Wreckateer was developed by Iron Galaxy Studios and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released on July 25, 2012 for 800 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.

Wreckateer made a surprise showing during this year’s Microsoft’s E3 briefing, arguably stealing the show in the name of XBLA, and looks to be one of the more promising Kinect titles released this year. Essentially it’s a physics-based destruction game for Kinect that comes suited and booted with the new 400 gamerscore standard, along with three avatar awards and is the first game to utilize the new Avatar Famestar App on release. It’s also the second game released during this year’s Summer of Arcade promotion, and the inclusion of a Kinect game inevitably draws more than a few groans. Thankfully the game’s tight controls and surprisingly addictive scoring, means that Wreckateer deservedly warrants it’s slot in this year’s line-up.

The game kicks off simply enough with players assuming the role of the newest recruit in the Wreck and Tinker Destruction Company. Making use of a giant ballista, your avatar is challenged with bringing down goblin-infested castles with only a set number of shots. Not all shots are created equal however, and some have built in extra abilities such has the self explanatory Bomb Shot, the Split Shot which breaks apart on command, and the maneuverable Flying Shot. Sometimes your wrecking crew chums will helpfully leave out targets for you to aim at. Bank these for extra points or added abilities such as speed or explosive power to boost your basic shots.

The solo campaign comes in at a whopping 50 rounds along with a further 10 challenge maps but it’s the game’s addictive scoring mechanics that will keep you interested. A well placed shot or timed explosive will rack up huge damage earning you a spot on the leaderboards, but miss the mark and you’ll be laughed off for being a pacifist.

Here’s what we liked:

It’s a game! – Something that can often put people off playing a Kinect game is the embarrassment factor. Sure that’s fun at alcohol fueled parties but maybe not for those wallflowers among us or solo gamers who’d rather keep their dignity intact. Rest assured then that Wreckateer requires no shouting, no “hilarious” photos, and no crazy poses or two left feet. The controls are neither convoluted or finicky, and anyone can get up, take a shot and get some sort of score. It’s also one of the few Kinect games you can play for longer periods of time without feeling you’ve gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. In fact once you get into the game and are caught up in it’s leaderboards, the controls feel so natural you almost forget you’re playing Kinect.

In it to win it – To progress through the campaign you must score a Bronze in each level. Bronze? Pfft, you can do better than that! Honestly, Wreckateer comes with some of the most addictive and competitive leaderboards for any XBLA game. It even plots the score for each shot on a graph so you can see exactly how well you compare with your friends. You may have passed the round and are free to move on, but are you really going to feel good about yourself and sleep easy knowing your so called buddy just smashed your score?

Easy to learn, hard to masterWreckateer may on first glances look like a fun family oriented game, but appearances can be deceptive. Certainly it’s good clean fun and easy enough to just fire shots at the castle and watch the resulting mess, but as the game progresses, the difficulty ramps up and you really need to put your thinking cap on to keep scoring a bronze let alone the coveted gold. As well as learning to control the speed and angle of your shots to you’ll need to try collecting the point bonus targets to continue racking up the score. Gaining awards for your flair will also be of benefit, such as Long Shot, Bank Shot or Daredevil. The more awards and tricks you earn the better your final score. It’s a rewarding and addictive game mechanic that will keep you playing long after the already expansive solo campaign.

Looking Good – The voice acting may be reminiscent of a budget British children’s TV show from the 80s, but then who doesn’t like budget British children’s TV shows? Despite the “it’s so bad it’s good” script, the overall polish is great. Graphics are bright, colorful and detailed, from the in game action right down to the menu system which sees you smashing boulders to select a level. A simple yet effective world map is also included that shows your progress through the game. It’s unnecessary, but it’s welcome and really adds to the games overall shine. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d bought a retail game here! The goblins are weirdly cute and comically egg you on to try hitting them adding a bit of humor to the game.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Motionless – Let’s get things straight here, Wreckateer comes with some of the most responsive Kinect controls to date, yet it’s not without a few  motion controlled hiccups. We had a few instances, though not many, where Bomb Shots wouldn’t go off or the ballista was activated without meaning to. However each level is short enough that a restart isn’t the end of the world and you’ll certainly rack up enough mulligans throughout the game that you’ll not be crying for old faithful, aka the regular controller, just yet.

ModelessWreckateer comes with more than enough maps to keep you busy through summer, but outside of the solo campaign there’s not much else. The offline multiplayer is certainly present, but doesn’t vary much from the single player mode other than you switch over between shots. Perhaps some sort of “Create a Castle” mode might have been fun but of course that would have pushed the price up and for 800 MSP you do get a lot. A DLC menu option, that is becoming increasing common in games, has been included so it’ll be interesting to see if anything new emerges from that.

It’s easy to dismiss Wreckateer as just a “Kinect” game, albeit one of the good ones, but it’s also a surprisingly fun strategy affair. The Kinect controls are top notch and so intuitive we couldn’t imagine trying to play with the regular controller. Gasp! Yes, it’s a bit like a first-person Angry Birds, but that’s no bad thing. Young kids are going to love crashing those castles but bare in mind that despite the family friendly set up the difficulty get tough in those later levels. However Iron Galaxy have clearly designed Wreckateer for both casual and hardcore gamers mind, and anyone that enjoys fast paced competitive score-based games, should dust off that Kinect (yeah, sure, it was a gift) and give it a whirl.

Score: Buy It