Fancy attacking the world's most deadly assault courses? The popular game show Wipeout has been translated to the Nintendo’s Wii as Red Ball Challenge, complete with a whole dollop of mud, a punching glove assault course and, as the title suggests, four giant red thumping balls to pounce on. Can a television show that relies on the efforts of failing contestants do well in the gaming scene? Balls at the ready, let’s find out...
Wipeout, or as it's known in Britain Total Wipeout, pits a series of twenty slightly over-confident members of the public on a series of challenges to win a whopping £10,000. You're looking at things like pelting across rolling water logs, leaping across foam sausages on a podium, swinging into a huge water donut and, of course, having to pounce across a line of giant red foam balls. Whilst amusing to watch, can it really work as a video game? In theory, yes - the show is a game afterall, and with there being running, jumping, swimming motions, the Wii would be an appropriate candidate.
That is where it all falls apart for Red Ball Challenge, unfortunately. It could work, but through sloppy game design and unresponsive controls it is more frustrating to play than being one of the contestants drowning in mud. For example, at one point - unless you’re exceptionally good - you’ll need to swim through a large pit of brown. It requires diagonal thrusts of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, so you go at it trying all sorts of motions to try and make your on-screen character attempt to trundle through to the other side. It is understandable that developer Mindscape would want to simulate the energy needed to get through these obstacles, and the control ideas do make sense, but the actions needed are more frustrating to pull off than realistic - or even enjoyable, for that matter.
One of the main reasons the TV show is appealing is the overconfident contestants, seeing each of the dedicated members of the public try and eventually fail - some get through, but there are usually some comic moments along the way. You have a few characters to work with, covering most bases. They're fairly standard, and don’t have too much to distinguish between each. They're like generic Miis that read out generic catchphrases: "I'm going to win!", "No-one can stop me!" and "This is the best Wii game to date!" Well, perhaps not the last one.
After passing the initial assault 'qualifier' course there are a series of other obstacles to work through, 16 in total. They do offer some level of enjoyment, arms will fly straight up, thrusting and swinging away as you leap and roll through the remainder of the game to attempt to become the Red Ball champion. If you're not satisfied with the selection, there is also the ability to string together your own set of challenges to have a unique taste for your balls. Don't want to poke through mud? Skip it. Want a lot of rubber? Throw it in. Whilst the option is certainly a welcome one, and would add some replay value, it's lacking flexibility. Essentially you're re-arranging rather than actually designing, but it does create a challenge for your friends. You can force fellow wagglers to participate and you can show off your custom courses, or simply go at it and try to topple one another for the coveted crown, but it's not really worth it in all honesty.
Abysmal controls that try to mimic actions you would perform in reality, but a lack of response and the need to exhagerrate is literally a painful affair. Boring challenges, dire characters. It's more enjoyable in multiplayer, purely to see who becomes frustrated the quickest.
You could dig up various Nintendo 64 or PlayStation games that outshine Red Ball Challenge. It may be a series of mini games essentially, but the lack of care here is shown by the dozen. Crude texture work, basic 3D modelling and simplistic design. Not eye friendly.
Basic generic character phrases, effects and standard music. Not spectacular, but some points for echoing the feel of the show fairly well.
There's the single player which, unless you're a die hard fan who wants to shave off a few seconds, would last several hours at best. Little in the way of unlockables. Custom course features do add some life to the game, but the lack of variety and enjoyment in the courses themselves make it hard to pick up again.
Avoid. Perhaps only to purchase for someone you thoroughly despise or if you're heavily under the influence. The game suffers from unresponsive, over exaggerated controls and a desire to make the whole thing into a waggle fest. The TV show relies on ever so cocky contestants failing as its pulling point, but to replicate this as a game has proven difficult, and we would probably enjoy falling off slippery red balls then having to play this much more.