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Who doesn't have pleasant childhood memories of going to the beach (or a backyard sandbox, for the landlocked among us) and wasting hours building wondrous castles out of sand? Konami's 2009 WiiWare release Sandy Beach looked to duplicate that feeling, allowing children of all ages to build sandcastles if, say, the weather's too cold, or they don’t have access to a beach, or they're of the age where hanging around a sandbox might be just a tad awkward. Unfortunately, it winds up being one of those games that sound promising in concept, but somehow fails to deliver in execution.
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There are two main different play modes in Sandy Beach, and neither will keep you engrossed for very long. The first is essentially just a virtual sandbox. There is no time limit, no goals to meet, and no pressure to do anything but build. You use a handful of virtual tools, such as a bucket to scoop sand, a little plastic shovel to smooth things out, and so on. You can make the sand castle different shapes, but designs on it, and so forth. Ultimately there just isn't a lot of variety here and most gamers will likely be bored in a half-hour or so, and those that aren't bored will likely wind up frustrated by the game's irritating and unresponsive motion controls.
The second mode, Crab Battle, has you building sand walls and buying cannons in order to stave off 10 waves of attacks from a crab army. It's reminiscent of Rampart or Lock's Quest in this mode, although it isn’t anywhere near as deep or entertaining as those games. Style doesn't matter here, you simply need to quickly build as thick of a wall as possible and do it as quickly as possible (there is a time limit). By building walls, you earn money which you can then use to purchase cannons. Also, during each wave's attack you can use the Wiimote to slap around the crabs, stunning them so the cannons can take them down. It gets dull rather quickly, and for some reason, your score is nonsensically based solely on the number of coins you earn. Progressing further in the game has no effect on anything, meaning that someone who saves all their coins and loses in the first level can finish with a higher score than someone who uses cannons and makes it to the sixth or seventh stage. Why? It makes no sense.
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Graphics & Sound
Sandy Beach features a pretty bare bones presentation. The graphics consist mainly of a beach environment, the tools you use, a little bit of poorly rendered water and of course, the ugly-as-sin crabs. The music and sound effects, likewise, are utterly forgettable. You can spice things up a bit with some special items and castle designs, but on the whole, there just isn't a whole lot here. It looks and sounds as bland as all get out.
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This game carries a price tag of 500 Wii points, or $5.00. Normally, that would be a bargain, but considering that this game essentially looks, sounds and plays like a free Flash game you'd expect to find on the Internet, it isn't. This wouldn't even be a bargain at 99-cents if you ask me. Like I said, it has the look and feel of a game you should be playing for free on some website somewhere. Plus, it weighs in at nearly 300 blocks, which means it eats up far more of your Wii's internal memory than it should.
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Despite the game's low cost and interesting concept, it is impossible for me to recommend Sandy Beach as a download. Sure, it'll only cost you 500 points, but then, so will a number of classic NES games and several far superior WiiWare titles, including Space Invaders Get Even. Sandy Beach is, to put it bluntly, a boring game with terribly irritating controls that would seem more at home on an online Flash gaming site than alongside the likes of Tetris Party and World of Goo. No matter how interesting the concept may seem to you or your kids, resist the urge to download this one, save your Wii points for something better and take a trip to the beach instead.