Review: Muscle March (WiiWare)

If like me you’re continuously puzzled as to why Katamari has blossomed into a full franchise, then Muscle March will blow your mind. If you’re in the other camp that enjoys such obscurity, I think you’ll find this is 500 Wii Points well spent. It’s not because the games are similar, far from it, but the lunacy of both makes for good gaming bedfellows. Unfortunately, the entire concept does come crumbling down when you realise that its frustratingly flawed.

Muscle March is really just a minigame posing as something more. Because of this, there isn’t much of a story – not that it needs one. You play as a body builder or a polar bear that must regain a tub of protein powder which is stolen from you. This is done by chasing the thief as they smash through obstacles leaving one of four poses. Moving the Wii remote and nunchuck in various ways makes your character pose in order to pass through these comedy cavities. If you make the wrong shape then the character loses a life and increases the distance between them an the runaway. When you finally catch the perpetrator, they pass on the hallowed supplement to another who must also be chased. A third thief comes into play when the second is caught but after that, it’s game over and you notice a mere six minutes has passed. There may be three stages to play through but the only differences between them are purely aesthetics. The single player ‘campaign’ can be over in under twenty minutes leaving the endless rush mode to redeem the game’s length. It doesn’t do too bad of a job either and the progressively faster stage allows up to four player to take part. Like the campaign, you rack up points by posing without errors, tallying up at the end, hopefully elevating you on the leaderboard. The fact that all four gamers can’t play at the same time is a bit odd considering the solo game starts with you and five other mini-hulks running after the protein-nabber. Nope, in endless rush, if you choose to play with friends, you pass the controller onto to the next person once your lives are lost. I can see why it’s done that way since the player furthest from the hole would have longer to work out the pose but it seems like something that could have been balanced if need be.

Something tells me that balance wasn’t at the forefront of the developers minds though. Muscle March is more about how crazy the world is than how smooth it is to play. If you could detonate a rainbow and pepper the land with animals, you’d be pretty close to recreating the visuals. Clashing colours and motion captured dancing is only the tip of a style paying homage to a Japanese TV show. And what makes it even more nutty is how a figure most likely to be God plays host. I’m easily charmed by Japanese eccentricity and enjoyed the presentation even if I’m unable to describe it cohesively. It’s just, very odd. But endearing too. The sound is something else altogether and the five J-electro-pop songs slapped my sense of hearing as my sight took a multi-coloured pounding. See? Odd.

Sadly, here’s the part where everything starts to fall apart. The controls aren’t good. When a game is centered around motion controls, they shouldn’t be anything less than great. Muscle March is. And by quite a bit too but it’s not terrible, just fails the initial intention. I’ve already spoke of how you make poses by moving the Wii remote and nunchuck but despite the meat flexing men – and bear – on screen, the real movements are considerably less exciting. I found that mimicking the poses myself while holding the controllers didn’t work well at all. Instead, I sat motionless and pointed them either up or down. Or up. Down. Up. Up. Down. And so on and on and on – yes it started to bore me. Thankfully the two minute long stages were all over before I lost it altogether. When the levels were speeding along, it was actually quite fun and the endless chase mode benefited from simple wrist flicks. But the game should have been all about striking a pose in your living room causing uncontrollable fits of laughter. If it were, I think it could have been a highly recommendable family title.

For all its shortcomings, Muscle March is still a fairly enjoyable game. Japanophiles will adore the sights and sounds while twitch gamers may find fun in the endless rush mode but the inability to correctly pose forced some of the fun out of it. Being only 500 Wii Points (£3.50) you won’t be too disappointed with what you get and for that reason I’m being generous with my score but do be warned, Muscle March is incredibly niche.

Verdict:
Good
Entertaining and worthy of your time but still room for improvement.

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