High Voltage setting third-party Wii standard?

Infendo

highvoltage.jpgWe’ve discussed it on Infendo and analyzed the situation from almost every possible angle, but aside from some sporadic gems and surprises, the state of third-party Wii software remains, well…quite regrettable.

Which makes the recently unveiled Wii projects from Illinois-based High Voltage Software, the development studio behind licensed Wii detritus like Ben 10: Protector of Earth and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, even more surprising. Only an optimistic few expected such promising third-party Wii software in 2008, and given its mediocre Wii track record, even fewer expected these unlikely games to come from High Voltage Software.

I speak for all of the pessimists; we stand corrected.

It started in mid-April when High Voltage revealed The Conduit, an ambitious first-person shooter with a science-fiction twist exclusive to the Nintendo Wii. Perhaps even more exciting than the game itself was High Voltage’s announcement of its Quantum3 gameplay engine, designed to push the Wii hardware technically further than any third-party had yet attempted. The prospect of future third-party games using this or similar technology to emphatically raise the bar for Wii software was simply too promising to ignore.

gyrostarrscreen.jpgLess than one week later, High Voltage pulled back the curtain on Gyrostarr, a gorgeous space shooter designed with an eclectic style for WiiWare. In the exclusive IGN preview, High Voltage said Gyrostarr challenges up to four players “to fly through a twisting, turning techno-plasma canal in space, collecting energy to penetrate an alien portal and warp to the next conduit.”

While the announcements of The Conduit and Gyrostarr were more than enough to garner High Voltage some serious attention, the company then revealed yet another captivating Wii project. Two days after showing off Gyrostarr for the first time, High Voltage revealed a second WiiWare project due for a tentative Sept. 2008 release: a bizarre top-down shooter entitled Animales de la Muerte.

The game takes place “down in Mexico,” where players assume the roles of young Marco and Maria Mendoza, the grandchildren of a zookeeper with a serious problem; the animals in his zoo have turned into bloodthirsty zombies. Utilizing a classic top-down view similar to that of SEGA’s Wii shooter Alien Syndrome, Marco and Maria must explore the decimated zoo to save the remaining animals and massacre the zombified ones with a brutal arsenal of weaponry. Animales de la Muerte utilizes a colorful, cartoony style that complements the absurd bloodletting remarkably well; think Wind Waker if Link sliced Moblins in half with his Master Sword.

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Given that each of these projects is still in development, gamers could be setting themselves up for disappointment by assuming they are the ushers of a new era in Wii development. But there is at least something to be said for intuition; unlike most third-party Wii efforts, there is an inescapable feeling of pure excitement surrounding these three projects, however inadvisable such expectations may be.

Could High Voltage be setting a new third-party standard for Wii software? Maybe. Of course, we could be witnessing three more Red Steel-like disappointments in the making. But at the very least, there seems to be some sincere effort behind the development of these three unique games. Perhaps High Voltage’s efforts could show other developers that creating exciting new content for Wii is not only a noble artistic decision, but a wise business one, too.

A little hope never hurt anyone, and in terms of truly great third-party Wii games, hope is really all we have. Expect more on High Voltage and its potential Wii “holy trinity” in the coming months.