Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Video game number two hundred and eighty eight: Chuck E. Cheese's Party Games

Video game review number two hundred and eighty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Chuck E Cheese's Party Games".

The game description for this game (and I'm quoting here) is as follows: A kid can now be a kid at home with Chuck E. Cheese's Party Games. Have all the fun and excitement of Chuck E. Cheese's without the crowds, the need to buy tokens, or the hassle of carrying prize tickets.

Any parent who reads the back of the box probably thinks they've found the best game ever, and I can hear the conversation with their child now:

Child: "Mom, can we go to Chuck E. Cheese?"
Mom: "No, I bought you that Wii game for Christmas. It's supposed to be just as good."
Child: "But mooooommmmmm!"
Mom: "Stop bothering me and go play your Wii game!"

I rented this game after seeing it in my list of recommended games for the Wii. I do that sometimes, but this time around, this thing was in my queue with very low availability for over a month (either it's very popular or they only have like three copies of it). I was patient and finally got it in the mail today.

OH my lord, nothing could have prepared me for how hilarious this game it is. You start out as a kid that wants to go to Chuck E. Cheese, so you ask your Dad for some money. He tells you "NO" and says you need to get a summer job if you want to go.

The kid you control in this game looks like he is about eight, so that makes this whole conversation pretty funny.

Anyway, your character gets a little rain cloud over his head, and he's sad that he isn't getting any money from dad. Then, he gets an idea cloud, leaves the house and goes to Chuck E. Cheese anyway. Every eight year-old's dream I suppose.

When you get there, you have no money, but luckily for you...some manager there is willing to have you make pizzas. He offers to pay you in tokens. You're thrilled, because tokens are exactly what you wanted in the first place.

You make the pizzas (actually, you just put the toppings on) and for every one you complete, the manager gives you one token. You can spend your tokens playing games, or spinning a wheel of fortune that will unlock the ability to play different games (spending more tokens). Any time you run out of money, you go make more pizza. Nevermind how illegal this must be...it's probably the dream job of every little kid everywhere.

Just like the real Chuck E. Cheese, you are playing all these games to earn tickets, which can be exchanged for shitty prizes. Also just like the real Chuck E. Cheese, the prizes are INSANELY expensive. I've played at least 8 of the mini-games so far (I need to make some more pizzas to unlock some more tokens) and I only have 63 tickets. There is one prize that costs 30,000 tickets. I have no idea what person in their right mind will ever play this game that much, but I do know it won't be me.

Let's talk about some of the mini-games.

There's skee-ball, which feels nothing like real skee-ball. You can throw the ball with a "bowling" motion, but there's no way to really aim it, so it goes into the hole for whichever lane you start in at the beginning of the throw. As someone who actually wants to control the game I'm playing, this sucks...but kids might be excited that they can hit the 40 circle every time if they want to, just by lining up the ball there.

There's air hockey against a really bad computer opponent. There's a weak version of space invaders (but it's easy to get tickets in). There's a photo hunt thing where you find the differences between two onscreen pictures. There's a whack-a-mole game, which is a lot easier than the real life version. You don't have to aim, so you just whack your controller anytime you see anything on screen and you automatically get the points for it.

Eventually I saved up enough tickets for an 80 ticket prize. It was a water gun. That opened up a new area of the game called "my room" where all the prizes you win would go. I went in there, and there was my water gun. You could press "A" to play with it, and then it would make little soap bubbles by itself. When you were done "playing", you press B to go back to Chuck E. Cheese to make more pizzas.

What kind of fucked up world does this game take place in? Some poor kid has a parent who won't take them to Chuck E. Cheese, so he walks there and gets a job working for TOKENS? Then...he plays all the games there, until the end of time...trying to earn a digital prize worth 30,000 tickets?

Yeesh.

Overall Score? 4/10. Despite being completely ridiculous...this game was such a train wreck that it was actually somewhat fun for a little while. I can see how a small kid might like this, but I also don't think there's any way it can compare to the actual paradise that is Chuck E. Cheese. Parents...buy your children this game only if there's not a Chuck E. Cheese within 400 miles of you, and then tell them "It's just as good as the real thing". They'll never know the distance...AND...they'll never want to go there.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Video game number two hundred and eighty seven: Truth or Lies

Video game review number two hundred and eighty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Truth or Lies"

This may be the most brilliant video game ever released.

Truth or Lies is a simple game that uses a Rock Band microphone to record answers to random questions asked either by the computer, or by one of your friends. The computer then analyzes your answers and decides whether you're telling the truth or a lie.

Genius.

I have absolutely no idea how the system is supposed to work, but I can say that it definitely does not. You can "calibrate" the system by telling it the truth and then telling it some lies, but I'm not sure what it does with that information. I played a 30 minute game of this by myself, and it sometimes thought I was lying when I was telling the truth, or telling the truth when I was lying. Sometimes I made up answers that made no sense at all and it would call them "true".

None of this is relevant to my proclamation about this being a brilliant game.

You see....this game is the perfect party game. It's better than Rock Band, it's better than the Wii, or Kinect or Move. It's better than board games or anything else you can think of....but you have to SELL it. I am totally saving this one for my next party, and then I'm going to unleash it on some unsuspecting guests (who are hopefully not reading my reviews). All this game needs in order to be fun is drunk people. Once you have some of those, I'll bet this is awesome.

So why is it awesome? Simple. You ask your friends questions, and then they speak their answers into a mic. The game records those answers, analyzes them...and spits out a "true" or "false" judgment, and giving you points based on how honest you were (or were not).

Since no one has heard of this game, for all they know...the "lie detector" built into it is just as accurate as the ones you see on TV. Can you imagine how much fun it will be to play the "Hot Seat" mode where you ask your friend a question and then the computer decides whether or not their answer is a lie? I can...and it's going to be awesome.

I should really come back and review this AFTER I play it for the first time with a bunch of drunk people. Maybe I'll update it then. In the meantime, I can say that in playing for about 45 minutes on my own, I was able to unlock about 600 gamerscore. That's pretty crazy, and if you're an achievement whore, you probably want to rent this game just for that.

Overall Score? 7/10. This is a very solid concept that could be great at parties. I could say "WILL be", but I need to verify that first. This game could actually get an 11 rating, ,I'm not sure. In my mind...the fun I'm going to have springing this on people could be a lot more awesome than it actually turns out to be. We'll see. To be continued.

Achievements? This game spits out achievements faster than almost any game I've ever seen. Rent this and grab them.

Video game number two hundred and eighty six: Rock Band Metal Track Pack

Video game review number two hundred and eighty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Rock Band Metal Track Pack"

Oh my lord my voice hurts.

I'm typing this up after going over 11 songs into the Solo Tour on Rock Band Metal Track Pack as a solo vocalist. You see, my wife is having a girl's night out (she and her friend are going to a musical), so I have the house to myself...and I figured this was a great night to crank the speakers without embarrassing myself.

I popped in the Rock Band Metal Track Pack and began the process of trying to sing a bunch of songs that I've never actually heard (along with a few that I have). By the end of it, I had four achievements and a very sore throat. I have 105 gamerscore...and I'm sure a cup of tea will help ease the pain of getting it.

What is there to say about this game? It's another self-contained Rock Band game, with 20 songs. If you buy a copy at the store, you get to import them into your Rock Band collection (and seeing as how most of these end up selling for about 20 bucks apiece, that's a pretty good deal if you like the songs on the disk).

I rented this, so I don't get to import the songs, and that's probably ok, because the only ones I would have added to my collection were actually already in it. My Rock Band song collection is in the hundreds these days, so standalone titles like this are only fun for the gamerscore. There are actually a couple of other achievements I could still get...but they require a full band and/or expert skills (two things I'm fresh out of at the moment).

Overall Score? 5/10. Rock Band Track Packs are awesome, and the game itself is a lot of fun, but the set list on this particular one is not my cup of tea. I liked a handful of the songs (and it turns out I already own those), but the rest involved a lot of trashing drums, screaming vocals and shredding guitar that would probably melt my fingers off if I tried it on expert. This one was a good rental for a night, but I'd never play it again. If you're a metal fan though, it's 100% worth the price...and it will save you a lot of cash over downloading these songs individually. Just make sure you don't pick up a used copy, or someone will have already used the song export code for it.

Achievements? Sure:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Video game number two hundred and eighty five: F1 2010

Video game review number two hundred and eighty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "F1 2010"

When it comes to car racing games, Codemasters is on top of the pile as far as developers go. In case you don't happen to read the logos that pop up at the beginning of the games you love, they are the folks behind Colin McCrae Rally and DiRT racing, two of my favorite racing games in history. Now they've done a game based on Formula 1 racing, and while I don't normally play F1 games....knowing Codemasters had done one was enough to get me to try their newest effort.

Right off the bat, the interface in this game is very similar to the last DiRT game I played. You start out in your trailer, where you arrange races, go to the pits, upgrade your car or check out stats and other stuff related to the racing. It was pretty easy to navigate around, and it's a lot better than a bunch of boring menus.

As far as the racing itself goes...the cars are super fast, super responsive...but unfortunately, they're also super delicate. This is a problem for me.

When I play racing games, I like to play arcade style. I like to ram into other cars, use my e-brake, cut corners by jumping into the dirt and occasionally even use a special item or two. That's not something people do in F1. You're supposed to be precise, you're not supposed to crash, and you get penalized for jumping the corners. That's not a sandbox I like...so I may not be pre-destined to like this game.

The other thing I don't like about F1? Races aren't 3 laps. They're at least 10. Some are 50. Some are more. To me, that's just too much repetition. Dozens of repetitive laps is the same reason I've never played a NASCAR game either. I like to mix up my races with crazy corners, and then just when I'm starting to learn the track...I like to jump to a new one and be surprised again.

This game has fairly decent graphics. The cars are fun...but the world itself is unforgiving. If you crash into another racer, not only can your car be damaged to the point where you have to go into the pits...you might get a time penalty. If you happen to cut a corner, you'll get a warning (and maybe even another time penalty). Sometimes you get gravel on your tires and then it fucks you up for the next several turns. As much as I love Codemasters, I just don't enjoy that style of racing.

Overall Score? 5/10. If you're an F1 fan...I think this score will jump quite a bit. As I think I've summarized pretty well above, I'm not a fan...so this game was probably not going to be my cup of tea no matter how good it was. Of course, I didn't know that until I played it. :-)

Achievements? I got a few, but don't anticipate playing this in order to get more. Maybe if there weren't half a dozen awesome racing games I'd rather play than this. :-)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Video game number two hundred and eighty four: Darkstar One

Video game review number two hundred and eighty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Darkstar One"

Darkstar One is a multi-platform console port of an old PC game, and it really feels like it. Everything about this game screams "old".

You are a bounty hunter/pilot, scouring the galaxy for artifacts to power up your super-badass ship, the "Darkstar One". Your ship is awesome because every time you find an artifact of alien technology, it can be integrated into your existing systems...and make your ship even better than it already is. It would be sort of like driving around a Corvette that could assimilate any Mustangs, Porsches or Dodge Vipers it happened to encounter...beefing itself up in the process.

Alas, this ship isn't nearly as cool as it sounds, because all you get to do is fly it around in empty space,very, very slowly. You do the same missions over and over....killing pirates, exploring through asteroid fields and landing at trade stations. Once you're done with that, you warp to another system...and do the same thing again. Those three things really make up the meat and potatoes of this game, which is why after less than an hour...I had to do some web searching to make sure I wasn't missing something.

I wasn't. This is really it.

I remember back in the 90's when you could play games like this on your PC. Some of them even worked well with the awesome Sidewinder Joystick (I had one of these), and people would put hours into flying their spacecraft around from galaxy to galaxy, cleansing the universe of bad guys.

In a console world, this just feels....boring. Imagine Mass Effect if you took away all of the stuff that happens outside the space ship and instead, you just traveled from planet to planet in the Normandy....smoking the occasional bad guy with some less than awesome combat controls. That's pretty much the experience you have with Darkstar One.

I will say this for it: The combat and space dogfighting are more fun than Hawx 2 was. The plot isn't very interesting, the graphics are pretty terrible...the missions are incredibly repetitive...but at least fighting in your spaceship is fun. Kinda.

Overall Score? 5/10. There's absolutely nothing remarkable about this game. The only reason I even tried it is it was recently released...and it sounded rather interesting. I usually like space battle games , but this one is definitely an exception to that rule. I would only play this again if I had absolutely NOTHING else to play....and while that's not likely to happen anytime soon, if it ever does occur, I must admit, I don't hate the idea of ever playing it again. It gets an "average" rating, but just by the skin of its teeth.

Achievements? In my limited time with this game, I unlocked a few. My favorite? The one I got for crashing into a planet, which was actually pretty hard to do. They throw up so many error messages and warnings that the only way you can actually do it is to do it on purpose, which I did...for the 20 points. :-)

Video game number two hundred and eighty three: Clash of the Titans

Video game review number two hundred and eighty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Clash of the Titans"

Earlier this year, I had the misfortune to see Clash of the Titans in 3D. I didn't really want to see it in 3D (I had heard that it was a terrible, post wrap 3D transfer kind of a thing)...but the people I was with wanted to spring for the glasses, and so I did as well. The 3D in that movie hurt my brain, and was incredibly terrible. Lots of waving spears in your faces, lots of double vision, and frankly...all it really did was make a bad movie worse.

The only nice thing I can say about this video game is that at least it wasn't in 3D.

Clash of the Titans is the latest in movie tie-in games, and it plays like the developers wanted to make sure it's review scores matched those of the film it was based on. You are Perseus, and you start out in a little fishing village, trying to save various family members and neighbors from monsters. I've played through 5 or 6 challenges so far, and each of them was exactly the same.

First, you talk to someone (half the time, the people I talked to told me there were monsters and then advised me not to go fight them). Each time, I ignored the people and fought the monsters. Then you come back, you save...and you repeat. I did this for about an hour...and trust me when I say this, it wasn't becoming any more fun as I went along.

You only start with one weapon (a sword), but that's ok, because you can pick up "sub weapons" by kicking the asses of skeletons you meet in the forest, and then stealing their weapons from them by doing a weird button event sequence sort of attack. The first time I pulled off the combo, it was pretty satisfying, but by the 20th time, it was just a pain in the ass. God of War handles this by only having you do it on certain enemies, but in Clash of the Titans...EVERYONE you meet needs the combo before they're finished, unless you want to hack at them with the wuss sword another 200 times.

If you're reading this review and you still haven't seen the movie, I recommend you don't. If you're reading this review, and you still haven't played the game...obviously, I recommend that you don't. If you can stay away from Clash of the Titans altogether...you will have a happier life, and you'll probably live longer too. I'm convinced that playing bad games takes a little bit of your soul away every time you do it...and by my count, I've lost a lot of soul so far this year already.

Overall Score? 3/10. Below average video game. A boring hack and slash with annoyingly long loading times between fights....and no variety in the battles to break up the monotony. There might be better battles ahead, but who the hell wants to fight them after an hour of slogging through the crap.

Achievements: There are many, and most of them involve completing the levels with the fastest times (something you'll apparently be able to do better after you've beaten the entire game and unlocked all the weapons). I'm unsure why anyone would want to play this twice. I don't even want to play it once. In fact...there's a 15 point achievement for simply starting a 2P game, and I don't even feel like getting that. That should give you some small idea of just how much this game sucks.

Video game number two hundred and eighty two: Little League World Series 2010

Video game review number two hundred and eighty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Little League World Series 2010"

What this game has to do with the Little League World Series? I have no idea.

Your team is comprised of a bunch of kids that looked like they stepped out of a Pokemon cartoon. The baseball game itself is filled with "Special Moves" and powers so convoluted that I actually NEEDED the stupid tutorial just to learn how to play.

I've seen baseball games with "fire" pitches or maybe "super swings" before, but this one elevates the art of "special move baseball" to a new category of "suck". It's almost laughable just how dependent the game is on all of the special crap.

You start out without special powers, and then as you do some basic baseball things (strike someone out, catch a foul ball, throw someone out, etc), you'll gain a bit of progress on your power meter. Once your power meter is full, the real fuckery begins...with fire pitches, "Best Batting" and all sorts of other crap that makes the game feel more like Street Fighter than baseball.

You have to launch "Big Play" fielding (something that makes your character jump really high up in the air if you press the right sequence of buttons) if you want a chance at catching a ball hit by a player who's on fire. You have to have the "big swings" on if you want to hit the souped up fire pitches thrown by a pitcher who's using that special move.

This game reminded me that I want to try that Mario Super Sluggers baseball game (as I hear that's pretty silly as well), but playing this one against the computer was no fun at all. Playing against real opponents might have been ok, but I was only able to try against the computer.

Overall Score? 4/10. This game isn't even as fun as any of the other baseball games I've played so far this year, and that's saying a lot, because I haven't enjoyed them very much. Perhaps Mario Sluggers will be a better game? I've added it to my GameQ

Achievements:

All of the ones I got were for beating the (rather lengthy) tutorials. When I actually got into a game, I didn't unlock anything. Figures.

Video game number two hundred and eighty one: Kingdom Hearts: Birth by sleep

Video game review number two hundred and eighty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Kingdom Hearts: Birth by sleep"

According to Penny Arcade and many other gaming sites, the release of this game was a pretty big deal. For years, I've been hearing about these Kingdom Hearts games, and I've always wanted to try one. I don't normally like RPGs (that's probably why I've never tried a Kingdom Hearts game before now)...but if there was an RPG property I was going to try, this series would be it.

Unfortunately, either I've picked the wrong title...or I was wrong to want to try this in the first place. I played for over an hour, and in that time, I never had any idea what the shit was going on.

The story in this game makes absolutely no sense, and I had no idea who any of the characters were. The basic experience of the game is like this:

A long cinematic cut scene, featuring a bunch of nonsense dialog...followed by a 15 second black loading screen, and then yet ANOTHER cut scene. Every ten minutes or so, you actually get to play. The gameplay is only "Ok". Combat is responsive, but the menus are confusing. There were about 470 different slots that looked like I'd have to equip powers, weapons and character attributes to. Hitting X to kill things was ok, but those menus were scary as hell.

I pressed on.

I am pretty sure the first mission in the game had something to do with the main character going to watch a meteor shower. On the way, you had to fight some inanimate objects and then you find a few of your friends. You have a silly conversation with your friends (I'm new to the series, so this made absolutely no sense to me)...and then for some reason, you fight them. I think it's supposed to be a tutorial, but even after they've taught you the basic moves...the fights keep going for another 10 or 15 minutes. It's just asinine.

By this point, I was getting really sick of the nonsense cut scenes and the insanely long black loading screens....so I started skipping the cinematics hoping to speed the game up. I'm not sure I ever saw the meteor shower I was fighting my way to. That sucked. Eventually, I saw a cut scene with Mickey Mouse talking to a wizard for some reason. I had skipped a couple of scenes, so I had no idea why Mickey was in my world, or how we knew each other....but he was suddenly gone, and I was back to fighting with my friends again.

Eventually...I gave up completely. I couldn't make sense of the plot...perhaps because I've never played a Kingdom Hearts game, or perhaps it was because the game makes no sense. The combat wasn't worth waiting ten minutes at a time for, and the graphics were only ho-hum. While I realize this could be a great sequel for people who love the series...as a noob to the game world (and someone who's not a fan of RPGs)...I hated it.

Overall Score? 1/10. One of the worst games I've played so far this year. I may still try another Kingdom Hearts game again someday (I'll ask a fan which one to try first)...but if it's anything like this game, I've got a feeling I'm probably not going to be a fan.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Video game number two hundred and eighty: Dead or Alive Paradise

Video game review number two hundred and eighty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Dead or Alive Paradise"

I've always enjoyed a good Dead or Alive fighting game. The first one I ever played was on the Playstation 2, but the first one I actually owned was DOA3 for the original Xbox (I bought it on launch night). I remember playing it for the first time in the line for the original Xbox at the EB Games in Redmond. They had free pizza for everyone who showed up (and there were a lot of us). The news was there, and there was a big kiosk outside where you could play DOA3 against other folks waiting in line. I didn't actually have the game pre-ordered, but after playing it for awhile in line...I decided to add it on.

I spent a bunch of time with DOA3 and if asked, I would say that the fighting was only "ok"...but the graphics were awesome. Beautiful environments and beautiful characters made for a game that was as fun to play as it was to watch. Also, it was the only game I can think of that had an adjustable setting for how much you wanted the girls boobs to bounce. More on that later.

A couple of years later, a different kind of DOA game came out. Apparently, it was going to star the girls from the fighting game...only they weren't fighting anymore. Instead, they were hanging out on an island, playing volleyball, laying by the pool, and going to casinos at night. It sounded pretty strange...but as a fan of the previous games so far, I had to try it.

It sucked out loud.

Later, a sequel was released on the Xbox 360. Even though I wasn't a fan of the original volleyball game, I still tried it...and it also sucked. Out loud.

That brings me to today. I rented this lovely game from Gamefly, assuming it was the latest sequel in the DOA Volleyball experience. I figured it would be worth a try, and that surely, in 7 years they must have improved the formula. Oh how wrong I was.

This game is simply a port of the Xbox 360 version from 4 years ago, except they've actually stripped some features out. All that's left is a game where you basically play dress up with a bunch of digital dolls. I'm really not sure who this game is marketed at ( maybe guys who really love boobs and don't have Google?). Either way, it's pretty pathetic.

For the sake of this review, I played through several "days" in the game anyway.

The game opens with a cut scene that pans (slowly) over the beautiful digital boobies of all of the characters in the game. The opening cinema is several minutes of the girls running on the beach, with close-ups galore of their awesome breasts. The camera man zooms in tight so you can get a long look at their wet bathing suits, to the point where you almost feel a bit guilty for watching. I mentioned the "bounce" factor earlier, and it seems to be turned up all the way this time. I've been to many beaches, but I've never seen girls boobs bounce this way in real life.

For all the focus they put on the body parts, there's not much nudity, except for a few shots from the back of characters getting dressed or swimming topless....and one wonders why they don't just have the girls be all the way naked. After all, I'm pretty sure that the only goal in this game is to ogle the girls, so why not do it right?

Anyway, there's no plot to speak of (you arrive on the island, and you start playing games). One of the other girls tells you that Zack (the guy who runs the island) doesn't allow any other guys there (which seems kind of creep), but your character laughs it off and then you take a tour of all the facilities. You see the shop (where you can buy swimsuits), the pool (where you can sunbathe or play mini-games), the casino, and finally...several beaches. I went to the beach and played the horrible volleyball game. It's by far the worst version of volleyball I have ever played. In fact, it might be one of the worst sports game I've ever played.

After a day of volleyball, I had my character go to sleep, then wake up and try the horrible float jumping pool game. You play this one by pressing buttons to jump across the pool (stepping on several floats along the way) and trying not to fall in. It's difficult, it's not fun, and the computer beats you most of the time.

Next, I moved on to the horrible casino games. Table games are incredibly hard (the computer always seems to win no matter how good your hand is) but at least the slot machines are incredibly easy. It seems that if you play each machine around ten times, you'll win a decent jackpot, and receive nearly 30 times your bet as a payoff. Not bad if you want to stock up on cash, but it's kind of boring to play over and over again.

Eventually, you'll earn enough in-game cash to buy your girl a new swimsuit, and then she'll dance around in it, while you take pictures of her awesome digital rack. You can save these pictures....and I've actually got one on my PSP background now. That was kind of a cool feature.

Basically, this is the entire game. You repeat the tasks I've summarized above until you've earned enough money to buy all the skimpy swimsuits and clothes for every female character in the game. Once they have all their outfits and presents, that's the end.

Overall Score? 3/10. This is a half-assed PSP port of what was already a pretty terrible Xbox game. On top of that, they also managed to cut out one of the interesting parts of the original game (the jetski levels). I'm not saying that would have made this game better, but it would have been more complete. Truth be told, DOA Extreme 2 on the 360 is one of the few games I actually erased from my gamer profile after I played it for only a couple of hours and realized there was no way I'd ever get an achievement in it.

Luckily, the PSP has no gamer profile, so other than this review...no one will ever know I played this piece of shit. The only reason that I'm giving this game a three instead of a zero is because it has awesome graphics, and it's fun to look at for about 5 minutes. It might earn a higher score if you were someone who really wanted to stare at some boobies...and you were stranded somewhere with only a PSP to do that with. It takes a special kind of person to enjoy a game like this....and somewhere out there, I'm sure that one person is probably happy that they can bring this game wherever they go now.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Video game number two hundred and seventy nine: Disney Sing Star: Pop Hits

Video game review number two hundred and seventy eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Disney Sing Star: Pop Hits"

I put this one in my Gamefly Queue after playing the other Sing Star games, thinking that pop hits would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, I didn't read through the setlist and it turns out that while there are some "pop hits" by Duffy, One Republic and Colbie Caillat that I've heard, the bulk of this game is made up of songs by Disney channel artists. Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, Vanessa Hudgens and many other folks whose songs I've never heard.

At first, I was debating whether or not to even play the game. When I saw the majority of the setlist, I was not only disappointed, I was kind of embarrassed that I was going to be singing some of these songs. Even though it was early in the morning, my wife was awake, and I didn't want her to her me singing Miley Cyrus or something. We might end up divorced, and I couldn't really blame her.

As much as I was prepared for this to be a nightmare of a game, I still gave it a fair shot. After loading up PS3Trophies.org, and looking at what simple trophies I could get, I realized they actually have some fairly straightforward goals, and that I probably wouldn't have to be familiar with the songs to earn them. I spent this morning singing a bunch of the songs on this disk, trying to earn trophies...and I didn't do half bad.

Don't get me wrong, I would never buy this game (and if it was given to me as a gift, I have to admit, I'd probably Ebay it)...but I did enjoy my hour or two singing a bunch of songs I'd never heard, trying to earn achievements. I found that most of these songs were incredibly simple tunes, and unlike a Rock Band song you've never heard, they usually just repeat one hook over and over again. I was even able to earn a trophy for singing a song without the lyrics being on screen (it was a song I'd never heard before).

The videos are here once again in the background, and I think going back to a singing game where they aren't would be disappointing by comparison now. The game rewards you not just for hitting the notes or getting the pitch right, there are also "harmonies", which are rewards for singing not quite on key, but in harmony with the singer instead. I found that out and kind of enjoyed it, because that's how I sing along with some songs on the radio sometimes.

Overall Score? 4/10. All four of the points are for the gameplay, and the missing 6 are for the sucktacular setlist. The presentation is great, but there's not much you can do with a bunch of songs targeted for 12 year old girls. If my niece had a PS3, I would totally buy her this game (and I might even play it with her while visiting), but I can't imagine any self-respecting adult male ever buying this disk. Renting it for the trophies? Maybe....but buying it? Nope. If you're an adult without children and you actually own this game....there might be something a little strange about you.

Trophies: For some stupid reason, the trophies haven't synced with Playstation.com yet. I'll update this post when they do (or you can check out my Trophy Card to the right of this post).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Video game number two hundred and seventy eight: Mafia 2

Video game review number two hundred and seventy eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Mafia 2"

About a month ago, it seemed you couldn't go a week without seeing a commercial for this game. I actually had it on my list to play for awhile, but it sort of got lost in the shuffle and I only picked it up this evening because our bar trivia night got canceled. It seems that tonight, fate chose for me to play some Xbox.

Mafia 2 starts out with a pretty impressive story. You're a young immigrant, jailed for stealing a TV and sent off to fight in the war instead of doing prison time. The first chapter takes place in Italy, where the soldiers you're fighting all eventually lay down their guns because some famous gangster over there tells them to. Very Godfather-esque.

Anyway, you get back to the states and begin your life of crime. This game is very much a Grand Theft Auto clone, or maybe more of a Saints Row clone...except it's set in the classic Godfather era of gangsters, in a city very much like Liberty City....er...New York.

Like some of those other games, the town feels fairly "alive". Maybe not quite as alive as Liberty City, but when you walk down the street, people talk to you, and you can start fights or have random conversations with them. I helped some random lady fix her car after she and her husband had a fight about it as I walked by.

Speaking of fighting, I actually like the hand to hand combat in this game more than the fighting in GTA. It somehow feels a little more polished, and it's easier to pull off combos. Cool stuff. Guns are not quite as fun, although I only got to use a few (two in the war and one in the city so far).

The driving (always a big part of any open world game) is only ok. The cars don't handle as well as you might like them to, and I thought that the city felt rather "small" in comparison to Liberty City in Grand Theft auto. The driving actually reminds me more of a "tacked on" driving mode to an action game than the driving in any of the Grand Theft auto titles....and I crashed into stuff I wasn't aiming for more than a few times.

While I could see myself playing through some more of this, I have to be honest and say that I don't even want to start it until I've finished Episodes from Liberty City, which I started in the very beginning of this year and then never came back to. That was a much more fun game to play than this is, and although they're set in different time periods...the basic concept is the same. It's sort of a "Call of Duty" or "Battlefield" type of decision, and in this case, I'll pick GTA every time.

Overall Score? 7/10. Better than average, interesting and fun...but nothing that made me say "Oh my gosh, I have to drop everything and play this right now". I'm still hooked on Reach, I have a GTA game that I haven't finished yet, and there are a dozen other games that I can't wait for this holiday. I might come back to this someday...but it's pretty far down the list of games I have.

Achievements? I got quite a few this evening.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Video game number two hundred and seventy seven: 3 on 3 NHL Arcade

Video game review number two hundred and seventy seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "3 on 3 NHL Arcade"

I've been meaning to play this one for awhile now, not because I love hockey games...but because an "arcade" hockey game might have the kind of fun factor that NBA Jam did oh-so-many years ago. While regular hockey games are sort of boring to play.... Power-ups, quick games and faster paced action can always make it at least worth a try.

When I booted it up, I played against the computer to get the hang of it. The AI immediately scored a goal against me, but I soon learned how to answer back with one of my own. You earn cool power ups for knocking people down or stealing the puck. Among my favorites were the "Baby goalies", "Rocket Skates" and another one that turned one of your players into a giant who could knock anyone down.

I'm not enough of a hockey game fan to say whether or not the gameplay is "good", but everything worked the way I expected it to...and I was able to to score a few goals against the computer (and even an online human opponent) with very little practice. In that respect this was a pretty fun game. I haven't really enjoyed a hockey video game since 1992, so...that's saying something.

What I didn't like about the game was how random the power ups seemed to be. Like a game of Mario Kart, he who holds the best power up is in control, and when you've suddenly got a tiny goalie for some reason, you can't really do much but get scored on.

I can see how this would be a fun game to pick up and play with friends, but there's no online community for this anymore and I'm pretty sure none of my friends have it. Other than grinding out some achievements, I'm not sure why I'd want to play this again.

Overall Score? 5/10. It's purely average. Exactly what you expect from an arcade title, maybe less. Even though it calls itself "NHL", there are only two teams to choose from (red and blue) and with all the crazy power-ups, I'm not sure what this has to do with the NHL at all.

Achievements? Got these after a handful of games against computer and real opponents, and I'm told you can earn most of the rest of them fairly easily. If I'm ever in search of a quick 200, this game seems like it might be it:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Video game number two hundred and seventy six: Sonic Rush

Video game review number two hundred and seventy six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Sonic Rush"

All year long, I've been hating on Sonic the Hedgehog. I've played a ton of hedgehog based games this year, hoping to rediscover the fun I had as a teenager on the Sega Genesis with Sonic, but for the most part....it's been a big letdown. Either Sonic has changed or I have...because we are no longer compatible with each other. I've finally come to terms with the fact that it's time for me to break up with Sonic the Hedgehog.

We had our good times in the nineties, and then I sort of forgot about Sonic for awhile. My 365 challenge this year seemed like a great time to reconnect, but the first new Sonic game I tried was 3D and crappy. Then there was another one that was almost as bad. I began to hate the hedgehog. In fact, the only Sonic games I've actually enjoyed this year were games where he was making cameos in Sega All-Stars compilations, and even one of those sucked. Overall, it's been a bad year for Sonic.

Still, I remember why I loved him once. Sonic starred in some of the best 2D platformers from the 90's...and that's what Sonic Rush was supposed to be like. A throwback to the glory days. I rented it to give it a shot. At first, it was actually pretty good. The game uses both of the Nintendo DS screens in a way that's actually kind of cool. If you're traveling along the top screen, zooming through loops, you can see the ground below you on the bottom screen. Suddenly, you'll find yourself on a ramp, and then boom....you're on the lower screen, controlling Sonic from there. It's twitchy, fast...and fun.

I beat the first three levels and then reached what has to be the hardest "first boss" I've ever encountered in a Sonic game. It's Eggman (of course), and the bastard is driving another one of his giant machines (again). All you really have to do is jump out of the way when it attacks you and jump onto it's glass roof whenever it stops. Sounds easy, but for some reason, the damn pattern took me about 15 lives to master.

Despite the difficulty, I finally beat it and moved on to "area 2", a water level. The water levels were my nemesis in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Genesis, and this one seems ten times harder by comparison. Air bubbles are still scarce underwater, and when you're about to drown...the familiar music still plays before Sonic dies and sinks to the bottom. It's still sad when he croaks.

Try as I might, I was unable to make my way through this level after a good many attempts. It's rare for me to do, but after 5 levels....I gave up on this one because of the difficulty, not because of the quality. It's actually a pretty nice game, and it has almost everything that the old versions I loved had...save one thing: It's just too fucking hard.

Despite that, I think it has potential. It's not available for purchase from Gamefly, so I returned it...but I'm putting it on my list of games to buy before my next trip to wherever it is I happen to go next. I think this game is going to be one hell of a challenge, but from what I've played so far, it's a challenge worth taking. There's still hope for Sonic after all.

Overall Score? 6.5/10. So far, this is a better than average Sonic game. The graphics are old school, but the use of the two DS screens is new and cool. It was a little too difficult for my tastes at first, but that's not going to stop me from coming back to it someday. It's a solid old school style platform, and frankly...I think there's a shortage of those these days.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Video game number two hundred and seventy five: Singstar

Video game review number two hundred and seventy five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Singstar".

After playing a craptacular game this morning, but before going back to the amazing Halo Reach...I decided to pop a game into the PS3 that I knew I'd enjoy. After all, it's yet another karaoke title...and we all know how much I tend to enjoy these.

The other day, I played the Disney version of this...and although I thought it was pretty average, I did like the way they played entire scenes from the actual Disney movies behind the karaoke. This game does the same thing, but with pop music.

Sing some "No Rain" and you'll get the classic Blind Melon video, complete with the little girl in the Bee Costume. I played "Loser" by beck, "Losing my religion" by REM and a bunch of others. In fact, I probably played about 15 songs before my voice started to crack a bit and I called it a day. All of them were accompanied by the original music videos, which were just as fun to watch as they were to sing. Brought back lots of memories from the days when MTV was a music station, and not a reality show channel.

Aside from the videos, the singing itself is pretty fun....save one fatal flaw: Singstar cannot handle rapping (or speaking). In "Epic" by Faith no More, a lot of the song is rapped. The game can't pick up my cadence, and I'm sure it was calibrated correctly...so I think I'd have to work at it to get it right. It wasn't just that song though, because Beck's "Loser" was equally bad.

Speaking of calibration, I should briefly mention that I like how this game auto-calibrates the mic (you hold it up to your TV speaker and it does the magic for you). The latency it picks up on my Samsung LCD tv is around 70ms, which is about what I manually enter when I calibrate it in Rock Band.

There's a store, and I visited it to check out the selection. I was pretty shocked when I found out there were over 900 additional songs available for the game here. They were priced a little cheaper than Rock Band songs, and I have to admit, they had some great stuff on there. I'm not planning on buying this game (I feel like my music dollars belong to Rock Band these days), but if I was going to buy songs for a singing game, it would be this one...not Karaoke Revolution or Lips.

Overall Score? 7/10 This game has a lot to offer, including a pretty good (but short) setlist on the disk, online play, and hundreds of songs to download from the marketplace. I'm not planning on buying this, but if it ever happens to find it's way into my collection as a gift or something...I bet I'd buy a few of the great songs I saw online.

Trophies? Ok...let me bitch for a second here. Most of the trophies in this game are ridiculous. They are based on singing hundreds of songs, which sucks because the game only comes with 35 or so. Sure, you could sing every song on the disk 10 times and get some of these achievements, but I think you'd get tired of that and buy some DLC eventually. To do that...you'd probably have to spend another 75-100 bucks picking up 40 songs or so....and that raises the price of this game up quite a bit. That bugged me.

Here are the trophies I got, that didn't really involve repetition:



Video game number two hundred and seventy four: Spongebob Boating Bash

Video game review number two hundred and seventy four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Spongebob Boating Bash".

I have to be honest. I did not want to play this game this morning. Yes, at one point...I put this in my Gamefly queue because it sounded like it would be silly and fun, but when the game actually arrived in the mail earlier this week, I couldn't tear myself away from Halo Reach to play it.

Seriously...Reach has taken over my gaming time the way Call of Duty did when I first got that, or the way Halo 3 did many years back. It's just that good. Playing other games for this project (or for any other reason actually) seems like a chore of sorts. Reach is just that good.

I procrastinated until the weekend, figuring that I'd devote Saturday to playing a few different games before returning to Reach and finishing the campaign. That's not to say that I made my mind up to spend very little time with the games I had rented for the weekend (after all...God of War was actually pretty awesome and I played it for a few hours)....but when this one sucked, I wasn't sad about it.

I love me some Spongebob. Earlier this year, I very much enjoyed his platformer, and so I thought a "kart" game featuring Spongebob and friends driving around in boats trying to kill each other might be awesome as well.

Unfortunately, this game sucks out loud. It sucks in so many ways that we'd be here all day if I listed them all, so let's just do the list of BIG things that suck about it.

Number one flaw? You guessed it...the fucking Wii controls. Over this challenge, I have come to dislike the Nintendo Wii more than I've ever disliked a video game console before. I don't dislike it because it doesn't have a fun game here or there (despite what fanboys of other systems might say to dismiss it, it has plenty of good games). I dislike the Wii because the majority of their games suffer from a stupid, gimmicky control scheme which seems perfectly designed for hardcore gamers like me to loathe. The entire console seems like it was designed for people who never liked video games to begin with....and if you find one you like, it almost seems like an accident.

I realize Spongebob is a children's cartoon and that this is supposed to be a children's game, but I it's just ridiculously stupid. You hold the Wiimote sideways (or use the wheel) and you turn the controller like a steering wheel to control your boat. Gas and brake are the right two buttons, and then the A button "floors it" while the B button is your e-brake. The resulting control combo is a nightmare to play....and the 45 minutes to an hour that I spent with this game felt more like a dental visit than recreation. Honestly, I would have had more fun doing the dishes....it would have been less work.

For anyone who thinks I should just "get over the controls", I have a suggestion for you. Tonight, play an entire game of Monopoly with your friends, only don't use your hands. Instead, you have to move your pieces, roll the dice, pick up cards, exchange properties and currencies by using your mouth. Sounds pretty stupid doesn't it? That's what the Wii does with every game it butchers by slapping a stupid control scheme into the mix.

The graphics are awful (another regular occurrence on the Wii), and make the original cartoon look like something from Pixar by comparison. The voices are pretty good, and the one-liners are there...but that's about it. This game looks like it could have been executed in almost the same detail on the Nintendo 64, and honestly....it probably would have been a better game on that console because you wouldn't have to deal with the awful tilt controls.

I made it through the tutorial and played through several of the introductory levels, trying to get the hang of steering my stupid boat. Eventually, I could do it, though I wouldn't call it fun. Even though I was scoring B's and getting very close to the A rating, it was a struggle...and something I would have thrown back in the mail instantly if I wasn't trying to give it a fair try for this review.

I gave it a shot, and it was NOT a contender.

Overall Score? .5/10 One of the worst video games I've played this year. The only redeeming thing about this title is the voice acting. The jokes are funny (even though some were already getting repetitive after around an hour). I recognized several stars from the show, or at least some fantastic sound-alikes. Aside from that, I have nothing nice to say about this piece of shit. Avoid it at all costs.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Video game number two hundred and seventy three: God of War

Video game review number two hundred and seventy three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "God of War".

I rented this game as part of the PS3 "God of War Collection", because I had never played the originals and I wanted to try them out. Earlier this year, I tried God of War 3, and I really liked it. Although I never beat the game, I definitely still plan to...and playing this one only reaffirmed that mission for me.

To be clear, this is the original God of War from the Playstation, only with slightly updated graphics and trophies added. It's actually kind of a cool concept, and I wish more classic games were updated this way. Halo and Halo 2 maybe? How about Knights of the Old Republic? The possibilities are endless.

Right from go, I liked this game a lot. The action is easy to pick up, and the levels are nice and engaging. There are puzzles to solve, button sequence fatalities and tons of combos to get. The only thing I'd say this version didn't have that I really liked in God of War 3 is the HUGE scale bosses. Don't get me wrong, there are some big ones...but in the first few levels of God of War 3, you're already facing mountain size enemies. I'm not sure if some of those are coming later in this game, but so far...the biggest boss I've encountered was rather normal sized.

I may have to come back and fill in some more details later....but for now, I'm only 2 or 3 levels in, and I liked the game enough to buy it. I've decided that I'm going to completely finish this one before playing God of War 2, and then I'll go back to God of War 3, so I have my work cut out for me.

Overall Score? So far it's an 8/10...and I have to note, I also rated God of War 3 an 8/10 earlier this year, so I think I'll take another look at that score later after I've progressed into it. I'll bet it's going to earn a higher rating on my second play-through, but we'll wait until that happens first.

Trophies? I got a few:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Video game number two hundred and seventy two: Halo Reach

Video game review number two hundred and seventy two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Halo Reach".

I've been waiting for this game all year long and somehow it still managed to surpass all of the hype surrounding it. Halo Reach might possibly be the best Halo game ever.

Right off the bat, I decided to dive into the campaign. Although I haven't gotten more than a couple of levels in, but I can say that so far...it just "feels" right. The gameplay is no longer the linear "walk down this hallway, kill the aliens" version of the game that we're all used to, it has evolved further, like the ODST campaign did before it. The campaign levels are huge, expansive worlds, and the path through them feels like a sandbox, even though it's still somewhat linear as well.

I will come back to the campaign at a later time, but I need to focus the bulk of this review where it belongs: On the multiplayer.

There have been so many improvements on top of Halo 3 and ODST that it's hard to count them all. I will do my best to highlight the ones I think are the best.


Credit (CR) for everything you do: Call of Duty Modern Warfare is able to keep me addicted because of the constant leveling up of your character in regular multiplayer matches. Want new guns? Custom colors? Kill streak rewards? You have to keep playing, forever and ever. Until now, the Halo universe has never had this, but now they finally do. While you can't get better guns, you can get cooler looking armor (previously only earned by unlocking certain achievements). You can even unlock small amounts of credits by playing custom games, or the campaign. Eventually, I'll be able to have my player explode in a ball of confetti (if I can save up the million credits needed to do so). That will probably take months and months. Pretty awesome stuff.

Matchmaking firefight: When ODST introduced Firefight, it was an AWESOME gametype (much like the Gears of War "Horde" mode they were imitating. Unfortunately, it was fatally flawed, because it had no matchmaking. That meant if you ever wanted to play...you had to play with three friends. With my pals, it's pretty tough to coordinate times and what-not, so in the entire time I had ODST, according to bungie.net, I've only played about 60 games of it. I've already played almost 50 in Reach, in just the first week. Bravo for matchmaking.

3 choices of Gametype: In Halo 3, there was a "veto" feature if you didn't like the map and gametype in the lobby you joined. Now there are three, and people can vote. This is a cool feature, so long as you have the votes. If it's a bunch of random kids, you're very likely to get SWAT, Snipers or DMR (the one shot kill playlists). These are my least favorite game types, so hopefully they build different playlists so I can avoid them. Still, this new feature makes it democratic instead of random, and I like that. In a Team Slayer match with my friends, that means we'll almost always get to choose, and that's cool.

No more pressing a d-pad button to talk to your buddies in team games. Nuff said.

The equipment: So, the biggest change to Halo Reach is probably the equipment. They've added Jet Packs, armor lock abilities (basically it's like a bubble shield, only you are stuck inside it while it's on). Holograms (send a fake you out into battle), Sprint, Invisibility and more. This stuff adds a whole new dimension to the game, just like dual wielding did in the last one.

Bungie.net has been hugely improved: The new Bungie.net tracks almost everything you can possibly do in the game. It was the original, it's still the best. If you want to take a look at your career in a snapshot, this website has everything you need.

Daily and weekly challenges: This is a cool new credit-earning feature where you basically have to complete some small goal (75 kills in one day in multiplayer, etc) and you'll get a credit reward once you've completed them. There was an achievement for completing all five of them in one day, which I managed to do. Every day they change, it's pretty awesome stuff.

Joining your friends in progress: One of my biggest peeves with Halo is that when you pop online and see some friends you'd like to play with, it's sometimes tough to join them. You have to invite them, then they have to accept, or vice versa. Now, (if you have your privacy set to open), you can meet up a lot easier. The only bad thing? Some of my friends haven't figured this out yet, and still try to join me the "old" way.

Update 9/19/10.

This weekend I finished the campaign, and all I can say is "Wow". Not only is this the best Halo campaign ever, it's a perfect setup for everything in the first 3 games and has a ton of throwbacks to the older ones. If you were to skip through the cut-scenes, and just focus on the gameplay, it would still be a fantastic standalone game. It's just that good. Obviously, I still wouldn't recommend playing it that way, because if you watch everything and pay attention to the little clues, you'll realize the entire story of Halo is being set up here. It's pretty amazing.

I don't want to get into spoilers, but gameplay takes you into so many modes (several of them unlike anything you've done in any Halo game before), and each one is a little different than the level before it. Yes, there's a ton of action, and lots of it is unlike anything you've encountered in previous titles...but the awesome stuff for me was the story. If you're a Halo fan, you already have this game, and you already know how awesome it is. If not...this game could convert you.

Overall Score? 10/10. If there was a number higher than perfect, I'd award that number. I've just beaten the campaign, but I know I'll be going back through on Legendary someday to get all those achievements. I've barely scratched the surface of multiplayer, and I know I'll be playing it for years to come. There will be map packs, there will be Halo parties at my house...and I don't suspect I'll be putting this game away on the shelf anytime in the foreseeable future. This isn't just the best game I've played this year, or the best Halo game ever, (although it is both of those things). The compliments I want to give this game span beyond just saying it's the "best" of a year, or of a series. Frankly, I think this is destined to be one of my favorite video games of all time. That's saying a lot. I know I'll play this whenever I get a chance with my buddies online, and even when the new hotness is released....this will now be "Halo", and there will always be a place for that in my gaming time, just like there is for Mario Kart or Rock Band.

Achievements? Here's what I have so far. There will obviously be more (I'd love to 100% this game). I unlocked about 60% of it so far, and here's the list. I expect it to grow weekly. :-)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Video game number two hundred and seventy one: Blazblue Continuum Shift

Video game review number two hundred and seventy one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "BlazBlue Continuum Shift".

Apparently, I'm in the mood for Japanese games today, because this one is CERTAINLY Japanese. I have been aware of at least one other BlazBlue in the past, but I've never played the series...mostly because it's one of those extreme combo games, and I figured I wouldn't like it much.

I decided to take the tutorial (starting as a beginner) and right off the bat, this game feeds you a cockmeat sandwich. And I quote:

"About Beginner Mode: It is most perfectly suited to persons unfamiliar with fighting games, persons incapable of performing combos, and infants".

FUCK YOU, Blazblue.

As you progress through the tutorial, it becomes apparent that your teacher is a bitch, and that's just the way she talks...but at first, it was kind of annoying to have the game tell you that you were lame for trying to learn it.

Anyway...I progressed through most of (but not all of) the tutorial, because it's extremely lengthy. They really do teach you just about everything though, and I felt like I had a big enough grasp on it to go into the story mode.

When I started that, I sat through about 20 minutes of cut scenes before realizing the story was not only stupid, it was extremely long, and the fighting was spaced way too far apart. Clearly, this mode is made for big fans of the series, which I am not. I switched to arcade.

In arcade mode, you play the standard Street Fighter 2 model. Start at the bottom, fight nine guys until you get to the boss. I didn't make it through nine guys....but I did get to number 7 (a big fat guy with robot hands). He kicked my butt. I had no interest in continuing.

This game is exactly what I don't like about fighting games. It's all twitch, all memory, and no fun. If you don't know the moves list by heart (and every counter for every character as well)...you're going to get owned. Not my kind of game, and because I got two achievements (one for watching the story, and one for pulling off a complicated finishing move I learned in the tutorial)...I get to quit now.

Overall Score? 3/10. Definitely not my cup of tea. It was fun to button mash for a minute or two...but the story is silly, the moves are ridiculous hard (and all timing based)...and I'd rather not play an arcade game that requires you to study for 40 hours before you're even worthy of an online match.

Achievements? Here are the only two I will ever get in this:



P.S. Mr. Tiddles? Really?

Video game number two hundred and seventy: Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore 2

Video game review number two hundred and sixty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore 2".

When I played and reviewed the original American Idol game a few months ago, I played mostly in the campaign, trying to impress Simon, Randy and Paula all the way to the finals, where I eventually became the American Idol.

Unfortunately...most people don't remember that I was once the American Idol, and I don't get to cut ahead in line or anything at supermarkets. Nobody at my day job treats me any differently, and the only place I can get a singing gig is downtown sidewalks, hoping for pedestrians to throw change into my guitar case.

This game is my shot at a comeback.

This time around, the game is nearly identical...so I spent most of my time just checking out the setlist and singing it. Once again, it's pretty good...but once again, a lot of the songs are covers. It didn't really bother me when I was singing (who listens to the original track while they're singing anyway?).

I ran through some medleys for a few achievements, and then did a few single songs just for fun. One achievement I specifically chased was dressing up like Rocky Balboa and singing "Eye of the Tiger". I wanted the American flag shorts on my profile for some reason.

Maybe I won't be an American Idol this time around after all, but it's still pretty fun.

Overall Score? 7/10. Once again, it's a solid singing title. I think there's actually more party replay value here because of the setlist, but it's still a bit shallow compared to a game like Rock Band that has around 2000 songs and support for every plastic instrument you can buy. Still, for fans of the show (or fans of Karaoke Revolution in general), you can't really go wrong here.

Achievements? Yes sir...especially the last one. :-)

Video game number number two hundred and sixty nine Deathsmiles

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

DeathSmiles is a Japanese shoot-em-up (or "Shmup" as some gamers call them these days)...starring a bunch of anime characters I am not familiar with who are tasked with fighting some pretty weird enemies.

This game reminds me of something on the Sega Genesis, in that it's one of those games with 1000 bullets on the screen at a time (about 25% from you and the rest from your enemies), and your only mission is to keep shooting until everything is dead.

Along the way, you collect items that fall from enemies, which you can save and eventually spend on powered-up weapons. You start out with three bombs, and then when you collect 1000 items (which usually takes the entire level to do), you'll get this super magic-shot thing that shoots a ton of extra bullets at your enemies. Unfortunately, if you die, your item counter is reset to zero, so I found that getting the magic stuff was harder on the later levels.

Speaking of levels, the main story mode has less than ten and they are pretty short. I was able to do a complete run-through in around an hour. I saw the entire story (not saying I understood it, but I saw it)...and got to choose my character's fate at the end of the game. Either choice gives you an achievement it turns out, so if I want to get the other one, I have to beat the game again.
To quote every character in this game " ... "

Yup, that's what they say. Dot Dot Dot.

If you want to get all the achievements in this game, the secret is repetition. You have to choose each of the characters in the game and beat the entire thing twice with each of them to get all of those achievements. Each time you beat it, you'll get the chance to make a choice, and each choice produces a different text ending and different achievements. After that, you'll have to beat a harder mode of all the same levels again. Then you have to max out your player level and score. Then you have to do all of that yet again, on the hardest difficulty...without ever getting hit.

Insanity.

While I would definitely recommend renting this game for an afternoon if you like shooters, unless you are a fanatic, I would stay far away from this one as far as a purchase goes. It's a short game, and the only replay value comes in the form of mastering the same levels over and over again. Yes, that's like an old school game, and no...I don't mind short games, so long as there's another mode or something else interesting to do there. I like that they've added some crazy achievements as incentives....but seriously, what kind of player are they targeting? Is there anyone that still does this? Maybe when I was 12 and I had limited money for games, I might have bought this one and beaten it six ways from Sunday before I saved up for the next one. These days, I am a little more well funded, and there's Gamefly for renting games before I buy them. With so many great games out there, I can't imagine that there are still people in the world who pick up a game like this and then play it for weeks (or months) in a row until they have finally beaten it 1000 times over. I'm sure there are a few dedicated people who will do it...and I salute them. For the rest of us, this game doesn't feel like a 40-50 dollar game, it feels like a ten dollar Xbox Live Arcade game. Unless you plan to try and get all 1000 gamerscore (and good luck to you if you do)...I don't think this one is worth the purchase. Rent it, beat it as many times as you'd like to, and move on.

Anyway...I'm ranting a bit there, but let me just circle back to say that this game was fun during the time it took me to beat it (once), but not fun enough that I want to repeat the entire experience again (and again). Each level has a boss at the end (my favorite was a giant cow named Mary)...and in the final level, you'll face almost all of them in a row. Brutal...but the unlimited continues kept it fun.

Overall Score? 7/10. As far as shooters go, this is the best one I've played in a long time. I'd rate it higher, but not at a 40-50 dollar price point. If you can find this used for cheap, or you rent it from Gamefly, I think it's more of an 8/10. If you pay full price, I think you'd be wasting your cash.

Achievements? Oh yes. While it will be nearly impossible to get the last 400 points, I think the first 600 could be ground out in a couple of days. I'm happy with the 13 I got.


Video game number two hundred and sixty eight: Tom Clancy's Hawx 2

Video game review number two hundred and sixty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Tom Clancy's Hawx 2".

It's weird to play a game called "Hawx" that doesn't involve everyone's favorite aging skateboarder. I wonder how Tony Hawk would do strapped in to the cockpit of a fighter jet and unleashed against whoever the enemy of the day is. He'd probably pull off some sick tricks in his plane, that much is for sure.

Anyway...this game has nothing to do with skateboarding, and instead...is all about fighter planes. They start you off in the cockpit of one on an air force base, and you get to figure out how to find the runway and take off all by yourself. It was rather linear, but still a little bit of a mystery. I thought it was kind of cool that that's how you start out.

You proceed through the normal training mode (flying and dogfighting) and then your training mission ends and suddenly you're at war. As I mentioned in my Warhawk review, I have played a bunch of flying games this year, and this one stacks right in the middle of them.

I actually don't enjoy the combat very much. The plane is very difficult to keep centered and dog fights involve a LOT of looping (and not a lot of combat). Where-oh-where is that fabulous dog fighting from Crimson Skies? I miss that game so much, the PC version is still my favorite flying game of all time. Hawx can't really compete with the arcadey fun of that one, though I suppose it tries in multiplayer. More on that in a minute.

The campaign actually reminds me a little of the original Top Gun game for the NES. Learn to take off, land, fight (this time with) the Russians, take out bases, etc, etc. I wasn't a fan of the dog fighting levels, but I did really like the levels where you were a drone or an AC-130. Perhaps it's all the time I spent with Call of Duty this year, or perhaps it's just because those things are fun...but I really enjoyed providing air support for ground troops. That was by far the best part of this game.

I made it through the first six levels of the game (the pattern seemed to be Dog Fight/Air Support and so-on). I got to land my plane once (very hard) and refuel my plane once. That wasn't as hard as I remember it being in Top Gun on the NES, but man-oh-man, it took me forever to nail it.

Before quitting the game, I decided to try a multiplayer match to see if I liked it any better than dogfighting with the computer. The answer? Not so much. I started out in a match with two people on my team vs. four on the opposing team. I had a really good partner who was somehow beating the four of them by himself, and then we got two more teammates and won the game handily. My contribution? 2 kills and 11 deaths.

Overall Score: 6/10. It's slightly better than your average flying game, but I still wouldn't play this again. I've heard the original is better...so maybe I'll try that sometime. I also kind of want to try one of the Xbox 360 flight sticks someday, I hear they are pretty good.

Achievements: For some reason, they only give you achievements for every OTHER level...but that was enough to get a few.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Video game number two hundred and sixty seven: Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days

Video game review number two hundred and sixty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days".

Earlier this year, I played the original Kane and Lynch. I was not a fan, largely due to some horrible combat controls, and I never picked it back up again. This one came out last week and even though I never finished the original, I still threw it onto my list of games to play anyway. After all, it was the previews for this game that got me interested in playing the original in the first place.

Once again, the story is pretty cool. There's an interesting gimmick this time around where everything looks like it's being filmed with a cell phone or something. It's a lot of shaky-cam, but it does look pretty real...and the jumps from cut-scene to gameplay are actually pretty smooth.

You begin in this alley, then you go see a "friend", who ends up running from you and having all his friends shoot at you. This is hardly a "tutorial", but it does introduce you to the controls and cover system. You run your way through the town, sort of learning as you go before the next big mission.

I can't say I'm a fan of the combat controls this time around either, but they have been slightly improved. I still don't like the aiming, it's still sloppy. Aiming is more "spray and pray" than it is precise....and it feels like random chance anytime you actually hit a guy from a distance.

Switching from one cover spot to another is tough...and I would often get shot while trying to move around corners. Jumping into cover is fine, but getting out of it is a pain in the ass. Imagine Gears of War if you couldn't move from cover to cover, and that's what this is like.

Despite all of the control problems still lingering from the first one....it's actually a slightly better game, and I like it a little more than the last one. Enough to finish the story? That's the million dollar question. I think that I'd come back to this one, or at least add it to my list of games to come back to someday. It's got potential.

Overall Score? 6.5/10. Above average....but still very flawed. I love the cinematics, I like the new shaky cam, and the graphics are pretty darn good. The firefights are still pretty intense, and if only the controls were better, this game could have really been something awesome.

Achievements: Here's what I got after the first couple of levels.

Video game number two hundred and sixty six: World Championship Poker: All in

Video game review number two hundred and sixty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "World Championship Poker: All in".

If for some reason you've been reading all of my reviews for this project, you might remember me making a comment a week or so ago about how all poker games are pretty much the same.

I take it back.

World Series of Poker 2008 is a much better poker game than this one is.

This game features ho-hum graphics with an incredibly lame and repetitive soundtrack. The menus are annoyingly difficult to decipher, but once you have...you'll realize that all your options are crap anyway.

I tried playing offline, but the character models (and voices) are so ridiculous that it's almost annoying. They let you customize a character, but the choices are just...silly. It's funny, but I actually miss the pros from the last poker game I played.

I switched to online, and met up with some guy from England who was going for achievements. There are achievements just for playing hands, so he'll set himself up in a match and just let his character auto-fold all day to rack up the "hands played" stat. Every once in awhile he would jump in and play, which made it difficult to predict how to bet.

I let that go on for awhile while I checked my email, and then I actually took a trip to the mailbox to send some of my games back to Gamefly. When I returned from the mailbox, both our characters were still auto-playing hands and I had a new achievement. I'll bet if I let this go all night, I could get like 200 gamerscore.

Anyway, I was about to call it a day when a real player came into the lobby. He used the onscreen chat board to say hi. I said hello and then settled back in, after all...this guy was the only other person online right now, and he was for real. We played 4 or 5 hands, and then he foolishly went all in against me when I had a full house, and I took him out of the match. He never came back.

After that, I found a few new people to play with...and the game got a little more exciting (ultimately, I ended up winning about 500 in game dollars). Still, with the horrible music and horrible voices, it was incredibly annoying to play.

Overall Score? 3/10. Honestly....that one all-in hand was the only real "fun" I had in this game. There's not much of an online community to speak of anymore, so unless you want to generate some quick gamerscore...I can't think of any reason to play this one.

Achievements: Here's what I got while playing (and while NOT playing).

Video game number two hundred and sixty five: Stormrise

Video game review number two hundred and sixty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Stormrise".

Stormrise is a third person real time strategy game. I like RTS (although I haven't found many I've liked outside of the PC world yet), but this is sort of new to me. You have all these units you're supposed to command (and buildings that build them), but it's set in a third person view, which means you can't manage all of them at once. This makes for some of the most confusing micro-management you can think of, and although the story is cool....the gameplay leaves too much to be desired.

There's this thing called "whipping" which moves the camera around. I used it a TON (trying to micromanage all of my units), but it's still not the same as a top down view. If you have a group of soldiers walking from point A to point B, and they start getting attacked, sometimes it's tough to "whip" the camera over to them to control them fast enough to save their lives. And why don't they attack things along the way anyway? Stupid soldiers.

I played through the tutorial level (which is a little battle on it's own) and then the first mission, which took me another 30 minutes or so. By the time I was done, I could tell that I didn't want to continue. I'd watch all the story cut scenes on youtube, but I have no interest in actually playing the game anymore.

Overall Score? 2/10. It's a neat concept, but poor execution. This game isn't really fun at all. Good cut scenes, but that's really it.

Achievements? Yeah.

Video game two hundred and sixty four: Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake

Video game review number two hundred and sixty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake"

Here we are, ladies and gentlemen. The home stretch. With this title, I am now on the edge of the last 100 games of my 365 game challenge, a little ahead of the pace I'll need to keep for the rest of the year to finish it. There are three months and change left in the year, and I actually think I might be able to meet my goal if I keep at it.

I never played the original Fat Princess game, but decided to give this one a try because it sounded rather interesting. You have a castle (as does your opponent) and your job is either to bring your (fat) princess there, or feed her if she's already home. Silly...but interesting.

Apparently, your princess stumbled upon some cursed cake in the forest, and now she can't stop eating. She gets super fat, and oddly enough...the only thing that brings her weight down is...tada...the cursed cake. In some levels, you have to run out and collect that cake for her, in others...you have to find her out in the forest and bring her back to your castle.

At heart, this game is basically "Team Capture the Flag", with a fat princess being substituted for the red and blue flags. You still have opposing teams, they have different weapons (which you select by putting on different hats) and you have to work together to save the princess. I imagine it's a lot of fun as a multiplayer title, but in single player mode...it's just a lot of bots.

The combat is ok, but nothing special. You basically hack and slash your way across the map. I liked the warrior class, but there were these "worker" guys, who can run really fast (great for carrying the princess) and these mage guys who can throw fire. There are villagers and archers...but they all pretty much control the same.

On the map, there are points you need to control (called outposts). Much like territories in Halo, once you have stood in one of these long enough, it changes to your team color and you control it. Not a new concept, so winning outposts was easy and familiar.

Overall Score? 5/10. I wasn't a fan of the single player game. If I had 15 friends with this one, I think I might enjoy it more....but playing deathmatch without humans isn't exactly fun. After a handful of levels saving the princess (or feeding her cake), I called it a day.

Back to Gamefly you go!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Video game number two hundred and sixty three: Disney Sing It: Family Hits

Video game review number two hundred and sixty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Disney Sing It: Family Hits"

Two games with "family" in the title in the road equals one wild and crazy Friday night, that's for sure.

Actually, I always enjoy a good Karaoke title, and this one is filled with songs from Disney Movies. While you're singing them, the actual scenes from the movie play in the background, so instead of watching some silly avatar dance around, you get to relive childhood memories.

Well, at least in some cases.

I'm aware Disney is still making movies these days and they want to get something for the kids in there, but I would have loved to see more classic Disney songs you hear in the park, like Hi-Ho, or maybe the Pirates of the Caribbean ride soundtrack. They had one song from Mary Poppins, but there are like 5 other great ones from that movie. There were a few songs from the Toy Story movies (which was cool), but only one from the Little Mermaid, which had a ton of good songs.

Set list aside, the game itself is pretty straightforward. You sing, try to get points and unlock trophies. You can sing by yourself or in duets with a partner. I asked my wife if she wanted to sing, and she said no, but then when she heard me sing the "whole new world" song from Aladdin, she went twirling by in the hallway, singing the Jasmine parts for fun. Too bad she didn't do it on mic, I think there's a duet achievement or something.

I cherry picked my favorite songs from the set list, and a few I didn't know...and by the time my voice was sore, I had earned a ton of trophies. It's not a game I'd own, but I bet my little sister would love this one.

Overall Score? 5/10. This is your average singing game, with an all Disney setlist. If you are a huge Disney fan who probably owns all these soundtracks, it's a must own. The way I look at it, it's like "Guitar Hero Van Halen", or some other band specific music game that I don't really feel like I need to buy. I am glad I rented it, it made for a fun little evening of singing...but I think I'm done now.

Trophies: Oh yes, I got quite a few:

Video game number two hundred and sixty two: Family Party: 30 Great Games.

Video game review number two hundred and sixty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Family Party: 30 Great Games"

I'm a fan of "mini-game" games, so when Gamefly recommended that I rent this one, I obliged. 30 Great games? I figured I'd enjoy at least a few of them. Plus...maybe I could count each one individually and be like a month ahead in my challenge!!

Kidding of course.

First of all, I must warn you...there are not 30 great games on this disk. I played the first five and only one of them was any fun.

The first game (15 Tier Jump) is a confusing and annoying. The computer beat me every time I tried it.

Next came the Balance Bridge. This game involves balancing your Wiimote (surprising) and running by hitting a couple of buttons back and forth. It was ok...

The Jump Hang was confusing, but on my second try I figured it out. It was ok....nothing that constitutes a "Great" game though.

The wall? Awful.

The barrel ride? Even worse.

That's 5/30 games, and I only liked one. Just...like mind you. it's not great. So right off the bat, the box art on this game totally lies.

Onto the next group.

The Bombardment Bridge: Here, you cross a bridge as people shoot at you, and you have to block their shots. Once you make it, you turn into a shooter. Nice concept, I could see how it might be fun with 3 people. With the computer? Not so much.

The Double Flag: you're supposed to use a combination of button presses and Wiimote swings in a game of Simon Says with flags. It's incredibly hard to control and horrible.

The Cushion: Balance yourself on top of a stack of pillows...except it's fucking hard.

The Fly Catch: Use your Wiimote to point at targets where fly balls will be headed on a baseball field, then catch them. I actually won this one, but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck.

The Sky Swing: Be a trapeze artist. I died a LOT.

Ok folks at Tamsoft. Let me explain to you how mini-games are supposed to work:

1. They are supposed to be easy to pick up and play. Yours are not.
2. They are supposed to be fun. Yours are not.
3. They are supposed to inspire the player to want to try again until they master them. yours did not.

Overall Score? 2/1o. I played 30% of the mini-games in this crappy compilation, and that was enough to know I wouldn't wish this game on someone I hated. It's absolute horse shit, and if there is a Wii in hell, this is likely the only game they'll have there. The only redeeming factor? It has bright colors and happy noises, so if you want to babysit a toddler, you can probably hand them the controller and let them go nuts for awhile.

Video game number two hundred and sixty one: Metroid: Other M

Video game review number two hundred and sixty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Metroid: Other M"

Once, I loved Metroid. On the original Nintendo (back in the long, long ago)...I played through that entire game only to find out the hero was a girl (!!). I totally entered the "Justin Bailey code", which let me play the game again, this time with the hero in what looked like a swimsuit.

On the Super Nintendo (my favorite version of the game), I played the hell out of Super Metroid. I can't even remember how many times I played it. There was a Gameboy version (which I enjoyed)...and then, for some reason, they decided to turn Metroid into a first person shooter. Suddenly, I didn't like it so much anymore.

I have seen several screens of Other M, and although it looked like more of the same....I wanted to be open minded. I booted the game, and what do you know...it asked me to turn the controller sideways. Now we're getting somewhere.

The game starts with some rather lengthy cut scenes. They're pretty cool, and tell you a bit of the story (which seems like it's continuing from a previous 3D game that I have not played). You get a feel for the controls with a tutorial level and then it's on to space to fly to your next mission.

You land at a space station. A very dark space station. You meet some friends, fight some bad guys, and find your way up through the (very dark) tunnels.

There's a map in the top right of the screen which (sort of) helps you get around. When you're traveling horizontally, this is kind of fun, but sometimes you have to travel diagonally, and then the controls get a bit wonky. Combat is mostly auto-lock on (which is nice), but because the gameplay is sort of 3rd person now, I found that I often managed to shoot in the wrong direction.

The jumping reminded me of the older games (I liked that), but a lot of the combat didn't feel quite right, especially missles, which you must stop, point the remote at the TV screen, and aim in the third person to shoot. Doing this in battle is nearly impossible.

There have been about 11 Metroid games, and I've only played 4 or 5 of them. Of those 5, I've only (really) liked 3....so I'm wondering if I can still call myself a Metroid fan at this point. I only liked a handful of the Zelda games, so I think the same thing applies there too. One thing is for sure: This new Metroid game is not my cup of tea.

Overall Score? 6/10. As far as Wii games go, I suppose it's slightly above average, but I was not a fan of the controls, and the graphics aren't terribly great at all. I know it's about as good as the Wii can do, but this really doesn't feel "next gen". The cut scenes are the one exception to that comment (they are fantastic).

I'm going to return this one to Gamefly, where I'm sure someone else can rent and love it.