock level-wise, you usually have enough rings to skip ahead if need be. Nonetheless, you'll have hundreds of balancing challenges to tackle in the arcade mode alone.

Worlds are constantly throwing in new challenges for you to take on. The general aim of Art of Balance is to use up all of the blocks given to you and somehow balance the tower made of the blocks for at least three whole seconds, else they'll fall into the tub of water surrounding it. A key point here is that you need not keep the tower of blocks standing for three seconds; you just need to keep it from touching the water for three seconds once all of the blocks have been placed. It definitely feels like a long three seconds when your tower is about to capsize into that pool of water! It's an awesome feeling when you successfully complete a level, seeing your tower just barely stay afloat in the process. My point is that each level gives you a great deal of satisfaction once a proper solution has been discovered (and many levels have multiple means to solve them, which is also fantastic).

No! No! Stay put for just one more second!
At first, the challenge of balancing wooden blocks is child's play, much like it generally is in real life (I won't judge if you're an adult who still plays with blocks). However, as you progress into later worlds, you get different block shapes and types to contend with, as well as different rules. Some blocks disappear when something touches them, while others are made of glass and break when enough weight has been distributed on top of them. Some levels require you to make your tower of blocks reach a certain height, while others deal with placing blocks on a balance beam to keep the biggest portion of weight centralized.

Balancing blocks on a balancing beam.
Could we possibly meta this up any more?
Art of Balance on Wii U allows for at least two players on every mode, including the one just detailed. It's a terrific deal of fun chastising one another, mocking one another, and just having fun trying to perfectly balance a series of blocks.

The other modes include a Jenga-like tower-building game where each player takes turns putting one block onto a foundation. The tower continues to build as players take turns placing blocks, and the player who makes the tower fall with his or her contribution doesn't earn any points while the other players do.

Kersploosh, player one!
Additionally, there's an endurance mode, where you are given few opportunities to mess up, trying to complete as many levels as possible, as well as a competitive mode where players race to complete a given level with the blocks given to them. The latter mode is available locally and online, but in the case of the latter, good luck finding anyone to play with you unless you use Miiverse or some non-random search feature.

Art of Balance for the Wii U eShop is without question the definitive version of the game out there, so one could say that the third time was indeed the charm here. Though that certainly isn't to say that the previous two times were lousy! If you're looking for more features and content, you got 'em with the Wii U iteration of Art of Balance. If you're looking for a game in the series to reinvent the wheel or bring big changes to the already established formula, look elsewhere.

[SPC Says: 8.25/10]

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