reviews\ Jul 16, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Art of Balance Review


Stacking-based puzzle games seem like perfect fits for the Wii. You think about all the Wii remote twisting that can be done, and it almost seems like a no-brainer. Art of Balance doesn’t depend too heavily on the console’s motion capabilities. Instead, it streamlines its approach and provides a more welcoming and rewarding gameplay experience due to that fact.

In Art of Balance, it is your goal to get through each of the game’s 120+ stages by stacking different shapes. You grab squares, triangles, circles, and a number of other shapes that look like they came straight out of Tetris, you build your stack of pieces, and once you’ve used up all of your pieces, you wait for your stack to stay up for three seconds. In later levels, these three seconds can feel like they’re dragging on forever, and you find yourself eagerly hoping they end as your stack slowly begins to topple over.

The game starts out easy enough, but soon you’re given complex shapes to stack, and this is where the game’s challenge really lies. It may take several tries for you to get that winning stack up, but once you find out what works, it’s a very rewarding gameplay experience. There are even special types of blocks to keep things from ever getting stale, such as glass blocks, which can only hold three blocks on top of them before they break. Sometimes you can get away with using these until the end, but other times, you are forced to use them early on, which makes your positioning pivotal.

There are also a few special conditions in some of the game’s levels. Certain stages give you a time limit, so you have to stack your shapes up rapidly without letting the pressure get to you. Another condition requires you to set your stack up to a certain height. A meter to the left side of the screen indicates how high your stack is and how high it should be, and these stages definitely require a steady hand.

Art of Balance even features a couple of multiplayer modes. You can team up with a friend and play cooperatively to get through the game’s stages, but the real fun comes in the game’s Versus mode. Here, you play against another player in best of five, seven, or nine matches and see who can successfully stack their shapes up first. There’s a lot of pressure in this mode, and you’ll find yourself having a really good time taking on your friends.

Part of what makes Art of Balance so playable and so enjoyable is its control scheme. Rather than relying on the Wii Remote’s motion functionality to twist your pieces, you simply use the motion controls to move your shapes around the screen. Turning them can be done with either the controller’s B button or D-pad, so you don’t have to twist your wrist awkwardly at all. It’s a control design that makes the game very accessible without affecting its challenge at all.

Art of Balance has the visual flair of a standard puzzle game, or lack thereof. Movement and edges are smooth, but the overall package is very simple..

Art of Balance features just over 120 levels, though these won’t take more than a handful of hours to clear. But despite that fact, there is actually a good deal of replay value in this package thanks to the competitive multiplayer mode, which will have you and your friends saying, “Just one more set.” At 800 Wii Points, it’s hard not to recommend Art of Balance.

The development team over at Shin’en has done a great job of bringing a highly satisfying, intuitive, and engaging puzzle game experience to WiiWare. By combining addictive gameplay with simple controls and throwing in two fun multiplayer modes for good measure, Shin’en aims to please. Art of Balance is highly recommended for puzzle gamers, competitive gamers, and anyone who enjoys a fun game.


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