Friday, November 16, 2007

Metapost: Don't worry! I'm still alive

Hello, faithful readers. As you've probably noticed by now, I've been slacking off on my daily playing/posting duties for the better part of a week now. Sorry about that. As a freelancer, I do occasionally have to do work that makes real money, and with the holiday season being so important to the game industry, the paying work has been piling up. To make matters worse, I'm flying to London to be with family for a long Thanksgiving holiday, so updates are likely to lag for a while longer.

Anyway, just know that I'm still here and still committed to the site. Look for updates to start again Monday, Dec. 3. You'll see ... the time will just fly by! You'll barely continue to notice I'm gone!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Super Mario Galaxy

Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Nov. 12, 2007
Systems: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: The reason I play video games.

0:01 As Super Mario Sunshine might say: Mandatory Wii System Update GET!

0:02 Right to the title screen with a trumpet fanfare, flowing into a gentle piano. The title hovers over a starry field. I'm grinning like an idiot already.

0:03 Up to six save files are available. They really do want the whole family to play, eh?

0:04 "Every hundred years, a comet appears above the Mushroom Kingdom." The shooting stars from the comet were taken by the toads to make the great Power Star. The static hand drawn illustrations remind me of Yoshi's Island.

0:05 Princess Peach sends a letter, recalling Super Mario 64. "Dear Mario. I'll be waiting for you at the castle on the night of the Star Festival. There's something I'd like to give you." I bet there's something Mario would like to give the princess too, if you know what I mean!

0:06 Mario runs along the path with arms out like an airplane. What is he, five years old?And we're playing! Star bits are falling from the sky all over the place, and I can pick them up with a point of the remote. I like how some characters talk as you pass... no need to stop and hit A. But others you do have to stop for. Lame.

0:08 Bowser attacks! The bustling castle courtyard comes under fire from airships (straight out of SMB3). Everything is fire and bedlam! Might be kind of scary for the young'ns. Peach looks over the carnage from a safe perch with a big puffy star in her arms.

0:09 Bowser: "Princess Peach. You are formally invited to the creation of my new galaxy." Well since you asked so nicely. The super-zoom shot of Peach's eye is like something out of a Kubrick film.

0:10 One of the tods actually yells "Panix and fear! Panic and fear!" as I pass. I've never actually heard someone say those exact words when experiencing panic and fear before.

0:11 A large UFO hovers above the castle. It uses a laser to cut a circle out of the ground and lifts the entire castle into space. Booming timpani and strings here... very nice.

0:12 Somehow, Peach calls down to Mario despite being in airless space. No matter, though -- A magikoopa comes down and launches Mario out of the stratosphere and even deeper into space.

0:13 The puffy star thing Peach was holding wakes Mario up on a green grassy planet. He turns into a rabbit. "Finally! You're awake! Let's play!" Who can think of playing at a time like this?! The princess is in trouble. Again!

0:14 Gentle lilting piano accompanies a quick guided run around a smallish planet. The controls are just as tight as ever, and camera follows along perfectly. "Let's play hide and seek. If you catch all of us we'll tell you where we are." Or, how about you just tell me now, eh? Why you gotta be like that, star-rabbit-thing?

0:16 Heehee. I fall through a crater straight through the center of the world and come out on the other side of the planet.

0:17 These rabbits are surprisingly hard to catch. You need pinpoint turning ability.

0:18 A Colosseum appears out of nowhere when I catch all three rabbits. "Mama" is at the top. It's Princess Rosalyn. We're in the "gateway to the starry sky." It loses something in translation , I'm sure. I get the ability to do a spin attack with a shake of the remote.

0:20 With a quick spin in a floating hollow star I'm launched to another planet. I like the little tones that play when this happens. and the sound effects from the remote too.

0:22 Jumping on enemies isn't as easy as I'd like. Spinning or hitting them with stars (using the pointer) seems the way to go.

0:24 Oh lord. There's Zelda-style beeping when you get down to one health unit. I HATE that crap.

0:25 Walking sideways on spheres from the camera's perspective takes some getting used to. I find myself tilting my head to try and get better oriented. It actually helps.

0:26 Now I'm on the inside of the hollow planet. I have to hit switches to turn off a machine. Easy stuff so far. The Grand Star I collect is huge. Mario kind of plays with it like a kitten with catnip. Disturbing...

0:27 The star goes into the corona of a fiery ball, which gets bigger and illuminates a new area of this hub world. Turns out it's "The Beacon."

0:29 Blah blah story. The Lumas pass by every hundred blahs, Bowser took their star blahs, now he has the blah to blah the universe.

0:30 Gameplay again, thank the lord. The star bits say things like "This is the observatory" and "We live here with mama." when I pass. Wow... you guys need to get out more and get some more interesting stories. Seriously.

0:33 Only one galaxy available so far, the "Good Egg Galaxy" This also probably loses something in the translation.

0:34 "Welcome to the galaxy!" Star bits appear as I run through the grassy, flowery field. But on the opposite side of the oddly shaped planet, it's like a Halloween ghost house. Interesting.

0:39 I waste all my star bits trying to hit some underground thing that's leaving trails of dust. Turns out I just needed to spin to bring it up. D'oh.

0:41 I'm really loving the music. For this Dino Piranha boss it's a soft remix of the underground theme from the original Super Mario Bros.

0:42 Dino Pirhana goes down with three quick spins into his rocky tail, which stretches and bonks him on the head. It's a bit easy, but then again, this is my third time playing, between past two E3s. Yeah, I know, I'm a jerk.

0:43 I can feed accumulated star bits to the helpful Lumas in the hub world. So far, all this does is make the Lumas thank me. That's nice and all, but...

0:47 Neat. As I'm flying between planets, I can spin to hit other launchers and take a detour. Heehee.

0:49 OMG this little piggy Luma is SOO CUTE! He demands star bits, and lemme tell ya, he gets 'em, puffing up and getting EVEN CUTER as he does. Then he turns into an entire planet. Whoa.

0:51 COOL. I'm running around the outside of a clear capsule-shaped world. with enemies and stuff inside.

0:55 DOUBLE COOL. On the inside of the capsule is a 2D old-school platforming challenge, only the gravity flips at certain points. As a McDonald's ad might say, I'm loving it.

0:56 I have to say, walking around a metal planet shaped like a hollow five-point star is a new experience for. Slingshotting around to get a star hovering in the middle is also new. And also fun.

0:58 I have just enough time to enter the Honeyhive Galaxy, but sadly not enough time to tell you about it, alas. Sorry.. You'll just have to wait. Actually, I'm not sorry because I get to play it more now. Haha!

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? It's somehow instantly familiar and wholly new at the same time. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true!

This review based on a retail copy provided by Nintendo THREE WHOLE DAYS before the official release. I love my job.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol

Developer: Skip Ltd.
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Oct. 2, 2007
Systems: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: The real reason I borrowed Chibi-Robo

0:01 "Touch to start." So I do. I can choose from a bunch of colored flowers to represent my save file. Nice touch.

0:02 "Citrusoft robotics is committed to making a difference in people's lives." Thus, the new version of Chibi-Robo is "Blooming Chibi-Robo." He's four inches tall and shaped like... er... what's this game rated again?

0:03 Some disturbing scenes here of a Chibi-prototype being tortured with a soldering iron. "Pollution is a major problem worldwide." Great, here comes the enviro-lecturing...

0:04 I get a boom box, which makes plants sprout buds, and a water squirter, which makes buds grow. Simple enough, although I doubt that boom box thing would work in real life.

0:05 I'm in control. The d-pad moves, while the touch screen has a variety of fancy buttons for things like moving the camera, picking stuff up, etc.

0:06 This boom box works like no other boom box I know of. You have to spin the tape spool with good timing to get it to play music -- too fast or slow and it sounds wrong. Cute enough mini-game, but don't most boom boxes handle the tap speed automatically? This isn't a hand-crank phonograph, is it? Whatever, it's a good excuse to see Chibi dance. Heehee

0:08 Using the squirter to grow flowers gets me Happy points. Oh how happy they make me.

0:09 "Chibi-Robo's gardening ability is a green answer to pollution." Really? Flowers? I've heard a lot of debate over hybrid vehicles and ethanol and such, but nothing much about flowers as a solution to our world's warming woes.

0:10 They're giving Chibi-Robo's to parks for free. Because they're just that nice. "Citrusoft. We're ripe with innovation." Heh.

0:12 The "park" I've been dropped at is a vast dusty field with like three flowers. Wow. Sad.

0:13 Hmm... this time around my happy points are turned into life-giving watts. I guess that makes sense, as there aren't any outlets in an outdoor park, but the risk of falling dead and gone out in the field is a bit terrifying.

0:14 Chet, my round robotic helper, says this park used to be covered with flowers on "every square inch." But the picture I'm shown of that verdant park seems to have... not many flowers. More than it does now, but still, rather empty.

0:19 So I go make a few more flowers using the dance/squirt method, then come in to charge. Then I do it again. And again. Compared to the first game, the world seems a little sterile and empty. There's just not much to do yet.

0:20 "It's up to you to make the park explode with flowers." OK, fine, but is that all I have to do?

0:22 Whoops. Too much dancing means I'm out of batteries before I can recharge. This loses me some happy points. Sigh.

0:26 I'm up to 19 flowers planted now. So far I'm pretty upset with how repetitive and empty this game has been. There's none of the human warmth or wacky verve that infused the first game's first hour. It's just endless fields of brown and endless toil over the flowers. Bleh.

0:30 Day one is over. A cut scene features a black-spandex clad man (whose face we never see) laughing ruefully at the flowers that have sprung up. He thinks my house is a pile of "sweet sweet life-choking garbage." Was this guy rejected from the Captain Planet villain casting call or something?

0:32 So the Chibi-gear section now has a 150-watt battery, meaning I won't have to recharge as often. But I'll still have to do this soul-crushingly repetitive gardening routine over and over, righjt? Um.. yay?

0:33 Groan, I don't even have enough watts for the battery. Oh game. Why do you taunt me so.

0:39 Some nice synth-guitar music fills the air now that I've reached a certain threshold of flowers. It makes the soul-crushing repetition a little less soul-crushing, I'll give it that.

0:42 Now I can buy clippers to clip the flowers and take them to the flower shop. This will gain me happy points, but it seems to go against the entire message of the game (i.e. that flowers are good against pollution and therefore should not be PLUCKED FROM THE GROUND TO DIE). Oh well, at least it's something else to do.

0:44 I go about systemically destroying my work of the last half hour. The peppy guitar music goes away as I pick out too many flowers. Way to encourage me, game.

0:46 Oh dear lord. I just played a street crossing mini-game, that consisted of (1) waiting for the signal to turn green and (2) crossing the street. Frogger it ain't.

0:48 The flower shop owner tells me his tale of woe. "All over the world, flowers are disappearing at an alarming rate." Yeah, it's tough all over, pal. It's odd that I never see his face. In fact, I haven't seen a single human face since the first cut scene ended. Weird.

0:50 Holy crap. Giving away 11 flowers got me 340 happy points. For context, I has been getting like two or three points a piece for planting them. Screw gardening for gardening's sake -- cold hard commerce is where it's AT!

0:51 I recklessly recross the street without waiting for the green signal. I seem to make it OK...

0:53 I convert my massive happy points into enough watts to power a small city... or a small robot for days on end. Being a greedy capitalist has its perks. Too bad I have nothing to spend these watts on.

0:56 A hint of things to come... Chet tells me that once I get the tiller cartridge, I can turn sand into soil to plant more flowers. Hooray! The promise of more menial labor!

1:01 I get a big flowery "Congratulations!" message. Er, for what. Did I reach some flower milestone or something? Who knows? The only real difference I notice is a butterfly hanging around. Whoo.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.
Why? What can I say, I just don't have that green thumb.

This review based on a retail copy provided by Nintendo.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Developer: Skip Ltd.
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: June 23, 2005
Systems: GameCube
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Cute Robot just didn't sound as cute.

0:01 Happy calliope style music loops over a sterile title screen with water droplets making circles in the background. Suddenly a silver, screw-shaped robot with legs and arms runs by holding his plug/tail. A hoverbot behind him showers him with confetti. The robot picks up the used confetti poppers and deposits them inside his head like a trash can. Cute stuff.

0:02 A family is gathered in a living room around birthday cake. The daughter is wearing a frog hat/mask for some reason. She has a stupid grin plastered on her face like she's developmentally disabled. Graphics remind me of a late N64 game... minimalist and unpolished. Jenny's mom gives her a pink hat, but Jenny doesn't like it. "Jenny, you're eight now. You can't run around in a frog costume all day. You need a real hat!" "Ribbit ribbit" Jenny replies, adroitly.

0:03 Tao, the freaky-looking dog, also has a present... a bone wrapped in a bow. "How did you wrap it?" It's a fair question, but Tao doesn't answer.

0:04 Dad thinks Jenny will love his gift. Mom is incredulous. Mom thinks he got it for himself, and that they can't afford it. "Get ready Chibi-Robo, it's almost show time" says the hover-bot from inside the box. "Get ready to ROOOOOBBOOOOO," Dad says excitedly.

0:05 The robot hops out of his box to a techno beat and a light show. "Yaaay! Chibi-Robo!" "We're here to make you happy," says hoverbot, whose name is Telly. What a concept. A game that tries to make you happy.

0:06 Telly is worried because they came to the party empty-handed. Ironic, since they are, in fact, the gift. He spies a flower and decides that should be their gift. Now I'm in control. I climb up on some plates and the vase in super-cute fashion. Everything seems so big from this low angle

0:07 I love the peppy, Charlie Brown-style piano music in the background.

0:08 "HOT! Diggity! Dog! That's Awesome!" dad says as Chibi-Robo puts a rose that's three times his size inside his body. Even mom is impressed.

0:09 The Chibi-copter lets me hover in a super-cute fashion. When I hover over to the cake, Telly tells me I can't eat it. "Sorry...I didn't mean to hurt your feelings." Robots have feelings now?

0:10 The word "chicken" brings back some really bad memories for Telly, apparently. "But maybe now isn't the time to talk about that." Come on, please? The one thing this game needs right now is a tale of chicken-induced trauma perpetrated on a floating television set.

0:11 I got 20 "happy points" for giving Jenny the rose. Happy points! This is threatening for cutest game EVAR!

0:13 Now it's night time and I'm back in my box/mini-house, charging. With the 20 happy points, my imaginary worldwide ranking is up to 784,309 from an initial 1,000,000. So there are 215,691 robots with less than 20 points. What are they doing, sitting in the box? If I reach number one I'm upgraded to Super Chibi-Robo!! Boss!

0:14 Telly's full name is Telly Vision. AND HE'S A FLOATING TELEVISION! I GET IT!

0:16 Every step I take makes a musical note, like in a Looney Tunes cartoon. I love it.

0:17 Off into the living room. Mr. Sanderson is sleeping on the couch. Telly thinks he "passed out from the excitement." I think he and Mrs. Sanderson are having a little argument over his extravagant spending on unnecessary robots.

0:19 I come across a... well... I have no idea what this thing is. It looks like a duck with antennae and a pencil. "Dear diary... Tonight I'm in my usual spot. Head in the living room, body in the kitchen." Tao dropped her here, apparently.

0:20 Apparently it's a squeeze toy that's stuck in the door between the rooms. The toys come to life at night, in a totally original conceit! Her name is Sophie.

0:21 I love how everyone talks in a kind of pidgin, Simlish-style language, but I wish the text translation/captioning would scroll a bit faster.

0:22 "Girls and their diaries. This could be a while." Oh Telly. You chauvinist pig, you.

0:23 So every step I take lowers my battery... rather quickly too. I only have 800 or so steps before I need a charge. Luckily there are wall outlets all over the place.

0:24 I climb a stray power cord to get on top of a table. I find a record player that I can't seem to do much with and some cookie crumbs. Is this game just about cleaning up trash?

0:27 There's a toothbrush by Mr. Sanderson's hand. I take it because I want to clean up stains around the house. They should have called this game Chibi-Maid. Seriously.

0:28 I get six happy points for cleaning a stain. I like the happy guitar ditty that plays as I do this. The audio design is really top-notch.

0:29 Already I've had to charge three times. Each time takes a few minutes. It's a bit annoying.

0:30 Through some conveniently placed books, I climb to a chair and open a box that just happens to have happy points in it. Why do the Stephenson's have this box. Shouldn't these points be strictly controlled by the FDA.

0:31 Some beeping sound presages the end of the night. We return to the Chibi-House to check in my happy points. I'm up to rank 653,376 already. I rule! Once I reach number one "The girl-bots won't be able to leave you alone." Good to know!

0:34 Daytime now. Jenny is coloring a picture of some frogs. She takes me in her hand and with a menacing look, gives me 13 happiness points. Not sure why... I didn't really do anything.

0:38 My day so far: Picking up trash and cleaning up paw prints. It shouldn't be so much fun, but it is. I blame the chipper music and sound effects. They're infectious!

0:39 Mr. Stephenson admits to the marital strife I'm causing, but tells me not to worry about it. How can I not worry about it. I'M TEARING THIS FAMILY APART!

0:40 Climbing up some cabinets, I find a small door that's openable by plugging and twisting. Inside is a creepy silver universe of eyes and "Moolah" the in-game currency. Freak E.

0:41 I can't hold any more bits of paper. Does this mean I can stop cleaning? I'M FREE! FREE!

0:42 Mr. Sanderson seems content waving an action figure in the air over and over repetitively. Mr. Sanderson is easily amused.

0:43 So far there's been lots of moolah to wander around and collect, but not many different tasks to collect happiness points. Some more structure, please.

0:47 My rank is up to 415,243. And I ain't even hardly done nothing.

0:50 Night time. Dad's sleeping on the couch again. He drops a book from his lap. It's the manual... for me. That's a bit unsettling, somehow.

0:51 Telly apparently has some extra happiness points provided by Mrs. Sanderson. He gives some to me as a "cleaning bonus." YOU'VE BEEN HOLDING OUT ON ME TELLY!

0:52 Reading the manual gets me happy points. READING. THE. MANUAL. More games should have such encouragement.

0:56 "Forget the other rooms for now. Let's check out this room." You make a compelling case, Telly. Wait, no you don't.

0:59 I wish I knew what to do with all this detritus I've been picking up. I also wish I knew how I can improbably fit it all inside my tiny body.

1:00 The TV that mysteriously turned on and plays an ad for an action figure... that is standing atop the TV as well. "People say evil. People say justice. But what is JUSTICE. And what is EVIL? Am I just a fool? A blind fool? NO! I fight on the side of JUSTICE!" Buzz Lightyear much? Seriously, the creators watched too much Toy Story. His name is Drake Redcrest.

1:01 "Space Hunter Code Part One: Greet everyone by yelling!" "As your friend it is my duty to tell you that it appears your life needs more justice." I love the writing here. He gives me a Drake Redcrest suit. SO CUTE!

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? It's so endearingly cute and wacky, even if the "game" part hasn't really been too interesting yet.

This review based on a retail copy borrowed from a friend.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Darkness

Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: June 25, 2007
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: The opposite of The Lightness.

0:01 The intro. movie is a series of quick jump cuts. Guys on cross. A skinned bull. An angel on a cross. A soldier shooting a helpless prisoner. "Past. Present. Future" "I think I'm in hell." "This is the heart of the Darkness" "Mutilate."Destroy." "Avenge." "Watch the skies." "Come, embrace the Darkness." It's supposed to be creepy, but it comes off as Goth campy.

"I remember the night of my 21st birthday. That was the first time I died.." Intriguing.

0:03 Someone wakes me up. I'm in the back of a convertible. The mobsters in front are weaving through traffic and cursing up a storm. I'm with them, and it's my birthday, apparently. We don't have the money that the boss wants, and they're worried he's not gonna be happy. The writing is very natural, although peppered with too many curse words for my taste. I'm not a prude, but when every other word is "fuck" it gets on my nerves.

0:05 We're being chased. He tries to shake 'em. This guy is driving like a maniac. "Tell 'em they'll never take us alive. They hate that." Heh.

0:06 So I'm given a gun and have to help "shake these pigs." but I can't shoot it. I'm just holding it in my hands. Nino, the passenger in front, goes down with a giant "fuck meeeeeee." And I take his place, kicking him to the asphalt in the process.

0:07 So Now I can fire but I can't turn around all the way to fire at the cops tailing us. This is getting annoying. I can take out a guy crawling on our windshield like a sitting duck, though.

0:08 I take out a few more guys standing in our path, but it doesn't seem to matter much ... they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. It's ok, though, we reach a dead end and flip over. I guess this was the first time I dead.

0:10 The demo jumps to chapter 3, "The Graveyard." "Me and Paulie never did agree about the way things was bein' done," my character says in his best Brooklyn Italian accent. Apparently Paulie, the driver from before, betrayed me, tried to kill me, and now his men are after me. At the cut scene ends I've got two guns in my hands and guys firing at me from above. "Darkness will fall." says a creepy-ass voice after I dispatch the gunmen

0:11 The shootout in the cemetery begins. I like the animation on the enemies when they fall. Looks like their actually being hit by a hail of gunfire. Reminiscent of Goldeneye

0:12 Ouch. When I get close to a guy I raise my gun and shoot straight down into his head. What a way to go.

0:13 The screen goes red at the edges when I'm low on health and I go down. "Your life is mine" says the creepy ass voice. Or is it... I'm back at the entrance to the graveyard again.

0:15 Another super-gruesome kill ... this time I stick the gun barrel down an enemy's mouth. Ew.

0:16 "I am the master of death." Well then you're the master of me because I keep dying. I just noticed the graffiti on the hallway wall. "I'm the fucked one. They fucked me. I FUCKING graduated from high school." Way to use those vocabulary lessons.

0:17 I kick a guy in the balls from behind then take him out with a gunshot. That first part seems gratuitous.

0:18 The strategy so far seems to be knocking guys down with bullets, running up to them as they hobble up, then doing a close-up gruesome kill.

0:19 I made it through the graveyard and into a far hallway. Homeless Frank Rottenberg lives at the end, in the bathroom. "Smells like Satan's bunghole, but it beats freezing to death. "Ain't it the truth.

0:20 I take out Rottenberg after he gives me next to no information. Nice that the NPCs react realistically to a bullet in the head.

0:21 "Through you I will display my power. Through you I am born." Holy crap. I've grown tentacles with gnashing teeth and I'm automatically taking out everyone. Looks like fun... too bad I can't control it. "You are nothing but my puppet." Yeah, that's what I'm complaining about.

0:23 Oh, OK, now I can summon the tentacle powers at will with the R1 button. I still have my guns out even though these tentacles look like they can handle anything that comes my way. The "devour heart" option appears over my fallen foes. I can spawn a berserker, a devil-dog thing with a flannel shirt.

0:26 My berserker companion opens the graveyard gate and I'm on the street again. The little guy also helps me take out the shooters that are standing there for some reason.

0:30 The first "puzzle." I have to turn into a slithering snake and get through and air duct to take a key from a taunting guard. The puzzle is easy to figure out, but the awkward slithering controls make it unnecessarily frustrating.

0:31 Chapter 3 done, we warp to Chapter 7. I've gone to mess up Paulie's operation on Grinder's Lane. "The place always makes me want to kick a fucking dog - or something." And this is the guy you're supposed to empathize with - or something.

0:34 Some guys talking about how I escaped from the cemetery. They can't figure out who was helping me take out all those guys. They can't fathom it was me and my demon powers. Nice touch.

0:36 Did I mention that every other fucking word in this fucking game is a fucking curse word?

0:39 I sneak in as a slithering thing and kill the two chatting mobsters. Then I destroy a generator. Now what? I'm looking for switch to open the gate, but it's so dark it's impossible to find anything.

0:41 Oh my god. I can open the gate just by pushing on it. I could have sworn I tried that already. Obviously wasn't trying hard enough.

0:44 I go into an abandoned workshop, pick up some gasoline, and operate some band saws sitting around. Now what?

0:45 Apparently I'm supposed to wander into this meat freezer, which just happens to have a bunch of enemy mobsters waiting for me. Because why wouldn't mobsters hang out in a freezer? I die quickly in the ensuing shootout "We do not die." creepy ass voice tells me. Whoopee.

0:46 I've died five times now in the same shootout. Creepy-ass voice is having a field day: "Our blood flows in you." "You can not live." "Your life is mine."

0:48 Up to seven deaths now.

0:52 I'm beginning to make some headway. The key seems to be taking out a few guys quickly, then devouring their hearts to get the tentacles out. They act as a shield to help take out the other guys. A nice family-friendly game

0:53 I stumble across a TV that's randomly playing a real video of Flash Gordon. I change the channel and a Popeye cartoon come on. Heh. I shoot out the lights so I can see the screen better.

0:59 OK, I've been wandering around the hallways trying to find what to do next for the past five minutes. Time to call it quits.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Despite some pacing and control problems, it's got some decent shooting, snappy writing, and is full of atmosphere. Definitely worth some more time.

This review based on a demo downloaded from the PlayStation Network.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Developer: Nihilistic Software
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: Oct. 23, 2007
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: God of War plus ... actually, God of War minus the interesting bits.

0:01 A booming war beat strums across a screen that simply says "Start Demo." So I do.

0:02 Intro. cut scene. Conan takes out a random guy and meets a warrior queen with an arrow trained on him. "I am Conan, I serve no man." "Perhaps you would suffer a woman, then." "Service her, aye, and gladly." She doesn't kill him despite this well-written affront because she admires his bravery. The black death has killed most of the men on her ship. "Do not mistake me for one of your helpless maidens barbarian." Very nice facial animation and voice acting. Decent writing too. Good start

0:03 The warrior princess disappears as soon as the cut scene ends. Like, evaporates into the ether. I can hear her screaming commands at me, but unless she's secretly The Flash, I don't know how she got away so quickly.

Looking at the controls, I see the O button does a "Camel punch." Isn't that a dirty sex act? This I gotta see. Aww... it's just a big punch.

0:05 Now I've got two swords. That's so much more awesome than one sword. Like two times as awesome.

0:06 So my sword went through the ropes of the recent suspension bridge without causing so much as a scratch, but these steel chains with a distinctive glint to them are easily destroyed with one slash. Go fig.

0:07 I rescue a shipmate from a cage. He looks a LOT like a scrawnier Kratos from God of War. Right down to the face paint. Question: Why does the game feel the need to make me hit O over and over to open this cage. Is this supposed to make me feel more engaged?

0:08 Awesome. I just picked up a guy by the legs and swung him into the ground. Oddly enough, his body went straight through a bunch of other enemies without knocking them down. Go fig.

0:09 There's an absolutely stunning, raging waterfall flowing in the background. Everything looks extremely polished. Often literally... there a nice shiny sheen to the whole proceedings. Like vaseline on the lens.

0:10 I just completed a 44 hit combo, mainly by hitting X over and over and pointing myself at the enemies. Watching Conan tear through enemies is nice to watch but not very interesting to DO. One nice touch: For the most part, the enemies attack in groups instead of waiting patiently to get their swords in.

0:11 I didn't know they had level activated elevators in... whenever this game is set.

0:17 Finally, after tearing down more cannon fodder enemies rather mindlessly, I come to a somewhat interesting fight with three burlier, more heavily armed guys. Well, I fight two of them at least... one mainly watches until I finish with the first two. They're better at blocking and dodging, which means I have to be too. Using the barrels scattered about to hit them is kind of fun.

0:19 "There's your ship, let's get off this accursed island." Wait, some of her men are still trapped. We'll need a full crew. I go off to get them because she would "die in an instant." Hey,. Conan, haven't you heard of women's lib. Er, I guess you haven't.

0:20 I got a score of 6115 for my mission, whatever that means. Why is this the first I'm seeing of this score? What goes into it? I also scored "27 limbs removed." That's an accomplishment I'll be sharing with the grandkids someday.

0:21 And the demo is over already. A video asks me to "embark on an epic journey..." "devastate enemies..." and "experience the strength, savagery and brutality of the ultimate Warrior: Conan!" The video boasts 100 unique moves and magic spells as well. Why didn't I see any of that in the demo?

0:22 Time for my patented light attack test, i.e., how far can I get in the game using only light attacks in combat, without stopping to dodge or block?

0:25 Not very far apparently. The first enemy that can block does me in. A decent showing.

0:26 I fare better with heavy attacks... I'm past the blocker already.

0:28 A quick sampling of the "witty" catch phrases I've heard Conan repeat over and over and OVER: "Begone you spawn of hell." "That should end your miserable life." "Die scoundrels." "I'll chop you into pieces." "Die you cur." Did the developers really think these would add to my immersion?

0:29 The non-stop-heavy-attack combat strategy is working wonders. I take some damage, sure, but the plentiful health bonuses take care of that.

0:31 Forgot to mention this the first time through... at this point in the demo the warrior princess tells you to "head to the ship" and you're treated to a pointless cut scene featuring an enemy warrior slowly ascending a wooden elevator and making the most ridiculous thrusting motion with his sword for no apparent reason. It's all so slow and laughable and incredibly useless.

0:33 The heavy attack strategy finally fails on the bosses. Nice to know that roughly 1/5th of the demo is potentially interesting.

0:35 One of the bosses throws a bomb that actually blows up another of the bosses. I end up getting life out of the deal. Tasty.

0:37 Boss battle finished again. It's more engaging than the rest of the game, I'll give it that, but repetitive dodging, waiting for the attack animation to finish, and striking gets old fast.I score 5855 this time... no idea why I did worse in the score department. Maybe it's because I destroyed fewer objects?

0:38 Seems a little pointless to go through the same demo for a third time, so I'll leave it at that. Even if there were more content, I doubt it would play very differently...

Would I play this game for more than an hour?
Why? A painfully beautiful game with depressingly little to offer in terms of gameplay.

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

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dewy's Adventure

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Sept. 18, 2007
Systems: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Super Monkey Ball + Loco Roco

0:01 A breathy hum in a bleak, hazy, hand-drawn world with a large dead tree. A little boy with a stick in hand. "Why does mom always have to bug me about studying." This is kind of unsettling, somehow. There's a girl sitting by the tree, reading. She likes his song. She likes the tree, he doesn't because it's all dried out and dead. "Well it looks like a strong and beautiful tree to me," she says. People used to hold festivals here, supposedly. She starts reading to him from the book about "an enchanted land, like your world, but it really exists." It's full of "crystal waters and green forests." Suddenly, the title screen, with Katamari-style graphics and a cooing Dewy. OK!

0:04 I start the story mode and... more story. The "eau" lived in the land, and the tree of seven colors gave life to all living things. But black water started raining from the sky. Is this gonna be an environmental parable? Ugh.

0:05 The tree gave birth to Dewy to defend the land from Don Hedron, the evil guy sending the black water. Don Hedron? Really? That's the best bad guy name they could think of? He sounds like the kid who beat me up in elementary school.

0:06 So Dewy won, but then Don Hedron (still an awful name) came back. The tree called back the "living drop of enchanted water once more." More cute, hand-drawn art style here.

0:07 And we're playing. Hold the remote like an NES controller, and tilt to move the world and Dewy by proxy.

0:08 Some mushroom-capped guys are very happy to see Dewy. They basically repeat the story I just heard. The game doesn't tell me, but I figure out the 2 button does a nice, floaty jump.

0:10 Up and down shakes create a gust of wind. It moves pinwheels. Cute!

0:11 Dewy kind of splats when he lands from up high. ALSO CUTE!

0:12 I accidentally jump off the edge of the world. Dewy gives a plaintive cry all the way down. Awwww...

0:13 I got some camera film. I can use it to take pictures from the pause menu. The game is cute, but I don't really see why I'd want to do this.

0:14 Being water, Dewy can switch forms. A tap of down goes to ice with a spinning attack. Up goes to mist, which can attack with lightning. Mist dewy is somewhat limited by not being able to move. And by somewhat, I mean totally.

0:15 I hit a switch to make a balloon thing inflate bigger and then go in and shake the remote to shoot Dewy to the next island. This game is triiiiipy.

0:16 The controls are a little touchy so far. Water Dewy stops kind of abruptly when he changes direction. Ice dewy has a much more satisfying momentum to him. I do like the super-floaty jump though.

0:19 Stage one clear. All the mushroom guys I collected fall onto the screen. I get a B for my time and number collected.

0:20 There is product placement on the tips screen in between levels. I can't believe it -- the enemies are being turned into Aquapod water, with a small copyright notice: "(c) Nestle Waters North America." I think I'm going to be sick.

0:23 Wheee! This invincibility soap bubble is tons of fun. Like bowling for bad guys here. I got a health shard for some reason. No idea what it does. I'm serious, I assume health, but my health looks the same.

0:25 I'm finding bunches of secret areas without really trying. Nice that there's extra stuff for those who aren't satisfied just going through the straight-as-an-arrow levels.

0:27 I think I've figured out the main problem with these controls. It near impossible to get Dewy to stop. The controller doesn't auto center, so you have to hold the remote very still and level if you want no movement. Very annoying.

0:30 I know it's still early, but this game seems more targeted towards the kiddy set. I'm just sliding around and collecting things on an extremely linear path. It reminds me a lot of Loco Roco, this is kind of relaxing, but kind of dull too.

0:34 Sigh. I'm finally fighting a semi-interesting group of enemies, but I keep falling down to a lower level and having to climb back. NOT FUN. The controls definitely get in the way.

0:40 There's a group of caged mushroom heads that's just out of reach. I have to bounce on a trampoline plant multiple times to get up to them. The controls make this nearly impossible... I keep drifting. This might be my bad, but it seems like a major failing of the whole concept.

0:42 Boss time. A big green blobby thing with a golden head. He does a jumping attack that sends out a big shock wave. I like the character design a lot. The world design, too... very bright and fanciful.

0:45 The boss actually kills me. This is shocking for two reasons... 1) something in this game was actually threatening and 2) I have to restart the level. Unlike falling off the sides, this sends me all the way back. Who knew?

0:46 Oh crap, I have to collect all these freaking mushroom heads again. Good gravy, this is getting monotonous.

0:50 A quick test confirms that the little enemies can also kill you if you absolutely let them. They also send you back to the beginning of the level. Nuts to this.

Would I play this game for more than an hour 50 minutes? No.
Why? Cute concept, but the controls are just a bit too spotty and the play a bit too basic and repetitive. A good one for the kiddies, p'rhaps.

This review based on a retail copy rented from GameFly.