Considering Wire Way's genesis as a $30 retail DS game, it may be considered churlish to suggest it's a little over engineered.
After all, it took a team of half a dozen about a year to make - the cute space alien characters, the wire flicking gameplay, the 32 levels (plus the 16 additional in-app purchases), and the various Challenge modes.
Yet what's peculiar is that despite the centrality of the whole touchscreen flicking mechanic, Wire Way seems to play differently on each console. Perhaps it's more to do with knowing it was originally developed for the DS, but the game feels as if it plays more precisely with a stylus than a fat finger.The Way of the Wire
Then there's the issue of the price - $4.99, €3.99 or £2.99 - which is a steal considering the amount of content contained, but which simultaneously seems wrong for a iPhone 2D platformer.
Of course, this says much about the unsustainable business model developers are forced to employ on the App Store. Equally, for our 99c we expect easy, bite-sized entertainment, which isn't what Wire Way is about. Instead it's a fully fledged console game with the requisite level of challenge.
Still, if that's what you're after Wire Way is definitely a game for you.The joy of ping
Even if you're not keen on spending the hours required for completion, there are simple pleasures to be had from spending minutes with Wiley.
Each of the levels requires you to fire him around the place by drawing back and releasing the wires he sticks to, as well as firing him into the pinball bumpers that are positioned all over. Along the way you need to collect the stars, which act as health in the same way as rings in Sonic the Hedgehog games. Meanwhile the puzzle pieces scattered about enable you to customise Wiley, assuming you collect a complete set for a new head, body, voice or colour scheme.
More crucial for level completion are the occasional keys required to open gated areas, which in later levels typically guard the entrance to the flying saucer that is the end point of each level. Boss battles in which you have to repeatedly bounce Wiley on giant protagonists are also present and correct.
As you'd expect, the pinging mechanic is really solid - something helped by the zany sound effects as he bashes into walls and the like - and while Wiley's in the air, you can give him a further boost by flicking him with any nearby wire. The thicker super wires provide more kick, while the bumpers are strategically positioned to either fire him directly where he needs to go, or as obstacles that will fling him offset, hence requiring you to avoid their embrace.
This sort of level design quickly becomes challenging, verging on frustrating though. Often you have to get your trajectory just right or Wiley's pinged back from whence he came, sometimes losing stars and occasionally his life in the process.Size isn't everything
This encourages replayability, as does the end of level ranking, which depends on how many stars you've collected and what percentage of the level you travelled through.
However, the main issue with Wire Way is that the levels are so big, you don't always have much of a clue where you're supposed to go. There is a mini-map in the top left and you can pause and scroll around but you're basically reliant on the arrows which provide a general direction to ping in.
To that extent, the game is a brilliant example of immediate, repetitive pleasure meshed with medium term pain. Personally I found the balance between the two started to rub a little thin about half way through.
You do have the option of taking a break though and playing around with the puzzle-based Flick Trial levels, which you have to complete in a certain number of flicks, as well as the Strategery mode, in which you get to place your own wires and bumpers.
Such additions demonstrate the scale of the product you're getting with Wire Way. And in such context, it's feels a bit perverse to damn it with what seems like faint praise. The bottom line is that the praise shouldn't be viewed as faint.
Compared to most games on the App Store, this is a large chunk of quality entertainment. The difference is that it doesn't feel like an iPhone game because it wasn't originally an iPhone game. And the surprise is how different this makes Wire Way seem.