Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Video game number one hundred and eighty eight: Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4

Video game review number one hundred and eighty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Lego Harry Potter, Years 1-4".

This game was released yesterday and you can't go into a game store without seeing a giant display for it. It's out on every console (including the handhelds), so like all multi-console games...I'll be playing it on the 360 (for the gamerscore of course!)

Speaking of gamerscore, let me kick off this little review by saying that unlike all the other Lego titles, this game is incredibly stingy with it. Perhaps it's because they're covering 4 movies instead of the normal three, but they've decided to hand out achievements only for beating entire "years", or for doing other special things you aren't going to be able to do until later in the game. It took me several hours before I had my first achievement, and that was for collecting 500 "ghost coins" or something.

The next thing I need to disclose? I'm not a Harry Potter fan. I realize that a ton of adults (including many that aren't parents themselves) read this series of books and loved them...but I'm not one of those people. I just don't understand the fascination with reading a book because it's what all the 11 year olds are reading these days. Don't get me wrong, I loved "Green Eggs and Ham" when I was a kid, but these days, when I read....I like reading books written for grown-ups. Or at least a good Tom Clancy book.

I tried to watch the first Harry Potter movie when that came out to see what all the hype was about, but I thought it was silly. After seeing it, I felt like my decision to abstain from the "Harry Potter craze" was justified. Years later, I watched almost all the same people who worshiped Harry Potter turn into Twilight fans, and so in retrospect, I've never felt better about a decision to ignore a pop culture phenomenon.

Before you dismiss my opinion as close-minded, consider this: If you're one of those people who spent eight years wondering how there were enough people in America to keep George Bush president for all those years...you'll have a pretty good idea how I feel about all the adult Twilight and Harry Potter fans. I recognize that over 50% of the population might disagree with me and realize that there must be something worth liking about it...but for the life of me, I just can't see it.

Suffice it to say, after that first movie....I saw nothing that had made me want to watch the sequels, or read the books. I've had many people tell me "If you give it a chance, you'll like it"...but that's the same thing the older kids told me about smoking when I was younger, and we all know how smart it is to cave in to peer pressure. You can all keep your addiction, I'll stay cancer free...thank you very much.

Why spend so much time talking about this? Simple. In order to play this game, you are required to be a Harry Potter fan. I'm sure this game is made specifically for them...and that's not an unreasonable thing. For someone like me? I found it to be incredibly lame.

It's a Lego title, so it's got great gameplay, fun graphics, and you immediately feel comfortable in the universe. The one thing I wasn't counting on was this: If you're not a Harry Potter fan, you're going to spend a portion of this game lost and wondering what to do next. In the first level, you're supposed to walk down this row of shops until you get to a bank....only I didn't know that. See, I saw the first movie many years ago, once....and it's erased from my mind at this point. This means I didn't remember the scene where Harry went to the bank (and I still don't).

I was hopping around in this giant room (which I didn't know was a bank) looking for the exit door for almost 15 minutes before my wife walked into the room and said "You're in the bank, and now you need to ride the cart to Harry's vault". I had seen a cart earlier, and even tried to ride it, but I didn't know where to go. With her help, I noticed a small safe that I hadn't opened yet, which ended up opening the vault. That got me un-stuck, and back on a path to where I could finally beat the level.

At the beginning of the next level, there are moving staircases. Apparently, this is normal in "Hogwarts"...and the first time you encounter one, you're just supposed to know that. I sort of remembered it from the trailers of the movie....and I'm lucky I did, or I would have been stuck for longer than I was, as there's no onscreen indicator that you need to move the staircase to progress (just a line of coins in thin air that you want to follow and have no idea how). If you jump towards the coins, you die automatically, so you have to move those stairs.

The onscreen hints tell you to cast "Wigasium Leviosa" (or something)....and you're supposed to know what that means. It's pretty easy to figure out that it's a spell, but it would be nice if they told you what it does. There's an achievement for killing Muggle characters. You're supposed to know who they are. Sure, it occurs to me that other games do this (a Mario game might ask you to find a picture of Toad or something)....but I've never been more lost in a clearly established universe than I was in this game.

In short...if you're a Harry Potter dork....like I'm a Star Wars dork, play this game, you're probably going to love it. If you're not a Harry Potter dork, this is probably going to be the worst Lego game you've ever played...and you're going to feel pretty confused. Because there's no dialog in Lego games, you're just supposed to "know" the story...or be able to decipher what's going on from the cute little mumbling cartoons in the cut scenes. With Star Wars, Batman, Indy...I've always thought these little cut scenes were awesome, and perfect. With Harry Potter...I've realized that if you don't know the movies....they're just a lot of nonsense.

Overall Score? 4/10. Am I kidding with this score? No, I'm not. I love the Lego games, and I never thought I could dislike one...but Harry Potter just proved it was easily possible. Turns out you have to be a fan of the movies to enjoy the game, and I'm sorry...but that's an insurmountable requirement for me. They might as well say that you need to learn to speak French before you can play.

Achievements? I got my one achievement (and it took hours), so I most likely won't be returning to this game anytime soon....

Video game number one hundred and eighty seven: Naughty Bear

Video game review number one hundred and eighty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Naughty Bear".

I've been looking forward to this game for several months now. The trailers you can find on the web are awesome, and the idea of a stuffed teddy bear who's "not quite right" going on a killing spree sounds like an interesting concept for a game. The trailers feature the Naughty Bear re-enacting scenes from popular horror movies....and it just looks fantastic. I don't understand how anyone could watch the trailers and NOT want to play the game.

As is often the case with video games, this one didn't exactly live up to the hype for me.

The objectives are simple enough (find bears, scare the bears, sometimes kill the bears). Completing these objectives is repetitive and sometimes confusing. In order to scare the bears...you have to sneak up on them (it reminded me of that game where the Burger King hides in the bushes and sneaks up to give people Whopper hamburgers). Actually, that Burger King game was more fun...and it was only 2 bucks when you purchased a value combo.

Back to the bears.

Once you've scared a bear, you have to scare him two or three more times before you can do some sort of "ultra scare" on them. Alternatively, you can just bludgeon them to death with whatever weapon you happen to be carrying. While this is much more fun (and easier), it gets boring fast. By the end of the first level, I had killed bears with every weapon possible, multiple times. It stopped being fun and started feeling grindy. Every kill animation is exactly the same....and you never seem to run out of bears to kill.

The next level was exactly the same as the first one. I checked out some other reviews online and apparently, that's what awaits you in this game. Just more of the same, over and over and over again. I'll pass.

My overall score? 4/10. This game had me so excited. Waiting for it was like getting in line to see Superman Returns. The trailers looked great and I couldn't wait to experience it for myself.

Unfortunately, playing it was like watching Superman Returns. Ok, maybe it was a little bit better than that movie. I mean, at least Naughty Bear isn't a big pussy like the new Superman was.

Achievements? I got these.

Video game number one hundred and eighty six: Mario Party 8

Video game review number one hundred and eighty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mario Party 8".

Mario Party 8 is another fantastic example of why I hate the Nintendo Wii. I said it a couple of weeks ago when I was reviewing Wario Land Shake It, and I'll say it again: Not every fucking game needs motion control, Nintendo.

I have played several of the Mario Party titles before. I bought one of the first ones for my nephews and nieces to play on their N64, and ended up enjoying playing along with them. Later, I think I got them a sequel for the GameCube, and I know I've played a version of Mario Party on the DS. The series always features a dynamic board that you hop around on (like Monopoly, only cooler)...and a ton of fun mini-games that you can play when you land on certain spaces. Collect coins and stars, use power ups....button mash, yell at the person next to you on the couch. In short, it's a board game...but it's great.

Mario Party 8 takes that formula and fucks it in the ass with the stupid motion control bullshit. Imagine what might happen if someone decided to buy the rights to all of John Hughes classic movies and re-release them in 3D, because that's what kids are buying tickets to these days. Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club and Weird Science...all in 3D!!!!! Ok, that last one might be kind of cool, but for the most part...you'd probably feel like your childhood got raped just a little bit, right?

I enjoyed my first game of Mario Party 8. I was able to achieve a fairly substantial victory over Mario (using my favorite go-to character Toad), and I found the use of the WiiMote only mildly annoying compared to the fun I used to have playing this series with a regular video game controller. Unfortunately, the fun was short lived, as my next game involved many more mini-games that started to force me to use the Wiimote more and more. I should point out that some of these games are exactly the same as the ones I played on the N64, only now...they've been needlessly updated to support Nintendo's motion controls, which (I must add) don't work worth a damn.

As you read this, I don't want you to assume that I hate this because I'm "old-school", or because I hate motion controls. That's just not the case. Motion control in gaming has it's place...but there's a fine line as to which games need to be "updated" to include it. If you're going to take something that isn't broken and "fix it", you'd better do it extremely well. Why make someone waggle their hands around when a button press not only works better, but it feels better? Why update something just to update it? Here's a great review I found that sums up exactly why I hate this one.

I know that Nintendo is printing money with the Wii, and I might be in the minority here...but I really don't think every game they have needs to be a "waggle your controller" game. Sony has motion sensing in their Dual Shock controllers, and they almost NEVER have you use it....unless it really makes sense. Want to walk across a balance beam? That's a good time for it. Want to shoot someone, jump...or do something else you're going to do 100 times in a level? They don't employ the motion sensing, and that's a good thing. Of course, Sony is in last place in console sales....so I guess that's saying something about what people like these days.

When Microsoft comes out with Kinect later this year, it looks like they're going to be focusing strictly on family, dancing and exercise games for all that motion stuff. Personally, I think this is smart. If they'd tried to take Halo Reach and turn it into a game where you're pointing your finger at the screen pretending it's a gun, I'm pretty sure that experience would have sucked balls. I'm also pretty sure that would be the first Halo game I'd leave on the shelves.

I know Nintendo isn't for hardcore gamers anymore. I've come to terms with that. I know now that if I want to play a Nintendo game, I'm probably going to have to gyrate around on my living room floor like the Star Wars Kid. It's hard to accept, but I'm slowly coming to terms with it...and becoming less and less interested in Nintendo every day. They have games where they do it right, but there are so very few that it's a precious gem when you finally find it.

Overall Score? 3.5/10. There's a very decent possibility that this could be the last Mario Party game I'll ever play. If I ever get nostalgic for the series, there are 7 other titles that did it better than this piece of dog shit. It's only getting a 3.5 because of the fun I had outside of the terrible controls. That experience was as fun as trying to cut the mold off a piece of fruit so you can eat only the "good parts."

Video game number one hundred and eighty five: Ancients of Ooga

Video game review number one hundred and eighty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Ancients of Ooga".

This game just came out today, and I was looking forward to giving it a try. It's your basic platformer at heart, with some pretty silly characters and your basic "Save the _____ " plot.

You are a spirit, and can possess any number of different tribesmen from the "Oogani" tribe. Your chiefs have all been killed by these bad guys called the "Booli" who infiltrated your village by feeding everyone slugs (which are apparently delicious, but intoxicating). Sound weird? It is.

Here's an example of one of the lines in the game's story, from right before your chiefs are all killed and your people are turned into slaves:

"We ate so many slugs, we thought we would explode. We were all sprawled out on the ground with a bad case of the fat-happies".

Pretty goofy indeed.

This game is fairly fun to play, each tribesman you meet has a different power, and you can "possess" as many as you want in order to get through a level. Possessing someone simply means selecting and controlling them, and then you can do things like have them stand on a button pad while you walk through a door, etc. Some of these puzzles require 3 or 4 different minions, and they've been getting more difficult as I go.

Your characters can also eat (and puke up) lots of different stuff. Everything they eat either gives them health, death or special power. Slugs make them insane. There are magic beans that make you float...etc, etc. Honestly..I have no idea who comes up with this stuff. :-)

Each level that I've played so far (I'm up to 10 or 11) has basically involved a "Go get me this and bring it back" mission of some kind. Then you get the next assignment, rinse and repeat. In some games, this can be incredibly boring...but this one is just entertaining enough to keep it fun.

Overall score? I'm rating this a solid 7/10. It's a good platformer, and I'm enjoying it. I have my issues with the repetitive nature of running through every level two or three times to get something and bring it back....but I do like that you continue to unlock new parts of the level as you gain new powers and stuff.

Achievements? After about a dozen levels, I've only managed to unlock these. I think I'll keep playing...eventually.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Video game number one hundred and eighty four: Rock Band Green Day

Video game review number one hundred and eighty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Rock Band Green Day ".

Technically, the game I have is "Rock Band Green Day +". The "plus" means that I get to download six more songs for free and I get to export this entire disk worth of songs to my insanely huge Rock Band song collection. This game gets major bonus points just for that, and I wish that Rock Band Beatles had done something similar.

Anyway...Heather and I booted this game and played through the first "venue" in the campaign. All of the songs were from the "Dookie" album, and I played the drums while she sang. We unlocked only one achievement, but we also unlocked lots of little "awards" along the way. One of the awards was a video taken probably a couple of decades ago, when Green Day was driving around the country in a "Bookmobile" that they had modified into a tour bus. It was pretty funny.

There's not a lot I can review about this game. It's a Rock Band game, so you sing, drum or play guitars. One feature it has that I liked was the "Harmony" feature....which meant you could use multiple mics if you wanted to. I enjoyed this feature in the Beatles game, and I think I'll enjoy it just as much in Green Day.

The game has a good setlist, I've checked it out and realized that I know enough of the songs that it feels like it's a worthwhile game to own. I'll probably get just as much mileage playing off the disk as I will exporting the songs to the Rock Band song collection. Speaking of which...the folks behind Rock Band are pretty damn smart. Much like Dance Dance Revolution did a few years ago, all of the songs you download for Rock Band worked in Rock Band 2. It's been confirmed they'll also work in Rock Band 3. That's a good thing, because some people like me have invested hundreds and hundreds of dollars into this music. I like that I can continue to take it with me.

Overall score? 8/10. This game is a good standalone, I'll probably play all the way through the campaign, and maybe even play it the next time I have a bunch of friends over. After I've gotten the achievements, I'm sure I'll export the songs and probably never use this disk again (because the songs will all be in Rock Band 3). That's a good thing...and I really like that Harmonix allows this.

Achievements? Heather and I played for an hour and we only got one. That seemed a little weird....but I went and looked up the achievements and most of them are pretty weird. I think I'll be able to get quite a few more now that I know what I'm aiming for.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Video game number one hundred and eighty three: Lego Indiana Jones

Video game review number one hundred and eighty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Lego Indiana Jones".

At one point, this game was packed in with every Xbox 360 console that was sold at retail. I can't really blame them for this. Lego Indy is one of those games that families will enjoy because it's a lot of fun for both kids and adults. The "Lego" series of games are some of my favorites on the console, and while so far, I have ultimately enjoyed this one less than either of the Lego Star Wars games (or Lego Batman)...it's still a good game and I will probably end up finishing it at some point or another.

If you've never played a Lego game before, they're basically platformers that use Lego characters and pieces to build the game world. In Lego Indy, each level is a scene from the movie, only the environment is filled with Legos. The game is filled with humor, action, and little puzzles to solve. Actually, I found the puzzles in this game to be more difficult than anything I'd encountered in Lego Star Wars or Lego Batman. That's not to say they're hard, they're just....more difficult. For an adventure series like Indiana Jones, I suppose that's ok.

I'm not sure what else I can say about this one. The characters you'd expect to see are here. You smash Lego things to bits, and build them up again. It's basically following a formula that has worked for years. Lego games are so good that I might even play Lego Harry Potter when it comes out this week...and I've never even seen the movies. :-)

Overall Score? 7.5/10. Although I don't like it quite as much as Lego Star Wars, this game is a lot of fun, and I'm not sure why I never got around to playing it until today. I completed the first couple of levels and I'm sure I'll go back and finish this one. The real question is whether or not I'll ever want to play the sequel, which I believe is based entirely on the most recent Indy film. Hmmmm.... :-)

Achievements? At "review time", I had only unlocked two.

Video game number one hundred and eighty two: Press Your Luck

Video game review number one hundred and eighty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Press Your Luck".

Sometime last month, I played the Price is Right game. In my review, I mentioned that it was a pretty terrible game, and a poor substitute for the real thing. Press Your Luck is actually a better video game than the Price is Right was, but I suppose that's not saying much. You really only "control" two things with your Wii-mote, (selecting a multiple choice answer to a trivia question and spinning). It reminds me of one of those "CD+G" games of the early 90's, and as far as graphics go, it's really not much better.

Like the classic 80's TV show, you answer trivia questions for a chance to win "spins" on the big board. The "Big Board" is basically a board full of smaller squares...and each square constantly switches to a new prize. Observe the amazing visuals that await you:



Very often, instead of cash or prizes, a "Whammy" (a little gremlin) will come up, and when he does...he takes all of the money you've won, sending you back to zero. When I watched this as a kid in the 80's, the Whammies were my favorite part of the show. I couldn't wait to see one come out and steal someone's money. As a "contestant", this makes the game incredibly frustrating, and turns it into one based on luck instead of skill.

I played through 4 full games of this, trying to eek out a win. The first game, I won more spins than everyone, which seemed to actually be more of a curse than a blessing. I kept getting "Whammies", so finally I built up an amount of money I was happy with and passed my remaining spins to a computer, hoping they'd share my luck and get a whammy too. The computer had flawless luck and used my spins to get a huge win.

I played four rounds and the result was always the same. Whether I got the most spins (or threw the trivia round and got the least)...I would accumulate some decent amount of money, then I'd get "whammied". I tried passing to the computer, but they wouldn't get the whammies. The same stupid computer lady won each round (even though I'd answered more questions correctly than her).

Finally, by some stroke of luck, I finally won a game:



Then I saw that saw that there were 19 more "rounds" to go.
Hah! Screw that. One "round" was enough for me. :-)

Overall Score? 4/10. The outcome of any given match is almost purely based on luck. Sure, you can answer a trivia question to gain spins, but the spins are just random chances to get money or get "whammied". Lame. Now I know why this stupid TV show is off the air. :-)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Video game number one hundred and eighty one: Up

Video game review number one hundred and eighty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Up".

Up is a kid's game that manages to capture the spirit of the movie pretty well, save one thing. They sort of skip the whole beginning and transport you directly to the jungle after the part where you've landed your house (BIG SPOILERS...there's a flying house in the movie!)

I'm not sure how they could have made the beginning part of the movie into a game, but that was my favorite part of the whole movie....and so it was weird that they jumped you right into the jungle. Aside from that little time warp, the rest of the game is almost as faithful to the movie as a game can be, while still adding extra levels for challenges (and a few "bosses" that didn't appear in the film, including a giant Anaconda). Another BIG SPOILER ALERT...there is no giant anaconda in Up!

With a few pauses here and there to check the internet and a break somewhere for lunch...I beat this game from start to finish in about 5 hours. I didn't 100% it, but I did get all the way through the story and win the game. If I want to go back and get all 1000 gamerscore, it would require finding the collectibles and stuff, something I don't think I really want to do. On the other hand...it might be really easy. Hmmm. :-)

"Up!" consists partly of jumping puzzles that require you and your partner to complete. You can be either Russell or Carl at any point in the game, and sometimes...you even get to be Dug, the dog. Those were some of my favorite levels. The other half of the game is mostly about smashing things and fighting the occasional evil dog when you run into them. Just about every level is some variation of this, although they do stay faithful to the plot of the film, so your location changes a bunch.

My favorite levels included the plane fights with dogs (no, I'm not going to call them "Dog Fights"), and the levels where you'd find yourself sliding down a waterfall collecting coins. I didn't particularly care for the boss levels at all, and there were a couple in particular that were actually frustratingly difficult.

Aside from that, my only real gripe about this game is that Carl participates in just as much of the action as the kid does. Isn't he a senior citizen with a walker? Just doesn't seem right. Poor old guy probably would have had a heart attack in the 12th level, but I'm guessing they cut that part out.

Overall Score? 7/10. It's a great little game, and I had a good time playing it. I think kids would like it, and there's a whole multiplayer mode to keep it fresh for them. I didn't play that, but I imagine someone might enjoy it. Other than going back for all the collectibles, there's really no reason to ever play this again...but it was fun while it lasted.

Achievements: I got a TON. Here are some of them.

Video game number one hundred and eighty: Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard

Video game review number one hundred and eighty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard".

When one first picks up this game, one is led to believe (by the title) that this game is a sequel. "A sequel to what?" you might ask. I asked the same question.

I'd never heard of any previous Matt Hazard game, so I had to check the definitive source for all video game information online: Wikipedia. According to that magical source of instant info, this is a fictitious "comeback" game, and spoofs a ton of other different games. It's got Will Arnett and Neil Patrick Harris, so that sounded promising.

The first thing I noticed after booting this game: It's funny.
The second thing I noticed....it's horrible.

I'm reminded of my recent "Leisure Suit Larry" experience, and I'm beginning to see a disturbing trend forming. Much like that game, this one features a couple of people in the cast that I think are pretty funny. It's got a decent story (in fact, I like this one a lot better than the newest Larry game)...and I think the graphics are decent enough.

Unfortunately, that's where the "good parts" end. This is one of the worst shooters I can remember playing in recent history. The controls are awful (your reaction time is painfully slow, you can't run, and the cover system is hopelessly lame). The weapons are ok, but it takes a half dozen bullets to kill someone if you're aiming anywhere other than their head. It's actually quicker to run up and punch people...and there are some achievements for doing that.

The gameplay starts out with a tutorial, and Matt Hazard makes all sorts of snide remarks about how lame it is that he has to practice things like shooting and punching, things every gamer should already know how to do. This was humorous and I actually learned a thing or two.

Next, you make your way through a level, killing dozens of minions trying to get to a boss. Again, more wise-cracks...an area of the game I have no complaints about. The boss fight involves a bunch of quick time events, where you have to press the right button at the right time as it flashes on screen. I'm not a fan of these, but I didn't hate it. Actually, it was probably one of the more smooth experiences in the game up to this point. After this fight, the plot gets a little more interesting. You start getting transported to different levels, featuring enemies from games you supposedly starred in in the 80's and 90's.

There's a cowboy level, a Bond sort of level, and eventually..I met a Wizard who was probably from WarCraft or something. He was pretty funny. For some strange reason, I continued playing this one, even though I didn't like the gameplay....because it was just interesting enough to keep me hooked, and just passable enough to keep me from throwing my controller down and turning the machine off.

This is not a good game by any means. It's not fun to play at all, but it IS a good story, and that story is sprinkled just heartily enough throughout the crap that I haven't gotten bored. Yet. I may even finish this.

Overall score so far: 6/10. It's slightly better than the average game, but almost all of that score is for the humor and the plot. If I was scoring this simply on gameplay, it would be around a 3. If you appreciate satirical humor and funny references to older game series you might have grown up with, this might be worth your time. You have to suffer through some shit-tastic gameplay to get to the story, but at least to me (so far) it's been worth it.

Achievements: This game has some pretty silly achievements, including one you get for starting a new game, one for pausing, and a large one just for watching the credits. Outside of the silly ones, they are split between story-based achievements and kill-based ones. I got quite a few so far, and I'm probably only halfway done with this game.


Video game number one hundred and seventy nine: Viking: Battle for Asgard

Video game review number one hundred and seventy nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Viking: Battle for Asgard".

Viking is one of those games that you see in the bargain bin at GameStop for 2.99. When you look in the bargain bin, you're not looking for it...but you see it there, with it's glorious Viking cover art, and you assume that it blows...because how good could a game that costs 2.99 actually be?

The answer: Not very.

I don't know anyone who has ever played, or even heard of this game. I'd never heard of it either, I was just searching through a stack of games and found this one. I thought it would be worth a few minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

The game starts with storyboards instead of cinematics. The art wasn't even comic book quality. I thought that was a bad sign. You're supposed to be some sort of Scandinavian warrior in the olden days, but for some reason...every character in the game speaks perfect english, with no accent whatsoever. I did find one shopkeeper with some kind of accent, but I'm pretty sure it was Scottish. Way to splurge on the voice actors, Viking creators.

The game takes place on islands, but I never made it off the first one. You have like seventeen swords on your back when you start this game, but you only seem to be able to use one. The combat is simple enough, a lot of hacking and slashing, and you can block...but you'll often get surrounded by a group of enemies...and I kept getting killed whenever that happened unless I ran away. You can pull fatalities on enemies, although they don't seem much more brutal than regular kills. At least they're in slow motion.

For most of the game, you run around collecting mead and gold, and occasionally freeing other Vikings (whose help I wasn't sure how to use). When you first free them, they fight with you, but then they all run back to your camp and you're left alone. Bunch of pussies.

As I understand it, you eventually get a horn that you can blow to summon them, but when I finally got the horn, I couldn't figure out how to summon them (and the instruction book wasn't much help). I'm guessing some NPC character probably told me how to do it, and I missed that dialog or something. I hate that. In any event, I kept going into battle by myself, and eventually got bored of that and quit.

Overall Score? 4/10. This game is definitely below average but not "terrible". Although I had some trouble with getting ganged up on towards the end of my playtime with this, I'm sure I could have figured that out with more time and experimentation. I checked the prices for this and apparently, it's 8.99 used at Gamestop. That means it's cheaper than some arcade games...and at that price, I don't know...MAYBE (if you've played everything else) it's worth playing, but honestly...I can't recommend it.

Here are the achievements I earned.



Friday, June 25, 2010

Video game number one hundred and seventy eight: Rhythm Heaven

Video game review number one hundred and seventy eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Rhythm Heaven".

This game is one of the first games for the Nintendo DS that I can't imagine playing without the stylus. It's a really tough game to describe, but basically....it's filled with music-based minigames, and your job is to "flick" your way through them. "Flicking" is sort of like drawing a check mark on the touch screen at first, and many of the games involve that simple motion.

It's addictive as hell.

The little singing game where you press the stylus onto the touch screen to shut your guy up cracked me up. If you remove your little pencil from the screen for even a fraction of a second, the little guy will start singing, and he won't stop until you put the stylus back. The game is a "Glee club", so you have to sing in harmony with the other two folks (meaning most of the time, the trick is knowing when to shut up).

Another game I like involved three monkeys at a concert, and whenever the singer says the same word three times, you clap four times (using the stylus). Whenever the singer says "I suppose", you do a strange button combo that involves three fast claps and a flick. It sounds weird....and it is...but it's fun.

The funny thing about renting DS games from Gamefly is I usually get to see how far the people have gotten before me (because the saves are stored on the cartridge). In less than 6 levels, I was already beating the top two scores of the last two people that rented this. HAH!

Of course...after the first block of levels, it got harder, and I got stuck on some silly rhythm based ping-pong game that I just couldn't make sense of. I tried to get through the level 5 or 6 times, but I kept failing....and eventually, I switched the game off.

Overall Score? 7/10. It's good, but that one level I couldn't beat stopped me dead in my tracks. I had the opportunity to buy this from Gamefly for about 17 bucks, but I chose not to. It's a decent enough game, but I think there are better ones in my DS arsenal right now. If I'm going to buy another one, I'm thinking about "Inside Story", which I really liked a few weeks back.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Video game number one hundred and seventy seven: Lost Planet 2

Video game review number one hundred and seventy seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Lost Planet 2".

I didn't like the first Lost Planet very much. I remember playing through the first couple of chapters and being very unimpressed with the game. Even though I know it got really good reviews, it just wasn't my cup of tea. I say this, because I'm assuming I came into this game a bit biased and it probably shows.

This sequel opens with some soldiers running around in the snow (once again) when they encounter some "Snow Pirates". These snow pirates get into a gunfight with our heroes (whose names I don't think we're ever told)...and they are somehow able to regenerate after being shot a bunch of times. Turns out, they have neat-o regenerator thingies just like the good guys in video games always do (and this amazes our heroes for some reason).

I played through the first level. It was barren and confusing, just like the levels I remember from the first game. Fortunately, it was over quickly...and I found myself being flown to a jungle planet. I was excited for a moment (after all, it was nice to finally get out of the snow in a Lost Planet game)...but the Jungle planet is just as confusing as the snow planet.

This game has failed to introduce me to a character that I care about. I'm not sure if they ever told me the name of my character, or why he's fighting, or who these enemies are that he's fighting (and why we're at war)...but without these details, I'm just playing "Guy in third person shooter". That'd be ok if the shooter were awesome, but it's not.

I made it through the first chapter of the first episode...and after I beat that, I did a save and quit. I really have no interest in continuing, especially when I've left better games than this one unfinished. Splinter Cell, The Saboteur, TMNT, Just Cause 2 and even Spongebob Truth or Square come to mind. These are all games I haven't played in weeks that I'd rather go back and play some more than spend anymore time in Lost Planet 2.

Overall Score? 5/10. I know people love this one, but to me...it's boring and average at best. There's nothing "wrong" with it, it's just not a series that I've been a fan of, and it's not surprising to me that I didn't instantly love this game. If I had a week with nothing else to do, I might get into this one....but I haven't a week with no other games available for....well...years.

Achievements? I got one. The achievements in this game are notoriously impossible, but I'm pretty sure I could breeze through the campaign if I wanted to for 5 or 6 more. Unfortunately for my gamerscore...I don't want to.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Video game number one hundred and seventy six: Duke Nukem Manhattan

Video game review number one hundred and seventy six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Duke Nukem: Manhattan ".

If someone walked up to me in 1996 and told me that they'd finally made a new Duke Nukem game and that it had been turned into a side-scroller, I'd probably say: "Duke Nukem Forever is a side scroller? Awesome!" Of course, it's 2010 now and 14 years have passed. New Duke Nukem games just aren't groundbreaking anymore. I wanted to give this one a try, for old time's sake, but that was about it.

Duke is certainly back with all of his catchy one-liners. Unfortunately, somewhere in the decade or so since I've played a Duke Nukem game, they've apparently misplaced the fun.

The graphics are passable I suppose, but the controls in this one remind me of a NES game. You can run left or right, and that's it. You can jump, but if an enemy happens to be standing in your way, you will sometimes bounce off of them. You can shoot, but only left or right or up. There's no targeting to speak of, you just shoot in a straight line and hope the enemy happens to be standing in the path of the bullet. The game plays a lot like Contra did 20 years ago....but it's not as fun.

So what's wrong with it?

For starters...the maps are confusing as hell. There's no clear goal, you just sort of run until you find the right door to walk through. There's no legend, or radar, or even a stated objective. You can move the camera left or right to see parts of the level that might be obscured (handy for times when you come to a ledge and have no idea if that's a cliff you should jump off of or not)...but that's about the only help you have. You're pretty much exploring all the time, looking for a key to a door, or maybe a crack in a wall that you can blow up with a pipe bomb. In the first two levels, twice...I found myself stuck in an empty world where I'd already killed all the enemies, but couldn't exit from.

Suck.

Finally, I exited the second level (with a little help from a youtube walkthrough), and got to fight a helicopter. Again...I was reminded of old school NES games as I hung from a ladder and tried to shoot the helicopter down while it fired it's turret at me. If the game gave me any ability to target my weapons, this might have been a fun battle, but you can only shoot left, right or straight up. Ultimately, I killed it with pipe bombs instead of my gun. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the "right" way to do it, but it worked for me.

Overall Score: 4/10. This game is a disappointment all the way around. The only reason you should play it is if you REALLY love the Duke Nukem character. If that's the case, you'll be reunited with him once again, and maybe you'll be happy. If you're only a casual fan (or you don't care much about him at all)...stay the hell away from this game. It sucks.

Achievements: I got these. I don't anticipate getting any more.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Video game number one hundred and seventy five: Transformers: War for Cybertron

Video game review number one hundred and seventy five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Transformers: War for Cybertron".

If the recent Michael Bay movies were this entertaining...I would have absolutely no shame in running around telling people what a big Transformers fan I am. As it stands, I feel sort of Elias in Clerks 2 whenever I mention that I like the Transformers. I fully expect people to snicker a bit, because the Transformers of today are bullshit compared to the ones I grew up with. That is of course...until this game.

Back in the 1980's, I watched the Transformers cartoon every single day. When the movie came out, I saw it in the theater. I owned a bunch of the toys, and I played with them all the time, eventually wearing the wheels off of some of my autobots. I saved up my allowance and any money I could earn doing chores to buy the newest Transformer, and I was always excited to get one, even if I could only afford a "mini-bot".

As much as I liked the toys, I never did own either of the classic leaders. I wanted an Optimus Prime for the longest time, but by the time I got around to saving up the money for one, he was gone from stores...so I bought an Ultra Magnus instead. I had the cash for a Megatron at one point, and I actually bought him...but my parents made me return it because he looked too much like a real gun.

Despite the holes in my toy collection, I remained a fan throughout the 1980's until they stopped making the first generation toys. Transformers was one of the first cartoons I remember being tied completely to a toy line, so when they stopped making the toys, the cartoons ended almost immediately afterward. Eventually, the series returned (I think Optimus Prime was a monkey or something) and I didn't bother to watch that at all. It wasn't until a few years before the live action movies that people started to fall in love with the first generation stuff again, and that was a good time of nostalgia.

They've released a couple of Transformers video games based on the crappy movies. I played one (which was ok, but not great) and I have yet to play the sequel (though, I'll add it to my challenge list). Neither one was nearly as good as this game is.

You have the choice to start out with an Autobot or a Decepticon campaign. I decided to start out as a Decepticon. I got to choose my character, and chose Megatron. Throughout the story so far, I've heard lots of good one-liners, and fought in some pretty cool battles. It's an interesting story that has you fighting Star Scream at first before you team up with him. The graphics, controls, weapon switching, transforming...it's all good. Honestly..I think this game may finally redeem the series for fans of the classic Transformers. To appeal to the current generation of fans, all this game really needs is Megan Fox bending over something in short shorts and it would be perfect.

I haven't jumped into multiplayer yet, but I assume the combat is like it is offline. You can level up your guy, earn new weapons and titles (a'la Call of Duty)...so I assume there's some replay value here.

Overall Score (so far) 8/10. I didn't spend a ton of time with it, but I'm definitely going to buy a copy of my own and dive back in. This is one I want to finish. It's a great updating of the classic series, and even though it's not completely old-school like the 1980's cartoons, the Transformers don't look like the Michael Bay ones...which is good enough for me.

Achievements? Here's what I got so far.

Video game number one hundred and seventy four: Mini Ninjas

Video game review number one hundred and seventy four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mini Ninjas".

Mini Ninjas is an interesting little platformer that I think was supposed to be designed for kids. Generally, kids games are on "rails" of some kind, but this one has some free roaming elements to it, along with potions and a weapons wheel that make it a little more complex than you might expect.

You begin your adventure in your little town, and you're supposed to find some training. For some reason, I ditched the path I was on and jumped into a river instead. I floated down the river, and eventually back-tracked to the house where my trainer was. I was sort of surprised that the game let me do that, but soon came to find out there's not always a "Golden path" for every mission you're on, and you can find multiple ways to get to each destination.

The main character is a little ninja (one might call him "mini" sized), and your missions all involve kicking some ass in one form or another. Along the way, you pick up ingredients for potions, and eventually you can pull of magic spells. One spell turns you into the nearest animal you see. Sometimes that means you can be a bad-ass bear, but sometimes...that just means you're going to be a rabbit for awhile.

The combat in the game is pretty decent, but I found the jumping controls to be fairly lame. Running on walls is particularly hard, and I fell off several cliffs while trying this. Controlling your ninja when he's in the water is also difficult and I crashed into rocks a lot. It doesn't take your health away or anything, but it sure is annoying.

Overall score? 5/10. Another average game. After beating the first few levels of this one, I felt like I'd seen what I needed to see. Would I play it again? Yeah...maybe so. Someday....but I won't be rushing home to play it all night or anything.

Achievements? Here are the ones I have so far.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Video game number one hundred and seventy three: Karaoke Revolution: American Idol Encore

Video game review number one hundred and seventy three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Karaoke Revolution: American Idol: Encore".

I have discussed my enjoyment of Karaoke Revolution games in the past, but I had a feeling before playing this that I was probably going to hate it. I didn't know much about it before popping it in except that I was going to be singing (and probably singing American Idol songs).

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the setlist in the game isn't half bad, and the "American Idol" portion of the game is just sort of tacked on to a normal Karaoke Revolution Experience. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit more than I thought I would.

There are quickplay and multiplayer modes, but I assumed the meat of the game was going to be in the American Idol competition. I created a generic contestant (with a funky fresh sideways baseball hat) and started a "full season".

You begin your American Idol experience just like the kids on TV do, at the auditions. Apparently, I was a little better at singing than William Hung, because I got to go to Hollywood. Considering I had the difficulty set on easy, I think that was a given.

Once in Hollywood, you go through four or five rounds of singing "half-songs", before you progress to the finals where you have to sing entire tracks. Overall, to beat the game and win the title of American Idol, you have to "win" at singing 18 songs. I'm not sure what the bar was, but with the game set on easy...I was able to walk right over it. I played for at least a few hours and ended the evening as "The American Idol", taking breaks only when my wife was willing to sing a song or two for me before she went to bed.

Paula, Simon and Randy are all represented in this game with some really poorly animated versions of themselves. They used their real voices, but after only a handful of songs, some of Simon's comments were repeating already. One noticeable person that was missing was Ryan Seacrest. Where the hell was he? He didn't want another couple of hundred thousand to lend his voice to this?

Also...there aren't any other contestants....which I think could have been a nice touch. I'm not saying I would have watched them, but what if after your song, you could watch some stupid American Idol "all-star" contestant sing one of the songs from the game's setlist and hear the real judges comment on the performance? That would have been kind of cool...and I'm sure there are hundreds of former contestants who would be happy to take a day off from their various day jobs to star in a video game for a fleeting moment or two.

Overall? I liked this game a lot more than I thought I would. It's easily a 7.5. I actually could see myself singing through the songs I missed through my first competition just to get the achievement for doing that...but after several hours, my voice was shot and I didn't want to play anymore.

Achievements? I managed to earn a few in one night of playing:


Video game number one hundred and seventy two: Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust

Video game review number one hundred and seventy two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust".

I have a fond memory of playing one of the first Leisure Suit Larry games on my friend's PC one Friday night before either of us had a driver's license, a girlfriend...or a snowball's chance in hell of getting either one any time soon. The school week was over, and I'm sure we had an awesome weekend of Street Fighter at the AM/PM, WWF on television and Columns on the Sega Genesis planned.

What made this particular weekend special is that my buddy had somehow gotten his hands on a brand new computer game. It was a "Bad" game, and I couldn't wait to see it. Before we were able to boot this forbidden software, we had to enter a fake birthday to indicate that we were in fact, a person over the age of 18. On top of that, we had to answer several age verification questions. If memory serves, the questions ranged from "Name all four Beatles" to "Who was the first American to land on the moon?". Some of them were tougher, but they were all multiple choice, and even though there was no "Google" when I was a kid....we were smart enough to easily figure out the answers and "crack" our way into this game after a few tries.

What awaited did not disappoint. You controlled a guy named Larry, only...he wasn't like any video game character I'd controlled before. Larry could pee in the toilet! He could fart! He could make jokes about boobs, or walk up to a girl and flirt. If he was successful, you'd see a picture of a digital girl with a lot of cleavage...which was basically porn for us at the time. You did all these things by typing in text phrases and hoping the computer understood them. The game might sound silly and fairly tame by today's standards, but that was a different time, and back then....a game like this was excellent, risque fun. Our parents probably would have taken it away if they'd known we had access to a game like this...and that was half the fun. If you were a nerd and wanted to be a rebel, playing a game like Leisure Suit Larry was about as close as you'd get.

Years later, when I heard there was going to be a Leisure Suit Larry game for the Xbox 360, I thought it could potentially be awesome. Unfortunately, when it was released, it got terrible reviews...despite a pretty amazing cast for a video game. Jay Mohr, Artie Lange, Shannon Elizabeth, Carmen Electra, Dave Attell, Patrick Warburton and Jeffrey Tambor to name a few. I was a little bit heartbroken, and I refused to play it....lest I trample upon the fond memories of my childhood with another terrible sequel.

Flash forward to June 21st, 2010. I'm 171 games into this project. Today is the 172nd day of the year. I've played almost every major video game released so far this calendar year, and it's getting tougher to find games I'm excited to play and haven't tried yet. I'd already played hundreds of games when this challenge started and I refuse to cheat myself (or anyone reading this) by recycling a game I've already played.

I took a look at all the released games that I've never played yet, and this particular title caught my eye. I know I swore I wasn't going to play it, but dammit...desperate times. It's something I'd never tried, and I can find out whether or not it's really as bad as people said it was.

5 minutes in...I knew it was a mistake.

This game is just as awful as people said it was going to be. The 2.2 review IGN gave it is warranted, maybe even generous.

For a brief moment, there was a glimmer of hope. The game starts with over five straight minutes of cut scenes, including some opening credits letting you know who the cast is. As mentioned above, there is definitely some voice talent in this one. The story (and the writing) are almost as classic as I remember them. It's cornball humor, very "blue"....and as I was being introduced to the characters, I started to get interested. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.

Finally, the opening cinemas stopped and I got to control my character. The game went downhill from there.

The controls in this game are awful. The camera NEVER points where you want it to, and you'll often walk your guy right into a wall. I can't count how many times I exited a building only to walk right into a door, or a wall...or someone standing outside. You might as well play it with the screen turned off for as much control as you have.

You can drive little golf carts around the movie studio the game is set in, but those controls are terrible too. If you're a child of the 1980's, you might remember when a bad Nintendo game was primarily a "jumping" game, and then it would shoehorn in a "car" level....because someone thought a car level would be cool. The driving in this game is like the "Car levels" of a game that was not about driving. It's HORRIBLE.

Every interaction in the game is preceded by a BIG notification that you need to press "B" to trigger it. Whether you're about to talk to someone, open a door, take an elevator, or drive a car...you have to press B first, and then wait for the load. And there are loading screens everywhere.

If that doesn't sound bad enough, I've left out the worst part. Apparently...from the first 6 or 7 missions I've played, I can tell that this is going to be a game filled with jumping puzzles. It boggles the mind. I don't understand how they can expect you to jump onto roof tops when you can't even WALK in a straight line in this game.

I don't understand how this game ever got shipped in the condition it was in. It's beyond awful. I think the developers should have tried to salvage it by stripping the game of all the action, and just made it an RPG on rails. That way you could have experienced the story and all the decent acting in this one. As it stands, as much as I'd like to hear all the dialog...there is absolutely no way I'd subject myself to any more of this awful gameplay.

Overall Score? 3/10. It's probably a two if I'm rating it strictly in terms of gameplay, but the cast is great for a video game and the story reminds me of the games of my youth, so it's getting a bump for nostalgia. The graphics in the cut scenes aren't terrible....and honestly, if I wasn't spoiled by hundreds of other better games (150 of them just this year), I would probably slog through the terrible controls just to see what happens next. As it stands, that won't happen.

Achievements? I've gone through six or seven different "quests" and so far I have one. ONE. I want more...and I want to play more...but I just can't.

Video game number one hundred and seventy one: Rayman Raving Rabbids

Video game review number one hundred and seventy one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Rayman Raving Rabbids".

After playing the Rabbids game on the Wii the other day, I was itching to try this one out. I do like the Rabbids. Unfortunately, this game does not feature them in a starring role. Instead, they're supporting characters. I suppose I can live with that.

In this game, you play as Rayman, who is kidnapped by a giant bunny and forced to do battle (via a bunch of mini games) in a coliseum filled with a bunch of Rabbid spectators. you play the games as the spectators cheer (actually, they mostly jeer) you. A lot of the mini games involve a Rabbid in some way or another. One I played had you drawing pieces of food on the screen to feed the rabbid, another one involved running extremely fast to bring a bomb to the rabbid that gave it to you (which blows it up). There are all sorts of different games to play. My favorite so far was a DDR style game where you press the right and left triggers in time with the music. The song was the theme to Pulp Fiction (or "Pump It" by the Black Eyed Peas if you've never seen that movie).

It reminds me a bit of Mario Party, but with a ton of Rabbids.

I should mention that this game supports the Vision Camera, and since I'm one of the folks that bought one, I figured I ought to try one of the vision mini-games. An achievement unlocked for doing that, although I totally did better using just the controller. Still, playing it reminded me of all those demos I've seen of Kinect and Sony Move. This game totally recognizes my motions and I can control Rayman on screen by flailing my arms about like crazy. The future is NOW people! :-)

Overall score? 6.5/10. I don't quite like this as much as the Rabbids game on the Wii, but it's still a fun sort of "mini-game" game. I think I'll eventually come back to it and continue to play until I've beaten the basic levels...it was entertaining enough to at least give it that much.

Achievements? I only earned this one so far, but I think I'm right on the edge of some more for beating level 2 of the game:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Video game number one hundred and seventy: Mod Nation Racers

Video game review number one hundred and seventy in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is Mod Nation Racers.

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to play and review the PSP version of this game. I didn't enjoy the controls and the idea of "modding" on the PSP didn't make any sense to me. The game was simply not the kind of experience I'd want to take on the road with me, and since I almost exclusively play my PSP while traveling, this game was not for me. I held out hope that maybe the PS3 version would be better. I'm glad I did.

This game is fantastic.

I've compared every kart racer I've reviewed to Mario Kart. Feature for Feature...this game is actually better than Mario Kart. It's only flaw is that....well, it's not Mario Kart. If Nintendo paid Sony for the rights to plaster Mario's face all over this game and re-release it with a catchy Nintendo soundtrack...this would easily be the best Mario Kart game in history. I'd rate it as the best kart game in history, except I know that part of what makes Mario Kart the best is playing it with my friends, and I know my friends will never get into this one. Such a shame.

Mod Nation racers is a standard kart racer at heart. It's got a bunch of packed in tracks, and they're a lot of fun. On top of that, it adds a campaign. By campaign, I don't mean "A single player mode", I mean an actual story...with cinematics and everything before each major race. It's not an epic tale or anything (most of the story so far has consisted of "Go beat this guy in a race, because he's a douchebag and you're awesome"...but this addition is just gravy on top of an already entertaining kart racer.

During the campaign, you'll race computer opponents, learn to use your kart and unlock items that you can use to mod it. When I speak of modding, I'm not talking about Forza or Gran Turismo stuff where you have to tweak your alignment, muffler, etc....I'm just talking about visuals. You can create a racer and make it look like whatever you want to in this game, and much like Little Big Planet, every game you play helps you unlock more bits and pieces to add to that racer. Same goes for karts and....tracks.

That's right, Mod Nation allows you to build your own tracks. Don't think of this as some lame exercise, where you pick a preset straight piece, a corner piece, a start and finish line and try to hook them all together, because that's not what it is. Many games have shipped with a track editor before, but nothing I've ever played has been quite this easy or this fun.

Basically, you drive this steam roller around an empty landscape and lay the track as you drive. You can raise or lower the elevation of the road you're building and even click "auto complete" when you get to a point where you just want the track to end. Press another button, and the game will add all sorts of scenery for you, or you can add it yourself...piece by piece. I actually built my first track in less than 5 minutes, and it wasn't a terrible track to race on. You can add jumps, power ups, banked corners, speed boosts, etc. The possibilities here are unlimited, and because you can share creations with people online, it could be a long while before you run out of new tracks to play. What other karting game can say that?

When I first popped the game in, I played offline for awhile, and then I decided to try online. It takes awhile, but I was matched with a bunch of other people and got to race with them. You win "XP" as you race (even though I came in last every time, I got a little). The people online are good, and I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to have the knowledge of the short cuts they all seemed to have already.

You can race the campaign tracks online, or you can race custom tracks people have built. Sony is awarding trophies (their version of gamerscore) to people who build the best mods and have them downloaded the most. That's pretty awesome...because the talented folks who get something downloaded 1000 times can get a gold trophy just for that.

There's a store where you can buy DLC karts and mods, and there's a sharing station where you can download karts, mods and tracks that the community has created. What I like is the free stuff built by the community is all better than the premium versions that Sony sells. It's pretty awesome. Within moments, I had racers that looked like the characters from South Park, Mario Kart, as well as a Spider Man and an Iron Man. I'm using a mod that looks like Wario in the campaign right now.

Overall Score? 9/10. The game has a few noticeable flaws including extremely long load times, a very steep difficulty curve during the campaign and the online service was up and down the whole day I played. Basically though...that's it. Other than "it's not Mario Kart", I can't think of anything bad to say about this one....and that's why I bought it within hours of the rental. After looking around to find the best prices, I ended up buying a copy on Ebay so I could get the "free" code for a DLC Sackboy Racer that someone hadn't used yet. I haven't seen one online yet, so I assume it will make me awesome and unique. :-)

Trophies: Lots....only Sony's stupid website won't sync them for this game for some reason. I've gone into my account on the PS3 and opened it several times (which usually performs a sync with Sony.com) but that won't work for some reason. Maybe I need to unlock another trophy and try it again. In any event...I have a ton, and I intend to get more.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Video game number one hundred and sixty nine: Wario Land: Shake It!

Video game review number one hundred and sixty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Wario Land: Shake It".

Wario is sort of a jerk. I imagine that the folks at Nintendo were probably watching old Star Trek re-runs one night, and saw Captain Kirk's alter-ego from another dimension pop out, along with Spock and his badass goatee. They might have been under the influence or something, and probably said to themselves: "Hey, what if there was an "evil" Mario?". "He'd be just like Mario, only...meaner." That's how I imagine Wario being created.

The first time I remember being introduced to Wario was back in the 1990's, when he starred in his own little adventure games. Eventually, he made his way to Mario Kart 64, and that's where he'll live in infamy as far as I'm concerned. Wario's voice in that game is going to be stuck in my brain forever. I never used his character for more than a few rounds at a time (I prefer Toad and the smaller karts), but he was always there...declaring "I'm Wario, and Im'a gonna win!". When he died, all you'd hear was "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH". I sometimes find myself spouting his lines while driving, or during other games....or just in every day conversation. For me, Wario's catch phrases have lasted for well over a decade, which is a lot more than I can say for Bart Simpson, Austin Powers, Wayne's World, Beavis and Butthead...or almost any other cultural event that wound it's way into my speech in the 1990's.

Wario is rad.

Although I can't say I was a huge fan of the Wario platformers, I have played some of them before (including a particularly good one on the original Gameboy called "Wario Land". This game reminds me a lot of that, only updated for the Wii (and in color of course).

You control Wario, who is minding his own business when some little creature asks him for help rescuing the queen of his people. Wario isn't interested, until the little guy mentions that the bad guy has ALSO stolen their treasure (a bag of coins that never empties, no matter how much you shake it). That entices Wario to take the job.

The levels are straightforward enough. You hold the Wiimote sideways, like a classic NES controller, but you're required to do some of the retarded Wii gimicks in order to pull off some of his special moves. Running, jumping and attacking are all normal, but if you want to grab coins, bash blocks or open doors, you have to waggle the Wiimote around like a moron.

This game highlights the feature that annoys me the most about the Wii. If Nintendo gave you an option to turn off the "waggle" in games where it doesn't make sense to you, that would be great. Unfortunately, they apparently think everyone bought their console because they want to shake their controller around all the time, even while playing the most basic of platformer games.

I'm not one of those people.

I enjoy the motion control games on the Wii when they're done correctly, but I primarily bought this system because it's the newest Nintendo console, and that meant it would be the only place I could play the newest Mario games. When I'm playing those games, I don't mind some new technology being thrown in, but if it completely dominates the game, and takes away what actually made the game fun (instead of adding to it)...that's when I lose interest.

This game has an interesting enough story, the levels are fun...and they remind me of the classic Mario (and Wario) games from the 1990's. Unfortunately, having to shake my stupid controller every five seconds to pull off even the most basic of moves was enough to make me completely annoyed with the game after only a few hours.

Overall Score? 6/10. The game had all the right ingredients to have been a perfect homage to some of the best games I played when I was younger. Were it not for the stupid control scheme, I would have played through this one until I beat it. As it stands, I'm simply not interested in continuing. If you're someone who enjoys the novelty of shaking your controller around to accomplish things that would be easier if they were mapped to a single button, this is the game for you. In fact, it could be a nine! If you're more old school, and you think the motion sensing stuff should only be used in party-style games....this is probably a pass.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Video game number one hundred and sixty eight: Shaun White Snowboarding

Video game review number one hundred and sixty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Shaun White Snowboarding".

At E3 this year, Ubisoft announced a new Shaun White skateboarding game.

"Isn't he a snowboarder?" I thought to myself.

I seem to remember Shaun winning a gold in the olympics, and it wasn't for skateboarding. Thanks to Al Gore, I was able to look this up "online", and sure enough...turns out the guy is a pretty awesome skateboarder too. Remember when Michael Jordan wanted to be a baseball player? Remember how much he sucked at it? Well Shaun White is the "Michael Jordan" of snowboarding AND he's a skateboarder coming out with his own video game now too. Not bad.

So how's the game? That's going to be a little tougher to answer.

My favorite snowboarding video game of all time is SSX for the Playstation 2. It's just about as perfect as snowboarding games can get. Amped for the Xbox was a close second, but most every snowboarding video game I've played pales in comparison to the fun I had with SSX, including the sequel ("Tricky") which came out for the Xbox, Gamecube and PS2. I used to play the original SSX for hours and hours, and for the first 6-12 months that I owned my PS2...it was really the only game worth playing on it.

Shaun White's game simply can't compare to SSX, no matter how awesome he is at snowboarding in real life. I'm simply not a fan of the controls in this game. I was able to figure out how to do a few tricks, and all the basics....but it lacks the adrenaline that SSX still gives me any time I play it, even today.

There are cool features in Shaun White snowboarding. For one thing, you can throw snowballs at the other boarders. I thought that was fun. There are chair lifts to the top of the mountain (also cool) and a helicopter that will take you places if the chair lift isn't your thing.

Like most "licensed" games, there are a group of pros you'll have to do tasks for and impress before you can skate against Shaun. I was expecting this, but after doing my first few challenges (which consisted of doing tricks to find hidden coins around the mountain)...I decided that maybe I didn't care so much about meeting Shaun anymore. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but does he really need me to find all 12 coins on a mountain just to snowboard with him? I'll bet I could meet him in real life by simply attending a snowboarding expo and getting in line. Maybe I'll do that someday, because I don't plan on collecting any more coins in this game.

Overall score? 5/10. Sorry Shaun, but there's nothing about this game that makes me want to play it instead of SSX Tricky. That game is ten years old, but if someone came over and asked if we could play a Snowboarding game, that's what I'd boot. If I couldn't find it, I'd probably boot Amped instead. :-)


Achievements? This is not the game for folks looking for some quick gamerscore. These suckers will take days, maybe even a week of straight playing. You have to beat EVERY event, do EVERY trick and find EVERY collectible on all the locations to start earning stuff. Then you have to do it all over again online. They do not sound fun at all. I got a handful, but I doubt I'll ever get more than I have right now.

Video game number one hundred and sixty seven: Skidoo Snowmobile Challenge

Video game review number one hundred and sixty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Skid00 Snowmobile Challenge".

Every week, a few older games are launched in "On Demand" form on the Xbox 360 Dashboard. What this means is that you can download them to your hard drive and instantly play them. I'm not sure why they don't do this with brand new games, but I think it has something to do with retailers getting pissed off when you take away their responsibility of being a middle man that marks up the prices on video games before selling them at a profit to kids who pre-ordered it 5 months ago to get some stupid exclusive golden gun or something.

I'll admit, there's something nice about having the retail copy of a game on my shelf. My game shelf has around 100 video games for the current generation of consoles displayed on it, and then I still have most of my older games stored away somewhere. It's nice to be able to look at the shelf and grab a game I'm in the mood to play, the same way it's nice to look at a CD that catches my eye and play that.

Of course, all of my music is now ripped onto my computer, and I rarely crack open a CD anymore. I suspect someday, that's going to be the case with video games as well. You won't go to Gamestop and buy a case with a disk in it, you'll pick up your controller...and buy the newest Halo or Mario Brothers title from your couch, the minute it goes on sale. No more pre-orders or waiting in line. That's going to be an awesome day...and that's what you can do with Skidoo Snowbile Challenge today.

Unfortunately for you, the game kind of blows.

I've never been on a real snowmobile before, but let me tell you...this game captures NONE of the excitement I assume might be involved with a real snowmobile ride. The courses are bland, boring environments and your opponents have no personality. I couldn't tell one snowmobile apart from the next. The tricks you can do all seem borrowed from motorcycle games (which I suppose kind of makes sense), but they're no fun to pull off. You press a button and hope you pull off the trick before you crash into the ground. If you make it, great. If you don't, you can still pick your rider up and maintain first place with no effort at all.

I raced through four races before I realized that crashing the snowmobile was actually more fun than driving it. I drove it into crowds. I jumped it off ramps and landed in trees. The damage effects aren't any good, and there aren't any rag doll physics to speak of....but it was still more exciting than driving the race the way you're supposed to. The funny thing was...I got more achievements by jumping and crashing than I did by racing the right way. Go figure.

Overall score? 4/10. Below average. Even at a bargain "on demand" price, I'd say this game is far from a bargain. You can probably rent it and beat it in a day, and you should be able to pick it up in the discount bins by now at any store that's still unfortunate enough to have a copy or two lying around. EbGames.com has it used for 9.99. I actually think that might be a bit expensive for this one, but if you like gamerscore....it's one dollar for every hundred points. Go get it.

Achievements? I read online that you could get all 1000 gamerscore in 5-10 hours. Yeah, but then you'd have to play this game for 5-10 hours. Funk dat.

Video game number one hundred and sixty six: Earthworm Jim HD

Video game review number one hundred and sixty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Earthworm Jim HD".

I am one of the six people in the universe who owned a Sega Genesis (two actually) and never played Earthworm Jim. I had probably 40-60 Genesis games over the lifetime of the system (that's a conservative estimate, btw)...and somehow, Earthworm Jim never made it into my home. I was aware of him. I knew he used his head for a jump rope and everything....I just never bothered to play his game. See, when I was a kid...there was no such thing as Gamefly, Ebay or a "Used game store". I also had to walk to school barefoot, in the snow, in California, uphill...both ways. When I bought a game, it was almost always brand new at the store...because "used" cartridges were dirty, smelly...and I didn't want them in my console any more than I wanted used gum in my mouth.

Shoving my poor, miserable, non-Earthworm Jim owning childhood aside, I booted this one up today and decided to see what all the fuss was about. In 1994, this game might have blown my socks off, but today, it definitely feels dated. I don't like it as much as my favorite Xbox Live Arcade platformer (Splosion Man) but it's ok.

In case you're one of the other 5 people who doesn't know about this game, you're a worm...that finds a super space suit, and heads off on an adventure to save a princess. You do all of this with only one continue, and there's not a lot of help on screen, so if you get stuck on a puzzle or something...your only option is to die and restart. That got old.

I got to ride on a rocket through space, I rode a hamster through one of those hamster cage tube things....and at one point, I drove a submarine until it folded on me. Some of the bosses have included a cat, a fat guy hanging from a clothesline, and I'm only to the 4th or 5th level. It's definitely got some potential.

Overall? I'm going to give this a 6/10. Just slightly above average. It might have been a 5.5, were it not for the fact that the game has avatar awards, and my avatar is now wearing a free Earthworm Jim T-shirt. I like that. Apparently, if I make it to just one more bonus level, I get the Earthworm Jim spacesuit. Now that, I'd love.

I like this game, and it's worth playing....it's just not worth losing your mind over. If you were a fan of this game in the 1990's, you are in for a treat. The graphics have been updated a bit, and it's got Xbox Live for God's sake! If you are like me and you missed this one, it's still a decent game...especially for the price.

Achievements? Yup. Here are a few I've earned so far. Some of the remaining ones are pretty creative, and I also thought the first one I earned was pretty funny. :-)

Video game number one hundred and sixty five: Space Ark

Video game review number one hundred and sixty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Space Ark".

Do you like to bounce? Then Space Ark is the game for you.

I'm not sure who came up with the idea of having tigers, zebras and leopards bounce up and down on a giant diaphragm collecting fruit and chunks of DNA, but bravo...they have created a new genre.

Basically, you are a jungle animal of some sort, and you're in a space ship. You're searching for new life forms and new civilizations, only you have no prime directive. When you find a new planet, your job is to turn it into a hospitable environment for animals to live on. Basically, this means you teraform each rock you land on, and turn them all into copies of earth. Reminds me of Avatar.

To accomplish your mission, you'll need to bounce up and down on a trampoline thing to pick up fruit, power-ups and DNA. Once you've collected it all, the world you're bouncing on grows a bunch of houses and trees and you get to move onto the next level.

Confused? So am I.

While the premise of this game might be incredibly confusing, so is Katamari Damacy...and that turned out to be a wonderful game. Space Ark is actually rather fun to play, in a mindless arcadey sort of way, and really...who doesn't like bouncing? This game seems aimed at kids (or stoned adults) and is incredibly simple to pick up and learn. At the same time, it's hard to master (bouncing ain't easy after all)....and I was unable to get "perfect" on any of the levels after the tutorial. I'm sure I could do it with effort....but that doesn't seem like it would be a terribly productive use of my gaming time. No, I decided just to bounce on through the levels, to see what I might discover. The result? More bouncing.

Overall.. 6/10. This is something I might play while on a phone call or possibly while intoxicated. I can't see shoving Split Second, Red Dead, Blur or any of the other games I'm dying to get back to aside to play more of this one though...so it gets a six.

Achievements? In a game based on bouncing...I managed to get an achievement for bouncing 100 times in a row. I feel proud.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Video game number one hundred and sixty four: Rabbids go home

Video game review number one hundred and sixty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Rabbids go Home".

I've seen ads for the "Rabbids" games before, but never played one until tonight. I have absolutely no idea how I've owned the Wii for so many years and missed out on this silly game. It's pretty awesome.

You play one of many little "raving" Rabbids. Some of them wear underwear (including one who wears a thong) and some of them wear nothing. That's not relevant to the story, but I thought it was pretty funny.

Anyway, your job as a rabbit is to drive your shopping cart around town, picking up trash. Why? You want to build a stairway to the moon so you can lie on top of it and be comfy.
Pretty strange, I know.

Your rabbits (or "Rabbids") make insane little noises as you drive them around in their shopping cart. Mostly, they just collect stuff, but sometimes they'll run into an enemy. When that happens, they have an attack that will scare people (and dogs). The "attack" consists of one rabbit yelling "BAAAAAH!". When you yell at humans, they jump right out of their clothes, which you can then pick up to help build your stairway to the moon. When you yell "BAAAAAAAH!" at dogs, the dogs get scared, and then you can add them to your stairway too. Nothing is safe, everything is fair game as far as stairway building materials go.

I'm not really sure how to describe the game except to say that it's kind of a mixture of many genres. It's sort of a platformer, with a little "Katamari" thrown in. The number of pieces of junk you collect in a stage is added to your total, and you're scored on that. It's a kids game, with some grown up humor...and it's very easy to pick up and play.

I started this one pretty late tonight, and kept on playing. It's sort of addicting. It's not like I'm desperate to know whether or not they eventually build their staircase to the moon, it's just sort of a fun game to play. I may have to pick this one up, used.

Overall score? 7.5/10. It was simple, easy to play and a lot of fun. The characters are cute, and pretty darn funny to watch. From time to time, they'll pick up a new item they haven't seen before, and there's a great animation when they first discover it. My favorite thing I've picked up so far was an answering machine. They decide to leave an outgoing message on it (they shout "BAAAAAAAAAH!") and then they play it back a few times and laugh. It's hard to convey how hilarious this little cut scene was, but I laughed out loud. I'm not sure how frequently I'd actually play this if I owned it, but it is certainly a good rental, and I'm definitely considering buying a used copy.

Achievements? No...and dammit, I wish the Wii had some just so I could proudly display something for yelling "BAAAAAAAAAH!" at people.

Video game number one hundred and sixty three: Raystorm HD

Video game review number one hundred and sixty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Raystorm HD".

Raystorm is another Xbox Live Arcade port of an older game that I never played. Like Ikaruga, which I played and reviewed earlier this year, this is one of those top down shooters, where you have hundreds of enemy planes that fire hundreds of bullets each, and you've got to kill them all.

After 2 minutes, I had the basic idea, and I could have moved on....but I was trying for an achievement. Unfortunately, this game has some of the most difficult achievements I've encountered so far in this challenge, and it looks like I won't be able to earn one. I shall explain why.

First of all, I've played this for several hours now. In a row. There is an achievement for using 50 "credits" (which I think are continues), but after using over 80 of them, I can't seem to get that one achievement to pop. What really sucks is once it unlocks, you're supposed to get unlimited credits (continues), which would actually make this game a little easier. Without them, I can't even beat the arcade mode. On Easy.

I started out on Normal mode and never made it past level 5. 8 credits, with 3 lives each. That's 24 lives I'd waste on each attempt, and I tried about 7 times. Finally, I turned the difficulty down to very easy, thinking I could blaze through the game and beat it that way. I'm not sure where it ends, but even after turning the difficulty down...I still couldn't beat the game. I got much further, but there was still no end in sight.

Overall? 3/10. This game plays like something from the PS1 or the Super Nintendo, and it doesn't look much better. If you've played the demo, you have an excellent idea of what awaits you in the full game. If there were some nice achievements, I might have bumped this up to a 4, because it doesn't exactly suck (I like it more than Ikaruga)....but the difficulty is so high that I've now spent about 2 hours more than I'd ever want to spend on this game playing it. And I still don't have an achievement.

Achievements? Will I give up like Sonic? Or will I come back again? I'm not sure...but as of this writing, I haven't earned a one.

----------6/18/2010-----Update-------------

After searching for help online, I found one person who had unlocked the "unlimited continues" achievement who was not saving his replays. I tried playing a few games without saving mine, and after three games (24 continues), for some reason, the achievement finally unlocked. That doesn't make any sense to me (seven games might have, because that would have been 56 continues)...but I'm glad it finally worked.

I was able to beat the game after I had my unlimited continues, and I even unlocked one additional achievement for shooting down 80% or more of the enemies on each stage, which is pretty cool, I suppose. I'm not changing the rating of this game to a 4, as I still think it's fairly lame, but I'm glad I don't have another game on my profile with zero gamerscore.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Video game number one hundred and sixty two: Dead to Rights: Retribution

Video game review number one hundred and sixty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is"Dead to Rights: Retribution".

I was never a big fan of the first Dead to Rights, but I thought I'd give the sequel a try...and see what kind of progress seven or eight years can buy.

The concept of Dead to Rights is a decent enough one. It seems that you're a cop, with a dog....and together, you fight bad guys. Hollywood has made a few terrible movies based on this premise (Turner & Hooch, K9 and even Top Dog with Chuck Norris), but until the first Dead to Rights...no video game had properly tried this magic formula.

There have been better "dog sidekicks" since Dead to Rights (the pup in Fable 2 jumps immediately to mind), but Shadow is probably still one of the most notorious game dogs out there. He's sort of a badass, and whenever I think of the first game, I always remember Shadow first, and "whatshisname" second.

You start the sequel as Shadow, defending Whatshisname from a bunch of Triad gangsters. Whatshisname (AKA Jack) is all beat up for some unexplained reason and it's up to the dog to save the day. Luckily, you have all sorts of awesome doggie special moves at your disposal, including silent kills, heartbeat sensing and the ability to "sick balls". There's an achievement for using the latter ability, which I got almost immediately. It's pretty funny how the dog goes from being this flesh chomping monster one second, and wants belly-rubs the next. As this friendly killer dog, you make short work of your opponents and head on to the next level, which is a flashback explaining how Jack got injured.

The controls with Jack are similar to the original game. There's still "bullet time" (which was awesome back when the first game was being designed and the Matrix had just been released on DVD), and you still have quick button press combat combos. Within only moments, I found that I absolutely hate the fighting system in this game, and transitioning between fists and guns is like escaping Shawshank penitentiary. While the goal is simple enough, getting to your destination requires swimming through a river of shit.

Jack has to handle a hostage situation on the 97th floor of a skyscraper, and fights bad guys all the way up. I say "fight", but mostly, I'd shoot them. I'd only fight when I ran out of bullets, because hand to hand combat is not a lot of fun in this game. From time to time, you'll get to execute a finishing move, and that's awesome...but the rest of the time, it's awkward combo city. Don't ever try to swap between guns and hand to hand combat though, because...well...you'll feel Shawshanked again.

I made it to the top of the tower, beat the level...and moved onto the next. Again, it was time to be the dog. I wonder if this will be the formula for the rest of the game. Actually, I don't really wonder...because I don't really care. This isn't a bad game, but it's not good enough to keep me playing.

Overall score? 6/10. Slightly above average, but certainly nothing to get excited about. When Heather walked into the room, she wanted to know why everyone had a square head. She called them the "Square blocky-faced guys". She liked the dog, until she saw him dragging bodies around, at which point she decided it didn't look like the best game ever. I tend to agree. It certainly could use some fine tuning.

Achievements? Yeah...they aren't too bad in this game. If I were to keep playing, I could get quite a few of them, but the question is...will I keep playing? Let me shake the 8-ball. All signs point to "No".

I have highlighted the one I thought was pretty awesome though. It's one of the first ones you get...and the game might just be worth trying to experience it. :-)