Platform: Nintendo Wii
How inherently amusing do you find the words ‘Big Willy'? Does the title make you titter? Will you mind having it rubbed in your face for hour after hour after miserable hour? If so, roll up! You're just the sort of numbskull THQ was hoping to win over with this game.
If not, then you'll find the latest in the Destroy all Humans saga a doubly depressing experience. On the one hand, it's a risible new entry in what I used to consider a promising series. On the other hand, it's yet more confirmation that the Wii is becoming the new depositary of choice for slipshod franchise games. Neither of these things leaves me feeling good.
Destroy all Humans arrived in the summer of 2005 as part of a wave of open-world games that came out in the wake of GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas. The original developers, Pandemic, were also responsible for the ‘GTA goes to war' game Mercenaries (and are behind that game's upcoming sequel) and both games focused on the joys of mindless destruction in a physics-enabled, sandbox setting. Ingeniously, Destroy all Humans took the classic fifties alien invasion story and spun it from the extra-terrestrial side, throwing Crypto - a wisecracking alien with a mean line in Jack Nicholson imitations - into the rigid social structures and cold war paranoia of fifties America, and playing the whole thing for laughs. Sure, there was some broad slapstick stuff and gross-out humour in there - how can there not be in a game where the anal probe is a vital tool? Yet Destroy all Humans also had some subtle satire in the mix. Crypto could read the thoughts of his pitiful human prey, revealing their sexually repressed, conformist, consumerist obsessions. The game skewered perfectly the sci-fi fiction, worries and social mores of the era. What's more, it could make you laugh out loud.
Big Willy Unleashed will make you snigger occasionally - no man is totally impervious to genital-related jokes - but while the script packs in the innuendo and even tries a touch of self aware irony, it rarely rises to the occasion. Developed by THQ's internal developer, Locomotion, it's a broader, less nuanced game with a broader, less nuanced sense of humour. The action moves on from the fifties of the original and the sixties of Destroy all Humans 2 to the seventies, and the targets this time include fast-food chains, roller-skating, disco, Fantasy Island and Patty Hearst. However, the thought reading seems to have gone AWOL, and most of the wit seems to have gone with it. The basic setup - that your alien commander, Pox, has invested in a burger chain which is selling food made from humans - is entertaining, but otherwise the few jokes that aren't cheap willy gags are along the lines of ‘isn't disco funny?' or ‘Look! That little chap looks like the midget from Fantasy Island.' I know it's the stuff BBC3 nostalgia countdown shows are made of, but didn't the first game do this stuff so much better?