I haven’t purchased a lot of WiiWare games. Actually, I’ve purchased one, and only because I happened to have a Wii Points card and wanted 10 more Coins on my Club Nintendo account to buy a reward. Of course, you only get Coins for games that were released after 2008, so rather than buy another Sega Genesis game, I decided to peruse the WiiWare section and pick up the weirdest game I could find in two minutes. That is the pointless back story to why I bought 2 Fast 4 Gnomz.
GAME NAME: 2 Fast 4 Gnomz
RELEASE DATE(S): February 23, 2012
Indie games, of course, do not have the budget to look or sound impressive, or to have extensive multiplayer sections. To make up for this, they need one of three things to be successful: a compelling story, innovative gameplay, or a delightful charm. 2 Fast 4 Gnomz is about a sock-collecting, princess-seeking gnome who does little other than run and jump. Luckily, it’s nowhere near short on the charm.
2 Fast 4 Gnomz wastes no time getting into the weird by introducing us to the king gnome and his moustache. His Highness then announces that his kingdom requires a princess, and commands some random gnome who happens to be standing around to venture forth! And don’t come back without a princess and hundreds upon hundreds of socks.
2 Fast 4 Gnomz is one of those autoscrolling games where your character runs it’s your responsibility to be quick enough to dodge (or smash through) the obstacles placed in your path. Nintendo classifies it as an action/adventure title. I like to come up with my own genres, so I would call it a “rail jumper” or perhaps a “suicide simulator.” As 2 Fast 4 Gnomz doesn’t skimp on the difficulty, you will fall off many a cliff, impale yourself on many a spike, and be crushed by many a rock. The game is even nice enough to keep track of how many times you screw up and die.
Never fear, however, as the game is never monotonous and only occasionally frustrating. The endless running and jumping is broken up by four abilities which you learn throughout the first half of the game. The first is the parachute ability, in which your gnome whips out a pair of shorts to float gracefully over spike patches and fly from updraft to updraft like a bearded eagle. The second is the bull, which allows you to turn red bash through stone (though for some reason, not wooden spikes) and makes you super heavy. The third is the sprint ability, which speaks for itself. The last is called “Uncle Time,” which allows you to turn back time and take a different path after unlocking it.
The gradual introduction of these new abilities keeps the game fresh and entertaining until the end—that and the hundreds of socks lying around for your to collect. Later, the game comes up with increasingly devious obstacle patterns that will make you sweat—and in my case, cuss like a sailor. Publisher and developer QubicGames is a master of placing obstacles in such a way that you have just barely enough time to react. You need to work hard and often make many attempts to get through a section to the next save point, but when you finally do, you are driven by a sense of accomplishment to try the next level. This gives 2 Fast 4 Gnomz its addictive quality, and is the reason why I completed it in two days.
The best part about this game is its simple, yet very effective humor. Although the game was frustrating at times, I couldn’t stay mad at it. Every time you fall off a cliff or get swept up into a whirlwind, the game stops in its tracks and the gnome let out the most amusing scream. It may sound cruel, but that scream never stopped being funny. Especially since the scream is different (yet no less funny) if you fall while in bull or sprint mode. The game’s audio, plus the perfectly blank stares of the characters, made this game funny enough to be forgiven for any of its flaws.
Though flaws it does have. The two that stand out unfortunately affect the gameplay in a pretty significant way. Firstly, I can’t tell you how many times I got past a complicated set of obstacles just to run into a stupid patch of wooden spikes because something in the background was brown. The second flaw is mostly Nintendo’s fault. I speak of course of the Wii Remote’s tiny D-Pad. If you aren’t careful to press on the ends of each direction of the pad, you will end up accidentally turning bull while trying to leap over a large pit with sprint mode. Still funny, but it shouldn’t happen. I was also disappointed by the lack of an ending cinematic after you beat the second half of the game, but like I said, this game isn’t about story.
2 Fast 4 Gnomz is everything a goofy Indie game should be. It’s simple fun. It’s challenging, but so charming that it’s impossible to stay mad at it for more than the length of time that it takes to repeatedly slam a gnome into the first patch of spikes after a save point. It’s short, but only costs five dollars. It appeals to the collectors and completionists by having something to collect. The controls can be confined to a Wii Remote, yet the game introduces new skills and new types of obstacles frequently enough to prevent boredom. This is a very well-designed game. It’s also about a gnome, and spells its title with a “z” in place of an “s.” What’s not to love?