In the early stages at least, there's an oozing sense of menace aboard the good ship Bottle. Along with the gloomy-yet-beautiful graphics, the game's soundtrack plays a pivotal role in establishing this tense mood. Samus is more than powerful enough to deal with the minor threats that come her way, even when the enemies arrive en masse, but there's a constant feeling that something really nasty is lurking around the next corner. The voice acting is really decent from what I've heard so far, but there's certainly some truth to the idea that the game works best when you're on your own. Fortunately, that seems to be pretty much all the time.
There's a nice sense of pacing too, dividing your time between acrobatic platforming and twitch-happy battles. The latter seems to handle really well - even when it comes to the new elements. Tapping the d-pad at the last minute before an attack allows Samus to dive out of the way, landing on her feet with cat-like agility. More controversially, she's also able to perform close-up executions on certain enemies - and yet even these brief cinematics somehow fit the Metroid vibe. Samus has always been a bit of a badass, and even if she's a bit more fancy with her techniques now, she still exudes this vibe of focused, introvert professionalism.
If there's going to be a sticking point with Other M, it's going to be the perspective switch, and the associated control issues. For the most of the time you'll be controlling Samus from a third person view, with the Wii Remote held sideways. While the d-pad is understandably a lot twitchier than an analogue stick, movement generally works very well, while a slight degree of auto-aim ensures that shooting remains simple and un-fiddly. However, if at any time you should aim the Remote directly at your TV, you'll suddenly switch to first-person. You can pan around and inspect your surroundings, you can blast enemies or lock onto them and toast them with rockets, but crucially the one thing you can't do is move around. If you need to re-locate - perhaps because some kind of massive alien wants to turn your entrails into a funky hat - you'll have to flip to the other perspective. In the heat of a battle this back-and-forth can be a quite disorientating, and since the game hasn't been exclusively designed with a third person view in mind, you'll occasionally find yourself dealing with unhelpful camera angles, running or shooting towards dangers that may or may not lurk off-screen.
It's a concerning situation, because history is littered with games that were scuppered by dodgy camera setups. For the time being, however, I'm willing to give Nintendo and Team Ninja the benefit of the doubt. I've not yet encountered anything that suggests the switching will be a big problem, and on the other hand I've seen an awful lot that convinces me that this could be one of the best Wii games in recent memory. It looks great, sounds wonderful, and has an atmosphere to die for - so for the time being at least, the members of Team Smiley can count me among their ranks.
Metroid: Other M will be released on September 3, exclusively on Wii.