Game Freak’s action platformer Giga Wrecker has actually been in the hands of PC players for nearly two years, but on the back of its success it has finally made its way to consoles in the form of Giga Wrecker Alt. So does Giga Wrecker for consoles come in like a wrecking ball, or is it repurposed junk?
Giga Wrecker opens with our protagonist Reika dealing with a problem I’m sure any nineteen-year-old girl can relate to – her friends and family and most of the human race have been all but annihilated by an extremely powerful technologically-advanced race of robots that have appeared out of the blue. It’s a tale as old as time really. After barely escaping an attack by the murderous robot army known as the Ajith as she scrambles about the ruins of humanity, our heroine is left without an arm and fighting for life. Luckily, a doctor in a blood-stained labcoat (sounds dodgy but he’s actually a good bloke) arrives in time to save your life in exchange for you going under the knife and becoming his cyborg guinea pig. Awaking form her near-death experience with a brand new mechanical arm, Reika embarks on a revenge quest to take down the megalomaniacial robots who have enslaved humanity.
I don’t know why but I trust this guy immediately and implicitly
The story is actually pretty engaging, with just enough anime melodrama to carry the tale. Throw in a sprinkle of time travelling shenanigans and you’ve got more than enough intrigue to get you through. It’s told predominantly through text conversations between characters or via dramatic soliloquy, so be prepared to get your read on, but I was always interested in seeing what would happen next.
Gameplay-wise, your job is simply to progress from room to room and navigate branching paths within five unique biomes. At the end of each biome is a boss fight with the most powerful members of the Ajith know as the Astra class (anyone who owns a 2000-model Holden Astra like I do knows the power that I speak of). To get through these rooms and hunt down your oppressors you’ll have to make good use of your new cyborg arm, whose principle function is…to pick up rubbish. Yes, your arm allows to pick up bits of debris scattered about and gather them into a big old ball, which in turn allows you defeat enemies and solve physics-based puzzles. Garbage-based puzzling is not something I’ve really experienced since Blinx The Time Sweeper, but it’s put to good use across the game’s many challenges of increasing difficulty.
I’ve mentioned that the game involves navigating branching paths, which necessarily involves some backtracking to and fro. Later on in the game you’ll be required to return to old areas with new abilities in a metroidvania-lite sense too. With this in mind, I’d be remiss in mentioning that the map (sorry, Nanomap) is about as reliable as a Holden Astra’s timing belt (obscure car-based humour, we’re going there). I’d take a battered copy of a 1986 Melbourne Street Directory to get me through the CBD in peak hour over the Nanomap any day, which does a spectacularly terrible job of displaying room/biome connectivity and your specific location.
Fun with rubberised balls
I applaud the uniquity of the main puzzling elements and general ideas and mechanics, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the game’s controls often fail to rise to the task. Reika can feel sluggish and unresponsive at times, and the game often demands a level of precision that she simply can’t muster. Most infuriating is how slippery she feels when landing on platforms, and hit detection also feels spotty. Often the solution to a puzzle is obvious, but actually manoeuvring Reika to do what you want can be painful. These issues become most apparent during the tense boss encounters, where lightning reflexes and precise timing are paramount, particularly on the game’s brutal Hard difficulty. I will say that despite the occasional frustration of getting Reika to do what I wanted, the boss fights are still an absolute highlight, playing out like lengthy puzzles where memorising the bosses’ attack patterns and queues is the only way to emerge victorious.
Visually, Giga Wrecker is a bit of a mixed bag. The hand-drawn style of the character models (particularly the bosses) is universally excellent, featuring a crisp and colourful vibe that reminded me of some of Atlus’ work in Dragon’s Crown (minus the gargantuan heaving breasts). However the muted backgrounds and dull platform textures clash with the more vibrant aspects, and I would have loved to have seen a continuation of the style from the enemies and characters to the general environments.
Giga Wrecker Alt is an action platformer with an engaging little anime-inspired narrative and some interesting and unique mechanics under the hood. While I would have welcomed with open cyborg arms some tighter platforming controls and a map that is more advanced than the Dora the Explorer style one it gives you, the clever puzzles and excellent boss fights make this one worth the price of admission.
Reviewed on PS4 | Review code supplied by publisher