From stomping sand castles to toppling block towers, most of us learn early on the simple pleasure of smashing things to pieces. Wreckateer channels this destructive delight by letting you use your Kinect to fling projectiles at medieval castles and bring them tumbling down. Collapsing these cartoony keeps is mild fun, but Wreckateer's real appeal comes from aiming your shots just right and maximizing your score. It's a puzzle game, of sorts, and the dual goals of castle-razing and score-chasing make Wreckateer an entertaining way to flex your Kinect.
You're the newest member of a three-man ballista team contracted to travel all over a fantasy kingdom and destroy goblin-infested structures. Your two AI buddies teach you the control basics, which involve mimicking the manual firing of the ballista. You grab onto it with two hands, step back to draw it taut, set your aim, and release to fire. The creak of the ballista's joints and the thunking release of your shot provide nice auditory accompaniments to your actions, and elements downrange light up to indicate where your shot will travel. The Kinect registers your movements well, affording you a good degree of accuracy that you need in order to tally high scores in later levels.
Once your shot is airborne, you can swipe at your projectile to nudge it in different directions. Simply guiding the ball into walls, turrets, and towers brings them toppling down, but there are also sneering goblins, bundles of dynamite, and floating power-ups to aim for. Tagging these things can boost your score and amplify your destructive power, so plotting your shots is as important as executing them. Early levels make it very clear what the best trajectories are, and a powerful, well-aimed shot will reap big rewards. Such straightforward accuracy can get you through later levels, but to earn high scores and better medals, you need to be more subtle with your aim, shot strength, and midair manipulation.
You must also make good use of your different shot types. Bomb shots can be detonated to wreak havoc on dense structures, while flying shots can be steered on curving and swooping paths by spreading your arms out to your sides like wings. The lift shot requires you to shepherd it along by triggering boost charges, which feels like more of a hindrance than a help. The speed shot can rocket forward with damaging momentum, and the split shot spreads into four linked projectiles. Though the camera angle on the latter can make it tricky to judge how close you are to a structure, the sheer breadth of destruction it can cause makes it a welcome addition to your arsenal.
Each level has its own preset lineup of shots, so you won't always have your favorite tool for the job. Figuring out the best way to use each shot and then executing your plan gets more satisfying as the levels get trickier. You'll likely end up retrying a shot (raise your left hand) or restarting the level (raise your right hand) more and more frequently as you angle toward that perfect shot and hope for the rubble to fall your way. Wreckateer's chunky destruction modeling adds some unpredictability to each shot, but is consistent enough to make you feel capable of repeated success.
Seeing this success manifested in numerical fashion is satisfying, especially when you surge past your friends or the default high score set by Wreck Wreckington. With score-boosting shields, a destruction multiplier, and emblems for specific feats, there are a variety of ways to push your total even higher. This knowledge comes in handy when competing against a friend locally, and though the player-switching is awkwardly handled, it's still good fun to try to out-wreck your buddy.
There are dozens of levels in Wreckateer, enough to make the 800-Microsoft-point price tag seem very reasonable. The game also features a new, cross-game program called Avatar Famestar, which gives you challenges to complete in order to earn points and unlocks for your Xbox Live avatar. These activities give you more goals to strive for, if you care to, but it's the challenge of pushing your score higher and the satisfaction of causing destruction that make Wreckateer a fun summer diversion. And the best part? You don't have to clean up after yourself.