Monday, June 20, 2011

Third Rate Game Play: Martian Panic

Game: Martian Panic

System: Wii

Developer: N-Fusion Interactive

Publisher: ZOO Games

Player: Alex and Tony

Experience: Played Level 1

In 1998, N-Fusion Interactive was formed, and since then, the company has produced a number of projects for PC, Xbox 360, and Wii. When it first formed, the New Jersey-based developer created a number of first person shooters for PC including Cabela's Ultimate Deer Hunt and its sequel for Activision, Deadly Dozen and its sequel Deadly Dozen: Pacific Theater for Infogrames (now Atari), and Elite Warriors: Vietnam. Its first console production was Hour of Victory for Xbox 360, but since 2009, the company has only released games on the Wii. The company’s most recent large projects are Go Play Circus Star, published by Majesco Entertainment and Medieval Games published by Vir2L Studios.

Publisher Zoo Games is relatively new into the gaming scene. The company came as a result of a number of mergers and acquisitions of smaller Eastern American game publishers. Originally, Zoo Games was called DFTW Merger Sub, Inc. In 2007, the company merged with Green Screen Interactive Software, LLC to create Green Screen Interactive Software. Up to this point, games published under the Zoo Games label were developed by UK publisher Zoo Digital Publishing, which was formed by Gremlin Interactive-founder Ian Stewart as part of ZOO Digital Group. The other company to be acquired by Green Screen was Destination Software, formed in 2001 and best known for poorly-reviewed GBA titles and the Snood series. Destination Software was acquired by Green Screen Interactive in late 2007, and Zoo Digital Publishing was acquired in mid-2008. While Zoo Digital Publishing was sold back to its original owners only months later (as Zushi Games, now Funbox Media), Zoo Games has remained mostly unchanged since then, save the acquisition of Empire Interactive’s backlog of products.

Up to Martian Panic, large projects for Zoo Games have included OrderUp! developed by SuperVillian Studios, the Diner Dash series with PlayFirst, and its creation of IndiePub, a group dedicated to releasing independent games onto gaming consoles. As of August 2010, IndiePub had not released any games, but it had held a number of contests to begin offering publishing deals with independent projects.

"The Martians are coming and it's up to you (and your friends) to stop them! Battle a horde of loony Martian invaders in this 1 to 4 person shoot-em-up game for the Wii. Packed with non-stop action, players will use a range of powerful weapons against a gang of colorful and comical enemy invaders. Collect powerups and rescue helpless civillians to get high scores and earn achievements. Visit a range of iconic locales from the drive-in movie theater to the Great Pyramids of Giza. Everything in the game is rendered in colorful comic book style with a retro 50's science fiction vibe."

Martian Panic fits within the usual rules of Wii-based light-gun shooters, and this time the game tries to fit the model into an alien invasion that families are sure to enjoy thwarting. The game takes place in the mid-1950s, just in time for Martians to start an invasion of Earth, despite their clear addiction to manmade products such as Zapp-o-cola. With the world bound to be destroyed, it is up to a group of six people to save the day, ranging from a salesman to a stay-at-home mom to a jazz musician. No matter whom players choose, all that matter is that they have to shoot Martians and defeat the mother ship before it is too late.

The game plays very similar to most any other light-gun shooter. The game moves on a fixed path through each of the game’s locales, and enemies emerge suddenly or slowly into view for the shooting. Sometimes players will have to save a citizen from Martians, and saving them usually results in power-ups of some kind, whether they are rapid fire weapons or health items. Over the course of the game, more Martian forces with increasingly complex attack patterns emerge into the battlefield. Some enemies can actively affect your reticule, while others will throw grenades and dodge attacks. Up to four players can play cooperatively, as well, making the adventure accessible to a large group of people at once. The game offers replayability by providing awards for saving every civilian and destroying enough objects in a level, which will provide artwork and models for later viewing.

At the start of each level, Martian Panic provides an animated short in a comic style which helps establish the humor that makes Martian Panic unique from other shooters. In the midst of stages, character dialogue and commentary from both friends and foes further entertain and keep the game from being all about Martian vaporization.

Martian Panic was released in August 2010, so any sequel might be a little ways away if it is ever getting one. The story of the game fits within a single iteration, so it is best to assume the game is a one-off, but those looking for more on-rails shooters should find plenty coming or already out for the Wii, anyways.

Since the release of Martian Panic, N-Fusion Interactive released Supple: Episode 2 via the online game service in late September 2010. The blog has remained inactive since October, but the company’s page states that the company is working on “an Xbox 360 Kinect well as two Wii titles.” Whether those two Wii titles include Martian Panic or not, we are not sure, but either way, more games are on the way from N-Fusion Interactive.

EDIT: It turns out that N-Fusion Interactive was involved in the development and subsequent release of Zoo Games' Dino Strike, another light-gun shooter involving dinosaurs. The company website must be out of date, so the company might only be working on a Kinect game as of June 2011.

Zoo Games continues to release games on all platforms, although their lead platforms are Wii and DS. Games published since Martian Panic include Silly Bandz, Mayhem 3D (for PS3 and Xbox 360, by Left Field Productions), and Pirate Blast, the last of which is another light-gun shooter. Zoo Games is currently prepping for the release of a hardcore racing title, Fireburst, developed by ExDream. The company’s IndiePub segment published its first major release, Auditorium HD, in late 2010 with the help of Empty Clip Studios and original developer Cipher Prime. IndiePub is currently getting Storm onto XBLA, PC, and PSN this summer as well as Jason Rohrer’s Diamond Trust of London, which was dropped by Majesco last year. Needless to say, Zoo Games has been really busy since last year.

There was something interesting about this game that made Alex want to try it out, and without much of a warning to his brother, Martian Panic arrived for 3RM to play. Knowing full well that the game, like most other light-gun adventures, was going to be a short game, Alex decided to record the full game. This becomes the first full “Let’s Play” video recorded in Third Rate Game Play.

Starting off with the first level and moving continually onward, with a pause or two in the middle, Alex and Tony venture forth to save Earth via the odd protagonists, all while trying not to fall into madness, themselves. Will they make it in time? Following the game’s completion, the two look at the game’s extras, however few they unlocked.

Wii Remotes get loud, it seems, and unfortunately the audio of the game sometimes drowns out the players, but it could have ended up a lot worse, to be honest. The video had trouble getting uploaded onto Youtube, so there is no higher-res version for online view at this time.

Frankly, the game is too hard for youngsters playing alone, if Cadet Difficulty is anything to go by. Yes, we died in the game, much to our dismay, but the easiest difficulty did not seem to mind a slip or two. As a result, the game was completed in under two hours, as expected. The style and level environments were more varied than we initially expected, and the enemy types became more interesting as the game progressed. It is a shame that the starting levels seem so boring compared to later levels.

The humor is hit-and-miss, and at times jokes are overused or reused throughout the game, which somewhat cheapens the experience. However, the character dialogues break things up, at least for a little while. The game oozes with cheese, and one level literally is surrounded with it! That does not mean Martian Panic is bad, but those expecting the next Umbrella Chronicles with this game will be sorely disappointed.

The game is very cheap, and if you want a shotgun peripheral, it is a little more expensive. We enjoyed the experience for what its worth, but the game is over quickly, and replaying it for the awards did not really cross our minds. Fun but slightly lacking in depth.

3RM Says: Spaceships are hard to come by, so I just made a model to swing on-EEEP A FIREWORK!

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