Rage of the Gladiator Hands-On

Gladiators duke it out in one-on-one combat that supports Wii MotionPlus.

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Rage of the Gladiator for WiiWare is a first-person combat game that's not unlike the Punch-Out! series of games, with the exception that you're not boxing enemies. Instead, you're clubbing them over the head with maces and shields while simultaneously trying to dodge or block enemy attacks. Our demo began with a brief tutorial--featuring the requisite wise old fighter--that lays out the basics of what you can do. Swinging the Wii Remote in various directions causes your onscreen character to swing his weapon in similar fashion. If you go from side to side, your character performs a swiping attack. Likewise, if you swing up to down or down to up, your fighter's blows will land on the enemy's head in a corresponding way with a hit to the top of the head or a smack to the chin, respectively. You also have an assortment of evasive moves, including a shield block (which you can use by pressing and holding the C button on the nunchuk controller), as well as dodges that are easily executed by pressing left or right on the analog stick at the appropriate time. In addition, there's a multitier meter on the side of the screen that basically indicates when you can perform a special combination. When the first tier is full, you can shake the nunchuk and let the combination rip, but by charging the other tiers, you can unleash an even more devastating combination.

Of course, like in Punch-Out, the key to success in Rage of the Gladiator is timing. If you can learn the attack patterns of enemies and kind of gauge how long it takes for them to start an attack animation and land a blow, then you're golden. But, of course, the difficulty lies in the fact that you have to take some punishment before you can figure these things out. In our first battle (there are several different types of combatants in the game), we faced an orc-like warrior who's not the most adept fighter (at one point, if you evade one of his attacks, he simply falls over), but he can punish you if you're not careful. And you can't simply flail your arms in an attempt to beat him via attrition--he's quite capable at blocking your attacks unless they're counters.

After we beat him handily in the first "round," our foe gets back up to his feet and asks for some help from his gods, who amusingly strike him down with some lightning before powering up his sword. So now, he returns to the fight with a flame sword as well as a new dash attack that's a little hard to read at times, which then makes dodge timing a slightly more difficult affair. But we prevail only to see our opponent come back over twice with two new powers--an electrically charged shield and the ability to become a giant. Needless to say, when he's that size, it becomes even more difficult to read his attacks. But we eventually prevail and end the round with one of our super-combinations.

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Rage of the Gladiator definitely borrows the right things from Punch-Out, and we're interested to see what the fights with the stronger characters will be like. The game is currently scheduled for release on WiiWare sometime this spring.

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