Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cutie Q

Cutie Q is the last in a trilogy of breakout/pinball games from Namco and the creator of Pac-Man, Toru Iwatani.  These games were pretty obscure and didn't set the gaming scene afire, but they were decent enough, particularly the 2nd entry, Bomb Bee.  Can Cutie Q improve on this formula?  Well, let's find out. 

One notable thing about Cutie Q is that it's the only one of the three games to be released in a format other than the arcade.  This did not come about until 2008, when it was included in the Wii's Namco Museum Remix (I played NM Megamix, which is basically the same game with 6 new arcade classics).  There are three ways to play this game, either the Wii remote, the Wii nunchuk, or the Classic Controller.  I much preferred the classic controller, as it's just a much more traditional way to play games, and it really comes in handy for those Wii games which don't utilize its control features. 

As for the game itself, there really isn't much new to report.  It plays pretty much the same as the first two.  You have the dual paddles, as in Super Breakout.  You have the spinner and rollovers, as you would in pinball games.  However, there are a few things to note.  First, there are no side blocks, as in the first two games.  I felt that this was a good thing, as it makes the game more straightforward and less complicated.  The pinball hook is enough to make a clear distinction between this and Breakout.  Also, and I have not seen this mentioned in my research for the game, the blocks have a "ghost image" and the center area can have up to four ghosts that you can hit with the ball.  The ghosts only come in one color (pink), but I found a similarity to the ghosts in the Pac-Man games.  This makes sense, as the guy behind Pac-Man designed this game as well.  So, in my mind, this can serve as a sorta-prequel to Pac-Man. 

Since Cutie Q was released in the dawn of gaming, there isn't a noticeable upgrade in graphics and sound from the last game.  And, like the other Breakout games of the period, the ball will inexplicably go from a manageable speed to a blazing-fast speed.  However, it is possible to speed up your paddle with the press of a button.  This is a very handy feature, and I'm not sure if it's always been there or was just designed for the Wii port. 

Cutie Q isn't a significant upgrade from Bomb Bee, but it doesn't detract in terms of quality and gameplay either.  It was enjoyable enough, and speeding up the paddle in response to the faster speed of the ball was a very good design decision.  It's definitely worth a play, if nothing else than as a look into history (as Cutie Q is the first Namco game to be playable in a format other than arcade).

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