Siliconera readers may recall Spencer chronicling his journey through the Neuro Tower in Baroque for PS2 over the last couple of months. Well, now it's my turn to take that journey, this time on Wii. I was anxious to see just how the game played on Wii, and how Sting implemented the Wii's motion controls. So, after managing to pull myself away from Brawl, I began my journey into the dark and twisted world of Baroque. I instantly loved the atmosphere of the game as I began, noticing that the game has a creepy film grain look to it. The denizens of Baroque's hub world are bizarre, to say the least. A man with a long neck, a woman with horns, and a boy with a large bag on his head are just a few of the citizens of Baroque's world that you'll encounter.
Inside the Neuro Tower itself, things don't get any less bizarre. Compared to Spencer's experience, I think I had a bit of an easier time than he did. I managed to get around 800 cubits down the tower on my first "real" journey into it (not counting the first one, which I already knew [thanks to Spencer] was a simulation). I have a tendency to use items at will instead of hoarding them, which gets me in trouble in a lot of RPG's, but helped me out quite a bit in Baroque. Knowing that Baroque was a roguelike, I knew that I'd most likely be stripped of all my items before long. One of the first items I found was a huge sword that gave me +7 to my attack, so with that in hand I managed to get pretty far down the tower before finally succumbing to the attacks of various Meta-Beings.
Meta-Beings aren't the only ones you'll encounter in Neuro Tower, either. There's all kinds of strange characters lurking in the tower that you'll come across on your journey. Take for example Urim and Thummim. Urim is merely a face growing out of Thummim's shoulder. And when she speaks, the text appears vertically on the right side of the screen. There's also Alice, a mysterious girl who is upset with your character for reasons I've not yet discovered. And then there's Eliza, who I've encountered a few times. Each time, she asks me for "pure water". Add to these the ghostly boy who occasionally appears (and looks almost exactly like your character) and gives cryptic messages, and you've got a very surreal experience.
One thing about Baroque that really got me was one of the status effects. Called "Lust", this odd effect makes everything you see glow with a pink color, and makes items, enemies, and even you look like a strange, blonde woman in a geisha outfit. The only way you can tell what something actually is, is by looking at it's shadow, which still reflects what the thing you're fighting actually is. At first the effect was kind of cool, but after the third or fourth time being inflicted with Lust I quickly equipped a pair of wings which prevented it.
I think my favorite thing about Baroque overall is the atmosphere. It's dark, twisted, and creepy. There's a real feeling of being trapped in a fever dream of sorts. The excellent soundtrack does a good job of conveying this feeling as well. The entire time I was playing, I felt like I was struggling against inevitability. I knew I would eventually die, and be set right back to Level 1, with an empty inventory. But being the fan of roguelikes that I am, I was prepared for this fact. The dark atmosphere of the game really lends itself to the almost claustrophobic feeling of Neuro Tower. After a while, you really start to feel like the tower itself is the true enemy. There's a couple of times where I was my own enemy, as well. Remember blowing yourself up with the Boom Bone, Spencer? Yeah, I did that too (good thing it was just in the training dungeon…).
Oh, and for those of you wondering how Sting implemented motion controls in the Wii version…well, don't get too excited. You shake the Wii Remote to do a strong slash. And that's…about…it. Kinda disappointing, I know. And after using the Wii Remote + Nunchuk combo for a while, I decided to switch over to the Classic Controller. Why? Well, honestly, the Wii Remote button layout isn't really that good. The B button does your basic light slash, and the A button opens the inventory menu, while the D-pad manipulates the camera. Maybe it's just me, but this setup isn't really good. After switching to the Classic Controller, I had a much better time with the game, not to mention an easier time controlling it. And aside from the limited motion control element, the only difference between the PS2 and Wii versions of Baroque is that the Wii version supports 480p and 16×9 widescreen, while the PS2 version doesn't.
So am I enjoying my journey (make that journeys) through Neuro Tower? You bet I am. This is exactly the kind of game I've been wanting to play lately. I've got to applaud Atlus for localizing Baroque. Roguelikes traditionally don't do well here in the US, commercially or critically. But there's a very niche group of gamers here that love them, and Atlus has given them in Baroque something to really sink their teeth into. Most gamers out there won't be able to grasp a game where you lose everything when you die, but those that "get" roguelikes will absolutely love Baroque. I know I do. And now, if you'll excuse me, there's some Meta-Beings that need to be introduced to my sword.
Images courtesy of Atlus.