When a game features a hero named Konki the Stellar Guardian and a bad guy called Dr. Dark Matter, the review sort of writes itself. It isn't the absurd childish character names that make Evasive Space an awful slog though; it's the controls. This WiiWare top-down shooter with a twist (there's no shooting) is based on an impressive premise of escaping every nasty situation that enemies throw at you, which gives the game an addictive puzzle vibe. Unfortunately, the game is also based on the not-so-impressive premise of using the Wii Remote to guide your every movement, which is just about as enjoyable and as painful as slamming a car door on your hand. Repeatedly.
Only the concept here is sound. The idea behind Evasive Space is good enough that the game would probably have gulped down a lot of quarters if it had hit arcades around the same time that Foreigner hit the top 10. You take command of Konki the Stellar Guardian's 2D spaceship and maneuver it through a series of levels to gather up all of the Constellation Stones that have been swiped by the insidious Dr. Dark Matter and his gang of space thieves. Yes, this is a deeply dumb plot that you will ignore whether you're playing the 20 missions of the solo campaign or the local multiplayer where you take on up to three other players in one-off races and timed challenges.
Of much more importance is the game design, which veers away from top-down arcade fare, such as old classics like Asteroids and modern equivalents like Geometry Wars, and ditches shooting completely. Instead of blasting baddies to bits, you evade obstacles. The focus here is on staying away from the many level hazards and grabbing power-ups like time bonuses and diodes that power ship upgrades, such as on-demand shields. Primary level objectives include races through maze-like corridors to hit warp gates before they close and scavenger hunts where you scoop up set numbers of floating astronauts or energy power-ups. Everything is intense and frenzied even without any firepower, due to tight time limits. You often have less than a minute to get out of Dodge, so every mistake where you run into a wall or turn the wrong way can be very costly.
What could also be costly is the strain that the Evasive Space controls put on your wrist. After a few hours of play you might have to sign yourself up for carpal tunnel surgery. You guide Konki's ship by moving a cursor with the remote and pressing the B button to engage engine thrust. All you need to do is aim the cursor where you want to fly and hit a button to get there. Simple and intuitive. And also extraordinarily frustrating and painful. Everything is unforgiving, and the ship controls are temperamental. It seems like the hunk of junk never wants to head directly for the cursor, so you wind up looping around power-ups and backtracking to pick up objects that you somehow sailed right past.
Evasive Space is a good-looking game, but it is far too busy. You can easily lose track of the cursor behind the interface or mistake it for space debris like asteroids or nebulas. Corridors are so narrow and levels so clogged with obstacles that you have to be just about perfect to get out of a level. A split second of confusion is enough to cause you to spin off the screen to your doom or plow into a wall, so expect to get stuck in some levels for more than an hour. Worst of all, the difficulty and control fussiness cause you to grip the remote so tightly that you can barely unclench your hand at the end of a level.
If Evasive Space were just another run-of-the-mill arcade game played with a gamepad, it would come close to being an enjoyable enough experience to justify the 1,000 Wii Points asking price. Unfortunately, the motion-sensing controls have turned this promising design into a wrist-cracking trip into hand cramp hell.