Friday, December 31, 2010

Bonus: Video game three hundred and sixty seven: Raskulls

Video game review number three hundred and sixty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Raskulls".

I played Raskulls for the first time at PAX earlier this year. It was a fun, four player experience...and although only the "grand prix" mode was available to demo on the show floor, I knew I'd want to try this when it was released later on as a full Xbox Live Arcade game.

Fast forward to this week. I have managed to finish playing all 365 games I needed to play for the challenge, and I'm currently enjoying playing games just for fun (mostly Need For Speed). Lo and behold...this arcade title is released. Do I have time to play one more game and type up a review for the project? Yes I do. Besides, it'll make up for MAG, the only other game besides Sonic that supported achievements or trophies that I wasn't able to earn a trophy in. By playing this 367th game, I have now completed this challenge not just numerically, but technically as well. I played 365 unique games according to the rules I set out to follow, and a couple of extras on top of that. That's pretty awesome, and I'll be doing a follow-up sometime in the coming week or two.

Anyway, let's talk about Raskulls.

Raskulls is a fun little action/puzzle game that seems optimized to play with four players. I think it's something I'd actually enjoy playing locally with friends (perhaps next time people come over to play Rock Band), but so far...the only multiplayer I've managed to do has been online. It was fun, but I think there will be something even better about playing it with friends (as it's very fast paced and competitive).

Your character is a short, stubby little guy (or girl) with a skull for a head, and you compete against other stubby little characters to try and make it through a maze first. Most of the levels are just races (and are a lot of fun), but others are timed challenges, or puzzles that only have a certain number of solutions....and those can be frustratingly challenging.

There is a quest mode, and in that mode...you're supposed to collect "Shiny Jewels". At one point, a character asks: "Why do we need these?" and another one replies with: "Don't question the plot!" or something. The game is full of little one-liners like this.

In one chapter, you are required to play as a ninja, and your character is so stealthy that he steals the pants off of a couple of the other characters without them noticing. One of the characters asks the other one "How come you have that pixelation on you?" and he replies "That always happens when I don't wear pants". Made me laugh.

There are only 3 chapters to the game (as far as I know) but each chapter is very long. There are more than 10 levels per chapter, and some are incredibly difficult. In the last couple of days, I've gone through more than 24 unique levels so far, and I'd say I've only actually completed half of the game. There have been challenges I simply couldn't pass (mostly the timed ones) and I imagine I might go back to them at some point.

Overall Score? 7.5/10. I think this game is pretty darn decent. The humor is there, the gameplay is fun, and the challenges aren't repetitive at all. The single player experience seems like it won't last much longer, and like Bomberman, it seems more focused around multiplayer than single player. To me, that's always a problem, because there are so many games online to choose from...and without a LARGE user base, multiplayer games can tend to become really empty experiences. I tried to find four people online to play with, and the most I ever found was two. That's rather disappointing in launch week, and it'll probably only get worse as time passes.

Achievements? Over the last two days, I managed to unlock these, all offline:


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bonus: Video game three hundred and sixty six: FlingSmash

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

Back in January of this year, I played Sonic the Hedgehog for the 360. Even though I put in more than 15 hours, I was unable to unlock even a single achievement for it. It was near the beginning of the challenge, and that violated the rules I had set out to follow, so I promised myself that I'd play another game at the end of the challenge to make up for that failure. FlingSmash is that game.

I have seen FlingSmash advertisements on TV, and big posters at the game store...which is kind of weird because before the ad campaigns, I had never even heard of this title. Turns out, it's a vehicle for the new "Wiimote Plus" Wiimote controller, which has the improved motion sensing technology built in. I rented this game from Gamefly, so I didn't get the new controller bundled in, but that's ok...because I already have my Wiimote Plus motion sensors. They were the add-ons, and they came packed in with Wii Sports resort. As a result, my Wiimotes look like this:



Instead of like this:



I don't mind the small cosmetic differences between the two controllers, and so I don't plan on upgrading anytime soon. As far as this game itself goes, honestly, I think the only reason people might buy this game would be to get the bundled controller. The controller costs 30 bucks by itself, so for an extra 10...you get this game. Is it worth ten bucks? Coin toss.

FlingSmash is not a bad game, it's just incredibly simple. You are a little hero named Zip (or Pip, if you prefer to be a girl), but that's sort of irrelevant because the plot in this one isn't too complex. Zip needs to smash his way through blocks, trying to beat levels...and earn "pearls" which are what you use to kill the big boss. There are also mini-bosses, and you beat them by bouncing into them. Actually, you beat everything by bouncing into it.

The gameplay works like ping-pong, or any other "racquet" game on the Wii. Your hero is a ball, and you swing the Wiimote to knock him into things. It's not incredibly accurate, and at times, very random....but when you do connect with the ball, it feels good. After 6 levels, I found the game to be easy, but not necessarily fun. It was very repetitive and once you've played it for a few minutes, you've played it enough to know whether or not you'll like or hate it. The guys at IGN hated it.

My Overall Score? 5/10. Indifferent. This game is more of a pack-in bonus than a standalone game. If you don't already have the little Wiimote Plus accessory and you feel like you need one of the controllers, go ahead and buy it. It's not a terrible deal. If you're not dying for the hardware, then rent this first to see if you like it. I think it was worth a rental, and that's about it.
I'd never buy it, unless I was hard up for one of those new controllers.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Video game three hundred and sixty five: Angry Birds: Seasons

Video game review number three hundred and sixty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Angry Birds: Seasons".

Of all the games I've played this year, there's only one I've played 25 days in a row. No, it was not Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (I'm sure I skipped a day or two at the beginning of the year). It wasn't Halo Reach and it wasn't even Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. It was actually Angry Birds Seasons.

Even though I've been playing this since December 1st, I chose to save this game for my final (official) review because it was a month long experience. As it turns out, it wasn't actually the last game I played this year....but it will be the 365th new game, which makes it significant.

The game itself is exactly like the original Angry Birds, which I reviewed early last month. Same birds, same basic concept. They're still angry. They still hate pigs.

The only gameplay differences this time around are a lot of snow, Santa hats on the pigs...and the bonus items are all presents. The big change in this sequel (and something I think is quite brilliant) is that this game worked like an advent calendar. Every day from December 1st until Christmas morning, there was a brand new level.

When I was a kid, we'd get advent calendars every year, and my sisters and I would take turns opening the little doors and eating the pieces of chocolate as we counted down each day until Christmas. Not since childhood have I had a holiday experience like that, but every day this holiday season, I'd boot up the game on my phone and play the newest Angry Birds level. Most days, it would be in the morning, right when I woke up, but if I was busy, I'd end up playing later in the day. Most days I'd beat the level first thing that morning, but a few were really difficult...and I ended up going back and finishing them later.

On Christmas Day, I woke up before Heather did, and the first thing I did was beat the final Angry Birds level for that morning. I won't spoil the ending, but it was a proper ending, and much like the big piece of chocolate in the calendar that was always saved for last...it was worth the wait. The next morning, it was kind of a bummer that there were no more new Angry Birds, but I can take comfort in knowing that I still have a long way to go before I actually "beat" this game. You need to get three stars in every level before you see the "true" ending, and I'm nowhere near done yet.

Overall Score? 10/10. This game is a lot shorter than the first Angry Birds, but it was free...which makes it an incredible value. The Android version also came with the Halloween Angry Birds levels, that were previously only released (for sale) on the iPhone. I haven't finished those levels yet...so there's a lot of replayability there too. Ultimately, I can't think of a more entertaining (free) gaming experience I've had in recent history. Every day, it was something to look forward to, and although Christmas is over...I can still go back and finish the game completely at my leisure. This game was definitely one of the best games of the year as far as I'm concerned.

Achievements? No...but I took a picture of the final screen right before I watched the ending:

Video game number three hundred and sixty four: Michael Jackson: The Experience

Video game review number three hundred and sixty four in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Michael Jackson: The Experience".

I'm a big Michael Jackson fan. By that, I mean...I've been a fan since I was a kid, and more importantly...I was still a fan before he died last summer. Even after his long fall from grace, I continued to buy his albums the day they come out (including Invincible, which most people have forgotten about). A lot of people would snicker at me, and I understood why (after all, the guy had some serious problems), but I'll be damned if he didn't make the best music ever.

Heather and I were lucky enough to go see him perform live with his brothers for the big CBS special in New York back in September 2001. It was one of his last concerts in the US, and I'm really glad we went. I'm also glad that the world finally enjoys his music again, it's just too bad he didn't live to see it.

Imagine my excitement when, at E3 this year, "Michael Jackson The Experience" was announced as coming soon to all three consoles. I envisioned a game like DDR, perhaps with some Karaoke Revolution thrown in. With Michael Jackson's entire back catalog as the soundtrack, I imagined this could be the mother of all singing and dancing games.

A few months ago, Ubisoft announced that they'd be taking this one back to the drawing board for the PS3 and 360, to better support the Playstation Move and Kinect. That is totally cool with me, so long as it won't feel like a port of the Wii game. I suppose I could have waited for the newer versions, but being the fan that I am, I had to rent this one. Gamefly had a long wait...and I'm only just getting a hold of my copy now.

I've gone into great detail about what I think about dancing games on the Wii. As far as the gameplay goes, this new Michael Jackson game is no different than Just Dance (it's by the same folks, and the gameplay is virtually identical). The only difference is the awesome soundtrack. If you read this review, you'll see a professional game critic writing the exact same stuff (almost verbatim) that I wrote about Just Dance 2 a few months back. Clearly, I am not alone in my feelings about the game....but I might stand alone in my feelings about the experience.

After three songs, it was clear I wasn't going to like this game as a video game. The scoring is still horse shit and you will have the same amount of interactivity dancing along with the radio as you would with the Wii. For some reason, I didn't quit...because dammit...it's still fun to dance along to Michael Jackson music. I don't care if you're at a club, a bowling alley or just a house party...when Michael Jackson music plays, it's fun to dance.

It's fun to dance along with Michael Jackson music while playing the Michael Jackson Experience...even though the two things are more coincidental than they are related. I made peace with the fact that I wasn't playing a video game, because in reality, that's not what this is. As a video game, it requires virtually no input from the player. Scoring is both inaccurate and irrelevant, but because of the music itself, it's still fun to "play". Think of this game as a really pretty "CD+G" from the early days of compact discs.

I danced along with Bad, Smooth Criminal and Beat it. I never scored more than 3 stars (and I still have no idea how the stars work). Heather watched as I laid down on the couch and "danced" to Thriller using only Wiimote and one hand. I was able to earn two stars on that song, while lying on my back and waggling the Wiimote with one hand. That sounds dirty.

Anyway (standing up again), I played Billie Jean and to my surprise, I actually felt like I was doing moves from the classic video (and Motown 25) at times. Sometimes the scoring told me I was doing it perfectly...which was awesome. Of course...I wasn't actually doing the moves correctly, but the Wii didn't know that, because it's only tracking the hand that had the Wiimote in it. I might as well have been dancing along with MTV....but when I suspended my disbelief and allowed myself to pretend, I had fun with that song.

Overall Score? 2/10. It's fun to pretend. If you have a good imagination, you might like this game. Then again, if you have a good imagination, you can turn on your radio, and dance along...and save yourself 50 bucks. The only reason I'm giving this is a 2 is for the amazing soundtrack. I'm really hoping the Kinect and Move versions are worth the wait, because this Wii game is pure garbage.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Video game number three hundred and sixty three: Bomberman Battlefest

Video game review number three hundred and sixty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Bomberman Battlefest"

Over the duration of this challenge, I've played three different games starring everyone's favorite mad bomber. The first two sucked all sorts of varieties of bungholio, but this one rounds out the trilogy with some fun. Bomberman Battlefest takes it back to the classic formula, and adds just enough of a twist to keep it fresh. It's a fantastic Xbox Live Arcade game, and if you don't already have Bomberman Live, you owe it yourself to pick this one up. Even if you do, you might want to think about it...because they've added enough new stuff here to make it pretty awesome.

First of all, there's a "Classic" mode. That's exactly what I wanted to play. Just me, a few computers (or opponents on Live) and a map full of bombs. I didn't do very well against the folks on Live (they were already so much better than I am) but I was able to win quite a few matches against the computer. Need to sharpen those skills before I take it online next time.

After playing that for awhile, I ventured into "Bankroll" which is the same as classic mode, except there are little money bags you have to collect. It is the exact same concept as going for the best power-ups, except with money. Once you have a money bag, you can spend that cash on...power ups. Gives you a big leg up as far as winning the match goes.

Next I tried "Capture the Crown". This game is classic mode, except that there's a crown, and you have to be wearing it in order to score any points. If you blow up, you lose it...and someone else picks it up. It's just like "Oddball" in Halo, but...cuter.

Speaking of cute, I forgot to mention this: You can customize Bomberman in a bunch of different outfits (unlocking more with every game you play) OR...you can play as your avatar. It was really cool when I figured out that my avatar (complete with his Comic Jumper costume) was a playable character.



As you can see, his stylish yellow head and awesome Crackdown 2 Mutant shoes made him incredibly easy to pick in a crowd of 7 other Bombermen. When you have that many people on screen at once...it's not always easy. Big Kudos for that feature, it's definitely an advantage.

There are other modes (Capture the Flag, VIP, Team Battle and Paint Bomb) but these were all variations on what I was already playing. I chose not to play them against the computer or randoms online, and instead....focused on the few modes I was already joining. Within an hour...I was unable to unlock several achievements playing those.

Overall Score? 7/10. Definitely a great Bomberman title and a fun arcade game. Lots and lots of replayability here, but only if you're a Bomberman fan. Otherwise...like Tetris, it'll get old. Now the million dollar question is this? Will I buy it? "Perhaps" is the answer. I already own Bomberman Live so I don't know if I need this upgrade. I may let Xbox Live decide for me. If it ends up being really popular on the service, I'll probably have to get it...just for the multiplayer.

Achievements? Did this all in under an hour.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Video game number three hundred and sixty two: Game Party in Motion

Video game review number three hundred and sixty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Game Party: In Motion"

A collection of mini-games highlighting a new motion sensing controller. Although this may sound exactly like Start the Party which I reviewed the other day, it's actually a different bundled mini-game game, and this time it's for Kinect instead of the Move. Skee-ball, whack-a-mole, darts, bowling, football, bean bag throwing, root beer tapper, etc, etc. It sounded like a lot of fun on the back of the box, maybe like a trip to the arcade or something. Unfortunately, awkward controls ended up making this one more like a trip to the dentist, and after less than an hour with it, I was already sick of the title.

First of all, when you boot this game, you are given a quick tutorial as to how to use the menus. One of the gestures they have you make is holding your left hand out to the left side of your waist, which is almost identical to the "guide" gesture that you can make in every Kinect game to bring up your friends list and stuff. I had trouble getting this to work, and I kept bringing up the guide by accident, until I realized that the stupid drawing in the game was trying to tell me to put my hand out in FRONT of me (instead of to the side of my left hip). This can be blamed on horrible tutorial art, and it was unnecessarily frustrating.

Once I figured out the main gestures, the menus were actually kind of cool (not great, but definitely better than some other Kinect games I've tried). The first mini-game I selected was root beer tapper, because I really love the arcade version of it. I figured I might be a fan of playing it virtually with my avatar. Alas, I was not.

Stepping from bar to bar works fine, but serving the root beer is twitchy. You're supposed to throw your hand out in front of your body to launch a root beer down the bar, but it only works half the time...which means you serve a lot of drinks to the floor. I played a few games of this, until I hit the target score of 300 to get an achievement, but they were more frustrating than fun.

The next mini-game I tried was Bocce ball. Although it felt very similar to the Wii, I already had enjoyed this on Sports Champions for the Move, but in Game Party, it was absolute garbage. I didn't really get a sense that I could control the distance or the angle of the ball, so wherever it ended up all seemed like luck to me. I was unable to beat the computer at that one, and eventually got tired of trying.

I moved on to the "Double Racquets" game. What could be more fun than one racquet that doesn't work? How about two? Two games to 15 were all I need to know how badly this one blew.

I tried the bean bag toss, and it controlled as badly as bocce ball did. I tried the Dart game, and again...aiming was completely broken. There was an achievement for hitting the bullseye, and although I had my cursor aimed right at it, I could never quite hit it. I played a game of 301 darts, and unlocked nothing when I was done.

There's a basketball hoop mini-game. It looks like one of those machines in the arcades where you throw basketball s into a hoop while trying to win tickets, but it plays like....well, every other shit game in this compilation of shit games. I couldn't get the overhand throws to work, so I threw underhand. I wasn't able to aim, and I only got about 8 in before the time ran out.

Same deal with the football toss. The idea sounds simple enough (toss the ball at targets while computer plays try to tackle) but the throwing doesn't work correctly. Underhand seemed to work better, but that's no fun.

Overall Score? 3/10. There were more mini-games, but after this many of them sucked...I had no desire to play the rest. I ejected this disk from my console, and I don't think I'll ever play it again. If you are looking for a Christmas present for someone you love that has Kinect, this is not the game for you. Get them almost anything else....unless you really hate them.

Achievements? If I was willing to subject my wife to this bullshit game, I'm confident I could have unlocked almost the entire 1000 points in a matter of hours by simply having them lose to me in every match. I like her too much for that, so I only got these:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Video game number three hundred and sixty one: Bejeweled 3

Video game review number three hundred and sixty one in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Bejeweled 3"

As far as casual gaming goes, this is probably the biggest release of the holiday season. Almost everyone loves Bejeweled, and just when you thought there wasn't much new that they could do with it, this one comes barreling out just in time for Christmas on every platform imaginable. Somehow....even after all these years, this one manages to be the best of the bunch.

I downloaded this game on the PC, and I was instantly hooked. In addition to the regular ways of playing, this sequel features all sorts of different game modes (some old, many new) that keep the game fresh and interesting. The area I've probably spent the most time in is quest mode, where you play 8 different mini-games trying to master a pre-set score. Once you've passed them, you can move on to the next level...where most of the same games will be played again, but at a higher difficulty level.

Some of my favorites:

Butterflies: Instead of just jewels, you've got these colorful butterflies on the screen. They are the same colors as the jewels and start out at the bottom of the screen. You have to match them in threes, but every time you try and fail to make a match...they fly one row higher. If they get to the top before you match them, they are eaten by a Spider who hangs out at the top of the screen. It's awesome.

Diamond Mine: There are a couple of variants of the mining game...but basically, you play regular Bejeweled with a bunch of dirt at the bottom of the level. When you get matches of gems that are lying on the dirt (harder than it sounds), you "dig" some of the dirt away. The more you dig, the more treasure you find, and the higher your score. It's a timed mode, so it's REALLY hard.

Lightning is just a timed mode, and I'm not a huge fan of that, but there's another variant called Time Bomb in the quest which is awesome. It's a lot like Hexic for the Xbox, where you get these "bomb" gems with timers on them. Some expire in so many moves, others expire after so many seconds. It's fast paced and a lot of fun.

Many of my other favorite games are in the Quest mode, including Balance, which has you carefully alternating matches of red and blue gems, trying to keep the numbers even so as not to tip the scales. Finally, there's Alchemy, which has you trying to make matches on the horizontal and vertical rows. Every match you make turns an entire row gold, it's a lot of fun, and it gets progressively harder as you go.

Overall Score? 8/10. It's tough to score a game like Bejeweled 3. I've spent the last few hours being very entertained by it, and it's definitely the best Bejeweled I've ever played. The music is fantastic, and there is plenty of variety in the game modes. While I don't think it's going to be something I'd play for long stretches of time in the future, it's comforting to know that if I ever want to play Bejeweled...this will be the only one I'll play. During breaks at work, or when I'm on the plane with no internet connection and have it on my laptop...I'll break this out again. It's definitely a good game, and a lot of fun....even if it won't be an every day game.

Achievements? No...but they do have medals, and I figured I'd show some of these off:



And here are my collective stats so far:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Video game number three hundred and sixty: Kung Fu Rider

Video game review number three hundred and sixty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Kung Fu Rider"

This is by far one of the weirdest freakin games I have played in a long time. At first, I was annoyed by the bad controls, the complete lack of a plot and pointless gameplay. I was ready to call it crap, but for some reason, I gave it some time...and it got rather addictive, and incredibly challenging. Who would have thought a game where you ride an office chair could be addictive?

That's right: Office chairs.

This game begins with a couple of office workers (Toby and Karin) who have apparently pissed off the mob. At the title screen, they talk about needing to escape, but that's pretty much the entire plot. When the levels start they each say "I hope the other one is ok" and then they start sliding down the hill on their office chair. Sometimes, instead of a chair, they sit on a Shop-Vac. Or baby chair. Or mail cart. You get the idea.

That's the whole game. You slide down the hill, smacking black suited mafia guys whenever you see them. Sometimes, you grind on rails when you can....and you speed up by bending backwards to duck under low obstacles. You use the Move controller to do all of this, and even though the controls really suck, I started to get the hang of it. I was strangely addicted for some reason, and I don't think I've cursed more at a game in a long time.

There have been plenty of terrible reviews of this game, and I can't really disagree with any of them. The controls are completely unintuitive, and if you don't take the entire tutorial, you'll be completely lost. Unlike Kinect games, Move titles don't really seem to involve tracking your body, so if you jump up in the air, your character won't follow you. Instead, it's like the Wii...and you'll have to use weird motions with the wand to get your character to jump. On any other day, I might have quit playing...but today, I stuck with it for awhile for some reason....and I have to admit, I sort of liked it.

Overall Score? 6/10. I'll buy this game when it's ten dollars (which should happen fairly soon). It's terrible, but it's also interesting enough that I think it should be fun for a laugh once in awhile. At it's heart, it's a downhill obstacle course, and somehow....once you get the hang of it, it's actually kind of fun.

Trophies: Updated with Trophies on Christmas Day:

Video game number three hundred and fifty nine: Start the Party

Video game review number three hundred and fifty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Start the Party"

Another Playstation Move game? Yup. I've decided that I'm totally going to get my money's worth out of my new peripheral by trying just about every game I can rent for it. Thanks to Gamefly, I can do that for a reasonable cost, and I like that a lot.

As the name might imply, Start the Party is a compilation of party games with cartoonish graphics, and a lot of on screen video courtesy of the Eye Toy camera. Although the graphics are simple and the music is sing-songy, the presentation here is a fantastic demo of the Move technology, and highlights some big differentiators from the Wii. It's the first Move game that didn't feel like a Wii port, and my favorite title for the new peripheral so far.

First game I tried was "Swat the bugs". It was a simple, fun little game where (you guessed it) you swat bugs, using the Move controller as a swatter. A live video of you with a cartoon swatter in your hand is on the screen, and the bugs are animated over the top of it. Looking at it might remind you a little of the Roger Rabbit move from oh-so long ago.

The next one I tried was a "Kill the robots" game. Each robot has a screen on their chest, and the screen is live video of you in the living room, with a target you have to touch with the Move controller. Once you touch the target, the robot dies. It would be simple, except some of the screens are mirror images, or even upside down, so you have to adjust your movement accordingly. This really cranks up the difficulty.

Next I tried a game where you use a fan to help falling birds into the nest. This was by far my favorite mini game. Your Move controller becomes a little fan, the trigger on it controls the speed of the fan. Press the trigger to blow the birds into the nest. Press it too much and the bird might be blown off the screen. Don't press it enough...and the bird might fall into your fan and get shredded. It's hilarious and fun.

There's a "Pop the fish" game. I thought this was the hardest one to master, but basically, you hold the Move controller like a little spear and stab fish of a certain color. I missed a lot, but it's a simple enough game to learn...just hard to be excellent at.

There's a game where you shave the kid's heads with a razor. That was funny. Another game where you mine rocks by using the Move controller as a hammer. Another where you whack moles. There's a Paratroopers game where you must use the controller as a fan again, and blow falling soldiers onto little rafts floating on the sea. So many fun mini-games here that I didn't get bored with any on my first playthrough, and I even went back to play several again later on. The only downside was that like EyePet, sometimes I had to play on the floor right next to the camera to get it to work. This is not fun....and it really hurts my back.

Overall Score? 8/10. Despite a couple of quirks, this is easily the best game for the Move that I've played yet...and the one I think should have been packed in with the controller bundle I bought. It's fun, it's simple, and there is plenty of variety. It's a lot better than Sports Champions, and if I was going to show the Move to someone, this is what I'd show them. Now...I just need a copy of it.

Trophies: Updated on Christmas Day, after I found that the UK Playstation Site had all my trophies posted while the US site still doesn't. I don't really understand why this is, but luckily, I can update all my reviews now.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Video game number three hundred and fifty eight: Eye Pet

Video game review number three hundred and fifty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Eye Pet"

This afternoon, my niece came over to the house. She's still a toddler, and her parents wanted to show her some Kinect games. I thought she might like Kinectimals, so I booted that one up, and loaded up the digital kitty. The first thing it did was go and get a soccer ball. We urged my niece to kick the ball for the baby tiger, but she couldn't do it and got frustrated. "I can't!" she said, and then she jumped onto the couch to hide from the game. Not a good experience for a three year old I guess.

She watched Heather play with the cub a bit before we popped in Adventures for her to play with. She liked that one a lot better. A few times she said "I want to see my kitty again.", but we didn't think she'd be able to master the interface of that one. It was just a little advanced for someone her age. Maybe when she's a few years older.

If Kinectimals was advanced, Eye Pet is rocket science. Holy lord this game makes it difficult to interact with your little pet. This has to be one of the most confusing kids games I've ever played.

First of all, you have to point the camera at the ground. I was wondering how it would see me if I did this, and the answer is: You have to lie down on the ground to play this game. Wonderful. I have just found the most uncomfortable game to play of all time. My back was in serious pain after crouching and kneeling for an hour's worth of animal games.

There's a professor guy (much like the scary Honey Nut Cheerios bee in Kinectimals) who guides you through the process of playing with your pet. The first thing he does is give you your pet in an egg and have you perform four or five different tasks to hatch that egg. First you shake it, then you clap at it, then you tap on it and finally, you tickle the damn thing until it comes out. The whole process took about 5 or 6 minutes...and my wife (who wanted to see what kind of pet was inside the egg) almost gave up watching. It was sort of fun to hatch him, but it definitely took too long.

When the pet finally hatched, there were all sorts of games to play. First, you were supposed to tickle it with your fingers (I found that using the Move remote worked better), make it sit..., take pictures of it and use all sorts of different toys to play with it.

Once you've learned the basics, you start out on the "Days" of Pet classes. I think there are 8 different days, and over the next hour...I completed 2 of them. Each day consists of 4 different challenges. Some of the challenges are simple (teach your pet to jump, put them to sleep, etc). Others are a little more complicated (feeding it cookies is a rather difficult mini-game).

There's grooming, and all of this stuff is awkward to control and annoying. Sometimes you try to pet (or comb, or feed) the animal and it works. Other times, it doesn't recognize the gesture. the on screen guy tells you to use your hand, but I found that my hands only worked one in every 5 or 6 tries. I did a lot better scratching him while holding the Move controller, because the Eye Toy seemed to recognize that better than it did my hand.

Feeding my pet was awkward and annoying. You have to scoop up food and then pass it onto your pet, but the on screen food dispenser didn't turn in perfect time with my hand, so I kept spilling food on the ground. Taking a picture of the pet was easy, although waiting for him to pose for it took awhile. I suppose that's a lot like a real pet, so I didn't mind that so much. There were many more games to play....but I wasn't interested in continuing.

Overall Score? 3/10. You can make the pet run, jump and sleep. There are probably other tricks, but I only learned those first three. After that, I concentrated on the best trick of all: Sending my pet back to Gamefly. Using my handy-dandy "index finger" motion controller, I hit the eject button, grabbed the disk, and put it in the envelope, never to be seen again. This game might be fun for younger (and really patient) kids....but I have no desire to ever see my little Eye Pet again. Sorry Bartholemew (that's how I spelled it)....you're going to have to find a new home.

Trophies? Yes...and no. Yes I got some, no, they aren't synched yet. I will post when PSN finally updates itself.

Updated Christmas Day: I discovered that the UK Playstation Site has my trophies!

Video game number three hundred and fifty seven: Singstar + Dance

Video game review number three hundred and fifty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Singstar + Dance"

This is another Playstation Move game, and my fourth Singstar game so far this year. Of everything that has been announced so far for the Move, this was the game I was most excited about. I actually tried (and failed) to win a House Party where I could be one of the first to try it and demo it for all my friends. SingStar is a fantastic karaoke game, and the promise of combining dancing with it sounded like a ton of fun. I haven't had a chance to play a demo anywhere yet, so my first exposure was after renting it today from Gamefly.

When the envelope came in the mail, my wife sat down on the couch and said that she wanted to watch me play this one. I asked if she was going to play with me, and she said "maybe".

The first thing I did was choose the dancing tutorial and watched that. Two professional dancer folks showed me how I would use the Move remote (basically, just like Just Dance for the Wii). I watched that, and then jumped right in. I decided to pick "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul as my debut song. I selected easy difficulty, calibrated the Move controller (which is incredibly annoying to have to do before every freakin' game) and then set out to dance.

Oh my lord...this game is HARD.

Heather watched me play that song, and said it looked incredibly difficult, but then she decided to play with me. I chose to sing while she danced (that's a pretty cool feature) and she picked an old Motown song. She was able to follow it pretty well, but when we picked some of the newer stuff, she thought it was just as difficult as I did.

We chose the dance mode, and both of us danced together to a Jackson 5 song. It was hard, and neither of us did great, but she beat me handily. Later...we tried a sing-off, which consisted of brief snippets of almost every song on the disk, and I was able to beat her at that somehow. Clearly, it's not as accurate as Rock Band as far as the scoring goes, because she kicks my butt at that all the time.

Heather's thoughts on the dancing portion of the game:

"The steps are very difficult to follow if you don't know them already."

Regarding the lack of flashcards (or any onscreen indicator as to what the next move might be:

"You don't get any warning or anything"


And:

"The steps never repeat so you can catch on."

After finishing a pretty difficult routine:

"I can't believe that's the easy level"

And:

"You'd think on easy it would be more repetitive so you could learn the moves."

After finishing another song, she checked out the replay photos and videos that the game saved. She looked at her own pictures and videos from the song she had just played and said:

"Look at me! I look so sad. Isn't that depressing?"
"How is this a highlight? I never did that part that well."

Heather's final thoughts:

"It's a good idea to have somebody be able to sing while somebody dances, but the dancing is way too hard. It would be one thing if it was like Dance Central and it gave you an idea of what move is coming next, but it doesn't. I think motown is the only dancing I can do. Overall...I say BOO to this game."

My final thoughts:

I have to agree with Heather on almost everything. The dancing is so difficult that it's not any fun at all, and the scoring is almost as random (though not quite as random) as Just Dance for the Wii. You're left feeling overwhelmed by the moves you are being asked to do, and even if you DO get them right (probably by memorization), there doesn't seem to be much accuracy as far as scoring goes.

Singing works much better, and as always...this game has a great soundtrack. If I were to purchase this particular game bundle, it would be specifically for the Karaoke, but I'd probably never use the dancing part of the game again.

Overall Score? 5/10. Great karaoke mixed with awful dancing earns this one an average score. It's not terrible....so long as you don't particularly want to dance. If you do...then this game is a 1 or a 2. If you don't, it's a great expansion pack for SingStar, and that earns it a five.

Trophies?

I earned some, but they aren't on PSN yet. I will update this when their server finally synchs.

Updated Christmas day: So, my trophies still aren't on the US Playstation site yet, but the Europe site has them for some reason. Here are the two we unlocked together playing this game.

Video game number three hundred and fifty six: SBK X: Superbike World Championship

Video game review number three hundred and fifty six in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "SBK X: Superbike World Championship".

After playing Nail'd yesterday, I was still in the mood for racing. Despite my urge to play some more Need for Speed, I had this one on my list, and plenty of time to play it this morning, so I figured I'd try something new instead of falling back into something I already know and love. Only a few more days of this challenge left, and then I'm going to fall back into my old habits of playing a ton of old games to death, instead of a ton of different games like this.

SBK is a motorcycle racing game, and instead of racing through hills and stunt courses like Nail'd, it' all about the race track races. I don't mind this (Moto GP did it alright earlier this year), but oh my lord...the controls in this game are awful. Steering the bike is incredibly unresponsive, you don't really feel the sense of speed that you do in Moto GP at all. The graphics are unimpressive. The music is blah, the riders have no personality...and the crashes have no rag doll physics.

After two races, I knew I had absolutely no desire to play this anymore, and I'd already gotten an achievement, so I could have quit. Instead...I went to 360 Achievements to see if there were any easy goals I could chase to kill some time with this one. Turns out, there were plenty.

I spent the next hour or so grinding to get certain easy achievements that I knew would be sort of fun. One for giving my created rider a certain name and face. Another for wrecking my bike. Another for putting my rider into retirement from a big crash. Another one for winning a race against the computer (which was ridiculously easy thanks to the crappy physics in this game). It didn't care whether I was on the sand or on the track, I could just blow right by people.

Overall Score? 3.5/10. I got a hefty amount of gamerscore, and that was fun...even if playing the game itself was not. Within the hour, I had tired of racing around and tweaking settings for gamerscore, so I returned this one to it's case, never to be played again. Avoid this one...it's not even worth a rental, unless of course you love the gamerscore.

Achievements: Yup...lots of those.


Video game number three hundred and fifty five: Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet

Video game review number three hundred and fifty five in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet".

With only ten games left in the challenge (I know, right?)...I am really in the home stretch. I have more than ten games in the house right now, and I could blast through them if I wanted to...but my goal at this point is to actually play games I am pretty confident will be fun, instead of just quantity. I've got another racing game (SBK X) which I think I'll like, I've got some more Playstation Move games I want to try, some new Kinect games, and a ton more in the magic DS box from Rachel. With 20 days left to complete my project and only ten games to go, I can actually afford to take my time and start being a little choosy with my title selection if I want to.

So why did I pick a game based on a Saturday morning cartoon that I don't watch and a series of toys I don't collect? Simple: I know someone who worked on it. This was released the other day, and I saw some posts from him on various social networks announcing that it was out and that he had been working quite hard on it. He said that early reviews were positive and he was proud to have it on his resume', so I thought "What the hell? I'll give it a try".

30 seconds in, I could tell this was definitely a game aimed at really young kids. While it doesn't quite have the "wink wink" nature of one of the Lego games (Star Wars, Batman, Indy, etc)... there is some humor here for adults to enjoy, and you'd be hard pressed not to find at least two or three super heroes in the game that you've always liked. It seemed worth trying to me.

Infinity Gauntlet begins with you playing a combination of Iron Man and the Hulk. Much like Lego Star Wars, you can hot swap between the two at any time, and the first half of the first level is mostly a tutorial showing you how to use all of their powers. Hulk smashes (of course), Iron Man can float for a minute and shoot long range lasers. The game seems to center around collecting jewels while you're progressing through the level. Some locations are overt, others are hidden. From what I can tell after a few levels, you're going to have to go back and use other characters to collect them all and get the achievements...as it didn't seem possible to get them all on one playthrough with the default characters.

I finished the first level and got to play another that starred Thor and Raven (I think his name was Raven, he's a Marvel guy I've never heard of). Thor had a prissy manner about him, and it made the character a lot more fun to listen to. I thought it was pretty funny that they went that route with him, because I've always thought that Thor was somewhat of a diva. The one-liners are thrown around liberally in this title, and I found myself chuckling quite a bit.

After a couple of levels, I got to a boss fight that was actually somewhat of a challenge. By "challenge", I mean I actually died once or twice during it and had to start over. I discovered my special moves right about then, and I passed it, but I think that this was just the right level of difficulty in a game that had been a cake walk up to that point.

It looks like all the Marvel heroes are represented here, and although I'm not 100% up to date on my comic books...I recognized that all the ones I am aware of were in attendance. Wolverine, Spider Man, Galactus (voiced by George Takei!), the Hulk, Iron Man, etc, etc. There were tons and tons more....but I didn't play far enough to unlock them all.

Overall Score? 5.5/10. As far as kid's games go, it's a good one. Much like Ben 10 (which I played earlier this year), it's based on a show I've never watched. Unlike Ben 10...it's actually something I enjoyed playing for a little while. I could totally envision myself playing through this one with one of my younger nieces or nephews as the 2nd player...and I think they could probably figure it out and have a good time. Without them though, I just can't see myself trying to fight my way through the mini Marvel Universe. It's not that I think I'm too old for kid's games or anything (I still want to go back and finish Spongebob someday)...it's just that this one is a little young for me.

Achievements: I did manage to rack up a few:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Video game number three hundred and fifty four: Nail'd

Video game review number three hundred and fifty four my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Nail'd".

I had never heard of this game before PAX 2010, where I tried it out at a booth demo. I am a fan of many driving/biking games, and this one definitely looked like a lot of fun as I was walking by. Huge jumps, 16 people, fairly decent graphics....I definitely knew I'd give this one a try when it came out.

Somehow, I forgot about it for a few weeks, but I decided to pick it up this morning and see what it was all about. First impressions? Not half bad.

First of all, the game does remind me of the Motorstorm games for the PS3 and PSP, without the sparkle that makes them amazing to look at. You only control ATVs and Motorcycles in this one (so far, I've stuck with the ATVs), but the races still manage to be quite interesting...with shortcuts and challenges galore on every track. It wasn't repetitive at all, and I liked that.

The races are pretty straight forward, with a few exceptions. Usually, you're just trying to get first. I ran about 12 races, and of those...almost all had that goal. Most are 3 lap races, but some are only 1 lap long, and it's a really long lap. Occasionally..there are stunt modes, where you focus not just on winning...but on getting the most stunts in during the race. You get points for every stunt, and the first person to cross the finish line keeps his points, while everyone behind him starts losing points gradually the longer they take to finish. This was sort of awesome, and I'll bet it would be really fun in multiplayer.

Of course, it's not all cherries and sunshine.

The soundtrack in this game sounds like a tailgate party at a Nickelback concert. I was so incredibly sick of the butt rock after 12 races that I almost wanted to turn the sound down. I'm not sure why, but I momentarily forgot that the 360 allows you to use custom soundtracks (it's been so long since I've really needed one). Next time I play this sucker, I'm totally plugging in my Zune or playing from a shared music folder, because the in game background music sucks donkey balls.

While the game has some stunts, it's sort of an odd selection. For example, on most biking games I've played that feature stunts, you might get SUPER AIR and then jump your rider off the bike for a minute. Maybe you could do a flip, or a "Super Man" or something. Perhaps you could spin the bike around mid-air? Not in Nail'd.

You can jump, and you can boost...but the only "stunt" bonuses you can earn are for sticking a landing, jumping through a floating, flaming hoop, or ramming into another rider. It feels really odd not to be able to pull of Gonzo moves in a game that features so much airtime. At the loading menus, they tell you how many miles you've raced...and one time I noticed that I had spent over ten miles racing....IN THE AIR. I had well over 60 miles logged at that time, and ten of them were airborne travel. In my professional opinion, if you're going to get that ridiculous with the jumps, you're also going to need amazing stunts while you're up there.

The crashes also leave a lot to be desired. I mentioned above that you can crash into other riders, but it's not like there's any damage to their bike (or yours) and you don't see them fall and roll into a tree or something. You hear a bump sound, and you get an onscreen notification that you wrecked them. It's rather anti-climactic. When you crash your own bike...instead of watching your dude fly into a tree, a splash screen comes up that says "Nail'd!", and then you instantly restart, further ahead than you were on the track. I suppose this might have been implemented to keep the feeling of speed in the race, but I would have liked a little more carnage. Maybe I've been playing too much Need for Speed lately.

I beat the first tournament of career mode and was halfway through the second when I realized I was coming up on the "Win 10 races in a row" achievement. I had lost a couple of races earlier on in the career, and so I didn't even notice that I had been on a rather lengthy winning streak since that point. While I hadn't been having any trouble winning for awhile, I suddenly got nervous when I saw that achievement progress bar on a loading screen, and I started really concentrating. I won my 8th race, and then started my 9th. By this point, I was totally after that 30 gamerscore. At the last second of what could have been my 9th win in a row, the fucking computer passed me right at the finish line...resetting my score completely. I got frustrated and quit playing after that. No fault of the game, I was just angry.

Overall Score? 7.5/10. This is a really solid racing game, and I do intend to play it again in the future. The levels are fun, the air is awesome, and while it has some things I wish were different (the stunts, the crashes, the stupid music, etc)...it's actually really fun to play. Unfortunately, I don't think too many people know that, because I tried to find an online match and ended up sitting in a lobby alone for about 5 minutes before giving up. That's too bad.

Achievements? I played for a couple of hours....so I got quite a few:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Video game number three hundred and fifty four: Doritos Crash Course

Video game review number three hundred and fifty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Doritos Crash Course".

This is the other free arcade game in the Doritos "Unlock Xbox" contest....and this one has my vote for the 50,000 dollar prize that Doritos is offering to the winner.

Crash Course is similar to the Wipeout TV show, and much better than the Wipeout game that I played on the Wii earlier this year.Wipeout is based on a popular TV show and retails for around 40 bucks. Crash Course is free, it's a semi-original concept...and somehow it manages to be exponentially more fun. Go try and figure that out, because I sure can't.

Crash course takes place across three countries with 5 different obstacle courses in each. The obstacle courses require you to run, jump and slide over an assortment of obstacles. You play as your Xbox Live Avatar (quite possibly the coolest part of this game), and when you fail to navigate an obstacle...there are some pretty funny animations. If you get hit by the swinging hammers for example, your avatar will get knocked into your TV screen, and then slide down the broken glass like a cartoon. If you get smashed by the "crushers" you'll be nice and dizzy. Getting through the level successfully might inspire your little guy to do a moonwalk. It's strange, but this game handles avatar animation better than any other game I've ever seen on Xbox Live, and I've played a LOT. It makes the game a lot more personal when you're the main character...and I enjoyed watching my guy fall, crash and dive whenever he failed to clear something.

The puzzles themselves are interesting and different enough to keep you playing. It's essentially your basic platforming, and it also supports leaderboards. Every time you start a new level, you'll see your friends best score right up there, taunting you and inspiring you to hit restart a lot if you don't beat it on the first try.

There's an Xbox Live multiplayer mode where you can play against friends or randoms....but it's really hard to find a partner on Live for this game. I've let it sit for long periods of time, and no one has joined a game yet. The game is free, so I'm not sure what's stopping people from picking it up. Too much Call of Duty perhaps.

Overall Score? 7.5/10. My initial instinct was to rate this game higher than a 7.5, mostly because it's instantly fun to pick up and play. However, with only 15 levels...I think I'll breeze through it quickly, and I can't see this one having much replay value. Then again...for the low price of FREE...it's already got an insane amount of value as it is. You really have nothing to lose by downloading this (except maybe hard drive space). If you have an Xbox, go get it...before the free offer is over.

Achievements? You bet.


Video game number three hundred and fifty three: Harm's Way

Video game review number three hundred and fifty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Harm's Way".

This is the first of two free Xbox Live Arcade games that were released yesterday as part of "Unlock Xbox" contest held by Doritos. Basically, people all over the world got to submit game concepts, a studio developed a couple of the best ideas and then released both games on the same day. Xbox Live users get to vote, and whoever came up with the best game wins 50,000 bucks. They're going to have people vote until December 29th, and the winner will receive the cash prize.

It's cool that this game is free, and I didn't hesitate to download and play it. I had actually read an article about this particular game on the internet before (I can't remember where or I'd link it) and I thought it was a decent enough concept for a game. Basically, it's a car racing game, except there are turrets all over the track. You can choose to be a racer or a shooter. The goal of the racers is to finish the race, the shooters are supposed to stop them. You can team up on Xbox Live (you drive while a buddy snipes at the other team). On paper, it definitely sounds like a good idea.

As far as the execution goes...it was only "Ok". The racing half of the game is fairly awful. The track boundaries are confusing (I went out of environment a couple of times by accident in my very first match). There are multiple racing lanes on a semi-open track, and it's tough to tell which one is the fastest unless you're paying very close attention to the map or you've memorized the track already.

As the driver, there's not a lot you can do to protect yourself from being shot, except picking up power-ups and hoping that you get one that can disable the turrets. Turrets can also shoot the power ups...so yeah...as a driver you're basically screwed. If it were more fun to drive, or you had more of a fighting chance it might be fun, but alas...it's just lame racing all across the board.

Being the turret is a lot more fun. You can snipe racers, use machine guns and/or missiles on them, and when you blow them up, they are completely stopped for a little bit. The aiming is fairly good, and if the car is getting out of range, you can swap to another turret further along the track. I really like this feature, it keeps the game extremely fast paced.

Overall Score? 4.5/10. The racing half is somewhere around a 2, but the shooter half is more of a 7, and that brings the score up for me. As a team concept, I really like this idea, although I wasn't able to find people on Live playing it when I tried this morning. That's really weird because it's free and it just came out, so maybe it was just the time of morning that I was trying. I'll give it a "shot" again tonight.

I should note that if this concept were better executed, this game would definitely be epic in my book. If the racing were like Need for Speed, but you could sit at the side of the track and snipe the race cars? Oh man...that's a game I would totally love to play. Someone needs to get their ass on developing the idea immediately.

Achievements: Look at all the free Cheevos I got in only 40 minutes or so of gameplay.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Video game number three hundred and fifty two: Zumba Fitness

Video game review number three hundred and fifty two in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Zumba Fitness".

I decided to kick off the morning with a little video game Fitness. I hadn't tried Zumba yet, but it's supposed to be a dance based workout, so I figured it was at least worth a try. When you boot the game, your ears are assaulted with the catchiest salsa theme song you've ever heard. People like to say "Salsa".

Apparently, the theme song (and the dances themselves) will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched (or participated) in a Zumba fitness class. If you're like me, you were never actually aware of such a thing, and when you heard the name "Zumba", you instantly thought of "Zuma", a puzzle game involving multi-colored jewel matching. My wife let me know that this game was a "real thing", which somehow made it more interesting to me.

My first impression was that the menus are absolute garbage, and getting to a point where you can play the game is incredibly frustrating. I'm intimately familiar with hundreds (if not thousands) of gaming menus, so I was able to do this...but later this evening, when my wife was booting up the game to give it a try herself, she was stuck.

The interface for Zumba is probably the most unnatural one I've seen for Kinect yet, and it makes you want to SCREAM for a controller to navigate your way around. It's not set up intuitively, and the motion controls are ass. As far as Kinect goes, Heather has only played Dance Central and Your Shape Fitness by herself so far, and she's had an easy time with those. Walking into the world of Zumba Fitness is like entering a foreign country, where nothing is quite the way you expect it to be, and you don't speak the language.

I heard her complaining and came out into the living room to help her get a game setup. I could hear her getting vocally frustrated with how hard the stupid menus were to navigate through, and I flashed back to my own experience with the game this morning. "Just let me play the game already!" pretty much summed up her thoughts on the ordeal. If Zumba was trying to capture the kind of gamer who might actually know what "Zumba" is and might be excited about playing it...they have failed miserably.

Anyway, back to me. This morning, I grumbled my way through the menus and set up a character. There weren't near as many options as Your Shape Fitness (all you can really enter about yourself is your age), and I thought that was strange for a workout game. I started the tutorials, and they seemed to be dance lessons. The dancing was incredibly hard.

Unlike Dance Central, they expect you to just "know" how to dance, and the moves are incredibly fast paced. Fortunately (I suppose) unlike Dance Central, the scoring seems really loose. I can't dance at all, and I certainly wasn't following the moves 100% accurately, but somehow I managed to pass the lessons.

I started a 20 minute workout...which was basically 6 or maybe 7 songs. During that time, the announcer fed me all sorts of nonsense that had nothing to do with my actual performance.

"You're doing great!" it would say, after I KNEW I had just messed something up.

During the workout itself, there isn't really a "Score" so to speak, but there is a progress bar...and mine seemed to be filling up no matter how well or how badly I thought I was doing The entire workout consists of following the onscreen dance moves of someone who is a much better dancer than you are, and honestly...I didn't feel like what I was doing mattered that much. By the end of the match, I had achieved a score of 385. I'm not sure how good that was, but that was my score. No calories burned, no progress estimator...it simply told me how long I had danced, and asked if I wanted to dance again. I did not.

Overall Score? 3/10. This is an awful "game", that barely feels interactive at all. If you're a big Zumba fan, maybe you'll want it...but it won't be much different than dancing along with the TV. This game can automatically track how many days you play it (on a workout calendar), and that might be the only feature worth using. Everything else is just confusing fluff. Your Shape Fitness is a FAR better game...and after 20 minutes of Zumba, I went back to Your Shape and played for 30 or so.

Achievements? These are fucking ridiculous. Half of the achievements are almost impossible to get, and I'm convinced that whoever came up with these was severely delusional regarding the kind of person that might be playing this game.

Before we get into the achievements I got, I'd like to call out a few I did not (and will never) get.



For a moment, let's pretend I really liked this game. No matter how much I REALLY like it, would I really play it on 100 different days? That's more than I've played any video game I owned, including Call of Duty and Halo. Eventually, most workouts (even the ones you love) end up becoming boring, but apparently, the game designers think you need to play this one at least 100 times if you want all the gamerscore. F that.

Next up, we have:



Good fucking luck. I tried to dance online with someone, and I couldn't find any matches. I started my own match and no one joined. There are achievements for dancing with 50 people and with 100 people...and I can't even find one. I'm not sure how these could EVER be achieved.


Finally:



30 days in a row? Really? All you need to do is have a life, and it would be nearly impossible not to break your streak. I almost want to try this one, just to see if I can do it...except...I don't really like Zumba at all, and the idea that I'd need to play it 30 days straight (which would take me into January of next month) just annoys me.

I'm not even sure I ever want to play this game again...but here are the achievements I earned while I was playing:

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Video game number three hundred and fifty one: Sonic Colors

Video game review number three hundred and fifty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Sonic Colors".

This one just came in for the DS and even after all my adventures with Sonic this year, I'm still not sick of him yet. This game actually reminded me a lot of Sonic Rush, with a little bit of salsa added for extra flavor. People like to say "Salsa".

The game begins with a rather awesome cinematic (that plays only on the top screen). The story is apparently as follows: Eggman has built an elevator to space, and at the top of it is an amusement park. Sonic and Tails have to bust into it and find out what exactly he's planning.

Why an elevator to space? It has to cost a lot more to build that thing than to just buy another space ship (Lord knows he's had several). Did he think this was a more practical idea? I mean, the wind damage alone must cost tens of thousands in repairs every day, and if someone ever gets stuck in there, you probably need astronauts to get them out. Can you imagine how long the wait is if you push the button on earth and the elevator is up on the top floor?

Anyway...

The action is classic Sonic style for the most part. Side scrolling, super fast...collect rings and power-ups. You have the usual bouncers to launch you all over the place, loops, water levels...and then on top of that, there are a few new twists. First of all, there was some hang-gliding at the end of the first level, I thought that was pretty cool. When you get the right amount of score, you get to go to the "special" levels (yay!) and collect orbs to try and win an emerald of some kind. These levels take place in giant half pipes that reminded me of the first couple of Sonic games on the Genesis.

I made it 4 or 5 levels in, and I enjoyed the game for the most part. Sonic has some new abilities this time, thanks to these little ghost creatures that fly right into his body and somehow possess him with their special abilities. It sounds a little creepy, but no moreso than Mario eating mushrooms or flowers to get beefed up. Once Sonic has been invaded by one of these little monsters, he has a new power (such as "boost"). Small price to pay, I suppose.

If I'm counting correctly, I think this is the eighth game I've played this year that had Sonic the Hedgehog in it. Of those eight, I think I've actually only enjoyed three starring Sonic...and of those three, I think this might be my new second favorite. The XBLA platformer (Sonic 4) is number one, and this is a close second, followed by Rush.

Overall Score? 7/10. I have a pretty good basis for comparison now, and this is much better than average as far as Sonic games go. It's got that "old-school" feeling, with better graphics and the cool two-screen feature on the DS. It's definitely worth playing....and I also think it's worth owning. As far as the project goes, Sonic may have started off with a whimper, but he went out with a roar.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Video game number three hundred and fifty: Sports Champions

Video game review number three hundred and fifty in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Sports Champions".

This weekend, I finally picked up the Playstation Move bundle, and an extra Move controller for the full experience. The Bundle was 100 bucks, but I got Best Buy to price match it with Costco for the low, low price of 89.99. For that tidy sum, I got Sports Champions, the Eye Toy and one Move controller. I discovered that several of the games in Champions are actually designed for one person holding two move controllers, so I really felt like I should have two. All in, it set me back around 150 bucks, which is the same price as Kinect. Of course....that's only for one player, and I have no intention of buying two more remotes any time soon. For 100 extra bucks, anyone that wants to play Move with me can take turns.

So...what are my first impressions?

Playstation Move is exactly like the Wii. It's slightly more precise, but for the most part...it's the exact same experience. You hold the magic wand in your hand. It feels similar, except it's rounded and the Move controller also has a little plastic ball on top of it that lights up, which is pretty cool. Aesthetics aside, the experience is practically identical. You strap on the remote and you play games where you swing the thing around. Instead of a sensor like the Wii has, there's a camera...with a VERY short USB cord. I was pissed about that, and I'm going to have to find an extender or something if I don't want wires sticking out in front of my TV.

Booting Sports Champions, I was reminded of Wii Sports. Unlike Kinect Sports, there's nothing new or fresh about this experience. It's the exact same one you had when you played Wii Sports for the first time back in 2006. There's no bowling, but there's bocce ball...and it feels just like Wii bowling. It's a different experience, and I think it was a lot of fun, but it was certainly nothing new. Ping pong feels just like ping pong on the Wii, except you're able to put a little more "english" on the ball. Still...the response time was similar to the Wii, and I never felt fully engaged.

Next, I tried Archery, and this was actually something new. You hold One Wiimote...err...Move Controller out in front of you, and you reach the other one back onto your back to grab an arrow. This feels very natural. Next, you aim. At first, this was a HORRIBLE experience, and I figured out that I had to stand about 10 feet back from my TV just to get it to work. Once I got into the sweet spot where the game was actually reading my aiming, I was able to fire into the target pretty well, and there was a real feeling of connection when I hit a target.

Next up was the Gladiator mode. I got a chance to try this particular game out at San Diego Comic Con this year (it was a standalone booth). I used 2 Move remotes to play this mode, one was a sword and one was a shield. I whacked the hell out of my opponent with the sword and protected myself with the shield. Every once in awhile, the game asked me to make a special gesture (for example, it would ask that I put two arms up in the air to jump). This boggled my mind, because with Kinect...you'd just jump in the air if you wanted to jump in the game. Why was I raising my arms above my head to simulate a jump if there was a camera in front of me? This Move technology is definitely nothing but a shinier Wii. Despite the inability to jump, I was still able to have some fun with this particular game mode. Fighting is fun.

I played some volleyball after that and right off the bat, I thought the serving was pretty good. You could serve underhand or overhand and it felt fairly natural either way you went. I used to play in high school, and felt like the serving motions were very similar to the way it's supposed to work. Unfortunately, that was where the fun ended. The rest of the controls were pretty awful. Setting and spiking were rather lame, and didn't "feel" like Volleyball at all. Player position, timing and power didn't seem to matter at all. I would soon learn that Kinect Sports has nailed the realism of living room volleyball, and how lacking this particular game mode of Sports Champions really was by comparison.

Last, but not least...I tried Frisbee Golf. It was very hard to pickup, but this was also the first game I played multiple times in a row, because I realized it had a steep learning curve for the throwing and I wanted to get good at it. At first, I had trouble aiming the Frisbee in the direction I wanted it to go in....but every once in awhile I would get lucky and it would feel just right. Of all the modes in Sports Champions, this was the most challenging...and although it still felt like the Wii, it was also a new experience in gaming for me. I enjoyed it.

Overall Score? I'm going to give this entire compilation a 6.5. There were four modes I enjoyed to varying degrees, and the others were either horrible or rather uninteresting. If this is the pack-in title, I'm not sure how I feel about the future of the Move. I can't imagine why anyone would spend 150 bucks buying this setup unless they absolutely didn't want a Wii, or were opposed to buying the Kinect for some reason. From what I can tell so far, the Move isn't offering anything you can't get on the Wii already. Still.....to be on the safe side, I've added all of the Move launch titles to my Gamefly queue, and I'm going to be reviewing as many as I can in upcoming posts.

Trophies? For the same reason mentioned in my Sly Cooper review, I can't seem to get to them from the website today...but I did earn plenty. If the stupid website doesn't update itself soon, I'll take a picture with my camera phone before this project ends.

Updated Christmas Day: Found them on the UK Playstation site:

Video game number three hundred and forty nine: Unbound Saga

Video game review number three hundred and forty nine in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Unbound Saga".

What would happen if someone made an awesome video game where your character jumped into a comic book, and fought his way through pages of panels before turning to the next adventure? Simple...you'd have Comic Jumper. That was one of my favorite games of the year, and I've played it for countless hours so far (Even though I've beaten it, I still haven't gotten all of the achievements just yet, and I'd still like to).

Unbound Saga feels like a ripoff of Comic Jumper, even though this game was actually released on the PSP last year. It's one of those situations where I played a newer, better game first, and then went back an older similar one. Unlike my experience with Dante's Inferno earlier this year, I think the older game sucks. Unbound Saga feels like the rough draft, or maybe the rejected storyboards for Comic Jumper, which is a much more polished version of a similar concept. I realize my perspective is backwards (In reality, Comic Jumper is probably more of an updated, full featured and more polished version of this game)...but I can't help my viewpoint. It really feels like this one is the redundant one instead of the other way around.

Saga is a beat-em-up side scroller, and I love those. It's supposed to be really funny, and at times...it can be, but most of the jokes fall flat. I played through 6 levels of it so far, and I can't really tell you exactly what my mission is. It's that forgettable. Beat up everyone, and repeat. It was entertaining enough to keep me playing, but unlike Comic Jumper, I couldn't tell you what the hell was going on in the story.

You have your choice of two characters in this game: Rick and Lori. Rick is the typical Comic book hero, except he's also self aware. He knows he's in a Comic Book, and he's trying to bust out to fight "The Maker". This is one part of the game I actually think is pretty funny, because he sometimes argues with the artist, and then you'll see this hand jump onto the screen with a pencil, and draw some more enemies for him to fight. I'm not sure if they mean for it to be really overt humor, or more tongue in cheek....but it comes across as trying to hard for whichever way they were going. Rick's moves are punch, kick and throw, and various combinations of those can be unlocked as you level him up.

Lori is the hot babe. Unlike Rick, she can't pick things up and throw them, but she does have a unique healing power. This helps her regenerate in the middle of fights, which is great. She also kicks faster than Rick does, and unlike him...she can jump. You can hot swap between the two characters at any moment during gameplay, which is pretty cool...and keeps the pace nice and quick.

Each level in the game (or I should say, the first 6 I have played)...is almost identical. You start a panel, you have a brief dialog with the enemies in that panel, and then you fight. When you've cleared all the enemies out, you find the exit and move to the next panel. Then you repeat...until you get to the end of the level. "BOSS FIGHT!" the game will scream (again, not sure what kind of humor they were going to, but it's something you chuckle at once, and then get sick of the second through sixth times you see it).

Overall Score? 6/10. I played for a good 90 minutes, but I never really warmed up to it. It's definitely "ok", but unless you already own Comic Jumper AND Scott Pilgrim, I really can't recommend that you buy this game. Try it first for sure....it's fun, but in a very underwhelming sort of way.

Achievements? I'm confident I could easily get almost the entire 200 gamerscore in a day, but I have more games to play, and better ones to replay than this. In fact, I'm off to go play some more Need for Speed right now.

Video game number three hundred and forty eight: Puzzle Quest Galactrix

Video game review number three hundred and forty eight in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Puzzle Quest Galactrix".

I was up early again this morning, and instead of firing up the 360 or the PS3 right away, I decided to pop on some headphones and listen to a few Kevin Smith podcasts while playing something relaxing. I went with Puzzle Quest, because it's always entertaining (and you don't have to concentrate terribly hard on it). This is the second Puzzle Quest game I've played for the challenge this year, and the third DS game from the case of games I borrowed from Rachel. It's pretty cool to have these games on hand, as it's giving me a larger variety of options to choose from when I feel like playing. Thanks Rachel!

Like all Puzzle Quest games, this one has a campaign, and just like the others, I could really give a rat's ass about the story. When I played the original Puzzle Quest, it was for the jewel matching, and all the monster hunts, leveling up and treasure crap that they threw in was just sort of a bonus. I'm not going to say that I particularly hate the story...but let's just say I hit the "A" button to skip the cinemas a lot.

Galactrix is set in space, so right off the bat, I was more interested than I was in some of the earlier Puzzle Quest games. Instead of wandering around medieval towns and forests, you start out at a space station and you venture to different planets and asteroids. You pick your own character (I named mine "Sir Toad") and instead of just leveling him up, you also power up your ship.

Of course...none of this TRULY matters...and it's all just a footnote to the actual game itself, which is matching jewels. I like to think of the plot of Puzzle Quest games somewhere along the lines of the cut scenes in Guitar Hero. Sure, your character is actually doing something, but do you really care...or do you just want to sing that Van Halen song again?

The jewel matching game this time around is very different from the ones before it. First of all, it's not the standard rectangle screen, it's a circle, and depending on which way you match the gems, more fall in from that direction. If the third gem in your match is at the top of the screen, things will cascade down from there. If you've matched your last gem to the right, things fall in from the right...and well, you get the idea. It makes the entire game infinitely more challenging, and I must say...more interesting as well. Unlike Puzzle Quest 2, this one really changes the mechanics up, and while I'm not going to say it's "better", it's definitely a welcome change.

Along your quest, you have come to these warp gates where you have to play a little timed game to "hack" it. This is basically just more puzzle quest, except it's under the gun, and you have to match certain colors of gems as the game calls them out for you. I liked these. You can also mine for minerals, which is another matching game that involves matching only specific little gems. Once you've found enough, you can craft something new. This is also a pretty cool mini-game, and I'll admit that I watched the story to understand why I was doing all this.

Overall Score? 7.75/10. I like this a little better than the last puzzle quest. Hell, I even watched a few cinematics. This is one I wouldn't mind having in my little game case, but there are plenty of other DS games I want to own first before I'd buy this one. I played for about 2 hours...and in that amount of time, I was able to get Sir Toad up to a level 6. For reference, Rachel's saved character on the cartridge was over 30....so apparently, I am not that good just yet.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Video game number three hundred and forty seven: The Sly Collection: Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racoonus

Video game review number three hundred and forty seven in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "The Sly Collection: Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racoonus".

How is it that I've owned a Playstation AND a Playstation 2, yet I've never played a Sly game? I can't answer that question, but luckily for me, Sucker Punch and Sony have just released a three game compilation of Sly's greatest hits. All of the games have had their graphics updated and trophies added, just like the God of War collection, which I enjoyed enough to buy. They've also thrown in some mini games for the Sony Move, so this promises to be quite an impressive value as far as bundles go.

The first one I decided to jump into was "Thievius Racoonus". For those of you that are like me and have no idea what the game is all about, allow me to explain:

Sly Cooper is a thieving fox, who has a hippo and a little green guy on his team helping him out. They love to steal, but only from other thieves (regular people are too easy). Unfortunately, their holy Bible (the Racoonus) has been stolen by another gang of thieves, who ripped it up into 5 pieces. This book contains all the secrets of how to steal things....and so it's your job to get it back.

I played through the first couple of levels of this game and have made the following observations:

1. This is a really fun platformer
2. The "one hit and your dead" difficulty is a pain in the ass, and I had to go back to the beginning of levels more than a few times.
3. The checkpoints are a little too far apart, and because of the one-hit deaths (see above)...can be a pain in the ass.
4. It's no Ratchet and Clank, but this is definitely my new second favorite platformer on the PS3.

Because I was having fun with this game, I didn't return it to Gamefly today. I wouldn't mind buying it, but realistically, by the time I get around to playing it, it's going to be a twenty dollar greatest hit...so I think I'll pass on that right now. Ordinarily, the review would be over..but there's one more thing I have to review:

The Mini Games:

I actually got to play a couple of these games because I just picked up a Playstation Move controller (I review that experience a little more in depth here). I'm not sure why they're not all unlocked, but apparently..you have to unlock them by playing the games themselves. Since I only played "Racoonus", I only have two unlocked.

Anyway, these are completely new experiences designed specifically for the new Playstation Move controllers, and sort of a bonus on an already great bundle.

The first was a target shooting game. I thought it was pretty good (and the controls were more responsive than any shooter on the Wii). Still, holding the Move controller in my hand felt EXACTLY like playing the Wii.

The other one I had unlocked was a helicopter game. You are supposed to fly the copter through different airborne rings, avoiding mines. I liked this game, and I actually played it a couple of times before I felt like I was pretty good at it.

Overall Score? 8/10. This looks to be a great collection of platformers that I somehow missed. I would totally like to have a copy of this someday, I'm just not going to buy it today because I have too many other unplayed games stacking up that I want to finish first. This is on my list though...and hopefully by the time I pick it up, it's deeply discounted.

Trophies: I earned several, but thanks to Sony's shitty online service (which is down right now), I can't seem to show them to you. I'll update this review if the site ever comes back online and happens to update my trophies. It took them over 2 months to get ModNation Racers trophies up there, so don't hold your freakin' breath.