Sunday, October 31, 2010

Video game number three hundred and ten: Spider Man Shattered Dimensions

Video game review number three hundred and ten in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Spider Man Shattered Dimensions".

I've played a few comic book games this year....and they never really seem to deliver what you think they will. Although I was sure I had played one before, it turned out that (at least on Xbox), this was the first Spider Man game I've ever played. Somehow, that surprised me. If I was on some strange quizzer show where the host asked if I'd ever played a Spider Man game before, I'd probably hit the plunger and guess "Yes". I would of course be wrong, and miss out on whatever the awesome prize was for that round.

As this is my first Spider Man game, I suppose I shouldn't really have any sort of quality bar that I should have been expecting it to hit. All I know is that I didn't like it, and after reading other reviews saying this is one of the better ones....I certainly didn't want to try any of the ones before this.

The game starts off with a Stan Lee intro (awesome) and you find out that some tablet artifact has been split up across four different time periods. One is "Classic" (where you'll play as good old red and blue Spider Man). Another is some sort of steampunk era, which I'm not a fan of. There's a future Spider Man, and then there's also the black suit. Each suit has different powers, different voices (I'm told they are from all the different TV shows over the years), and you get to flip back and forth between them from level to level.

The concept enough is cool, but of's never as fun as it sounds. First of all, web slinging is a pain in the ass, and it's your primary method of travel. You swing from spot to spot, aiming for lit-up points on walls and pillars, but if you miss, it's'll just fall and have to press the RT button to "recover" (which bounces you high up into the air).

I don't know what I was hoping for here, but something more open world feeling would have been nice. I'm thinking of the game Prey, where you can jump from building to building, and you'll stick to the sides regardless of where you land. You'd think Spider Man would have that same power, but no...he falls unless he sticks to the perfect spot.

Another pain in the ass is that the camera completely blows in this game, and whenever you are traveling via the web, you're going to find that the camera is all over the damn place. Spider Man can crawl up certain (not all) walls...and when you're crawling on one, the camera becomes a little bit retarded there too. If you happen to be on a ceiling and there's an enemy below you, you
might see him..and you might not, all bets are off.

Most of the time you are web slinging to get somewhere, but're doing it to collect coins and puzzle pieces, which will help you save the day. Every time you collect X-many, you're going to unlock some new special move (I unlocked about eight of them, and promptly forgot the controls for each one.)

When you're not flying around on your web or crawling around on (certain specific)'ll be fighting. Combat in this game is only "meh"...and seems to have only two difficulties: Far too easy and frustratingly difficult. During the first and second boss fights, I got thrown into some stupid first person perspective, and had to control two floating fists in front of me to beat on the boss for awhile to finish him off. Oh my.

Overall Score? 5/10. This game is purely average as far as games go, which is about what I expect from a license game these days. It's not as good as I hoped, but also not as bad as I feared. It's better than the original Iron Man and Hulk games, that's for sure. Still, unless you're a big Spidey fan, I think you might want to try out some of the other awesome games that were just released, like Enslaved.

Achievements? Trick or Treat...I got a few:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Video game number three hundred and nine: Kirby's Epic Yarn

Video game review number three hundred and nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Kirby's Epic Yarn".

You may have heard the expression "cute overload" before, but you may not have actually experienced it. If you play this will get to see what it is firsthand, and only your a serious disposition and strong intestinal fortitude will be able to save you from barfing up rainbows after playing it. Kirby is one happy little pink dude, made out of yarn...and he spends the game bouncing happily around a land of trees and clouds.

I'm pretty sure this is the most "cutesy-poo" game I've ever played....and I've played a lot of different games in my life. This game is a Valentine's Day card dipped in Syrup propped on top of a birthday cake at a puppy's birthday party.

To play, you hold the controller sideways, and you lead Kirby on an adventure through different worlds. There is nothing wrong with this formula, and I totally enjoyed playing it...but honestly, if any of my friends would have walked in during this, I think they probably would have snickered at the graphics.

This game looks and sounds like Fisher Price, for girls...and it's just unabashedly cute. Kirby squeals and "boings" when he bounces, and the music is a piano lullaby of happy little tunes that you might find playing in a baby's crib. Sometimes Kirby turns into a happy little car that goes "beep beep" as it drives. The game could just as easily have featured Elmo or a Teletubbie, and wouldn't even have noticed.

Overall Score: 7.5/10 I played through the first four levels of the game, and it's not that I had a bad time or anything (it's actually a really strong platformer). This is such a hard game to score because on the one's a really good video game, but on the's like the bunny suit in "A Christmas Story". The thing may be well crafted and cute, but the 12 year old gamer inside me just sees a pink nightmare. I had fun playing this, and I might even like to finish it someday, but after playing it for a few hours in one sitting, I felt like I needed to move on. I hate to say it, but video games are becoming a world of Halo, Gears of War and Rock music. If Kirby wants to stay relevant, he might need a machine gun or something. Or a flamethrower. :-)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Video game review three hundred and eight: Enslaved

Video game review number three hundred and eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Enslaved".

I wasn't sure what I was going to think about Enslaved when I started playing it. I hadn't heard much about it, but the cover art had been plastered all over Gamefly and the back of video game I was definitely "aware" of it's impending release. Still, all I knew is that it was some sort of action game. I hadn't read any reviews...and I just dove in blind.

This game is actually pretty cool.

You are the hero, a guy named "Monkey" (he says that he has no name and this is just his nickname, and we don't even find that out until the 2nd level or so). You're on a slave ship of some kind that you bust out of, and as you're escaping, you see a hot chick running away ahead of you. She keeps locking the doors as she reaches them, leaving you to find another way off this (slowly) crashing ship. Finally (minor spoiler)...she gets the last escape pod, and you're hanging on for dear life.

You both crash and when you wake up, she's put this slave headband thing on you, and you have to do whatever she says, or pain is inflicted automatically. She tells you that if she dies, the headband will automatically kill you. Nice. You immediately hate this chick and want to kill her, but as it turns out, she's only put you in this situation because she needs your help getting back to her village. Although you're obviously pissed about this, you don't really have a choice as to whether or not to go on this adventure. It's a pretty interesting dynamic that grows as the game progresses.

The game is set in the future, and you crash in the ruins of New York city. I don't want to spoil anymore of the plot, but I will say that there are a lot of twists and turns along the way, and it's a really good story. The gameplay itself consists of a lot of jumping, stealth, and some fairly limited combat against lots of robotic enemies.

The girl (Trip) will scan the environment and warn you of danger, and then you have to run off and clear all the obstacles before she will proceed. She has the ability to create digital decoys to buy you some time, and she can also launch an EMP if she gets into real trouble. For the most part's all on you to get the both of you through the city.

I'm only about 30% of the way through the game so far, but I really...really like it. It's one of the better campaigns I've encountered so far this year, and as simple as the concept sounds, the characters are pretty interesting. It actually feels like an adventure movie that I would totally watch if I stumbled across it on cable or something. I can see the lead character being played by a Marky Mark or maybe someone similar, and the girl being played by whichever one of Hollywood's hottest actresses was available that week. It would probably make a ton of money in a theatrical release.

Overall Score? 8.5/10. It's just a really, really good platformer that I think I'll play once (and probably not a second time after that). I totally want to get to the end and see what happens in the story though. The graphics are nice...and aside from a few little glitches here and there (the camera sucks and I've managed to get stuck and needed to restart a few times)'s a good experience. Not too hard, not too

Achievements? Got a few to start and I know I'm going to keep playing too...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Video game number three hundred and seven: 3D Ultra Mini Golf 2

Video game review number three hundred and seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "3D Ultra MiniGolf 2".

I loved the first 3D Ultra Mini Golf, because it was easy to control, fun to play..and had plenty of secrets to discover. I'm only 18 holes into this one, but I already hate it...because it's hard to play, hard to control...and has TOO many secrets to discover.

Why is it so damn hard? Allow me to explain:

When you start up on a hole, you get one quick look at it, and then they plop you down onto the tee with no way to really see what you're aiming at. You can do a bird's eye view of the greens if you like, but that doesn't help in an elaborate mini-golf course where the goals are sometimes hidden. I realize that they want you to play each course over and over again until you've mastered the path to the hole in one...but it's a real pain in the ass the first time you go through a course and it takes you 10 strokes to get through a par 5.

The music is annoyingly repetitive...and after a very short while, I had to shut it off. The graphics are fine for an arcade golf game, and the hole design is ok...but again, when you're on a course...I can't stress how annoying it is that you can't preview the hole at all. It completely ruined the game for me. I don't want to play each course a dozen times just to be able to pass it. Not even real golf is that boring.

After a couple of hours of play, I've been unable to get an achievement, so I'm going to have to come back to it later.

--Updated 11/1/2010---

So, today I realized that you can't progress to the next tournament until you've won a tournament on the first course...and when I finished my 18 holes I was 50+ strokes over there was no chance of that happening. I could see the other courses in "practice" mode, which is how I assume they want you to learn the holes...but honestly, that seems extremely grindy to me. I want to PLAY not practice.

I decided to try my hand at creating my own little course to get an achievement, and I found that the editor was pretty easy to use. I made a hole that reminded me a lot of the ones at Scandia (a mini-golf/go-kart racing center I used to go to in California as a kid). The tee started you out on a hill, and you had to hit the ball into one of three tubes, which would take it to a lower level, where the hole would be. I created it in less than 5 minutes and took it online to try it out against some random people.

One of the other players managed to get Par (which I set at 3) on my course. I was pretty impressed. I got bogey, and another achievement for hosting the game. Score. That was enough to save me from playing anymore of this shitty game for this challenge.

Overall Score? 4/10. I do enjoy the arcade style golf games (Outlaw Golf for the original Xbox was one of my favorites), but this game completely fails to be anything even close to that one. I'm not a fan of the controls, I hate the fact that Par is REALLY difficult on most holes until you know the secrets...and the music grinds on your brain. For 800 points (ten bucks) you could buy this game, or you could buy a used copy of Outlaw Golf (and the sequel) from and have some change left over.

Achievements? Just what I got this morning for creating a course and then hosting a game on it. I have no interest in chasing anymore of these achievements.

Video game number three hundred and six: Pinball FX2

Video game review number three hundred and six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Pinball FX2".

I really enjoy Pinball games, whether it's on real machines located in an arcade or bowling alley...or sitting on my couch playing a video game. Real pinball machines are getting harder and harder to find these days, as most of the manufacturers stopped making them years ago, but there are still plenty of places to go in Seattle where you can get a game of pinball on. Shorty's Arcade downtown is one such example. They have some of the greatest machines ever made down there, as well as some tasty hot dogs. The last time I went, I sampled both....before heading to the bar next door for many drinks, and then back again for more pinball later. Another place I discovered recently was Ground Kontrol in Portland, OR...and holy crap...that place is like the Mecca of classic gaming. Their game selection is, for lack of a better word: Amazing.

Anyway, Pinball FX is a free (FREE!) game download, but before you get too excited, I should note Game Room...the free download is mostly just a sample to get you to buy new tables. Unlike Game Room, I'm happy to spend my money on these new tables, because I think they are done extremely well..and they're fun to play over and over again.

If you own the original Pinball FX (which I do), you'll get a free import into Pinball FX2, where all the tables you already own will look better and where I actually think they're more fun to play. You'll also be able to try any of the downloadable tables from right there on the main screen, and buy them if you like them. As much as it bugs my wallet, I can see myself buying most of these in the future....because I really enjoy playing games like this while I'm talking on the phone or something. They're great, mindless fun.

Each table you play has it's own set of goals, and while some are easy to master, some are incredibly hard. The high scores needed to rack up crazy achievements are ridiculous...yet, people on the leaderboards have done I know they're possible. The game shows your score vs. the world and vs. your friends after every it's a lot like a real arcade that way. You're always on the prowl, trying to beat that next high score.

Overall Score? 8/10. This is my favorite arcade game of the moment, and the only reason I'm not rating it higher is that technically...the game itself doesn't offer a lot. You have to buy a lot of the good tables, but really...when you do the math, you're not spending more than you would on a normal arcade game in order to buy them. This game is free to begin with, and the tables are cheap, so to me...that's a good deal.

Achievements? Just the tip of the iceberg I think.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Video game number three hundred and five: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1

Video game review number three hundred and five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project "Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1".

At long last...old school Sonic the Hedgehog is back, and not a moment too soon. Anyone reading these reviews even a little bit has probably stumbled across at least ONE Sonic game I've reviewed this year (There's a pretty complete summary of my feelings on Sonic in this review). All in, it appears that I've played (at least) seven different games featuring Sonic so far this year...and I've hated almost every single one of them. Why?

Because none of those games are anything like this one is.

Sonic 4 Episode 1 is a throwback to the glory days of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Genesis. When you boot the title, the old school Sega logo comes up, and it has that classic 16-bit "Sega!" sing-song jingle. The midi instruments start playing, and know you're home.

It's not like I don't love new versions of old titles that do something completely different with the series. Hell, just read my review for Super Mario Galaxy 2 (a game I still need to buy and finish when this challenge is over). What I hate is when new versions of old titles figure out how to sap everything you loved out of the classic..and then replace it with bullshit.

That's what countless Sonic sequels have been doing for years....ever since the last good game on the Sega Genesis or maybe (just maybe) the one on the Dreamcast.

Well no more. This downloadable title turns it all around for the series, by taking it back to the old school...and I love it. Sonic starts out in "Splash Hill Zone", and it looks just like the first levels of the old school Hedgehog games, except with updated graphics. Side scrolling...speedy gameplay...I was INSTANTLY familiar with the controls and knew exactly what to do. Keep running to the right, killing everything you see, going as fast as you can...all while collecting rings and power-ups.

Say what you will, but this formula is classic for a reason. It WORKS. Sure, I like new games...and I've played DOZENS of them this year, but sometimes...a classic just "does it for you", and this game is one of those.

Overall Score? 8/10. This is classic Sonic at his best. I might even score the game higher after I finish it, but for's feeling like a really solid 8. Great game, and if you're an old school'll be pretty much guaranteed to love this game.

Achievements? I got a couple so far...with more to come:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Video game number three hundred and four: SingStar Queen

Video game review number three hundred and four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project "SingStar: Queen".

I thought SingStar Queen was a standalone title, but it turns out it's an expansion to the original SingStar, sort of like the Lips expansion packs for that series. You can play it without owning the original, but the trophies are tied together, and because of that...I had already earned almost all of the easiest ones playing the last game. Luckily for me, there was some online stuff I could still do, and I was able to earn a new trophy in this one.

Like the original Singstar (which you can read my review of here), this one features artist videos in the background. I wasn't aware Queen had so many videos (a lot of it seems to be live performances) but I played through every song of theirs on the setlist that I knew (and a couple I didn't)

Overall, the game hasn't really added anything new to the series, and I think this might have been meant as more of a Standalone expansion game than a "band in a box" game (like Rock Band Green Day, or Guitar Hero Van Halen). There's no career to speak of here, just a lot of good songs to sing with some old school videos playing behind them.

Overall Score? 5/10. If you're a Queen Fan, you should pick this up on principle alone, but I can see getting sick of it after awhile. It would be really nice if all of these songs were available in Rock Band (I'd certainly enjoy playing them at parties)...but I'm guessing that music licensing rules will keep that from happening anytime soon.

Trophies? Here's the crap thing: There are no new trophies for this game. Instead, it adds to your Singstar Trophies. I went ahead and got one, just so I could say I did it...but it scored to that game, not to this one. On top of that, the stupid Playstation Network doesn't want to display my trophies today (so you can see that I've earned them, but not what they are). Here's that display:

Edit 11/2---- Looks like trophies are finally working now, so you can see my trophy for this game (plus another one I got for SingStar Abba).

Also...turns out they released a Queen pack for Rock Band 3 after all, which had almost all of my favorites in it. I bought that...and now I can sing them in my favorite music game series. Score!

Video game number three hundred and three: God of War: Chains of Olympus

Video game review number three hundred and three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "God of War: Chains of Olympus".

Apparently, this is a good morning for portable games. First I played Super Princess Peach, which I really enjoyed...and now this game. I had never played a God of War game before this challenge, but after trying Dante's Inferno (which I loved), I ended up trying and buying God of War 3. I haven't gone back to finish that one yet because of this challenge, but it's certainly on my list of games that I must play once this project is over. Apparently, I am a big fan of the "hack and slash in hell" genre of game.

Chains of Olympus begins with Kratos (the ghost of Sparta), taking on the entire Persian army as they attack his kingdom. There are many soldiers to kill, giant monsters to beat..and quick time events galore. It was instantly impressed by this game both visually, and gameplay wise..and it took me only a couple of levels to decide that I also want to buy this one before my next plane trip. I think this could be one of my new favorites for the PSP.

Unlike Grand Theft Auto for the PSP, the controls here feel as natural as they do on the Playstation version. I instantly knew what I was doing, and the controls did not feel awkward or annoying the way they do for GTA games or some of the other console ports I've seen on Sony's portable device. They really got it right this time.

It's not often I compare a console game to a portable one, but as nice as God of War 3 (and the first two) are on the PS3, it really doesn't feel like this portable version is missing a lot. The cinematics look good, there were some giant bosses, and the graphics were pretty darn decent. I have to admit, when the battles zoom out a bit, your character gets a little too small for my liking...and I sometimes confused him with the enemies, but luckily, that's only during certain scenes.

Overall Score? 8.5/10. As far as PSP games go, this is nearly as good as I've ever seen. The core gameplay is here...and this is a great portable version of one of my console favorites. It's also a "greatest hit", so I think I'll be buying this one for 20 bucks the next time I see it at Target or some other game store. It's definitely one I want to have in my game collection.

Video game number three hundred and two: Super Princess Peach

Video game review number three hundred and two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Super Princess Peach".

I have huge problems with this game. For the last 25 years of my life, I've been helping Mario rescue the princess. Sure, from time to time...she's shown some heroic qualities (in Super Mario 2, she could Mario Kart she can drive, etc)....but as far as saving people in platformers...she's almost always the damsel in a dress.

In Super Princess Peach, Bowser gets a hold of some magic "Vibe wand" that makes everyone dance (tee hee), and using this wand, he manages to capture Mario, Luigi AND Toad. Peach is out for a walk during all of this, and when she gets back, she decides that she's going to be the one doing the saving. She sets out on her quest, and it turns out she's got a ton of powers we never even knew about. If she gets angry, she can turn into an inferno and burn shit down. If she gets sad, she can cry rivers of tears that can repel enemies (and spiky platforms). If she's happy, she can become a flying tornado. If she's calm, she regenerates health. She's also got this magic umbrella to beat the shit out of people with.

The entire world of video games was just turned upside down.

Stop for a moment and think about what this means. If Peach had all these powers all along, what the hell did she need Mario for? Maybe he could have fixed her toilet for her, but I don't think she ever really needed his rescue services. Clearly, she is quite capable of helping herself. In this game, she's actually stronger than Mario is...and one wonders if she's always been that strong. If she has been, that's pretty messed up.

Indulge me for a moment while I explain why.

Peach isn't just Mario's girlfriend, she's also the princess of her kingdom, and over the years...she's stood idly by as Bowser has kidnapped her citizens, burned down her castles, and taken her prisoner....all without ever lifting a finger. For 25 years, she's let herself be carried off, yelling for Mario and Luigi to help...when apparently, she's had the power to save herself (not to mention her kingdom) all along.

Imagine being one of the Toads living in the Mushroom kingdom. You've probably got relatives who died in the tragedies of October 1988, when Bowser attacked and destroyed several cities of the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Brothers 3. Perhaps you were old enough to remember the events of June, 1996...when Bowser took over the castle in Mario 64 and encased the monarch in a stained glass window. Your vacation might have been ruined in 2002, when the resort you were staying at was vandalized by some guy named "Shadow Mario", while Peach was kidnapped and helpless once again. The graffiti all over the walls of those thatched roofed huts probably ruined every vacation picture you took there.

If you were a citizen of the Mushroom Kingdom, even if you somehow survived all the dark times, surely you had to be traumatized by them. So long as you read the daily news, you were aware that your ruler had been kidnapped on no less than half a dozen different occasions, and your kingdom had been repeatedly attacked by terrible creatures. You were probably a little confused as to why your nation's entire defense strategy was to call some plumber from another dimension, and wait for him to save the day.

Imagine finding out that Princess Peach had the power to restore peace to the kingdom all along, but instead...she just laid back and let the place burn, over and over again.

Opinion polls would drop to the lowest levels in history. Toads all over the kingdom would probably be staging demonstrations with "Impeach Peach!" signs on the front lawn of the castle. Tabloids would write articles about how she was some kind of danger slut who enjoyed being kidnapped and actually liked watching her citizens suffer from time to time. Mario would probably break up with her and move back to New York. Since she had no heirs, the monarchy in her land would likely come to an end, and the Kingdom might become a democracy. Republican and Democratic Toads would have campaigns about how their would be "change", and you would be completely confused about which Toad to vote for, because they'd both look and sound exactly alike. As punishment for her treachery, Peach would surely be exiled and disgraced, or even beheaded. The Mushroom Kingdom would never be the same.

I'm sure Nintendo just wanted to give Peach a chance to shine on her own. They probably didn't think about all the scary doors this storyline would open. They were just trying to make a game that would appeal to girls (and something new for the Mario Brothers series), and I totally get that. I don't actually think that there are many people out there thinking about the political ramifications of Peach showing off her super powers for once, most folks just like smashing Koopa Troopas.

Aside from all the important questions this game raises, it's actually pretty darn fun.

Peach is indeed awesome, and the DS touchscreen feature is sparingly employed here. Your four "super powers" are displayed as hearts on the bottom screen, while gameplay takes place up top. As you're traveling along in the world, you can tap one of the hearts, and while you have power in your gauge for'll be "super" for a bit. You can refill that gauge by finding coins, or killing enemies, both of which are easily found in each level. It's not gimmicky, it's minimalist...and I like that.

I played through the first 5 or 6 maps and instantly checked my Gamefly Queue to see if it was for sale. I want to own this one, but alas, it is not for sale from Gamefly. Since the saves are on the cartridge itself, I'm going to have to return this, but I definitely want to get a copy of my own someday soon and continue my adventure. This game is great. Classic Mario adventure with a brand new hero. It shakes up the gameplay just enough to make it interesting, yet doesn't screw with the formula so much that it doesn't still feel like a classic.

I have my complaints. Running doesn't work the same way it does in other mario games, and the princess can't float anymore without using her super power. There's no way to customize the controls, so're stuck learning the new defaults. The gameplay also feels a bit dumbed down from other Mario games, but not dumbed down to the point where it isn't fun. It's just...easier. Neither of these things was a deal breaker for me and this game is pretty good otherwise.

Overall Score? 8.0/10. I really like this one...and I intend to buy and beat it. Mario fans will like it, the girls I'm assuming it's aimed at should enjoy it too. There's a little something for everyone here. It doesn't feel like a "girl" game, feels like Yoshi's Island did. A story set in the Mario universe, with a new (but familiar) hero. I'm totally down with that. This is a great all around game. If you own a DS, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Video game number three hundred and one: Dream Chronicles

Video game review number three hundred and one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Dream Chronicles".

Dream Chronicles is a hidden object/puzzle game that is a little heavy on the puzzle and a little light on the hidden object. I liked the "Where's Waldo" game that I played back when this challenge was just beginning, and I even liked Mystery Case Files on the Nintendo DS, though to a lesser extent. Both of those games were all about spotting the hidden items and clicking on them. Waldo was more fun, but they were both fairly similar.

Dream Chronicles sticks you in rooms with hidden objects, but then they ask you to uncover them in a specific order to unlock the door to leave the room. Some examples:

The first room you're in, you have to find matches, and then stick them in the fireplace to melt an ice door. In the second, you have to find specific animals hidden in the room, and stick them to the ceiling (don't ask) before the door unlocks. In the third, it's all about finding keys and unlocking doors in a specific order, along with a puzzle where you turn on a bunch of light switches.

Honestly...I don't think the combination works for me. By the time I got to the 5th level, I was incredibly frustrated and stuck, and I went to the internet for help. Turned out, I was supposed to find a saw, only I couldn't find it anywhere on the screen. It ended up being off the screen, and you had to move the camera to find it. What a cheap-ass trick. This same thing happened again on level six and pissed me off royally.

Hidden object games are supposed to be fun time wasters. They have them in the Sunday Comics for goodness sake. This game adds a time limit, collectibles (called "Dream Gems") and puzzles to what is already a game in itself. I'm not saying I don't like them spicing things up a bit, but I think the way they've combined the different genres makes it more annoying than fun. It would be like taking the game of chess and then turning it into a first person shooter with special moves and shit. Hmmm...Halo Chess. I might actually play that.

Overall Score? 3/10. The graphics are shit. The concept? Shit. The cursor is super slow. The story is silly. The stupid gimmick where you can't find certain items unless you move the camera is annoying. I would have given this a two, but I actually played 6 levels of it can't be that low. It's barely a three though. BARELY. Avoid this game...unless you really like hidden object and/or puzzle games, and you don't mind them being awkwardly mashed together, like a remix with Mary Poppins and Jay-Z.

Achievements? I got a couple. I don't think I'll get any more.

Video game number three hundred: Blade Kitten

Video game review number three hundred in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Blade Kitten".

This year at PAX, outside of the convention hall...there were people giving away masks on popsicle sticks with a little pink haired girl's face on them. You could punch the eyes out and hold it up in front of your own face, and on the back of the mask was an advertisement for this game. It was rather clever marketing I suppose (some people actually used these things during the convention)...and it made me remember the game when it was released this month.

Blade Kitten is a platformer starring a girl named Kit Ballard. I think she has her own web comic, but I've never read it. She's a bounty hunter of some kind, and the game begins with her landing on a planet to collect a bounty. Unfortunately, there's some annoying blonde girl who got their first, and she steals your "breaker key" and blows up your space ship. Then the platforming begins.

After playing the awesome Super Meat Boy the other day, this game pales in comparison. It also doesn't measure up to Comic Jumper by any stretch of the imagination. The levels are long, repetitive, the enemies are boring....and they all fire in a straight line. Your attacks will take out the enemies fairly easily (although you can get locked up on them by accident sometimes and die easily). Still..the only challenge I found playing through the first 4 or 5 levels was fighting my own desire to stop playing.

Overall Score? 5/10. Purely average. Only buy this if you've already played Super Meat Boy, Comic Jumper, Splosion Man, the Maw, Cloning Clyde, Scott Pilgrim and all the other platformers on XBLA.

Achievements? Yeah.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Video game number two hundred and ninety nine: Costume Quest

Video game review number two hundred and ninety nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Costume Quest".

Costume Quest is a strange game that I probably wouldn't have played if it wasn't for a recommendation from a coworker, who said that he enjoyed the demo so much that he bought it last night. I downloaded it and have decided that this game is best described as a "kid's RPG". It actually reminds me a lot of the Penny Arcade games, but with a little less text and less confusing weapons and upgrades.

You're a small kid, and your sister (or your brother if you choose to play the girl) decides to go out Trick or Treating with you on Halloween. Your mom puts you in charge, and you promptly lose your sibling to some candy obsessed trolls.

Your goal is to get your sibling back, and to do that, you'll have to run all over your neighborhood collecting candy. You can find candy on the street (yuck), or you can knock on doors like a normal kid. Sometimes, a nice adult answers and gives you candy. Other times, it's a troll...and you have to battle him.

The battles, are pretty hilarious. First of all, I should have mentioned you're dressed up in a little cardboard costume, but when combat morph into a badass version of your costumed self, and fight more fierce looking trolls. It reminds me of the anime episode of South Park, where the boys imagine they are ninjas in some sort of anime show. If you are dressed up as a cardboard robot, you morph into a giant deadly fighting machine that looks like he's from the Transformers cartoon. If you're dressed up as an aluminum foil knight, you become a huge warrior with a giant sword. it's pretty bad-ass.

The combat itself is turn based, and while I've never been a fan of's also got a little bit of quick time event gameplay thrown in to keep it interesting. Yes, you have to pick your attack and then watch as your character hits the enemy and takes off some points, but you also have to be quick. For defense, you have to press a random button immediately after it pops up on screen, and depending on how well you comply, you'll protect your character against more damage. I realize this is probably lame for RPG fans, but as someone who doesn't really like the genre, I kind of enjoyed it.

The "map" is filled with quests, which you find by talking to people. I've done several so far, and they range from "go find me this thing" to "come back when you have a certain costume on". You can change costumes by picking up costume pieces throughout the neighborhood, and although I only found two right off the bat, it looks like there are over a dozen to go.

This might sound like a kiddie game, but it has it's challenging moments. For example, you'll be given quests to finish, with no real onscreen map or indicator telling you how to do them. That means a lot of exploration. The save system is also confusing, if not completely broken. It works on an auto-save, but if you're not paying attention, there's no real way to tell when you last saved your game was. I wanted to quit the game after an hour or so, but I couldn't find any safe way to do it...and when I restarted (to see if my auto-save had worked), I had lost some progress. Judging from some reviews online, this is a HUGE pain in the ass for other people too.

Overall Score? 6.75/10. This is a solid game, something that's fun for adults, but I think it would be simple enough for a kid to play. I was in the mood for a Halloween themed game seeing as how it's October, but I could honestly see myself coming back to this one one day in the future. That is of course, if I can figure out how to save my freakin game.

Achievements: Only a couple so far, but I'll be coming back someday.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Video game number two hundred and ninety eight: Space Invaders Infinity Gene

Video game review number two hundred and ninety eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Space Invaders: Infinity Gene".

A couple of weeks ago, I played and reviewed Astro Invaders for the DS. I played it because it was advertised as a sequel to asteroids, and it sounded sort of fun. After all, I grew up playing that game in the arcades (and on my Atari 2600), so I consider myself in the prime demographic for remakes like that.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene is no Astro Invaders....and that's a good thing.

This game is a genuine remake/sequel/update of the classic, and it's actually pretty fun. The classic formula is intact (shoot waves of UFOs), but now you have power ups, and the all important ability to move your ship vertically instead of just horizontally. Hallelujah.

I've been through the first couple of stages and I'm just getting into the third (each stage has six levels in it), and the enemies keep on coming. There are definitely things I like about this game (it feels old school, yet it's still challenging and true to the original)...and there are things I hate. The music is incredibly repetitive, and the graphics (though clean and sharp) are rather boring. It's not quite black and white, but there certainly is a lack of color here. A few background colors are added here and there as you progress through the stages, but for the most part, it's fairly bland. I feel like there could have been more of an upgrade in the visuals.

Overall Score? 6/10. I suppose this is a decent remake, and I've had a little fun playing it...but there's nothing remarkable about it that makes me want to keep playing. Space Invaders was a great game when I was a kid, but that was 30 years ago. In those 30 years, there's never been a great update for it, and this one wouldn't really qualify either. I'm not going to say I wouldn't play it if I was board and it was on my console, but if it was in the arcade and I had a quarter, I'd spend it on almost any other game there...including the classic.

Achievements? Just this: One lonely little achievement from the "classic" level of the game, where I managed to shoot the UFO. The others all come from beating the game (which I haven't done yet), or getting huge chain combos, which I've been close to, but have not yet achieved.

Video game number two hundred and ninety seven: Super Meat Boy

Video game review number two hundred and ninety seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Super Meat Boy".

Super Meat Boy is an awesome, retro arcade game...with 10 second levels and tons of re-playability.

The game begins with some old school cut scenes, explaining how you are Super Meat Boy, and your girlfriend is Bandage Girl, and how everyone hates your enemy (Dr. Fetus) he hates you. He captures your girlfriend and you embark on an endless journey to save her.

Each level is a puzzle, and they get progressively harder. The first one simply requires you to jump onto a platform to save your girlfriend (who is promptly stolen again). After that, you start to encounter fire pits, circular saws and all sorts of other classic video game obstacles between you and your princess.

As Meat Boy walks, he bleeds and turns the ground red. Dying immediately starts the level over again, and when you finally beat it, you'll see a replay of your performance..which includes every life you've spent on that level. That means if it took you ten tries, you'll see ten little meat boys trying to beat the level at the same time, sequentially dying off at the places you died..until only one remains. It's awesome.

Throughout the levels, there are bandages to collect (I'm not sure why), and warp zones to find. I found one of the warp zones and discovered a new character to play with, who has completely different physics than Meat Boy. Apparently, there are a ton of these new characters to unlock if you want to 100% the game.

I played through the first chapter (24 levels) and then started going through some of the "Dark" versions of those levels. Apparently, every level has a dark version, and when you enter'll be the same basic level, but with many more saws and other obstacles. I think one hundred percenting this game is going to be incredibly challenging. Thanks to a good save system and really short levels, I also don't think it would be completely impossible.

Overall Score? 8.5/10. As far as Xbox Live Arcade games go, this is right up there with the best of them. The replayability here is....well, not unlimited, but insanely high. I've picked this up and played it several days since getting it, as it's fun to just attack a level at a time...or two or three in a play session. It's retro, the controls are awesome...and the story is pretty funny too. Definitely a must buy for anyone with Xbox Live Arcade.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Friends List

Ever since I was a little kid, I've always enjoyed multiplayer gaming.

It doesn't have to be a competitive game (although that's fun too)...sometimes it's just fun to share the experience with someone. Whether I was playing Combat against one of my sisters on the Atari 2600, or dropping quarters into the latest arcade game with a friend, nearly all of my favorite gaming memories have involved more than one person.

For the last 15 years or so, there was one person in particular who I played the bulk of my multiplayer video games with....and last weekend, my friend John passed away. While I'm not interested in eulogizing him on the internet, I thought it might be appropriate for my 365 Games in 365 Days project to discuss some of the great times we had together playing video games.

I can't begin to count the number of Mario Kart sessions John and I played against each other (especially on the Nintendo 64), but it's in the thousands for sure. Whether it was from the comfort of a couch at home, in a tournament, in line for a movie or game launch, our "Bowser vs. Toad" rivalry was a constant over the last 15 years. We played every chance we got, even sneaking some wireless multiplayer action on the Nintendo DS during a flight from Seattle to Comic Con this summer. That game was definitely one of our favorites. We played against our friends, each other...or just the computer, memorizing every secret of every track along the way. I still remember that on a few particular marathon nights, our VS. scores got well into the triple digits.

Although we were console gamers primarily, we also played hundreds of hours of Starcraft, Quake 2 and Unreal Tournament on the PC together. When combined, I probably lost several weeks of sleep to those games over the years, but those were great times. We got into Star Wars Galaxies for awhile, but never really dove into Warcraft or any of the other big role playing titles. I'm glad we didn't, because I'm sure if either of us had started one of those, the other one would have too. On behalf of my free time, I'm glad we left the modern world of MMORPGs alone.

Many of our other friends are gamers, and we attended (or hosted) at least two dozen different Halo parties with them over the years. The first Halo party John and I ever hosted was held back in 2002, and we had a full house of people playing on 5 different screens. The last one we went to was earlier this year at our friend Jay's house in Seattle...with my nephew joining us remotely from California over Xbox Live. We played all day long and didn't leave until late that night, taking breaks only for snacks and game recaps.

Even though it wasn't his best game, John was a big Halo fan. We waited in line together to buy it at the launch of the original Xbox in 2001, and in subsequent lines for almost every other Halo product launch there was. These lines were important gaming events in themselves, and I have fond memories of all the different launch night midnight lines we waited in over the years.

Speaking of gaming events, from the first year they held it in 2004 until this September, John and I attended every Penny Arcade Expo ever held in Washington. Every year we went to PAX, we spent countless hours in line, waiting to try the newest video games that we'd be buying in the future. Over the years, PAX has become my favorite convention to attend, surpassing even Comic Con. This summer, I got to go to both events with my friend John.

John and I were roommates for many years in our twenties, and that's probably where a majority of our gaming time took place. Years later, we mostly used online services like Xbox Live to keep the late night gaming sessions going even after we had purchased our own homes and moved in with our girlfriends. Lately, we weren't doing as much Xbox Live gaming as we used to, so the bulk of our multiplayer gameplay was focused on playing Rock Band in person at my house. Even though they weren't as frequent as I would have liked, Rock Band nights were the best.

Rock Band was John's favorite game, and from the very first time we played Guitar Hero together at our friend Greg's house, John was pretty much hooked on music gaming from that night forward. He was always a pretty skilled gamer, but he really found his calling with Rock Band. Everyone has one game that they're the best at, and this one was his. He truly excelled at it. He routinely played at expert levels at Guitar, Bass and singing...and could play on the Hard level while drumming. When we would enter Rock Band tournaments, he had no problem playing on a team with people who could only play on medium or hard....he just liked playing the game with his friends. Together, we've gone through the "Endless Setlist" (all 80+ songs on the disk) for both Rock Band and Rock Band 2....and both times, John played guitar or bass in almost every song.

For one of his birthdays, we had a surprise Rock Band party, and he got to play Rock Band 2 for the first time ever that night. It was a great night, and I have no doubt that we would have been having a similar party next week. John was really looking forward to playing Rock Band 3, and had planned to use it to learn to play the real guitar. He'd been looking forward to the release of Rock Band 3 since the day it was announced, scouring the web for announcements of which bands might be a part of the next game. Although he didn't live to see the retail release next week...he and I did get to play an early version of it on stage at Comic Con this summer in San Diego. Although the line took over an hour...we both had a great time waiting in it, watching other people play...and an even better time on stage playing the game.

According to Xbox Live, the last video game he played online was Halo Reach, and as it turns out, I was playing alongside him during those final matches. Thanks to I can see that he and I were on a team with my nephew, and that we played a round of custom team slayer online against a bunch of our other friends. The final score was 42-36, in our teams favor. He went out a winner.

For the last week or so, I haven't been interested in playing video games....because my best friend is no longer around to play them with. I know he would probably think that was stupid, and he would tell me so. Video games are my favorite way to relax and unwind, and I'm actually starting to feel like I might need to fire one up to get my mind off everything else going on right now. Who knows, it might actually help.

One way or the other....I know that gaming is never going to be quite the same without him.

Nothing will.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Video game number two hundred and ninety six: Def Jam Rap Star

Video game review number two hundred and ninety six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Def Jam Rap Star".

I've seen a few reviews of this game that say something along the lines of "Finally, a video game featuring rap songs" like it's the first one. It's not people. In fact, it's not even close. Over the years, there have been others, including "50 Cent: Get on da mic" (which I actually own)...DJ Hero (which I also own) and even Def Jam Vendetta which somehow combined rap with wrestling. Hell, I remember the "make your own music" games by the likes of Kriss Kross, Marky Mark for the Sega CD player oh so long ago.

Still, this is the first fully rap-based karaoke game for the current generation of consoles, and as such, I had to give it a try. As much as I love my Rock Band and Karaoke Revolution...the one thing all of these music games are short on is rap songs. This game definitely does it's part to fill that gap.

I started out in the career, and progressed my way through about 15 songs before my voice started to get hoarse. Classics like "Gin N Juice", "Brass Monkey", "Juicy", "Push it" and a ton of other favorites are here, pretty much something for everyone if you ask me. Unfortunately, the songs are all edited (which sucks, because I know a lot of the dirty versions by heart). Singing Ice Cube's "It was a good day" without cuss words is actually pretty difficult.

In addition to a career mode, this game has also got a "freestyle" mode, where you pick a pre-made beat and rap to it. You plug in your video camera, and if you like what you've recorded, you can upload it for other people to view and rate. Holy crap, I wish I'd had this when I was 12. These days, I'd be too embarrassed to post evidence online of my less than awesome MC skillz, but I think in my youth, I probably would have gone for it.

Overall Score? 8/10. This is a very solid game, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to buy myself a copy. If you like rap, there's a good selection of songs, from the old-school to stuff released this year, and I think it'll definitely be fun for a party or get together. If you don't like rap? Well...avoid this and stick to Guitar Hero.


Video game number two hundred and ninety five: Wii Party

Video game review number two hundred and ninety five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Wii Party".

Wii Party is the newest mini-game party game from Nintendo, and in a sea of dozens of these, this game would have to be pretty spectacular to stand out. So is it?


I actually realy enjoy mini-game games, I always have. They're fun to pick up and play with your friends (or by yourself), and when it comes to the compilation titles, I think Nintendo is the king of these. Mario Party, Wario Ware, plus about a dozen other brands...the Wii seems like the console designed to get four players together and fight it out from the couch.

This game is no different than any of the ones I've mentioned above, it's a compilation of dozens of mini-games, and you play through them (often in between rounds of a larger mini game).

The first one I tried was the Balance Boat. You and a partner try to balance as many of the Miis from your collection as you can on the masts of a pirate ship, trying not to tip the weight one way or the other. It sounds easy enough, except between every round of placing Miis, you have to play a Mini game. If you lose that game, one of your Miis will be fat, and the other one tiny, creating an imbalance no matter where you place them. It was pretty fun, and I was able to survive all ten rounds of it.

The next game I tried was Bingo, which is simply a game of bingo with your Mii characters faces instead of numbers on the card. They come out of a big hopper, and you check them off just like any other bingo game. You play mini games to get bonus picks, where you can basically select the Mii you want (automatically getting you closer to a bingo). The computer kicked my ass here...but I decided it's because they knew which bingo card to pick.

After bingo, I tried "Match Up", which is another game with your Miis. This is your basic match game, where you choose a Mii (they are all in black shirts), and then the "true" color of their shirt is revealed to you. If you have a large collection of downloaded Miis like I do, this is actually a pretty cool game, because you'll know your characters already, and all you have to do is remember their shirt. My Kevin Smith and Peter Griffin Miis were a "platinum match", because they both had shiny white shirts on. Mr. Burns and Sharon Stone were also a match because they were both wearing blue shirts. George Bush and Jay Leno. You get the idea. I beat the computer 35 to 2 in this game, because I cheated and used notepad on my computer to keep track of the matches. Fuck you, computer, that's what YOU get for cheating at Bingo.

After playing these three longer games...I jumped into the minigame menu and started playing them individually. They're exactly what you would expect, just silly little experiences where you play a very simple game that takes less than 5 minutes. Among the ones I enjoyed the most:

Sheep Crossing and Sheep Wranglers: Oddly enough, getting sheep from point A to point B was pretty fun. In Wranglers, you ring a bell by shaking your Wiimote, and they follow your little dude. In Crossing, you work with a partner (in my case, the AI) to help sheep cross a bridge by moving platforms for them to walk across. I liked these two games the best.

Fishin buddies has you and a partner trying to catch fish by yanking your Wiimote up like a fishing rod as soon as you feel it vibrate. Because I was playing alone, and the computer had perfect timing, this was easy.

Meet and Greet is a weird game where you and your partner each start on opposite sides of a 6 room hallway, and you have to open random doors trying to find each other. Sometimes, the door opens and you get one room closer. Other times, there's a boxing glove that punches you in the face, a wheel that runs you over, a brick wall or my favorite, a guy on a toilet.

The Flycycle team is an awesome game where you move your Wiimote like a bike pedal, keeping a strange flying bike above the water. You try to glide for as long as you can before your legs give out, collecting floating hearts along the way...which restore your stamina. The goal is to make it 300 meters, I doubled that on my second try.

Paddle Pals is a game where you and a friend try to navigate your way down a river. If you played Kinect Adventures at PAX this year, this game looks like a ripoff of that, and it's not nearly as fun. I swear...someone needs to come up with a campaign comparing the two. Same basic concept, but a world of difference between the two technologies...and Adventures is just awesome.

Pump Cart panic has you and a friend on a mining cart, and you have to see-saw your way to the end of an Indiana Jones style winding track before a giant ball hits you. Playing this with the computer was easy, because it has amazing timing...but I imagine playing it with a friend would make you insane. There are many more...some are good, some, not so good. Others, I never bothered to play (I think there are at least 40-50 in this game).

Overall Score? 6.5/10. I don't think this game has the lasting appeal of say, a Wario Ware title for me...but if I happened to be at someone's house who had it, and they wanted to play, I think four player matches would be fun. It's definitely got some decent games in it, and although I wouldn't buy my own copy...I did enjoy playing it for a little while. It was a good rental, but it seems like this is geared towards an audience much younger than I am. If you've got some little kids, this might be a good Christmas present for them.

Video game number two hundred and ninety four: Wipeout

Video game review number two hundred and ninety four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Wipeout".

Wipeout is a Wii game based on the (semi) popular summer TV series, where a bunch of average people compete on a crazy obstacle course trying to make it through without killing themselves. It's like American Gladiators or Ninja Warrior, except many of the contestants aren't in the best shape. If I could pick any game show to be on in real life, I think this might be it.

I've played several game show games over the course of this challenge, and none of them have been very good. There are a few more I plan to play before this challenge is out (Who wants to be a Millionaire and Deal or no Deal)...but the way things are going, I should probably abandon all hope. It's become very apparent that the game developers don't put much thought into these things, aside from "A lot of people watch this show, let's make a video game based on it"

When you really sit down and think about it, I'm not sure how someone could make a good video game based on the Wipeout TV show. It would be like trying to make an "America's Funniest Home Videos" video game. The best thing about both shows is laughing at the misfortune of others, and that doesn't translate well to gaming. We're already used to watching our characters die, fall into pools of water, or lava...or get dominated by obstacles from countless years of when it happens in this game, there's nothing special about it.

Yes, the game has rag doll physics employed, so when your character bites it, they go flailing into the water below. You might have a chuckle or two the first few times it happens, but it's not nearly as interesting to watch as the TV show is. The obstacles themselves are copied directly from the show, but in a video game, there's nothing special about them. Seriously, if I told you all you had to do was jump from one moving platform to another....would that get you excited? just reminded me of a dozen games that do it better (Mario, Mega Man, 'Splosion Man, Sonic, Metroid, Munch, Ratchet & Clank, God of War, Little Big Planet, Loco Roco, etc, etc, etc).

This game simply can't compete as a platformer, and as an adaptation of a TV show, it fails miserably as well. Like I mentioned above, I think it would have been a pretty hard game to make. The only thing I can think of that might have made it better is live video clips of actual contestants failing. It could be from the audition reels, or other un-broadcasted stuff...but the problem with that is, you'd see all the clips eventually and it would get repetitive.

Overall Score? 2/10. I played through the game show, then went into the challenge mode and played each challenge individually, until I could safely say I'd seen the bulk of the obstacles in this game. I mastered most of them, except for a few really tough ones...but there was no joy in it. There was also no joy when my characters failed to navigate an object and fell into the water (which is the best part of a TV show). This game is completely disappointing....and it never should have been made.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Video game number two hundred and ninety three: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Video game review number two hundred and ninety three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock".

I've seen a lot of video game reviews that start with "If this game and some other game had a baby....this third game would be the offspring". I think Warriors of Rock is more like the baby that Brutal Legend had, and then Activision simply swooped in and added the baby to their newest Guitar Hero game.

The last several Guitar Hero games I've played haven't really added anything new to the series, except for music tracks of course. This one adds a "quest mode", which is the same thing as the single player campaign, except there's sort of a story, and at the unlock characters to play with in the main game. There's only so much games can do with the career mode, so I think this is kind of cool, even if you're still just playing 5 or 6 songs at a time to pass the level you're on and move on to the next.

There is a new instrument being released with this one (a guitar shaped like a battle axe), but I wasn't interested in it. I played with my trusty Guitar Hero 3 guitar, which is still my favorite fake guitar to date. The Rock Band guitars don't feel right to me, and even though they've only made minor changes, somehow I have a problem with the newer Guitar Hero guitars too. I prefer the classic interface I guess.

So...the most important question about any music game is this: How's the setlist?
The answer?

Same as always. There's some good stuff, some lame stuff...and it feels like I've seen a LOT of these songs before in other games. I suppose that that's bound to happen eventually, but there's nothing in this particular game that makes me feel like I need to own it. It was fun to play for an afternoon, but I felt no need to power through the rest of the setlist trying to unlock the rest of the characters. Frankly....I just don't care about Guitar Hero enough to do that anymore.

Overall Score? 6.5/10. This is your average Guitar Hero game. It's a fun video game, but's nothing that will blow you away. If you already own another one, you probably don't need to upgrade. On the other hand, if you love the songs....chill for a few months, and this one will probably be selling for 20 dollars when the next version comes out.

Achievements? I got a couple.

Video game number two hundred and ninety two: Front Mission Evolved

Video game review number two hundred and ninety two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Front Mission Evolved".

Of all the different types of games that I've played during this challenge, there are probably still a few genres I haven't touched on yet, and Mech games was one of them. I've never been a huge mech game fan (with some exceptions). I used to enjoy going to Wizards of the Coast in the University district in Seattle and playing a multiplayer mech game with some of my roommates. For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the game now, but they had these giant pods you would sit in to control your mechs, and it was a death match sort of thing. Very cool.

Later, on the original Xbox...I tried Steel Battalion, which was a mech game that needed a ginormous two hundred dollar controller in order to play.

I never owned it, even though I once had the chance to grab a copy for free (complete with controller) a few years back after the 360 launched. Some people at work were just giving them away (they take up a lot of space) and even though it would have been cool to have it, I know I wouldn't have played it. I passed and let it go to a bigger fan.

This morning, I tried out Front Mission Evolved, which just game out a couple of weeks ago. I was expecting another confusing mech game that focused around configuring your mech to inflict as much damage as possible on the enemy, and then fighting them (very carefully) in battle.

I was so wrong.

This game is actually kind of awesome. It's more of a third person shooter than a mech game. Even though you're in a mech (and even though you do in fact need to power it up with different weapons and stuff), the bulk of the game is an action/arcade style shooter...and I'm really enjoying it so far.

The game takes place in the future. Two new nations are at war with each other, and there are some giant elevators to space (it sounds silly, but they look really cool) that are the center of planetary defense. You're just some dude that works in research at a mech factory when war breaks out, and you take the newest prototype into the city to try and save your dad before his building gets blown up.

The cut scenes are really well done, the graphics in the game aren't bad...and the combat is fun. I am not a fan of powering up the mech (you have to worry about the weight and power of each component you choose)...but I'm dealing with it. I'm about 6 or 7 levels into the campaign so far, and the story is corny, but interesting enough to keep me playing. There's also a whole multiplayer mode you can jump into, but I don't think I'll be doing that.

Overall Score? 7.25/10. The game actually reminds me a little of Earth Defense Force, one of my favorite (cheesy) games of all time. Sure, it's a mindless shooter...but sometimes...those are fun. While I won't run out and buy this, I would be willing to come back to it someday, which is what earns it the mighty seven and change.

Achievements? I got a few:

Friday, October 08, 2010

Video game number two hundred and ninety one: Hydrophobia

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

Hydrophobia means "fear of the water", and after playing this game...I think I might just have Hydrophobia-phobia.

If you don't pay attention to the "gaming press", you probably haven't heard of Hydrophobia, and trust me when I say: You aren't missing much.

Still, this game is a pretty big deal, because it's been in development for years, and after all the hype it was finally released on Xbox Live Arcade. Honestly, this game would be a total snooze-fest except for the fact that it features new "realistic" water features, supposedly better than any game before it. I'm not sure I agree with this bold marketing claim, but when you hear something like certainly makes you aware of it. I felt like I needed to try it, and right from the beginning, I was on the lookout for fancy water. If the water in this game was amazing, by God I was going to see it.

Hydrophobia stars a woman named Kate, who is apparently scared of the water. I know this only because I read articles about the game before I played it. I think regular players are supposed to be able to discover her fear from a few cryptic cut scenes at the beginning of the game where she's having a nightmare, but it's fairly subtle. They don't actually make a big mention of her phobia (other than the title of the game of course).

When Kate is running around waist deep in a flooding ship, she doesn't say anything like "Holy shit, there's water everywhere, I'm going to die!" or "Oh my god, it's my worst nightmare come true!". Hell, Kate doesn't even say "Wow...this water is cold". She just runs along like the ships she sails on sink every day. Try saying that five times fast.

Anyway, so you're on this big ship called the "Queen of the Earth", and much like the Titanic, it's flooding with water. Unlike the Titanic, it wasn't an iceberg that did it, it was some terrorists. There's some huge back story where the whole world is flooding, and water is scarce. Many people live on boats....and a group of terrorists wants to save the human race by thinning out the herd. It's actually kind of interesting (you can read more about it here if you like), but unfortunately...the writing is much better than the programming is. Bioshock is an amazing game because it's fun to play AND it has an awesome story. This game has the awesome story and fancy water, but it's not really fun to play at all.

The Queen of the Earth is immense, and you are being guided through it's corridors and flooding decks by a security officer named Scoot over the radio. Scoot sounds like Simon Pegg, and he's watching everything you're doing, and giving you directions. Scoot will shout out: "You have to swim up this elevator shaft" or "Here come some terrorists you're going to have to shoot". This advice is actually the only navigation in the game that works, because the map is shit and there are no onscreen objective indicators. Unless Scoot is telling you to "Run up that stairway", you're pretty much going to have to find that out yourself by trial and error. I can't count the number of times I retraced my steps by accident on this stupid boat.

Look, I don't need a game that's on rails, but how about a map that fucking WORKS? Or an arrow to at least give me a general direction of where I should be going (or tell me that I'm going the wrong way). I played all the way through the first mission, and I must have died a dozen times attempting to trial and error my way through where I THOUGHT I was supposed to go. The game is just a clusterfuck of water, fire and locked doors....and you're bound to run into at least one of these three obstacles everywhere you go. The only places that aren't flooded are on fire, or locked. Clearly, God hates Kate.

So what about the water? Ok...I have to's kind of cool. They really got the environmental features right here. When you shoot a barrel next to a bulkhead, sometimes that barrel explodes and lets in waves of water. The water comes at you, picking up anything that was on the ground in the hallway and sending it your way. When you dive into a flooded room, boxes, bodies, anything that was in there will now be a floating obstacle. This is cool, but if I told you this was the first game ever to do it, would you believe me? Doesn't it feel like you might have seen something like this in a game before? I swear there was a decent underwater level in Call of Duty...but apparently, this game does it better (at least according to the gaming press).

Personally, it didn't blow me away....but because I paid a lot of attention to it, I have to admit, it's kind of cool.

By the second level, I was asked to swim down an elevator shaft, use my little navigation computer and find this thing on a wall that's WAY down a hallway. After that, you have to swim back up, all before drowning. I'm not sure if there was an air pocket somewhere that I missed, or if I was just slow, but I did this four times and was unable to make it back to dry land before I drowned. This is when I turned the game off. Not because I couldn't do it (I'm confident I would have made it on my next try) but because I realized I was playing just to play, and not because I was having fun.

I already had my achievement, so I turned it off and called it a day. The ship can go ahead and sink for all I care.

Overall Score? 5/10. Revolutionary? No. Basic action game? Yes. The only "awesome" thing about this game is that it doesn't cost 59.99 at Gamestop. It's on Xbox Live Arcade for 15 bucks. Yes, it's a good price for an average game and that's the only reason I'm giving it a five. If this were a full price title, I'd give it a 2 or a 3. If you want a truly amazing game for 15 bucks, you should go buy Comic Jumper instead.

Achievements: I got one. I'm not going to say I'll never play this game again. Honestly, the story is pretty cool and I'd actually like to find out what happens to the girl (and the stupid boat)...but it is VERY low on my list of gaming priorities. Very, VERY low.

Comic Jumper review updated

Just wanted to mention that I've updated my Comic Jumper review now that the game has been released. Check it out here.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Video game number two hundred and ninety: Science Papa

Video game review number two hundred and ninety in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Science Papa".

I liked Cooking Mama on the Nintendo DS. Later, I tried (and I hated) the version on the Wii. I felt like the Wii version didn't feel as much like real cooking as some of the other cooking games I have played during this challenge.

Science Papa is the same sort of game, except this time around, you're not making're putting together science experiments. I thought this would be kind of interesting, because you might be doing something more interesting than stirring noodles and turning up the burners on your stove while making pancakes.

Unfortunately, it's the exact same game, with different ingredients.

The first thing "Science Papa" has you do is concoct some bleach and some soap to clean up his lab. You mix things like salt water and cultures before putting them into the oven and cooking them up. When making soap, one of the things you do is clean off the burned spots after it comes out of the oven. I never quite figured out how to do this fast enough to get the perfect score.

You have to play these mini-games over and over again, until you get near perfect scores...and only once you've done that can you move on. It took me nearly an hour to get 90% or above making the stupid soaps and cultures before I could get a new experiment to make (hair dye).

I am fairly sure this game will be fun for someone out there...but I'm not sure what kind of person that is. Perhaps they're targeting someone who really loved Cooking Mama and also loves science? Or perhaps someone who really hates food but loves the controls from Cooking Mama?

I honestly couldn't tell you what the appeal of this game was if you asked me. It's not educational (they don't actually give you the measurements to make any of the stuff for real that you're pretending to make in the game). It's not "fun", it's more like work (swapping between stirring mixtures in beakers and cooking things in the oven is nothing but a time management game). There's some humor in it, but the jokes are recycled over and over again. As I mentioned above, it's repetitive...and you'll be running the same experiments over and over again before you perfect them and move on.

So yeah...somewhere out there, I'm sure someone might like's just not for me.

Overall Score? 3/10. This game seems like a cheap grab for more cash from people who enjoyed Cooking Mama games. On paper...I'm not sure it appeals to anyone else ("Hey kids, want to pretend you're a scientist and follow fake recipes to make soap over and over again?") it's gotta be for those folks who have already played and enjoyed a cooking game before.

Final verdict? Stay away. Far away.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Video game number two hundred and ninety: Astro Invaders

Video game review number two hundred and eighty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Astro Invaders".

This is hands down the ugliest game I've played this year.

Another game recommended to me by Gamefly's "auto recommend" features, I picked this one because it said it was a sequel to the classic game "Asteroids", and out of 5 ratings on the site, it was averaging a 6/10. That didn't sound too bad to me.

The fact is, I really need to stop trusting the "recommended for you" feature on Gamefly. More often than not, it has let me down. I realize that in a year where I'm supposed to play 365 games I've never played before, sometimes....I'll have to venture outside my comfort zone. This game took me outside of comfort, outside of tolerance...and into a zone I can only call my "hatred zone".

First of all, the graphics on this game look like they belong on a cell phone from 2005 or so, not on a Nintendo DS. Everything is pixelated, blocky and ugly. The cut scenes (if you can call them that) consist of static images on the top screen, while REALLY blocky text appears on the bottom screen.

You begin the game with the choice of a (poorly translated) campaign, or an arcade mode. I started with the campaign...which was fairly ridiculous as far as the story went (you're in jail, and they let you out to fly a spaceship and fight bad guys). While it was nice to have some idea of why I was fighting...I had absolutely no clue as to what all the power ups and weapons I had access to would do. Hell, it was even hard to start a mission, until I figured out how to navigate one of the most confusing menus I've ever seen in a video game. You're supposed to be able to set your ship up with weapons before the round starts, but they don't tell you what any of the weapons are, or even give you stats on them. Then you move the cursor from one corner of the screen to the next, until you finally find the blue button. The blue button starts the game, even though there's no label or indicator that tells you that. These menus are completely useless.

Arcade mode simply removes the "talking parts" and throws you into that same horrible menu, where you can set up your ship before battle and then go shoot some aliens. Through trial and error, I was able to begin a match and clear a round or two. Instead of having one fire button, you use all four, and each button on the DS fires in a different direction. Enemy to the right? Press B. Enemy above? Press Y...and so on. It's the DS version of a twin-stick shooter, except the DS has no sticks.

Fighting the rocks was ok (and almost felt like old school asteroids), but then there are these big "boss" aliens you need to find, and those require patterns that are more sophisticated than the controls will allow. A D-pad and four buttons is not the best way to control a twin stick shooter, and I would often die for stupid reasons like "not being able to shoot diagonally" or "shield mysteriously ran out of juice early".

The whole game is just awful.

I actually took the time to write a brief review on Gamefly, to warn other people about how bad this game is. I couldn't find reviews for it on IGN or Gamespot, which led me to the conclusion that no other professional game reviewer was willing to waste their time playing this piece of dog shit. To all of them I say: "Good move" and to anyone reading this via a google search for reviews on this game, I say: "You're welcome". I have suffered through parts of this game so that you don't have to.

Overall Score? 1/10. Pure crap. I had no fun with this game at all and I'm sorry I rented it. It honestly felt like a cell phone game from 5 or 6 years ago when cell phones first started running crappy games....and given the choice, I'd rather play cell phone solitaire or Tetris than this piece of garbage.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Video game number two hundred and eighty nine: Dead Rising 2

Video game review number two hundred and eighty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Dead Rising 2".

The sequel is finally here!

A few weeks ago, I played "Case Zero" which was a prequel to this game, and it was one of my favorite Xbox Live Arcade games of all time. That means this game should automatically be amazing too, right? Kinda....but it's not quite amazing enough to earn that perfect ten score.

First, the good: Dead Rising 2 picks up where the first game (and Dead Rising: Case Zero) left off, with you playing a lone survivor in the midst of a zombie outbreak. The plot is much better this time around, you're a father...your daughter has been bitten...and you need to get her "Zombrex" (the anti-Zombie bite medicine) every 24 hours or she'll become a little monster. This time around, instead of Frank the photographer, you're Chuck Greene, the moto-cross star...who competes weekly on a TV show called "Terror is Reality". This has to be one of the coolest parts of the game.

Terror is Reality is a "Running Man" style show, where you and three other contestants compete to see who can kill the most zombies. The game starts out with a round of "Slicecycles" (motorbikes with chainsaws attached to the handlebars) and you have to kill as many as you can. From what I can tell, in the world of this game...the zombies are sort of like cattle, they are rounded up to be on the game show. Unfortunately for you, somehow...they get loose, and's a zombie outbreak. You soon find out that you have been blamed for the outbreak, so now you're wanted by the survivors AND the zombies.

The last game took place in a mall, and while this game also has a mall in it, most of it takes place in "Fortune City", which feels a lot like Las Vegas. That means there are slot machines, cash and zombie showgirls all over the place, along with tons of neon lights. It's pretty cool.

This time around, there's plenty of new stuff like multiplayer, online co-op play and of course....the combo weapons. Introduced in Case Zero, this new ability is one of the best things about the game. In Dead Rising, you could always pick up just about anything and turn it into a weapon. In the sequel, any item you see with a "wrench" icon above it can be used as a standalone weapon or combined with another item to build a combo weapon. Combine gems from the jewelry store with a flashlight, and you'll make a lightsaber. Combine a knife with boxing gloves, and you'll have Freddy Krueger hands. There are dozens of combos, and it's really cool to discover and build them.

Ok, so the game sounds perfect right? Not quite. Unfortunately, it has some major flaws.

First off, this title suffers from horrible loading times. Whether you're walking from one area to another or just trying to save your game, chances are you're sitting on a loading screen. It gets it NEVER ends.

Second, and probably worst of all..the game has an awful save system. Just like the first Dead Rising, if you want to save, you'll have to find a bathroom. If you forget, or if there doesn't happen to be one nearby right before you're about to die....chances are good that you'll have to play an entire level over again just because you forgot to save. Although I'm pretty good at remembering my saving, this has still happened to me several times already...and it's fucking infuriating when an untimely death costs you an hour of progress. Also...every time you meet a "boss", you better have saved before that...because they tend to kill you pretty easily.

Finally...I have a big problem with the multiplayer. While I think it's awesome that Dead Rising 2 has a multiplayer mode, the execution was horrible. In multiplayer, you can play "Terror Is Reality" mini-games against other people online, and the cash you win can be added to your existing campaign saves. THIS part of the multiplayer is awesome. What's not awesome is waiting 5-10 minutes just to find a match, while watching the same damn cut scene over and over again as you wait. I have no idea why the multiplayer matchmaking is so slow (and seemingly broken), but considering the fact that the game launched this week...I don't think it should be because nobody is playing. I've only played about 5 matches online, but I would have played many more if I could waited through those lobbies. about letting me start a game with LESS than four people, instead of waiting until there are four patient people in a lobby with me? No dice there...but it would have been nice.

Overall Score? 8.5/10. While this is still probably going to be my favorite zombie game of all time, I think it's got some serious flaws that keep me from saying it's "perfect". Case Zero had them too...but it had such a small world that forgetting to save wasn't an issue, and the long loading times only happened once in awhile, because the map was small. In this game, the map is huge, so you'll be loading every few minutes as you transition from place to place. This is definitely a fun game...and I think I'll be playing it for a long time to come, but it's filled with glitches that make it annoying to play at times. Still a must buy, but it won't be a frustration free experience.

Achievements? Ok...these are freakin HARD. Like many Capcom games before it, the achievements in this one are going to take forever to get. Because I love this game, that's ok with me. Here's what I have so far: