Pole's Big Adventure Playtest
Sega's WiiWare game is full of laughs, and I want it to last forever.
Sega's latest WiiWare game reminds me of the classic Sega -- the one that made games that were way off-center from the stuff you could get on Nintendo.
From a strict button-pressing gameplay point of view, Pole's Big Adventure is an old-style 2D side scrolling platformer. And, to be honest, not a really good one. It has shitty visuals, and gameplay to match. There's very little complexity to the level design and enemy movements, and absolutely no difficulty. I got through all six worlds in my first sitting (although, to be fair, you get to play a more difficult version following your first clearings).
Now that the gameplay and visuals are out of the way, here's the main point of Pole's Big Adventure. There are two points, actually.
The first is all the random shit that happens to you in the levels. These "gags" (there's actually a Japanese word for them that's a bit hard to translate generally into English, but "gag" seems to be appropriate here) are hidden around the levels, some found as a matter of course as you work through from left to right, some requiring a bit of searching.
Most of the gags can be considered shots at old 8-bit platformers. You'll find pipes that you may be able to go down (although I wouldn't suggest it!), mushrooms that you can eat for a variety of effects, "ups" of varying levels (of carbonation), and a few purposeful areas of slowdown and flickering (they're definitely purposeful because other areas of the game have dozens more enemies on screen without a hitch).
Revealing too many of these would spoil the game, but here are a couple of videos (both are from segments that Sega has already showed at the official site):
In this one, Pole encounters a variety of apples as he runs through the stage. The apples start off full, but then Pole runs into a rotten apple, a partially eaten apple, an apple that appears to be a photo rather than a hand-drawn sprite, and finally... see for yourself in the video.
In this clip, you have what appears to be an impossible jump, but it turns out that you can actually walk in the water. In somewhat of a rarity for the game, this level is more platforming than gag.
Some of the gags would piss you off if they happened in any other game. There are times when you'll walk from left to right and just die seemingly out of nowhere. You'll have to know to jump over just the right spot, and remember to do so on your next pass. I don't even want to tell you what happens in the sixth level, just before you're about to encounter the last boss.
If you were taking Pole seriously, stuff like that would be frustrating But Pole doesn't take itself seriously, and neither should you.
The little gags are a good part of the game's charm, and they should be instantly appreciated by anyone who was playing games back then. On their own, however, they'd probably be just a bit funny. The real material comes from the color commentary that accompanies the gags (this is the other point from above). Whenever you encounter a gag, some dude makes some snide or clever remark about it. The commentary is hilarious, and without it I don't think I think Pole's Big Adventure wouldn't be anywhere near as fun.
Which brings me to Pole's biggest problem. There are also two of these.
First off, the dependance on aural comedy means that there's no way Sega could ever give this game, in its current form, an English release. Just like a Japanese comedy act, most of the humor wouldn't carry over into English. I imagine that the only way to get the same reaction from an English language version would be to throw out everything that's in there right now and start from scratch, and that wouldn't exactly be the same game now, would it?
The other problem is that the gags appear to be a one-time thing. You'll laugh the first time, but once the surprise has passed, there's really no point in seeing them again. Sure, there are hidden gags waiting to be found, but I'm not sure how much replay value there is in the game.
There may even be some hidden replay value -- or reuse value, rather -- in the game. With its basic left to right gameplay and narrated comedy bits, Pole is the perfect game to have your non-gamer friends play. Wii Sports tends to excel in that area, but I bet Pole's Big Adventure will keep the non-gamers playing just as much.
For a few hours of laughs and a game you can show to the non gamers in your group, Pole's Big Adventure is definitely worth the 500 WiiPoints asking price.