Friday, June 29, 2007

Pokemon: Battle Revolution

Developer: Genius Sonority
Publisher: Nintendo
System: Wii
Release Date: June 25, 2007
Official Web page

In a nutshell: All the fun of battling cute monsters with none of that unnecessary plot or character development like in the real games.

0:01 Another game that feels the need to explain how to use the Wii remote as a pointer. Can't we just assume that every Wii owner knows how to point a remote at a screen?
0:03 We're flying to the originally named Poketopia. Also: This is the worst text entry screen I have ever seen.
0:04 The Poketopia rep has a Pikachu on her desk. CUTE!
0:05 "A trainer is a character who battles instead of you?" Wha? Doesn't the trainer represent me? And why can't I use my Miis as trainers?
0:06 Unfortunately I don't have a DS Pokemon game, so this will be a somewhat limited experience.
0:08 You can enter your own catch phrases to say in battle. Children all over the world check their spelling on their curse words.
0:09 This woman has to explain every menu extremely slowly. I GET IT! LET ME PLAY! Or at least let me read through the battle tutorial.
0:13 "A Trainer can't use items in this game." What the hell kind of crap is that?
0:14 The type advantage chart is more complicated that the Dewey decimal system. Do 13-year-olds really memorize all this?
0:15 Technician "powers up moves that are power 60 or less to 1.5 times their normal power." I feel like I need a doctorate to play this game.
0:18 Enough reading about advanced Pokemon physics ... time to battle!
0:20 My opponent Zachary is a "Passionate Tider." I thought this was a kids game!
0:22 The announcer calls the battle a "stalemate" after I attack once and the opponent fails to do anything. Uh... OK.
0:23 Six attacks with Staravia's "Aerial Ace" and my first battle is done. That was... exciting?
0:25 What an odd quicksave system... it deletes your data when you load it, What if I want to save a special battle to show friends or something?
0:26 Gabite also has Aerial Ace. It knocks down the foe in one hit. Awesome!
0:28 I try some other attacks that don't do much, but Aerial Ace continues to be "super effective." I've found my new favorite move.
0:29 Nosepass is pretty resistant to my aerial attacks. Hmmm... time to bring out the fire pokemon.
0:30 Only Pokemon would have an attack called "Sunny Day."
0:32 Announcer: "Crushing blow" Screen: "It's not very effective." Make up your mind!
0:33 Machop is one ugly Pokemon.
0:36 I keep Luxio out too long nad he "faints." Are these pokemon or Southern belles?
0:38 At least Buttrefree puts up a fight, but he finally gives in. "I can't believe I lost. The world is such a big place." Huh?
0:39 God help me, I'm actually developing a preference for some Pokemon over others.
0:43 Announcer: "That dealt some massive damage." Shades of giant enemy crab.
0:45 Say what you will, Pokemon has some nice character design. Great, colorful models and cute animation brings the little guys to life.
0:46 Rain dance causes some nice water effects on the camera.
0:49 Nice use of split screen in Poliwhirl's body slam.
0:52 Opposing trainer, on losing: "Failure is part of youth" How depressing.
0:53 I quicksave and head out to try the Wi-Fi battle. When I come back, I have to delete my quicksave? What possible purpose could this serve?
0:59 After 10 attempts the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection refuses to connect. The connection test on the Wii menu works. Oh well.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No
Why? Without some sort of personal connection to the Pokemon, rock paper scissors is more exciting.

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by Nintendo.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Def Jam: Icon

Developer: EA Chicago
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
Release date: March 6, 2007
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Rhythm game + fighting game + rappers = Def Jam Icon.

0:01 I like the black and white intro. Very classy
0:02 There are five pages of controls and they all look like this monstrosity.
0:03 I ignore the control instructions and just jam on the buttons. I get some good punch/kick combos going and I manage to blow up a gas dispenser. Sweet!
0:06 More experimenting shows I can do a big swing by flicking the right analog stick. Nice.
0:07 This is the first fighting game I have played where you can get knocked out by a spinning car wash brush. Make of that what you will.
0:08 I get set on fire when I run into an exploded gas dispenser. Luckily it's a temporary condition.
0:10 This is a freaking nice looking game. Beautiful human models, nice smooth animation and realistic backgrounds.
0:12 In the demo, matches just end after a minute or two and a winner is declared with no indication of why he won. No health meter, no "Finish Him..." nothing. I hope it's not that way in the full game. It's very anticlimactic.
0:16 After finding a lot of success just jamming on buttons, I bother to read about the controls. Turns out there isn't much I didn't figure out on my own.
0:18 The convenience store owner just sprayed me with a hose. My character looks mildly annoyed. I'm laughing here.
0:20 I find I can punch a guy in the butt three times after knocking him down just by jamming on X. Homoerotic!
0:24 I decide to see what happens if I do nothing but hit the X button for an entire match. It turns out I win. By a lot.
0:28 The demo loading screen says you have to "learn each song's beat to win the fight." That doesn't seem to be true. The beats makes the background bounce up and down, but that's about it, as far as I can tell.
0:32 This time I do nothing but grabs for the entire match. I win again. I know they don't want the demo to scare people off by being too hard, but this is just lame.
0:36 This time I mix it up. Half the match I spend circling the right stick clockwise, and half the match counterclockwise. Another easy win. Sigh.
0:40 Pacificst match: I dance around dodging without throwing a punch. My opponent catches me five or six times. That's better than I thought he'd do, actually.
0:44 Doing nothing but setting off explosions for a whole match is not a good strategy. Fun to watch though.
0:48 What kind of fighting game requires you to hold a button and move an analog stick just to block? A game that doesn't emphasize strategy, that's what kind.
0:52 Using my "scratching" ability to blow things up seems kind of gimmicky. It's only useful in highly specific situations which are hard to set up. That's a shame, since this music thing had the potential to make the game interesting.

Would I buy this game based on the demo? No
Why? Nice to look at and it might be OK with a second player, but it's a button masher through and through.

This review is based on a demo version downloaded from the PlayStation Network

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bust-a-Move Bash!

Developer: Majesco
Publisher: Taito
System: Wii
Release Date: April 17, 2007
Official Home Page

In a nutshell: Shoot colored balls at other colored balls. On the Wii!

0:01 OMG the manga-fied Bubble Bobble dinosaurs are SO CUTE! The stages to select from are a cityscape, a house and a cupcake/lollipop land. Wha? I'll choose lollipop land, I guess.
0:03 The point-to-aim controls are pretty intuitive and quicker than the old directional ones. Got to have a steady hand though.
0:06 The most puzzling thing about puzzle mode is where it gets off calling itself puzzle mode. There doesn't seem to be much puzzle or strategy to them. Just match the colors. Most stages don't even have a very pressing time limit.
0:10 The game has an annoying habit of giving you one extra orb after you've destroyed all the others of the same color. What am I supposed to do with this?
0:13 After ten rounds, I get an interesting shooting mini-game. I get a fire bubble for my trouble.
0:17 In round 13 I finally have a close call, but save myself with a nice ricochet. *whew*
0:18 I hate how sticky the balls are. They keep latching on the the mass just slightly off from where I want. Annoying.
0:26 After 19 rounds of barely any excitement, I die when a drought of black balls comes. Time to try another mode: Shooting.
0:28 It's just like the mini-game. I figure out that there's a lock-on feature so you can shoot less often. Clever, simple, fun, and over too soon
0:32 Shooting gets old relatively quickly. On to Endless mode.
0:35 In Endless mode, anything you drop off an overhang gets put somewhere useful automatically. A nice touch that encourages more strategy.
0:37 I love the Slip power-up, which slides the bubble to an appropriate place auto-magically if you're off. The whole game should be like this.
0:42 I keep getting more slide power-ups. Now this is more like it. Also ,the bubbly music is the best kind of infectious.
0:49 After 14 minutes of endless mode, I find myself entering a trancelike state. A good sign of a good puzzle game.
0:50 Construction paper fire trucks keep passing by in the background. Distracting.
0:58 On the brink of disaster, I'm saved by a chain that clears half the screen. Gratifying and bewildering to watch.
1:03 I realize I'm over an hour and I should probably get to doing other stuff.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes
Why? Simple, relaxing puzzle gameplay with controls that don't get in the way. Just what I'm looking for.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient 2

Developer: Now Production
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Release Date:
June 16, 2007
System: PSP
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
The instructions ask: "Ever wonder if you might be the world's greatest genius?" If you're playing this game, you probably have.

0:01 The name entry screen doesn't let me enter my standard name "Ace." Why do names have to be four characters or more? Also, why do they care about my blood type?
0:03 The controls are a lot smoother than the first game. It's nice not having to wait for animations to finish before making my next move.
0:07 The police aren't the mindless automatons they once were. Eep!
0:09 My first non-tutorial test... completed in ten seconds flat. 95% score, an estimated PQ of 100. Yeah, I rock.
0:10 Not as hot on the second puzzle... 20 whole seconds this time. 73.8%... I'm getting dumber.
0:11 I get a 52% on the third puzzle. But then I retry and get in the mid-90s. Who knew repeating the exact same puzzle made you smarter?
0:15 I score 103.1% after retrying a level? I may not be a genius, but I know that is mathematically impossible.
0:17 I bounce back and forth between retrying each stage to get a better score or blasting through to complete as many as possible. The ever-present five-hour countdown in the corner doesn't help my anxiety.
0:18 These new smoother controls have a downside... I keep accidentally walking into lasers. Only a minor annoyance so far.
0:20 I actually get completely stuck on a puzzle for the first time. It takes a bit of brain bending to figure out that I have to put a bigger block on top of a smaller one. I can almost feel my neurons re-wiring themselves.
0:28. The last eight minutes have been spent on one ridiculously tough laser puzzle. Of course, once I figure it out it seems so simple. Either you get it or you don't, I guess.
0:31 Despite my pathetic initial performance, a couple of retries get me 100% on the same laser puzzle that gave me so much trouble.The ever-present master time limit continues to worry me, though. Maybe I'll come back later.
0:34 The puzzles are getting clever incredibly quickly. This one with extending blocks was interesting but not too tough.
0:38 There seems to be a continuing theme of using items in ways other than you might initially think to. "Outside the box" thinking, if you will.I like it.
0:52 It's way too easy, and tempting, to cheat the timer by pausing and contemplating the slightly greyed out puzzle in the background. Stop tempting me... black out the puzzle when I pause.
0:56 Another insanely tough level... they seem to come up every ten. I spend a good ten frustrating minutes just fiddling with this one. It's so satisfying when I finally figure it out, though.
0:57 After 20 levels my approx. PQ is 105. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. And I do.
0:58 Finally quitting out of the 100-puzzle test, I find there are a bunch of other options. Who knew?
1:00 I stare at a "one move" puzzle for a full two minutes before I figure out the one piece I need to jigger to get a clear path. 110% score! Whoot!

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes
Why? Excellent interface and ingenious puzzle design so far. I can't wait to see what's next.

This review is based on a retail version of the game rented from GameFly.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Puzzle Quest

Developer: Infinite Interactive
Publisher
: D3 Publisher
Release Date:
March 20, 2007
Systems:
DS (reviewed), PSP
Official Web site


In a nutshell:
Match jewels to get mana, use mana to cast spells, use spells to kill enemies. Repeat.

0:01 I love the random fantasy name generator they seem to use for your character. Sanimin? Enaniel? I finally settle on Feramina, a well-balanced Wizard.
0:02 Another great name: Queen Qwendholyn. Gwendolyn was just too common, eh?
0:04 My character think her dead grandfather was crazy because he said on his death bed that he was battling skeletons. Why is that crazy? Because skeletons haven't been seen in Agaria for centuries. Not because, y'know, living skeletons are NOT REAL or anything crazy like that.
0:06 The non-attacking training dummy is defeated. I like the triumphant music and the "You are victorious!" message. Uh, the thing doesn't attack. I would hope I'd be victorious.
0:12 I show how bad I am at these games by losing the second training battle. My moves always seem to set up the opponent for something much better. I should pay attention to that.
0:17 I play a little more strategically this time, looking for damage-causing skulls and only casting spells when I have no better options. I Am Victorious, and the game proclaims it so.
0:18 There's quite the wide array of level up options. I choose fire and battle as specialties.
0:21 A battle with a thief is over all too quickly. I'm not that impressed with my new spell, "Channel Fire." Changes 9 other mana into 5 fire mana. Whoo.
0:23 "Lord Bane, the dark horsemen of death." Why aren't the bad guys ever named Smith or Jones?
0:25 Seems a cult is raising skeletons from the dead. That'll teach my character to be skeptical.
0:26 Channel Fire actually comes in handy when a dearth of red orbs comes up. That'll teach me to be skeptical.
0:29 The touch controls are a little too sensitive. I keep making accidental moves. Also, the music is like a dirge. Where's the uplifting battle theme?
0:30 Another victory. They're handing out skill points like candy.
0:35 I can't figure out how to figure out what my new spells do.
0:38 Figured it out. The help button is actually helpful.
0:39 I get slain by a lowly skeleton who KEEPS LUCKING INTO FREAKING FOUR-IN-A-ROW EXTRA TURNS ARGGHHHH! Not that I'm bitter.
0:40 Not that losing seems to matter... I get experience and try again. Hooray for forgiving game design.
0:42 I lose again... even quicker than before. That skeleton always seems to find the chains. Maybe I should stop just picking the first match I find.
0:46 Loving the new Haste spell. Four-in-a-row gets me an extra turn plus damage? Yes please.
0:47 I finally win by focusing exclusively on the skulls. The strategy is beginning to clarify a bit.
0:51 The Giant Zombie's only attack is "Eat Skulls." Accurate!
0:53 The zombie just got 5 turns in a row. Freakin' A!
0:55 The opposing action moves so fast, it's hard to keep track of what's going on on both screens. Meanwhile: "Eat Skulls does just what it advertises," by removing the skulls from the board. There goes my strategy.
0:57 I get the skeleton down to one hit point, then he finishes me off with a killer barrage. ARGH!

Would I play this game for more than an hour: Maybe.
Why? Great design, intriguing strategy and colorful graphics. But I suck!

This review is based on a retail version of the game borrowed from a friend.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sam and Max Episode 1: Culture Shock

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher:
Telltale Games
Release Date:
Nov. 2, 2006
System:
PC
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
Point-and-click crime solving with a twister sense of humor.

0:01 I love the stylized, red and black intro. Looks like a classy movie opening.
0:02 I love the voice acting too. It's nice that the mouths largely match the words. After ages of Japanese games with totally awful English lip-synching, it's a breath of fresh air.
0:04 "2002 was a great year for calendars." Gets a chuckle.
0:05 Sam just threw Max across the room for no good reason. I love this game.
0:06 I find a pile o' cheese, but it isn't the Swiss that we're looking for. Time for some wacky adventure-game style solution, I'm sure
0:10 Ah ha... after four minutes of fruitless searching, I find I have a big gun in my box. That oughta make swiss cheese out of that, uh, non-swiss cheese.
0:12 Negotiating for a stolen phone with a rat. Surreal. I like being able to flip between the two main characters for some good cop bad cop action.
0:13 The conversation flows naturally and leads to a pleasantly phone-filled resolution.
0:15 I like how everything you can actively click on is labeled when you hover. No random guess-and-click here.
0:17 "I don't sign butts anymore." Only in Sam and Max.
0:19 "Vandalism is illegal... and worse, unoriginal." Preach it!
0:23 So we've got former child stars seemingly entranced by an eye exercise video. Makes perfect sense...
0:27 Sam mentions White Collar Crime Drive. What a conveniently named street
0:30 I pull out a gun and a giant boxing love hits me from the sky. Also 'This rampant weenie cannibalism turns my stomach"
0:31 The wet floor sign says "caution land mines" Hooray for sight gags.
0:33 I literally laugh out loud when Max comments on the Not'chos. "They're mine, Not'chos"
0:40 Max asks "Ugly please" after "Pretty please." Another literal LOL moment.
0:42 I totally forget about the cheese in my pocket and get another head bop as I try to accidentally shoplift.
0:44 After all this build up, I'm dying to watch the Eye-bo video I just picked up.
0:47 Eh, after all that, the hypnosis seems kind of basic ... and worse, unoriginal.
0:55 I need to knock a guy out. Lucky I have this convenient bowling ball. But he sees it coming. How to blind him... hmmm. It'll have to wait for next time.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes
Why? The puzzles are just starting to get intriguing, and the twisted outlook, great voice-acting and laugh-out-loud writing will keep me coming back.

This review is based on a full version of the game available through GameTap.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Xbox Live Arcade Demos

In a nutshell: Three Xbox Live Arcade demos that don't take up an hour on their own.

Prince of Persia Classic
In a nutshell: The Sands of Time Episode 1
0:01 "Marry Jaffar... or die within the hour." What a choice! The silent, robotic intro. cut scene is a little creepy.
0:03 I fall on a pit of jagged spikes because my character won't stop when I let go of the direction he's moving. Sigh.
0:04 Another death at the same place. You'd think they'd update the controls along with the graphics.
0:06 He's got a sword! Idiots... we've all got swords!
0:07 Another misstep death at the same place. Are the touchy movement supposed to be part of the old school "charm"?
0:08 Nice attack animations, but jamming on X to defeat an enemy is a bit simple.

Would I buy this game based on the demo? No
Why? Too short to get a good feel for what's possible, and the controls have not aged well.

Band of Bugs
In a nutshell: Bug Fantasy Tactics. Bug Emblem. Ogre Bug. Shining Bug. Take your pick.

0:10 "We are talking, sentient bugs after all." "There's another kind." I'm laughing here.
0:13 "This game is guaranteed to be full of bugs." GROAN!
0:16 I lose in the tutorial. The tutorial! Lesson 3.
0:17 The interface is pretty simple -- shows info. well and uses only one button, for the most part. But why does it rumble so much? I feel like the controllers gonna fly out of my hands.
0:20 Done with the tutorial, on to the real game.
0:22 My archer, upon shooting a unit from far away, says "I love shooting guys from far away." Was that really necessary?
0:23 I don't quite understand what determines who goes next. Sometime I get two turns in a row. Not that I'm complaining.
0:26 I feel like I'm still in the tutorial... new elements are being introduced every mission.
0:30 This third mission introduced the new wrinkle of capturing bases, but things are still a bit too simple. I don't feel any real danger... just move and attack and you're good.
0:31 When you highlight a character, that character info take up a full 1/4 of the screen, obscuring the play field. Not helpful.
0:37 The enemy bug gives up information when we beat him. Where's the torture scene? 24 has spoiled me.
0:40 By the fourth map there's some strategy involved in positioning and maintaining the high ground. Shows promise.
0:43 I like how the goal of every mission is slightly different. Changes things just enough to keep it interesting
0:45 Demo is over so I play with the level editor a bit. It's fun and easy to use, but why put it in the demo if you can't even save your creations or play on them?

Would I buy this game based on the demo? Probably Not.
Why? It was beginning to show some promise of complexity , but overall it seems a little too simplified for my tastes.

Mad Tracks
In a nutshell: Micro Machines for the new generation.

0:51 These cars have some nice zip to 'em. Controls are nice and responsive.
0:53 Power system is interesting. If you continually hold the gas pedal you won't get up hills. Introduces some subtle strategy.
0:56 Beastie Balls mode is interesting -- drive around a bowl avoiding marbles. Gets crazy after only a minute or two. Would be more fun if the balls were much bigger.
0:58 The physics are crazy. Huge champagne glasses bounce around like plastic bottles.
1:00 The game seems a little easy. Even with the AI set to hard the blackout race isn't even close.

Would I buy this game based on the demo? Probably
Why? The promise of billiards and foosball using cars.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Travelogue 360: Rome - The Curse of the Necklace

Developer: Big Fish Games
Publisher:
Big Fish Games
Release Date:
June 20, 2007
System: PC
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
Look at pictures of Rome while solving a mystery.

0:01 The game offers a choice between timed and untimed modes. A nice touch for a casual game.
0:06 So far the game seems to be a massive search and find in a 3D panorama. Thrilling.
0:08 Apparently no one minds that you come to these sacred places and just pick up things that look interesting.
0:09 I'm glad the game tells you when one of the items you're searching for is on-screen. Without this hint, it would be nearly impossible.
0:12 These are supposed to be real photos of Rome. If so, Rome is the messiest place I've ever seen. There's random stuff lying everywhere!
0:15 I get a time penalty because I clicked slightly to the left of a pencil instead of right on it. Lame!
0:17 I'm suddenly thrown into a "spot the difference" minigame without any explanation. I get all six in just over a minute.
0:23 These panoramic pictures are beautiful... except for all the junk lying around.
0:26 I find a cheese grater on the ceiling. What the hell?
0:30 A jigsaw puzzle minigame is a nice change of pace, but I wish they at least tried to tie these in with the main storye somehow.
0:33 I'm actually getting quicker at finding the random items they ask for. This fact scares me.
0:37 Through much trial and error, I now know what a sewing basket looks like.
0:39 The "mystery" leaves a lot to be desired so far. You obtain clues, read them and then ... do the same thing you would do otherwise.It's not exactly Carmen Sandiego.
0:40 A matching mini-game called "Scopa" has potential, but is way too easy.
0:42 That slice of cake looks nothing like a slice of cake. Also, what's a slice of cake doing on the floor of a Roman basilica?
0:43 The music is quite nice and the general mood is quite relaxing, even with the time limit. I could see getting into this if I wasn't bored out of my skull.
0:46 I spend two minutes tracking down a pair of spectacles. My day has reached a new low.
0:50 A word find. More thrilling.
0:52 I somehow grab a seagull from midair fifty feet above me. Picturing this in my head is more exciting than this game.
0:58 I question the meaning of my existing after spending three minutes searching for a tiny man's profile.
0:59 The clues are building to a search for a youth-granting necklace that drives apart two young lovers. Cliche and badly written.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No
Why? I'm not an old woman. If I were, though...

This review is based on a full version of the game provided by the publisher.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Unison: Rebels of Rhythm and Dance

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher:
Tecmo
Release Date:
March 22, 2001
System:
PS2
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
Part Space Channel 5, part Bust a Groove, all wacky Japanese rhythm craziness.

0:01 OK, we're building a female dance trio. Blonde, check. Red-head, check. Blueish-green-haired girl... uh... check?
0:02 For a PS2 game, this intro. music sounds like it could come from the SNES. Not that that's a bad thing.
0:03 "High-tech celebrity city twin ships" is the setting, apparently. Two hundred years in the future. Dancing has been outlawed. "Stay tuned for the rest of the story." Do I have to?
0:04 This is some of the worst voice acting I've ever heard. The story itself is stilted and cliche but endearing in a Japanese way.
0:05 "According to my research, young people used to dance to this music." They have Wikipedia 200 years in the future?
0:06 The game throws you into practice mode without telling you what to do. Luckily the interface makes it pretty obvious.
0:10 Unlike every other rhythm game ever made, there's no indication of what move is coming next. This means you have to practically memorize every step in the minute-and-a-half long song. ARGH!
0:14 After practicing a few times I've got "Y.M.C.A." down enough to score a B in practice. Time for the broadcast.
0:16 The cut scenes make my brain hurt. What am I auditioning for? Why do all the bad guys saying "like" and "y'know" constantly?
0:19 I get another B. More cut scenes? Is this a game or a campy movie? Or both?
0:21 "This month we caught 20 people dancing up a storm." "Dancing leads to unhappiness" Definitely some quotable moments.
0:25 The second song is a good deal more complex then the first. I'll have to practice section by section.
0:32 Whoever thought it was a good idea to practically force players to practice for ten minutes and watch five minutes of cut scenes for each minute of actual gameplay was nuts.
0:35 The dancer animations are very fluid, and match with the input well. I wish I could just watch them instead of paying attention to the actual game.
0:40 More cut scene craziness. Why does the guy with the Afro keep stressing that if I fail "it's game over"?
0:42 The endless practice pays off. I get an A in the main performance. 94%!
0:43 The cheesy voice acting is growing on me ... it matches the cheesy story. Also: The main bad guy seems to have a duck fetish.
0:45 I get the feeling this game was trying to be Space Channel 5 but didn't have the style to pull it off.
0:46 The canned laughter and applause in the cut scenes is just precious.
0:48 Despite the completely Japanese feel to everything in the game, the music is good American party standards. I love the We are Family remix for song three.
0:54 You know what would make this game much better? The ability to freestyle.
0:59 After ten more minutes of practice I'm ready for more ... cut scenes.
1:00 A crushing scene of parental indoctrination. "Only bad girls talk like that," a father scolds Unison-loving girl. If she's talking about the game, I'd have to agree.
1:02 Only 70% this time. The steps are getting more and more intricate.
1:03 "If you dance you'll grow up to be nothing." Was the designer of this game a failed Broadway star or something?

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Maybe
Why? I have a perverse need to see the rest of the cut scenes, but I'd much rather play Space Channel 5 than sit through more memorization.

This review is based on a purchased, used copy of the game.

Monday, June 18, 2007

SSX Blur

Developer: EA Sports BIG
Publisher:
Electronic Arts
Release Date: Feb. 27, 2007
System:
Wii
Official Web page

In a nutshell:
Nothing makes you feel more like a snowboarder than waving a remote around.

0:01 Any game that features a character named "Psymon" in its intro. starts out with a strike against it.
0:02 The game feels the need to explain how to use the Wii remote as a pointer. Possibly the most intuitive console interface ever made, and still they need to give directions.
0:05 Working through the tutorial. Using the controls stick in conjunction with tilting the Nunchuk isn't immediately intuitive, but it shows promise.
0:10 Using a whole 'nother hand for the tricks will take some getting used to. If they tried, they coulda made this a one-handed game.
0:11 Just noticed that the music stops when you do. Nice touch.
0:16 After trying for five minutes straight I have yet to get off a single Ubertrick. There's nothing on-screen to show where you're pointing as you gesture. Annoying!
0:20 Only 4 of 12 characters available at the outset? I guess without Achievements they need something to keep you playing. Remember when playing used to be reward enough?
0:24 I have so much trouble getting points on the halfpipe I forget to finish. Still having some trouble with the trick controls.
0:27 Finish third place in the halfpipe this time. Getting more used to the controls, but I can't shake the feeling that there's less variety in the tricks than other SSX games. I still can't figure the Ubertricks for the life of me.
0:29 The loading is between events is short but still annoying. If you're going to make the game one big mountain, it should be a seamless getting from place to place..
0:33 The Kick Doubt mode doesn't give you enough time to finish. I want to do tricks, not focus on getting to the end.
0:36 The trick controls are way too sensitive. I'm pulling off tricks even when I don't mean to. I find myself missing the simplicity of controller buttons.
0:40 The slalom points out the difficulties with the tilt controls. I just can't turn sharply enough.
0:43 I figured out the problem. My natural inclination is to point the Nunchuk right and left instead of rolling it like the game wants. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get over my predelictions.
0:45 The music is nice and ambient, capturing the mood well without being distracting or annoying. I like the character animation too.
0:48 Trying to do ubertricks again on the halfpipe. Nothing doing. Would it kill them to put a pointer on the screen?
0:53 A race, finally. It's ind of lonely with only one competitor. Doing tricks doesn't seem to have direct correlation to speed... I miss the turbo from previous games.
0:56 For a game that traditionally encourages finding shortcuts, this one is pretty harsh about reseting you if you go off the beaten path.
0:58 My wrist hurts from constantly jumping.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.
Why? Let's put it this way -- the answer would probably be "Yes" if the game used a standard controller with buttons and such.

This review is based on a full version of the game rented from Gamefly.

Friday, June 15, 2007

NBA Street Homecourt

Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date:
Feb. 20, 2007
Systems:
Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
Basketball with 20 foot leaps, 1080 degree spins and other realistic touches.

0:01 The intro makes my brain hurt with its quick jump cuts, and I'm pretty ADD as it is. I love the huge Press START that takes up 9/10ths of the screen.
0:02 Pick up game, home team, random stars (bulls vs. spurs) at Hometown Park. Medium difficulty. Nice that it's easy to dive right in.
0:03 Nice little introductory vignette about the importance of the community basketball court. Makes the game itself feel more important.
0:05 I love the subtle, ever-present player chatter. Makes it feel more real, but it's not so overpowering that it distracts from the game.
0:08 My opponent just dunked it twice. In one shot. I'm pretty sure that's not legal in a real game.
0:10 The ebb and flow of the game is pitch perfect. The transition from offense to defense rocks back and forth with a gentle ease.
0:13 I'm finally getting the hang of using the X and Y buttons to do trick moves and steals.
0:16 Lose 22 to 8. I used to be good at this series, too. I feel like I'm learning the game all over again.
0:21 Doing jump shots seems kind of pointless when (1) the dunks are so incredible and (2) these behemoths can block every freaking one.
0:22 Shot clock violation? I thought this was streetball? So I can push a guy to the floor, but I can't hold the ball for 24 seconds?
0:23 An alley oop gets me my first lead of the game. I'm starting to feel it now.
0:25 The little button prompts above the player are great for learning. Who needs a tutorial?
0:26 The other team gets four points for a gamebreaker then a long range and I'm suddenly down 14-7. Wow. And I thought I was getting better.
0:28 Their guy just dunked right through three defenders all up in the air with him. Annoying.
0:30 The key to good ball handling seems to be jamming on the X and Y buttons as much aspossible. Who knew? This knowledge does not prevent a 22-13 loss, though.
0:31 I make a baller for the Homecourt Challenge. Another nice voiceover about who you wanna be. Nice touch.
0:34 I love the morph stick that lets you meld three faces without having to delve into each piece of the face. Create-a-player made simple.
0:39 I lose 5 - 0 to a team that seems to steal from me at will and gets every rebound. FUCK!
0:45 Rematch, now I now what to look for. They still squeak out a win 5-4. This is getting annoying.
0:46 After taking a quick 3-1 lead, an opponent throws out the comment"We just spotted you all some points." I'm laughing here.
0:47 5-2 win by focusing on going to the hoop instead of pulling off fancy moves.
0:49 I have not made a single jump shot. Not one. In nearly 50 minutes. Even when they are't blocked they just clank.
0:52 7-4 win, but I lose the trick move count 75 - 20. You'd think a game so focused on fancy moves they would pay off, but at least in the short game going straight for the basket is better.
0:59 I like how the game-changing gamebreakers can be turned around if the opponent gets a steal. Nice little risk vs. reward structure.
1:01 Win a tight game back and forth 12-10. I'm getting the hang of this.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes
Why? I'm just starting to get good.

This review is based on the full Xbox 360 version of the game, rented from GameFly

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ninja Gaiden Sigma

Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher:
Tecmo
Release Date:
July 3, 2007
System: PS3
Official Web page

In a nutshell:
"My friend Mark said that he saw a ninja totally uppercut some kid just because the kid opened a window" the game.

0:01 "In the mountains of autumn, there is one who walks the path of the Ninja." Concise, to the point, and utterly unnecessary.
0:02 Holy crap! Just running around and hitting the jump button unleashes an amazing acrobatic fury. The animation is amazing.
0:04 Do we really need the bad voice acting for the instruction scroll? Also, what the hell is an "elixir of spiritual life" supposed to be? Will I find an elixir of secular life later?
0:06 The excessive splattering blood seems unnecessary in a game that's so focused on stylized violence rather than realism. I guess GTA has raised the bar for everyone.
0:08 While jamming on the square button to battle a group of foes, I accidentally open a nearby chest. The animation is so incongruous I bust out laughing.
0:10 The camera could use a little work in the close quarters. Still, what it shows is beautiful and fluid.
0:11 Why is there a short loading pause every time I collect an item. Annoying!
0:12 I just did some sort of spinning death move and I have NO IDEA HOW.
0:15 I love the ability to use items by tapping the d-pad. The interface is intuitive and quick.
0:16 A camera should never lose view of your character, but this one does it regularly.
0:19 Falling into the same Underground storehouse three times = not fun. How many of these Ninjas are there.
0:20 Charging up your charge attack gets you an "Ultimate Technique." My nutshell description wasn't so far off, I guess.
0:23 I have trouble envisioning the situation where enemies leave you alone for the five seconds needs to charge to Ultimate Technique.
0:25 Five trips to the underground storehouse now, still looking for the key I need to advance. This is no longer remotely funny.
0:27 Six.
0:31 Seven. Where the hell's that key?
0:33 I finally get the bright idea to go back to the odd looking samurai statue I saw before. I know, I'm a genius. Still, what's the point of this "puzzle"? Couldn't they have just given me a key and not forced me to backtrack/get stuck? Where's the fun in this?
0:35 "I see you have made it this far." Gripping dialogue from the boss
0:36 I just lit myself on fire. Whoa.
0:37 I die to the boss, and choosing "continue" sends me back to the beginning of the level. Um, why is it called "continue" then?
0:40 I take back my statement about the charge attack. If you stun the enemies first it's very effective, and fun!
0:44 More slashing and killing things, but faster than before.
0:47 I suppose I shouldn't be able to run past the more difficult white ninjas without a scratch, but that's what I do on the way to the boss room. If they lock me up I'll fight. If not, why bother?
0:50 Nothing ruins a good boss battle more than a cut scene where you stop to talk with the guy. Come on, we want violence!
0:53 The voice acting is pretty convincing here. I can sense that this boss guy is hiding something.
0:54 The game ranks me as a Lesser Ninja. It's more than I deserve.
0:56 Time to try a special mission as Rachel
0:57 Rachel's nice to look at, but she's no ninja. She moves like an ox compared to Ryu.
0:59 I'm getting the hang of Rachel now, but I still think she's an ox
.
Would I play this game for more than an hour: Probably.
Why? The balletic action is smooth and enjoyable, but the camera threatens to ruin everything.

This review is based on an early, downloadable demo from the Playstation Network.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Forza Motorsport 2

Developer: Turn 10 Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date:
May 29, 2007
System:
Xbox 360
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
Drive around in shiny cars.

0:01 The car porn intro practically blinds me with immaculately waxed chassis.
0:03 I have no idea what all this car stuff means. TCS on? STM stability? I just picked the yellow one. I'm sure car nuts will eat it up though.
0:05 I promptly dart ahead of the competition and crash into the first possible wall. I guess this is one of those racing games where you occasionally let go of the accelerator, huh?
0:07 Lap one is over and I haven't managed to stay on the track for a single turn. It's not looking good.
0:08 At least I can evaluate the car damage system well. My front bumper looks like a Dali painting.
0:10 Race 1 is over. I'm a good 45 seconds back behind the 7th place car. But the experience I gained? Priceless.
0:13 I just now notice the penalty gauge that shows up whenever you go off road. Isn't the impossible handling and slow acceleration on the grass punishment enough?
0:14 You get penalized for bumping cars too? In Gran Turismo it's practically a requirement.
0:16 Another 8th place finish, but this time only 25 seconds back. I'm learning!
0:17 Let's try the Porsche 911 Turbo this time, A.K.A. the white one.
0:22 Taking a one second penalty to ram some loser off the road at 120 mph is totally worth it.
0:23 I finish ahead of a car (Yay!) but with accrued penalties my best lap is by far the worst. (Boo!)
0:24 This time I'm determined to take it slow and deliberate and avoid spinning out on the grass. This determination lasts exactly three turns, as I get a five second off road penalty on the 4th.
0:30 A respectable fifth place, but the penalty time doesn't seem to matter in the final placement. Odd.
0:31 Up to the R2 class. Now these look like race cars, complete with overcompensating spoilers, etc. I pick the most ostentatious, a 1998 Porsche #26 Porsche AG 911 GTI-98. Shouldn't the name of the car be shorter than the name of the game?
0:33 This car looks like something from a bad sci-fi movie, beady eye headlights and all.
0:34 Some joker bumps me from behind and I'm the one who gets a penalty? Lame!
0:36 I just now noticed that the on-track racing lines adjust to my speed. Nice touch, and one that would have helped to notice four races ago!
0:43 Second best single lap time, and I finish 8th. Where's the justice?
0:46 Most exciting moment so far comes on the first turn of lap three. I try to make a pass on three cars on the inside but a light tap sends me spinning off into the dirt. Annoying, but thrilling!
0:48 Down to the C class. These look like car I could own. BO-RING!
0:52 These slower speeds are easier, but less exciting. My mind wanders as I loll about in first place for the entire race.
0:54 For my last race, I choose the ridiculously rare and ridiculously named 2005 Ferrari #11 Larbre Competition 550 Maranello GTS.
0:59 After an early spin out I spend five minutes ramming head on into walls and others cars, etc. It's not quite Burnout, but the extremely realistic crunching sounds are still fun, as are the flying bumpers, spoilers, side mirrors, etc.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes
Why? As a Gran Turismo graduate, I appreciate a challenging, realistic driving sim that doesn't encourage you to play bumper cars to win.

This review is based on a demo of the game downloaded off of Xbox Live

Monday, June 11, 2007

Peacemaker

Developer: Impact Games
Publisher: Impact Games
Release Date:
May 2, 2007
System:
PC
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
Make peace with your neighbor? Wait, that can't be right. Isn't there anything to blow up?

0:01 80+ years of regional violence in sixty seconds. Now that's an opening montage!
0:02 I have no idea how to make peace, so I'll choose the tutorial mode to start.
0:05 A perfect score is ranked as a Nobel Prize Winner. How cool is that?
0:08 Tutorial done, I choose a tense situation to start.
0:09 The use of video to highlight important events is nice.
0:12 Israeli attacks my people right from the outset. Since this is a peace game I ask them politely to stop. The Osraeli prime minister will "consider my request." Whoo!
0:15 I want action! A demanding speech is met with mixed reaction. At least my people liked it... 5/100 approval!
0:17 Israel doesn't want to train their military with me. That's OK, I didn't want to train with them either! *sniff*
0:18 I ask Hamas politely to stop being so militant. They refuse. Big surprise. So I arrest the militants. They don't like that, but the world approves slightly.
0:19 I tell the Palestinians to stop being violent. They don't like that. And then a Fatah bomber kills some Israelis, erasing all my heard-earned progress. Hoo boy.
0:24 Everything I do seems to turn out badly, until I ask the UN for aid. Cha-ching! Then a civil war breaks out and I lose. Whoops!
0:28 Now I'm the Israeli prime minister. A speech against militatantism from Palestinians is called out for a "lack of imagination." I didn't know I was being judged on originality!
0:31 Asking for withdrawal support is my first universally positive move. Both the Palestinians and Israelis now grudgingly tolerate me. I'm sure I'll screw it up somehow.
0:33 Again I give a speech promoting peace. Again world leaders say they "heard the exactly same one again and again for the last 20 years." Sheesh!
0:36 The UN won't put pressure on Palestine, but the US will. Seems pretty accurate to me.
0:37 Apparently the Palestinians like me better when I'm running Israel.
0:45 Every time I give a speech, people say they've heard it before. Maybe the game should let me write the speech myself.
0:50 I've figured out I can easily get Palestinian sympathy points by promising economic help. I'll trade two Israel points for 10 Palestine points any day.
0:52 The Palestinian president praises my actions. Then, when I ask for anti-militant support, he says he's upset with me. Make up your mind, Palestinian president!
0:53 The U.S. President actually had something intelligent to say about the situation. What alternate universe is this game supposed to take place in, again?
0:57 I ask for cross-cultural projects. An Israeli demolishes a Palestinian piece of art. My approval goes up across the board. Wha?
0:59 I wish the interface were a little smoother. It can be hard to sift through all the options.

Would I play this game for more than an hour: Maybe
Why? The premise and execution are great, but it's already starting to repeat itself, and it's pretty easy to game the system for political points.

This review is based on a full version of the game provided by the publisher.

Warhawk (PS3)

Developer: Incognito
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date:
Sept. 4, 2007
System:
PS3
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
Fly around and shoot stuff. Then go on the ground and shoot stuff more.

0:01 The booming opening score seems more appropriate for Saving Private Ryan than some highly stylized war shooter.
0:03 Connected to a random server and loading.
0:04 My speakers are filled with garbled British voices. Also: Any game that onyl takes thirty seconds to give me a flamethrower is ok in my book.
0:06 Flamethrower vs. Jeep. Jeep wins.
0:08 I come across a guy in a turret. I get killed as I try to get in.
0:09 I get shot down just before I get in flamethrower range. I REALLY want to kill someone with this thing!
0:10 Everyone's in a Warhawk but me. I can't figure out how to get in.
0:13 Here's the problem: you're supposed to hit square, not circle, to get in the plane. They look exactly alike in the on-screen instructions.
0:15 I finally get in a Warhawk, but I can't figure out how to use the motion controls real well. Then the server gets disconnected. Just as well -- I had zero kills.
0:16 An 8-person server seemed quite empty. Let's see the action with 32 people.
0:18 Now we're talking. I figure out how to get out of hover mode and really fly the plane! Then I get shot down with a missile almost immediately.
0:20 I finally shoot someone with the flamethrower. It's my teammate, who then gets blown up but good by a plane. I'm next.
0:22 I somehow kill myself with a flamethrower. The other guy doesn't have a scratch. What in the world?
0:25 I die again and have no idea how. This seems to be a constant. But now I know what team I'm on. I think.
0:26 That's some pretty smoke... from my charred plane wreckage
0:29 I';m being driven around in a tank by a stranger. Then we both get blown up together
0:31 I finally get an intentional kill. A ground troop with a rocket launcher! Whoo! Fun!
0:32 The ever present garbled audio speech is getting REALLY annoying.
0:33 Our team loses, no doubt I didn't help matters. But I'm finally getting the hang of how things work.
0:37 Flying around and doing loops with the sticks is really fun, but only useful for avoiding lock-ons. I still can't seem to actually hit anything when I'm in the plane.
0:43 The guy driving my tank just crashed into a pole.
0:46 Why does R2 accelerate the car a car. Why can't I push forward to go forward? Three different control schemes for three different vehicles is not exactly intuitive.
0:48 Overheard on the chat channel: "We have to own the never to have them own... not us."
0:49 Driving my jeep into the ocean is the best action I can get. Where is everyone?
0:52 Jeep vs. tank = Tank wins.
0:58 Our team wins! I think I did something to help, but I really can't be sure.

Would I play this game for more than an hour: Probably
Why? It took me an hour just to figure out how everything worked. It'll take at least another to figure out if the game is any fun.

This review is based on an early, public beta version of the game provided by Sony.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Pac-Man: Championship Edition

Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date:
June 6, 2007
System:
Xbox 360

In a nutshell:
The first real sequel to Pac-Man in 25 years.

0:01 Starting a single player game, I'm confronted with a baffling choice of modes with no explanation. OK... uh... Championship Mode sounds good, I guess.
0:02 Where's the sound? I do a quick reset to figure out if it's a glitch.
0:03 Sure enough. The game loses a lot without the familiar waka-waka-waka
0:05 Right away I like the widescreen maze format (Pac-Man never quite worked on a horizontal TV) and the sparks that show up when you try to turn into a wall. Neat.
0:07 Another nice touch -- the quick disposal of eaten ghosts and the quick return to the same spot when you die. They keep the action moving at a fast pace. Speaking of which, the ever-increasing speed of Pac-Man and the ghosts is a nice touch.
0:10 First round over. I still had three lives left when time ran out. Annoying! Where's the untimed mode?
0:11 I love the color-coded graph of your scoring progress. Hooray for data! Now why can't I seea similar graph on the leadboards?
0:12 Challenge Mode 1 is up next, whatever that means.
0:15 Major gripe: The blue ghost I can't eat looks way too much like the blue ghosts I can eat.
0:16 Done after only 5 minutes of the 10 minutes round. Like the title said, that got pretty challenging, mainly because I wasted all my power pellets in the first minute or so. Whoops!
0:26 Challenge mode 2 ends with 1'20 left. I love the concept of a dark arena only navigable through dots. The subtle lighting halo around Pac-Man is nice too.
0:32 It took me five minutes of Extra Mode 2 to notice that the board itself was changing with each fruit I eat. Cool! Then I abruptly die. Uncool.
0:40 I was in the zone there for a bit, racking up eight lives in one amazing string. It's entirely too easy to get lost in the rhythm of play.
0:46 Extra Mode 1 freaks me out with its long, straight, unchanging corridors.
0:47 Why do they taunt you with replays that you can only watch once and not save for later?
0:53 Completed Extra Mode 1 on my second try. The Achievements are dropping like flies.
1:00 My second try on Championship Mode ends up worse than the first. I'm overthinking things, I think. Time for a break.

Would I play this game for more than an hour: Yes
Why? All the addictiveness of the classic with much less rote memorizability.

This review was based on a copy of the game purchased from Xbox Live.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Crackdown

Developer: Realtime Worlds
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date:
Feb. 20, 2007
System: Xbox 360
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
As a superpowered cop, run around a city blowing stuff up. Oh yeah, and prevent crime, or something.

0:01 The selectable difficulty levels are Tough, Ruthless, and Psychotic. Now that's hardcore! I'm not, though, so I'll stick with Tough.
0:02 "It's all gone to shit and it keeps on rising and it's about to hit the fan." I love compound metaphors.
0:04 The game freezes before I can get into the car. Well that's just great.
0:07 Restart, skip the opening cinema and we're back in business.
0:09 Who needs guns when you can just run over the gang-bangers. Fun!
0:10 I put off getting weapons to do a road race of some sort.
0:11 I can run over lamp posts like they aren't there but fire hydrants slow me down. What the hell?
0:12 The game freezes after race checkpoint 16 of 62. Are we having fun yet?
0:16 One more time!
0:18 I came out of the tunnel and my car blew up. I have no idea how or why. Now I'm being told "death is not the end" because they can clone me or something. What a convoluted explanation for a videogame convention.
0:22 I know car engine noises add realism and all, but who thought that I'd want them to drown out the music? A quick trip to the options screen fixes things.
0:24 Finally some shooting. Tap L, Tap R a few times. Pretty damn easy, so far.
0:27 I somehow get lost on the freeway trying to get to my next mission. Just like in real life, I have no sense of direction. Not like in real life, I can abandon my car and go on foot, which is much more convenient.
0:33 I know I'm a super-soldier cop and all, but it seems I can take a ridiculous number of gunshots without even denting my armor. And if it gets low, I can easily go hide and let it regenerate. I'm practically invincible. Maybe Tough difficulty was a bad choice.
0:36 The game freezes AGAIN as I approach a supply point. The disc looks OK to me. What the hell is going on?
0:39 At least I have some progress saved this time.
0:41 The wanderers in the mall seem extremely blase about an armored guy running around with a gun.
0:45 I take it back, I am not an invincible super-soldier. Going in guns blazing got me blown up good. Time for a little more finesse this time.
0:46 "An additional downloadable content package is required to access this weapon. Would you like to purchase it." No. I already paid for the game. I don't want to buy more pieces of it.
0:51 Nice of these gang member to just stand there while I kill them. Also nice of them not to swarm in on me when I'm at my most vulnerable even though they're only five or so feet away and in plain sight.
0:53 Now I need a downloadable content pack to play a mission I've been fighting to reach for the past ten minutes. Smooth.
0:54 I don't know why I didn't mention it yet, but I love the floaty, hand waving jump animation. Wheee!
0:55 OK, I understand Martinez is a gang leader, so he should be harder than a normal thug, but he's wearing a Hawaiian shirt, khakis and no other protection. How can he take literally hundreds of bullets and still get up? In a game that feels the need to explain regeneration with "cloning" this is "unrealistic."

Would I play this game for more than an hour: Maybe.
Why? As Grand Theft Auto clones go, it's not bad, and jumping from rooftop to rooftop is lots of fun. But three freezes in one hour is simply not acceptable.

This review is based on a rental copy of the game from Gamefly.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Planet Puzzle League

Developer: Intelligent Sytstems
Publisher:
Nintendo
Release Date: June 4, 2007
System:
Nintendo DS
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
Slide blocks. Match three or more of a kind.

0:01 I love the hold-it-on-the-side book style that's now infecting so many DS games.
0:04 The option to advance things manually is nice, especially in super-easy Beginner difficulty.
0:07 The touch screen really works well here. It actually feels like you're directly moving the blocks, much more so than in Meteos or other similar games.
0:12 After ten minutes of playing Beginner Endless mode without even coming close to losing, it's time to try some other modes.
0:13 The first puzzle in Puzzle mode involves moving one block to the left. WOW WHAT A STUMPER!
0:24 Twenty or so stages in to Puzzle mode and I need a hint. These puzzles require some pretty intricate visualization into the future.
0:31 OK, puzzle mode is starting to get hard, time to run away.
0:35 Endless mode is boring... even on Hard difficulty it's too hard to die.
0:36 I fail at the Hard Garbage Xhallenge twice in literally ten seconds. Now this is more like it.
0:47 Taking out the garbage is kicking my BUTT. and I like it.
0:54 Lift Attack -- a mode for people with quick fingers but not quick brains. Perfect for me.
1:02 Mission Mode twists the whole concept by asking for oddly specific goals. Neat extension of the concept.

Would I play this game for more than an hour: Yes
Why: I already did (see timestamp above). Also: Garbage and Mission Modes add new twists to the tired old design.

This review is based on a free evaluation copy provided by Nintendo.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary

Developers: Crystal Dynamics, Buzz Monkey Software
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: June 5, 2007
Systems: PC (reviewed), PS2, PSP

In a nutshell:
Has it really been ten years since we first jumped around and shot at things in caverns?

0:01 Lara looks less... pointy than she did ten years back. Less robotic too.
0:03 "How quickly can you get to Peru" Rather quickly I'd guess. The writing is pretty good, but the female characters are distractingly stacked and anorexic.
0:04 I'm using an Xbox 360 controller, so why does the game tell me the controls for the keyboard?
0:07 The guide says six different things in Spanish before repeating. Impressive.
0:09 Lara just shot a bunch of wolves in a cut scene. Isn't that something I could have done?
0:10 Here's some shooting, but it's bats? Where's the wolves?
0:12 Is it wrong of me to notice that Lara sounds a lot like Link from Ocarina of Time when she jumps? I think it is.
0:14 There's the wolves. Ouch! Die, damn wolves.
0:17 Less than twenty minutes in and I'm already stuck when a bridge collapses out from under me. Great.
0:18 Hitting the roll button after a jump makes Lara do a Supergirl-style leap. Sweet!
0:21 Two minutes of wandering later I figure out you can climb the collapsed bridge. I'm a freakin' idiot.
0:22 BROWN BEAR! A good reason not to fall from the rope.
0:23 Breaking your neck. Another good reason not to fall from the rope
0:24 A large Medipack... a good reason NOT to fall from the rope.
0:25 I love how lonely everything feels. It's like I'm really raiding a tomb! I imagine.
0:27 "Open Lara's Journal to hear her thoughts on this situation." OK *open* "There must be a way to open this door." GEE THANKS LARA THAT WAS SO HELPFUL!
0:29 Supergirl jumps are the only way to travel. Every game should have them.
0:31 I open a door and the "Mountain Caves" end abruptly.
0:32 BROWN BEAR AGAIN. Lucky I'm in the Matrix and can activate Bullet Ti-- Er, I mean the "Adrenaline Dodge"
0:34 When I shoot a wolf it runs directly into a wall. Now that's a smart wolf.
0:36 While fighting a Brown Bear I get stuck in a pool and can't figure out how to get out. I drown twice trying to figure out how to get out. Great.
0:42 I finally figure out how to get out of the pool, by going through an underwater tunnel. Again, I'm a freaking idiot.
0:43 Lara's clothes stick to her when she gets wet. If I believed in hell, I'd think I was going there for noticing this.
0:44 Shotgun ammo... you know what that means!
0:45 Standing not one foot from the keyhole, I select the key from my inventory. Lara gives a curt "No!" in response. I keep hitting the button, making a little beatbox rap out of it. "N-n--nnn-n-nuh-no!"
0:47 The music flourish for the wolf battles sounds just like the main theme from Metal Gear Solid.
0:48 I can't imagine playing this with a keyboard would be much fun at all.
0:51 Two quick deaths from errant steps. *Sign*
0:58 Level two ends just as abruptly as level one, except this time there's a pretty waterfall in the background.

Would I play this game for more than an hour: Yes
Why?: Gotta find that inevitable shotgun. Also: Supergirl jumps!

This review is based on the full game downloaded from GameTap