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Castle crashing with Kinect

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Wanton destruction has always been fun. We didn't need to fling angry birds at hapless pigs to tell us that.

In Wreckateer, goblins have taken over all the castles through the kingdom, and some mouse traps, insect repellent or cockroach bombs just aren't going to get the blighters out. The only way to get rid of the vermin is to raze every last structure, and fortunately, it's your (very fun) job.

Rather than flicking a catapault on a touch screen, Wreckateer uses the Kinect sensor to let you get hands-on with the destruction, controlling a huge ballista with your body as you try to topple towers and entire medieval castles.

Dave Lang, CEO of small Chicago-based studio Iron Galaxy, says Wreckateer is the result of extensive testing with the motion-sensing device.

"We knew the visceral grabbing and releasing would be fun, so then we had to work out what to do with that. Blow things up, right?"

Lang says Wreckateer was actually the third Kinect project the studio had undertaken following two aborted efforts. "We figured out what it's good at, what it's bad at, and designed the game around the Kinect."


Best known for their iOS port of Scribblenauts, Wreckateer is Iron Galaxy's first original property and will be published by Microsoft on the Xbox Live Arcade service in the coming months.

Naturally, Rovio's iPhone smash hit was a big influence on the game, but Lang says other games were also important. "Our inspiration was Angry Birds, plus (EA and Steven Spielberg collaboration) Boom Blox, and we mixed in some Burnout Crash mode, which was the inspiration for the after-touch stuff."

That "after-touch stuff" is what makes the game really fun.

As Lang says, "a high-level Wreckateer player isn't just pull back, aim, shoot and watch the destruction.  It's 'now that it's in the air, how can I manipulate the shot to accrue these bonus icons along the way?' That's what is going to separate the great scores from the good scores."

As you progress through the levels you receive a variety of different munitions to hurl at the castles, all of which are controlled differently while in the air.

Standard shots can be only subtly guided in mid-air by (amusingly frantic) swipes to curve the shot before it hits the target. But there are also guided missiles you control with outstretched arms, split shots that are guided in unison and bombs that can be triggered to explode at your command.      

Later levels demand real precision to collect bonus icons, such as hurtling through a tunnel on route to a castle structure.

You also often need pinpoint accuracy to make a building tumble, such as blasting the support legs off a structure, targeting a weak spot that will cause a chain reaction, or hitting some helpfully placed dynamite crates.

Players get multiple shots on each level, and can earn mulligans which enable you to rewind time if you make a mistake with one of the attempts. 

Lang promises "a bunch of things that are unlocked as you progress through the game".

"You've got the different shot types, we've also got a bunch of different power-ups like shields and things that give your shots different abilities like making shots explosive or make them go super-fast.

"Mixing all of these elements together we can come up with a really nice difficulty ramp. At the start of the game it's not super-hard, anyone can get in and start wrecking stuff. Later in the game it gets devilishly hard and we cater to high-end players."

Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded according to the levels of destruction on each level and the bonuses accrued.

Lang says the game's core is pure "score attack".

"Like Trials HD, it's about competing at the highest possible levels on leaderboards with your friends and trying to beat them."

It's also going to be a fun party game with a crowd of people taking turns, cheering when a structure falls, and jeering when the player's frantic attempts to get a shot back on course are a miserable failure.

Over to you now, Screen Play readers. What are your favourite games over the years that have allowed you to cause destructive mayhem?

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