Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Serious Sam HD

Developer: CroTeam
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: Jan. 13, 2010
System: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: If you can find a game that's more like DOOM without actually being DOOM, you buy it.

0:00 I've never actually played the original version of this FPS classic, but I've heard it compared to the original DOOM, which is one of my favorites of the genre. Looking forward to seeing what the fuss is about.

0:01 Bongo music behind a slow panning shot of an ornate Egyptian temple, with a praying cat/monkey-god statue out front. The music goes out as I come to a menu screen.

0:02 How to play: "Kill bad guys!" Seems simple enough. There's some stuff about weapons and strafing and health packs too, but really, "kill all enemies" is remarkably concise.

0:03 The options screen has a setting for blood and gore that includes a "hippie" option. OK, I have to find out what that means. I can customize the look of the crosshair too, a nice, if a tad ridiculous, touch.

0:04 Let's start a single-player game. My scenario options are "Egypt" and "Demo." Uh, Egypt ... I guess. The first level is oddly named "Hatshepsut." I can choose from a ridiculous number of difficulties: Tourist, Easy, Normal, Hard, Serious or Mental (which is locked). As the difficulties go up, so does the score multiplier. Nice to have some incentive to challenge yourself. I choose Normal, which is described as "for experienced FPS players."

0:05 A Green computer terminal tells me "WELCOME TO NETRICSA -- NEuroTRonically Implanted Combat Situation Analyzer." Duh! It will guide me and ID strange artifacts and enemies and such. OK then.

0:06 "At the dawn of the 21st century mankind makes a startling discovery." An ancient, technologically advanced civilization hidden below ruins of other ancient civilizations. Their tech lets us get to the far reaches of the universe. But it's "too perfect to last." In 2104, monsters from another dimension attack, and nothing can stop them. We're beaten back to our own solar system. Sam "Serious" Stone is a legendary fighter and a symbol of resistance. Now, Earth is finally under direct attack, and humanity faces annihilation." Humanity has found a time-lock that can send a single person back in time. "The choice is obvious." That's ... a long way to go for time-travel justification.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spike TV Video Game Awards 2009

Developer: Geoff Keighley
Publisher: Spike TV
Release Date: Dec. 12, 2009
System: TV
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: More like Video Game Awards POO!
0:00 I've watched the Spike TV VGAs a few times in the past and each time come away less than impressed. I was out at a holiday party this Saturday evening, but I did DVR the live festivities out of morbid curiosity, if nothing else. I managed to avoid reading about the winners -- or even the nominees -- up to this point, but I did hear about the big Green Day: Rock Band announcement already, so that's one less surprise I have in store for myself over the next hour.

0:01 The Comcast info screen for my recording says, "Coverage of the seventh annual awards ceremony honoring achievements in the video-game industry is featured." Coverage? Like it's a news program or something. Also, hooray for passive voice.

0:02 It's seems my DVR caught the end of some cheesy cop show. One guy is crying to another guy about the girl that got away or got murdered or some such. What is this, Lifetime? Where's the violence?

0:03 After a warning about "M-rated game footage" and "viewer discretion," we fade in to an elaborately lit stage with a giant wrapped box in the center. A tag on it says "Don't open until 12/12." "Good evening, gamers. Welcome to the biggest night in gaming," says the voice of Mark Hamill's Joker, straight out of Arkham Asylum. "I miss you all so much. But 'tis the season to be naughty, and I'm ready to give you all presents." Huh? "Are you ready for a big surprise?" The box pops open and two black-clad henchmen pop out, walking through the audience and spraying "gas" on the crowd. One woman coughs violently. Two other guys look extremely bored. "Here's a sequel you didn't see coming," says the Joker. "Too bad you won't be able to play it." Wait, it's a sequel to Arkham Asylum. I think EVERYONE saw that coming, actually.

0:06 Well, the most I can gather from that trailer is that the sequel is going to feature the Joker again, that part of it might take place in the streets, and that there might be bumper cars involved. Seriously, there was exactly zero gameplay footage or even hints at what changes might be coming to the next game.

0:07 "Welcome to the biggest night of the year for gamers around the globe," says a computer-ish female voice. I'm not sure if I'd go THAT far ... but whatever. "Shown in over 180 countries, it's the Spike TV Video Game Awards." 180 countries? I didn't even know there WERE 180 countries. I'd love to see that list. "With killer world premieres and official announcements of the most anticipated games of the future." And awards, right? You are gonna give out awards at some point? It's not just a big advertisement for upcoming games, right?

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Super Monkey Ball 2

Developer: Other Ocean
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: Dec. 2, 2009
System: iPhone/iPod Touch
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Super Monkey Tilt 'N' Tumble

0:00 My first experience with iPhone gaming was playing the first Super Monkey Ball on a friend's brand-new phone just after it launched. I found the game to be an impossible-to-control mess, which is a shame, because I loved the console Super Monkey Ball games. Here's hoping this one is an improvement.

0:01 A few logos, then right to the title screen, with a picture of the four core Monkeys and some bouncy, catchy music. Baby has on a Geordi La Forge visor for some reason.

0:02 Mini-games? There are mini-games? Nice! I'll save them for dessert, though. For now, it's on to the main game. There's an option for a tutorial, but I think I know how this works by now and just dive in.

0:03 I pick Gongon, because he's the biggest and manliest of the available monkeys by far. I can spin a globe around to choose what world I want, but everything except for Jumble Jungle is an inky black. Let's do this!

0:04 "Welcome to Super Monkey Ball 2. Let's cover a few basic tips before getting into the game." Wait ... I thought I skipped the tutorial. Oh well. Tilt the iPod to move ... a tilt meter in the corner shows whether you're centered or not. I roll forward down an arrow-straight path and reach the white light as instructed. I like how the game treats holding the iPod downward at a natural, 45-degree viewing angle as "centered." Too many other games force you to hold it level and look straight down.

0:05 A second tutorial level introduces turning, with nice high walls to protect me from falling to my doom. Turns are a little shallower than I expect, but when I slow down they get sharper. So far the controls feel entirely natural and intuitive. I think they may have actually gotten it right this time.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Don't B Nervous Talking 2 Girls

Developer: Silver Dollar Games
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2009
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Don't be nervous watching videos of a girl who acts completely irrationally.

0:00 I haven't been nervous talking to girls at least since I met the woman who would become my wife close to 10 years ago. That said, when I heard that there was an indie game with this title on Xbox Live, I knew I had to try it out. Plus it only costs 80 Microsoft Points. That's a freaking dollar. For that price, I'm relatively sure it'll be worth it.

0:01 Two badly hand-drawn women, a blonde and a brunette, hold placards with the title of the game. A blonde girl in a tight green sweater appears on a small video in the corner. "Welcome to Don't Be Nervous Talking to Girls. You'll be presented with multiple challenges. The goal of each challenge will be to get my number and make a new friend." Yeah ... I don't think "making a new friend" is really what "getting her number" is usually about, but whatever.

0:02 On to "How to play: Your goal is to get Jessica's phone number at 8 locations." Uh ... isn't getting it once enough? Maybe she keeps changing her number? Shouldn't that be a sign that we're not meant to be together? Am I actually a stalker?

0:04 Let's start with Stage 1: The Library. A blonde in a yellow top with a thin waist holds an iPhone and looks at me expectantly on the intro screen. Then another video of the green-sweatered girl. I can tell we're in a library because there's a stack of books in the back, even though she's just standing there. "Hey, how's it going," she says in a friendly, non-threatening manner. The potential answers are "Good." or "Never better. What book are you reading?" What do I do? Which should I pick? WHY AM I SO NERVOUS TALKING TO GIRLS?!

0:05 I ask about the book. "Oh, I was just doing some math homework. But it's not going too well." This despite the fact that she has no visible book or math papers in front of her. But whatever... I go the cocky route and tell her "I'm a whiz at math."

0:06 "Well, math whiz, what's the answer to this: 4 + 7 - 1 x 7." Did I accidentally download Don't B Nervous Doing Basic Math Problems? Also, the girl in this video looks college age at least. Why is she doing second-grade arithmetic? I choose the right answer from four multiple-choice options (Multiple-choice? Really? The problem isn't easy enough?) "Awesome, thanks," she says. I wonder if she'd know if I gave the wrong answer. And if so ... how?

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Demon's Souls

Developer: From Software
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: Oct. 7, 2009
System: PS3
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: I spent nearly half of the hour dead.

0:00 I was pretty unimpressed with a live Internet video demo of this game a few months ago -- it just looked like any other dungeon hack-and-slasher. But then the game came out and all sorts of critics started praising it for its design and punishing-but-fair difficulty, so I figured I had to see what all the fuss was about.

0:01 "On the first day man was granted a soul, and with it, clarity. On the second day upon Earth was planted an irrevocable poison, a soul-devouring Demon." Wow, so we only got one uninterrupted day with a soul? LAME!

0:02 A flying beast casts a huge shadow over land. A choir chants over timpani and trumpets as a lone armored hero takes out a bunch of shambling, possibly undead soldiers in slow-mo. He gets knocked back and rises to face a skeleton holding a huge scimitar. Organ music as a glowing ghost shoots an arrow at the skeleton. A giant dragon-ish beast rises up in the middle distance and roars. Fade to white as the choir fades out. Yeah ... that intro did nothing to convince me this isn't the same hack-and-slash crap I've played a million times.

0:05 The game can't connect to the Demon's Souls server, possibly because it's a trade demo and not a retail copy. Looks like I'm going it alone...

0:07 Time to "Create Profile." I name my character "?!," because I can. I can be a Soldier, Knight, Hunter, Priest, Magician, Wanderer, Barbarian, Thief, Temple Knight or Royalty. That's a lot of choices! I think I'll go with Royalty, just because it's so different. And regal!

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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The Saboteur

Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: EA
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2009
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Grand Theft WWII-era Paris

0:00 I've been interested in this game since I first heard about it back in 1995. Seriously, I feel like I've been waiting for this stylish period piece forever, and now it's finally here just in time for the studio that worked so hard on it to shut down. This is all coloring my perceptions going in.

0:01 A red fleur-de-lis shimmers in the light a bit, then the game tells me I need "1021 MB more free space on the hard drive." It's always something with these PS3 releases...

0:02 The Bourne Conspiracy is taking up 4.68 GB on my hard drive? Good lord, why?

0:03 "The Saboteur needs to perform an initial setup process. This will take about 7 minutes." Well I appreciate their warning me, at least. Let's see how accurate their estimate is...

0:10 The install is done ... almost exactly seven minutes after it started. That's pretty impressive.

0:11 Logos, then a painted red line morphs into a woman's tight-pantsed backside. The line shifts goes down to the title. Fade to a black-and-white Parisian skyline, focused on the Eiffel Tower. Faint sirens in the background. Cut to an old car rumbling down a cobblestone street. There are red lights on some signs, but everything else has a noir-ish grayscale palette. I love the sensuous old French accordion music in the background.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Monday, December 7, 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2009
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: I'm going off the rails on this (decidedly un-) Crazy Train.

0:00 I actually came away from my 15-minute demo of this game at E3 incredibly bored with the entire concept. Am I finally outgrowing the concept of Zelda games? Man, I hope not...

0:01 Across both screens, a blocky 3-D locomotive blasts out of a dark tunnel into the bright light of a green field. Leaning out the window is a cartoony, Wind Waker-ish Link in a black engineer's outfit, with a huge grin on his face . A ghostly version of Zelda (!) jumps off the roof and flies alongside the train. Gentle flute music in the background as the camera rotates around, showing a large tower in the distance. Birds fly along the train tracks, keeping pace with the locomotive. As the title appears we continue to chug towards the tower. A train whistle goes off as I tap the screen to start.

0:02 The familiar file-select music brings me back to the '80s almost immediately. The game asks me to twice confirm that I'm right-handed. In case I mis-clicked the first time I guess?

0:03 Adventure, Battle and Tag modes are available. The others sound interesting, but let's dive into Adventure, why not? "This is a tale from long ago. It's a tale of the first settlers of this land." It was peaceful, but not for long. "The evil Demon King rose to power." And who exactly voted for him? Anyway, the "spirits of good" faced him, leading to a long war, with lots of bloodshed. The good spirits subdued him but couldn't destroy him. With the last of their strength, they shackled him. "The shackles cover the land to this day." Hmmm ... train tracks look like shackles. Anyway, without demons and spirits, "the land was entrusted to us," which seems like a good deal to me.

0:05 Zoom out from the illustrative tapestry on the bottom screen to show a bald man speaking from behind it. "Well? Do I know how to tell a story or what? ... It's a blasted masterpiece... a blasterpiece." I'm going to have to weave that word into casual conversation.

0:06 Pan to Link, who fell asleep on the floor during the story. They're roommates, though the bald guy seems a lot older than Link. Amazingly, he takes the hint and apologizes for boring me.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins

Developer: Bioware Edmonton
Publisher: EA
Release Date: Nov. 3, 2009
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: The Early Education of a Magical Bear

0:00 I've been putting off loading up my copy of this one because I'm not generally a big fan of sword-and-sorcery RPGs, even if they're by the vaunted BioWare. Plus I was underwhelmed by what I felt was a boring eyes-on demo of this one at E3.

0:01 Overwrought fantasy music on the preview screen, along with a hooded lady shown in a crimson dragon emblem. Meh.

0:02 The bad news: The game requires new firmware to be played. The good news: The firmware seems to be on the disc, and doesn't require a lengthy download. The data is copied to the hard drive in a matter of seconds, but the actual install process crawls along slower than expected. I'll letcha know when it's done.

0:06 That was relatively painless. I spent the four-minute install playing some SkiFree on my laptop. Now THERE'S a fun game.

0:07 "There is not enough available space in the HDD. To create data, at least 901 MB more space is required." Of course it is...

0:08 So long, Haze game data. Your 3.866 gigs will be put to much better use in the future.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Excitebike: World Rally

Developer: Monster Games
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Nov. 9, 2009
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Nintendo made a seamless online experience? That can't be right...

0:00 The original Excitebike was hands down one of my favorite NES games, but I was severely underwhelmed by the overly technical 3-D update on the N64. This one looks more like the original, but with online play and track sharing. Sounds like a winning formula to me!

0:01 I've already downloaded the game to my SD card, but before I can play it I need to clear 201 "blocks" on my Wii system memory so the system can load the game. So long Wii Fit Channel. I wasn't using you regularly enough anyway...

0:02 A few seconds of loading and a nondescript title screen pops up. I like the synth- and nostalgia-heavy remix of the original's intro music. Once that 10-second bit runs out, though, the tune advances to some new hair-rock anthem that's not nearly as good.

0:03 "Normal" controls let me tilt the Wii Remote to tilt the bike. "Classic" controls let me use the d-pad. It's a no brainer for me ... Classic! Some games do NOT need motion controls.

0:04 The options screen lets me set the "lane indicator" to "Terrain," "Flat" or "Off." Wish I knew what the difference was between them. OK, off to the World Tour. The Bronze Cup is all that's available. I guess I'll do the optional training first, even though I doubt I need it.

0:05 The first lesson teaches me how to switch between the four arrow-straight lanes by tapping up and down on the d-pad. There's a regular gas pedal and a turbo pedal that can lead to overheating if I use it too much, just like in the original. I'm also introduced to arrow-shaped "cooldown strips" that reset the engine temperature magically to zero. Is that what those are? Did they cool down in the original game too? I saw them all the time but never knew the purpose! Hey, I never said I was GOOD at the original.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Modern Warfare 2

Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2009
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: It's hard to see the good graphics through all that smoke.

0:00 Believe it or not, I never actually went back to the first Modern Warfare after my first hour with the game. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but I got distracted by something shiny and never mustered up the energy to revisit it. Tonight, though, I braved 150 or so fans at my local GameStop so I could get you my impressions of Modern Warfare 2 first thing in the morning. I do it all for you ... the readers.

0:01 A quick downloaded update, some logos and fine print, and we get the most nondescript title screen I've ever seen. It's just a smoky background with the title and "Press Start Button" flashing. There isn't even any background music. I thought this was supposed to be the entertainment event of the DECADE. What's with the lame-o title screen?

0:02 I have to turn the brightness slider way up to get it to the suggested levels on my television. Then I adjust the horizontal and vertical margins for my widescreen TV. Why has it been two minutes and I haven't SHOT ANYTHING GRAAAAAAH!

0:03 "Disturbing Content Notice: Some players may find one of the missions disturbing or offensive. Would you like to have the option to skip this mission?" Hmmm, looks like the controversy got to them. "No, I will not be offended" is my answer, but how can I be sure? Is this a legally binding promise not to be offended by whatever nebulous, potentially offensive thing they show me? "If you answer yes, you will never be asked about skipping levels again." OK, I get it! "Yes, never ask me again." Sheesh!

0:04 There's the background music, a low, pulsing tune like a heartbeat. I can choose Campaign, Multiplayer or Special Ops. The Multiplayer says "0% complete." That implies I can complete the multiplayer mode. This confuses me.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Monday, November 9, 2009

DJ Hero

Developer: FreeStyleGames
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Oct. 27, 2009
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii, PS2
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Holy crap I am not a natural DJ.

0:00 I really wanted to play this game at E3 but the Activision booth techs refused to let me for some reason. The company didn't send me a copy of the $120 game for review, either, so I guess I'd better try it out while I'm up here at the Crispy Gamer offices before I decide whether to plunk down my cash.

0:01 Even before I start the game, I don't know how to hold the controller. Do the buttons go on the left or the right? Does it matter?

0:02 An animated scene of a dystopian city, with a crumbling edifice. A young DJ with big headphones looks through green-tinted binoculars (night vision, perhaps?). His Russian-style hat flaps in the wind as he jumps on a robot/monster that looks like a giant record needle. He steers it with some huge handle as a trucker in a big red big rig drives right at him. They crash, and the trucker jumps out at the last minute, joining the Russian-hatted DJ atop the robot/monster. A green eyed guy in a hoodie plugs a cable into skyscraper-sized speakers, which let out a huge shockwave that knocks over the robot/monster and wrecks large sections of winding highway. Russian hat guy grabs some vinyl as he falls through the air, handing it off to another DJ before he lands. Thousands of people litter the highway, cheering for some reason. The title appears. I ... I have no idea what just happened.

0:04 "Attention: Here's what's happening," says a message window. Apparently what's happening is, the game is loading. That required an "Attention"?

0:05 A remix of "Another One Bites the Dust" and some song I don't recognize plays over the menu. Let's "Learn to DJ." "Hey, it's your boy DJ Grandmaster Flash, the first guy to make the turntable an instrument." Wow, he's a bit of a braggart just because he happened to invent scratching. "I'm gonna teach you everything you need to learn about being a DJ, so listen up very carefully and let's get started." He suggests putting the turntable controller somewhere "like a lap, or a table ... anything that works for you!" I think putting a turntable on your lap might be the least hip-hop thing I've ever heard.


***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Half Minute Hero

Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
Publisher: XSEED Entertainment
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2009
System: PSP
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: An RPG without all the things that make RPGs bad.

0:00 I somehow missed this game at E3 (I must have been sleeping), but the concept tickled me. I hate a lot of things about RPGs, but the one thing I hate most is the glacial pacing. If a whole quest is really condensed into 30 seconds, I might actually like this one!

0:01 Rain on a field. "Will this war ever end?" reads ornate white text on a black background. "The clock is ticking on the 500-year struggle between the humans and the Evil Lords. A spell to end the world in 30 seconds." Detailed anime drawings are cut together quickly with super-zoomed, pixilated versions of the same characters, all flying by too quick to really make anything out. Fade to black, then back up with epic organ music and '80s-metal guitar music. The title appears over a rolling pixilated landscape. Reminds me of the airship from Final Fantasy III a bit.

0:03 Story mode is "The story of a 500-year-long battle between the forces of good and evil. Is there no end to this war?" Reads to me like a subtle jab at the length of other RPGs. But maybe I'm just hearing what I want to hear...

0:04 I can choose Hero 30, Evil Lord 30 or Princess 30. I'll start with Hero, which takes place in "Goddess Era 100." Normal or Hard difficulty ... let's go with Normal until I figure out what the hell is going on.

0:05 I can rename my hero, whose default name is ... Hero. Seems appropriate...

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Rapala: We Fish

Developer: Fun Labs
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Sept. 22, 2009
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: I am not a leading expert and fan of Speed Fishing.

0:00 I've never met a fishing game I really liked, but I'm in the mood for something out of the ordinary today. Plus the back of the box promises "24 wild and wacky fish," so how can I lose?

0:01 "A Nunchuk is required," the game tells me, with a picture of a Nunchuk in case I was confused. In the middle of a lake, a Crocodile Dundee lookalike casts a reel. Cut to an old grey-bearded fellow with a cane and top hat tap-dancing around a stage. "Ladies and gentlemen," he begins. "My name is Seymour Breem, one of the richest men in the world and the leading expert and fan of the sport of SPEED FISHING! I'm just crazy enough to offer the winner of this contest the prize of one billion dollars. Let's begin the first global speed fishing tournament!" Dundee brings up a fish, who flies straight to the camera and screams "Gooooo fish!" in an extremely unsettling way. The next minutes is an insane montage of stereotypical characters doing nutty things on small boats. Rather than try to describe it, I'll just list a few choice quotes I managed to get down: "I'm gonna be a billionaire cowboy!" "Now the fun begins." "Hey ninja ... eat my duck." "Ninjaaaa Magic!" "Weeeee FISH!" That was ... not at all what I was expecting. Also ... Speed Fishing?

0:06 I guess I'll start with Tournament mode. There's a two-player co-op tournament option, which would be nice if I could ever imagine any of my friends wanting to play a speed fishing game.
0:07 My character choices for this morning: Randall the Crocodile-Dundee-alike cowboy, Zogby the token black guy (complete with afro), Ken the Ninja in a suit, Luc the chef and Emily the girl in an old-fashioned orange-and-black dress with wings on her back. I'll ... go with the ninja, I guess. "Behold my Ninja MAGIC!" he says.


***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Muramasa: The Demon Blade

Developer: Vanillaware
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Release Date: Sept. 8, 2009
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Slash-slash-slash-something-about-souls-slash-slash

0:00 I remember hearing a lot about this one at E3, but not so much after it came out. Still, I'm in the mood for some hand-drawn 2-D action today, so let's see if it merits discussion.

0:01 On the preview screen, the logo comes up over a full moon behind black clouds, with a loud gong and the sound of an unsheathing sword. Sleek.

0:02 "Answer the call of the Demon Blade, thirsting to draw and drink blood. Witness the fate of those who've drawn the demon blade." OK then ... I will. The credits start to appear over sweeping harp- and flute-heavy war music. A woman in old-fashioned Japanese garb unsheathes a sword. Two swords sit impaled in the ground in front of a sunset. A hazy forest flies by from a first-person perspective. A lonely warrior with a blue headband stands on a ridge. An old man with a long, white Fu Manchu mustache and beard stares evilly. The sun sets in the distance as the camera refocuses on a bug on a leaf. The full moon flies by a black sky in a diagonal. Leaves fall onto a pool of water, with a carp swimming underneath. And the logo appears again. Color me confused.

0:05 Before moving forward, I have to select my playing style. Muso lets me "cut through enemies easily," and "progress steadily even if you're not skilled at action games." Shura tells me that "to advance, you must evade, defend and use Secret Arts masterfully. Only for the brave." I may regret this, but I decide to be brave and choose Shura.

0:06 Two different stories to choose: The Story of Momohime and The Story of Kisuke. I can't tell any apparent difference from this screen, so I'll go with Momohime, I guess...

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Axel & Pixel

Developer: Silver Wish Games
Publisher: 2K Play
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2009
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: If the guy behind those Monty Python animations made a game...

0:00 In describing this game, Crispy Gamer Managing Editor Elise Vogel said "it looks like they're trying to go for a Braid aesthetic, but I'm not sure about the puzzles." Ambivalent praise at best, but we'll see how it goes...

0:01 A quick logo and I'm treated to an incredibly odd title screen, where a huge tree monster snarls behind a black picture frame that has a swirling vortex. A crudely drawn painter, complete with red beret, is holding on for dear life to avoid being sucked in. Oh, and there's a dog. I press A and the pair is sucked into ... the menu screen. Let's "Play Story."

0:02 Gentle string music over a snowy field with a humble house. A hawk swoops down and picks up a rabbit in its talons. Inside, the painter puts down his paint and sits in a comfy fur-lined shair. His brown dog hops onto his lap. A rat scurries in and cranks a phonograph on the floor, pleasing the artist. A title card reads: "Spring, Chapter 1, a ray of hope." Loving the surreal, paper cut-out animation style.

0:03 Outside now, the snow has started to thaw. Then: chaos. An icicle falls on the dog! A huge bee crashes into another and flies off, startling a red wolf, who throws a rock that drops another huge icicle on the house. A third icicle falls across a gap that I have to cross. The artist makes cute surprised noises as all this happens. I can't process this much surreal imagery so early in the morning!

0:04 A menu box tells me the situation. "Axel & Pixel awake in the dream world. The Evil Rat holds the key back home -- help Axel and Pixel catch him before winter returns and freezes this dream over forever!" Oh, so the red thing isn't a wolf? Hmmm... I wonder which one's Axel and which Pixel.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brutal Legend

Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2009
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: So metal, it's funny.

0:00 I'm a big fan of Jack Black and Tim Schafer, but not a big fan of heavy metal music. Not even in an ironic, detached way. I just really don't like it. Also, I could barely hear the demo I saw with Gus Mastrapa on the crowded E3 show floor this year. So, I really don't know what to expect from this.

0:01 Before the game even starts, I'm treated to this hilarious sequence of Jack Black one-liners on the PS3 preview screen: "Let's mosh it up! Whaddaya say? ... Time for a mosh pit! ... Come on, dude, how come we're not moshing? ... Yep, moshing time! ... If only we had a mosh pit going on ... Yep, a mosh pit would really hit the spot right about now. ... One of these days, I'm gonna try that mosh-pit thing I've been hearing about. ... Pffft, yeah, mosh pits are probably stupid." I'm already laughing and the game hasn't even started!

0:02 "Version 1.01 of the software is already available." And it's ... a 256 MB download?! Say what you will about the PS3, it is predictable. Oh well. The system estimates I'll be seeing you in 13 minutes...

0:16 I love how the counter says "108 seconds" rather than rounding to two minutes. As if that makes the 15-minute wait so far less interminable.

0:18 Download finally done ... another minute to install, and...

0:19 "There is not enough free space on the hard disk. The game was forced to quit. At least 170 MB more free space is needed." Kill me now.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2009
System: PS3
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Ow! I got snow in my festering chest wound. Look out!

0:00 I enjoyed the writing and presentation in the first Uncharted, but stopped when the game started throwing endless streams of ridiculously tough enemies at me. After reading a bunch of reviews that call this sequel the greatest game of its generation, the bar is set mighty high. Will it live up to expectations? We shall see...

0:01 After a good minutes of loading and logos we've reached ... the title screen. Really? That's why you needed all that loading? Anyway, birds fly around amidst golden idols in a sun-lit jungle tomb. Timpani-heavy, John Williams-esque music sets the mood.

0:02 Difficulties are Very Easy, Easy, Normal and Hard. Where's my Very Hard? I DEMAND SYMMETRICAL DIFFICULTIES. Oh, maybe it's locked. Well ... all right, then ... Normal it is.

0:03 There's an option for "Motion Sensor Throw." OFF PLEASE!

0:04 This is the first game I can recall that lets me set the "dynamic range" on the audio. I don't even know what that means, but it can be set to Maximum, Wide, Normal, Narrow or Midnight. That last one sounds cool. Let's go with that.

0:05 Twitter! Yes, the game can update your Twitter account as you play. A few of my Twitter friends had this on, pestering my feed with endless updates on their progress through the chapters. I think I'll pass. I actually like my Twitter friends.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Borderlands

Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2009
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Go shoot this! Go fix that! Go shoot this other thing!

0:00 I remember thinking this looked like a Fallout 3 clone, when I saw an E3 2008 demo. Not that that's a bad thing... but still.

0:01 A broken robot that looks like an orange cone whirs pathetically on a cracked cement road. In the background, windmills. In the foreground, what looks like an emergency roadside phone.

0:02 As I pick up the controller and go to the main menu, the robot gets up and skitters around on it's single wheel. SO CUTE!

0:03 During the loading screen, the game tells me "when your shield is depleted, take cover and it will recharge." Wow ... only three minutes for me to hit a major pet peeve.

0:04 Cut to the inside of a bus with four archetypes standing around and the desert rolling by outside. "Next stop, Firestone Depot," says an unseen bus driver. "Time to gather up your stuff. Who's getting off the bus?" I can choose from Soldier, Hunter, Siren and Berserker. The bus driver says a piece on each of them. To the Siren: "And you, pretty lady? What can you do? Perhaps bake us a delicious cake." I'm amazed the bad-ass-looking Siren doesn't slap him. Anyway, the driver advises us that we can't just kill anything. "Don't be afraid to spend what it takes to get the equipment you need." I'll remember that. Once the driver's spiel is done, the excellent song "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" comes on the in-game radio. NICE!

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Zuma's Revenge

Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: PopCap Games
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2009
Systems: PC (reviewed), Macintosh
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Shoot colored balls at other colored balls.

0:00 I'm a huge fan of Bookworm and Peggle, but I've never actually played the first Zuma. That said, I did play Zuma knockoff Luxor for about five seconds before getting bored, so my hopes for this one are not too high. Then again, it is PopCap...

0:01 Lightning flashes over the PopCap logo, and a sea roils in the background during the initial loading. A frog on a raft with boxer short sails floats by. When the loading is done, the sky clears and an island with huge tiki torches appears in the background.

0:03 "Strange frog, why do you intrude on us?" says a hooded black figure. "This island is no holiday resort! Five fierce chiefs guard our mysteries!" "Ribbit," replies the frog. First up, the "Jungle of Mystery."

0:05 So I control the frog in the center of the screen, rotating him with the mouse. A click makes him spit a colored ball at an advancing line of similar balls spiraling around the center. Match three of the same color and they blow up. Match enough and the "ZUMA!" bar fills up and the line stops getting new balls. The mouse-based controls couldn't be more intuitive, and the interface makes it really easy to aim shots accurately. The graphics and sound effects are the usual infectious PopCap fare ... light and airy. I finish the first level in 38 seconds ... the "Ace Time" is 30. "Who are you, tasty frog?" asks the lion waiting a few levels down.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

Developer: AlphaDream
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Sept. 14, 2009
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Man, Bowser swallowed a lot of save points...

0:00 RPGs with Mario in them are the only ones I tend to like without reservations. The addition of reflex-based action in the battles portions is the key for me. Plus, I'm a sucker for Mario. Duh!

0:01 Peach's Castle appears above a huge reflecting pool. The title pops up in big bubble letters amidst jaunty flute music. I take a quick "Mic Test" and find my voice volume is "ample." Good to know!

0:03 In Toad Town, the Toads meander about randomly. Inside a toadstool-shaped house: "Mom, I'm home!" Mom's at the sink. "Well hi there, sweetie! Home early today, huh?" There's a picture of Princess Peach on the wall. What is this, "1984"? Big Princess is Watching!

0:04 The little Toad snuck out of class early because the teacher was boring. Mom says dinner's almost ready. Wait, dinnertime is during school hours? Man, classes run late these days!

0:05 Young Toad calls for Dad, but "YEEEEEK!" He's turned into a giant, spherical Toad, rolling through walls and such. "THE BLORBS!" says the bottom-screen headline as the top turns to a sepia-toned photograph. "Mushroom Kingdom Marred by Mystery Malady! ... It comes without warning! First, you balloon to blimp size. Then the rolling! You roll away! Oh, the horror of the blorbs!" Horror!

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection

Developer: Farsight Studios
Publisher: Crave Entertainment
Release Date: Sept. 22, 2009
System: Xbox 360 (reviewed), Wii, PS3, PSP
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: The most pinball fun you can have without buying a table.

0:00 After my piece on the Pinball World Championships, I've joined a local league to rekindle my love for the game. A lot of people there have been talking excitedly about this one, so I was happy to get a review copy.

0:01 A cheesy, early-'90s-era 3-D model of a pinball parlor. The camera zooms through the big glass doors and pans languorously around the sparsely attended grounds. Some lovingly detailed close-up shots of the tables are paired with incredibly awful electric-guitar twanging. Hey, there's Dark Knight! I just played Dark Knight 2000 in the league! And there's Pinbot! I had the NES version of that one. Beautiful HD art.

0:02 After the intro movie, we're back to the outside of the parlor, complete with flashing neon sign. Ambient horns from the street fade away as I enter.

0:03 Four of the music tracks in the options menu are set to "off" by default. Kind of odd ... is that music so bad they don't really want it in the game?

0:05 Navigating the arcade with the analog stick. Each time I got to a machine, an overwrought announcer announces the name in a booming voice: "Medieval Madness! Gorgar!" etc. I pass by some faux classic arcade cabinets like "Comet" and "Egg Invader." and fake pinball machines like "Inferno" and "Space Colony" (at least, I think they're fake). For what amounts to a simple menu, there's a lot of attention to detail -- fake wood paneling, purple carpet, a neo restrooms sign ... I'm mildly impressed.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Scribblenauts

Developer: 5th Cell
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2009
System: DS
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A word-nerful puzzle game. Eh? Eh?

0:00 Like every other game journalist in the world, I was turned on to this create-any-noun game by the sleeper E3 demo. I've been waiting for the release day since then. Let's write some words!

0:01 Elegant strings play over the developer and publisher logos, giving way to a plain green field with our rooster-hatted protagonist on it. Tapping around the screen makes him walk around, and a quick upward swipe makes him jump. I could play around creating stuff here, but I'm just gonna jump into the game.

0:03 I choose the Challenge mode and we're off to "University" with a grey-mustached professor. "Welcome to Scribblenauts! Tap this box to continue..." The game teaches me how to move with stylus taps and how to control the camera with the d-pad and/or face buttons. I fall down a shaft and jump up a little raised platform to get to my first Starite. Well, that was easy.

0:05 Level 0-2 has me climbing a ladder and picking up a hammer to break a wooden barrier. Still super-easy, of course. When do I get to create stuff out of whole words?

0:06 Digging through dirt, then identifying a college and a professor using the magnifying glass icon. Get on with it!

0:07 Quote of the moment: "Driving or riding friendly animals works the same as walking." In the real world, I'm pretty sure that's not true.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Beatles: Rock Band

Developer: Harmonix Music Systems
Publisher: MTV Games
Release Date: Sept. 9, 2009
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: There's something in the way it moves me.

0:00 I've played this quite a bit already, with a bunch of random strangers at E3. Shockingly, I found that a game that combined two of my favorite things -- Rock Band and the Beatles -- was lots of fun! Will it be as fun to play alone in my living room for an hour? We'll see.

0:01 As I open the disc case, three pieces of paper fall out: an ad for the digitally remastered Beatles catalog on CD; a note about how to connect the Xbox to the Internet (to buy more songs); and a code for a FREE BEATLES: ROCK BAND AVATAR SHIRT! HELL YES!

0:02 The game disc itself just repeats the cover image of the black-and-white Beatles running away from fans. I'm disappointed at the lack of a large green apple image.

0:03 This minute spent getting my Rock Band instruments out of storage. I wasn't sent a set of the new, Beatles-inspired instruments that come with the Limited Edition, but in my E3 playing they seemed remarkably similar to the regular Rock Band 2 instruments, so I don't feel too bad.

0:07 The past four minutes were spent transfixed watching the excellent animated intro for the game. I've seen it before, but this time it's in wonderfully smooth, big-screen HD rather than jerky, small Internet video on my computer monitor. A much better experience...

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SingStar Vol. 2

Developer: SCE London Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: May 20, 2008
System: PS3
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: I love to sing-ah. About the moon-ah and the June-ah and the spring-ah.

one of those days for me. I doubt it'll be much different than the first PS3 SingStar volume I reviewed, but at least the songs will be fresher.

0:09 These first minutes were spent digging through my closet, looking for my SingStar microphones and EyeToy PS3 camera. I know this isn't the game's fault, but it's true, so I'll include it in the count.

0:10 A 55 MB update to "version 4.10" is available, apparently. The only listed upgrade is "Polish is now a language option," but on the off chance there's something else important, let's download it.

0:15 During the initial loading, the game zooms in on specific buttons on a 3-D model of the controller, describing what each one does in about 50 bazillion languages. Then a Latina and what looks like her grandmother sing along to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now". The sing-along video cuts to young sisters in red polka dots, a blonde girl in pigtails, a teen with her grandfather, and two "rapper" types, all singing along badly but seemingly having a great time. The video eventually goes slow-mo, showing their hair flying everywhere as they gyrate. At the end, the video gets four stars from an unseen rater, and zooms out to reveal a video mosaic making the SingStar logo. Captures the feeling of the game pretty well.

0:19 Scanning the song list. There's a few decent ones, but mostly I'm surprised by the sheer number of songs I don' recognize. I guess I'm getting old ... ooh, "California Dreamin'"! Done!

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Conduit

Developer: High Voltage Software
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: June 23, 2009
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Exploding the conspiracy that says the Wii can't do a good first-person shooter.

0:00 I liked the short hands-off demo I got of this game at GDC, and it's been sitting unopened on my shelf for far too long now. Let's do it to it! To the Condu-it, to be precise. HA!

0:01 The title screen features some generic spy-thriller music and a gentle blue background. Right off, I'm shocked that the screen doesn't fill up my widescreen display. This is the kind of game that could definitely benefit from using the entire display. What's up with that?

0:02 The game uses "Mr.Ford" as my default name, and I stick with it, even though they forgot the space after the period. Yes, I am a punctuation nerd.

0:03 Selectable difficulties are Low, Guarded, Elevated, High and Severe? Is this a game or the Homeland Security Advisory System? I'll play at Elevated, because that's our current terrorism alert level, according to DHS. I'm all about the realism!

0:04 The options menu lets me move around the location of my health, ammo, etc. on the heads-up display. It's a nice touch, but in the end I trust the designers to have them placed correctly...

0:05 The selectable controller layouts are named Ford, Washington, Adams and Jefferson. What is this, "National Treasure"?

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Trials HD

Developer: RedLynx
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: Aug. 12, 2009
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: If real motorcycling is this hard, no wonder there are so many accidents.

0:00 After hearing this one frequently described as the second coming of the NES favorite ExciteBike, I figured $15 wasn't too much to ask.

0:01 "Monday Monday Monday. It's Monday Night Show Tiiiime," says an announcer over the introductory logos. Drum-heavy generic rock over a simple, dirty title screen.

0:02 Controls look simple enough ... gas and break on the shoulder triggers, lean forward and back with the analog stick. Let's go!

0:03 Difficulty choices are Beginner, Easy, Medium, Hard and Extreme. I start with Beginner, even though I assume it will be totally simple and boring. I start the tutorial in the only available bike, a tiny Turtle 80cc. Looks way too small for my large, muscular rider.

0:04 I hold down RT to go full-throttle right out of the gate. There are some small ramps, but it's a relatively flat course. I show off on the last straightaway with some wheelies. After the finish line, my rider crashes into some plywood and big rubber tires. Ouch. Already I'm not a fan of the diagonal camera view, which makes depth perception a bit of a problem.

0:05 The next track is full of distracting explosions to the side of my biker's path. I'm doing fine, until I lean too far forward during a jump and end up riding nearly vertically on my front wheel after the landing. I fall over into the world's gentlest crash. It's almost slow-motion.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Developer: RockSteady Studios
Publisher: Eidos/ Warner Bros. Interactive
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2009
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A rare gaming bright spot for the Dark Knight.

0:00 Despite the absolutely enormous amounts of hype for this one, I've been trying to tamp down my expectations -- it is a superhero game, after all, and they almost invariably suck. I even ignored the demo so I could go into the full game fresh. So ... here we go!

0:01 Right off, I like how the preview screen puts an old-fashioned TV around the tiny video of Batman kicking and punching a bunch of bad guys.

0:02 "There is not enough free space on the hard disk. At least 486 MB more free space is needed." Of course it is...

0:03 So long, NPPL Pro Paintball install data. You will not be missed terribly much.

0:04 "For optimal performance, 2286 more MB of HDD space is needed. You may continue playing, or quit now to free up space." First off, why are you just telling me this now? Second off, hell yeah I want the optimal experience!

0:05 So long, MLB 09: The Show install data. You were incredibly huge and pointless.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Developer: Ubisoft Romania
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: March 6, 2009
Systems: PS3 (reveiwed), Xbox 360, PC
ESRB Rating: T
Offical Web site

In a nutshell: Hey, it takes a long time to install flight-sim action this good!

0:00 I'm not a big fan of Tom Clancy games, almost on general principle. I do like action-packed dogflight games, though, and this one got some good buzz when it came out, so it's definitely worth a try.

0:01 A 41 MB update is available and currently downloading. Only 98 seconds left as I type this ... not too shabby.

0:03 A quick install and we're good to go yet again. Or so I THOUGHT! In reality, I need to free up an additional 2197 MB of install space before we continue. ARGH!

0:04 So long, Linger in Shadows. I promise to re-download you if I want some weird-ass demoscene stuff.


0:06 I barely even recall installing NBA 09: The Inside, but I'll gladly reclaim the 2+ gigs of install space it's taking up.

0:07 "Please wait while Installing Game Data. Do not switch off the system." One, this is very polite of the PS3 to phrase this way. Two, I love how "Install Game Data" is capitalized. Like it's a trademark or something.


***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor

Developer: Tiger Style Games
Publisher: Apple
Release Date: Aug. 10, 2009
System: iPhone/iPod Touch
ESRB Rating: N/A

In a nutshell: The secret is that there are games this good on the iPhone!

0:00 I've lost count of the number of sources I've seen in the past week hailing this one as a groundbreaking, important, essential addition to iPhone gaming, so $3 sounds like a small price to pay to try it out.

0:01 Zoom in on a tiny spider standing in a hand-drawn forest backdrop. The title quickly gives way to the first instruction: "To walk, hold your finger on the screen." Pleasant, upbeat synth music propels me along.

0:02 Spider can stick to walls and even the underside of the forest mushrooms. A quick swipe leads to a quick, extremely satisfying jump across the expanse.

0:03 Tap Spider, then jump to create a thread. Create a polygon between threads to make a web, which can act as a platform for more jumping/web-making.

0:04 "Six months later..." The music is now light electric guitar. "Eat bugs to survive. Eating bugs gives you silk and scores points." OK ... so where are these bugs?

0:06 Oh... I thought those tiny floating green things were leaves, but it turns out they're actually the bugs I'm supposed to be eating. I make a quick triangular web with three jumps, then gobble 'em up nice and easy. I jump in a spiraling purple portal to move on, and the camera zooms out to show the entirety of the porch area I've been jumping around. Seeing it from a wide perspective after spending so much time zoomed-in close on Spider is interesting, to say the least.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Aug. 24, 2009
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Critical thinking is STILL the key to success.

0:00 I loved working through the first Layton game, even though a few of the puzzles were a bit too obtuse. Of course, the grassroots viral promotion for this sequel has only increased my interest.

0:01 A boy and a girl stand with their backs facing each other on a woodcut. The title appears over them with elegant strings and light piano backing. "New Game" is my only option, so ... I choose it!

0:02 After writing in my name, white text appears on a black background with a gentle female narrator: "There are tales of a box that brings death upon any who dare open it. Tell me, do you think those rumors could be true?" An whimsically animated cut scene in a train station, now. "Hey look, there it is," young Luke cries.


0:03 Luke and Layton give over their tickets and walk onto the platform. A woman in a yellow headscarf follows, lowering her sunglasses to see if anyone is watching her. Workers are trying to squeeze a fat lady into a train car. On the train, Layton calls the train "a cruise ship on rails." And away they roll. Layton's voice sounds a bit different than in the last game ... slightly more menacing, slightly less carefree. Is this a new voice actor?

0:04 Luke and Layton chat about the Elysian Box. "All who open it die, eh?" asks Luke. "The answer is out there, Luke ... but we just need to find it." "We will ... I know it," says Luke, cloyingly. "Prologue: The Elysian Box." Can't say the intro has hooked me as of yet.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Hot PXL

Developer: zSlide
Publisher: Atari
Release Date: Oct. 2, 2007
System: PSP
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Yo yo yo what up mah homiez, this be a tight-ass mini-game collection in the HIZZZ-OOOOOOOOUSE! Word.

0:00 I'm an unapologetic fan of WarioWare-style mini-game collections, so this Atari offering of 200 of the things had me intrigued. Not intrigued enough to check it out in the last two years it's been out, but still intrigued enough to put it in my GameFly queue.

0:01 A smiling pixel man in a red shirt and a red-and-yellow ball cap greets me. There's a pyramid of odd pixel people in the background, including one that seems to be a hamburger. Logos erupt in pixilated thunder, then a menu screen shows the guy in the hat with a girl in one corner and a purple monster in another. The Episodes option lets me "Unlock the 10 episodes of PXL lifestyle," whatever that means.

0:02 I choose Normal difficulty in front of a desert that contains an orange sky, a green cactus and a black monster that reminds me of a Troggle. A desert, a cactus and ... a big black thing. Episode 1 is "Underground." A fast-paced video tells me "How to play how Hot PXL!"1. Get what to do. (Via on-screen text.) 2. Find how to do it. Use the analog stick or directional buttons. Press buttons. Or try anything else! (Um, what else is there?) 3. Finally perform! Ready?" I guess so? I don't remember WarioWare needing a video like this.

0:03 Inexplicably, the game leads off with a short video of an old white guy in hip-hop garb coming out of a bunker and blowing dust off a record. Umm...

0:04 The first game just tells me to "Shoot." At first I think the tiny blue box is a target reticle. Nope, it's a ship that shifts left and right. X shoots two shots that take out two black squares up at the top of the screen. A between-game stat box tells me I'm "still on track to perfect." Er, thanks!


***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Space Invaders: Infinity Gene

Developer: Taito
Publisher: Taito
Release Date: July 27, 2009
Systems: iPhone/iPod Touch (reviewed), other mobile phones
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site

In a nutshell: If you showed this to a Space Invaders player 30 years ago, their head would literally explode.
0:00 After hearing our own Ryan Kuo and countless others absolutely GUSH about this for weeks, I finally decided to plunk down the $4.99. I liked Space Invaders Extreme well enough, but I'm wary of how the iPhone's touch controls will work...

0:01 An incredibly old-school black-and-white intro screen shows the points scored for dead enemies. It even has a "Credits: 1" message in the corner." After some loading, I hear waves washing over a bit-tune violin on the options screen. Eerie.

0:02 The available difficulties are Easy and Normal. I'm betting Normal is more like a normal Hard, but I'm feeling gutsy.

0:03 "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change," reads the introductory Darwin quote. "The king of games strikes back!" Eep! Wait, the king? Space Invaders hasn't been king for decades! Anyway, it starts out just like the old-school classic, with a ship that fires automatically and is slid back and forth by my thumb. This quickly transitions to Level 1-1, "Adaptive Radiation," which is much faster-paced and includes some large Invaders that throw off bright white shrapnel and explosions as they're hit. Digging it already...

0:05 When I finish the level, a big "EVOLUTION!" message comes up. I accidentally tap too fast and don't see what new feature I got. Oh well. Level 1-2 is "Genetic Diversity." It includes a few rows of never-ending Invader streams that are hard to shoot through but whose shots are easy enough to dodge. In the end, I find I got a "122 chain," but no "Nagoya Attack," whatever that is.

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

MDK

Developer: Shiny
Publisher: Playmates Interactive
Release Date: May 31, 1997
System: PC (reviewed)
ESRB Rating: T

In a nutshell: OK, I'm only 12 years late to the party. What'd I miss?

0:00 I've wanted to pick this critically acclaimed PC game for years, and the recent nomination for the Crispy Adventurers Club seems like the perfect excuse.

0:01 A pure ebony, muscular body with a pyramidal head runs in from off-screen and leaps on top of the MDK logo, sprawling across the top. Weeeeeeird.

0:02 I perform a "settings test" in the option menu and am amazed to see my computer rendering smooth animated 3-D curves. MY computer! The last time I saw 3-D this smooth on my computer was ... never, actually. I should play late-'90s games more often. Anyhoo, New Game.

0:03 "!!!Newsflash!!! A huge City Minecrawler is headed straight for the coastal town of Laguna Beach, USA." I'd ask what a "City Minecrawler" is, but that'd just be silly.

0:04 The game seems to have crashed when I got an instant message. I don't know whether to blame the game or AOL. Either way, I didn't lose much.

0:05 Back in action. Just like that I'm falling through the air. On-screen instructions say "avoid the radar." I'm guessing that's the green laser thing that's sending the missiles with long yellow tails from the ship below me?


***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Dark Lord

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: July 20, 2009
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Cuteness is not an excuse for starting out slow and boring.

0:00 I tend to like tower defense games, and I've heard a lot of praise for this one, so away we go!

0:01 You hold the Remote horizontally. That surprises me. I figured they'd use the pointer for more accurate placement. The title appears on a starry background with cutesy, standard Square music. Reminds me of the Final Fantasy VII Chocobo Racing music. My options are "New Game" and "Purchase Add-On Content." Er, I'm pretty sure I want the former... On to the Tutorial Stage!

0:02 "In a world free of miasma ... the monsters of the land, finding themselves in a dire state, holed themselves up inside their Darklord's massive Tower. Craydall, the Darklord, was kind and handsome, but then he offered his life to protect the castle from the do-gooders. He's sealed inside a crystal and his daughter Mira was crowned on her 16th birthday.

0:03 Mira is introduced with over-the-top spotlights and drum rolls: "The Messenger from the Inferno! The Great Cursed Sorceress! The Devious Demon of Death. Or perhaps ... The Diabolical Hideous Princess of Doom." Heh. Someone did a good job on the translation.

0:04 Mira wears a hideous half-black, half-pink bustier/dress combo. "Cower in fear, adventurers! From this day forward, I am the new ruler of darkness." Sorry, if you want people to cower, you need a better outfit...

0:05 "Chapter 1: The War Begins." The tower is a small thing with a huge metallic heart atop. "Tonberries! Teach me how to do all this stuff!" says Mira. The little green robed guys rush in to do just that. So CUTE!

***-->CONTINUE READING AT CRISPY GAMER<--***

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