Saturday, July 31, 2010

Video game number two hundred and eighteen: Picross 3D

Video game review number two hundred and eighteen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Picross 3D"

The best way I can summarize Picross is to say that it is a strange combination of Soduko, Crossword, and lottery scratch tickets.

Basically, you have this grid of cubes, with numbers on them. Using the numbers, you figure out how many are supposed to remain in each row of the cube (horizontally, vertically and also the depth). You proceed to smash off the ones you don't need...and if you've done your math correctly, hopefully...you are left with a cubed shape that resembles something. At that point, you win...and your Gameboy will color in the image and show you what you've made. Sometimes it's a letter or a number, other times it's a thing...like a sofa, or a briefcase.

Apparently, there are 350 puzzles on this cartridge. I beat about 20 of them before it started getting rather difficult. Because Nintendo DS cartridges have game saves on them, and because I got this from Gamefly, I got to see where I ranked against the likes of "Kasey", "Mom" and "Grandma", all presumably users who have played this before me. The one thing that bugged me is that because the save is on the cartridge, I've lost all my progress by sending it back to Gamefly, and if I ever do buy it, I'll have to start all over again.

Ah well, at least that will be a challenge.

Overall Score? 7/10. I enjoy these sorts of brain teasers (I own both of the Brain Age games) so I can see adding this game to my permanent collection at some point. The graphics aren't great, it's not faced pace, and it's not what I'd call "escapism" or anything...but it is a good mental workout and as far as "brain" games go, this is a pretty good one.

Video game number two hundred and seventeen: Infernal: Hell's Vengeance

Video game review number two hundred and seventeen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Infernal: Hell's Vengeance"

Earlier this year, I played and reviewed a little game called Deadly Premonition. This game has since received some sort of internet cult status for being absolutely awful. People are messing with the Amazon product reviews, trying to make other unsuspecting consumers think that that game is a diamond in the rough, and that all the folks who wrote a bad review on it are wrong. The terrible quality of Deadly Premonition is one of those things that most real gamers are aware of, but other consumers might not be....and so they run the risk of seeing a game with a 4 star average review on a site like Amazon and accidentally assuming it's worth buying as a cheap Christmas gift. It's funny to me, but I think it sucks for anyone out there who receives that horrible game as a gift because of it.

So why bring all this up? Simple. Today I found a game that I think may be as bad as Deadly Premonition. Let's do the list:

Awful graphics? Check.
Terrible voice acting and translation? Check.
Awkward controls? Ridiculous story? Check and Check.
Feeling that you are wasting your time even while you are playing it? Super check.

From the opening cinematic, I could tell this game was going to suck. It begins with a clunky animation of a female "agent" talking to the main character in broken english. You discover that you're some sort of former angel, and then she points a gun at you and apologizes before unleashing a whole SWAT team on you. The battle that follows is incredibly lame and boring. You are armed with a pistol, they have sub machine guns....and you walk through six or seven hallways full of them. You use only the right stick to aim, which is horrible for a shooter, and reminded me of "Attack of the movies 3D". It takes like seven bullets to kill every guy you meet, but luckily for you, your guy is bulletproof or something, and nothing the enemies shoot at him seems to kill him.

I made it through the first level, got my stupid achievement...and I should have quit right there, only...I met this Morpheus guy in a church, and I was compelled to keep watching. His name was Lucius Black, and he has an EVIL voice. He tells you will give you Satanic powers if you follow him, and even though you're a former angel, you decide to "flip a coin" to make the decision. The coin lands heads up, so you decide to become a devil. He gives you the power to catch on fire, and sends you to a snowy village to kill a bunch of monks.

In a game like God of War 3 or Dante's Inferno, it's kind of fun to be the supernatural bad guy, unleashing evil justice on everyone you meet. In this game...it sort of feels like the retarded kid who drew Slayer and Metallica logos on his desk in your junior high science class while everyone else was doing the assignment grew up and created a video game....and this was the game he created. It's not often I play a video game that makes me feel sorry for the guys who created it, but this was one of those times. If I had worked on this game, I might have channeled Miles Dyson from Terminator 2, and burned the whole company down so that the world could be saved from our horrible creation.

I know someone must have worked really hard on this, and maybe their families were kind enough to tell them that their time was not wasted...but (as far as I know anyway), I am not related to any of them, so I'm not bound to lie in this review. This game is quite possibly one of the worst video games I've ever played. It's not "fun" by any means....and playing it actually made me angry at myself for participating in this silly challenge in the first place.

I know "fun" is subjective, but there are certain flaws in this game I'm sure everyone could agree on. For example, when a character speaks and there are subtitles on the screen, it shouldn't be obvious that the actor is totally ad-libbing...right? At points in this game, the voice actors say things that are completely different than what the subtitles say, and it's almost comical how different they are.

Also...is it just me, or do the graphics in this one look like a Playstation 2 game? I could be imagining things, but I swear...this game doesn't look like it belongs on a console produced after the year 2000.

In a world where there are literally thousands of video games available to choose from, picking this one was like going to the buffet at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and then choosing to feast on urinal cakes from the men's room for dinner. It was a terrible choice of game ...and in a perfect world, I would be the last person ever to make it.

Overall Score? 1/10. Infernal is not quite as bad as Deadly Premonition, but it's extremely close. If there was any justice in the world, every copy of both of these games would be gathered and buried...so that no innocent gamer would ever have to experience them again.

Achievements? I'm ashamed to say that I got more than one. I should have stopped playing as soon as the first one popped. Apparently, urinal cakes are just too darn delicious.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Video game number two hundred and sixteen: DeathSpank

Video game review number two hundred and sixteen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "DeathSpank"

I've heard some good reviews on this one, so even though it was an RPG....I decided to give it a try. After all, I'm expanding my gaming horizons and what-not.

The verdict? Hard to say.

First of all, the good: The game pokes fun at the RPG genre, even though it's all about the hunt and grind. Right off the bat, some witch has you collecting ingredients to bring back to her for a potion, but there's a liberal amount of humor in the request. For example...the first ingredient she asks for is "chicken lips", which you get by killing chickens.

DeathSpank (your hero), is fairly funny, and everyone he meets seems to ask him for favors. This usually results in you running off to pick something up and bring it back to that person. I played through 4 or 5 of these "mini-missions", and they were all pretty much the same.

And now...the bad.

Humor is not enough to save this game, it's still your basic RPG. You travel from place to place, collecting crap and bringing it back, and when you find yourself in combat, it's not what I'd call "exciting" by any means. There's a lot of button mashing, and you constantly have to take potions or eat things to keep yourself alive during a fight. I also found myself running away from larger crowds of enemies.

You have to level up your character along the way by collecting XP and cash. You can buy new weapons, armor, etc....and every time you hit a new level, you get your choice of three cards with some sort of new power up on it. Like most RPGs...the game consists of grinding through menial tasks to get to a higher level, and I've never been a big fan of that.

I'm not sure what it is, but games like this just don't engage me enough. I'm not interested in continuing on (though I did enjoy trying to find 100 chickens to kill for an achievement). For some reason...these games feel more like work than play, and as silly as this one was....it still didn't change that feeling. After only an hour or so, I already felt like I was in the grind.

Overall Score? 6/10. Slightly better than average, but I have a feeling that I'll forget this one and not come back to it. It was worth a try, but not worth continuing...for me at least.

Achievements? I really liked that 100 chicken one. :-)



Thursday, July 29, 2010

Video game number two hundred and fifteen: Limbo

Video game review number two hundred and fifteen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Limbo"

Today, I tried another "Summer of Arcade" title, this time it's not a remake or an sequel, it's a brand new property called "Limbo". Limbo is an awesome title, unlike most games I've played before, and yet instantly playable. If you read any game news at all, you've probably heard endless praise heaped on this game already, and it's all deserved. This one is awesome.

I woke up early this morning for some reason, and started playing Limbo. 2 hours later, I was surprised to learn that I was going to be late for a meeting at work...because 11 chapters of the game had just flown by, and I hadn't paused or stopped for even a moment.

The game is composed mainly of tons of black and Grey (what you see in the achievements screen below is pretty much it). Almost everything on screen is in a shadow of some kind, and while this sort of darkness might piss me off in a shooter, in this game...it's sort of awesome.

Every few feet, you'll stumble upon a puzzle, and some of them take several tries to solve. Sure, they sound simple (ride a log across a river), but first you have to figure out how to drag that log from point A to point B, then drop it at just the right point so you can jump across it. Some levels involve pulleys, weight-pads, gravity shifting...and it just gets harder from there. There have been a couple of puzzles in this game I simply couldn't figure out without a little help from youtube....taking me back to my days as a kid, where I had to call the Nintendo Power helpline to get passed something I was stuck on. It's awesomely frustrating.

Review updated 8/3/10---------

So this weekend I sat down and finished Limbo, and those last few levels are incredibly tough. There are these timed gravity puzzles, where you hit a button and then gravity is reversed for a few seconds while you run passed saws on the ground, or jump over caverns and what-not. It's just an awesome game...and the only thing I'm sad about is the lack of replay value. Once you've played through it, other than the final achievement for making it through the whole thing in one sitting dying less than five times, it's basically done. I don't really mind that they didn't tack on some silly multiplayer mode or something, but I'd love some DLC with more levels, and more hidden easter eggs.

Overall Score? 9/10. One of the best platformers I've played this year, hands down.

Achievements? These are the ones I had as of the 29th, and I went ahead and beat it afterward.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Video game number two hundred and fourteen: Hydro Thunder Hurricane

Video game review number two hundred and fourteen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Hydro Thunder Hurricane"

Game number two in the Xbox 360 "Summer of Arcade" is Hydro Thunder. What happened to game number one you might ask? Simple. It came out during Comic Con, and I haven't played it yet, but I will tonight. I decided to start with Hydro Thunder, because it's supposed to be arcadey and fun...and I figured I wouldn't need to spend much time with it to get the gist for a review.

Man, was I wrong.

This game is just as good as the quarter munching version you may or may not have spent hours playing in the arcades like I did. You're a speedboat, and you race down a winding water track (often against other boats), taking shortcuts, earning boost power-ups and sometimes finding hidden collectibles. The single player mode of this game is as entertaining as any racer I can remember playing on Xbox Live arcade. It's great.

The game also has modes where you drive through rings, or avoid explosive barrels (both of these are ok, but not spectacular)..and then there's multiplayer. I booted the multiplayer to give it a shot, and even though this thing just came out, it seems like everyone is already an expert at it besides me. I came in sixth out of seven people in my first race, and that's after searching lobbies time and again just to find one that I could actually jump into. Not a good first impression for multiplayer at all, but that doesn't mean I won't be back to give it another try.

Overall Score? 7.5/10. Even though it doesn't involve cars, this is probably the best racer I've played on Xbox Live. The graphics are polished, physics are fun, and there is a lot of replay value as you try to see all the shortcuts and unlock new boats. My big gripes are with the braking (obviously, it's a boat, it can't stop) and of course the difficult online opponents, but that didn't stop me from playing it for several hours. Good stuff.

Achievements? A few to start, but I'll get more.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Video game number two hundred and thirteen: Bejeweled Twist

Video game review number two hundred and thirteen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Bejeweled Twist"

And finally we come to the final DS game I rented for my trip to Comic Con (and yet another I didn't have time to play while I was down there). I saved this one for last because...well..I am familiar with Bejeweled, and I knew what to expect.

This game is just your standard Bejeweled, with (surprise)...a twist. In this game, you spin blocks of four gems to match them with other blocks. Strangely enough, you can only turn them clockwise, which makes it pretty hard.

I played this one for hours...and I found it to be just as addicting as any other Bejeweled title I've played, and also more difficult in parts. One thing that I found really tough were these challenges that you'd have at the top of the screen on every level. In order, you are asked to make four different lines of four different alternating colors. To add to the difficulty, you have to do this in four moves (it's not good enough to just make sure you only make lines in that order, they have to be back to back). What this means is you have to set up all four combos, then complete them one by one, hoping nothing on the screen falls and messes up your combo. It's pretty intense.

There are endless and multiplayer modes, but I found the regular single player to be endless enough for my tastes. Perhaps you can run out of moves and die, but I never did...and by the time I shut the game off, I had been promoted several different levels, and showed no signs of ever dying. If there's a difficulty wall...I did not hit it yet.

Overall? 7/10. I like this game, I don't own a copy for my DS, but I think it's something I would buy and play on road trips and what-not. The only really "bad" thing I'll say about it is that it's not exactly exciting. It's challenging and fun...but it also becomes a little bit repetitive once you've played through 10 or 20 levels like I did.

Video game number two hundred and twelve: Rabbids Go Home DS

Video game review number two hundred and twelve in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Rabbids go Home: DS"

I played and reviewed Raving Rabbids Go Home for the Wii last month, and I really enjoyed it. I rented this one for my trip to Comic Con hoping it would be a little more of the same fun in a portable package. I didn't actually have time to play this one the trip (there wasn't much free time down there), but I've finally had a chance to crack it open, and it's definitely a different experience.

While there are some similarities, it turns out this game is a lot more like "Lemmings" than it's like the Rabbids Go Home game on the Wii. You're still trying to get your Rabbids to the moon (so they can lay on it), but this time around...you do that by solving puzzles.

So what sort of puzzles are these? It's kind of hard to describe. In a way, it's like Lemmings, in that your Rabbid often starts moving and there's no way to stop him, and in a way...it's like Mouse Trap (or a Rube Goldberg machine), in that you have to create a track for your Rabbid by building him the right path using only the puzzle pieces you have.

I made it through the first world, beating several of the levels on the first try and others after multiple attempts...and I have to say, this is pretty fun. It's not at all like the one on the Wii (which is much more of a platformer) and the graphics are awful, but it's still a fun game at it's core, and I enjoyed it. It's not something I am going to buy, but it was definitely "worth" renting.

Overall Score? 6/10. Not the best of games, but not the worst. A little above average. It doesn't capture the awesomeness of the Rabbids (who I thought were hilarious in the Wii game), but it's still a fun little portable game, and a unique puzzle game. If you see a copy cheap somewhere, pick it up.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Video game number two hundred and eleven: Cooking Mama 3: Shop and Chop

Video game review number two hundred and eleven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Cooking Mama 3: Shop and Chop"

I've heard about the Cooking Mama games before, but never actually played one until today. I was pleasantly surprised with the experience, and while it's weird at first, it instantly becomes rather intuitive and fun. It's sort of like WarioWare in that it's a collection of mini-games, but they all revolve around some sort of cooking.

There are many different modes in the game, and the one I spent the most time on was the basic cooking mode. You'll start with a recipe, and are asked to follow it. My first one had me separating egg whites, chopping onions, cooking rice, putting everything in a bowl and serving it as soup. Later, I created my own recipe (some kind of beef noodle thing) and I got to take a little picture of the dish when I was done.

Although the mini-games are simple once you learn the tricks to them, many of them are not what I would call "easy" the first time you pick them up. For example, one of the games has you preparing shrimp, and you have to know that you need to pull of the head, then the legs, then tail, and finally slice out that little vein thing that a shrimp has. Eventually...you can do this really quickly, but that first time is pretty hard. In that one instance, I felt like I actually learned something about cooking from the game, which was pretty funny. I'll bet I can clean a shrimp pretty well now, and I actually want to try it.

One of my favorite things I did in the game was the chopping. Using your stylus like a knife, you can chop carrots or onions into little pieces, and the on screen reaction time is so fast it actually feels like you are slicing something. I got a real kick out of it.

Of course, "chopping" is only half of the game, the other half (according to the title) involves shopping...and that, I did not like. The shopping is a little maze game, where you have to walk your character around a store picking up ingredients for a dish you want to cook. There are plenty of other shoppers there, and if you run into them, you lose some health and also have to play their mini game. Each mini-game is different depending on who you hit. For example, if you run into an old lady, she wants help throwing things into her cart. If you run into a store employee, they feed you free samples, which you have to eat as quickly as possible by tapping on the screen. I found it rather annoying that it was so easy to run into these people....it made the whole shopping mode kind of painful.

Overall Score? I'm giving this one a 7/10. I like it, I could see myself owning it, and after playing...I'm genuinely interested in playing some of the predecessors to this game. I'm also going to rent the Wii version and see how that is...so look for more "Cooking Mama" titles in future reviews. There are also "Gardening Mama" and "Crafting Mama" titles I just might have to check out as well. :-)

Video game number two hundred and ten: Bust a Move DS

Video game review number two hundred and ten in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Bust a Move DS"

I've just finished a week-long trip to Comic Con in San Diego, so although I tried several new video games this week at the con, my plane ride home was really the first chance I had to actually dive into a new game and play it for any extended period of time. I played this particular game the minute the plane hit the magical ten thousand foot mark and I heard that ding.

Bust a Move DS is similar to previous bust a move games, in that your goal is to shoot a colored ball into other similarly colored balls, match them and pop them. In the DS version, you use the stylus to draw the path of the ball on the bottom screen, then you watch the top screen to launch it and see how you did. That's the entire game.

I've played some of these in the past (I believe they were all called "Puzzle Bobble"), and frankly...this is my least favorite one ever. I didn't think the controls were terribly precise, and I'd often miss what I thought should have been easy shots. Normally, I think the DS is built for puzzle games, but somehow...using the stylus on this one just didn't feel natural. Unfortunately, the alternate controls (aiming with the d-pad) were even worse. Forget about the diagonal shots...they were hard to do with either control scheme.

I expected to like (or maybe even love) this portable version, and of all the games I brought along on my trip to Comic Con, this is the one I thought I would have played the most. Instead, after less than an hour...I was done with it.

Overall Score? 5/10. If you must have every single version of "Bust-a-Move" (even while on the go), this might be for you, but frankly...I've played better versions of this on Xbox Live arcade, and in the actual arcade. I think I'll try the PSP version sometime later in this challenge and see how that stacks up, because the franchise itself is pretty fun.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Video game number two hundred and nine: Singularity

Video game review number two hundred and nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Singularity"

I never saw any advertisements for this game on tv, or any big pop up ads on the internet or anything...but somehow, I was aware of it when it came out a few weeks back. I've been meaning to play it, because from everything I've heard...it's a lot like Bioshock.

I had some time today, and guess what....it IS a lot like Bioshock. It seems that the people who made this one thought that Bioshock was such an interesting game that someone else needed to make one just like it. Both games are set in the 1950's. Instead of an undersea city, you're on an island. There are people who communicate with you along the way in both games, usually over a radio.

Evil villain with plans of world domination? Check.
Flashes of time travel where you get to see what the level looked like in it's glory days? Check.
Guns with limited ammo in one hand and super natural powers in the other? Check.
Crazy zombie monsters to fight? Check.
Levitation powers? Check.
Tape recorders with audio messages and diaries to find? Check.
Weapon upgrades? Of course.

This game is a lot like Bioshock, but it's lacking a lot of the magic that makes that game special. It's not a bad game, it's just very, very similar....and it's hard not to be aware of that while you play. I suppose that's the worst criticism I have for it, because it's actually pretty darn fun.

I played this game for the better part of the day today, and I learned two things:

1. Never listen to the people on xbox360achievements.org if you're looking for an assessment of difficulty. I read their achievement guide which said "Start out on the hard difficulty, as it's not very hard" and I ended up fighting battles over and over again until I finally relented and started a new game on an easier difficulty. This game is pretty darn hard when set to "hard". (Duh).

2. Playing through the same level you've just played through on a harder difficulty is a lot more boring the second time around. Perhaps I didn't "learn" this during this challenge, but it was my observation.

This is a good game, and I'm planning on beating it someday. Once I got past the part I had already slogged through on the hard difficulty, the game was new and fun again. I am enjoying the story, the weapons (and your special powers) are pretty cool, and I am finding it to be a worthwhile investment of my (very limited) gaming time.

Overall score? 7/10. This one is solid, and while I don't think it's going to become a "huge" game via word of mouth, I definitely think it's worth picking up as the price eventually lowers and it becomes more of a bargain title. If I got this one for Christmas, I would not be disappointed.

Achievements? Oh yes...I got plenty so far.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Video game number two hundred and eight: Toy Story 3

Video game review number two hundred and eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Toy Story 3"

Toy Story 3 was an awesome movie, and a great ending to the series. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from the game, but I gave it a try anyway....seeing as how I still had 157 open slots for new video games this year.

First of all, this game was quite a bit more complex than I normally expect a "kid's" game to be. Perhaps it's because it was based on a cross-over movie that is supposed to appeal to adults and kids, but it has a little more depth than your normal childrens movie tie-in game. Maybe kids games are getting a little bit better or something.

There is a basic quest (and a fairly good combat system to go along with it)...and then there's a sandbox type of game called "Woody's Round Up", where you live in the old west and run around solving missions for other toys. It's sort of like Red Dead Redemption, for children.

The first mission has you riding your horse (Bullseye) and then jumping onto a train to save some orphan toys from the evil Doctor Porkchop....just like the beginning of the movie. The next mission also followed the plot of the movie, but from a much more "first person" type of view. It's pretty good stuff.

You can choose Woody, Buzz or Jessie in the beginning and each of them has a power that's somewhat unique. Buzz can throw people (good for hard to reach areas up high), Woody can lasso things to swing across gaps, and Jessie can jump and stick a landing (good for crossing gaps by bouncing from object to object). You switch quite a bit....so you get to play a little with each person.

There are actually a lot of puzzles, which at first I thought were kind of hard (and I have no idea how a kid would solve them), but luckily, there are these little hint boxes that will either give you a hint, or show you a ghost of a character doing whatever it is you're supposed to try doing. That's pretty helpful.

Overall Score: 7/10. It's not wonderful, but it's certainly not bad either. Good graphics, reasonably fun gameplay...and the story seems to expand on the movie a bit so far. I'm not very far in yet, but I got a good sense of it from what I did play. I probably won't keep playing this one (frankly, there are too many more games I'd rather play right now)....but it is a pretty entertaining kids game...and I think it sort of raises the bar for what kids games are supposed to be these days.

Achievements? After a couple of hours...here's what I got.

Video game number two hundred and seven: Joe Danger

Video game review number two hundred and seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Joe Danger"

I've been hearing a lot about Joe Danger lately, both on review sites and from a few gamers that I know at work who think it's pretty awesome. Everyone says it's good, and the reviews say "It's like if Excitebike and Trials HD had a baby". Even though there's no demo for it on PSN, that comment in a 9.5 review on IGN was good enough to get me to shell out the 16.19 it costs to play this one.

It's pretty damn fun.

The reviews are right. This game is very much like Trials HD meets Excitebike. Each level consists of ramps, jumps, obstacles, coins to collect and other secrets. It's all the best stuff you might expect from an arcade motorcycle game, with great physics mixed in.

I made it through the first 10 to 12 levels (you have to unlock many of the tracks by earning stars in previous ones)...and it's pretty easy to pick up and play, yet it seems impossible to master. I've seen hidden items, but as of yet, I haven't figured out how to capture some of them. Others, I've replayed a level three or four times to get....and been rewarded with a star or something.

There's online multiplayer, but I don't feel "ready" for that just yet. I want to explore (and hopefully master) the offline levels first. It seems to me that this is going to be one of those fun arcade games that you can pick up and play for five minutes at a time for a nice long time....so I suppose it was worth the sixteen dollars. Maybe.

Overall Score? 7.75/10. I like it so far, I don't love it....but I think it's a lot of fun. I wish there was a demo I could have tried first, but I think I probably would have bought the game just the same. That realization makes it slightly better than the 7.5 I was going to give it. :-)

Trophies. Since this is a PSN game, there are only a handful of trophies to earn...but I've gotten three so far:

Video game number two hundred and six: Boom Blox Bash Party

Video game review number two hundred and six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Boom Blox Bash Party"

I never owned the original Boom Blox, but I have borrowed and played it quite a bit in the past. I'm not sure why I never bought it, it's actually pretty awesome. Every time Best Buy or Toys R Us was having one of those "Buy 2 get 1 free" sales, it was always one of the ones I thought about adding as my third, but I never did. Finally, last year...they had the sale, and I did exactly that, with the sequel.

I'm only just now getting around to cracking the plastic, but wow...this is a fantastic game. The tutorial modes take you through all the basic controls, and most of them were really familiar to me, even though I hadn't played the original in years.

There are solo, versus and co-op modes (and I am looking very forward to trying the latter two with a friend at some point). For now, I jumped into the campaign and started playing the first eight or nine levels, which focus mostly on the "throwing" controls. The games ranged from knocking stuff over, to "painting" things and causing chain reactions by matching colors.

It's hard to describe just how great this whole experience is, but it mixes perfectly natural motion control with great gameplay, to the point where the Wiimote (something I often find myself hating) becomes an extension of your hand and you sort of get immersed in the experience.

Just like the first one, the games themselves focus around puzzles, towers, explosions, etc. They're simple (knock something over, match a color, pull a block out of a tower like Jenga, etc)...but the simplicity is what makes them incredibly addictive and fun. If I wanted to introduce the Wii to someone who had never played it before....my two flagship titles would have to be Wii Sports (maybe Wii Sports Resort) and this game. It's just that good.

I've only spent about an hour playing so far, and all I've beaten is the tutorial. I'm only 24% of the way through the first world (with several more worlds to go)....but I don't plan on quitting anytime soon. I'm going to play some more before I come back and score this one.

Edited later Saturday afternoon...

So now I've gotten through three of the worlds (they each contain TONS of levels), and I feel like I have a much better feel for the game. It's still very addicting, and I found myself playing levels over and over again to improve my scores.

Overall Score? 9/10. This is one of my favorite Wii games so far. I really like it, and I think I'll be playing it quite a bit in the future, especially if someone comes over and wants to try the Wii. It's flat-out awesome.

Video game number two hundred and five: Wii Sports Resort

Video game review number two hundred and five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Wii Sports Resort "

For the first year of the Wii console, Wii Sports was really the only good game Nintendo had released. Sure, there were other titles, but this one was all anyone played....or even wanted to play. I bought a few others (including Wii Play), but whenever I played the Wii, I'd always end up going back to bowling. I was always wondering when they'd make a sequel to Wii Sports, and here it is...at long last. And yes...there's more bowling.

Making a good sequel to a "killer app" probably isn't easy. Perhaps that's why it took Nintendo almost 4 years. Still, I think they've got it right..as this game is different enough from the first one to feel completely "new", yet easy and fun enough to feel worthy of being the one game you show people when they want to see what the Wii is all about.

Sports Resort starts you out by having you jump out of a plane. You get to play the skydiving game before you ever land on the island this game takes place on. The controls are very intuitive, and it's pretty fun. When you land, you're given choices between 12 different game modes.

I started out with Wakeboarding. You hold your controller sideways, like you might hold the rope when wakeboarding in real life. It was ok, but nothing incredible. Next, I moved to "Power Cruising", which I was hoping was an updated version of Wave Race for the N64.

Wave Race is one of my favorite video games of all time (I dumped countless weeks into that one), and I'm sad to say, Power Cruising does not capture that magic. You hold the Wiimote and Nunchuk like handlebars on a bike (opposing each other horizontally)...and you rev up the engine by pressing B. The controls are ok so long as you're going in a straight line, but as soon as you start turning, you can often miss your goal. It's not terrible...but it's definitely noting like riding a jetski (I actually think Wave Race still has the market cornered as far as that goes).

I played some of the "Air Sports" next, including Skydiving and Island Flyover. These were my favorite games so far, both being very intuitive and fun to control. Skydiving is much like the opening credits scene, except now you have to meet up with other skydiving Miis in mid-air to make formations. You get your picture taken when you do this, and at the end, they add up all the pictures, and give you points for facing the camera. Fun stuff.

Island Flyover is one of the more interesting games I've played on the Wii. They instruct you to hold the Wiimote like you might hold a paper airplane, and then you control this plane that flies around the island. It works exactly like you want it to, and I had a lot of fun playing this. THIS is what motion controls are all about....and I think Nintendo has nailed it with this mini-game. Playing this one reminded me of flying my X-wing fighter around when I was a kid (or maybe last week)....only this time, the object you're holding controls a "real" video game plane. Cool stuff.

After my flight games, I played some basketball (3 point shootout), and it was ok. I didn't really find my groove, but I can see the concept. I didn't feel like trying golf, ping-pong, archery, canoeing or cycling....but another game caught my eye: Frisbee Dog!

Yes, that's right...you get to throw a frisbee to a dog and have him catch it for you. Actually, you throw frisbees at targets, and the dog runs to those. You can pop balloons on the way for extra points. It actually feels like throwing a frisbee, and is pretty cool. I think I'm a little better with a real life frisbee, but probably not by much.

Last but not least, for the grand finale...I chose bowling (of course). One thing I have failed to mention so far is that Wii Sports comes with a little "motion plus" accessory, which is basically a hardware patch for the Wiimote. It makes it work like it should have worked from launch, and makes it a lot more precise. As a result, Wii Bowling is even more fun than it was in the last version of this game. Not only does the game feel more like bowling than it ever did....you have a lot more control over where your ball goes. It's awesome.

Overall score? This is easily an 8/10, and if the other games I didn't feel like playing are as good as the rest of them, I could see myself raising this score. The million dollar question is whether or not I'll want to pick this up and play it again....and I'm really not sure what the answer is there. Right now, all I'm playing on the Wii are Gamefly rentals for my project and New Super Mario Brothers for fun. Will this find it's way into the mix? Only time will tell.

One thing's for sure....I'm looking forward to playing it against other people next time I have a friend over. :-)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Video game two hundred and four: Transformers Revenge of the Fallen

Video game review number two hundred and four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen "

I was pretty excited to see the second Transformers movie when it came out in theaters, and I actually enjoyed the video game based on on the first movie. I didn't beat it, but I came pretty close. I planned to play this sequel as soon as I saw the movie it was based on in theaters (so as to stay spoiler free), but after I saw that terrible "film"....I had absolutely no interest in playing this game.

Fast forward to today...my love for the Transformers has been re-kindled by the very decent War for Cybertron, and I thought I might give this one a shot.

The Verdict?

Meh.

It's certainly not War for Cybertron, but I actually think they did a little bit better than the first Transformers movie game. I'm going to ignore the plot (because really, who cares?)...and focus strictly on the gameplay. Some aspects of it are a fun, others suck out loud.

The good:

The world is a little more destructible this time around. You could destroy certain things in the first game, but for the most part...the cities felt lifeless. This time...they're just a hair better...and you can scale buildings with visible damage.

You have regular and special weapons, as well as attacks. These are actually kind of fun to deploy, and your "overdrive" attacks are really cool. There's nothing particularly awesome about any of your weapons...but you do have a lot to choose from, so that's cool.

Instead of linear plot-based missions, it's more of a timed thing....where you destroy the enemy as quickly as possible and then move on to the next level. I kind of dig this. There are even leaderboards that showcase your times. It encourages people to play them over and over again, if they're into that sort of thing.

The bad:

In order to Transform, you have to HOLD a button down. In a game called Transformers, this is silly. Anytime I'd forget to hold the button, I'd instantly be a robot again, which was annoying in the middle of a car chase.

The main characters are all based on the movie Transformers. Is this a negative? You betcha. They look like a bunch of knives and silverware cobbled together, instead of the G1 Transformers I grew up with. Lame.

Targeting still sucks. This was horrible in the first game, and it's still horrible in this one. Enemies can fly about with ease (jumping from building to building) and you'll often be left in their dust, wondering where they went.

Overall...this gets a 5/10. Three or four levels were enough for me to know I'd played plenty. If I'm going to play a Transformers game, I'm going to play Cybertron. This one can go right back on the shelves where it belongs. I think I'll be in as big a hurry to play this again as I will be to watch the movie it's based on a second time. For those of you not paying attention....this translates to "Not very"

Achievements? Here's what I got.

Video game number two hundred and three: Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights

Video game review number two hundred and three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights "

"Juiced". "Hot Import Nights". The jokes write themselves. For example, I could say this game sounds like it might be about an adventure at a brothel featuring ladies of the evening from all over the world...but I won't be saying that. After all, that would just be crude.

Instead, I booted the game up, and holy crap....the opening cinematic features a bunch of multi-cultural ladies in bikinis and hot pants dancing around cars.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect with this one. I figured it would be a sub-par racer, possibly featuring a bunch of "Fast and Furious" type cars. Instead, I've been pleasantly surprised by a fairly decent racing game with a very addictive progression ladder....and I played it for more than 5 hours today. I don't feel like I'm done with it either.

Like many street racing games, you begin with a few bucks in your pocket and the option to buy a car. My loyalties to MINI run deep, so I purchased a carbon copy of my real life ride....except of course my in-game version is a hard top. I paid 5000 in-game dollars to paint it green like my real one. It's always fun driving your own car...unless it's a piece of shit or something.

Anyway, after creating a very realistic car, I decided to create a very UN-realistic driver. I chose a blonde female, then put her in white undies and a pink bikini top (which everyone knows is the racing attire of champions). Why would the developers allow gamers to choose an outfit like this you ask? Because they know we WILL if they give us the choice. Booya! They even went so far as to artistically imply that my driver might have been a bit chilly in her racing outfit...and kudos to them for that.

When I got done giggling like Beavis (or Butthead) at the racer I had created, I sent her into her first race. Unlike that domain-hocking Danica Patrick, my chick can consistently take home the gold trophies. I won three or four straight before the difficulty curve started forcing me to upgrade my car and what-not.

You start out in the "Rookie" races, and as you win races, you unlock more tiers. Before I knew it, hours had passed...and I was really enjoying this game. I only wish I would have discovered it back in 2007 when there was still an online community, because when I went online...it was a ghost town. One thing I liked is that even though there was no one to play with online, they let me enter my "online career" anyway, and race against computers instead of people. That's a nice touch...and I wish other games would have the foresight to use bots like this.

The handling isn't particularly great in this title, but what it lacks in some areas, it makes up in others. For example....there is rubber banding, but you can diffuse it by using the "Spooked" meter. What's that? Simple...you tailgate someone, and instead of getting points for drafting them like many other games like to give out, you start adding progress to their Spook Meter. When it's full, they are "Spooked"...and they usually swerve into walls. This is both hilarious and awesome...and it's a great way to pull ahead at the last minute.

Another cool feature in this game is the betting. Before every race, you can place bets with other racers as to who will win the race. The amount of money is up to the other person, or sometimes you can put your pink slip on the line. So far, I've won several hundred thousand betting...as well as two cars. I'm looking forward to my achievement for getting a million bucks, but I'm also slightly terrified because I know there's also an achievement for having a BILLION in the bank. Yikes.

Overall...this game is a 7.5/10. While it doesn't quite stack up to racing games like Blur or the amazing Split Second, it's actually a really solid racer that I wish I would have started playing years ago. This is one of those times when I'm loving this challenge, because it has exposed me to something good that I never would have played otherwise. Frankly, I wish I had more time for fun games like this. I like it better than either of the Need for Speed titles I played this year, and that's pretty good for a game I'd never heard of until I was browsing a list of available titles.

Achievements? Man...this is one area that is driving me nuts. The achievements in this game are stacked so far apart that I'd probably need a week straight to beat this one. I've put in a LOT of time...and all I've gotten is a few 5 point rewards so far:



There are some really "juicy" achievements for getting INSANE scores while drifting, and I took a stab at one or two of them. Turns out I'm going to need a lot more practice. That's ok with me, I plan to come back to this one someday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Video game review number two hundred and two: Super Monkey Ball Step and Roll

Video game review number two hundred and two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Super Monkey Ball Step and Roll"

Sometime in the year 2006....a game called Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was released for the Wii. You might remember hearing about this classic, possibly because it was a big hit in the "Monkey in a ball" crowd, or maybe because it was my last game review before this one. For people not covered by either reference above...basically, four years have passed between Monkey Ball releases, and this February brought a brand new game for fans of the series.

Or did it?

Super Monkey Ball Step and Roll feels almost identical to the version I just played four days ago. Perhaps if it had been four years (as both God and Sega intended) this might feel fresh to me, but I JUST played the other version for the first time on Sunday...and from that perspective, the two games are almost the exact same thing.

They must have added something after four years right?

Sort of.

According to the every article I can find, the big deal is that they've added Wii Balance Board support. This sounded like an interesting concept, and this is actually why I rented the two monkey games back to back. Unfortunately, it's only interesting on paper. In practice, it might just be the most horrible, awkward motion control game I've played since I tried to play the original Super Mario Brothers with the Nintendo Power Glove. If you're old enough to remember trying that, you're old enough to remember how badly it sucked. Playing Super Monkey Ball on the balance board is worse....and so bad that it almost made me eject the game.

To keep the integrity of this project intact...and just in case SOMEONE reading this review might be spared ever trying it for themselves....I did not press eject. I kept playing.

So why does it suck? Let me count the ways...

Turning left and right require you to make micro-adjustments in your balance, while going forward and backward require you to shift your weight much more heavily. This would be all well and good if the game didn't require you to do it quickly and in real time. Every level is a timed race, which makes playing with the balance board extremely awkward. I'm not sure the stupid thing can even perceive a quick shift from "up/left" to "down/right", and even if it could....I'm not sure my body is capable of shifting that quickly. After beating only four or five levels with sub-par times, I was ready to break my balance board over my knee. I resisted the urge, chose a controller to use, and suddenly the same shitty unresponsive Wiimote controls I was lamenting on Sunday seemed almost precise by comparison.

In short...the biggest new feature that they're using to justify a sequel completely sucks, but at least it made their awful Wiimote control scheme feel better by comparison. They might have improved it, or it might just suck a lot less than the balance board. Either option is very realistic.

Beyond that "feature" addition, there are some new Mini games, (and some minor variations on old ones). The menus have been tweaked a tiny bit, and I actually find them easier to navigate now. That's it. The rest of the game is almost the same, with the same graphics and the same cast. Visually, I honestly don't think it's possible to tell the difference between the two, unless you've played the hell out of either one. To most people...they're interchangeable.

All this isn't to say that I hate it or anything. The mini-games are still fun, and playing them with the controller has become passable. The balance board feature is awful, but you can turn that off. While I would never buy this game....if someone wanted to give me either this version or Banana Blitz...I'd probably choose this one.

Overall Score? 6.1/10. It's pretty much identical to the last game, so it gets an almost identical score. The extra .1 is for the new menus. While menus don't make a game, it was slightly nicer to navigate...so I must recognize that effort. If you were thinking of getting this for the balance board support, don't. It's terrible. If you were thinking of trying it because you like Monkey Ball...go for it. It's more of what you love.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Video game number two hundred and one: Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz

Video game review number two hundred and one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz"

Super Monkey Ball has been around forever, but this is my first time trying it on the Wii. I have very mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, it's all about the motion control, which I actually think is ok for a game like this. Unfortunately, the motion controls for the Wii can be downright unresponsive at times, making certain games almost impossible to play.

Super Monkey Ball is broken up into a couple of different gametypes. On the one side, you have the campaign, which is basically you moving your monkey (ball) through a maze. You do this by tilting the Wiimote around carefully and pressing A to jump. The closest thing I can compare this gameplay to is one of those balance boards with a marble on it. You guide the monkey ball to the end of the maze. I beat the first world, and there are 7 more to go. It gets progressively harder to finish the mazes, and if you're not very careful with the controller, you can roll your monkey right off a cliff to end the level.

The other half of the game is all about mini-games. I didn't play all 50 of them, but i did play quite a few. Some of them (Monkey Fencing, Hang Gliding, Shepherd, Scoop the goldfish) are incredibly annoying because the controls are so hard to figure out. I enjoyed the number ball game (where you basically point at moving numbers in order and count as high as you can)...and my favorite was Monkey Target.

Monkey Target is like something out of Pilot Wings for the SNES. You get shot out of a canon (in your ball) and you must open it up mid-flight to glide down to a target. When you open your ball, it turns into a pair of wings, and you slowly glide down, collecting bananas along the way.

That would probably be too easy if that was all it was, so to make things more difficult, you're also carrying a ball, and you need to drop that on the target (sort of like shuffleboard I guess). Once you've dropped it, you then you close your wings, turn back into a ball and roll to the target yourself. There are three rounds, each round has a potential score of two bullseyes (your ball and the one you dropped). It sounds confusing, but it's a lot of fun...and I played it over and over again.

Ultimately, the controls are so unresponsive that I didn't enjoy the majority of the games, but the few exceptions were a lot of fun. I wouldn't recommend buying this (and I'm perfectly comfortable returning it after only a few hours of playtime)...but I do think that if this was on at a party, I'd probably compete with people in it.

Overall Score? 6/10. As far as the game goes, it's average...but some of the mini-games are really great, especially Monkey Target. Honestly, if this whole game was the campaign and variations on the Monkey Target mini-game, I'd probably buy it. Alas, it is not. :-)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Video game number two hundred: New Super Mario Brothers Wii

Video game review number two hundred in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "New Super Mario Brothers Wii"

17 years ago, Super Mario All Stars came out for the Super Nintendo. It was a compilation of all the classic Mario games from the NES days...with updated graphics. That was probably my favorite Mario game of all time. A year later, Super Mario World came out...and was an incredibly worthy sequel. In the 14 years that have followed, there have been many Mario games (including the amazing Mario 64 which is fantastic in so many different ways)...but as far as side scrollers go, nothing on a console has come close to those two glorious SNES releases over a decade ago.

Last year, all that changed...and for some strange reason, I didn't truly experience it until today.

I played a demo of this game last year at PAX, and then I bought it the day it came out. It sat on my shelves forever until today, when I decided to pick it up for game number 200. I'm glad I finally played it, because it's great.

This is classic Mario, with updated graphics and some new features. There is 4 player multiplayer (something I don't care much about, but it's an interesting idea) and just a touch of Wiimote stuff thrown in. More on that in a minute.

I played through the first world of the game, where I got to experience a classic above ground level, a cave, some water, one of those "air" levels where you jump on platforms...and all sorts of other stuff too. There's a world map (like the one introduced in Super Mario 3) and occasionally, you'll open up a "mushroom house" where Toad will give you prizes. Gotta love that Toad.

Speaking of Toad (the best character in video game history), from time to time....you'll have to rescue him. How this works is that every once in awhile, you'll see a Toad logo on the map, in a level you've already beaten. You'll jump into the level and he'll be trapped in a question block somewhere. You spring him, then carry him to the exit. This is incredibly hard, but when you save him...you get items for prizes. It drove me nuts, but I saved him a couple of times and thought it was pretty awesome.

Let's talk for a moment about the Wiimote. I've mentioned many times that am NOT a fan of games that throw the stupid "waggle" gimmick in for the sake of using the feature. There are elements of that here, but they aren't intrusive enough to really piss me off. Some are actually fun. I'm glad too...because overuse of that feature could have been the one way Nintendo could have screwed this title up.

First of all, the basic controls of this game are handled by holding the Wiimote horizontally, and using it like a classic NES controller. I like that. When you need to pick up another character (a buddy, or an enemy who is frozen) you have to shake the controller a little and press the 1 button. While this could have been more easily accomplished by simply using a button, it happens infrequently enough in the game that I'm not really angry about it. I don't like it at all...but I can live with it. There's a spinning jump you can do (which also requires thrusting the Wiimote into the air), and you have to do that whenever you use the helicopter suit. I could have really done without this. It's my least favorite part of the game.

There is one "motion" function that I kind of like, and that's the use of the tilt. Sometimes, you'll find yourself on a pendulum of some kind, and you have to tilt the controller to move it. That's actually kind of fun once you get the hang of it. Another thing I actually really love is that the little speaker in the Wiimote goes off whenever you die or get a 1UP or something. That's insanely cool. There's also a secondary control scheme where you can play with the nunchuk. I haven't tried that yet, but I think I might just to see if I like it better or not.

Overall Score? 9.5/10. This game is as close to perfect as it gets. If they allowed you to forego the idiotic motion control stuff and let you play this classic game like a classic game, it would have been a ten for me. Even with the motion control intact, it's still pretty darn amazing. This is classic Mario at it's best. Definitely my favorite Nintendo game so far this year....and one of the best titles I've played in this challenge. I love it.

Video game number one hundred and ninety nine: Wii Fit Plus

Video game review number one hundred and ninety nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Wii Fit Plus"

Wii Fit has an interesting way of making you feel like you suck at life. I bought the original years ago, and haven't played it in quite awhile. When I booted up the sequel today, it loaded my previous save and proceeded to scold me.

"Welcome to Wii Fit Josh, we haven't seen you in 740 days".
"You had a goal last time you played, and it looks like you haven't met that goal".

Then it told me I was overweight, had the body of a 49 year old, said I had no friends and that nobody likes me. Nintendo: Now you're playing with power.

There are quite a few more mini-games to play this time around, and I enjoyed trying a few of the new ones. There was a boxing step aerobics sort of thing, and then a river game where you try to balance a bubble and keep it away from the edges. My favorite was probably one from the old version..the hula hoop thing. It's pretty cool when you get 3 or 4 hoops going at the same time.

It was around 85 degrees when I played this, so I only played for about 30 minutes or so. In that time, I was able to try a bunch of mini-games and burn a couple of hundred calories. I'm thinking of keeping this one instead of returning it to Gamefly, because they're offering to sell it to me for only 17.99. That's the same price Gamestop is offering online, except with Gamefly, I've already got the game in my house and the shipping of the case and manual is free. :-)

Overall Score? 7/10. As far as exercise games go, this is about the best one I've ever played (unless you count DDR games). I'm sure that will change when Kinect comes out this fall, but for now...this is kind of a nice game to have around.

Video game number one hundred and ninety eight: Mag

Video game review number one hundred and ninety eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mag"

Last year at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, I was able to get 19 free t-shirts (Yes, I was counting). One of those t-shirts was from the Sony booth, featuring the game MAG. It's a cool green shirt, and I actually wear it fairly frequently, but until this morning, I had never actually played the game.

Thanks to Gamefly, I was able to try it out for the first time. Unfortunately, I neglected to read any reviews before playing (I really have to stop doing this) so I was unaware that this was yet ANOTHER fucking shooter without an offline campaign. I am beyond pissed off at myself for picking up another one of these to play, and I spent the last several hours failing miserably at getting a single trophy in this game so that I could quit and move on.

While I was trying to earn a trophy, I played between 10-15 rounds of the only two game types my low-leveled character is allowed to play. One is "Supression" (basically a team deathmatch) and the other was "Sabotage" (basically assault). While there's nothing really "wrong" with either of these matches, both of them took place on the same maps almost every single time. As a new player, it was kind of nice to be able to learn the locations that I liked, but it also got fairly repetitive extremely quickly.

In order to progress to other modes and new levels, you must first level up, and that was insanely hard for me. I topped out at a level 3 (22 XP away from level 4). I'm pretty sure one more mode would have unlocked at level 4, but I was so sick of this game that during my last match, I actually ejected the disk without saving and quitting first, something I rarely do.

I've mentioned before that I'm not great at PS3 Shooters. I've also mentioned before that I REALLY hate first person shooters that don't have a campaign. This game takes two things I don't really like and combines them together, like a shit coated Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, filled with rotten eggs instead of peanut butter.

MAG isn't a terrible shooter. In fact, I enjoyed the selection of weapons and I'm actually starting to get used to FPS stuff on the PS3 more and more with each new game I try. There are plenty of things I like about this game. Apparently, higher leveled people can get promoted to "Squad leaders" who can order in special strikes and all that stuff. Although I was ten levels away from experiencing it, that sounds kind of cool.

The online experience seemed to work better than most PS3 games I played, although it was pretty silent for the most part. If I had a mic for my PS3, I probably would have tried to talk to people and asked for some tips. Most other people weren't talking either (one kid was complaining a lot, and occasionally, someone would shout: "MEDIC!")....so I'm not sure how much help there would have been for me. Perhaps I'll get a bluetooth mic so I can start joining the conversation in games like this on the PS3.

What really pisses me off is the difficulty curve. Since there's no ranked matchmaking in MAG, you're thrown into the lion's den with people who have been playing the game forever. I kept losing and losing, with absolutely no hope of getting better. Many rounds were just spawn, run to where the fighting is, and be killed instantly. Call of Duty does something similar, except they have a wonderful campaign you can play through, so that by the time you're ready for online...you know your moves well enough to stand a chance. Plus, in Call of Duty, even the worst player on the team can occasionally pick up an awesome power up and do some real damage. Although I could pick up dropped enemy weapons, I still felt weaker than everyone else in this one.

In the end, I put about 3 hours into this game, and I have no trophy to show for it. Although this bugs me a bit, I decided that I wasn't going to grind for several more hours just for one trophy...it isn't worth it to me.

Overall Score? 4/10. Good graphics and decent controls, but it's not for me. For people that love shooters, there are a dozen better ones I can think of, all of which have offline campaigns. If you all you want to do is run around online and shoot pre-teens, play Call of Duty. It's a vastly superior game to this one, and a little more friendly to new players.

Trophies? I couldn't earn any. Not since Sonic the Hedgehog have I wasted so many hours playing a game I wasn't fond of while trying to get an achievement, and not since that awful game have I given up completely. There were no easy trophies for me to aim for, unless I wanted to invest several more days into this game (which I do not). The easiest one I could find was for killing 200 people. By the time I had finished my morning of gaming, I was only 23 kills in. I'd often go entire matches without getting one kill, so 200 would have been pretty damn slow. There is absolutely no way I will grind for a trophy in this game. I know that goes against the rules of my challenge, but fuck it. Life is too short to keep playing something you hate. I should have learned that with Sonic. I feel like I played this enough to review it, and that should count for something.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Video game number one hundred and ninety seven: Sega Rally

Video game review number one hundred and ninety seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Sega Rally"

Wow.

This is the worst car game I've played since I reviewed World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars back in February. Actually, it's even worse than that (and that's saying a lot). What an awful, awful piece of shit.

My parents once said "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"...but they weren't reviewing 365 video games. If I stuck to nice things, this page would be blank. Ok, MAYBE I might mention that the graphics in this game are ok, but that's where it ends. Seriously...that's the only nice comment I can think of here.

The controls are horrible....and only seem to exist as an afterthought. The car you see on the screen does not feel like it's being controlled by the player. I felt no connection at all with my vehicle in this one, and playing it reminds me of the experience one of my nephews must have had when they were little...and I'd hand them an unplugged control to "play" along with.

I'm not sure if there's a "trick" to this game, but if there is...it's not readily apparent. The only way I was able to do reasonably well was to give up trying to steer or brake and just mash on the gas instead. I went through entire races without ever braking, and never suffered any consequences. You can ram full speed into trees, fences, other cars or anything else on the side of the road and your car will simply bounce off of it like it was a bump. Whether you try to hold your racing line or just swerve around the track, the speedometer rarely changes.

If you don't ram past the AI cars in the beginning of the race, you'll be very likely never to see them again. The difficulty is ridiculous, and I'm assuming the only way to "win" at this game is to play each track over and over until you know it by heart, and even then...I'm not sure what you'd accomplish. I completed the first circuit (in 5th place) and all it did was throw me back in to try the same 5 tracks again.

The only way I can imagine this game being any fun is if it were at a giant arcade like Gameworks, and you got to sit down in replicas of real rally cars to race with your friends. No computer opponents, just 7 of your closest buddies racing as poorly as you were. Alcohol might also need to be involved. IF this game were an arcade racer in 1998, maybe I'd have a little respect for it. As a console game in this decade...it's ass.

While I was playing, I got the following message over Xbox Live from my friend Jay, who saw what I was playing and offered up the following unsolicited review: "that game sucks... i tried to like it.

I suppose I could have just reprinted that and saved myself some time....except I didn't really try that hard. At least I got my one achievement. Let that be the end of this.

Overall Score? 2/10. Horrible, horrible game. If you want to see what a real Rally car game is all about, go get one of the "Dirt" games...and prepare to be amazed. If you want to understand what licking a urinal night taste like without having to catch a disease or visit the hospital.....play this game. Although I've never tried the real thing, I'm pretty sure this game is not about rally racing...it's actually a dirty urinal licking simulator.

Achievement? Yes...I got one. I'm glad it came after only 4 races, because I couldn't have played this for much longer.

Video game number one hundred and ninety six: Rock Revolution

Video game review number one hundred and ninety six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Rock Revolution".

One day last year, Best Buy had a crazy video game sale. People were lined up all the way around the front of the store waiting for it to open, with promises of some great games going for as low as 20 bucks, and other games ranging from 5-10. I was one of the first 10 or so people through the door, and wouldn't you know it? There were only a handful of copies of each awesome title to be had. I wasn't able to get any of the ones I had hoped for, so I moped around looking at what was left. One thing they had plenty of.....were stacks and stacks of Rock Revolution (for every platform) for only 10 bucks each. Even at ten bucks, I knew that game was a ripoff.

Rock Revolution came out about 5 years too late to be cool. As far as I can tell, every song on the disk is a cover song....and that stopped being acceptable back before Guitar Hero 2 came out. Who wants to hear some lame cover band sing a Blink 182 song when you can play the real thing in Rock Band DLC? Some versions of this game were packed with a weird six button drum controller that I would have considered pretty awesome.....if I didn't already own the Rock Band drum set and a set of Ion Drums.




While I admire Konami's effort to jump back into the "Giant plastic peripheral" market (which they once dominated with dance mats)....I fully understand why no one bought this game. The cost was too high for something that wasn't nearly as good as the already established competitors. It would be like Nokia releasing a brick shaped cellular phone with a monochrome screen to compete with the iPhone.

These are all good reasons why I never played it until tonight.

I've played 195 other games this year, and somehow, I have to keep the streak alive. While I'm confident that I can find 170 other unique titles to play before the year is up (though not so confident that I'll actually be able to play them all)...I'm realizing more and more that I'm starting to run out of "good" games. I'm going to have to go back into the well of previously released games that I never played and try some stinkers. This is a great example.

So....aside from the basic description of the game, I should list some specific reasons why I don't like it.

Reason number 1: The fucking game is HARD. I played through the tutorial (mostly for an achievement, but also to make sure there was nothing different than other guitar games). I found myself almost failing at the medium difficulty in places, and on hard....I had to retry the tutorial examples a couple of times just to get through.

Reason number 2: The game introduces almost NOTHING to the genre. The one new feature in this game that I noticed was the "rock bars"....which are sort of like the solos at the end of Rock Band songs, where you can press anything you want....except instead of pressing random buttons, you press a specific button, and then strum really fast. That is the ONLY new feature I noticed. I should note that I did not borrow a set of six button drums to play this, I just messed with the guitar mode. Perhaps there's something extra for drummers, but seeing as how I don't want to buy yet ANOTHER giant plastic instrument for my house....I'll never know.

Reason number 3: The cover songs have no soul. The only thing I can think of to compare them to are the American Idol reject shows at the beginning of each season, or maybe a classic episode of Star Search. Apologies to the starving artists who recorded these tracks, I'll tolerate your cover songs in a dance remix for a Dance Dance Revolution game, but not in a rock game...thank you very much.

Reason number 4: The goddamn game would not calibrate correctly with my TV. Their calibration system is ass, and while I could have figured it out if I tried long enough....after three separate attempts, I was sick of trying to get it perfect, and so I settled for "almost".

Reason number 5: 90% of the gamerscore in this game can only be earned if you can play on Expert. Not only is that impossible for me, it's almost insulting considering Reason number 1. I think expert on this game might actually be the hardest guitar difficulty ever invented.


I could go on, but I think that should suffice.

Overall Score? 3/10. As far as Guitar games go, this is the worst one I've ever played, except for Fret Nice. 'Nuff said.

Achievements? Take a look at them....they're the only ones I'm ever going to earn in this game:

Video game number one hundred and ninety five: Blacklight Tango Down

Video game review number one hundred and ninety five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Blacklight: Tango Down".

Much like Battlefield 1943, this is another multiplayer exclusive first person shooter on Xbox Live Arcade. Much like my review of that one from back in Feburary...I'm a not a fan. I am a firm believer in the fact that shooters like this one need an offline campaign to get you familiar with the game, and "ready" to play multiplayer.

Sure, I loved the Halo Reach Multiplayer beta, but that's because I've been playing Halo for years. I was familiar with the universe, and ready to jump in without any training. Even though there were new weapons and levels, I didn't need to "learn" it. Blacklight Tango Down is a brand new game, and getting immediately thrown into the multiplayer (with no option to learn anything first) is a big turnoff for me.

In my first match in this game, I went 8-19 (kills to deaths). My team still won by three points despite my piss-poor performance, so I was able to earn the "noob" achievement....but I don't really feel like I accomplished very much.

From time to time...I have "Halo parties" at my house. The folks that show up to these are generally big fans of the game, who bring their systems and sometimes their televisions. We hook them all up to a network and play some big 16 player matches. Without fail, there are always a few people who come to these parties who don't play Halo at all, they just like parties. They are usually the "easy kills", and a kill to death ratio of 8-19 would probably be pretty impressive for them.

Unless a game is awesome (like Call of Duty or something), I'm not comfortable jumping right into the multiplayer and getting owned. It would be like playing Street Fighter 4 in the arcades against someone who's awesome as you continued to lose your cash. I'd rather ramp my skills up before joining competitive modes. This game doesn't offer that...so I'm out.

Overall score? 4/10. For an arcade title, this is actually pretty robust as far as the multiplayer goes. Fairly nice graphics, but frankly....I'm not willing to spend any time with it. There's no campaign here, and if I'm going to play competitive multiplayer, there's nothing more compelling here for me than there is in a ton of games I already own (and would rather play). While I can appreciate what they're trying to do here, I don't anticipate playing this one again.

Achievement? I'm a noob.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Video game number one hundred and ninety four: Crackdown 2

Video game review number one hundred and ninety four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Crackdown 2".

According to xbox.com, the last time I played the original Crackdown was in 2007. It was a fantastic game, and I had a great time with it. At first, this game was kind of a "sleeper" hit, considering most people only bought it to get their hands on the Halo 3 multiplayer beta. Over time, I think people realized that it was actually pretty good...and most people I know remember it fondly.

Three years later, the sequel has arrived...and this time, it's no sleeper. Crackdown 2 was one of my more highly anticipated games this year. I loved the first one, and I couldn't wait for this to come out. After popping it into my console, I feel like I stepped into a time machine.

Suddenly, I'm back in the familiar location of Pacific City, jumping around...looking for orbs and shooting bad guys again. There are some new twists (orbs that run away from you, some new weapons and vehicles) but basically...this feels just like the last one. I'm reminded of the Grand Theft Auto sequels, where they always feel "familiar", but always a little better too.

This is by no means as awesome as the leap from GTA III to GTA IV was, but it's definitely a good sequel. After a brief tutorial, I was leveling up my agent by finding orbs and killing bad guys...and I can see how that's once again going to be very addictive. The battles were still as annoying as hell, and I was getting surrounded by the inhabitants of Pacific city incredibly quickly.

You can pull some crazy stunts in this game, either with cars or on foot (depending on the power of your character). The engine is pretty ridiculous once you're all powered up. You can pick up cars, throw them, stick them to walls...etc, etc. You can jump 5-10 feet at first, 15 feet later, and eventually...over 20. It makes you sort of like Spider Man, and it's a lot of fun.

Driving the agent buggy is still an insane ride (and super fun). The first time I got behind the wheel, I started doing donuts in the middle of crowds of bad guys, with the turret going the whole time. If the folks in Dawn of the Dead has the Agency Buggy...they'd all still be alive right now.

Jumping from place to place is still pretty addictive....and even though my character isn't powerful enough to make insane jumps yet, it's still fun...even as a beginner. I'm not sure what else I can say. It's good to be back in this universe again. If you haven't played this series before, you owe it to yourself to try this one out. If you enjoyed the first one....you'll be welcomed back like no time has passed at all.

Overall Score? 8/10. This is a really good game. It's not groundbreaking as far as sequels go, but it's awesome just the same. Clearly, they felt they had a winning formula and chose not to mess with it very much. I imagine I'll be dumping hours into this one eventually. I really like the co-op modes (you can set your game to allow anyone to join, or play only with friends). I plan to start jumping around with my buddies as soon as I earn myself some better skills.

Achievements? Got quite a few so far:


Video game review number one hundred and ninety three: The secret of Monkey Island

Video game review number one hundred and ninety three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "The Secret of Monkey Island".

Almost exactly 20 years ago, I played a little game call Maniac Mansion for the NES. This was my first text-based adventure game. It was one of my favorite games on the NES, and I must have beaten it at least a dozen times (no less than twice with each character). Had I discovered Monkey Island around this time, I think I might have been in heaven, but alas....I did not.

Fast forward to today. Monkey Island 2 has been released on Xbox Live Arcade. I see lots of people are excited about this, and I figured I'd pop in the original to give that a try. Frankly, I simply don't see what all the fuss is about.

You can read my review of Monster Hunter Tri to get a better understanding how I feel about RPGs in general. I realize this isn't an RPG by defintion, but man...all it is is talking. You walk into a room, you choose one of 9 verbs (open, walk, talk, use, etc, etc) and click A. If you're talking to someone, they'll say something, then you'll have a choice to give one of four responses. You do this until the conversation is done, and then you move on to the next one. It's like Mass Effect, without any of the gameplay.

Like some other "retro" arcade game updates, you're able to switch the game from the new updated graphics to the originals. I actually found the original text and still image cut scenes to have a little more character than the new one. At least when you play it in "old school mode" you can remember the days when games like this were considered "amazing". When you go to the modern mode, you have a bunch of third rate voice actors reading you the dialog. Regardless of the mode you choose, the game is all just a text story with absolutely no action whatsoever. IMHO, this is great for books....not so much for video games.

Overall score? 2/10. Blasphemous? Maybe...but I spent less time with this one than almost any game I've reviewed yet. 22 minutes in total. It's a funny story, but honestly...when I play a game, I want to play a game. This game is more like a book on tape. It's basically a lot of talking during poorly rendered cut scenes. I didn't care that all of the games 200 gamerscore can be earned in under 3 hours if you skip the cut scenes...I just wanted to be done with it and never play it again. Why is not a one or a zero? Because I didn't hate it....it was just...too boring. I recognize that teenage me would have gotten a huge kick out of this. If you had a connection to this game in your youth, you'll probably love it...but I did not. If they ever re-release Maniac Mansion, that's going to be a whole different story.

Achievements? This is pretty pathetic, but after 22 minutes, what can you expect? I got one...for pressing the back button and playing this game in the old school mode. There was an achievement for performing the "three trials"..but I didn't finish that. It was too much work. :-)

Video game number one hundred and ninety two: Puzzle Quest 2

Video game review number one hundred and ninety two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Puzzle Quest 2".

The first Puzzle Quest remains one of my favorite games to play on my Nintendo DS. I had never heard of it, until one day I was reading Penny Arcade and they were going on and on about it. At that time, it was only available in import shops, and I was down at Emerald City Comic Con that weekend, so I picked up a copy from Pink Godzilla.

This game is exactly like that game, with a little more flair. It's still all about the puzzles, and you still have a character that can cast spells and stuff based on which colors you are able to line up. There's still a story (and I still don't care much about it), but the map is a little more robust now. It almost reminds me of one of the early Zelda games, in that you can mostly only interact with people that are part of your quest.

I'm a big fan of puzzle games (and Puzzle Quest in general) so this game doesn't disappoint. The desire to level up my character (which you do by completing puzzles better than your opponents) is still pretty strong. It's kind of addictive, and I could see myself playing this whenever I have a little spare time.

Overall Score? 7.5/10. If it isn't broke, don't fix it. What they've done here is basically made a few mild tweaks to a good formula and cranked out a decent sequel. I don't mind that it's not brand spanking new, because it's still fun. I suppose the million dollar question is this: If you already have the original, do you need the sequel? I suppose the answer depends on your level of fandom.

Achievements? Ok...these are nuts. The majority of them are going to be really hard to get (they have ones like "Beat an opponent when you have only 1 piece of health left" and stuff. Crazy achievements. So far...I've played 8 or 9 missions, and I have just one:

Friday, July 02, 2010

Video game number one hundred and ninety one: Resistance 2

Video game review number one hundred and ninety one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Resistance 2".

I am not sure whether or not I will ever be able to be a big fan of shooters on the PS3. For me, it's difficult to enjoy playing them on a PS3 controller. It's almost as difficult as it was when I first switched from the keyboard and mouse on a PC to a controller for Halo on the Xbox. I'm not giving up, because I'm aware that these transitions can take a while.

Resistance 2 has some potential...as in minutes, I've already become comfortable with the controls, even though the triggers are STILL not the fire buttons. While it's still a little clunky to move around at times, I feel like I'm getting the hang of it.

The game itself is pretty interesting. It's the classic humans vs. aliens scenario, on a pretty large scale. The story takes place in the 1950's (I think), and you're armed with a mix of human and alien weapons. Sometimes, you have an old fashioned machine gun or a revolver....and sometimes, you get some sort of bad-ass plasma thing to shoot aliens with.

Whenever you're outside, you can look up in the sky and see huge ships invading the city you're trying to defend. More than one mission took me aboard one of those ships, and I have to say...it was not disappointing.

Most of the enemies you fight are mindless two-hit alien zombies, but you'll also come across little spider-things and occasionally, a huge monster that will be more than a little bit difficult to put down. Among the many stats it tracks, this game features a death counter, and so far I've died over 40 times.

The levels are all different, except for the fact that you have to shoot at waves of enemies until you get to a boss of some kind. Each boss so far has been pretty different, and while I don't want to spoil any of the fights, I will say I had a particular favorite....and it was an airborne battle.

Overall Score? 7.5/10. Definitely a good shooter...and for the first time, I have no big complaints about the controls on the PS3. I'm not sure whether or not I'll beat this game before I return it...but right now, I'm having fun with it. It's starting to get a little bit repetitive, but not in a terrible way. Definitely a good adventure, and I think it's worth playing.

Trophies: Here are the first few I've earned. I plan to earn some more. :-)

Video game number one hundred and ninety: Monster Hunter Tri

Video game review number one hundred and ninety in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Monster Hunter Tri".

I never played the first two Monster Hunters. I only got interested in this game when I saw a great commercial for it on TV. Hunting awesome dinosaurs, dragons...winged creatures? It looked..interesting. And it would be....were it not an RPG.

I've opened up several games during this challenge having absolutely no idea what they were about. Some have pleasantly surprised me....and others....well, this is why I should really read a little before I start playing.

This game starts with some interesting cinematics showcasing some good old fashioned monster hunting. There are dinosaurs, and then dragons eat them, and then something bigger eats the dragon. It's the stuff great game commercials are made of. You really want to hunt these monsters.

After the movies, but before the game begins, you're given the option to create your character. I chose a redhead in a bikini, and gave her a "Great Sword". From this point....it pretty much went downhill.

The game opens in a village. There' a LOT of text. The computer characters all spoke to me in gender-neutral pronouns (calling me "hero" and stuff, instead of by my character's name). Is this an RPG I wondered? The 5 minutes of dialog that followed gave me my answer. I started rapid pressing A, like a little kid, just waiting for the game to start...but it never did. You hike a few feet, there's a loading screen, more text...then you hike a few more feet and repeat.

Eventually, I saw some monsters and it was time to hunt them. It's a Wii game, I was rocking the nunchuck, so I was pretty sure that I was going to be doing some motion control stuff. Sure enough, in no time...I was swinging the Wiimote around, hacking at a dinosaur. This was actually a game where swinging the controller sort of made sense. It wasn't so bad, and I actually thought this part of the game was fun.

After the hunt, there was more walking, and more text. Then more walking...and (you guessed it)..more text.

There is a reason that there haven't been many RPGs in this challenge. I'm skipping them on purpose, because generally...I hate them. I was very aware when Final Fantasy 13 came out earlier this year. It was a huge release, and if there was a high quality RPG to try, that might have been it. I knew it probably wouldn't be my bag...and that it required a huge time investment, so I didn't even go down that road. Sure, I'm expanding my horizons with this challenge, but even my horizons have limits.

There was Resonance of Fate and at least two or three other RPGs, but I skipped those as well. I've played a few RPG crossovers and they've turned out to be great....but when it's a plain old text based RPG, I skip it. On purpose.

I should have skipped this one. Had I known what kind of game it was going to be, I would have ignored it....and saved myself the time. Other sites are rating this game with eights and above...but I am assuming they have RPG fans on the staff. I do not.

Overall Score? 1/10. Awful, horrible, boring, lame. If you like Japanese role playing games, your mileage will certainly vary....but I am not able to be unbiased in my review on this. Not a bit. The action sequences in this game are sprinkled between long walks and even longer conversations, where all you do is read text and press A. This is the stuff dreams are made of....in that you'll probably fall asleep while you're playing it.

Next!