Friday, January 22, 2010

Japanese Randomness with Roided Up Dudes... The Muscle March Review

Every now and then, there will be some random game that comes from the wonderful land of Japan and then it eventually comes out in America for some odd reason. No matter how random it is especially knowing how absurd it is, anyone will get a kick out of it whether for the good or the bad. This is the case with Muscle March, a WiiWare title that came out at Japan sometime last year and somehow got a stateside release thanks to the fine folks of Namco Bandai. In case you're wandering what in the world Muscle March is, it is surprisingly self-explanatory. Except the Japanese twist is that you are playing as roided up men in their underwear marching along to take down a thief that stole some random thing. It is as absurd as it may seem to be and probably better explained in a video rather than text, but Muscle March is meant to be played as an off the wall experience. For five dollars or 500 Wii Points, you get your money's worth out of it for something truly bizarre that will make your mind blow up of some sort.

As a game, Muscle March does not offer much as it is meant to be played as a pick up and play type of a deal. There's the standard single player modes of three stages offering three levels each and then there's the multiplayer that is an endless run with up to four players. Once you start, you can clearly tell that this game is meant to be played with a Wiimote and Nunchuk as the controls are simple to understand. It is almost like you are playing a game of "hole in the wall" while marching trying to match the leader's muscular poses (hence the title of the game) by tilting the Wiimote and Hunchuk in various ways. While the game lets you just tilt the Wiimote or Nunchuk up or down to correspond with the poses, you almost feel tempted to just flex like the actual poses the leader gives out, which makes it also bizarre. The character lineup is a collection of roided up men in their underwear from various countries with one exception being a polar bear, which is also crazy. Once you are following along to the leader's poses, you have a stamina meter of five hearts in which every mistake costs you a heart and losing them all in a stage allows the option to continue from that same level you lost. At least, a normal level will start out slow and steady, but once the other members mess up by slipping into banana peels, then it goes fast and frantic testing your reaction skills. These reaction skills will make or break your success in Muscle March and at times, the controls will feel unresponsive making it frustrating especially at the end of the third level where the Mech Muscle tries to trick you into following a certain pose. Once close enough, you have to shake the Wiimote/Nunchuk repeatedly to tackle the leader down and beat the level. After beating the last level of a stage, whether in the city, village, or a space station, you get ranked on your performance, which does not do much other than bragging rights. Gameplay wise, that is Muscle March in a nutshell as it is a simple concept, but can get pretty old pretty fast in long stretches and also frustrating at times when the controls just fail when needed.

Graphically, Muscle March looks as it is intended to be and nothing else. The three stages are diverse enough as environments for the marching to take place while the core gameplay remains intact. The character roster consists of your average everyday roided up stereotype from the country they live even though a polar bear that marches along and flexing seems too crazy for a normal person to grasp. Basically, the graphics are what you expect out of Japan and that is fine for a game like this. As for the sound, the same thing can be said for a game coming from Japan. The music consists of your generic J-pop, but the song goes along to the marching and once you're left alone with the leader, the song speeds up into something else. For the presentation alone, Muscle March does indeed look like you are playing something from Japan.

With all the absurdity and randomness, is Muscle March still worth your time and money? I would still say yes as it is always nice to see random Japanese games make way to the United States with no problem at all even though the content and premise alone may offend some. It is a decent pick up and play game for a few minutes at the right price and also something weird to show to friends about the wonderful world of Japan. Sure as a game, Muscle March could of have been better if more stages are in and the controls feel more responsive eliminating the frustration, but it is better as an experience seeing a twist of hole in the wall with buff stereotypical men. Even though WiiWare has been mostly full of shovelware, Muscle March is one of those games that makes the service unique compared to Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. I can even imagine this game with Project Natal support on the Xbox 360 with full body motion of the flexing poses, but I can see why this game is meant to be on the Wii than the other two. It is as Japanese as it gets and if you're in for a cheap fix of random hilarity, then Muscle March is worth checking out.

Score = 7/10

  • Great price for the content offered - Wouldn't buy if more expensive
  • Fun as a pick up and play game for a few minutes if you want to play something quick
  • As random and bizarre as it is intended to be especially it coming from Japan
  • A great experience if you're into the Japanese lifestyle as it is not frequent a game like this would come out outside of Japan.
  • Controls can fail at times when needed making some parts frustrating
  • Lack of modes (only two significant ones)
  • May be too absurd and bizarre for some

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