When you think of TV gameshows that could make a good videogame, there aren’t many that spring to mind nowadays. With half-hearted conversions of shows like Golden Balls, Countdown and Family Fortunes on the Wii, you’d be forgiven for just sticking with TV Game Show King for your virtual gameshow fix.
And you still are.
Last years release of The Ultimate Red Ball Challenge flew under the radar, most likely because it wasn’t a familar name. Despite having Richard Hammond doing video links, this game goes out of it’s way not to call itself after Total Wipeout (despite what the box art above says – my copy didn’t feature that claim, only a short statement on the back “THE OFFICIAL GAME OF THE HIT TV SHOW”… but what TV show?!). Logically I’d say because of the PlayStation racing game… Although after playing it, you’d be convinced it’s because the people involved with the TV show are ashamed to be associated with this game!
Replicating the TV show, you start with the qualifier – a veritable treat if you can use a thumbstick, waggle the remote and nunchuck and press buttons in time. The Red Balls – after which this game is named – is stupidly easy to beat, as you need to hit A, B, C or Z in time to hop across the balls. There is little chance of falling in the water, which is the main appeal of the BBC 1 show!
The qualifier almost seems too easy, and if you know your Wii buttons, you’d have no problems getting a time of under 2 minutes.
The sweeper is even easier, as it’s all a matter of timing, flicking your remote down to jump over the rotating arm(s). Unfortunately the difficulty is ramped up from here, starting with the Dizzy Dummies round. Dizziness is imitated by unresponsive controls for a few seconds, before waggling becomes king. Unfortunately, balance is needed, and the game lies to you with its on-screen prompts when it gives you hints on how to regain balance – don’t waggle from side to side, just lean the way you would if you were trying not to fall over.
If you manage to get into the nameless final (they can’t even reference the Wipeout Zone), then you face a mixture of waggles and button presses combined. If your timing is off by a split second then you’ll see yourself missing jumps and falling off of barrels.
Extras come in the form of being able to face different obstacles and making your own show with a mixture of obstacles you’ve unlocked, but it’s the same frustrating mixture of poor controls, repetitive music and sound effects (in the final round you’ll be sick of hearing the “SPLASH!” out of your remote) that will get you ready to toss this game out of the window.
The viability of the TV show as a game will always be questioned, but it’s execution made a dodgy idea a real letdown. Even if Mindscape had done something as simple as implement the Wii Balance Board for the balance segments (imagine walking up the greasy pole on the Balance Board), then this game could have been something of a diamond in the rough.
Bring on Ninja Warrior: The Game. I’ll even take it with Stuart Hall doing his over-the-top commentary. If they can make Total Wipeout into a video game, then surely Ninja Warrior is ripe for this treatment. Please?