Sunday, May 30, 2010

Video game number one hundred and forty five: Alan Wake

Video game review number one hundred and forty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Alan Wake"

This is one of those games you'll hear is good...and hopefully you'll get around to playing. I know it's not as flashy as a Call of Duty or a Grand Theft Auto, but as far as single player campaigns go, it's one of the better ones you'll experience. It's not the most hyped title this year...but I think it should be on everyone's "Must play" list.

This holiday weekend, I sat down with Heather and we started playing through Alan Wake. We had a few Netflix disks we could have watched, some stuff on the DVR, but we decided to give this game a try instead. I had heard that the story was like watching a movie, and that wasn't a lie.

In the first day of gameplay, we made it through the first two episodes. That's saying quite a lot because each episode is composed of several different story elements, and it can take hours. Heather was right there with me, the whole time...helping navigate, pointing out secrets I was missing and trying to unravel the mystery along with me. Normally, I don't play on the Xbox in the living room when she is home...but this is one of those rare games that she was interested in, so we played it over a period of 2 days from start to finish together.

You're a writer, on vacation...when you find yourself in a scary situation not unlike those in the stories you write. The plot twists and adventures you encounter along the way keep you guessing...and it's definitely something I got hooked on. As far as the gameplay itself goes, this is an action game. Your main weapon it turns out, is a flashlight, and you have to shine it on enemies you meet in the dark to weaken them, before you can shoot them with one of your many guns. Without the flashlight, your gun doesn't do much...and you have no hand to hand combat skills, so you really need that flashlight and as many Energizer batteries as you can collect.

Most of the action takes place at night, and when it's light'll learn new things about the town you're visiting and the mystery you're trying to unravel. I'd really like to talk more about that, but I don't want to write any spoilers. Suffice it to say, from the opening credits to the end of the game....there was never a moment where I truly had the ENTIRE plot figured out. It's pretty good.

I chose the normal difficulty, and it was still pretty challenging in parts. We played through the whole game from start to finish in 10-15 hours, stopping along the way to listen to all the optional side conversations, TV shows and radio programs (just like Bioshock). When the game finally came to an end, they leave room for more...and I'll definitely be interested in picking up the DLC levels when they are released later this month.

Overall? 9/10. The graphics are good but not amazing. There's no multiplayer and the combat could be better....but despite those small flaws, this game is great. The story is awesome, it's a fun action game, and it kept me hooked for hours and hours. At one point, my wife and I actually turned down an invite for a steak dinner to continue playing so we could see how the story ended. Any game you'll give up steak for is automatically awesome.

Achievements? I got so many I couldn't get them to fit in one screen, so I just copied the last few...

Great story.
really annoying how often you run out of ammo.

Video game number one hundred and forty four: TMNT

Video game review number one hundred and forty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "TMNT"

Stop the presses, we have a late update! Apparently, in my rush to reviewing 365 games...I've somehow missed one along the way. Turns out, it's one I've really been enjoying too: TMNT. I started playing this last month, but rather than go back and re-number all my reviews, I'll just throw this one in the mix now.

First of all, I should give this game a zero because it doesn't include Vanilla Ice OR his ninja rap song. It almost seems like that HAS to be in any game about the Ninja Turtles.

I digress.

This game was a movie tie-in for the newest turtle movie (which I never got around to seeing), but the graphics seem to be in line with what I saw in the commercials. The story is decent enough, it's set after the previous two films...and the turtles have grown apart a bit. Raphael is off doing solo missions as a vigilante called the "Night Watcher", Leonardo is training with Splinter and the other two turtles have taken up day jobs. Michelangelo drives a party van and Donatello is a scientist. It's actually kind of funny to see what super heroes decide to do when they're no longer being super heroes. This game sort of made me wonder what other video game characters might do if they lost their day jobs.

Mario and Luigi would obviously have to go back to fixing toilets.
The guys from Call of Duty and the Master Chief from Halo would all probably be in some sort of therapy after killing all those people.
Pac-Man is probably much larger and rounder now, after all those dots he ate. He's probably divorced from Ms. Pac-Man and their baby probably grew up as a spoiled rich heiress. She's probably hooked up on power pellets.
Dirk from Dragon's Lair probably works at Medieval Times performing nightly for tourists.

I digress.

The game is narrated by a turtle at all times. Sometimes it's just the turtle you're using on the current mission, and other times, all four of them are cracking jokes about whatever is happening on screen. It's actually pretty funny most of the time. Those turtles are pretty funny guys.

Ordinarily, a game like this might be something I'd pop in for awhile and get tired of, but this is actually a pretty good action game. Every level you encounter involves a lot of enemies to fight, special movies and even some jumping puzzles. It reminds me a lot of the games of old...and that's a good thing.

Each turtle has a special move, and you can also "hot-swap" your turtle of choice. If one is getting killed,'ll earn the right to jump another one in. If you need to cross a large gap (rooftop to rooftop maybe?) you can use one turtle to fling another one across the screen and make the jump. All in all...I think they've made the best turtle game ever here, and I'm including the classic arcade game I loved as a kid. That was awesome...and this one just takes it to the next level.

Overall Score? 8/10. I really enjoy this game. It's a kid's game, but it doesn't play like one. It's not quite Lego Star Wars, but it's better than most action games I've played this year. So far, I've made it through the first 12 levels already, and I plan to beat it, possibly by next weekend, but definitely sometime soon.

Achievements? TONS. I think I could actually get all 1000 if I took the time to try and make it through a level without being hit. Not sure if I'll want to grind that one, but I may give it a shot. We'll see.

Video game number one hundred and forty three: Shrek Forever After

Video game review number one hundred and forty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Shrek Forever After"

I was a little hesitant to play this game before I saw the movie. I figured I'd boot it, and if it was giving away too many spoilers, I'd stop. I got into the second level before I felt I was learning too much about the plot of the upcoming movie (recognizing things I'd seen in the trailers), so I'm going to have to come back to this one a little later.

But I think I will be coming back...and that's the important part of this review.

This Shrek game is actually pretty good. You can "hot swap" any of the four main characters (Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and Puss) by using the D-pad, and you'll do so quite frequently, as each of them has a unique power. Donkey kicks doors down, Shrek moves things with his strength, Fiona has fire, and Puss can climb.

As you make your way through the first level, you'll come across a cart of barrels that Donkey needs to kick, or a box Shrek needs to move. It's not really a "puzzle", but I can see how it would keep kids busy hot-swapping.

The combat is ok for a kid's game. I fought a bunch of pumpkins and some of the king's guards. None of them were terribly difficult (think "Lego Star Wars") but it was still fun.

Overall Score: 7/10. A little better than average, this seems like it's going to be a pretty fun game. I want to go see the movie before I play anymore of it, but I plan to keep playing afterwards.

Achievements? Oh yeah.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Video game number one hundred and forty two: Prince of Perisa: The Forgotten Sands

Video game review number one hundred and forty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands"

I've seen many great reviews for this one and in a lot of ways, they're deserved. The game has beautiful graphics, a fairly interesting story...and the controls are pretty good. The game also does not star the guy from Brokeback Mountain, opting instead to give the Prince his own unique look. That was fine with me as well.

So will I be snuggled up in a tent with this game sobbing "I just can't quit you!" until I finish this campaign? No sir.

This game has one fatal flaw that bugs the heck out of me. It's based almost entirely on jumping puzzles. Yes, there is combat (and the combat isn't half bad), but in order to get to that have to jump, run on a wall, swing on a pole., then climb a ladder. Once you've finished the fight, you rinse and repeat. Forever.

I've never understood why the Prince can do all this thirty stories above the ground, but he can't just climb down and walk through the gates he needs to pass through. The gameplay reminds me a lot of what I hated the most about the first Assassin's Creed game, where every single kill you got involved climbing a tower and jumping down into a haystack first.

I'm not saying I hate this game, hell...I might even spend some more time with it if I'm feeling bored someday ,but with SO many good games to play right now....a jumping puzzle game just isn't at the top of my list. Frankly, if I want to play a game with lots of jumping puzzles...I'm going to finish TMNT first, which I'm so desperately close to beating. Speaking of which, as I was about to link it above, I realized that I somehow forgot to review that one...and so now I have to go back and write one in retrospect. Crazy. Looks like I WILL be playing Turtles again very soon. Cool!

Overall score? 6/10. Perhaps I'd like it more if I sunk more time into it, but in order for me to do that these days, a game has to really grab me, and this one has not. I may play it again, but only after I've gotten my project back on track (I'm currently about 8 games behind my quota for the year) and only after I've played a bunch of others I really want to spend more time with first. Including TMNT.

Achievements? Here they be:

Video game number one hundred and forty one: UFC 2010: Undisputed

Video game review number one hundred and forty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "UFC 2010: Undisputed ".

This is my first ever UFC game. I watched someone play one at a fourth of July party once at a friend's house, but I've never actually tried it myself. I like the TV show...but since most of the fights involve a lot of rolling around on top of the other guy, I never assumed this would be a terribly good video game.

I was correct in my assumption.

I like my fighting games to be fun, like something you might play in the arcades. If this game was in the arcades, it would probably have spiderwebs growing on the controllers. The moves are incredibly complex. Even on the beginner modes, my guys would get knocked out in the first few seconds of the first round. Certainly no button mashing here.

Next, I took the tutorial. This thing is a good 45 minutes to an hour, but I did the entire thing, hoping I might be properly trained by the end of it. Went into an exhibition match (again, on beginner mode) and bam. Knocked out 2 or 3 more times.

The graphics are good. The voices are done by the actual announcers and refs. A bunch of the fighters have lent their images and voices to this one, and there are all sorts of real world arenas to fight in. That being said...I didn't enjoy it, because it was just too fucking complicated to pick up. If there's one good thing about this game it's this: I actually feel like I might last longer in the ring against a real UFC fighter than I lasted in this game. If nothing else, I have a special move they don't have in this game, the ability to open the cage door and run away before my opponent kills me.

Overall Score? 3/10. I appreciate the visuals, but as far as gameplay goes, this one is just not my cup of tea.

Achievements? A couple. I could have gotten a ton of easy ones if I'd entered the code to go on Xbox Live. Code you ask? Yeah...this is one of the first games to use this bullshit system of packing in a CODE with every copy to play on Xbox live. Of course, if you are buying the game used, or renting it from Gamefly, you'll be shit out of luck as far as playing online goes. You'll have to pay for a code via DLC. Game companies are doing this to combat the used market. As someone who buys most of the games I like brand new, I can't imagine this affecting me too much...but I've also bought many used games in the past, and if they all start doing this....well...I don't know if I'll ever buy used again.

Achievement Unlocked finally figured out how to fuck over the used game market, as well as anyone who wants to sell a copy of your game that they don't want anymore. Congrats.

Video game number one hundred and forty: Attack of the movies: 3D

Video game review number one hundred and forty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Attack of the movies: 3D".

One sentence review: Attack of the Movies 3D is a light gun game...without a light gun.

No, I'm not kidding. This game is fucking pointless. It's a shooter, clearly designed to work with a light gun (or possibly the Wiimote on the Wii), but released on the Xbox 360, where there is no such thing as a light gun peripheral. Whoever came up with this idea needs to be kneecapped.

Imagine playing Guitar Hero without the guitar. How about Karaoke Revolution with no microphone? DDR without the dance pad? Have that visual in your head? Good. All of those experiences would be more fun than this game is without a light gun.

You're on rails, meaning you have absolutely no control over the camera. You aim with the sticks (right or left) and you fire with your "A" button. If you've ever played a light gun game in the arcades (House of the Dead maybe?), you know exactly what to expect here. The camera will suddenly turn on it's own, forcing you to shoot at an enemy that has just popped up in front of you. Then the camera pans back...and you are forced to aim at someone else. You have no control over when it moves, or where it points.

Did you miss that health box the camera just panned past? Tough shit, fucko...maybe you should learn to aim faster. Do you want to see if that TV reporter gets saved or gets eaten by the giant ants? Too bad...the game doesn't want you to see that, and it's going to pan away now. Oh, and you won't be seeing that machine gun power up again for awhile, so maybe you should restart the level and try to hit it next time.

Each time you die, you start over...and you face the same sequence of events again. Same enemies that move the same way, every time. I suppose if you wanted could memorize the sequences and be a winner....but you'd still be a loser in life if you did that.

Overall: 0.5/10. This is by far one of the dumbest games I've ever played. Give me a light gun and it might be fun, but with the controller? It's retarded. I'm not giving it a zero, because I still had more fun with it than I had with Blood Bowl, but rest assured that it's pretty fucking stupid. The only way this game could be saved is with the surprise announcement of a light gun, or maybe some Project Natal support in the fall. Until either of those things'll have more fun playing with your dryer lint and a lighter than you will ever have playing with this game.

Achievements: Here's the one and only one I got (Or will ever get) in this piece of crap.

Video game number one hundred and thirty nine: Super Mario Galaxy 2

Video game review number one hundred and thirty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Super Mario Galaxy 2".

I never finished the first Super Mario Galaxy, but I remember really enjoying it when it came out. I put this one on my Gamefly list, and it happened to ship this week (kind of impressive considering it just came out on Tuesday), so even though I generally try to beat the original of a game before playing the sequel, I figured this is a good weekend for exceptions.

30 seconds into the first level of this one, I was right back home again. I remember how to play it, what I liked about it (and what annoyed me). This is virtually the exact same game as the first one, and sometimes...that's not such a bad thing.

The game starts out (sort of) with a little side scrolling action. Mostly, this is just to warm you up to the controls, but for a brief moment...I kinda hoped the rest of the game would be this way. I always enjoyed the side scrolling marios more than Super Mario Sunshine and Galaxy. I actually own the new Super Mario Wii game, but I still haven't cracked the plastic on it yet. Bought it before Christmas, and I've been saving it. And saving it. I'm going to play it when I have the proper amount of time for it, just like Bioshock 2 and a few other games I've chosen not to boot just yet.

Anyway...this game is plenty of fun. I've already beat the first few worlds. This time around, you're floating on a spaceship (shaped like Mario's head) and traveling to other worlds. You collect stars along the way, and collect "Star Bits" for fuel. I do love those star bits. Like the first one, there is a feature where a friend can help collect them for you. I need to get Heather interested in playing this one with me, but as of yet...she hasn't felt like it.

I rented this one from Gamefly, but this isn't a game you can rent. I'll play it this weekend while I have it, probably won't finish it..but in the interest of getting something new for my project, I'll eventually return it. Still, this one is a purchase for me. It's great, and I want to have it there on my shelf waiting for when I have time for it.

Overall score? 8/10. The controls aren't perfect (the world is sometimes awkward, and I'm not a fan of waggling the Wiimote to collect Star bits while I'm trying to fight things) but other than those two small complaints, this is a really good game at it's core. Not the best of the breed as far as Mario goes (that honor is still reserved for the N64 version and All Stars on the SNES)...but this is still really good.

Achievements? It's

Video game number one hundred and thirty eight: Killzone 2

Video game review number one hundred and thirty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Killzone 2".

I'm starting this review before I've started the game. Why? Because every fucking time I boot my PS3, it needs a system update. It's taking another one right now, so I'm killing time by watching Con Air. It's the part of the movie where they land the plane in the middle of the Las Vegas strip (spoilers). Along the descent, the plane passes the Stratosphere, then the Hard Rock, Circus Circus, Barbary Coast and Treasure Island (in that order). Eventually, they have a big chase (involving a tunnel I've never seen in the city) with a fire truck and end up somewhere between the Sands and the Stardust. I'm never bothered by the fact that they land a plane in the middle of a crowded city street, or that they have an awesome chase with motorcycles and firetrucks....I'm just bothered that they didn't get the geography of the city right. Those casinos are all so far away from each other, it's just silly.

Anyway, I bring this up because in the end of the movie (spoilers again)....Nicolas Cage gives his daughter this dirty stuffed animal that he bought in prison and has just picked up out of the gutter. It means a lot to him because the bunny is the only gift he could buy while in prison, and it's his daughter's birthday. He's meeting his daughter for the first time ever, and he's hoping this present might just win her over.

Killzone 2 is a lot like that dirty stuffed bunny. I realize the folks who made this game went through an awful lot of trouble to get it to me, but frankly...I'm not impressed. They have failed to earn my love.

The game starts out with an awesome opening movie that instantly hooked me in. It's a war between worlds, you're getting onto a spaceship and you're about to go off and fight. It reminded me of the beginning of Starship troopers, except instead of're off to fight scary dudes wearing gas masks with red goggles

Unfortunately, at heart, this is still just a shooter on the PS3, and I have a history of hating these things because of the controller. This one is no different.

The first thing I did was change the default controls to something different. I wanted the triggers to be the fire buttons (like the 360) and the grenades and stuff to be on the shoulder buttons. This was easy enough to change...but it's still not quite the same as my 360 experience. I'm told you can use a 360 controller on the PS3 somehow, and one of these days, I'm going to have to try it to see if it makes games like this better. I just don't enjoy playing them on this console.

Awkward controls aside, I jumped into the game and started playing. There is no radar, and no heads up objective system, so you must rely on shit your teammates say if you want to know what to do. They'll say things like "You have to blow up the bridge, get that RPG"...only you're not sure where they are or which RPG they're referring to. You stumble around until Eventually, you find it, and then you blow the bridge and move on. The first level was a lot of that for me.

After a little more time, I got to this really cool scene where I got to drive a tank. One of my soldiers says "Shoot down their tank!", but I couldn't find the damn thing. I spun around in circles and never saw it...until eventually it fired at me and I realized it was up a hill that I didn't even know was in a playable area. So annoying. Part of my inability to find objectives might be because the whole game is just so damn grey and's hard to tell one thing apart from the next. It reminds me of what Gears of War might be like if it was stripped of everything that made it a vibrant, captivating world with a soul.

Speaking of souls, you have a squad of teammates, and I think you're supposed to care about them, but I didn't think any of the characters were that interesting. They say "fuck" and "shit" a lot (which is funny until it's quickly not). Maybe if I'd played the first one, I'd care more about these guys...but honestly, I wasn't instantly interested in any of them. The enemies are all identical too, so nothing to be scared of there. Just a bunch of guys in red goggles, who all seem to speak in the same voice. If you contrast the characters in this game with great teams of soldiers (like the ones I met recently in Bad Company, Modern Warfare 2 or even the aforementioned Gears of War) and this game is just "blah" by comparison.

I finished off the tanks, exited the first level, and realized I have no desire at all to keep on playing. I've got a bunch of new games to try out this weekend, and I don't want to waste anymore time on one I'm not enjoying.

Overall Score? 4/10. It's an average shooter (I once heard Sony hyping this thing as a Halo killer...which would make me spit out my milk if I happened to be drinking some while I was writing this). This game is bland, ordinary...and is nowhere near the quality of other shooters I've played recently. Amplify that by the fact that I HATE using the PS3 controller for shooters, and you have a craptastic experience I didn't care to spend more than 30 or 45 minutes with. I'm headed back to the Wii now.

Trophies? I earned one, but it hasn't synched I'll have to come back to finish this later.

Edit---5/30/2010. For some reason, this trophy still isn't displaying right, but at least PSN now knows that I've unlocked a trophy. That's progress, I suppose.

Video game number one hundred and thirty seven: The Price is Right

Video game review number one hundred and thirty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "The Price is Right"

In the words of the great Happy Gilmore: "The Price is Wrong...Bitch".

While I could have filed this in the series of "games my grandma might have played", but I'm pretty sure that even Grandma would have thought this one sucked. First of all, there's no Bob Barker. How the hell can you have a Price is Right game without Bob Barker? It's like a Wheel of Fortune game without Vanna White or a Millionaire game sans Regis! It simply can't be done. Oh, and don't think that I'm complaining because they used Drew Carey. I realize he's the new star of the show, and if he'd been the host of this game....I suppose I could have overlooked not having Bob Barker around, but no. Neither host felt like coming in to record voice-overs for this silly game.

Although the game has no host (making it pretty darn boring to play), it does have the announcer...and a whole bunch of the popular games from the show. Like the TV show, you start in "Contestant's Row" and bid on prizes to try and get on stage. Also like the TV show, I have no idea how much a lot of this crap should cost, so I sat in contestant's row quite a bit. Eventually, you make it onto stage, and you play a game that you've probably seen on TV.

The first one I played was "Safe Cracker" (you try to win a car by guessing the price of something less valuable, and then inputting that price into a combination lock). Without Bob Barker and the audience to help you along, this game is actually kind of hard. I got pretty tired of guessing the wrong thing...but luckily for me, there are VERY few prizes to be won, and within only an hour or so or playing, I started to see repeats. Suddenly, I knew what something should cost...which (believe it or not), actually made the game even less fun to play.

Nevertheless, I wanted to eventually win my way to the "Showcase showdown", so I kept playing until I got there. Along the way, I finally got to play Plinko. Unfortunately, it was not as fun as I imagine it would be on the TV show. I earned 2000 or so with my three chips, and that was enough to get me into the Showcase.

Once there, I bid on my showcase, but I was over. So was my opponent, so neither one of us won. The game asked me if I'd like to play again. My answer? No.

Overall Score? 3/10. This is a really weak game, with very limited replay value. I was already seeing items up for bid repeating after just an hour, so I imagine there's not much to this one. The game has no host, it's boring...and honestly...the only feature that made good use of the Wii's motion controller was spinning the wheel. I managed to get a dollar doing that, so that was cool. This game could have been so much better than it was though. I really liked the show when Bob Barker was hosting (whenever I would stay home from work, if I was sick in bed...I'd watch it). This game is just....boring and lame by comparison. Considering I'm comparing it to a show that's basically a 60 minute commercial, that's saying a lot.

Achievements? Although this is a Wii game, it thinks that it has them. Sort of. They don't write to your profile, so obviously, they're not real achievements, but there is a "trophy screen". Any time you beat one of the pricing games, the announcer says "You've unlocked an achievement". I wonder if maybe this game was meant to go to the 360 at one point. Either way, you don't really get an achievement, you just unlock that game for free play from the main menu. Whatever...I'm not interested in playing virtual Plinko again.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Video game number one hundred and thirty six: Backyard Sports: Sandlot Sluggers

Video game review number one hundred and thirty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Backyard Sports: Sandlot Sluggers"

Last month, I played and reviewed Backyard Football. This game is the sequel (of sorts) and features kids playing sports again.

First of all, I have to admit, I liked this one better than MLB 2K10, which I reviewed in March. I realize it has nowhere near the depth of that game, and the graphics are nowhere near as good...but it was more fun to pick up and play. Perhaps my gameplay tastes are just too simple, who knows?

Right of the bat (pun intended), hitting is sort of hard to figure out, but pick up the timing and then it's easy. I wasn't able to really control the distance or direction of my hits...but I was able to consistently get on base.

Pitching is easier, but batters tend to hit whatever you throw eventually. I also found it almost impossible to throw a ball, unless you were actually trying to. The opposing team pitchers almost never walk you either, and I can see why there's an achievement around getting walked. It will probably be pretty hard to get.

Base running is fairly straightforward, unless you have multiple runners and want to have only one take off. In that case, it's a little more difficult, and you'll also often get picked off trying to get anything but a single out of a hit deep into the outfield.

In addition to all the standard baseball stuff, this game adds Power ups (freeze the outfielders with an ice ball, throw slime on the screen to confuse the batter, rocket balls and bats, etc, etc). I didn't find these to be very useful while on defense, but offensively, they work great. You earn maybe one or two per inning.

Overall? This game is a solid 7/10. It reminded me a little of "Little League Baseball" for the NES, which was one of my favorite baseball games of all time back in the old days. I realize it's not as complex as most of the games of today, but that's pretty much what I like about it.

Achievements? Not as easy as the ones in the Backyard Football game, but I got quite a few so far:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Video game number one hundred and thirty five: Voodoo Dice

Video game review number one hundred and thirty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Voodoo Dice"

Voodoo Dice? More like doo-doo dice!

Actually, that's not true. I was hoping this game would suck, so that I could use my third grade one-liner there, but unfortunately for the world of immature's actually a pretty decent game.

Voodoo Dice is a little puzzle game consisting of a bunch of maps that you must navigate a six sided dice across. Some of this game involves rolling your die next to another one, and making sure the numbers on them match. When I say "roll", I don't mean throw the dice and hope for a random number, I mean you actually move your die around hoping that it will turn up with a six to match the six of the one that's in your way. It can be tricky at times, and you'll often have to roll the die back and forth a bit before you find the side that matches.

If the game was all about that, I'd probably be annoyed with it after a short while, but it's more of a traditional puzzle/maze game at heart. Bring your die from point A to point B, using all sorts of standard puzzle game devices along the way. Pressure pads (which you must push marbles onto), buttons that open and close doors, teleporters, etc, etc. Your main goal is to exit the level, but there are par (or "Voodoo") times to beat that make it incredibly challenging. It took me about 4 tries to beat one of the par times (in order to get an achievement) and I made it with only a second to spare. I imagine the rest are equally hard, but that people will probably post youtube solutions for them eventually.

There's nothing special about the graphics, and your "character" is simply a six sided dice, so there's not much in the way of a plot here. Still, this is the kind of game I could see playing on breaks at work, or maybe during a phone meeting or something.

Overall? I've only spent a brief amount of time with this one, but so's a solid 6/10. I may come back and update this review at some point if I spend more time with it, but I'm not sure if that will happen or not.

Achievements? 2 so far. The rest will come as I progress through the different worlds and beat par times. :-)

Video game number one hundred and thirty four: Blur

Video game review number one hundred and thirty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Blur"

I dig racing games. This year, I've been playing Forza 3 like nobody's business. Before that, Dirt 2, Burnout, Need for Speed, Project Gotham, Full Auto....these have all graced my console for many hours. Generally, if I'm lucky, there will be one...maybe two awesome racing games a year, and sometimes I'll play them for weeks on end before I get bored.

This year? Two awesome racing games in the same 7 day period. I believe this is what some people might call an embarrassment of riches.

I played and reviewed the multiplayer beta of this one, and I liked it a lot, but I figured the meat of the game was coming in the single player version. I was definitely correct. The single player career adds all sorts of different challenges to the multiplayer races I've already gotten to take a test drive of.

One of the most common variants is the checkpoint race, where you have to pick up nitro boosts and stopwatches (which add time to the clock). Like checkpoint races in other games, your goal is to race through all the gates before time runs out. These can be incredibly frustrating, but fun at the same time.

Another mode is called "Destruction", where you have to shoot as many cars as possible (in the later levels, they shoot back). As the difficulty progresses, so does the number of cars you need to shoot. Eventually, you do enough of these and you're rewarded with a "one on one" race, where you race against the "boss" of the track. Beat them, and you earn their car.

There are a ton of stages, each with a boss whose car you want to win, and each stage has a list of goals you must complete before you can race against the boss. The goals range from easy (shoot a few cars) to nearly impossible (finish certain checkpoints with more than 15 seconds on the clock remaining). Obviously, this bumps the replay value up quite a bit.

The online multiplayer is there, and I've played it...but I get so badly owned that I've been focusing most of my time offline. I think I'll venture into the online modes more though, and try to eventually win a few of the achievements that are waiting there for me.

My one gripe with this game? The difficulty. After you get through about the 3rd stage (that's about 18 events in)...the difficulty just gets insane. Suddenly, the cars you have in your garage can't win the race, and you're fighting tooth and nail just hoping to get third. You can earn more cars by earning more fans (which you get by racing), but this eventually just means racing the same tracks over and over again trying to get cars.

I hated this part of the game, and eventually caved in and switched from the "normal" difficulty down to "easy". This way, I was able to make progress again. I started unlocking cars once more. Of course, this also means my scores don't get posted to the leaderboards anymore, but who cares....I'm not playing this game to impress people. Eventually, once I unlocked more cars in easy, I can ratchet the difficulty back up (to normal or hard)...and try to get more achievements that way.

One final thing I want to say about this game revolves around the commercials. I think the campaign they've done (comparing it to Mario Kart and calling it racing for "big boys") is some of the funniest stuff I've seen in a video game ad as far as I can remember. The character "Brock Lee" (who is obviously modeled after Toad, my favorite character in Mario Kart) stuck in the world of Mario Kart and sees the Blur race going on through the fence. He wants to play so bad, but he can't quite get there.

They even made a little web game where you can throw apples at the other "kart" racers before you climb the fence and jump into Blur.

Here's a link to the commercial. Funny stuff.

Overall? This game is an 8.5/10. I really like it, though probably not quite as much as I like Split Second. I had to give that one the slight edge in score as a result. Still, there is definitely room in my collection for both of these, as this is a must buy for sure.

Here are all the achievements I got the first day of playing this. I played several more days afterward, but it wasn't until I finally turned the difficulty down that I was able to earn more achievements. A full 1000 in this will be tough (if not impossible) for me, but that won't stop me from continuing to play. It's just too fun.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Video game number one hundred and thirty three: WarioWare D.I.Y

Video game review number one hundred and thirty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "WarioWare D.I.Y"

Instead of reviewing this game, I'm going to write a little song about it instead. It goes a little something like this:

Oh WarioWare, you're usually great....
Your sequels are always the best.
You've never come out with a game that I hate...
and you stand...far apart...from the rest.

Today, on a plane....I popped in your latest
Hoping for more of the same.
Called "Do it yourself" I thought: "Should be the greatest!"
But was shitty...and lame.

<\End slow intro>

It's no fun to stamp clip art
It's no fun to draw rocks.
It's no fun to choose music, or paint grass, or place blocks.

I got on a plane, hoping for hours of fun
Instead, after just ten minutes....
I was totally done.

This game is the shit, and by shit...I mean poo
Oh WarioWare, what the fuck happened to you?
My gold plated standby, my ace in the hole.
With "Do it yourself", you've sold the games soul!

<\end rocking>

I'm sure you'll make money, I'm sure some kids might dig you.
You'll probably sell thousands of copies.
But Do it Yourself, you miserable pig you....
You won't get one more red cent off me.

I'm taking your catridge and sending you home,
With a curse and a tear and a sigh.
Never back into my DS will you roam...
So fuck off, eat a dick...and go die.

Overall score? 2/10. In case you're not feeling musical...this game blows.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Video game number one hundred and thirty two: Mario and Luigi Bowser's Inside Story

Video game review number one hundred and thirty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story"

A few minutes into this one, you learn that this game gets its name because of it's primary gameplay location: Inside the guts of the villain of the Super Mario Brothers games. Silly stuff like this had me chuckling out loud more than a few times while I played this one on the majority of a three hour flight.

This game starts out as a (possibly intentionally) poorly translated JRPG came. I couldn't decide if the translations were bad on purpose, or just accidentally bad. After playing for an hour or so, I started to lean towards thinking that they were intentionally bad...and very funny as a result. I retained a small shred of doubt that they may not have been done that way on which case, this could quite possibly be the greatest game since Zero Wing.

The dialog (and this game is at least 75% dialog) in this hilarious. Everyone speaks in broken english, including the Mario brothers. hear them speak Italian, which I think is a first for them. I'm not talking "Lets'a go!", I mean they actually start speaking Italian gibberish to each other. It's pretty funny.

The missions involve using both screens of the DS to navigate through Bowser's inner space, and occasionally, you control Bowser up in the top window. You fight the usual Mario-type villains, but in RPG style (you hit them once for a little damage, they hit you back...and so on).

I am not generally a fan of turn based RPGS, and I'm especially not a fan of Japanese RPGS where you have no idea what the hell is happening half the time, but this one is kind of fun. I found myself wanting to play it even after the plane ride, and got a few minutes in here during the rest of my trip. was time to return it to Gamefly, and I was not happy when that time came.

Overall score? 8/10. This is a good little game, and it's on my "to buy" list at this point. Hopefully by the next time I take a vacation....this one will be nice and cheap, and I can add it to my library. Then I'll be able to find out if the Mario Brothers ever escape from Bowser's colon.

One bad thing? Since the saves are on the cartridge....I've lost all my progress. I almost bought it from Gamefly to avoid this, but I decided I probably wouldn't really play it until my next trip in July, so I might as well send it back.

Video game number one hundred and thirty one: WTF: Work Time Fun

Video game number one hundred and thirty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "WTF: Work Time Fun"

Work Time Fun is very similar to the Nintendo series of WarioWare games, except it's a little more grown up. Seems to be aimed at twenty-somethings, instead of little kids. Actually, I suppose that's not the best description I could think of, because WarioWare is definitely not exclusively for kids (I love most of the games in that series), but this one just felt a little more mature than the Wario games.

Anyway...this game is a mish-mash of a bunch of mini-games, and you're an "employee" who earns paychecks playing them. They range from the easy (putting caps on pens), to the difficult (counting people in crowds). The more money you earn, the more you have to spend in the gumball machines. Each gumball machine costs 5 dollars, 10 dollars, 15 dollars and so on. Each gumball you buy earns you a prize, or possibly a new mini game.

One of the mini games I was able to unlock involved sorting baby chickens. Some of the chicks were dressed as girls, some were dressed as boys. You'd send the boys to the "boy box", the girls to the "girl box" and if you happened to stumble across a dead one (with a halo over his head), you'd send that one off to heaven. I know this sounds silly, but sorting for speed was quite a bit of fun.

Overall score? 7/10. This game was a lot of fun, and at first..I was leaning towards an 8 or a 9. Then the games started to get repetitive. Sure, you can win money and unlock many more games with the gumball machine, but you don't always win a game...meaning it turns into a grind eventually. I hate the grind, and I just didn't have the patience to keep trying. In the end, I had about 7 unlocked...and I had gotten as good at them as I was going to get. I don't think this is one I would buy, but it was a nice rental for the plane ride. If it came down to 10 or 15 bucks, I might pick it up.

Achievements? It's a PSP game, so..negatory.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Video game number one hundred and thirty: Metal Slug XX

Video game review number one hundred and thirty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Metal Slug XX"

My one sentence review: Metal Slug is an updated version of Contra with better graphics.

The long version: Back in the 90's, SNK game out with the Neo Geo console, and priced it between 600-700 bucks. I was a high school student with a job in a restaurant at the time, so transferring today's money into the currency of the time, this was the equivalent of about six billion dollars. Each game for the Neo Geo was priced over 200 bucks, and the single selling point for the thing was that when you bought the games...they were the EXACT same games you played in the arcade.

While it would be nice to own an actual arcade machine, 650 bucks was so far out of my reach at the time that it was silly. In 1990, I was taking the bus to school, and spending whatever spare cash on more important things (like going "off campus" to eat lunch, or renewing my Nintendo Power subscription). I bought plenty of video games as a teenager, but they were always one at a time. If ever I had 850 bucks burning a hole in my pocket, at the time, I probably would spent it on a car. In fact, thinking about it now, aside from cars, I don't think I owned a single item worth 850 dollars until I was 19 and saved up to buy my own computer.

I suppose it goes without saying that because I never owned the system (or this game), my only exposure to it was in the arcades. The Metal Slug series was among the better games on the Neo Geo, I'm sure I sunk quite a few bucks into these games over the years. When they were eventually ported to consoles like the PS2, I never bought them...but now that Metal Slug XX has been ported to Xbox Live Arcade (with achievements), I had to give it a try. This game does not disappoint.

Right off the bat, the gameplay is familiar to anyone who has ever picked up a controller. Jumping, shooting and driving are your standard side-scrolling stuff, and there are a zillion enemies to kill. On each stage, you rescue hostages, collect power-ups and eventually make your way to a huge "boss", who is excellent at killing you. Luckily for you, the continues are unlimited and so you can do lots of trial and error.

I played this sucker from start to finish in one day. There are plenty of achievements that can be earned for beating it without continues (I have no idea how one would ever achieve that), or for beating it on hard...but I'm happy having gone through it once. It reminds me of the arcades, or older side scrolling shooters of the 90's. Good, good stuff.

Overall Score? 7.5/10. I liked this better than the bulk of arcade games I've played lately, enough to get all the way through it. I can't say it has a lot of replay value for me, because I won't be grinding through the different difficulties or trying to beat it without dying....but it was a lot of fun while I was playing.

Achievements? Yup. Lots.

Video game number one hundred and twenty nine: Super Street Fighter IV

Video game review number one hundred and twenty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Super Street Fighter IV"

If there's one thing I've learned from all the Street Fighter sequels I've played over the last few years it's this: I'm not good at Street Fighter anymore. I've gone on and one about my love for Street Fighter 2 in past reviews, so this game was an obvious "Must Play" for me. Unfortunately, when I started playing the latest one...I realized that the series has beyond my limited skills, and as a result, it's not really something I enjoy much anymore.

Super Street Fighter IV features 35 characters, half of whom I've never heard of. I stopped playing the Street Fighter games religiously after the last one in the "Street Fighter 2" series was released. Despite my apathy around half of the cast, there are still plenty of characters that I remember in this game, and I picked a few of my old standbys and started fighting.

The combat is great, the graphics are beautiful...and I did all of my gameplay today with this handy-dandy fighting stick I was able to borrow:

You'd think the combination of old favorites, great graphics and an awesome controller would make this game fun, right? Meh.

While I'm still proficient at most of the special moves for the folks I know, they all have these new super combos and finishing moves that I haven't learned how to do yet. Unfortunately, these are absolutely vital to the gameplay. They're as important as regular special moves were to the old ones. You can pick Ken or Ryan and do 20 dragon punches, and it'll have about the same result that button mashing had on the old Street Fighter games. Alternatively, you can do one of the ultra moves, and it will drain 50-75% of your opponents health. Your combo meter builds up through blocking, but a lot of the time...I didn't know the new moves by heart, so my meter would just sit there full and blinking. It was kind of pathetic.

I spent some time practicing the specials for some of the characters I knew, and I'll admit...the moves were fun to pull off when I finally got them. In the end, I really liked the graphics, but the fighting system has evolved beyond my existing skill level. I wasn't interested in learning new button combos for my old guys (it would be like picking up a Mario game where you had to do a ton of 6 button combos just to throw the fireball you used to get for picking up a flower). I suppose the expression "can't teach an old dog new tricks" applies here.

There's a great online mode, where you can play against people...or just play in the single player arcade until someone calls you out for a fight. It's all rather instantaneous and much better than older versions of the game. Too bad I got completely owned each time I played online. It's those damn supers. :-)

Overall score? Honestly, I think the game is probably the best Street Fighter sequel I've ever played. That means it should deserve a 10/10 right? Wrong. If I was being objective, maybe...but these reviews are all about my personal experience with the game...and this one feels more like a 6/10 to me. Sure, the graphics and presentation here are great, and the game has a TON of features, but my enjoyment level brings the score down considerably.

I'm simply not a fan of how much the difficulty has been cranked up, and I'm not familiar with the lion's share of the new characters they've added since my glory days in the 90's. I'm sure many people have been following Street Fighter for 20 years, and those folks will LOVE this game. Me? I just suck at it...and I have no interest in learning moves for the 20 characters I don't know just so I can stand a better chance playing with the 18 I'm familiar with. I liked seeing the updated graphics in the levels I've come to know and love, but ultimately...I'd rather just play the version I already own for Xbox Live Arcade. Old school represent. :-)

Achievements? They're all centered around beating the campaign on high difficulties with every character (some without ever dying or continuing). I wasn't even able to beat the campaign on medium (I kept getting my ass handed to me in fights against the last few opponents). They have some for winning bunches of matches in a row online, but with my outdated moves list, I wasn't able to win online. All I did was get owned over and over again, and sadly, there aren't any achievements for that. Here are the few I earned. :-)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Video game number one hundred and twenty eight: Split Second

Video game review number one hundred and twenty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Split Second"

Split Second is a brand new racing game that is somewhat hard to define. It's not sim-Racing, it's not just a combat racer, and it's not all about memorizing the environment so you don't crash like Burnout is. Instead, it's a great mix of all of the above ingredients...and I'm having a great time with it.

There are so many modes in this game, it's hard to keep track. You start out with a choice of just three cars, but you can unlock more as you go. You can race normally, or you can "drift" to build up power for your weapons. Your weapons aren't traditional weapons either. That means no missles, guns or turtle shells to shoot. I'll be honest, I like a racing game with turtle shells, but I also like what they've replaced them with.

As far as weapons go, this game has something new for you. Instead of projectiles, they arm you with something similar to remote controls. Unleash your "power play" at the right time, and you might cause a crane on the side of the track to swing it's hook at a racer ahead of you. You can blow up buildings, which will land on your can command a helicopter to drop an exploding barrel on a car....but your timing has to be perfect. If you don't trigger it at the right time, you'll miss...or worse, the obstacle you triggered might just crash into you.

Most races support the "power plays" you've earned by drifting. Fill up your power play meter all the way, and you can unleash some pretty incredible moves. One move I found involved a helicopter dropping a giant dump truck on everyone ahead of me. There are more of these special moves, but I won't spoil them. Power plays aren't just weapons, they can also be used to activate shortcuts. Use one at the right time, and a hidden draw bridge might be lowered, just for you. Anyone who is right on your ass might be able to follow you over it, but it'll quickly raise back up and people who are a few seconds behind will crash if they try to follow you.

When you've got your power play meter all the way full, instead of a simple shortcut, you can actually change the route of the track. I've never seen anything like this in a racing game before, but mid-race, you can hit this button...and suddenly, something catastrophic will happen to the race track, and the route everyone is taking totally changes. In one level, if you change the route, you'll find yourself jumping off the track and onto the deck of an aircraft carrier....complete with planes. It's pretty impressive.

I mentioned multiple modes, so I might as well talk about something other than the standard races. Sometimes you play Elimination, where you have to be the last car standing as time ticks down. Another game variant requires you to dodge missiles fired at you by a helicopter. It starts by firing three at a time, and eventually will fire eight or nine in a row that you'll have to dodge Again...something I've never seen before in a racing game...and it's pretty damn cool.

I've played this for hours so far, and I don't feel like I've scratched the surface yet. I haven't even tried multiplayer...but I plan to. This one is (so far) the best new racing game this year for me. Next week Blur is coming out, but it has some big shoes to fill. We're talking Ronald McDonald shoes here. I found myself saying "holy shit!" and "What the fuck?" when things happened in this game, but in a good way...instead of in a pissed off "I hate this game" kind of way. :-)

Overall Score? 9/10. I really, really like this game. I plan to buy a copy next time I'm at the game store.

Achievements? Here are the ones I got after an evening marathon of playing...and I'm going to be getting quite a few more.

Video game number one hundred and twenty seven: Iron Man 2

Video game review number one hundred and twenty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Iron Man 2"

Last month, I tried out the first Iron Man game. I played it not just for my project, but to get me in the mood for Iron Man 2 (the movie and the game sequel). I wasn't a fan, and stopped playing after only a short time. Unlike the movie, this game is a lot better than the original.

I liked the Iron Man movie sequel, but I don't think it was as awesome as the first movie was. In the case of the game...I hated the original but the sequel is actually pretty darn good. Clearly, the games are living in a Bizarro world of sorts.

Anyway, this new game fixes a bunch of things that I thought were wrong with the first one (the controls, the objectives, etc, etc). There is still the nagging issue that this game seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the movie, but that's ok. At least it's a new adventure. They have some of the movie actors doing the voices once again, though others chose not to sign on. When Pepper Potts walks into the game, it's very obvious she is not voiced (or modeled) by Gwyneth Paltrow. Robert Downey Jr. doesn't return this time, but the guy they have playing him is a pretty good soundalike.

The story begins with a bunch of robotic drones attacking Tony's house, and you get to fight them off (and learn to use your suit at the same time). Later, you and/or War Machine join the military to fight the folks behind these attacks. Pretty basic stuff....nothing too exciting or unexpected. Enemies are pretty easy to kill, you're kind of a badass...and as you go along, you can level up your weapons to become even more badass. I read some reviews that said you can eventually level yourself up to the point where you're unstoppable.

Overall score: 5/10. It's average. Better than the last one, but still not a "great" game by any means. I made it through the first 3 missions, tried out both Iron Man and War Machine before calling it a day. I think the jet packs are much more fun to control then they were the first time...but ultimately, this game is still nothing special. Just a movie-tie in, quick 1000 points (if you want them) and probably more of a rental than a purchase.

Achievements? Got quite a few. If you want the gamerscore, this is the game for you. I think this could be completed in less than a day...but I didn't feel like the grind (and the story wasn't interesting enough to keep me going).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Video game number one hundred and twenty six: Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad

Video game review number one hundred and twenty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad".

Onechanbara is a game that sounded much better than it actually turned out to be. The descriptions I've heard all led me to believe that this was a Dynasty Warriors clone, except the heroes are all girls in skimpy outfits and the villains are all zombies. Sounds acceptable right?

The game begins with a very promising cut scene featuring a girl in a shower getting disturbed by her younger sister, who helps her get dressed so they can fight some zombies together. Again...sounds acceptable, at least in theory.

The combat is ok, I suppose. It's extremely repetitive, but that's not to say it's not "fun". You slash through dozens upon dozens of zombies, on your way to bosses who are only a little bit harder to kill than the henchmen you fought along the way. There are dungeons you must fight your way out of, and you get a cheesy little top down map (think Legend of Zelda on the NES), so you know where you are. Even with the map, I found myself getting lost in some of the levels....and retracing my steps a lot.

You have special moves and combos, but I don't think I earned many of them yet. You have to level up your character before you get the best powers. You start the game out to zero, and I think you are eventually shooting for level 100. There are 20 stages in the game, and I've played through the first four. So character is only a level 12. If I wanted to be awesome in this game, I'd have a long way to go.

If there weren't (literally) a dozen other games I'd rather play right eleven additional games I NEED to play to catch myself up for my 365 game I've got no time for game like this. I knew all I needed to know to write a review in the first 25 minutes or so, but then I had to play it for HOURS just to get one stupid achievement. The achievement I got was for using my special move a total of 60 times (each time you use takes a bar of your health away, so you can only do it so many times per level). Almost all of the achievements are grindy like this. The only normal ones are for beating all 20 stages of the game.

Overall? 6/10. I like it slightly better than an average game, simply because it's fun to hack and slash. I can see myself playing this one again someday, WAY down the road...but today is not that day. I'm not deleting my save file though, because I want to keep the option to play this one again open.

Achievements? They are incredibly grindy and really suck. I have to admit that if the achievements were easier, I might have actually played this longer and given it a higher rating as a result. As it stands, I can't imagine ever getting 1000 points in this game, it would take WEEKS of dedication to this one game. I think if I tried really hard, I'd get five or six hundred at best. Here's the one I have right now.

Video game number one hundred and twenty five: Resident Evil 5

Video game review number one hundred and twenty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Resident Evil 5".

Everyone has something in their life that just about everyone they know loves...but they hate. Maybe all your friends like sushi and you're not into it. Perhaps a bunch of people you know think "Dancing with the Stars" is a great TV show, but you just think it's stupid. Maybe you're that one person who still doesn't have a computer because you think they're silly. Of course, if that last one was wouldn't be reading this, now would you?

There seems to be a consensus among gamers that the Resident Evil series is "good". While I respect this opinion, I have never once enjoyed a Resident Evil game. I heard all sorts of fantastic things about this one, but I must say...I kept my expectations low so as not to be disappointed when I eventually decided that it sucked. I'm not going to blame the following review on pessimism, because I was actually looking forward to giving this one a try.

This game sports amazing graphics, cut scenes that REALLY tell the story, and characters that seem interesting. Unfortunately for me, the second I started playing...I was right back in that world I hated. Third person shooter, incredibly slow gameplay....zombies ganking me right and left. Unlike Left 4 Dead or Dead Rising (two zombie games I love)...this game isn't arcadey and fun. It's "survival horror"...and that's a genre I've never enjoyed.

Unlike other zombie games, you'll find that you run out of ammo. A lot. This game is all about making you scramble and run away from the zombies, and I've always enjoyed the games that have you mowing them down like weeds. This game just doesn't do that. I knew from playing other games in the series that it would be this way, but I held out hope that they might have refined it a bit. When I saw the previews six or seven months ago, it looked like more of the same and that's why I never played the full version until today. I gave it a try for the 365...and while I won't say I'm sorry I did, I'll definitely say I wasn't surprised.

Overall score? 4/10. This game is probably a winner for a lot of people...but I'm not one of them. I won't insult it by saying the game itself is's just not something I enjoyed. Never have, probably never will. Don't worry're going to get my 50 bucks the second Dead Rising ships later this year....and I bet it's going to be awesome.

Achievements? Here are the only two I got.

Video game number one hundred and twenty four: Rocket Knight

Video game review number one hundred and twenty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Rocket Knight".

A little creature is sitting outside of his house when he sees a bunch of flying boats attacking his town. He runs inside and luckily for him, he happens to own a jet pack and suit of armor. The battle begins.

This seems to be how many classic arcade games started out when I was a kid, and that's how Rocket Knight (a throwback to the Sega Genesis) begins. I'm not sure what the main character is. He looks like a puppy, or a kangaroo, or a fox, or maybe a bear...but I think he's actually supposed to be an opossum. You be the judge:

Anyway...whatever he is, "Sparkster" (the Rocket Knight) has traveled all the way from the 1990's to teach us what platformers are all about. This one is pretty good. You can fly, you can shoot your enemies (or slice them up with your sword)...all in a cartoonish little world that reminds me of the places Sonic the Hedgehog used to live (before his games went all 3D and started sucking ass)

There are gems to collect, secrets to find...and although this is a side scroller, there are multiple ways to finish each level. You can take to the air and travel via the "high road", or run along the bottom of the level seeing how the "low road" thing goes. I found the game was most fun when I mixed it up.

I've only played in the arcade setting, and so far I've made it through three stages. There aren't a ton of achievements, but I did manage to unlock a couple. The bulk of them are unlocked for beating the game, getting through on harder difficulties, or doing it in a set amount of time. I probably won't replay it that many times...but I do think I'll eventually finish it.

For now though, I'm giving this a 7/10. It's a great little platformer that reminds me of the good old days, but the graphics are updated for the current generation. This one is something I can see myself picking up and playing again in the future from time to time.

Achievements: Here are the few I unlocked. I don't think I'll be able to get too many more (as mentioned above, a lot of them are pretty grindy).

Video game number one hundred and twenty three: Funtown Mahjong

Video game review number one hundred and twenty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"FunTown Mahjong".

I don't know where "FunTown" is, but I want to find the mayor's house, break in...and wrap him up in plastic like Dexter the Dark Avenger. Next, I'd cover the walls of his house with pictures of all the disappointed gamers who played this game and force him to look at all of his victims while I explained his crimes. Instead of killing him, I'd simply convince his honor to change the name of his city to "SuckTown". Why do all this to the innocent mayor of a happy little town with a catchy name? Because that way...the developers of Funtown Mahjong would have to change the name of their title as well.....and it would be much more appropriately named.

I suppose instead of my complicated plan to take the fictional mayor of a fictional town hostage...I could simply write a negative review of this horrible title and hope that someday one of the developers is doing a vanity Google search and happens to stumble across it. Maybe he'd voluntarily change the name of the game himself. It's always good to have a Plan B, right?

I'm no Mahjong expert. In fact...I just played my first game of it a few days ago. I am not claiming to know the ins and outs of Mahjong, but I definitely know what I like...and I don't like this. I've done some reading on Mahjong (to try and understand what it was all about before writing my reviews of two Mahjong games in the last week), and this version sounds more true to the original than Mahjong Wisdom does. I can't decide if I hate classic Mahjong in general or if I simply hate this version of the game. Either way, the latter is definitely true.

I took the full tutorial (and got a nice 30 gamerscore for doing so), but it was probably the most confusing tutorial I've ever played. They tell you exactly what to do, but they don't let you know WHY you're doing it. The computer says "press this button. Good. Now press this one"...but fails to adequately explain the strategy behind the button presses. As far as the basic matching goes, the tiles don't have numbers on them, so you have to know what they are at a glance. Even on a 52" HDTV, this was difficult at times. If you're a big Mahjong fan, this might not be an obstacle, but it was annoying to a non-fan like me.

I imagine the tutorial in this game would be like a chess tutorial, where someone made all the moves for you, explaining their strategy, but never explaining the pieces or their unique traits. I left the ten minute training experience feeling just as confused as I did when I started.

Next, I decided to play against the computer. It beat me. I had no idea how or why. I figured I'd play with some real people. I logged on to Xbox Live and searched for a match. Much to my surprise, I was immediately matched with 3 others, all of whom had impressive stats they had earned from playing this game a LOT. None of my opponents had their mics on, so I wasn't able to get any pointers from them. Even though this was my second game, I managed to finish in 2nd place for the first two rounds before getting knocked out a few rounds later. I have no idea how I won a couple of rounds or eventually lost the game.

Overall Score? 2/10. This game reminds me of watching PBS on a Sunday afternoon. I'm sure you can learn great things if you want to sit and invest the time, but I'd rather play Halo.

Achievements? Here are the two I got.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Video game number one hundred and twenty two: Things on Wheels

Video game review number one hundred and twenty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Things on Wheels".

Normally, a racing game like this one would draw the obvious comparison to the Mario Kart series. I've done that several times now, and when I heard about this game...I assumed I'd probably be doing more of the same. Interestingly enough, within 10 seconds of playing this one, I wasn't thinking of Mario Kart at all. Instead, I was thinking of Re-Volt racing.

Re-Volt was one of the pack-in titles with the Xbox Live Beta way back in the days of the original Xbox console. Along with MotoGP, this was the game that introduced the world to the wonders of playing console games with other people online. Re-Volt was the perfect Xbox Live were racing little cars, you could talk to people...and everyone you talked to seem to be having fun. This was Xbox Live before all the douchebags invaded...and it was a beautiful place.

Things on Wheels instantly reminded me of that game, and moments later, I found out why. Apparently, this game was made by the same folks who made "Mad Tracks" for Xbox Live Arcade a few years back, and they've thrown in all sorts of easter eggs that pay homage to Mad Tracks and Re-Volt.

As this is an Xbox Live Arcade game, I can overlook the fact that this game looks like it was designed for the original Xbox. The graphics are nothing special, and the gameplay is very...retro. Simple controls, silly weapons....this one seems like a classic timewaster that you can pick up and play for one race before moving on. There's a story, but it's in the form of a "blog" written before races...and I skipped it during the first 5 tracks I played. Text stories don't really "do it" for me.

The game has plenty of features, you can upgrade your cars, play against other racers online...and there are leaderboards that track your best times. There aren't a ton of racing games for Xbox Live, so I'd have to compare this one to Mad Tracks or Re-Volt. Both of those were games that were free (or under 10 bucks) and this one is exactly like them. Oddly enough, it's not quite as good as the 4 dollar Burger King game "Pocketbike Racers" was. That was the best cheap racing game ever. :-)

Overall score? 6/10. A bit better than average, but not good enough to be a classic. I think I'll play this one again, but I can't imagine putting anywhere near the hours I put into Re-Volt into it. This game would have blown my mind 8 years ago, but just feels a bit outdated.

Achievements? They're pretty's all I've gotten so far. You need to play through about 20 tracks before you start getting more...and I've only played through 5. I imagine I'll eventually make more progress though.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Video game number one hundred and twenty one: Rock Band Unplugged

Video game review number one hundred and twenty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Rock Band Unplugged".

After my time with Guitar Hero on Tour, I can't say I was looking especially forward to this one. The stupid Guitar peripheral thing that plugs into the DS wasn't something I enjoyed, and the game itself felt nerfed. Rock Band Unplugged doesn't even come with a guitar thingy, so I figured it would be a quick rent and return to Gamefly.

Interestingly enough, this game ended up being pretty damn fun. The lack of a guitar thingy isn't hurting it at all (and will probably make it much less embarrassing to play on my next flight). The graphics are good and the gameplay is easy to pick up, but hard to master. You can play one song, or (just like the console version) start a tour.

"How does it work?" you might ask if you had never heard of this game before.

To control your instruments, you use the left D-pad to control some of the notes and the buttons to control the rest. It's a lot like playing Dance Dance Revolution with a controller, except you're playing for four. That's right, you control every instrument. This sounds confusing, but it's actually pretty cool. All four instruments have notes coming down at the same time...but by getting perfect streaks, you can make an instrument "play itself" for awhile, freeing you up to move to another one to rinse and repeat. Ideally, you'll always have three instruments playing themselves while you focus on one.

All in all, this makes for a pretty fun experience. I've played it several times now, all of them at home. The real test will come in a week or so when I take it on an airplane and see how enjoyable it is on the go (as games like this are meant to be played). I'll update my review after I've done that...but for now:

Overall Score? 7/10. I like this a lot. I don't think it'll have a lot of replay value (there's no DLC for it, and I wouldn't purchase it even if there was) I figure once I've finished the limited setlist, I'll be pretty much done with it for good.

Trophies? Nope...but I wish PSP games supported these. Why don't they?

5-24-2010----------Post Travel Update---------------

I took this one on the plane with me this weekend and turns out, it's pretty fun to play on the road. I started a tour and unlocked 4 or 5 cities before my fingers got tired. I was able to 100% a song or two on medium, but completely failed when I tried to play the hard mode. My comments about the limited re-playability may still stand, although I'm not sure. On the one hand...I am already starting to get sick of the limited setlist, but on the other...I haven't even scratched the surface as far as the difficulty ramp-up goes. I have a long way to go before I'd be an "expert" at this game.

Ultimately, I returned this to Gamefly this morning, but I think I may actually buy a copy if I see one used someday. It's fun!

Video game number one hundred and twenty: Mahjong Wisdom

Video game review number one hundred and twenty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Mahjong Wisdom".

Welcome to part two of "Games my Grandma might have played"

I have never played Mahjong before, so I had no idea what to expect. The only thing I know about it comes from an episode of Seinfeld I saw once where George and Jerry's parents are playing it and his mother wins and says "Mahjong". That's why I thought it should be included as another "Game my Grandma might have played".

I like to imagine that if Grandma had ever owned a PC, this is one of those games she'd have on her taskbar, and she'd probably kick my ass at it. Of course, if she'd ever owned a PC, she also probably would have called me at least once a week to ask why her printer wasn't printing, or where the "any" key was. She was good at puzzles, but I have to imagine she would have been just as confused by her computer as every other person I'm related to is. I actually remember that when Grandma got her first VCR, she would always call my uncle over to reprogram the clock after the power went out. Eventually, he showed me how to do it, and I think that's when I took on my first regular tech support client. She paid well (delicious fried chicken and Atari games), so I couldn't complain.

Anyway, getting back to the game...the version of Mahjong I have here actually doesn't seem anything like the version I saw the Costanzas playing on TV. After a brief visit to Wikipedia (which everyone knows is the definitive source on everything), I found out that this isn't classic "mahjong" at all. This game uses the same tiles, but that's about where the similarities end.

Mahjong Wisdom not really a competitive multiplayer game, it's more of a "match two" kind of thing, where you match two tiles, then they disappear...and you match two more. You do this continuously until each level ends, trying to make sure you never run out of matches...and trying to clear all your titles. As this is a PC game, it's great to play whenever you need a quick break from work, earning achievements as you go. I do love that.

There are a couple of is just a basic matching game, another is a game where the tiles move (sort of like Zuma) and if you don't match them quick enough, they fall into a fire and your game is over. It should be noted that the game does not have any modes where you can play the traditional I had to find another title to give that a try. That review is here.

Overall score? It's a solid 8/10. I like this almost as much as Zuma, Bejeweled or any other puzzle game I can think of on my PC. It's great for playing in the background, because you can pause your puzzle and get back to it later. The difficulty in the motion modes is pretty high, but I plan to get better at this one by continuing to play it.

Achievements? I have three so far, but I think these will be the first of more to I'm going to keep on playing this.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Video game number one hundred and nineteen: Buko Sudoku

Video game review number one hundred and nineteen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Buko Sudoku".

This is the first of two in a short series I'd like to call "Games my Grandma might have played".

When I was a kid, I used to visit my grandma's house at least a couple of times a month. Of all my relatives, my grandma was the best at spoiling me. She'd cook steak or fried chicken for my grandpa and I without fail. She stocked up the cabinets with all the "sweet" cereals I wasn't supposed to have at my house, plus enough candy to make it feel like Halloween 365 days of the year. Her house had an Atari 2600 with a whole bunch of games (!!), plus cable TV...and if that ever got boring, my Grandpa was always willing to take me fishing. Grandma's house was cool.

Whenever I was over there, my grandma would usually be working on a puzzle book of some kind. Crosswords, word searches...all that shit they make people on the Real World/Road Rules challenges (Or Survivor) do these days. She would sit on the couch with a pencil and work on a book of those things until she finished it, then she'd start a new one. I'm not sure where she got all the books, but she'd do this all day, every day. I don't think Sudoku had become mainstream back in the 80's, but if it had...I think she'd probably be a master at it. I couldn't help thinking of that when I started playing this game.

Much like solitaire, Buko Sudoku is one of those games that is probably more fun to play manually than it is in the video game universe. I have never sat down with a book of Sudoku puzzles, but I think using good old fashioned pencil and paper would be a little easier than manually clicking through the numbers in this puzzle game.

Still, Sudoku is fun, so this game is kinda fun. The graphics aren't great (they look like Nintendo DS graphics), but the numbers are big enough that you can read them, from all the way across the room if needed. That's nice. I'm not sure what else I can say about the graphics, we're talking about 9 numbers on a square, so it's not exactly 3D here.

There are different difficulty levels, ranging from 6*6 squares (appropriately made of baby blocks), all the way up to 12*12 squares....which are pretty darn hard to solve. I played several of every type (enough to get a few achievements) and then I tried to check out multiplayer. Unfortunately...there was no one online.

Overall? I'll give this a 7/10...strictly for re-playability. I can see doing one of these puzzles whenever I'm bored and don't feel like playing a shooter or something.

Achievements: Here are the few I've unlocked so far: