You can’t let yourself get distracted. Not now. You’re too close. The end of the wormhole is coming; the dimensional gateway is looming ever larger. It’s still closed, too. You screwed up one too many times during your little interstellar joyride, and now it’s coming back to haunt you. If you don’t get that last sliver of power, your ship will go careening into the gateway and get splattered all over outer space. It’s not a pretty way to go. So focus. Never mind that techno music blaring incessantly in the background. Ignore all the psychedelic colors swirling around you. Forget about those annoying packs of enemy ships and their laser beams. They don’t matter anymore. The only thing that matters is that glowing speck of an energy orb floating in the distance. Nabbing it is your only option, and you‘ve only got seconds to get there. The alternative is too grisly to even consider…
Well, at least as boring as replaying a whole level of Gyrostarr can be.
The premise is simple: you’re piloting a ship that’s cruising through some kind of intergalactic tube. The goal is to collect as many of the floating energy pickups as you possibly can. The more you nab, the higher your score will be. More importantly, it gives you the power necessary to open up the gateway at the end of the level. If you’ve been slacking off, you’ll be treated to a brief animation of your ship flying into a wall and getting reduced to flaming space debris. The legions of generic enemy crafts spamming laser-guided death at you doesn’t make it any easier, either. Persevere, and you’ll get a shot at a rather easy bonus level and unlock the next area. Rinse and repeat a few dozen times, and you’ll have earned the bragging rights of beating one of the Wii’s lesser-known space shooters.
It’s reminiscent of games like Tempest and F-Zero, with just a hint of Sonic 2’s Chaos Emerald levels thrown in for good measure. An interesting blend, though the game pales in comparison to them. Gyrostarr could‘ve been fun, but the lack of variety kills it. The futuristic (and poorly rendered) ships might look cool at a glance, but they offer nothing in terms of different playing styles. Having palette swaps just doesn’t cut it; why can’t one ship have better maneuverability and weaker weapons? Or how about a larger, slower ship with chargeable laser cannons? The levels are even worse. Despite having epileptic seizure-inducing backgrounds, the stages all boil down to the same theme and design. Sure, the curves and turns might be different with each new area, but there’s nothing that’ll remotely challenge your skills with the controls. The same goes with the speed; though your ship gets speed boosts throughout the level, it rarely reaches a velocity that makes the gameplay anywhere near overwhelming. As long as you can keep your stomach from churning from roller coaster-esque perspective, you shouldn’t have much trouble completing everything.
Gyrostarr tries to distract you from the bland stage design with a vast army of repetitive and annoying enemies. You won’t notice them at first – getting a good perspective in the ever-shifting levels makes for bad headaches – but all of the unfriendly fire will get you moving before long. While the gameplay centers around collecting pickups, it’s also about dodging everything getting thrown at you. There’s nothing particularly challenging about the combat; aside from the sentries that can take more than one hit and ships that automatically dodge your attacks, none of your foes should pose a threat. Boss fights would have made the levels immensely more entertaining, and there ought to have been semblance of one here. Instead, the game keeps things interesting by having you pick up all kinds of items; between the scatter shot, missiles, charged particle bombs, and temporary invincibility shields, it won’t take long for you to upgrade your pathetically weak excuse of a laser cannon. Nabbing the pickups is made somewhat easier by your ship’s extendable grappling arm, but the hit detection is sloppy. It’s entirely possible for your grappler to go through a pickup, forcing you to wait for it to retract and wasting an opportunity to gain the upper hand.
At least the multiplayer is kind of fun. Gyrostarr lets you and up to three others take on the levels together. It can get pretty hectic – more players means more enemies and pickups – but a good team can get the job done. Despite the competition focusing on attaining high scores, it doesn’t factor into your overall success. It would have made far more sense to have the players compete to survive instead of working as a team; high scores would have actually mattered, and it would the make the gameplay more competitive. The trick is learning how to balance out the roles; if one players is greedy for a better score, they might abandon the collection process and try to kill as many enemies as possible. A more coordinated effort, however, gets you through the toughest areas with ease. While the standard WiiMote woks fine as a controller, you’ve also got the option of having the Nunchuck or Classic Controller as another approach to the co-op gameplay. Working in tandem with a friend can be fun, but awkward; since the game doesn’t automatically detect the controller attachments, you’re going to have to switch between them and the regular controller whenever you have to deal with any menus. It’s annoying, but creative.
Besides, it’s the music that’ll get to you. There are few gaming soundtracks as cringe-inducing as this one. I understand the logic behind it; the game does take place in some futuristic void in outer space, and it blends in with the pulsing lighting effects and the not-so-speedy pacing. That’s perfectly fine. Getting to level 25 and still having to listen to the same crappy music, on the other hand, is another thing entirely. A little heavy metal, jazz, anything to make for some variety. The levels are even worse; would it have been so hard to do something besides recycling the same wormhole level over and over again? Changing the turns and turning the track invisible does little to keep things interesting. Since you can’t fall off the track – you’ll only ever die if you get hit too many times – there’s little incentive to focus on the layout of the level. Despite their limited designs, however, they are gorgeous; the lighting effects on the dimensional gates and the ever-flowing blur of colors are what make the game seem more like a F-Zero GX knockoff than just another WiiWare game.
That doesn’t make up for its flaws, though. Gyrostarr is a decent game, but it needs some polish to be truly great. The balance between the collecting and shooting aspects makes for an interesting, if not underwhelming experience. There’s just not enough variety; between the non-existent differences between the playable ships, the limited amount of generic enemies, and the lack of quick pacing and difficulty turns the game bland long before you complete all of the levels. Even with all the devastating weapons, the questionable hit detection needs some tweaking. The same goes with the multiplayer; the co-op features are great, but there should have been more emphasis placed on competitive gameplay. The level designs themselves need a little more creativity; few gamers will have the patience to sit through fifty levels of recycled tracks and bad music. But hey, it looks pretty. At least they got that right.