This tower defence game makes great use of the Wii U GamePad, but its lack of variety quickly becomes quite tiresome
Available formats: Wii U. Buy Now from Nintendo
Inventing new control systems is Nintendo’s bread and butter. Just look at the d-pad on the NES, the analogue stick on the N64 or the Wii’s brilliant motion-sensing Remote. In fact, the Wii U’s entire premise was built around the idea of asymmetric play, where the TV would show one slice of the action while the GamePad showed something else entirely, such as a map or even an alternate perspective to fill in the overall picture.
Admittedly, there’s only ever been a handful of Wii U games that have really taken this toolset to heart. You certainly wouldn’t need more than two hands to count them, and Star Fox Zero, one of Nintendo’s latest Wii U titles, was meant to be one of the last hurrahs for the console to really show just what the GamePad was capable of.
Except it didn’t really pan out that way, as putting Fox’s cockpit view on the GamePad ended up making the whole control scheme much more fiddly and complicated than it really needed to be. So colour me surprised when I find out Star Fox Guard, its tag-along, download-only cousin, is arguably one of the best GamePad games I’ve ever played.
It’s not really what you’d call a traditional Star Fox game in any sense of the word, but this small, tower defence puzzler is still a brilliant example of how the GamePad can work in unison with what’s happening on the TV. Your task is to defend a mining facility belonging to Slippy’s uncle Grippy from invading robots, but instead of zapping them from the comfort of your Arwing, you’ll be using the GamePad to take them down through the compound’s security system.
^ Star Fox Guard makes brilliant use of the GamePad’s second screen, making it a much better showcase for the Wii U than its disappointing big brother, Star Fox Zero
It all starts with setting up your various security cameras. You’re free to move these anywhere around the facility, allowing you to concentrate your firepower over entrances and any available bottlenecks if you wish. However, you’ll probably want to keep them fairly evenly spread, as one hit to the central mining tower from a marauding bot and it’s game over.
To stave off your robotic invaders, you’ll need to hop between different cameras by tapping them on the GamePad. This alters the main view in the centre of the TV screen, giving you a larger window to fire at them while still having you an overview of what’s happening elsewhere. Thus ensues a frantic bobbing of heads as you battle to remember which window corresponds to which camera on your GamePad and then getting back to the task at hand before any of them slip through unnoticed.
These robots aren’t stupid, either, as they’re all divided into two broad categories – attacking Combat Class bots, and distracting Chaos Class machines. While Combat robots are the ones you need to watch out for, the Chaos classes can be equally deadly in their own way, disabling your cameras or providing defensive shields while attackers rumble in behind them. Others throw smokescreens, while some even airlift your cameras out of the arena altogether, leaving you momentarily defenceless until you remember to shuffle another camera into place with your stylus.
It’s a brilliant piece of design, and the difficulty ramps up surprisingly quickly, ensuring you’re never left idle for very long. Each wave constantly piles on more pressure, and there are moments of such synergy and flow that you almost feel like the GamePad is an extension of your hand, particularly when you start getting your own set of tools to fight back with.
However, even the threat of new enemy types can’t quite erase that encroaching feeling of monotony lingering in the distance, as Star Fox Guard’s limited types of arenas can quickly become quite tiresome, particularly when tackled over long stretches of time. Moving to different planets around the Lylat system does add a few environmental obstacles to the mix, but most are simply variations on other robot abilities, such as Titania’s vision-obscuring ventilation shafts. As a result, even new levels don’t feel quite as fresh and exciting as they should, and the seemingly never-ending onslaught of similar-looking robots can quickly push that initial rush of adrenaline into tedious frustration.
Still, at just £13, you could certainly do a lot worse when it comes to dipping your toes into the Wii U’s eShop library, and it’s definitely worth a go if you’re into your strategy or tower defence games. Admittedly, it probably would have sunk to the bottom of the download charts without its rather flimsy Star Fox back story, but in small doses Star Fox Guard is definitely more adept at showing off the strengths of the Wii U GamePad than Star Fox Zero. You probably won’t be playing this for hours on end, but if you’re looking for something that really gives your GamePad a bit of workout, then Star Fox Guard is a very good place to start. Buy Now from Nintendo
|Available formats||Nintendo Wii U|
|Price including VAT||£13|