You can guess the scenario and objective from Art of Balance's title alone. Using the Wii Remote's pointer, and the A button and D-pad to grab and rotate pieces, your objective is to balance out the various shapes given to you atop a platform in the middle of a water bowl. If all shapes are balanced, and they stay that way for three consecutive seconds, you pass. If any single piece hits the water, you will have to restart. It is a simple concept, but one that becomes fiendishly tricky later on, when you're introduced to shapes that can only hold a certain number of others, ones that run on a timer before they shatter, and many other conditions.
Thankfully, the controls work like a dream, and Shin'en have avoided the slightly gimmicky possibility of rotating the Remote to turn pieces. The D-pad makes for a precise and non-jittery substitute. Not only that, but the way the game slowly guides you into each new situation, whether it's something completely new or just a new rule, is extremely helpful. A calming female voice chips in with advice and allows you to try out each new part as it is encountered. In fact, sound in general, like most Shin'en games, is a particular highlight. Zany, yet serene, backing tracks are present for each world, and they are tunes that never become annoying, even when you need to retry a level for the umpteenth time.
Given Art of Balance's genre, it probably won't surprise you to learn that the game doesn't push visual boundaries. That isn't to say that it isn't a looker though, far from it. From each world's separate but fully realised themes like plant life and snowfall, to the bright, crisp and clear graphical output, it's clear that Shin'en's presentation skills shine through even in game types that don't necessarily rely wholly on them.
Arcade is where you'll be spending a great deal of your time with Art of Balance, as that is where the real challenge lies; four worlds of around 30 puzzle situations each. Each world houses a grid formation from which you choose which level you wish to try; beating one will unlock the next in line, though you'll probably spend a while on particular tricky ones just to carry on. Each grid is represented by a difficulty-denoting circle pattern that clears when you best it; either one, two, or even the dreaded three. These also act as a currency of sorts that open up new worlds upon collection of enough of them, which provides a useful incentive for that 'one more go' factor.
For Wii gamers with relations/friends/stalkers, Art of Balance does have two very notable features. Firstly, within the main Arcade mode, a second player can join in to help out player one if they get stuck in pretty much the same way as Super Mario Galaxy. Secondly, there is a dedicated split-screen Versus mode, that allows for two gamers to see who can build their balance totem first, in best-of three, five or seven matches. Needless to say, this mode gets hectic, and is a welcome complement to the regular single player endeavor. Once all the levels are eventually done and dusted, it acts as a life support machine for Art of Balance's longevity.
Art of Balance is a considerable choice for online buyers looking for a challenging mindbender. With its 100+ stages it will last any determined gamer a fair amount of time, all the while satisfying multiplayer demand.