Thunderbolt logo

Muscle March

This is a crime. No, that’s not quite right. A travesty. An abomination. A twisted, perverted act that makes one question humanity itself. It’s sickening. Oh, it seems inconsequential at a glance. Just a stolen jar. But the fallout of this heinous misdeed will reach far beyond some petty theft. That missing package contains something held sacred by some of the world’s greatest athletes. For those precious few, only the hard truth remains:

Someone stole the protein powder!

Ooh, sinister. A thief snagged a giant jar of protein shake ingredients and is making a desperate escape. Not just any criminal, either. Depending on the level you’re playing, it could be a football player, cyborg, alien, Nobunga cosplaying as a clown, a pair of cheap Teletubby knockoffs, or the most disturbingly buff Silver Surfer wannabe you’ll ever see. It doesn’t matter who does it, though; they’re all doomed a fate far worse than getting arrested. They’re being hunted down by the combined might of the strongest, manliest, speedo-clad bodybuilders the world has ever known. Tony, the American leader! Adebe, the African animal lover! Rio, the Japanese bookworm! Radimov, the Russian punk with the mohawk! Pedroso, the Spanish gentleman with a top hat and gloriously oversized handlebar moustache! Brenda, the happy British cheerleader! And Rossi, the polar bear!

…No, seriously. You know you’re screwed when you’re being chased by a bodybuilding polar bear.

screenshot

It’s quite a spectacle. Thousands of pounds of sheer, manly muscle are bearing down on the thieves with unrelenting fury. The entire game revolves around you and the other body builders chasing down the villain on foot. Since you automatically run along a predetermined course, there’s no need (or way) to stop and explore. Instead, you’ll sprint along city streets, leap onto roofs, and narrowly dodge innocent, less manly bystanders. Your target will plow through entire buildings in a vain attempt to get away. Before crashing through like a demented Kool-Aid Man, he’ll assume a muscular pose and leave a similarly-shaped hole in the wall. To keep up the chase, you’ll have to move the Wiimote and Nunchuck controls to have your character mimic the pose. As the chase wears on, your fellow body builders will slip on banana peels, crash headlong into the obstacles, and slowly narrow the ranks down until you’re left in a solo pursuit. If you manage to keep up long enough, you’ll trigger a mini-game in which you’ll have to frantically waggle the controllers to pick up speed, tackle the hapless thief, and allow your teammates to perform an epic dogpile. While everyone’s distracted, the protein powder gets re-stolen, thus beginning the process anew.

Simple, right?

Not quite. Muscle March is easy to get into, and its ridiculous concept gives Katamari Damacy a run for its money. But its controls are terrible. The motion recognition is frequently inaccurate and sluggish to any changes. That’s fine on the easier stages, but it becomes a serious issue once the game decides to speed things up. Many of the obstacles force you to change your stance at the blink of an eye, which would be barely enough time even if things worked perfectly. Instead, you’ll see your character shift awkwardly from each of the four stances (both arms up, arms down, or only one arm up at a time) before finally settling on the one it thinks you’re trying to perform. Chances are that it’ll be the wrong one, and Rossi and his pals will smash their faces into the broken wall and screw you out of what should’ve have been an easy victory. The fact that you have to restart the entire level from the beginning makes it even more annoying.

screenshot

At least you don’t have to suffer alone. Up to four people can play, which makes Muscle March ideal for parties with people who might not necessarily have any gaming skills. Everyone can play the Endless challenge, which has you pursuing the powder thief along a rainbow-laden path and a never-ending line of walls. The problem is that lacks the visuals of the regular Arcade Mode. You get to smash into office cubicles, traumatize schoolchildren, terrorize movie theaters, scramble up escalators, leap across car hoods, invade a space station, and run amok through all kinds of other places. Half the fun is trying to keep track of all the random insanity that you’re constantly crashing through. Not to mention that the Endless Mode lacks the frantic controller mini-game at the end, which adds a bit more variety to the chase. If you don’t play the Arcade Mode, the most compelling thing you’ll ever see is your character’s ridiculously tight, speedo-clad ass wiggling as he sprints for his victim.

Or maybe you’re into that. Nothing wrong with that at all. There’s plenty wrong with Muscle March, though. The premise is simple: you move the controllers to match the hole in the wall, and keep going until you catch up to the target. The problem is that the motion sensing is abysmal; the game will frequently misread your commands, resulting in your character shuffling through the stances until he either miraculously makes it through or smashes his head into a bloody pulp. It makes for some great entertainment value as a party game, but the multiplayer is half-assed. That could be said for the game as a whole; there’s a lack of extra modes, challenges, unlockables, and anything else that remotely resembles a reason to keep playing. Instead, it relies too much on its quirky charm to keep you hooked. It doesn‘t last. The protein powder can stay stolen.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

Think you can do better? Write for us.