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Arts & Entertainment

Review: 'Metroid: Other M' strong on plot, short on action

| Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010

Followers of the "Metroid" game series from Nintendo are bound to covet the latest offering, "Metroid: Other M," while those new to the series will likely find it a bit stale.

"Metroid: Other M" (Nintendo, for Wii, $49.99) brings surprisingly few engaging new features to the table. It's a title that banks on a solid previous relationship with the gamer, rather than enticing new followers with fancy graphics or innovative game play.

The game presents itself in third-person style, with some of the action whizzing by left to right, in old-school scroller fashion. It's positioned as an updated homage to a successful game series.

The plot is strong. I played as Samus Arun, a female protagonist clad in formfitting, futuristic military garb. Earlier in the game series, Samus destroyed the corrupted Metroid species, defeated their queen and snatched a baby to study amid the carnage. That baby was destroyed before her eyes, and in this title she's poised for a little payback.

Samus is a fighting member of the Galactic Federation and has detected a signal in space code-named "Baby's Cry." She and a team venture forth to investigate, weapons in hand.

The first few excursions were mild, as I slogged through some mundane battles against bug-eyed, purple-winged things that were more annoying than scary. Most of the initial action takes place in the corridors of a spacecraft where something horrible, of course, has happened.

"Metroid: Other M" introduces a dual-use shifting of the Wii remote position. I had to hold it in different positions for different situations. In "normal view" I held the remote sideways, jumping and shooting beams with the buttons on the right while navigating my movements with the control pad on the left.

In "search" view, I held the remote vertically and pointed it at the display searching for a door or enemy to lock my sites on and shoot a missile at. It was also handy for inspecting my surroundings for clues.

But it also got confusing. Some scenes require shooting prowess more than precision searches. Having to adjust the remote in my hand while being attacked felt like more of a chore rather than a fun aspect to controlling Samus' vantage point. It's really a solution in search of a problem.

There's an auto-aiming feature that takes the talent out of shooting enemies, but since the game was designed for the third-person view, there's really no way around it.

There's also a lovey-dovey back story to Samus and her commanding Federation officer, Adam. Given the amount of time invested in it during the lengthy cut scenes, I had hoped for more tension or explanation to that aspect early on. But the game makes you wait around before further defining their relationship.

For the most part "Metroid: Other M" is a fairly run-of-the-mill alien shooter. The graphics aren't much better than some old "Turok" titles, and the aliens appear jaggedly rendered on close inspection. Given advances in gaming design and technology, it seems like a waste to have updated a decent game series with a treatment that doesn't introduce anything terribly inventive.

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