Art of Balance Wii U Review: Juggling Act
Art of Balance is a very unique game, one satisfying an itch many (including myself) didn’t know existed. Physics based puzzlers aren’t anything new especially after World of Goo made them popular on consoles years ago. Art of Balance is a solid puzzle game that will leave you scratching your head more times than you’d like to admit. Don’t let the simple premise fool you, it will be one of the harder games you play this holiday.
The series should be familiar to you by now. Made by Shin’en (Nano Assault Neo) its the third entry in the franchise after WiiWare and 3DS eShop releases. The Wii U version features brand new levels and vastly improved HD graphics.
Things get wet. Like really wet since the basic premise is to stack different shapes on top of each other without everything falling into a pool of water. Visually Art of Balance is aesthetically pleasing, utilizing a simple but effective art style that doesn’t try to be too photo realistic but is still fairly lifelike. There are some really solid lighting effects in the game. You will say to yourself “wow, this game is pretty,” but you won’t necessarily be compelled to share this opinion on Miiverse and interrupt gameplay.
Gameplay isn’t as simple as it initially appears. Later levels mix things up with breakable objects and objects that move as other items are placed on them. This keeps everything feeling fresh while keeping the same premise of stacking. You’ll do a lot of stacking in Art of Balance, as you would expect with the name. Thankfully the difficulty ramps up at a fairly good pace, increasing the challenge just enough to pique your interest in continuing and not outright giving up. All in all there are over 200 puzzles total, a satisfying amount that will leave you wanting more without feeling cheated.
Art of Balance is pretty much Jenga in video game form. Without spot-on physics the game could become cumbersome and frustrating. Thankfully Shin’en has designed objects to react in realistic ways to one another. This is another bullet Shin’en dodges as it would easy to mess up just a little bit with the physics and ruin the entire game.
Music wise Art of Balance is pleasing with some relaxing jazz constantly playing in the background. You probably won’t remember any of these songs a year from now but every tune is excellent. Songs tend to mash together after long play sessions and there is some repetition but what is here is enjoyable.
The game has a few multiplayer modes that can be a lot of fun provided you’ve got friends to play with. There are co-op and competitive local modes and you can even play online. Multiplayer was a nice diversion, specifically Swift Stacker. In this mode, two teams of two players try to solve a puzzle the quickest. This is the more addictive of the multiplayer modes though having 3 other people to play it locally, where it shines the most, may not be an option for some.
There isn’t much wrong with Art of Balance. The visuals are photorealistic, the puzzles are engaging and difficult without feeling unfair, and the soundtrack serves as a nice backdrop as your stacks of shapes tumble down into the water. You really can’t ask much more of the game. Its well executed and straight up fun, something more developers should take note of today.
Art of Balance will leave you wanting more in all the right ways. It doesn’t overstay its welcome but will certainly keep your eyes glued to your Game Pad for several hours. At less than ten dollars, Art of Balance is a steal for puzzle fans. Don’t let its appearance fool you, Art of Balance is one of the better games Shin’en has released on a Nintendo platform among other notable past releases like Nano Assault and FAST.
Art of Balance is an easy recommendation for any Wii U owner. Simple, well put-together and easy to digest, this puzzler belongs on your system's memory. Review copy provided by Shin'en.