There was a time when you could buy anything that came from the big N and you'd be guaranteed a good time. It seems that with the Wii this is no longer the case, with average or worse games being passed off as great interactive experiences just because you play by moving your hands about. Disaster: Day of Crisis is the latest game that falls into this category, offering gameplay that would have felt dated at the beginning of this decade, visuals that bring back memories of 32-Bit gaming and more cheese than a straight to DVD action movie.
You play as Ray, a professional rescuer (is that even a real job?) who sees his friend and colleague die after a mountain rescue mission next to an erupting volcano goes wrong. The rescue chopper is downed by a flying piece of molten rock and all hell breaks loose as the ground is shaken up and torn apart. Predictably you end up on a rope hanging over a cliff edge, holding on to your mate as he dangles perilously over a raging torrent of lava. Cue a Cliffhanger moment as he lets go and falls in slow motion to his melty, burny death.
Ray's pretty cut up, as you can imagine, and can't face his mate's sister who blames him for her brother's death - despite the fact that he promised to keep an eye on her. So, when a seismologist and his assistant are kidnapped by terrorists, you can imagine our shock when the assistant is revealed to be the woman we'd been avoiding for the best part of a year since the accident. This highlights perfectly Disaster: Day of Crisis' tone - a B-movie cheese-fest that's about as clichéd as it can be, full of terrible writing and acting. The funny thing is that it's still kind of enjoyable.
Although the story is so achingly bad it's good, the gameplay doesn't have the same charm. Over the course of the game you'll take part in a variety of different gameplay types. There are third-person adventure game type sections, which have Ray wandering about in devastated areas, finding injured or trapped civilians and helping them out. It's pretty basic stuff, but does make use of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck in order to heal wounds (point to spray the wound clean with water and rotate the analogue stick to apply a bandage) and lift heavy objects (raise the Wii Remote and Nunchuck to lift). There are some clever ideas here, like the way smoke gets into your lungs and requires you to take a breath once you're in clean air (Z), and the way you shake off fire (shake both controllers), but it's not the most engaging gameplay you'll come across.
The other main gameplay type is similar to that of a Time Crisis style light-gun shooter. You use the Wii Remote to aim and shoot at enemies, switch weapons with the d-pad, take cover from enemy fire by holding the Z button, zoom in with C, and that's about it. It works, but it doesn't feel nearly as smooth or as polished as a proper light-gun game - Ghost Squad for example. The biggest problem is that these sections look dated, feature an annoying amount of input lag and feel like they've been shoe-horned into a game that features fairly clunky third-person adventure gameplay.
Occasionally after these sections you'll have to run away from a threat, so the game switches to an interactive cinematic, with you waving the Wii Remote and Nunchuck up and down to make Ray run as fast as possible. You'll also have to drive cars, using the Wii Remote on its side like a traditional controller. Although we grimaced at the thought, these sections prove to be some of the best in the game, with controls that work as you want them to. Driving sections do highlight some flaws with the game engine (there's terrible slowdown at times), but it feels like you're in control of a car, which is what matters.
Adding to the what we presume to be unintentional humour are the pick-ups. By bashing up objects in the game with a few kicks or punches (don't you know anyone who goes around punching crates?) you can reveal health and stamina pick-ups, as well as food items that you eat instantly. There's something completely bizarre about a man in the middle of a national disaster stopping in the street to eat a burger that's bigger than his head and following it with a can of drink that's equally sized. The inventory system isn't bad and there's a weapon upgrade and purchasing system, but if anything this feels at odds with the unrealistic tone of the game.
We've already mentioned the visuals in the driving sections, but it's worth pointing out how amazingly varied the game's graphics are. One section can look really quite good, complete with plenty going on and some decent effects, while another can see you staring at a NPC that could have been ripped out of a PSOne game. In reality PSOne games look far, far worse, but this is what Day of Crisis' visuals evoke memories of. We know the Wii can't pump out brilliantly detailed HD visuals, but it can do better than this, that's for sure.
The argument you're bound to see elsewhere is that Disaster: Day of Crisis is unique and fills a void in the Wii software library, and is therefore worth a purchase despite its many flaws, but a poor software line-up shouldn't be enough to sell you on a distinctly underwhelming game. There's some fun to be had with this Wii action game, but it's far from good and certainly not what you should be expecting from Nintendo.