Rage of the Gladiator (WiiWare) Review
Developer: Ghostfire Games
Previously: Helix (WiiWare)
Control: Wii Remote, Wii Nunchuk & Wii MotionPlus
Cost: 1000 Wii Points
Blocks Used: 294
This game is currently not available in the Australian WiiWare store, you’ll have to switch your region to the UK to get it. Be warned you’ll lose all your Wii Points if you do.
It’s been a long time since I’ve dived into WiiWare. In fact, it’s been almost two years since WiiWare launched in 2008 that I’ve even considered touching the service again. It’s not that I’ve had anything against it, mind you, I’ve just never really considered it. Come 2010, and I’ve jumped back in, and what I’ve managed to sample is quite a treat. Rage of the Gladiator, developed by Ghostfire Games, is a game that blew my expectations out of the water when I first loaded it up. Best described as a medieval version of Punch-Out!! with weapons, Rage of the Gladiator does quite a good job at showing that compelling experiences can be delivered on the WiiWare platform.
There is a story within Rage of the Gladiator, and while it’s not really all that great, it does a nice job of setting the tone and atmosphere of the game. Players step into the shoes of Gracius, a prince who is a twin brother and whose father rules the fictional kingdom of Avelencia. Avelencia is best described as a typical city you would expect to find in an Elder Scrolls game or old-school Greek mythology, teeming with mythical creatures and reality-bending spells. The story of the game begins a few weeks before the main story, and sees Gracius framed for his father’s murder. Fortunately, Gracius is given a second chance by participating in a Gladiator-style gauntlet of battles, in order not only to find out the truth behind his father’s death, but also to save himself.
Sure, the story is pretty terrible and it’s rather, well, confusing to follow. However, despite the game taking place in only one locale, the story is quite well developed. The lack of areas between battles and such really do make it a bit perplexing – particularly since they are primarily flashbacks. But, between battles, the game’s story is told through interesting artwork with voiceovers. The production values for Rage of the Gladiator were definitely higher than your average WiiWare title.
What is quite remarkable about Rage of the Gladiator is how good the game looks despite being a WiiWare title. It’s pretty easy to say it is better looking than some retail Wii titles out there. Character models are rather well animated, the audiences within the coliseum itself react and move according to the action happening on screen, and all the action takes place at a silky smooth 60 FPS. Each of the characters that Gracius will battle are unique and animate in their own special way. All in all, the game’s graphical capabilities are great; it’s just a shame that the WiiWare platform has limited this game in terms of environments for the battles to take place in.
The gameplay of Rage of the Gladiator is pretty similar to Punch-Out!!, in that you have several unique characters who have specific moves, and players must work out a way to defeat them with specific movements. Most attacks are done with both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Of course, players can also defend with their shield, as well as dodge to the left or right, or jump. Dodging is integral in defeating enemies because it does stun them and leave them open to battering.
Thankfully, Rage of the Gladiator incorporates full MotionPlus support, and while it’s not 1:1 movement, it’s very nice to swing your Wii Remote one way and have that movement replicated almost faithfully on screen. This is very important when countering enemies, where precise movement is integral to pulling off counter effectively. When countering, players can hammer their enemies with their sword (Wii Remote) or shield (Nunchuk) and with enough consecutive hits, pull off a devastating combo. These all have rather extravagant animations, with some of them harnessing the power of the sun to scorch enemies, while the simpler ones have Gracius performing nifty aerial combos. With about 13-14 combos available, there’s a lot of content packed into this little release.
In addition to these boss battles, completing each one yields skills points which can be spent in a very light Diablo-esque skill tree. Players can unlock new super moves, or combos, as well as improve their stats marginally. Stat increases include regenerating health, increasing frequency of critical hits and so on. It’s a bit disappointing that you can’t re-spec this tree, but it’s still a nice little feature that adds a bit of replay value.
Of course, Rage of the Gladiator also offers a pretty well thought out audio package too. All of the cutscenes are fully voiced, as are all the boss characters that have specific and unique voice actors. It’s certainly refreshing to see the developer not reusing assets unnecessarily. Ghostfire has stated that they designed the soundtrack of Rage to be exciting and epic, and it certainly succeeds in that regard. The voice acting for the characters is pretty well done, though there are, of course, some shockers in terms of quality. Still, all in all, it’s a rather well put together experience.
Of course, once you get through all of the ten boss battles, the game unlocks a new “Challenge Mode”, which runs the player through the same boss battles, except they have new powers and have been tweaked to be slightly more difficult. This does sound like a cop out, but it’s a rather nice experience and by completing Challenge Mode, players will unlock a very difficult secret boss fight too. You’re looking at about 5-10 hours to complete the game normally, depending on skill, of course. Then additional time to get through the Challenge Mode, which is worth it just to experience the final boss battle.
Rage of the Gladiator is a pretty well made WiiWare title that really made me start believing in the service once again. It features everything a decent game should – great graphics, intuitive controls, an interesting, yet simple story, and enough content to justify its price tag. Let it be known, players who are interested in anything similar to Punch-Out!! or some great fun for the right price, now have a game to do so.