Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Video game number two hundred and fifty four: Ape Escape: On the Loose

Video game review number two hundred and fifty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Ape Escape: On the Loose"

I played this game under what are quite possibly some of the best conditions one can play a PSP game in. I was home sick from work, stuck in my bed, and nothing good was on TV. I didn't feel like going to the couch to play one of my console games, so a PSP game sounded very nice. One that is completely centered around catching monkeys didn't sound terrible to me, so I booted up Ape Escape.

Right off the bat, this game is incredibly Japanese. It starts out with an opening cinematic that is probably only familiar to folks who have previously played the series (I have not). It didn't make much sense, but it was cute enough...and I could follow the basic premise: The Monkeys, they are on the loose. Go catch them.

I met some professor and he introduced me to the tools I'd be using to catch the monkeys. I had a net, a monkey "whacking" stick, and an underwater net. Cool. I set out to catch my first monkey.

The monkeys have sirens on their heads that activate when you get to close. I imagine this is not a factory installed feature, because I've never seen a monkey with a siren before. I've heard monkeys that sound like sirens, so maybe Monkeys only wear them every once in awhile, when we aren't looking.

Anyway...I was able to catch monkeys on land, under water....and even once in mid-air. These monkeys are no match for me. Hitting them with the stick slows them down, and then all you have to do is net them. Rinse and repeat.

Unfortunately, that's pretty much all there is to this game. The monkeys run from you, you chase them and catch them. The graphics, and the gameplay remind me a lot of these stupid rabbits you had to catch in Super Mario 64. You'd chase them all over the place, and they'd eventually give you a star or something. Ape Escape is exactly like that. I needed to play only three or four levels before I was done with it.

Overall Score? 4/10. I've played much better games on the PSP lately. Loco Roco anyone? If I may adapt an old expression, one thing is for sure: This game is less fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Video game number two hundred and fifty three: Loco Roco 2

Video game review number two hundred and fifty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Loco Roco 2"

Earlier this month, I played and reviewed the original Loco Roco. It was a great game, and so is this one. In fact, this game feels almost exactly like the original, with a few new features to keep it fresh. They followed the recipe for success in a good sequel, and I enjoyed several hours playing this one.

You are still a little ball of goo that becomes bigger by running over flowers. You still move yourself through openings that are too small for you by turning yourself into a bunch of smaller pieces (pressing the circle button). There are a couple of new people to talk to and the map is a little different now.

There are two new additions to the gameplay. One are these notes that you collect and the other is a "beat matching" musical game where you sing a little song to get passed certain blocking points. Notes will come up on the screen, and you must hit a button in perfect time to the harmony (like DDR). It fits right in with this series.

I actually received this game over the weekend, but I wanted to have more time with it, so I kept it for a few days. It's a lot of fun, and one that I want to add to my PSP game collection (after I beat the original).

Overall Score? 8.5/10. Just like the original, just as fun. The only reason I'm not scoring it quite as high is it looks and plays just almost exactly like the original. It could be an expansion pack, and you wouldn't know it. It's still a great game...and I don't want them to change the formula for number three......maybe just polish it up a bit.

Video game number two hundred and fifty two: Tokobot

Video game review number two hundred and fifty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Tokobot"

Tokobot is a PSP game that was recommended for me by Gamefly based on other games that I have rented. For some reason, they thought I'd enjoy a game with a bunch of cute little robots that follow this dude around and help him fight bad guys.

I guess it sort of does sound like something I'd like.

Anyway, you start out with six of these Tokobots, and (similar to the game Overlord), they are your minions. You order them to line up and become a ladder, smack people, do jumping attacks or spinning helicopter attacks. It's your basic platformer, but instead of fighting, you use these guys to do your fighting for you. It probably sounds a little more awesome than it actually is.

The graphics are nice and the game has a pretty good soundtrack, but the gameplay gets old pretty darn quick. Unlike the minions in Overlord, you can't really send your Tokobots off to do your bidding on their own, you have to manually control them. It's sort of a novelty at first, but it quickly gets annoying to have to form your crew of Tokobots up and then hold two different buttons down just to perform any attack. Pressing two buttons simultaneously at exactly the right time just to perform even the most basic attack is not fun (imagine having to press two buttons every time you wanted Mario to jump, and you'll get the idea).

Moving the Tokobots around is also awkward. There are only a handful of different "formations" you can walk in, and none of them are ideal. When you're walking in "V" formation, all your Tokobots are in a line, and it's really hard to steer them and move at the same time. When you're in "U" formation, they're in a straight line on either side of you, which means going through doors is tough. There's also a circle formation, but the attack for that one only works on enemies that are already downed, so walking around like that is dumb.

Overall Score? 5/10. There's nothing really great about this game, and I didn't feel like playing for more than a few levels. It's pretty average and is definitely more of a rental than a purchase. As someone once said: Come on folks, nothing to see here. Move along.

Video game number two hundred and fifty one: Soul Calibur Legends

Video game review number two hundred and fifty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Soul Calibur Legends"

Soul Calibur Legends is one of the only Soul Calibur games that I have never played, and I have to admit, it was due to prejudice about how much it was going to suck to control on the Wii. Still, Gamefly sends out as many games as I can play, so I figured: Why not try this game? After all, the PSP version was surprisingly good.

Unfortunately, instead of providing an unexpected surprise, this game continues in a long tradition of games on the Wii that aren't any fun, because all you do is shake the remote around like a moron and hope that something registers.

Honestly...I have no idea how anyone who's ever liked a Soul Calibur game could ever enjoy this piece of crap. It's a cheap grab for cash prostituting some awesome characters in the Fisher Price world of the Nintendo Wii. It's taking advantage of the crappy "shake the Wiimote" gimmick, because they think people like that stuff, but it's not made for fans of the series at all. Just people who like the stupid gimmicky Wii controls. Imagine a Street Fighter game where you tap on a shoe box to control the fighting action, and you'll have some idea of how awful this game is.

This is the most disappointing misuse of good intellectual property since the movie "Superman Returns".

Overall Score? 3/10. Absolutely terrible. Avoid this game at all costs, it has rabies, and it wants to bite you in the crotch.

Video game number two hundred and fifty: Race Pro

Video game review number two hundred and fifty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Race Pro"

After all those bullshit Tomb Raider games, I needed to play something fun and light. I chose a race game that I'd not really heard anything about, figuring it would be fun to drive for a few minutes. My feeling was not wrong. This game was fun, for a few minutes.

Race Pro is to racing games what McDonald's is to fine hamburgers. Yes, you can play Race Pro and claim that your desires to have a good time driving cars in a video game are being met, but you'd only be kidding yourself. There are many, MANY racing games out there...and I would have a hard time thinking of one that I wouldn't recommend you try before trying this.

Actually, that's not true. Crash Time was a worse racing game than this one. Ah yes, how quickly we forget the crap.

Ok, so why does this game suck? Let me count the ways:

You have no handbrake. I have become accustomed to e-braking my way around hairpin turns in racing games (or at least using the e-brake as an assist as I approach a turn). This game has no e-brake. Hitting the A-button shows you the cars behind you for some reason.

Braking is atrocious. Seriously, if you're coming to any turn that needs to be taken at under 40mph, you almost have to stop your car to navigate it. I have never played a racing game with worse cornering than this one has.

The sounds. I believe they were trying to add a "wind" sound effect, or maybe tires on asphalt, but the result sounds like the games sound effects are being played on a record player, with a worn out needle on a scratched record. OR....being played on a TV that's set to the wrong channel, so you have static mixed in. HORRIBLE sounds.

Graphics: Terrible. Project Gotham Racing 2 for the original Xbox is a better looking game than this game and it's over 7 years old.

Fun factor: Ok, if you want 1000 easy gamerscore (and you can find someone online to play against), this is the game for you. It is incredibly easy to beat the shitty computer racers, even on the "Pro" difficulty. I was able to rack up some achievements on novice, so I turned it up, and up again...and I won my first race on pro without any difficulty whatsoever. If I wanted to grind, I'm confident I could have another couple of hundred of points in an hour or two on this, but I don't want to play it anymore. Driving the race cars in this game is like driving a cement truck in Grand Theft Auto. It feels NOTHING like a racing game is supposed to. Getting a lot of achievements easily is always nice, but it's simply not a fun game.

Overall Score? 2/10. Terrible. This thing is selling for 14.99 used. I'd rather children spend 15 bucks buying boxes of leftover Peeps from Easter, and trying to eat as many as they can. If it doesn't kill them, I assume the vomiting that follows will be more of a memorable experience than playing this game would have been.

Achievements? The one thing this game has going for it? Easy gamerscore.

Video game number two hundred and forty nine: Tomb Raider Underworld

Video game review number two hundred and forty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Tomb Raider Underworld"

This will be the last of this week's Tomb Raider marathon, and the end couldn't come quick enough. I actually thought I might take a break from Tomb Raider games after that last one, but I decided that I should push through it, so I could enjoy the rest of my weekend of gaming. I like to think of it like eating all the vegetables on your plate first, then savoring the main course that you've left for yourself.

Tomb Raider Underworld takes place after the last game. The one I hated. It opens with Lara Croft blowing up the mansion, which I actually didn't mind, because I had spend so much time flipping around in there trying to find the damn artifacts. It was actually satisfying to watch it burn to the ground in the opening scenes of this game...although I imagine it's not supposed to be.

I made my way through the fiery remains of Lara Crofts annoying home, by way of a "tutorial" that teaches you the basic moves of the character. Even though I should be familiar with them by now, I still managed to burn myself to death no less than 5 or 6 times, because of the shitty jumping controls.

I got the achievement for beating the prologue, and while I should have quit right then and there, I felt that 10 minutes was not enough time to give the game an honest shake. I moved on to the next level.

Lara is in some kind of vinyl one piece bathing suit (best outfit yet), because she's about to go diving. This is the beginning of what is quite possibly the worst "water level" in any video game I have ever played.

You dive down, with no map and no aim, trying to find a cave, only I had no idea that was my goal. There is an on screen hint that tells you what you need to do (if you click it) but even that wasn't much help. I have no idea how Joe Average player is supposed to know where to dive, so I went to the net, and found a guide.

With this trusty guide, I was able to traverse the murky, blue/gray water to find the cave that I needed to go to. The cave opening was hiding in the midst of giant (similarly colored) underwater rocks, and honestly....without the guide, I'm not sure how long I would have had to explore before I had found it. The underwater graphics are shit, and the only thing you can truly distinguish from the rest of the enviornment is Lara Crofts ass, which you get to stare out while you swim endlessly around in this shit-tactular level.

Eventually, you enter the cave, and after collecting some artifacts (including one that must be collected from another cave altogether), you eventually find dry land once again. I got stuck when I entered a room with a giant Kraken in it, so I consulted the guide again to find the solution to one of the more convoluted puzzles I've seen in an adventure game. First you have to find and flip some switches, shoot some chains (in VERY specific places with no onscreen indicator that they must be fired upon) and finally pull some levers in order to kill this giant sea creature (who is blocking your exit). Never mind the fact you're carrying your trademark double pistols and a spear gun....this way is supposedly more fun.

By the time I killed him, I didn't want to play anymore. It had been an hour, and I was ready to quit...but I wanted to see how close I was to the end of the level. I consulted the guide.

Not very.

I quit.

Overall Score? 4/10. Again, this type of game is not my cup of tea, and I don't think I'll ever come back to it again. I must admit that when I was on land, it was marginally better than the last one, but only by a tiny, tiny degree. Honestly, I have no idea how anyone beats these without strategy guides, and if so...WHY? How is it fun? It just doesn't compute for me.

Achievements? More than the last two. That's good at least.

Video game number two hundred and forty eight: Lara Croft Tomb Raider Anniversary

Video game review number two hundred and forty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Lara Croft Tomb Raider Anniversary"

This will be my second Tomb Raider game so far this weekend (and my third so far this week). So far, the prospect of trying to play all of the ones I could find available for the Xbox has been a little more interesting than actually playing them.

Actually, that's not true...the first one was awesome.

These second two on the other hand, have been..... not so awesome.

I suppose I should start off this review by saying something nice, only...I am having a hard time thinking of something to say. I suppose I must complement the graphics on this one. Lara Croft is looking much less "blocky" than she did in the previous game (or the PC games before that one).

I set out on my adventure, only to realize that it's a lot more jumping (nothing but as a matter of fact), and is basically a clone of everything I hated about the last game. I wondered how the hell I was going to get an achievement in this game for my challenge, as they all involve collecting ALL of the artifacts for a level (not happening), or beating the game (no way). I decided to play Croft Manor, because I read that you could get an achievement for beating all the challenges there. How hard could it be to find all the artifacts in a mansion?

Pretty hard.

First of all, you have to run to every single room about twice. Each room has a jumping puzzle, and some of them are so annoying, I was actually cursing at the TV a bit. There's this one room with some statues in it, and I must have tried to the same jump 5 or 6 times before I finally made it. Another room (the gym) had a jump combined with a grappling hook launch that took me at least 6 times (and one death) to navigate.

I hear that later, you can get achievements for doing "time trials" of these incredibly lame jumps. Fuck that noise.

I finished the level (in what I think took a pretty long time)...and got my stupid achievement. I don't plan to play this again.

Overall Score? 4/10. While this one improved upon the last game graphically, and fixed the annoying cameras a bit, it's still just a damn jumping puzzle game at heart, and I hate these. I didn't enjoy any of my time playing this. I spent almost 2 hours playing before I realized I wasn't going to get any achievements that way, and when I switched to the manor, I didn't enjoy any of that either. Sorry Lara, this game is not my cup of tea.

Here's my one stupid achievement:

Video game number two hundred and forty seven: World Series of Poker 2008

Video game review number two hundred and forty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "World Series of Poker 2008"

I've played some poker in my day. While I'm not the kind to throw my cash away in casinos against the pros, I have played for real money against friends, played for prizes against co-workers, and once or twice...I've even played for articles of clothing against intoxicated people. Whenever there's something real to lose (money, prizes or shorts)....I tend to play pretty conservatively. When it's just money on the computer....it's always fun to be a little more risky.

That's how I've been playing this evening.

I started playing this game almost immediately after finishing up with the disappointing Tomb Raider Legend, and I've been playing for almost four hours now.

I started by playing offline for awhile, but ended up in the online rooms as usual. It's pretty fun playing against people online. Unlike the computer, they don't seem to be able to predict your cards, and unlike the computer, sometimes they'll go all in no matter what kind of crappy cards they have.

Anyway...there's nothing particularly innovative about this game. If you have no poker games, this would be a good one to have. On the other hand, so would any other poker game. It's really hard to tell them apart. They all have the same casts of characters (if they are "official"). This particular one has all the folks I've seen in all the other games, except it also had Jennifer Tilly, who was a new edition as far as I know. I suppose it should get a slight edge for having a celebrity in it...and I won a "Jennifer Tilly Chip" for knocking her out of an offline tournament.

I'm not sure how to rate this one. It's good value for the money (you can play these games forever before you beat them). Last I checked, this is selling for about 15 bucks at Gamestop. On the other hand, for 800 MS Points, you can buy Texas Hold Em on Xbox Live Arcade. That's about 10 bucks. What's the extra 5 dollars for? Jennifer Tilly? 800 extra gamerscore? I can't really tell you.

Overall Score? 5/10. It's not bad, it's not great...it's just...average. Exactly what I expected.

Achievements: I only got two so far.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Video game number two hundred and forty six: Tomb Raider: Legend

Video game review number two hundred and forty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Tomb Raider: Legend"

After playing and reviewing the newest Tomb Raider game the other day, I decided to go back and try a few of the old ones, just to see if I was missing anything good. After all, I kind of liked Guardian of Light, it's pretty fun.

This was a bad one to start off with.

First of all, the graphics are definitely sub-par. I suppose that's because the one I chose is from 2006. Back then, this kind of game might have been decent. By today's standard's (or at least, by my standard's), it's looking pretty crappy. It's also not very fun at all.

The game begins with jumping puzzles galore. You start out on a cliff, you climb the cliff, then you climb some vines, then you shoot some people and climb some more. After about 20 minutes of climbing, I was already sick of this damn game, and I know I was only halfway through the first level.

Luckily, I had been picking up the shiny gold things, and just about then....I unlocked my first achievement, as well as a nice little dilemma to go along with it:

Technically, I have fulfilled the requirements for the challenge. I've played the game long enough to get one stupid achievement, and I already know I don't like it. At least so far. I now have two options.

Option 1: Continue playing, see if the game gets any better...and spend more of my precious gaming hours on a game I'm not really enjoying.

Option 2: Call it a day for Tomb Raider Legend, and try a different, possibly better game.

Seeing as how I have a fat stack of different (possibly better) games waiting for me this weekend....I am going with option 2.

Overall Score? 4/10. No, I didn't play this one very much...but I don't think you have to drink a gallon of rotten milk to know it tastes bad. The camera was shit, the graphics were blocky, it was nothing but a bunch of jumping....and I want to move on to something else. This won't be my last Tomb Raider game, just my last one for tonight.

Achievement Unlocked:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Video game number two hundred and forty five: Schizoid

Video game review number two hundred and forty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Schizoid"

According to a screen that comes up just before you quit the game and return to the dashboard: "Schizoid is the most co-op game ever"

They're not lying.

This morning I woke up a little early, and despite the fact I have a huge stack of games I could be playing for my little project here, I decided to lie down on the couch and play some good old Geometry Wars 2 on the big screen TV. I had a craving to play just for fun, and that game always delivers.

This isn't the first time I've squandered precious gaming hours either. Just last night I played some Split Second. Sure, I've already reviewed it, and it didn't earn me any progress towards my 365 games this year, but I'm trying not to forget that sometimes it's fun to play a video game because you actually want to, and not because you need to for some insane project.

Why did I bring up Geometry Wars? Because this game...is no Geometry Wars.

Schizoid is a twin stick shooter, and oddly enough, in some modes, each stick controls a different ship. Crazy right?

Here's the premise: This game features two ships, a red one and a blue one. The blue one can only destroy blue enemies, and the red one can only destroy red enemies. In concept, it's simple enough, but obviously, this means you're going to have to work together to clear screens filled with multi-colored enemies. When you play by yourself, you helm the blue ship, and the computer controls the red one. The computer sucks ass as a partner, so it's easy to die when playing alone.

Alternatively, you can choose to play a mode where you control both ships at the same time by yourself. One stick controls the blue ship, and the other controls the red. This is incredibly hard, especially if you're one of those people who can't pat your tummy and rub your head at the same time. It's VERY easy to get confused and crash one of your ships by accident.

I think this game is designed to ONLY be played with two players, either on two separate controllers, or working together with one person on each stick of a single controller. I don't feel like I can give it an decent review until I've at least tried playing it co-op...so this review is to be continued.

Update 8-29-10

It's been a few days, but today I convinced Heather to give this game a try with me. She wasn't very excited about it (not a fan of space combat games), but she played anyway. I told her we had to do about 5 levels to get an achievement.

"Five levels?" she said.
"Don't worry, they are really short levels". I assured her.

We beat the first one together with a gold medal (not too hard since there are only two enemies on this one). The second level was just as easy, but the third gave us a little trouble. By the time we made it to the fifth level, she was getting the hang of it, and in a couple of tries, we were both able to earn an achievement together. I always like those achievements the best.

Overall Score? As a single player game, this is a 6/10. It's a little better than average because it's interesting, nothing special...and it's something I'd suggest skipping. As a multiplayer game (co-op anyway), it's better...and I can imagine this being a really challenging game for two players who really enjoyed it. The trouble is, you have to meet that second person first. Seeing as how I don't enjoy it enough to go searching for someone who really enjoys the game, my score stands.

Achievements: I got two, one of them this evening with Heather.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Video game number two hundred and forty five: Shank

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

Shank is a side scrolling "beat-em-up" game done in a really cool animation style. It looks a lot like a comic book, and the cinematics between each level are actually entertaining in a comic-booky sort of way. It's got a lot of weapon variety, a TON of enemies to kill...and some frustratingly difficult bosses that you'll have to play over and over again while learning the patterns.

The game begins with a story that reminded me a lot of Double Dragon. Big muscle man picks your girlfriend up over his shoulder and steals her away...you must pursue and kick the asses of every single one of his friends before you can win her back.

Sounds a little like the Scott Pilgrim game too, I suppose, except the only thing that's really "retro" about this game is that scene.

As I mentioned above, you have lots of weapons in this game, including some knives, double pistols and the chainsaw. There was an achievement for getting 100 chainsaw kills, so I stayed with that initially, until I discovered that the shotgun and "shanks" both work better. Go figure.

I beat the first level in only a couple of lives, and only died the one time because I had a little trouble with the first boss. The bosses are very "pattern" based, so once I figured out his attacks, I beat him easily.

The second level introduced the shotgun, which I carried around for the entire level...and enjoyed a lot. It knocks people back a lot better than the pistols did. There are attack dogs in the second level, and I found them hard to kill and incredibly annoying. Finally...I slaughtered my way to the end boss (an army jeep), which kept killing me over and over again. I kept trying and failing to beat this guy, until I figured out that I needed to ditch the shotgun and use my pistols to beat it. After that, I did it on the first try.

I was enjoying this game, so I continued on through the 5th level, unlocking new weapons and killing bad guys all the way. I began to feel that the story was becoming more of a tale of revenge than one of "saving the princess" (sort of like Kill Bill) which made it all the more interesting. There are a lot of blood and guts in this game, but ultimately...it's pretty simple to pick up and play for awhile, which is the mark of a great arcade game. I can totally see myself playing this whenever I have a few spare minutes.

Overall Score? 8.5/10. I really like this one. It's a lot better than the Scott Pilgrim game and also more enjoyable than most of the other beat-em-ups on Xbox Live that I've played. It doesn't actually feel like an arcade game, but the price is right in line with the rest of them...and I think it's definitely worth picking up. I predict that I'll be playing this one all the way to the end.

Achievements: Here's what I have so far.

Video game number two hundred and forty four: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game

Video game review number two hundred and forty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game"

I played Scott Pilgrim the game after reading a review on Joystiq. Reading their review of this game, one must assume this is either the best movie video game of all time, or the reviewer had just been serviced by several of Ubisoft's "Frag Dolls" (TM) sent out by the publisher to keep the reviewer company while he wrote his review. I'm specifically picturing the scene from Swordfish where Hugh Jackman is working on his laptop while being pleasured by some girl that works for John Travolta. Had something like that actually happened, I could totally understand the glowing review the guy wrote for this game.

I had no "visitors" while playing this, so I'm not sure I can echo his enthusiastic comments, particularly:

"So, yeah, this is awesome stuff. I couldn't recommend it more highly, especially at 10 bucks, and I'm sure you'll be telling everyone you know the same after you clear the first stage (if not sooner)"

Frankly, my first try at getting through the first stage resulted in a nasty game freeze in the middle of one of the "bonus stages". As I was racking up the coins, the screen froze here:




The only way I could recover was to completely shut off my console and start it up again. When I restarted, naturally...I lost all my progress, so I had to begin on the first level all over again. That's not something I'm going to rush out and tell my friends about (though, I probably just did with this review).

My second pass through the first stage was a little easier (I had learned some of the special moves)...but for the most part, I progressed at about the same speed. I was pretty frustrated to learn that at the point where my game froze, I was almost to the end of the first area (and the first game save). Damn....but oh well.

I got to the end, and beat the first boss...presumably, one of the girlfriend's seven exes that you have to defeat to win the game (and the girl, I guess). The fight was exactly the kind of boss fight I was expecting in a game like this, and I conquered it without incident.

This game is made to be a four player game, yet it doesn't support online multiplayer. I'm really not sure what is up with that, and I can't remember the last time I had four people over to my house to play anything besides Rock Band or Halo. I'm not sure if they'd be excited to play Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game or not, but maybe the next time I have four people over...I'll ask. Until then, I'll only get to experience the single player mode.

I suppose I shouldn't continue on as if the single player mode is somehow a bad thing. This is actually a really cool game with retro-styled graphics, and a classic video game soundtrack. If you're "old school", this game is perfect, and if you want to play something that feels old school without actually being old school, this is definitely a good choice.

Like all the NES beat-em-ups, you have some special moves, and you pick up coins on the street to buy food to heal your character. Standard stuff. What's not so standard, is that you can pick up just about everything in the environment to use as a weapon. If this game had come out in 1990, I think I would have crapped my pants from the overload of awesome. Today, it just makes me feel all nostalgic about the days of old...and I enjoyed playing it. I'll probably beat this one, though I won't be in a big hurry to do so.

My overall score is a 7/10. It's not the perfect rating that the Joystiq guy gave this game, but it's still pretty good. I like it...but I don't love it. The game is better than average, but it seems that it was designed for four players (locally, not online) and for me...that's cause for points deduction, not points addition. Perhaps online co-op will be added later, at which point I'd totally bump this score up a little. Until then, it's a solo-mission, which is ok...because that's how games were when I was a teenager.

Achievements? Aye matey...I have a couple. Most of them come later in the game, so I imagine that I will be getting more. For now, here's what I was able to get.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Video game number two hundred and forty three: Let's Tap

Video game review number two hundred and forty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Let's Tap"

Let's Tap is one of the weirdest video games I have ever played. First of all, you don't use the Wiimote to play this, you use a shoe box. Or at least, that's what I used. One of my shoe boxes I happened to have left over from a purchase at Big 5 Sporting Goods a few months back.

This probably sounds like a joke, but it's not. You're supposed to place the controller on a box (they recommend a tissue box, but a shoe box worked for me). You're supposed to put the Wiimote into the "Jacket" to keep it from moving around, and then you lightly tap the box to control whatever is on the screen.

Such a weird, weird way to play...but it's definitely interesting.

The game consists of 5 mini games:

Tap Runner. This game was all about using your fingers to run and jump. Playing this one reminded me a little of playing Track and Field for the original Nintendo by using the power pad on the floor with my hands. When I did that in the late 80's, I was totally cheating. In Tap Runner, that's just how you play.

Rhythm Tap This game was basically DDR for your fingers. You tap along to songs, and the only thing you have to worry about is hitting the box too hard (which can knock the remote off). It's a lot easier to keep the beat with your fingers than it is with your feet on a dance mat, that's for sure.

Silent Blocks This was a block tower game sort of like Jenga. You tap lightly to help remove blocks from this pile without knocking it down. There's another mode of this game called alchemist, where you try to remove certain colored blocks to make matches with other colors, racking up combos and points. It's really hard, but this one was one of my favorites. I could see playing the 4 player version of it and having it be just as fun as real Jenga. Come to think of it, I've never actually played the real Jenga at a party...even though I have an unopened set of Donkey Kong Jenga Blocks. I'm totally playing it the next time people come over.

Bubble Voyager is a platformer, and you control a guy who looks like a cross between Mega Man and Strongbad. You tap the shoebox to make him fly (the screen auto-magically scrolls to the right). Tapping (or not tapping) assists in moving your character up or down to avoid hazards. You can shoot missles by double tapping, and your goal is simply to make it to the end of each level without hitting too many things. This was my favorite of the mini-games.

Last, and least... there was Visualizer, which is essentially a screen saver. You can play with rivers, fireworks and other things by tapping them, and something will happen on screen. It wasn't at all exciting....but it's a neat tech-demo.

This is the first game like this that I've ever played, and I have to say...it's pretty cool. If I had played this at an event somewhere (like PAX or E3), I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to shut up about this cool little game I played. It's a good demo, but alas, I don't think it's anything you'd want to play for more than a few minutes. Well, except for maybe the Silent blocks mini-game, that was pretty cool.

Overall Score: 7/10, mostly for the innovation in game control. It's new, it's unique...and yet I picked it right up and had no problem learning any of the games. I'm not going to buy a copy, but I would definitely recommend that other people give it a try to see if they like it. If I ever saw this in the bargain bin, I'd pick it up to show my parents....or other folks who never play video games. I think they'd get a kick out of it.

Video game number two hundred and forty two: Cooking Mama: World Kitchen

Video game review number two hundred and forty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Cooking Mama: World Kitchen"

Here it is, the third and final cooking game that I rented for the Wii this week. After playing the DS version on an airplane last month, I was pretty excited to try this out. After all, the DS version of this game is the one that inspired me to go on a cooking game spree with Gamefly, renting anything for the Wii that had "cooking" in the title.

Imagine my surprise when this one, the one I saved for last, turned out to be my least favorite of the three cooking games.

First of all, using the Wiimote is nowhere NEAR as fun as using the stylus was. Yes, the game is still endearing, with the "Cooking Mama" voiceover (she has a heavy Japanese accent and gives you kitchen tips). The graphics are still cute, the mini-games are still there...but the damn thing is just a pain in the ass to control, ESPECIALLY after I've now played two other games that both did it better.

I just got done playing the Food Network game, and going from that to this is like driving on asphalt and then suddenly driving on snow. You know how driving should feel, and how your car should react, but it's a whole different world.

That's what "Cooking" feels like in the Cooking Mama game. I tried a couple of recipes, but they just weren't as fun, and I'm sorry...but Mama certainly doesn't help you figure things out. She sort of mocks you as you fail....

Each mini-game you encounter shows you some generic motions you're supposed to make with the Wiimote, but it's not as intuitive as it was in the other games. Cook or Be Cooked shows you (what looks like) real food, and has you do things you might do in the real world while cooking. Cooking Mama is a more exaggerated, cartoonish version of cooking. In fact, it's what Dance Dance Revolution is to dancing, except...it's not fun.

I still love you, Cooking Mama...but only on the DS. On the Wii? You suck.

Overall Score? 3/10. I really hated this game. Maybe it's because I played two other cooking games first, but I think it might be because it actually sucks out loud. If you want to try playing a video game where you pretend to cook things, try "Cook or be Cooked" instead.

Video game number two hundred and forty one: Food Network Cook or Be Cooked

Video game review number two hundred and forty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Food Network: Cook or be Cooked"

This is the second cooking game for the Wii that I've played in the last few days, and it's a lot better than the first one. First of all, the controls involve more than just the Wiimote (you also get to use the nunchuck) and there's a much better sense of "realism" as far as the cooking goes.

The game starts you out with some judges (I'm not sure if they're based on real Food network hosts or not) who give you verbal tips and judge your food after you're done cooking it. For some reason, they are transported from the TV to your in-game kitchen, and so they're really small. Every dish you cook for them looks gigantic by comparison.

Cooking in this game is made up of a lot more steps than the stupid Cook Wars game I played this weekend. The first meal I made (a simple breakfast of eggs and bacon) involved all the steps that making the real dish might. You crack the eggs, put the bacon in the pan, watch your temperatures, flip things...and try to synchronize it so it's all served hot.

When I was done with that, I made a lunch of quesadillas, salsa and guacamole. It was a 15 minute meal or something, but I made sure that everything came out at the same time. It's not quite as fun to chop in this game as it was in Cook Wars, but changing the oven temperature, shaking on spices and stirring all felt pretty natural.

My last meal was Sunday brunch, which I failed on pretty miserably. First of all, I took the bacon out of the oven right after putting it in there (by mistake) and for some stupid reason, there is no way to undo your mistake and put the stuff back in the oven. I went on with the rest of the meal and served it up anyway.

The judges said it sucked, and I got a message on the screen saying I had "been cooked". I suppose that's what's happen when you serve a food critic some raw bacon.

Overall Score: 6.5/10. While I think this is definitely better than Cook Wars, it's ulimately not something I'd ever play regularly. It was fun to try, but I'm definitely glad I rented it. It's much more like real cooking than Cook Wars, which makes one wonder: Why not just cook for real?

Video game number two hundred and forty: Lara Croft: Guardian of Light

Video game review number two hundred and forty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Lara Croft: Guardian of Light"

I've never been a big Tomb Raider player in the past. I skipped all the PC games and although I played one on the Playstation, I don't think I've played one since....until today. Guardian of Light is getting all sorts of good reviews, and so I tried it out on Xbox Live Arcade.

First of all, this isn't your standard Tomb Raider. It's all done in a top down viewpoint, which is pretty cool..and the graphics are really smooth. You're running around trying to collect artifacts and fight mummies as usual, but this game feels fluid and fun. You start out with your patented double pistols that you're always carrying around, and eventually you unlock better guns.

Some of the puzzles you encounter in this game are simple jumping puzzles, but I found myself getting a bit stuck on even the most basic "escape this maze" puzzles in the first level of the game. Not in a frustrating, glitchy way...just stuck like "What the hell do I do next?". Luckily, the most difficult puzzles in the first level seemed to be located in challenge rooms, which were completely optional. I beat them both anyway...but I'm glad I could have left if I had wanted to.

The game scores you on a number of things. How many enemies you beat, coins you collect and hidden artifacts you find are a big part of it, but then there's the time factor. I'm not sure I've ever been a fan of this, but you can only get the primo score for the level if you zoom through it in 6 minutes or so, preferably without dying. Supposedly this adds replay value, though it's always pissed me off (unless I REALLY love the game). Those are some achievements I don't think I'll be getting.

Combat is pretty good, very simple to control. There's a co-op system, but I haven't tried it yet. I hear that the puzzles and combat change a bit if you're playing in co-op, which sounds pretty cool. There are also a bunch of achievements you can get for playing it, so maybe I'll find someone who wants to run through a level with me one of these days.

Overall Score? 7.5/10 This is a very solid arcade game so far, and I think I'm probably going to end up trying to finish it. I don't think I'll try to get all 200 points, but I'll at least see if I can make my way through the game eventually.

Achievements: Here's what I earned today:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Video game number two hundred and thirty nine: Cook Wars

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

This game was to be the first in my three cooking game spree that I was going to call my "Cooking Wii-kend". Unfortunately for me, this was the only one I had time to play this "wii-kend", so it's sort of a spree of one.

After playing Cooking Mama on my Nintendo DS during a flight last month, I decided that I needed to give some of the other cooking games a try. I logged onto Gamefly and found everything I could regarding cooking, then picked the ones that sounded the most fun. This is the first of those games to arrive.

Cook Wars begins with an opening cinematic featuring a bunch of ethnic stereotypes cooking together in a kitchen. There's the Asian samurai guy, slicing up sushi, the generic Italian chef, who looks like every Disney cartoon chef you've ever seen, the Mexican cook (doing a Flamenco dance) and then there's a French guy, who reminds me of one of the guys from Ratatouille.

The playable characters include a Japanese guy (named Tokio), a blonde Barbie American girl named "Lil Sammy", "Gaston" the French chef, and an Italian girl in a chef's hat and a low cut shirt. Perfect outfit for cooking, I'll pick her.

The first dishes I saw were French, so I chose Ratatouille. After all, I've seen a movie about that, how hard could it be? You use your Wiimote to chop vegetables, smash tomatoes, season a pot, and then...voila, you are done....only, I never got to see the finished dish. Weird. I decided to try something American. Blueberry pancakes.

Although I only have "Cooking Mama" to compare it to, this game seems rather simplistic. First of all, I didn't make the batter, and there were no blueberries anywhere near these pancakes. I simply slid the butter around in the pan, poured the pancakes, and flipped them. That was it. The flipping was lame too, because you throw them up in the air, then you have to chase them around with the pan (and your throws are always terrible). Once again, I never saw my finished product.

I made some T-bone steak, and then I saw the option to choose pepperoni pizza. Awesome!
Then, they made me put mushrooms on it. NOT awesome! What good is a cooking game if the food you're making disgusts you?

Strangely enough, as I was playing this game in the morning, I got the urge to do some real cooking for breakfast. My wife woke up and I asked her if we had pancake mix. She said no, but that I could make them from scratch if I wanted to...so I did.

Some notes on cooking actual pancakes vs. the pancakes in Cook Wars.

Making real pancakes was a lot more than three steps.
I only flipped each pancake once (not three times like in the game).
Never once did I flip the pancake, and then try to move the pan as far away from it as possible to try and make it a game of skill.
The one part of my real pancakes that were just like the game? No blueberries.

This game totally lies to our children.

Overall Score? 5/10. This wasn't very fun to play, but if you'd never played Cooking Mama before, I could see how it might be a bit of a novelty. I'm looking forward to trying the two other cooking games I currently have rented from Gamefly.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Video game number two hundred and thirty eight: SBK Superbike World Championship 08

Video game review number two hundred and thirty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "SBK Superbike World Championship 08"

It would be easy to say that this is the worst motorcycle game in the current generation of video game consoles, but I probably couldn't qualify that claim with facts to back it up...seeing as how I've only played a handful of them.

Suffice it to say, this is the worst motorcycle game I've played during my 365 game challenge...and it's got to be right up there as far as the all-time-worst motorcycle games go. Why? Let me count the ways:

1. No sense of speed at all. The bike handles the same at 60 as it does at 260kph, probably because there's no vibration, and the landscape seems to pass by at the same speed no matter how fast you're going.

2. No sense of realism. While trying to injure my rider 5 times (for an achievement), I must have crashed at least a dozen times. Each crash involved at least two other bikers (that was my goal) and should have been deadly. Not only was my rider never "injured", the game simply put him immediately back on his bike, and sent him on his way...in the place he had been in when he crashed. Somehow, I actually won the race that I crashed 12 times during.

3. Crappy graphics and sounds. The visuals are just "blah" but I took special exception to the sounds in the game, particularly the "wind"...which sounded like it had been recorded on someone's cell phone stuck out of the window of a car going 35mph.

So, so lame.

Overall Score? 2/10. I could go on talking about all the things I hated about this game, but there's no point. You are now armed with enough information to know you should never play it. If you do anyway, you're probably someone who enjoys disappointment.


Achievements: I won two or three races (there was as second achievement for winning ten, but there's no way I'm playing seven more rounds of this game).

Video game number two hundred and thirty seven: Bomberman Land

Video game review number two hundred and thirty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Bomberman Land".

Game number two hundred and thirty seven was actually supposed to be Buzz "Quiz World", which I had rented from Gamefly this weekend, but unfortunately...they neglect to tell you when you rent it that it requires the special "buzz" controllers. In a game like DJ Hero, it might be obvious that you need a specific peripheral to play, but Quiz World is a trivia game as far as I'm aware....and I'm not sure why you need the giant button controller to play it. "Scene It" has a special controller, but you can play without it if you want to....which is exactly what I did when I played it on the Xbox several months ago. Now I have to return this game and wait at least 5 days before I get a replacement from Gamefly, which sucks ass.

Enough about a game I was never able to play, let's talk about Bomberman Land.

I have enjoyed Bomberman games in the past, but so far in this challenge, I have yet to play a good one. First, it was Act Zero, which I hated...and now this piece of garbage, which is somehow even worse.

You begin the story with a series of gibberish filled text screens (which you cannot speed up or skip past). They go on for a good five to ten minutes before you're finally dropped into a lobby. As far as I can tell from the stupid, poorly translated text....you're a Bomberman, competing in some sort of ranked world competition, run by an "evil" Champion. He has sunglasses and a cowboy hat, and he's a dick to everyone else in the land....so I assume you'll eventually battle this guy.

In the meantime, you must play some painfully terrible mini-games like "jump rope" (pressing A as a rope passes you until you finally miss) and "Laser ball" (which involves slowly shooting at bouncing balls with a laser). I played five different mini games before entering "the tournament", where you basically play the same mini games again, but this time..you do it for tokens. If you are the highest rank, you move on. If not...you get to play the same stupid mini-games AGAIN.

Eventually...I could have faced that champion. I could have been a contender....I just didn't care to. This is an awful sequel to a once great series, and I hope that someday, they'll turn things around and bring Bomberman back to glory. For now, I think Bomberman and Sonic the Hedgehog need to go off to bad game rehab or something.

Overall Score? 3/10. This is the worst Bomberman game I've ever played.

Video game number two hundred and thirty six: Warhawk

Video game review number two hundred and thirty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Warhawk".

Warhawk was first released back when the PS3 was in it's first year of release, before I owned one. I didn't buy mine until 2008 when I had decided there were a few exclusives I wanted to own, and the price had come down to a point where I thought it was finally time to buy it as a Blu-Ray player.

Fast forward two years. I own 6 or 7 PS3 games (not counting the downloads) and this 365 game challenge has caused me to rent almost every PS3-exclusive game I ever wished I had played from Gamefly. Some I've liked so much that I've purchased them (Mod Nation Racers, God of War 3, Ratchet and Clank) but most of them have been games I am very glad I never bought.

Warhawk is one of these games.

I know there was a lot of hype around it (and it may still be beloved by many people out there) but I absolutely hated this game. I can understand what people love about it, because the concept is awesome. This is a multiplayer based combat game, similar to Battlefield 1943, where you can control soldiers, vehicles, turrets and planes. They're all modern (or futuristic) in function, which in concept...makes this a much more exciting game than BF1943 was. Three years after the launch, people are still playing it every day online and I was looking forward to trying it out with them.

The first thing I wanted to do was take the tutorial. I learned the ground combat first, and thought it was fairly awful. The controls leave a lot to be desired as far as combat accuracy goes, and it's third person instead of first.
"No matter" I thought to myself .
"The game is called Warhawk, so certainly, the best part is going to be the dog fighting".

The jeep, tank and turret training missions left as much to be desired as the combat training had, and before I knew it, I had blown nearly half an hour learning to play this silly game. Finally..it was time to fly planes....only that sucked too. Honestly, I can't remember playing a flight game I've enjoyed less than this one. In recent history, I have played Snoopy Flying Ace, the aforementioned 1943, two Iron Man games and even Dark Void... and I think they were all better flying games than Warhawk.

Something about the controls in this one is just "off". There are almost a dozen different weapon tutorials for the planes (and you have to complete each of them before you graduate your flight tutorial)...and I played them all. It's not like I didn't try to learn this, I did...I just hated it. I even tried setting the controls to inverted to see if it would make the experience more like what I thought a video game plane should feel like, but alas...it did not. No matter how I had my controls set, the plane controls were loose, unresponsive and frustrating.

Even though I wasn't enjoying the tutorial much (even the CPU drones were murdering me with their missle attacks), I decided to go online and check out the real game anyway. After all, if I didn't play the actual game...I couldn't really review it, could I?

First thing I did was set up a match of my own. No one joined it. Maybe they knew I sucked.
I joined a public match and was immediately on the ground. It wasn't "fun", but after flying the planes, I actually enjoyed the ground combat a little more. Go figure.

I jumped into someone's tank and used my machine gun as a turret while they drove us towards enemy buildings. My partner ended up crashing, so I jumped out and climbed a sniper tower. The ability to have so many different types of combat in one game is awesome, I just wish it was fun to play as it sounds.

I died a few times before finding the airport in the map I was in. I had my choice of plane, and I decided to see how flying was in multiplayer. I flew over enemy territory (my teammates seemed to have them pinned down, so I actually got to fly for awhile). I strafed soldiers with my machine guns and swung around to take a run at their base. Suddenly...boom...I was blown from the sky by enemy missles. Again...this sounds kind of cool, but in practice...it felt a lot less fun than it sounds.

It was around then that breakfast started sounding pretty good.

Overall Score? 4/10. This is another one of those games that did not live up to the hype for me. If I were a PS3 owner in 2007 when there was almost nothing worth playing for the system, maybe I would have liked it more...but today, it just sucks ass. Plain and simple. YES...it has an awesome feature set, but no, I don't think it's any fun to play at all. Not only will I never play this game again, I would heartily recommend to my friends that they avoid it as well.

Trophies? The only ones I got were for surviving the tutorial missions, and that's ok with me.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Video game number two hundred and thirty five: Pokemon Heart Gold

Video game review number two hundred and thirty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Pokemon Heart Gold".

Tonight, my nephews were visiting and both of them wanted to play Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 online together. Since this is a single player game (no split-screen support when playing online), they had to use two of my gaming screens. We switched off for awhile (they'd rotate me into a Deathmatch or something before I'd hop out and let them play together again)...but for the most part, they did most of the gaming that night.

I thought it might be a good time to play another game on the PS3 or the Wii, but my wife was using the other big TV in the house...and that left me with limited screen options. One of my nephews offered to let me play his Pokemon game on the DS, and I realized...I've never in my life played one. What a fantastic time to find out what all the fuss is about.

Over an hour later...I still have absolutely no idea. What follows is a summary of one of the more confusing games I've played, and I still don't feel like I understand it at all.

First of, I was warned not to save my game. This particular Pokemon game offers only one save per cartridge, and my nephew had over 14 hours of progress into his save. He told me I could play his save, or start a new game (I opted for the latter), but whatever I did...I should not save my progress. I may not be much of a Pokemon expert, but I know my way around video games in general. At random points in the game, I'd ask him:
"If I take this thing from this guy, is it going to auto-save the game?" and he'd say:
"As long as you don't save it, you're ok".

My adventure started in a little town, not unlike the world of Zelda (or maybe 3D Dot Heroes). Top down role playing view, lots of text. I'm not a fan of this type of game, but when I asked my nephew what his favorite Pokemon game of all time was...he replied that this was it. He's been playing most of his life, so I had to continue on.

I got my first Pokemon (it was a "Totodile"), and started exploring the world. I got some missions telling me to visit another town, and fought lots of other Pokemon along the way. Whenever I'd run into one, I'd ask the nephew: "It's an owl, what do I use on him?" and he'd tell me the best weapon.

The combat is all turn-based and the gameplay is very slow. Lots of text. I wasn't able to collect any of the Pokemon I was fighting (even though as I understand it, that is the point of the game) because I had no "pokeballs" (pronounced "Poke-E-Balls") in my inventroy.

"Where do I get more Pokeballs?" I asked my nephew.
"From some guy". He said.

That helped.

They kept playing Call of Duty, racking up killstreak rewards, calling in airstrikes, sniping campers and planting bombs. Meanwhile, I sat on the couch....walking around a 16-bit forest, looking for "some guy" who might give me some Pokeballs.

I won every fight against every Pokemon I met thanks to the advice of my nephews (and the hospital I found that could heal my Totodile between battles)...but I was never able to collect any of my fallen enemies or do anything that seemed even remotely awesome. The one point where I was kind of excited was when my nephews thought that maybe I could trade them the Pokemon I had created (he was an "elite" or an "ultra" or something) for one of their less-awesome ones...and then they could take it home with them.

I really liked the idea of my little creature living on for ages to come (even if I couldn't save the game), until they discovered that I needed to save my game before I could trade with them. Ah well.

There was one cool aspect of this game I did not get to take advantage of, and that's the "walker". Apparently, each copy of this game comes with a Pokemon walker, which is a little pedometer you carry around with you in real life to exercise your Pokemon. My nephews had been wearing these things all week long, including on a backpacking trip they took with my dad. Presumably, their Pokemon are rather buff these days. It's probably for the best that I didn't get to play with the walker, as I sit behind a desk most of the time. My Pokemon would probably be flabby and out of shape.

Overall Score? 4/10. The only thing I liked about this game was the "insider" tricks I got from my nephews on how to win battles. Through Christmases and birthdays...I've been able to share my hobby with these guys over the years, and now they're giving me gaming advice. That's pretty cool. As far as the rest of the game goes....maybe I needed to play for a few more hours, but I still have absolutely no idea what the hell was going on. :-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Video game number two hundred and thirty four: Alien Breed Evolution

Video game review number two hundred and thirty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Alien Breed Evolution".

Alien Breed is one of those arcade games you may have missed if you weren't paying attention. It's (another) top down shooter....although at least this one isn't twin stick.

It's an overhead game that takes me back to the days of games like Crusader for the PC, and some of the other top down action games (Myst anyone?).

Your weapons are machine guns, shotguns, grenades and your fists. I completed the first level without using any special items (for an achievement) and I have to say...this game is incredibly "blah".

The entire first level consists of:
"Go turn off this reactor".
"Whoops, you need a key to open that door, so run back to the room you just came from and get that key."
"Got the key? Good...now go turn off another reactor".
"Now it's time to turn on the elevator. You turn that on by running back to the room you were just in and flipping an elevator switch".

Man...I hate these sort of games. None of the keys, switches or consoles you need to turn on seem to activate until you've already entered and left the room. I must have ran over the same parts of the map about three times each (no exaggeration) before I beat that level. It's supposed to be suspenseful (you're on a space station that is exploding)....but it ends up being incredibly boring and frustrating. Can you imagine if real life was like this on Thanksgiving day?

"You need to turn the oven on. Go to the living room to get the key".
"Got it? Good. Now, go back to the kitchen and use the key to turn on the oven."
"Good. Next, you'll need to open the fridge and take out the thawed turkey. To do that, you'll need a passcode for the fridge. That's in the garage".

Etc, etc, etc. You get the picture. I swear, this is just laziness from game developers who only want to design 8 screens, but also want you to feel like you've walked through 24 of them. It frustrates me to no end.

When you're not running back and forth doing mindless errands, you can mow enemies down, and I suppose that's ok...but there's no soul whatsoever to this game. The combat is just "there", you're not engaged or anything. It feels like something you might play on your phone or perhaps as a free download. Run, gather, shoot. I didn't know my character's name, I didn't know what the aliens were called...and I didn't really remember why my stupid space station was blowing up. I just wanted to beat the level and call it a day.

Overall? 4/10. Below average...there are much better arcade games out today, and I think you should go play one of those.

Achievements? I got two:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Video game number two hundred and thirty three: Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games

Video game review number two hundred and thirty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games".

Alright, so I just played (and hated) the DS version of this the other day, but I knew I was going to have to play this one...because it was already in the mail before I could cancel it. I must say, my bias towards hating this one was strong, and before I ever even opened it, I had planned to play for a few minutes and then throw it back in the mail.

Fortunately, I am a big enough man to admit when I'm wrong...and I was wrong. This Wii version is actually a lot more fun than the DS version, and I ended up spending a couple of hours with it.

Some of the highlights:

Medals earn you star points, which can be used to buy crap you don't want. Still, it's rewarding and cumulative, which is nice.

Skiing and snowboarding were much more fun on the Wii than the DS, and you can choose whether or not you want to use the nunchuck for a "two ski pole" vertical control scheme. I'm not going to say it felt like skiing, but it was very intuitive to pick up, and it was a lot more fun than using the stupid pencil on the Wii.

I actually had the most fun with the curling game (strange, I know). You bowl the rock up to the target, then furiously shake the Wiimote to sweep your way up there. I know it sounds ridiculous, but so is the sport of curling.

I was able to win a silver medal in the Skeleton (frontwards luge) event. Tilting the Wiimote to control it was very natural.

There are "party games" which are really weird. You play an Olympic event to earn balls, which you'll later throw at balloons in a standard balloon popping game. That game ultimately decides your final score against the CPU (or your friends). It's pretty fun.

There's a festival mode, where you do all sorts of training and events over 16 days. I got to day four in that.

Overall...I'm giving this one a 6/10. Out of the three different Vancouver Olympics based games I've played so far this year, this one actually turned out to be my favorite one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Video game number two hundred and thirty two: Brutal Legend

Video game review number two hundred and thirty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Brutal Legend".

Not sure how I missed this one when it came out. Jack Black stars as a heavy metal roadie working for a douchebag glam band, wishing he could travel back to the time when Metal was metal. Suddenly a stage accident makes that possible for him, and he's the hero of his own adventure game.

Sounds pretty cool right? It is.

From the opening scenes I had a feeling this one would be pretty funny. During the intro, the game pauses itself and asks you if you'd like to hear the cursing (I selected yes of course). Same thing for the gore. I like the way they make it a choice....and I kind of want to select the other option on a second play-through to see how the game changes.

Your adventure takes you to a faraway land featuring many skulls, demons and all sorts of other horrible stuff you might find on the cover of an Ozzy Osbourne record. You meet up with a hot babe (who is supposed to be from the past, yet she's wearing a t-shirt). Later, you find out she has a boyfriend, with a hot little sister. I'm not sure which one is your love interest...but I'm sure that will develop as I progress through the story.

You have an axe (as in a "blade") and an axe (as in a "guitar") to fight your way through the levels. There are special moves and you also have the ability to rock some guitar solos (playing a very dumbed down guitar hero mini game). It seems like one of those games I could really spend some time with, if I had more time to spend.

As it stands, this is going to have to go onto my long list of games I will want to come back to next year, when this challenge is over. It looks like it will be an epic adventure...and I'd rather spend some quality time with it when I'm not trying to play over 100 more new games.

Overall Score so far? 7/10. I like it...but I know I've only just begun.

Video Game number two hundred and thirty one: Madden NFL 11

Video game review number two hundred and thirty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Madden NFL 11".

This game (always one of the most highly anticipated of the year for football fans) was released yesterday. I haven't played a Madden game yet this challenge, so I thought I'd give it a try. I've heard that they've dumbed it down quite a bit for people like me who liked old school Madden, and thought the newer games have sucked lately.

I heard correctly.

This game is a lot more fun to play. You're able to pick an NFL coach and have them help you with the plays with a new feature called "Gameflow". This is great if you sometimes forget which is the best play for each situation. I know I do. Plus, there's this really cool new feature where you can plug in your communicator, and listen to the plays over your headset. It's a silly gimmick, but I have to admit, it's pretty damn awesome.

I played through an exhibition game, with the Seahawks against the Lions. I tweaked the settings in my favor (so I could get the hang of the controls and also get a bunch of achievements) and man....I REALLY like the way this Madden is shaping up. Calling plays is much easier. They show you the routes right on the screen, and the dude in your ear tells you exactly what is supposed to happen. Having the voice squawking over your communicator is completely optional, but I found it helpful at first.

You can still select to do things manually and call all your own plays, but I think this innovation has finally made Madden fun again for the casual player. I really enjoyed getting tips as to what to run, and when to run it.....and I also enjoyed ignoring those tips later in the game as I got more cocky with my abilities.

I don't foresee myself becoming a Madden junkie anytime soon, but if anyone wanted to play a game with me sometime, if it was 2011...I'd say yes. I'm not going to say it's as good as I remember Madden 92 being (after all, could anything possibly ever be better than that?). I'm just going to say...it's the best football game I've played in a decade...and leave it at that.

Overall Score? 6.5/10. I'm raving on and on about it, so why not give it a 7 or an 8? Simple. I know I'd probably never play this one again once I got the 1000 in it. I'm not a football game fan anymore, and so I'm rating it on how I feel about it. That being said, this is a very high quality football game. I haven't felt the need to own a Madden game for years now, but if there was one I was going to rent to get those 1000 gamerscore....this would be the one. If I was rating it compared to other football games (instead of other video games in general), I think I'd give it a 9. You hear me Blood Bowl? Put that up your butt and smoke it.

Achievements: Like all Madden games, this one passes out the gamerscore liberally...which I love. I did all of this in two games. Not bad, right?

Video game number two hundred and thirty: Tornado Outbreak

Video game review number two hundred and thirty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Tornado Outbreak".

I was searching for games to rent on Gamefly when I came across Tornado Outbreak. I couldn't remember hearing anything about this, but a brief synopsis said it was similar to Katamari Damacy (which I love).

After playing it, I can agree that it's somewhat similar....in that you start out tiny and become huge enough to topple houses and other big things, but that's about where the similarities end.

This game stars some sort of "Wind Warrior" who is able to become a tornado and knock things down. As you collect stuff, you become bigger (a lot like Katamari) and you can take out bigger stuff. There are multiple levels, and each level has three sections to get through.

Aside from just knocking stuff down, there are these little firefly things you have to catch, and there's also a story I could care less about. Mostly, it's just fun to destroy things and get bigger. I played this one for awhile and got through several of the levels. I'm confident that if I play for a few more hours, I could beat the game, and get most of the 1000 gamerscore available (though some of the achievements look like they might take awhile).

The controls were very awkward at first, particularly the camera. If it wasn't for the interesting way every object in the environment becomes destructible, I probably would have stopped playing. Still, there's something cool here.....and I was compelled to keep going. At first, an object is static on the screen. As your ratio to that object grows, it begins to shudder...signifying the ability for you to pick it up. At first, you can pick up flowers, then fences, then cars and trees, and finally houses and bigger structures.

It's the same sort of Katamari logic that I'm sort of addicted to....and that's probably why I like this game. It's really fun to destroy everyday stuff.

Of course, it's not as good as Katamari in a lot of ways. The soundtrack sucks, the story is beyond boring (I began skipping past the cinematics, because I simply didn't care what the stupid Wind Warriors were up to anymore). The environment is cool, but it lacks some of the "fun" of Katamari games. There is a touch, but not a lot of humor in this one...and if you're a Katamari fan, you'll find it lacking by comparison. That game is just the perfect example of what a game like this can be, and it's still unmatched in the genre.

Overall? 7/10. It's good to see a new and different game like this (or at least something similar to Katamari, which I really enjoy)...but it could have used some work if it was going to be great. I can see myself playing this again, but I'll probably never "love" it.

Video game two hundred and twenty nine: Monday Night Combat

Video game review number two hundred and twenty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Monday Night Combat".

Smash TV meets Call of Duty is the best way to describe this one.

This is another one of the "Summer of Arcade" titles, and although I had heard little about it leading up to the release, this week has brought all sorts of news online about how fun it's supposed to be. I jumped right into the multiplayer mode after the tutorial (because basically, that's where the meat of this game is) and I can see how it would be a lot of fun...if I were playing with friends.

You begin the game as your choice of character class. There are Assault people (all around fighters), Gunners (my favorite so far, because they are tanks), Assassins (basically ninjas) and several other classes I haven't tested out yet. You get thrown into an area against the other players and a bunch of bots.

Each team has a "moneyball" they are trying to project, and the other team must kill it to get cash and score points. Along the way, you defend your moneyball by building turrets, "bots" (which are killer robots you can spend cash earned in game on)...and of course just regular old death match killing.

I like the game concept, and it's actually pretty fun...but I can see how it's one of those games that's only going to be fun if you have a bunch of people online to play it with (preferably a team with microphones that you can talk to).

My first game was spent entirely in silence (as was the second) with a group of strangers. Because the game was released today, it was easy to find matches, and I got a couple of achievements. I think the achievements are fairly doable in this game, but I'm not sure how eager I'll be to complete without a team to talk to. Attacks on the opposing team's moneyball should be coordinated with a team....and mine was content to just blast away without any thought to strategy or teamwork.

It's not a bad game at all, it's just something that I think I'd have a lot more fun with if my friends were playing as well.

Overall Score? 7/10 So far...I'd say this is better than most (if not all) of the multiplayer shooters I've played on Xbox Live Arcade, but it's far below the bar for the quality you would expect in a regular full title. It's no Halo, Call of Duty, Bad Company, Splinter Cell or even Grand Theft Auto as far as shooters go....but for an arcade game, a quick pick up and play....it's pretty good.

Achievements:

Updated 1-13-2011. Looks like I forgot to add these into the review, but I did get a couple. Wow...I haven't played this since launch. That's kind of sad.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Video game number two hundred and twenty eight: Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games

Video game review number two hundred and twenty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games".

I didn't think Mario could star in a game that was less fun to play than 3 vs. 3 Hoops.

I was wrong.

Several months ago, I played and reviewed Vancouver 2010, a game completely based on the winter Olympic games that were going on at the time. A few months after that, Nintendo started releasing the "Mario and Sonic" versions of it for the Wii and DS, and for some reason...I added them both to my Gamefly GameQ. The DS version just got here, and I still have to play the Wii version later in the week.

Oh boy.

Just like my review of Mario 3 vs. 3 Hoops earlier today, I hate this game because a lot of it relies on really bad stylus controls. I played Vancouver on the Xbox 360, and it wasn't anything I'd call "fun", but it was a lot better than this. This game takes sports that might not be the best candidates for a video game, and makes them even less fun by having you draw your way through them with the stylus.

Ski-Jumping? They turn it into a game where you doodle.

Snowboarding uses the controller and buttons...which makes it a little more fun, but it was the only game I could even tolerate. Bobsled, Luge and downhill skiing were all so incredibly annoying to control that after only 30 minutes with this one, I was ready to put it back in it's rental envelope.

If Mario was a Hollywood star, he would need a new fucking agent. I know these games weren't released back to back, but I've just played two absolutely TERRIBLE sports games starring everyone's favorite plumber...and I'm left wondering what the hell Nintendo is doing to their mascot. Seriously, why don't they have him star in a game where he just tells the gamer: "It's a'me....Mario. I have'a you money, so go fuck yourself!". At least that would be honest.

Overall Score? 2/10. This is even worse than the basketball game I just played...and what's worse than that is I have the Wii version in the mail. Hopefully that version will be more fun than this. It certainly wouldn't be hard.

Video game number two hundred and twenty seven: Mario Hoops 3 vs. 3

Video game review number two hundred and twenty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mario Hoops 3 vs. 3".

Somewhere, in a conference room at Nintendo...I imagine there was a meeting where some game producer asked: "What if you could play basketball on the DS, using your stylus as a controller?"

Perhaps this producer was sleeping with several of the other folks at the table, because that's the only way I can imagine them nodding in agreement and agreeing to let development begin on this thing.

Seriously...in your life...have you ever thought to yourself: "This sports video game would be much better if I could control it with a pencil!". I think not.

I played through all 27+ lessons in the tutorial, attempting to learn how to draw my way through a basketball game. Draw a straight line with your stylus from bottom to top to shoot the ball. Do it twice (quickly) to dunk. How awesome does that sound?

Not very, right?

Draw a line towards the teammate you want to pass the ball to. Draw more lines towards your opponent when you're on defense so you can make them drop the ball. I hope from the description here...you're starting to realize just how much this game sucks.

By the time I finished the tutorial, it was time for a game. I was able to hold the computer to a stalemate, dunk, and even do a special move or two (yes, you can do special moves). I didn't have any fun doing any of it, but at least I was able to.

Overall Score? 3/10. This is quite possibly one of the worst Mario games I've ever played...and one of the worst sports games I've ever played. It's not as bad as Blood Bowl, so I'll give it a few points for that...but believe me when I say: This is awful.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Video game number two hundred and twenty six: Loco Roco

Video game review number two hundred and twenty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Loco Roco".

I flew down to Medford Oregon to go rafting down the Rogue River with my family today. Ordinarily, this was the type of trip I might have typed an entry about in this blog, but I've decided to use it almost exclusively for my 365 project this year. As that is the case, the only thing I plan to write an entry about are the games I played on the airplane to and from Oregon. The first? Loco Roco.

I remember reading good things about Loco Roco for the PSP back when it was released in 2007. I have never been terribly fond of my PSP (good games are few and far between, and the thing is uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time). I never "upgraded" to the lame version of the system that only supports downloadable titles, as I favor the ability to buy disks at the store and rent them used. Somehow...I missed Loco Roco, but thanks to Gamefly, I finally have a chance to play it.

The verdict? I love this game.

Loco Roco is exactly the kind of game I like to play on the road. It's not what I'd call a "platformer" and it's not exactly a puzzle game. It's sort of a hybrid between the two, and you're able to pick up and play one or two missions at a time, then come back to it later.

You're a yellow blob, that slowly gross bigger as it eats flowers. It's hard to describe, but incredibly simple to play once you see it. You control your little blob by rotating the screen left or right and letting gravity do the rest. You can jump, but that's about your only ability. As you grow, you sometimes will come to a spot where your blob is too big to proceed...so you summon a bolt of lightning, which turns you into a ton of little blobs. Again, tough to control, very easy (and fun) to play.

I had rented three separate games specifically for this trip (and figured I'd have some spare time in my hotel room and on the planes to play them) but....at least for the first plane ride, Loco Roco had me completely captivated. All I wanted to do was play this game, and I was sad when the announcement came over the speakers that we were landing and I had to turn it off. It's addictive, fun and challenging at times.

There are a few things that bugged me. Surprisingly enough, one thing was the lack of a gyroscope. This game actually felt like one that might be more fun if you tilted the screen to make your blob roll, instead of using the L and R buttons (which feel clunky on the PSP). Also...jumping (a two button simultaneous press) was more annoying than it was fun....and that's a shame, because it's necessary to jump very often in this game.

Your little blobs will sometimes sing to open doors or trigger actions, and their songs (along with the soundtrack to the game) remind me a lot of Katamari Damacy. Perhaps that's one reason I enjoy it so much.

On Monday morning, I flew back to Seattle...and while I tried some other games on the flight, I must admit, all I wanted to do was play Loco Roco on my PSP. I don't think there's been a game I'd call a "killer app" for that system since Lumines, but this is definitely it for me. When I got back home, I tried to see if I could buy it from Gamefly...but they're not selling it, so I had to send it back. I'm definitely going to be buying it before my next trip (whenever and wherever that may be). This one is a must own in my opinion.

Overall Score? 9/10. This game is great. I had a few small complaints, but nothing that would make me rate the game anything less than a 9. This might even be my favorite game for the PSP so far, definitely the best I've played this year.

Video game number two hundred and twenty five: StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Video game review number two hundred and twenty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty".

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I have been waiting for this game for over ten years.

It came out a few days ago, but I've been pretty darn busy and wanted to wait until I had the proper time to dive in and start the campaign. Today is not that day, but I woke up early and I just can't wait anymore. It's time to play some Starcraft.

Unfortunately, my PC has not been used to play games much (I'm almost entirely moved over to consoles these days) so I had to do some upgrading of drivers for my video card. It wasn't what I'd call "user friendly", and even though I feel rather capable of such things, I still had to check out the FAQ to find out what was causing parts of the game to work fine while others suffered. Unfortunately, it took up my entire morning, and I had to leave before I could really dive into the game. It was frustrating, but this was most likely a one time deal...so I don't think I'll have to worry about it again.

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Update 8/11/2010

I've spent a considerable amount of time in the campaign now, playing through the Terran missions. I'm pretty sure that's all this game is (Terran missions), and that's ok with me, as they were always my favorite team to control in the original StarCraft game. You control Jim Raynor again (he was your main character in the first one) and although there are tons of new units and new stuff to build, basically...the game feels like home.

I played through at least 6 missions so far, (unlocked several "achievements" for doing so) and I can't say I've found anything wrong with the game. It's challenging, but it's incredibly fun...and the story is definitely interesting (especially if you're like me and you remember all the old characters, though I don't think it's necessary to have played the first one).

You're considered somewhat of an outlaw these days, so your missions mostly revolve around saving colonists from the aliens (or the oppressive government) and collecting artifacts for cash. At least so far.

I haven't even TOUCHED the multiplayer yet, because I'm enjoying the campaign so much...but I had a taste of it in the beta, so I know it's going to be good.

I can't think of any game I've video played this year that's as good as this one. Some games have come close, but this one is just fantastic. It is everything you could possibly ask for in a sequel, with enough updates to keep it fresh while still staying loyal to the original stuff that made it great. I can foresee hours, if not days and weeks spent on this one....and I plan to take my time with it.

It will take me months and months to get "good" again, and even then, I know I'll never master it. There are plenty of achievements for winning games and stuff, and I assume they'll be very hard to earn....but that won't be my main focus in playing. Instead, I'll be playing this game because I love it. Whenever I get the chance.

Overall Score? 10/10. This game is as good as it gets. I really can't think of anything else I could ask for to improve it. The only thing I'd like to see improved is my own skill, and that will come with lots of practice. If you own a computer, and you like games....you should really own this one.

Achievements? Blizzard has them, and I've unlocked several. Here is a sample of a few of them: