530 Eco Shooter is Nintendo's latest attempt to utilise the Wii Zapper accessory introduced with Link's Crossbow Training. This time they have done down the WiiWare route - but how well does Intelligent Systems' recycling-themed on-rails shooter work?
The reasoning behind 530 Eco Shooter (also known as Eco Shooter: Plant 530) is simple: Nintendo wanted to create a shooting game that did not feature any violence towards people or animals. The result is a 'story' involving living rubbish, the Cannoids, rattling up some havoc. As a worker in (recycling) Plant 530 , it's your duty to clear up the mess and take out the trash.
Just as Eco Shooter's plot is straightforward, so is its gameplay. If you've ever played an arcade shooter on Wii you'll have the general gist from the outset. Your movement is automatic - Plant 530 worker Mack drives smoothly around on a big floating disk - and you shoot down all that oppose you by aiming with the Wii Remote pointer and tapping the B trigger. However, unlike other on-rails shooters there is no reloading - only recycling! As a Zapper title - though it works equally well without it - Eco Shooter is played with the Nunchuk plugged in, and in a similar fashion to shooting you can activate a vacuum by holding Z. When Cannoids are taken down they leave behind energy balls which just so happen to power your gun. Suck these up and you can recycle them as ammunition. The energy balls look suspiciously like the ones found in the Metroid Prime series and the mechanic of hoovering them up also stirs up vague memories of using your charged-up arm cannon to draw balls towards you in said series. This isn't surprising when you realise that the man Nintendo placed in charge of Eco Shooter, Kensuke Tanabe, was also a producer for Metroid Prime and its sequels.
The recycling system makes it essential to be economical with ammo and choose carefully which enemies you take down. See, Eco Shooter's energy meter - another thing reminiscent of Metroid Prime, with your energy levels going up to 100 and spilling over into extra 'tanks' for every increment of 100 energy points - also represents your life. If your gun goes out of action the Cannoids are free to do their worst, and that's probably not going to be limited to emptying garbage juice all over the place. There is never a shortage of enemies to shoot out to gather that crucial lifeforce, and it may be tempting to take aim at everything in sight. However, you soon realise that the levels are littered with stationary foes that only give up a few points for your score and life. It is far more worthwhile to fire less, and more accurately, at the bigger bin-beasts, for they are the ones that hide away the real energy supplies. Should your energy be depleted the screen goes into a panic mode, alarms blaring, and you have a few frantic, exciting seconds to gather up some energy before a game over; not what you want to be happening during one of the boss encounters, so your best option is to save up as much energy as possible until the very end of each level. There is a combo juggling system too, so if you knock a can flying and then hit it repeatedly while it sails through the air, finishing it off, you will rack up score multipliers.
There are no difficulty settings in Eco Shooter; instead, the game adapts to how well you are playing and alters the level of challenge on the fly. Rather than designing levels that remain the same at all times, Intelligent Systems chose to use a system wherein the game could constantly judge players' abilities, presumably based on accumulated score and energy at frequent points in the stages. The game then selects the most appropriate enemies for the player's current ability level and inserts them in fluidly. The result is that Eco Shooter tends to feel slightly challenging without being overwhelming. If a player is performing terribly many non-attacking cans will be present, but those excelling will be met with fish cans to the face and other flying nasties. The only things that don't appear to change are the can-men that act as end-of-level bosses and their weaker mid-level variants.
Unfortunately, while 530 Eco Shooter is a solid arcade shooter, it does leave something to be desired thanks to the price of 1,000 Nintendo Points. Simply put, it's a tier or two too high on the price scale for the amount of content; there are only three levels to be bested, which then unlocks a Challenge mode wherein you play all three back-to-back. There's always an inherent degree of replay value in a decent game of this genre, but a single run through will take just a couple of hours - at most - for experienced gamers. On top of that, Nintendo haven't done themselves any favours by failing to include a multiplayer mode - a simple 'two cursors on screen at once' approach would have sufficed - or online leaderboards.
Eco Shooter's gun play is fun, and the self-adjusting difficulty is welcome, keeping the challenge just about right.
Mack's design is clearly inspired by Battalion Wars - another of Tanabe-san's projects! - and there's a clean style to the game. Some enemies can be difficult to see and blend into the background, though.
The in-level music is not too memorable, but the theme song is absolutely brilliant. "EC-O SHOO-TAAAAA!"
For 1,000 Nintendo Points you get a few hours of gameplay, should you choose to run through it a few times, but no multiplayer or leaderboards - additions that could have made the price point far easier to swallow.
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Nintendo's attempt at a non-violent shooter in 530 Eco Shooter is successful, with core gameplay proving just as fun as many arcade shooters that focus on gore. However, the price point is too high for such little content. Excluding online leaderboard support from a game such as Eco Shooter is a hugely missed opportunity that could have extended the lifespan to much more satisfactory levels. 530 Eco Shooter's far from deserving a trip to the rubbish heap, but it would perhaps be nice to see Nintendo recycle the concept for a much-expanded sequel.
Also known as
Eco Shooter: Plant 530
First Person Shooter
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Very fair review. I couldn't even beat the first boss, so I gave up after about an hour. Seemed quite fun, though. I hope it at least does well enough to encourage Nintendo to try the formula again.
Some enemies can be difficult to see and blend into the background
Thought it was just my eyes! Looks good overall, but yeah, can be a bit confusing at times.
Nintendo's attempt at a non-violent shooter in 530 Eco Shooter is successful
Not in terms of downloads so far, it seems. This came out yesterday in Europe, alongside Excitebike and the latter has already cracked the Top 20 WiiWare list in the UK...but there's no sign of Eco Shooter.
Perhaps it'll be a slow-burner...
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