Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chore Wars

Developer: Kevan Davis
Publisher: Kevan Davis
Release Date: July 2007
System: Web browser
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Kyle and the Quest for Cleanliness

0:00 Even though it's not strictly a videogame, I've heard a lot of good things about this as a fun way to keep up with household tasks. I'm hoping it can motivate my wife and me to actually keep up with our chores.

0:01 "Honey, can you help me with a Game for Lunch?" I ask my wife, Michelle. "I guess so ... what is it?" she replies. "It's called Chore Wars," I reply back. She already sounds incredulous. "Are you serious?"

0:05 We start by paging through the FAQ together. Michelle: "This is very silly." Me: "I think it could be fun." Upon further reading, Michelle repeats: "This seems very silly." Uh oh ... I'm already losing her!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Personal Trainer: Cooking

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Nov. 24, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: It will personally train you to cook.

0:00 I am definitely not a natural in the kitchen, so I'm hoping this game will help make me less reluctant to hover over a range.

0:01 The game starts with an all-purpose warning about raw meat, seafood, eggs, food allergies, letting kids cook and using oven mitts. OK then!

0:02 "Welcome to Personal Trainer: Cooking," says the black-and-white, hand-drawn chef on-screen. "Before we go any further, please adjust my voice to the speed you like." There's a slider on the touch-screen. The slowest and fastest speeds are pretty awful-sounding. The default seems all right to my wife and me...

0:03 "Getting ready. Don't touch the power button." This chef's voice is nice and soothing. On the top screen, the unnamed chef (let's call him Mr. Chef) dances back and forth. "You're ready to start cooking tasty dishes from all over the world!" Damn right I am!

0:05 The game points us to the "Important Points" section of "Cooking A-Z." This includes important tips like "Amounts of cheese are estimates." and "How to hold a kitchen knife." Nice photos to accompany, but I don't think we're THAT hopeless.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, December 29, 2008

World of Goo

Developer: 2D Boy
Publisher: 2D Boy
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2008
Systems: PC (reviewed), Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Not as disgusting as the title would lead you to believe. Quite the opposite, in fact...

0:00 For an indie game, World of Goo has been getting massive, massive amounts of hype. It was this RPS piece that finally pushed me into sitting down with the demo, though.

0:01 The game displays some cute, SimCity-esque messages while loading up: "Distilling beauty ... Challenging everything ... Debating games as art ... swapping time and space." Heh. The title screen has a small globe in silhouette and some soaring music. On to Chapter 1, "The Goo Filled Hills."

0:02 "Summer," says white text on a black title card. The first level is "Going Up," which is described as "Easy as Goo pie." A sign in the background tells me to "Drag 'n' drop to build to the pipe." Down below there's a sort of black latticework structure. On it are thick, black balls of goo traveling all over the place. They have eyes. Creepy!

0:04 At first my dragging and dropping does nothing ... the goo balls just drop back to the ground. Eventually I notice some thin, wispy lines when I drag the goo close. When I let go, those lines become new struts on an ever-expanding, teetering tower. When I reach the pipe hanging above, all the goo balls that are still traipsing about get sucked up. I have the option to submit my score to the "World of Goo Leaderboard of Excellence." Nice name.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Choro Q

Developer: Takara
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: Nov. 4, 2004
System: PS2
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Super Happy Fun Racing RPG Good Time Game!

0:00 I don't know how GameStop expected me to resist a game whose box says "Intense Racing Action," "Robust RPG Adventure" and "$2.99 Used" on the back.

0:01 An extremely outdated CGI cut scene shows a bunch of tiny cars racing around a track with a bunch more cars sitting in the stands. The inspiration for Pixar's "Cars"? A bunch of different foreign words for "Freedom" appear over a montage of these tiny, tiny cars zipping around some interesting racing tracks. High energy cheesy guitar music precedes the title screen. Pretty standard PS2-era intro.

0:02 The title screen has some extremely happy music and a cars driving around a very tiny globe with happy, vibrant colored houses. It looks like MySims more than "INTENSE RACING ACTION."

0:04 I think this is the first racing game I've ever played with an "Auto Cruise" button.

0:05 Cartoon "Brrrrrrr!"s fill the screen when I set the controller vibration. I have a feeling I'm going to like this game.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, December 15, 2008

LEGO Batman: The Videogame

Developer: Travelers' Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Release Date: Sept. 23, 2008
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), PS2, PSP, Wii, DS, Xbox 360, PC
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: BAM! POW! THWOCK! LEGO!

0:00 I enjoyed the little I've played of LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Indiana Jones, and I'm expecting largely the same carefree run-and-jump-and-punch experience out of this one. I wish I had a second player to putter around with, but I'll make do solo.

0:01 The preview screen is all kinds of awesome, with the Batman movie theme and scenes of all sorts of LEGO destruction. There's a mini-figure version of the Riddler! And Harley Quinn! And Poison Ivy! And Bane! And the Joker! And Robin! Oh man, this is gonna be fun.

0:02 Two LEGO robbers run across a rooftop, stopping cold when seeing LEGO Batman, who sends some LEGO batarangs to knock away their LEGO guns. Then LEGO Batman leaps in for some PUNCHING ACTION! AWESOME!

0:03 LEGO Batman looks grim and serious and, most of all, CUTE on the title screen, looking down over the city he is sworn to protect. LEGO versions of Joker, Penguin and Riddler are in a jail cell. The LEGO clock strikes midnight, there's a LEGO explosion, and they bust out of LEGO Arkham Asylum, along with LEGO Croc, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Two-Face, Clayface, Man-bat ... good god, it's every Batman villain ever! They hijack a couple of LEGO vans and drive through the LEGO streets, unleashing LEGO laughing gas, whipping LEGO whips, floating on LEGO umbrellas, drawing "?" graffiti with LEGO spray paint, etc. LEGO Commissioner Gordon hits the LEGO bright red button to activate the LEGO bat signal, prompting triumphant cries from the LEGO cops. Oh, there's LEGO Mr. Freeze too! He's with LEGO Clayface, Riddler and Poison Ivy now in an underground lair. They're silently planning to rob a LEGO bank.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff

Developer: Polygon Magic
Publisher: Tecmo (duh!)
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: It's easy and fun to beat those Supercocks!

0:00 I never played the original Tecmo Bowl, but I know it has a borderline obsessive fan base. I generally like old-school sports games more than modern, hyper-real simulations, so this one should be right in my wheelhouse.

0:01 The title screen logo appears with what sounds more like fighting game music than football game music. It's all very tinny and old-school. "Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff," says an even tinnier announcer when I press A. Also, why's the game called Kickoff? The series kicked off decades ago. I don't think that word means what they think it means...

0:02 I get to choose from a bunch of fake teams, including the Carolina Carnage, the Chicago Chinooks and ... the Los Angeles Supercocks? Really? Supercocks? I go with the Houston Heatwaves, because they're the only team that has a halfway decent name.

0:04 In the team editor I can edit my team's name and colors. So I can rename them to the Houston Texans, but they can't just call them the Texans out of the box? Thanks a lot, EA.

0:08 So apparently I can edit stats like max speed, hit power, pass accuracy, rush avoidance ability, etc. for all my players. That's not that surprising. What is surprising is, they all start off intentionally gimped, with plenty of stat points to distribute as I see fit. Good thing I looked at this player editor screen, or all my players would be underpowered scrubs!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

echochrome

Developer: SCE Japan
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: May 1, 2008
Systems: PSP (reviewed), PS3
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: If M.C. Escher made a videogame.
0:00 I've been excited about this one ever since I saw a video of its Escher-like worlds at last year's E3. I got a free copy along with the PSP-3000 Sony sent me a few months back (yeah, I know, my life sucks) but haven't gotten around to playing it until now.

0:01 Some credits go by quickly, then a stark white title screen with some wailing/singing in the background. The protagonist walks around some sample levels. "Knock on the door," the game says. Uh ... does that mean press the X button? Because that's what I did.

0:02 The menu options are Freeform, Atelier, Canvas and Etc. Is this menu the first puzzle? Where's "New Game"?

0:03 I choose Etc. and jump into the tutorial. I think I'm gonna need it for this one ... "Welcome to the world of Echochrome," says a soothing ethereal voice. "In this world, special laws apply." The first is "Perspective Traveling," where you can "change the perspective and connect the path." I move the camera with the analog nub as the protagonist walks forward automatically. Two disjointed platforms suddenly connect when they line up on the 2-D plane of the screen. Did that make sense? This is hard to describe with mere words. I'm loving the gentle violin music.

0:05 "Perspective Existence" lets me cover up gaps and make them into walkable platforms. "You may not be able to see it, but there is a path." Similarly, "Perspective Absence" can cover holes and allow safe passage. "Hide the obstruction and it no longer exists." Very philosophical, for a puzzle game.

0:06 Finally, "Perspective Jump" lets me swing the platform under a jumping guy to catch him. Now I'm into my first real puzzle. "Use the five mysterious laws and create a path." The music sounds like a wailing cat ... in a good way!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Viking: Battle for Asgard

Developer: Creative Assembly
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: March 25, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: An incredibly lame God of War clone.

0:00 With a name as incredibly generic as "Viking," I felt I simply HAD to check this game out.

0:01 Lots of logos, then the title appears over what I can only assume are a bunch of Vikings hiking down a rainy concrete bridge, with a town burning in the background. There must be hundreds of them, all looking very nice in hi-def.

0:02 The new game difficulties are Normal and Hard. Why not call Normal "Easy" then? Or Hard "Normal"? Anyway, Normal it is for me.

0:03 A blizzard of tips scrolls by on the loading screen, more than I can possibly read. Then a 2-D hand drawing of an old man in a boat. "They came born of battle and bloodshed, those that would stand against the darkness. ... What was once green and fertile was now soured and barren. Those who were at peace now knew only war." Some war-like music and sounds of war accompany some quick-cut drawings of bloody war battles. WAR! "A great evil had come to Midgard" but "hope is stronger than any army, any weapon. Hope waits only for someone to embrace it." Is this a Barack Obama game?

0:05 The scene switches to full 3-D now, with more random battle scenes containing fire in the background. There's a very God of War look to it all. A blond-haired guy with a ponytail is looking hurt and forlorn amidst the carnage when the game freezes. But wait, I can still get to the in-game Dashboard. I can pause, too, but not advance the scene. Looks like time to quit out and try again.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, December 8, 2008

Top Spin 3

Developer: PAM
Publisher: 2K Sports
Release Date: June 23, 2008
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii, DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Mario Tennis it ain't.

0:00 My exposure to tennis games is mainly limited to the Mario Tennis series and Virtua Tennis on the Dreamcast. I preferred Mario Tennis, and it's not just because I'm a Mario fanboy. It's NOT! OK, maybe it is.

0:01 So I accidentally put this PS3 version of the game into my Xbox 360 and then wondered why it wasn't working. It's too early in the morning here...

0:02 Maybe the Xbox 360 move was wishful thinking, as I'm forced to download the 47-MB "version 1.1" patch. This is the first time I've seen the PS3 download progress bar in full HD. It's still just as annoying.

0:04 Well that wasn't TOO bad. We're all installed and ready to go.

0:05 Or so I thought ... the game has to install itself on my hard drive as well. This is not optional. ARGH!

0:09 I've taken this opportunity to watch a bit of "A Garfield Christmas" on the excellent BetaMaxMas. So far it's been the best part of the game.

0:11 A GoBots commercial just came on the BetaMaxMas. I don't know how this game can top that!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, December 5, 2008

Lips

Developer: iNiS
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2008
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Karaoke is exciting again (or it's exciting for the first time, depending on your perspective).

0:00 I became a huge fan of karaoke as soon as Harmonix's Karaoke Revolution hit. I think I've owned every karaoke game that has come out since. Except for the ones based on Disney Channel shows. And Boogie, of course. That game sounded awful.

0:05 Because I'm bitter, I'm deducting the five minutes it took me to open the annoying blister packaging this game came in and to install the batteries in the swanky wireless mics.

0:06 And another minute off for the obligatory update.

0:07 The game just called my new wireless mic "fancy" and told me to hold it about an inch from my face. Groovy.

0:08 The game starts off with this videoof a shy guy serenading a girl across the couch at a party with the Lips microphone at a party. She joins in and before long, the whole party joins in dancing and singing to music from a Zune. Doesn't seem too realistic to me, but it still makes me feel guilty for playing alone. Screw it ... it's Friday and I want to sing!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: Dec. 9, 2008
System: PS2
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Now with less shooting yourself in the head (at least so far).

0:00 Despite saying that I would play Persona 3 FES for more than an hour in my GFL column, I never actually went back to it. Other games got in the way, but the disturbing anime imagery definitely got in my head and left me looking vaguely forward to this sequel.

0:01 Piano music. A bunch of TVs, one with the game's logo. A guy puts on glasses. A lonely loveseat. The guy lands and runs. The lonely loveseat gets the guy sitting in it. A girl with a fan. A guy with large headphones. Another with a skull and crossbones shirt. A bulbous blue egg-shaped man in a clown suit?!?! A card spinning on its corner. Detectives. Shaky-cam anime of a fight. A girl with a parasol. A Britney Spears-alike on a stage. The lonely loveseat again, on the TV, which switches of and cuts to ... the title screen! Wuzzah huh?

0:05 "Before you begin the story, choose a difficulty level in battle." The choices are Normal, Beginner and Expert. Seeing as I doubt I'll get to more than one battle in my first hour, it doesn't matter much, but I choose Normal. "You will be able to enjoy the normal challenge of battle, which requires a certain degree of strategy." You don't scare me! "Now, please sit back and enjoy the game." How thoughtful!

0:06 Black fog rolls by. A fancy car rolls into view in super close up. A woman in a pseudo-military outfit opens her eyes. A man with a ridiculous nose opens his eyes. "Welcome to the Velvet room!" Well that sounds familiar. Cut to 3-D models of the twosome inside the car. "Ah ... it seems we have a guest with an intriguing destiny..." says the "Bizarre-looking Man." Really, that's what the game calls him!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm

Developer: Liquid Storm
Publisher: Greenwave Games
Release Date: June 17, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Realistically dull.

0:00 My exposure to this game (and the show it's based on) comes mainly from this Penny Arcade comic. Also, it should be noted that this is the first GFL being played on my brand-new 40" Samsung LCD HDTV! Those crabs are going to look AMAZING!

0:01 Zip-update-doo-dah.

0:02 A high-def yet still blocky-looking boat, the Northwestern, floats on choppy waters as three disembodied heads look on above the title. "Wanted Dead or Alive" plays in the background. Makes me want to play Rock Band...

0:03 "Ice builds up faster on the side of your boat that is the most exposed to wind." Thanks for the nautical tip, loading screen!

0:04 In the Bering Sea: "Mayday, mayday ... we are taking on water ... mayday!" A window cracks as a wave washes over a guy in a yellow raincoat. The U.S. Coast Guard ship is rushing in, ETA 15 minutes. A chopper flies off the deck of the savior ship.

0:05 Suddenly, a video of some guy (from the show?) comes on explaining, in a very unpolished manner, that some heavy storm-force winds are coming. I'm not close enough to help in the rescue, so I have to go back to harbor. "The autopilot is set ... all you need to do is take the throttle and control the speed." Really? That's it?

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CSI: NY The Game

Developer: Legacy Interactive
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2008
System: PC
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Like a TV show with a bunch of simple puzzles during the commercials.

0:00 I've never actually watched any CSI show or even contemplated there being a game version of the same. I do like Law & Order, though, and Ubisoft was willing to send me a copy, so I'm willing to play it for an hour.

0:05 If I take off time for PS3 installs, it's only fair that I do the same for PC games. Plus this one required me to install a new version of DirectX and restart my computer, which is always annoying.

0:06 "GARY SINISE as Mac Taylor." A bunch of other people as ... other people. Lots of guns, a freaky looking skeleton, large fingerprints, a slow-mo flying bullet and the "CSI: NY" logo in front of a skyscraper. I like the cel animation, but where's the music by The Who?

0:07 The game asks me to enter my name, but I can't type a space. I guess they just want a first name?

0:08 "TIP: Select Episode 1 to begin your investigation as Mac Taylor." Oh, dear lord ... if this is the level of help they think players need, I'm in for a dull experience.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, December 1, 2008

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Nov. 12, 2008
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Diddy Kong Racing meets LittleBigPlanet

0:00 The original Banjo-Kazooie was one of the Rare (get it?) games that I actually finished 100 percent, even though all that mindless collecting nearly killed me. Despite that, I never played sequel Banjo-Tooie. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts looks significantly different from what came before, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing yet.

0:01 La dee da downloadable update dee doo.

0:02 The Rareware logo drives in atop a crazy vehicle. Gold puzzle pieces are removed to reveal a tranquil clearing with Banjo (the bear) and Kazooie (the bird) driving around. Charming, twangy banjo music in the background.

0:03 Into Banjo's house now, where he does jumping jacks by the door. Hmm, why is there a green-and-white Pong monitor during the loading screen?

0:04 "Once upon a time there lived a brave bear named Banjo, an annoying bird named Kazooie and an evil witch named Gruntilda." A sepia-toned montage recaps the events of Banjo Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie. "So what became of the bear, the bird and the witch?" Well, the bear is eating pizza and the bird is sleeping in his blue backpack, until the radio wakes him up. They're much fatter than before. Kazooie is busy tapping away at a 360 controller. "It's not like we have to fight that old hag anymore." Or do they ... her skull bounces out from the rubble and vows to make trouble.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Buggle Stars

Developer: The Casual Collective
Publisher: The Casual Collective
Release Date: Undetermined
System: PC
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A cute little game with a big processor requirement.

0:00 I heard about this casual freebie from Joystiq's always excellent Free Game Club, which described it as "a platformer with an adorable shell to hide its difficulty." You had me at "platformer," but "adorable" and "difficulty" didn't hurt.

0:01 "Welcome! Use the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard to move your Buggle and collect the stars." I do, and my little grey puffy guy clambers along some stark white angled floors. Already I'm loving the gentle guitar music.

0:02 The up key jumps. My little Buggle makes an adorable little squeak when he lands. AWWW!

0:03 Stage 2 has a floor made of purple springboards, while Stage 3 introduces a slightly higher super jump.

0:04 Stage 4 has buttons that remake the terrain, while Stage 5 urges me to move quickly to collect the stars that are appearing around the stages. Thus ends the short-ish tutorial.

0:06 On to a simple map screen with a bunch of buttons to activate the various levels. Only the first one is available for now, so up and let's go.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit

Developer: Dimps
Publisher: Atari
Release Date: June 10, 2008
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Defeat the universe's most powerful fighters with a single button.

0:00 In high school, I watched this iconic anime up through the Frieza Saga. Then, in college, I watched my roommate play a truly awful-looking fighting game based in the same universe. Have things gotten any better in the intervening years? Let's find out!

0:01 The Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit preview screen plays this endearing, aggressively metal instrumental ballad in a 15-second loop. IT'S BURROWING INTO MY BRAIN!

0:02 After roughly a bazillion logos slowly scroll by, the same metal theme comes in, this time with a Japanese singer and close-ups of some of the major characters powering up in a sepia tone. Cut to the title over a desert planet, then back to scenes from the game. They've done a good job of making 3-D characters that look a lot like they are drawn anime characters. The art style is very strong.

0:03 If you're not familiar with "Dragon Ball Z," this random montage of characters fighting and glowing and exploding and such is going to be incredibly confusing. Then again, if you aren't familiar with "Dragon Ball Z," why in the world did you pick up this game?

0:04 I love the way "MAIN MENU" is displayed in huge red capital letters on the menu. EXTREME! The music has transitioned from metal ballad to bluesy jazz riff.

0:06 After tinkering with the menus, it's off to the Tutorial to "Learn fundamental battle moves." "Okay, let's begin, Gohan," says the tall, green, gruff-voiced Piccolo. "The Saiyans are gonna be here soon." Then he compliments Gohan on his outfit. Er ... OK.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, November 21, 2008

Super Mario Sluggers

Developer: Namco/Bandai
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2008
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A Japanese company puts an Italian plumber in America's pastime.

0:00 Oddly enough, I'm relatively sure I've played every single Mario sports game extensively ... EXCEPT for this game's prequel on the GameCube. I know it's not baseball season anymore, but this game doesn't involve shooting people. Or hitting them with swords, which makes it perfect for me today.

0:01 "Let'sa play ball ... woohoo!" says Charles Martinet (as the voice of Mario) on the preview screen. A big Namco/Bandai logo is in the corner ... I didn't know they were behind this...

0:02 A boat on a blue ocean filled with Mario characters. Daisy enjoys the spray (heh) as they sail towards some sort of baseball theme park island-thing. They arrive and climb a tower to look out over the park. On the ball field, Wii remotes become bats in the characters' hands. Wait, they have Wii remotes? How does THAT work? Montage time: Toads slide around an ice field and get frozen. Wario is all wet! Yoshi falls in a warp pipe going for a diving catch! Diddy is almost crushed by a giant barrel! Everyone throws bombs at Yoshi! Donkey Kong knocks over Luigi as he goes for a double play. Everyone's worried, but Luigi held on to the ball, so they all cheer! Never mind the concussion ... and title!

0:05 "Welcome! Begin in Practice to learn the controls!" I think I will, thanks!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mighty Jill Off

Developer: Dessgeega
Publisher: Dessgeega
Release Date: Feb. 29, 2008
System: PC
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Hands-down the best platformer starring a high-jumping leather-clad submissive

0:00 I've had this one sitting in a Firefox tab waiting to be downloaded for a while now. After playing nothing but high-profile blockbusters for the past few weeks, I need a little Mighty Bomb Jack-inspired indie platforming to cleanse the palate.

0:01 I'm not including the few minutes it took to download this 29 MB game, but I am including the whole minute it took to load up the game.

0:02 The title screen appears with some catchy MIDI piano in the background. Leather-clad Jill looks up at a twisted tower in the background. The credits roll in fancy script. In some painted scenes, Jill kisses and licks the boots of her mistress. "Greedy slut! You haven't earned that!" Cut to pixilated, old-school 2-D as Jill is sent tumbling to the bottom of a dungeon. "Your safe word is 'ESC.' Repeat it if you really want to stop." Heh.

0:04 Jill can jump about seven to eight times her height. Even Mario can't do that unassisted! Tapping the jump button in mid-air cuts a jump short ... this takes some getting used to. Usually I just hold the jump button as long as I want to keep rising.

0:05 The dark dungeon has given way to a green brick background. So far, the jumps have been rather simple. I'm not really digging the oddly discordant background music.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Castlevania Judgment

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2008
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: The Castlevania fighting game you never knew you didn't want.

0:00 I found Castlevania: Judgment nigh unplayable in the roughly five seconds I spent with it at E3, so that bodes ill. Then again, with the bar set this low, it may just beat my expectations.

0:01 An overly serious voice invokes the title on the preview screen. "Castle-VAN-i-a ... JUDGMENT!" Oy.

0:02 An effeminate guy in a white overcoat walks slowly down a bridge. Cut to a white owl in a forest and two guys fighting fiercely, one with whip and one with sword. Neither lands a single blow, they're both so good at deflections. A pentagram appears below them and the owl flies off to a castle set against a mountain ledge. He lands on a little girl's staff. The guy in white has a sword with a large clock in it and uses it to reverse time or something. The sword guy in the forest gets some wings while a cross on the back of the whip guy glows. Abrupt cut to the title screen. What the hell was that?!

0:03 And on the title screen, a woman speaks the name in the same super-serious manner: "Castle-VAN-i-a ... JUDGMENT." Dude, it's not even that great of a name...

0:04 After setting up the save file, it's off to Tutorials to "learn the game's various controls and techniques." Maybe that was the problem at E3 ... I just didn't know what I was doing...

0:05 "I sense the power of a Belmont within you, but you do not yet seem to grasp the fundamentals of combat," says ... some guy, I dunno. A cool remix of the Castlevania theme plays in the background, marred by some awful grinding noise. What the hell is that?

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Luminous Arc 2

Developer: imageepoch
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: So ... many ... awesome ... CHARACTERS!

0:00 I have no idea what to expect from this one -- I've barely even heard of the first Luminous Arc. Still, the embargo date for this dev build is up today, and I have to play something for lunch, so...

0:01 Japanese singing over an anime cut scene of guys with big swords fighting. A shot of a blue sky and the title appears. A girl sits sullenly on a bench in a garden with petals flying by. A girl in a beret is approached by a pikeman, then runs to someone else. More blue sky. More sword-fighting. Two beautiful people reach for each other through a blinding light. A bunch of flying people pose. More petals flying in the air as a bunch of characters look out over a ledge into ... the blue sky again. Wow, that was incredibly generic. And so many characters!

0:03 "Prologue: Carnava, the Grand Kingdom." Armored knight Gaston comes on screen. "The preparations for the fireworks seem to be going well," his text dialogue reads. A random knight reports that the fireworks display is on schedule for the start of the Star Flower festival. There's a "Witch Conflict" going on, but Gaston says it's still important to have festivals in these trying times.

0:05 Quote of the moment: "Let those manly tears flow!" I swear it made sense in context.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, November 17, 2008

Left 4 Dead

Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Release Date: Nov. 18, 2008
System: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A zombie game that's actually scary.

0:00 I'm not usually much for horror/zombie games/movies, but the Valve name and the mounds of chatter have me excited about this one.

0:01 "Two weeks after first infection." Close-up on a four-fingered hand (missing a thumb) with buzzing flies. "Hold up! Ain't seen anything like this before," says a grizzled paramilitary. "They're changing?" He rubs some goo on a chatty cohort. "Someone's still alive," says a woman in a jogging suit. It's a whimpering girl in a nearby building. In the alley, the zombies attack, and inside, so does the whimpering girl (who is a zombie, of course). "Run like hell," says the tracksuit woman, accurately. Commence shooting, blood, chaos, etc. "Fire in the hole," says Grizzly McGee as he throws a timed grenade. A helicopter scans the town with a spotlight as the token black guy screams for attention: "WE'RE NOT INFECTED! OVER HERE!" The chopper ignores him, then a zombie leaps on his back. "Aw, this is gonna get bad," says Grizzly, accurately, as hundreds of running zombies come streaming over fences and out of alleys in slow motion. Among the throng is one huge hulking guy. "Run or shoot? RUN OR SHOOT?" asks TBG in a panic. They choose both. "Get to the roof!" A fire escape comes down on top of Hulk just as tracksuit girl makes a leap for Grizzly's outstretched hand. "We made it!" "Son, we just crossed the street. Let's not throw a party 'till we're out of the city." And just like that, it's loading the title screen. Already it's more exciting than most games...

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, November 14, 2008

Animal Crossing: City Folk

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Nov. 16, 2008
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Every step you take, every move you make, I'll be watching you.

0:00 The sum total of my experience with Animal Crossing is watching a college friend play the GameCube original for five minutes or so, and playing Animal Crossing: City Folk for the same period at E3. I never really saw the appeal, frankly.

0:01 The game needs to install a system update before starting? What is this, a PS3 game?

0:02 That was an incredibly fast update. A quick system reset and we're ready to play.

0:03 The title pops up over a bear standing in front of an autumnal house. The bear walks around in the background to some pastoral guitar music. Reminds me of NPR on a Sunday.

0:04 "All righty! Sorry to keep you waiting," says Rover, a cat in a black room and spotlight. "I heard you were moving in, so I came to get you! Nice, huh?" Indeed!

0:05 Rover sells me on the benefits of a fresh start ... a new house, new neighbors, an escape from state troopers. OK, he didn't mention that last one. If I had ever played the DS version, I could transfer my game at this point.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels

Developer: Krome Studios
Publisher: LucasArts
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2008
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: You'll like it if you're one of those idiots that liked the prequels.
0:00 When I bought Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels, the clerk tried to up-sell me a $20 light-up lightsaber attachment for the Wii remote. I asked, "Does it help you play the game?" He replied, totally deadpan, "It can't hurt." I consider this a bad sign.

0:01 OK, the TV made the little lightsaber charge-up sound when I went to the preview screen. That's totally awesome.

0:02 The game needs a Nunchuk? I don't remember a dangly thumbstick bit hanging down from the lightsabers in the original trilogy! Laaaame.

0:04 Difficulties are: Youngling, Padawan, Jedi Knight and Grand Master. Well, I know what SOME of those words mean! I go for the "Jedi in Training" Padawan Campaign.

0:05 "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," reads the familiar blue text, before the big yellow logo: "STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS." Instead of the expected scrolling text story, a bombastic narrator speaks over a frenetic action cut scene. In short: Count Dooku isolated the Galactic Senate, so Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi lead a clone army against some robots or something.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mirror's Edge

Developer: DICE
Publisher: EA
Release Date: Nov. 12, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: The world's first first-person runner game.

0:00 I've been psyched about Mirror's Edge ever since I saw the HD trailer at this year's E3. I've been soaking up all the videos since, but the relatively low review scores are tempering my expectations. Also, I just ate, so I hope the first-person running doesn't make me lose my lunch.

0:01 The title appears in red over a cityscape in stark white and gentle blue. It's so clean and crisp ... makes Grand Theft Auto IV's burg look like crap.

0:02 Selectable difficulties are Easy and Normal, and Hard is unlockable. What, no "Insane"? No "Brutal"? No "Nightmare"? Boooring. I like the plain English explanation of the difficulties: "Normal difficulty is recommended for most players." "Easy difficulty will mainly affect the combat experience." Simple!

0:03 The game defaults to metric units. GO BACK TO FRANCE, FRENCHIE!

0:04 Overhead shot looking straight down at a city street. "Once the city used to pulse with energy. Dirty and dangerous, but alive and wonderful. Now it's something else." Most didn't notice or care about the slow changes. The ones that protested were "pushed to the sidelines ... criminalized. ... We exist on the edge between the gloss and the reality. The Mirror's Edge." Hey, that's the name of the game!

0:05 The manga-styled intro transitions into an almost photorealistic shot from a rooftop. "Training time, Faith," says a voice in my ear.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Call of Duty: World at War

Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC, PS2, Wii, DS
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: All the fun of World War II, now with more grenades!

0:00 I was prepared to like this game after playing a bit of the excellent Call of Duty 4 (different developer, I know). But this post on Joystiq has changed my expectations a bit.

0:01 This minute spent downloading a downloadable update that's available for download. DOWNLOAD!

0:02 After downloading yet another update (that's a first), we're on to the title screen. Through some gray fog, I can see pith helmets sitting on bayonets sticking up out of the ground. The music is Silent Hill-style creepy.

0:03 Graphic content can be set to "reduced" or "unrestricted." This makes sense, but calling it "unrestricted" just makes it sound so ... DECADENT!

0:04 "WARNING -- Call of Duty: World at War contains graphic content and historical footage which some players may find disturbing. Player discretion is advised." Yeah, I got that impression from the Joystiq post...

0:05 The selectable difficulties are Recruit, Regular, Hardened and Veteran. The last of these says point-blank: "You will not survive." Well that doesn't sound like fun! I'm just a Regular guy.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wii Music

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2008
System: Wii (duh!)
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: The world's first and only rhythm game that includes a dog suit.

0:00 I had a bit of fun playing a demo of Wii Music at the last E3, but it seemed more suited to a short demo than even a full hour of play. Will it hold up? Let's find out!

0:01 "Welcome to Wii Music! I'm the musical maestro, Sebastian Tute!" Heh. Toot. He looks like a mustachioed Mii crossed with a muppet crossed with a South Park character crossed with Bach. He talks in a sort of pidgin Italian with text-based speech bubbles. "I'm here to help you discover that YOU'RE a musical maestro, too!"

0:02 My Mii looks rather dashing in a suit and tie. Tute explains that there are four methods of controlling instruments. First up, piano, which requires me to dig out the Nunchuk. "The secret is to just relax and move as if you're playing the piano." He tells me, "don't even think about tempo" for now. Rock Band it ain't...

0:05 "Hear that? You're a pianist!" What did you call me? Oh ... sorry, I thought you said something else (even though I'm reading text). Just waving the Wii remote and Nunchuk up and down made some surprisingly nice music. The controls are nice and responsive too. One annoyance: I can't pick my notes?

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gears of War 2

Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Nov. 7, 2008
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Big gear keep on turning ... proud war keep on burning.

0:00 Confession time: I bought the original Gears of War and played it exactly once before putting it back in its case and never touching it again. I know ... I'm a horrible person.

0:01 Logos fade into a Gears of War 2 title screen with red gears and skulls and burning and blackness. Par for the course for this type of game.

0:02 The training grounds seem to be about multiplayer matches, so I'm off to muddle my way through the solo campaign.

0:03 The difficulties are Casual, Normal, Hardcore and the locked Insane. Casual is if "you've never played a shooter before" which doesn't quite apply. Normal means "you enjoy playing the occasional shooter" which isn't totally accurate, but is closest.

0:04 "It began, as always, with the desire for power, the need to conquer, the hunger to consume." Humanity fighting an endless battle against itself, then uniting against alien attackers -- but their retaliation causing their own downfall. "To survive is to endure and prosper, and we have most definitely survived." Apparently the narrator is an alien. "In a way, I pity them, but humanity, as always, brought this war upon itself."

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Resistance 2

Developer: Insomniac
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Nov. 4, 2008
System: PS3
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Definitely not futile.

0:00 I played the original Resistance a little bit when the PS3 first came out, but I could never really get into it. I guess you could say I played some token Resistance. Eh? Eh?!

0:01 The preview screen doesn't even show the name of the game ... just a huge, stubbly face, with glowing orange eyes, mouth agape in a scream, with some war march music in the background. Creepy.

0:02 It wouldn't be a PS3 game if there weren't an update available immediately. Version 1.2 requires a paltry 24 MB download. I have to say, these updates seem to be getting smaller and smaller.

0:04 All installed and we're off.

0:05 The game actually somehow detects that I'm not using HD cables, and therefore will run in non-HD mode. Super-mega-bonus points for you, Insomniac.

0:06 "Resistance 2 needs to perform an initial setup process. This will take 90 to 120 seconds. Please do not turn off your PlayStation 3 system during this time." You just lost all those brownie points, guys...

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bejeweled Twist

Developer: Popcap
Publisher: Popcap
Release Date: Oct. 27, 2008
Systems: PC (reviewed), Mac
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A new twist on a casual classic. You see what I did there? Eh? Eh?!

0:00 I've played the original Bejeweled and a few other match-three-type games before, but never for very long. Even the critically acclaimed Puzzle Quest left me feeling empty. For the most part, I'm just not good at sensing the patterns needed to succeed in these games.

0:01 Some quick loading and ethereal music plays over a sort of purple spiral black hole. I enter my username and receive a "Trainee" ranking automatically. The music has switched to astro-funk.

0:02 The "How to Play" videos show how I can twist squares of four gems clockwise to make lines of three or more of the same type. Four or more in a row creates explosive "flame gems," while five gets me a "lightning gem," each of which can explode to get rid of nasty, unkillable coal. Locked gems can't be twisted. Bombs have to be removed before they asplode. If I make a bunch of lines in a row, my score multiplier goes up.

0:04 Playable modes include the untimed Zen mode, the five-minute Blitz mode, the classic, er, Classic mode and the locked Challenge mode, which has "brain-busting puzzles." Let's start with Blitz, as five minutes is usually my tolerance for these kinds of games.

0:05 Before we start, a cut scene shows a brightly colored 3-D spaceship flying toward a massive space cube. This seems a little unnecessary for a match-three game. "GO!" says a guttural voice. And I do!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: Sept. 30, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Sonic gets an RPG, over a decade after Mario did. Eat it, Sonic!

0:00 I went from being a rampant Sonic fan to a smoldering Sonic fan around the time of Sonic Adventure. Still, the RPG elements and participation of BioWare in Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood were enough to at least get me curious.

0:01 In the intro cut scene, lots of quick cuts. Sonic runs. Tails flies his biplane. There's a spaceship. Amy, Knuckles and Tails stand with Sonic. Cut to some in-game footage of some unimpressive 3-D boss battles. The overworld map is much nicer looking, with a cel-shaded Sonic running over a hand-drawn landscape. All four of the main characters stand looking out to the middle distance. I love the high-energy guitar music. Bwreeoow!

0:02 Seems the last guy who rented this game only got to Chapter 1. Not a good sign... New game for me, though. "Some Time Ago..." in Eggman's Floating Castle over Metropolis. The huge ship fires on the city. Sonic and team board from their own mini-ship and attack. "You'll never defeat me," "We'll see about that," etc. Big explosion and the ship starts to go down, causing a huge explosion to engulf the city. Sonic and team fly off on the biplane, apparently unconcerned about the carnage they've left in their wake.

0:03 Present day, on the other side of the world, Sonic gets a phone call as he runs through a field. "CHAPTER 1: HOSTILE RECEPTION." Like, phone reception? "Sonic, you made it, I'm so glad to hear from you." "I'm here, Tails, what's going on." Knuckles has disappeared with the Chaos Emeralds, that's what's going on! Amy's gonna come help Sonic find 'em.

0:06 The touch-screen controls kind of remind me of the DS Zelda game. Touch a place on the screen and Sonic runs over there. Little icons pop up occasionally to let me jump to ledges, speed around loops ... that kind of thing. There are a bunch of rings lying around for me to collect. Pretty mellow so far.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Guitar Hero World Tour

Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2008
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), PS2 Xbox 360, Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Guitar Hero ... now with crappy drums!

0:00 I've played all the previous Guitar Hero games, but haven't even touched this one in previews. I'm especially excited to see how the drums hold up to those from Rock Band, one of my favorite games of all time.

0:13 Jumping the clock forward to account for the time it took to unbox and set up the drums and guitar. The setup is actually a touch more complex than that for Rock Band, although the drums already seem a bit sturdier.

0:14 I put the game in the system. The preview screen blares: "SHARE THE EXPERIENCE! Join together for the definitive rock & roll gaming experience in Guitar Hero World Tour." Jeez, what marketing major dropout wrote that?

0:15 Shocker ... there's a game update that needs to be installed. A 19 MB download delays the start of the game yet more.

0:17 Downloaded, installed and finally ready to go ... after some more loading, of course.

0:18 Logos, then the traditional animated opening. A Kenny G lookalike plays a clarinet on stage in front of a huge, bored-looking crowd. In the wings, a guy with an evil grin and a devil ring looks on. The music notes turn into a spiral that hypnotizes the crowd. A big-haired glam-rock singer gets the "GH" signal on his phone. A girl with a tiny cup of coffee gets the same on her watch. A blonde-haired guy in a white robe gets it in the forest. A pink-haired girl sitting in an airport also receives the call. They all rush to the stage and break the hypnosis with a concentrated blast of pure rock. WHOO!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Samba De Amigo

Developer: Gearbox
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: Sept. 23, 2008
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E

In a nutshell: Maraca shaking with shaky controls.

0:00 I really enjoyed liked the Dreamcast original until my cheap third-party maraca controllers gave out on me. Here's hoping the Wii remotes are both more accurate and less prone to breakage that those old things.

0:01 "AMIGO!" screams an unseen crowd on the preview screen, causing a big grin to spring across my face already. Island rhythms play over a high shot of an island. The sun is also grinning and wearing sunglasses. A monkey with maracas and an equally big grin jumps up and down on a parade float traveling through a crowded street. Cut to a spotlight in a dark room, where a bunch of trippy characters are generally jumping around like they're high on a potent mix of crystal meth and ecstasy. Cut to a sandy beach, where they continue to jump and be crazy. Finish on a dramatic edge of a cliff, as they look out into the middle distance. Weird...

0:04 On to the tutorial to learn how the Wii controls work. I'm asked to shake my left hand to determine which remote is which. Intuitive! Then there's a quick calibration where I have to point the Wii remote up, down, left and right. Seems to work pretty well so far.

0:06 "Samba de Amigo turns two of your Wii remotes into a pair of maracas!" The woman saying this sounds like she is on the same mix of meth and ecstasy as the characters. "Try to hit these balls." That's what she said! Really, it is!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fallout 3

Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: Oct. 28, 2008
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Growing up in a post-nuclear family.

0:00 While I've never touched any of the previous Fallout games, I've been excited about this one ever since I saw a demo at the Bethesda offices about a year ago.

0:01 "Please Stand By," reads a still frame on a slide projector, followed by slides featuring the Bethesda logos. Then a slide with a hulking beast in a gas mask. As I view the main menu, the background shows slides of a "Grognak the Barbarian" comic, "Nikola Tesla and You!" and an ad saying that "D.C.'s fastest highway is underground!"

0:03 Close-up on a vacuum tube that starts to crackle with energy. Slow zoom out to show it as part of a busted radio playing an old-timey song. Close-up on a dashboard hula girl, then zoom out farther to show it as part of a rusty bus with bombed-out windows. Zoom out farther to show the bus has no back and the wreckage that once was Washington D.C., complete with the Washington Monument in background. That heavily armored gas mask guy turns towards the camera. Fade to black. "Bethesda Software Presents: FALLOUT 3." (Yes, so far it's just been the teaser trailer).

0:06 "War ... War never changes. Since the dawn of human time, when man found the killing power of rock and bone, blood has been spilled ... By 2077, the destructive nature of man could sustain itself no longer." A mushroom cloud rises in the background. The apocalypse was "simply the prologue in another bloody chapter of human history. For man had succeeded in destroying the world. But War ... War never changes." Deep.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, October 27, 2008

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web page (Japanese)

In a nutshell: Ecclesia-tastic

0:00 I have no idea what an Ecclesia is, but I have a good idea what a "Castlevania" is, after playing many games in the series over the last two decades. Super Castlevania IV on the SNES is probably my favorite.

0:01 A ring of light floats onto a girl's forehead as her long black hair blows in the breeze. Some still paintings of monsters and a guy with a gun fly by. A guy studies a closed book. The monsters all get sucked into a white vortex. Close up on a vampire with red eyes. The monsters get sliced in two, one by one. Zoom in on the girl's iris. A tower rises up above a desolate plain. Bats fly by. Aaaaand title!

0:03 "Returning to life time and again since the ancient Middle Ages, the evil Lord Dracula had driven people to terror." The Belmont clan has stopped him time and again. But in the early 1800s, Ecclesia was born as one of many backups for the Belmonts. Many of these backup organizations fell, but Barlowe, the founder of Ecclesia, thinks he might finally have something that can stand up to Dracula this time.

0:04 Shanoa is talking to Albus in an ornate hall. Shanoa has been chosen by Barlowe to be "the bearer." Of bad news? No ... her body's going to be a vessel for Dominus. Albus is mad ... he wanted to be the bearer. The master told Shanoa he's "unfit." By the way, Dominus is "the balde to banish all evil."

0:06 Just like that, I'm in control of Shanoa, jumping across carefully placed platforms that are hanging around this ornate hall for some reason. The 2-D sprite-based animation is excellent ... I love the way Shanoa's long coat flaps in the wind as she falls.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

Developer: Treyarch/Shaba Games
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2008
System: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, DS, PC
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: He flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

0:00 I was a huge Spider-Man fan ... when I was five. Since then I've only kept up loosely with the whole wall-crawler mythos. I played the first movie-based game on the PlayStation2, and felt it was a slightly sub-par brawler.

0:01 Spidey flits about the walls of New York buildings and watches as various company logos appear on video billboards. Seems like a lot of work just to see a few ads, Spidey.

0:02 Spidey appears crouched and ready in a small band against a grey background. Intense violin-based music completes the title screen. "New Game" is the only selectable option on the menu, so off we go.

0:03 Spidey walks slowly and calmly, head held low, as an etude plays. All around him, there's carnage. He breaks into a run and dives off the roof of a building. "You know what that does to you," says a disembodied voice. "You know how it can change you." Spidey swings around a bit, bounces off some walls and enemies that are loitering around. The camera is set in real tight on his back through it all. "When this is said and done, who will the people remember as their savior?" says disembodied voice No. 2. Man ... this is heady stuff for a comic book game.

0:04 And I'm immediately in control of the "Prelude" mission. A car crashes in the distance and I run off the rooftop to investigate. As I slide down the skyscraper wall, the camera turns 90 degrees to make the wall seem like the ground. Trippy.

0:05 I mash the X button to take out some grey-suited "symbiotes." Very stylish attacks, including some impressive slow-mo on the fourth hit of the combo. You can really feel the impact of all the blows.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hail to the Chimp

Developer: Wideload Games
Publisher: Gamecock
Release Date: June 24, 2008
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A political satire made into a farce of a game.

0:00 I'm a fan of politics, games and humor, so something that combines all three should be a slam dunk. Still, the general reception the game got has me less than optimistic.

0:01 Oh, what a shock, version 1.02 of the software has to be downloaded. At least it's only a 24 MB update, so it should take too long.

0:04 Three minutes of downloading and we're done. That has to be a record for the PS3...

0:05 Cut to a deserted island with a large yellow, mustachioed clam. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls ... let me introduce Hail to the Chimp," says the high-voiced clam. He goes on about how clams have been abused. "Power to the clams ... kneel, things with knees! Kneel before your true masters!" Then, "from the GRR newsroom, it's ... the news." Woodchuck Chumley talks about a democratic election to replace the king of the animals.

0:07 Cut to a commercial for "Just for Gorillas" fur color. "Now silverback is just an honorary title." Heh. Then a stylish ad for Spanish armadillo Santo.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Far Cry 2

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Oct. 22, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: If looks could kill...

0:00 My computer at the time wasn't up to running the original Far Cry. In fact, it probably still isn't up to the task. Still, this Xbox 360 version of Far Cry 2 should allow me to shoot stuff in the jungle at a decent frame rate.

0:01 A handy little poster/map falls out of the game case as I open it. Reminds me of the old The Legend of Zelda for the NES. I always envied my friends for their little maps, which weren't included in my used copy. *Sniff*

0:02 Sure enough, there's a downloadable update available. It installs in record time, though. "Need help? Visit farcry.com/help," says the loading screen. I bet the guide publishers aren't happy about that.

0:03 A conflagration engulfs the screen, then dissipates to show the game title in flames. There's some gentle chanting in the background. I set the brightness and the main menu appears in a field notebook.

0:04 The selectable difficulties are Easy, Normal, Hardcore and Infamous. On Infamous, you aren't allowed to use a crosshair. I'll take Normal, thanks.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fable 2

Developer: Lionhead
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2008
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A plodding introduction to an epic tale.

0:00 I'm vaguely fond of action-RPGs, but I came to the original Xbox too late to really dive into the original Fable. Fable 2 has all sorts of buzz to live up to.

0:01 A downloadable update is available, which I find somewhat surprising since the game was officially released less than half an hour ago. The download only takes a few seconds. Thank god this isn't a PS3 game!

0:02 The title appears in white lightning in front of an oddly silent forest. As I hit the A button, a vaguely British voice intones: "And so our story begins."

0:04 "But who is the hero of this game?" I can choose to be a boy or a girl, both of whom look thoroughly modern despite the Renaissance-style setting. "And let HIS destiny unfold," says the voice.

0:05 After some longish loading, a cut scene: A bird lands on a wrecked pillar, then flies through a winter forest and into to a massive town. Zoom in close on the town: A man in a large top hat coughs roughly as people go about their daily business. In the background, a medieval choir chants. The bird flits off a roof and we get a slow-mo, "Matrix"-like pan shot of a bit of poop, which lands on my character's head. "I hear that's lucky," says my companion Rose, "Like finding a four leaf clover ... though I think I'd prefer the clover." She calls me "Little Sparrow."

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Metapost: The First Hour

This Sunday I got a rather surprising e-mail from one Greg Noe, the creator of "The First Hour" blog. Greg writes weekly game reviews based on just the first hour of play, just like I do here daily at Games for Lunch. That's not the surprising part; I've gotten similar e-mails from the creators of other sites. The surprising part is that, apparently, Greg has been doing this for 15 months (nearly as long as I have) without either of us knowing about the other until now.

A recent post on The First Hour, Greg says he was a bit discouraged when he found he wasn't actually "unique among the vast sea of video game reviewers and journalists." Still, I'm glad to read that this initial shock isn't leading Greg to stop his work. There isn't any special talent I have that makes me uniquely qualified to write hour-long game reviews. In fact, I think as many people as possible should take up the form as a way to analyze how they feel about games and improve their writing and critical thinking skills.

Anyway, if you like Games for Lunch, you'll probably also enjoy The First Hour, seeing as they're practically exactly alike. Although, as Greg notes, he has a lot more screenshots with his reviews. Maybe I should do something about that...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mega Man Star Force 2: Zerker X Ninja

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: June 24, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site (Japanese)

In a nutshell: Diaries of a fifth-grade Mega Man.

0:00 I'm a big fan of the Mega Man series, but I've never played these RPG-like spinoff games. With my broken laptop preventing me from effectively taking notes on any console games, though, it seems like the perfect time to open this oddly named chestnut.

0:01 "In the days of old there was a Tribe that moved like wind and reigned over the land..." Then some anime robots jump around in full, anime-styled, double-screen regalia. The title appears with techno music and a streaky background. Whoo!

0:02 I get to choose between Zerker and Ninja modes. Since I have no idea what a "Zerker" is, I go with Ninja.

0:04 "I will set Zerker to Auto Brother" says a little blue slime thing. Er ... thanks? I name my Auto Brother Zerker "Zerker!!!!" Then I have to decide his age and gender. Oh lord, I really do not care...

0:05 "The year is 220X ... Owing to the rapid advance in wave technology, people are able to enjoy a life of ease and convenience." I'm Geo Stelar, a "fifth-grader in this future society." He's rarely left his room since his dad died, but an alien with an EM body, Omega-Xis, merged with him (is that what they're calling it these days?) to become ... Mega Man! Then FM-ians attacked Earth and Mega Man saved them. Hooray for backstory!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, October 17, 2008

SimCity Creator

Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Sept. 22, 2008
Systems: Nintendo DS (reviewed), Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A pocket metropolis.

0:00 I was a huge SimCity 2000 fan back in middle school, but I haven't touched the series since. Here's hoping this brings back my latent love of virtual urban planning.

0:01 "Build a city for the ages," says a plain white text message on a stark black background. Then a title screen in a penthouse office.

0:02 "Welcome! To the world of SimCity (tm)!" Why! Are you speaking like that!? "Out of all the games you could have bought, we thank you for choosing SimCity Creator." I don't have the heart to tell her I got my copy for free from EA.

0:03 The woman disappears and in comes the bespectacled, anime-styled "Mister! Maxis!" in a puff of smoke. "I've had my eye on SimCity ever since SimCity DS." That's some subtle name-dropping there, mister.

0:04 The measly six letters allotted for the city name aren't enough for either "Kyleton" or "Orlandia." I go with the more generic "Kville," but they change it to "Kville City." D'oh!

0:06 I get six more characters for a slogan. They suggest "Hello." I enter "E=MC2." How scientific, eh?

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer