Reviewed: February 8, 1999
Released: October 1, 1998
To tell you the truth, I had no idea what to expect the day I got my copy of Wild 9 and put it in my PlayStation. Until then, the only game I had ever played from Shiny had been MDK and that game still ranks in my Top 20 of favorites. The bizarre cover art and opening game graphics reminded me of images of the Earthworm Jim games; none of which I had ever played.
To summarize the 5 page story in the Wild 9 manual; little green men and their army of Shocktroopers have invaded the planet. Armed with a device know as the Rig and a few other weapons you pick up along the way; you must kill - correction; you must torture then kill the enemy, save your friends who are being held captive, and rid the planet of evil by clearing out the various levels in this twisted game.
You navigate through the various levels of Wild 9 using a map, which will appear after you complete a level. The difficulty factor grows exponentially with each new level and you will find yourself dying probably more often than you like. Some of these puzzles and enemy encounters are very deadly and take multiple attempts to figure out. While I don't mind dying in these types of games, Wild 9 doesn't give you unlimited lives, so you will often be loading a saved game.
Wild 9 also uses a checkpoint system to record your progress, but these checkpoints are spread out way too far apart and usually after some life threatening puzzle. This means you will often die before reaching a checkpoint then have to replay the last 10-15 minutes only to get back there and die again.
The most ingenious part of Wild 9 is the Rig device. This is your primary weapon and all-purpose tool. The Rig emits a beam, which can grab onto any object or person. You can use the Rig to grab and smash open crates, or use it as an "energy rope swing" by grabbing onto certain pivot points and swinging like Tarzan. You will have to master this swinging technique if you want to find the secret areas and hidden power-ups.
Until you are able to arm yourself with missiles and grenades, the Rig will be your only weapon. Use it to pick up an enemy, then by moving the controller back and forth you will thump him into the ground until he explodes. Make sure to collect the energy spheres that are left behind. Collect enough of these and your Rig will go into Super-Charge mode and you can really start doing some damage.
As you progress through each level you will be collecting various items. One of these items is the Wild 9 Gear. Collect 99 of these gears to get a Free Continue; anything less and you will get nothing. The second and more twisted way to get a Free Continue is to torture your enemies. If you can torture enough of the bad guys you will get an additional Continue.
There are several ways to inflict a painful death on your enemy including but not limited to; throwing them into grinders, pounding them into fire jets, lifting them up into ceiling fans and decapitating them, or pushing them into exposed high voltage power cables. In fact, many times you will be forced to use these extreme methods just to clear a path so you can continue. Fire jets, fans, and gears will often block your way until you can destroy them; usually with an abundance of alien body parts.
Along the way you will often get in-game mission briefings and hints from the ever-helpful B'Angus Box. If you are like me and hate reading manuals, then just dive right in and let this guy lead the way. Knowing "what to do" and "mastering the technique" for doing it are two very different things in Wild 9, but that is also much of the fun. There are virtually infinite ways to solve most any problem or kill any enemy.
Wild 9 can best be compared to a mixture of Heart of Darkness combined with Pandemonium. While Wild 9 is considered a 2D side-scrolling shooter, the designers have implemented some nice perspective views that twist the backgrounds and give the illusion of 3D game play.
The graphics in Wild 9 are excellent with vibrant colors and beautiful lighting effects, but once again we have another PlayStation game that is "just too dark". This seems to be a growing trend in recent game releases where the designers create these dark moody environments. While they may be trying to show off their dynamic lighting and special effects, it really only make the game that much harder to see and play.
There are some cool variations in level design scattered through the game that include 3D Jet Bike levels, and a Freefall level very similar to the freefall levels in MDK. These help break up the monotony of the standard levels and add greater depth to the overall gaming experience.
The sound and music in Wild 9 is flawless. While I don't know what a Rig would sound like if one really existed, I imagine it would sound like the one in this game. The Shocktroopers' yelling, screams, and gurgling noises are perfect, and the sickening THWACK of a fan or grinder chopping the enemy into tiny green chunks is almost too real. You have to wonder what they really recorded to make these sounds.
The music in this game is worthy of its own Wild 9 Soundtrack CD. Tommy Tallarico did much of the music and sound for this title. Tommy is the musical genius who has had a part in over 100 video games in the past 7 years, and it's easy to see why Shiny hired him on for this project.
You can expect 30+ hours of gameplay if you plan on finishing this very challenging title. Gameplay is fun at first but quickly becomes more frustrating than challenging. Games that have you dying every 5-10 minutes should offer you unlimited lives and continues - Oddworld and Heart of Darkness already figured that out. If you ever plan on finished Wild 9 and keeping your sanity, you may want to start looking for cheat codes now.
Aside from the dark graphics and very frustrating game play, Wild 9 is a fun and entertaining game. The twisted humor and sinister theme of this title will appeal to many while offending others.
Wild 9 certainly earns its TEEN rating, so if you don't want the kiddies seeing headless aliens running around spouting green blood, or just don't like the idea of the entire "Death by Torture" theme, you may want to pass on this title. On the other hand; if you like the idea of saving the world from little green men while killing all sorts of alien scum in horrible and painful ways, then Wild 9 is the game you've been waiting for.