Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV

Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: April 29, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: See Liberty City again... for the first time!

0:00 Believe it or not, I have never owned a Grand Theft Auto game. I rented 2 and 3 and dipped my toes in the water, but this will be my first time genuinely attempting to play through one. Wish me luck.

0:01 After the obligatory logos come a series of stylish drawings of crowbars opening crates, a girl licking a lollipop seductively, some guys playing dominos, and a hooker seducing a John. The pics come right from the game box, it seems. "Starting a new game..." a small message in the corner of a black screen tells me.

0:02 A dominatrix is beating someone (the boat captain?) in a small, spare room. Nice that we get the sex stuff going early! Outside two guys are getting ready to disembark a tramp steamer to Liberty City. "You ever been?" asks one. "No," says the other. "Crazy place, Niko," says the one who isn't Niko. "Like they say, it is the land of opportunity." Niko talks up his cousin and the promise of women, cars, parties, etc.

0:03 Cut to a shot of a guy mixing a diamond into his soup, for some reason. Niko continues talking about the regrets of his past. "We all do dumb things. That's what makes us human," says his companion. That's pretty deep for a game that just showed someone getting beaten by a girl in leather and spikes.

0:04 People getting off the boat are greeted by loved ones, but Niko is left alone for a few moments, until his cousin comes by in a beat-up junker. "Welcome to America! What a night last night. Two women! The land of opportunity. I've made it!" The cousin is very drunk and just as loud. Some nearby construction workers tell him off. "Let's go to the mansion, huh?" Niko says excitedly. "Yes, the mansion! Maybe you should drive," the cousin suggests wisely.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Developer: Idol Minds
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: Nov. 29, 2007
System: PS3 (PSN download)
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Personal slingshot simulator.

0:00 I've been excited about this game since I saw the bone-crunching demo at the last E3. Haven't had a chance to sit down with it until now, though.

0:08 These first eight minutes were spent downloading and installing a "Version 1.5 update" for the game. This is becoming a bad trend.

0:09 Some generic metal riffs play over a title screen that looks like it was drawn on lined notebook paper. "P-A-I-N. PAIN!" the background singers chant. It feels like my emo high school days all over again.

0:10 The single-player mode is locked? Really? I guess I have to go through the "crash course" first. I probably would anyway, but still, I don't like being forced.

0:11 "Welcome to a Crash Course on Pain." Is that a threat? Basic controls: Aim with the analog stick, fire yourself with the X button, and try to cause pain and destruction. Simple enough.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, April 25, 2008

Giants: Citizen Kabuto

Developer: Digital Mayhem
Publisher: Interplay
Release Date: Dec. 21, 2001
Systems: PS2 (reviewed), Windows, Mac
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A spider-infested day at the beach.

0:00 I picked up a cheap, used copy of this game years ago after vaguely remembering it was pretty well-received, then I never even touched it. No time like the present to try it out, eh?

0:01 An alien with a beer stein is relaxing on a wooden recliner. He's crushed by a giant, roaring green alien. Then the title comes in. Uh... Word.

0:03 A spaceship flies over an ocean to an island chain. Soaring music. "Closer, okay?" says one Master Chief-looking space-guy "Right, see you around, Baz," says another. There's a miscommunication and one of the guys gets locked outside the ship's hatch without a jetpack. He falls onto the island with a cry of "YOU VICIOUS BASTARD!" Still, he plants a British flag on the soil while "Hail, Britannia" plays. A bird picks up the flag and flies off. I have no idea what's going on, but the voice acting is so emotive, I don't care.

0:04 My mission: "Find the helpless little SMARTIE BOY. Hurry! He's in danger! Go! Shoo!" I've never had a game tell me to "shoo!" before.

0:05 Already I'm controlling things. Gotta love a game that doesn't belabor the story. There are some nice majestic views of the ocean, but the ground itself is blocky and pixelated. I'll admit it: I've been spoiled by the graphics on the new generation of machines.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time

Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: April 20, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: The Pokémon go Rogue-like.

0:00 My only experience with the Pokémon series has playing Pokémon Emerald for a review many moons ago. Oh, and Pokémon Snap. That game was great. And watching the cartoon with my sister. And seeing a lot of Pokémon in the Super Smash Bros. games. Y'know what? I have had a surprising amount of exposure to Pokémon!

0:01 Nintendo sent me both versions of the PMD: Explorers games. I choose Explorers of Time over Explorers of Darkness because time is objectively better than darkness. Unless you're emo.

0:02 Pikachu and some other Pokémon walk down a tunnel. They find a big chest. "The discovery of a lifetime. The start of a new adventure. Welcome to a grand tale. A tale that spans time... and darkness. It's the dawn of epic exploration." The "epic dawn"? Really? I'm pretty sure plenty of other games beat you to it.

0:03 "Welcome! This is the portal that leads to the world inhabited only by Pokémon." That should be easy for an eight-year-old to relate to.

0:04 The game tells me to be truthful in answering questions like: "You abruptly notice you're alone at a restaurant. What do you do?" and "You discover a secret passage in the basement. What do you do?" Do these things actually happen? Are they common? I'm like a presidential candidate: I refuse to address hypothetical questions.

0:05 I end up just picking the funniest responses to the questions, including: "I unleash my cookie fury!" "Not a problem! Chow Time!" and "Woo hoo! Water Fight!"

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds

Developer: Clap Hanz
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: March 18, 2008
System: PS3
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Super Cute Happy Golf Fun Time

0:00 I've never played this popular series, but I have put a lot of time into Mario Golf, which I hear is similar . If they're at all alike, I should have no trouble liking this.

0:01 This minute spent watching a mandatory install screen crawl from 0 to 7 percent.

0:02 16 percent.

0:03 26 percent. Y'know, why don't I just meet back up with you when it's done.

0:12 12 long minutes of Web surfing and waiting and we're installed. I can't say this is an inspiring start.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Need for Speed: ProStreet

EA Black Box
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Nov. 14, 2007
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PS2, Wii, PSP, DS, PC
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Make some extremely generic racing nooooooooise!

0:00 I've never actually played one of these games, despite a general love for driving games. I guess I've never felt the need for speed.

0:01 I'm not including the four hours required to download a 772 MB update, but I will dock the game one minute so I can write about it! So there!

0:02 The game begins with a disclaimer urging people to take "racing off the streets." Someone's got a nervous legal department.

0:03 A beat-up looking sports car sits at a starting line. Two cars take off and pop wheelies simultaneously. Power slides, dust clouds, overpasses, shipping yards, bust-ups, end-over-end flips, etc. fly by, and then, the title screen. It got my adrenaline pumping.

0:04 The game asks me to choose from "Casual," "Racer," or "King" levels of braking assistance. I think "Racer" encompasses a healthy but not overbearing sense of self-confidence, don't you? Me too!

0:05 Apparently, the pack I downloaded was the "FREE ENERGIZER LITHIUM EXTENDER PACK" which provides an "extended career tree" and new cars. Product placement, thy name is EA.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, April 21, 2008

Viewtiful Joe

Developer: Clover Studio
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: Aug. 24, 2004
Systems: PlayStation 2 (reviewed), GameCube
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: "Henshin-a-go-go, Baby"

0:00 Despite hearing about a bazillion people gush about this game over the years, my only exposure to the series is a five-minute demo of the Nintendo DS version at E3 2005. Will the original live up to the hype?

0:01 Red-bodysuited, musclebound Joe races into a black void just in time to do a stylish dodge of the Capcom logo that flies in. Then he kicks some of the letters that fell out of place. What a "Viewtiful" intro, and we haven't even hit the title screen yet!

0:02 "The Jadow move ominously across the land, dyeing the sky with blood and staining the earth. Those who have faith in justice and honor, valor and goodness, call out his name -- the ultimate superhero, the only one who can save the world from extinction. If he can't do it, no one can," intones a cheesy yet endearing B-movie announcer. "Who, me?" replies Joe, as he runs, punches, kicks, and flexes like he's a supermodel. So... stylish... can't... normal... rate!

0:04 The difficulty choices are "Sweet," "Kids" and "Adults," the latter rendered in red-light district neon. I haven't considered myself a "kid" since that incident at camp. Adults it is. I may live to regret this.

0:05 An old film-reel countdown precedes the introduction of "Captain Blue," who shows up on grainy film with tinny hero music. "Captain Blue fights with every ounce of his being. This is all that blue has ever wanted: To do the right thing," intones the same announcer from before. Joe is watching this movie with his girlfriend in an otherwise empty theater. It's not the red-suited Joe from earlier, but a schlumpy, blue-shirted version with facial hair. "Why don't you show me some off-screen action," girlfriend Silvia says, but Joe wants to watch the movie. Is this supposed to make him a sympathetic character? The fact that he loves movies so much he ignores it when his girlfriend throws herself at him?

Readthe full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Developer: Stormfront Studios
Publisher: Sierra
Release Date: Feb. 6, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), Wii, PS2, DS, PC
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Your source for unintentionally hilarious voice acting.

0:00 I think this game is based on a movie or something. I've never heard of it, but Sierra sent it over, so I guess I'll play it. That's right: I have no shame. Send me a game, and I will play it and write about it. Operators are standing by!

0:01 A title screen with a haunted-looking house quickly gives way to demo footage of some generic school-kid characters swinging sticks, shooting slingshots, and doing other things that don't start with "s." Also, one of the characters appears to be a human-sized balding mouse. More as it develops.

0:02 The default brightness is so low that I can't even see the options screen very well to set it. Something is wrong with either this game or my TV.

0:03 Adjusting the voice volume in the options screen results in one character saying "Cool!" over and over again at different volumes. I find this so hilarious that I waste a full minute just moving the slider.

0:04 Considering this game is probably designed for five-year-olds, I boldly choose the "Hard" difficulty. That's right. NO FEAR!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rez HD

Developer: Q Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Jan. 30, 2008
System: Xbox 360 (original on PS2, Dreamcast)
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Panzer Dragoon + an art project + a rave = Rez HD

0:00 Despite being a huge fan of both rhythm and experimental games, my only exposure to this game was seeing a friend play the Dreamcast version at a party roughly five years ago. It was... it was not a wild party.

0:01 A featureless albino woman is trapped in a tube. A vaguely human shape of rounded square discs hovers around, and then a wild quick zoom out from a white room. I feel like I'm in a college film class.

0:02 The tutorial automatically comes on-screen. Hold A and move the cursor to aim, let go to fire. That's it?

0:03 You can target up to eight enemies at a time. Items can increase your "level" or provide a screen-clearing "overdrive." Seems relatively standard so far, though I like the sound effects. "What lies at the dark end of this network?" the game asks. Is it pie? I hope it's pie!

0:04 I turn on vibration for the full Trance Vibrator experience. Also, for some reason, the point display is "off" by default, but how else will I know how awesome I am?

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: April 17, 2008
System: PS3
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A somewhat unnecessary update

0:00 The last Gran Turismo game I owned was No. 2 on the original PlayStation. The ones since then have seemed to me to be the same essential game with more cars and nicer graphics. That's all I really expect from this "prologue" to the full GT5, except maybe for the more cars part.

0:05 While I didn't include the six-plus hours it took to download this nearly two-gig game in my clock, I am including the roughly five minutes it takes to install the demo, simply because the idea of installing console games annoys me to no end.

0:06 With the install done, I find I need to sign in to the PlayStation Network to start the game, but to sign in to PSN, I need a system update. GRAH! You're still on the clock, Sony.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, April 14, 2008

Metapost: An update on updates

If you haven't noticed, Games for Lunch finally got back to the usual five updates a week as of last week. Those technical difficulties that accompanied the move to Crispy Gamer seems well and done and the every-weekday updates should consider for the forseeable future. I'll continue to manually update this blog and RSS feed daily, but if I should for some reason forget one day, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Endless Ocean

Developer: Arika
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Jan. 28, 2008
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Relax Relax Revolution.

0:00 I'm a little worried that an hour won't be enough to encapsulate a game with "Endless" in the title. I'm even more afraid that it will be more than enough time.

0:01 An ethereal, a capella harmony sings out over a tranquil picture of a sailboat: "Let your arms enfold us. Through the dark of night. Will your angels hold us 'til we see the light?" I have no idea what that means, but I already feel relaxed.

0:02 I took too long typing, so the game went into attract mode, showing some pastoral underwater scenes. More singing, too: "Hush, lay down your troubled mind. The day has vanished and left us behind." I could listen to this all day.

0:03 "Well g'day there!" The Manoa Lai Oceanic Research Society welcomes me. I pick my name, gender and, uh, tan level. The choices for hairstyle are "Mild" and "Wild!" Neither is very accurate to my actual hairstyle, which I'd rate as "Child!"

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, April 11, 2008

Assassin's Creed

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Nov. 16, 2007
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Prince of Persia to the Future

I know I should have been playing this game during the last holiday season like a good game journalist, but Super Mario Galaxy and Rock Band took up all my holiday play time, so I'm playing a bit of catch-up.

0:01 A disclaimer screen tells me the game is "Inspired by historical events and characters" and that it was worked on by "a multicultural team of various faiths and religious beliefs." Now I'm all primed to be offended.

0:02 A falcon is sent off by a falconer. A bell rings. A crowd cries out for blood. An assassin mills through the crowd. He breaks into a trot, takes out the executioners with style, and then runs off through the crowded streets, jumping rooftops and killing his chasers on the way. Soon he blends into the crowd. If the actual gameplay is anything like this cut scene, sign me up.

0:04 The universe starts flickering between old-world Persia and a modern lab facility. "We've got a problem. I can't anchor him to the memory," says a disembodied voice. "There's too much psychological trauma, he's rejecting the treatment, retreating." Another voice tells me to relax. "Recognize that what you're seeing isn't real, just pictures from the past." This is freaky.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

Developer: Developer: High Voltage Software
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: Jan. 8, 2008
System: Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell:
Lawyer of the absurd

0:00 I'm a casual fan of both the "Harvey Birdman" cartoon series and the Phoenix Wright games on which this game is ostensibly based, so I should be right in the target audience for this one, right? Right?

0:01 The menu screen is set up like a disorganized desk of papers. I love the remixed theme song from the show.

0:02 A twig snaps. "You damn twig-snappers, people are trying to sleep," cries a random voice. Then someone sets fire to an apartment building. Peter Potamus (the classic Hanna-Barbera character) happened to be driving by. Did he set the fire? Nice to see they kept the manic pace and somewhat confusing openings from the show.

0:03 Cut to Harvey's office. A cut scene is interrupted when I'm asked to help Harvey solve a crossword puzzle: What seven letter word starts with "A" and means "long and hard?" Choices are "ayoqowb," "arduous" and "arousal." I hope both the gameplay and the humor get better than this.

0:04 Peter Potamus runs into the office just as he's being arrested for the arson. Turns out the house was Harvey's, but Peter says he didn't do it, (though he says he did throw a mailbox into the fire so he could continue cooking s'mores, heh). The story is delivered incredibly rapid-fire -- those not used to Adult Swim's manic pacing might be confused.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Furu Furu Park

Developer: Taito
Publisher: Majesco
Release Date: Jan. 16, 2008
Systems: Wii
ESRB Rating: E10+

In a nutshell: Taito's answer to Nintendo's Wario Ware.

0:00 I played this game for about 10 seconds at E3 2007, and it was mildly entertaining back then. Will it hold up for an hour? I have my doubts.

0:01 Pet peeve: I hate Wii games that don't let you use the pointer to navigate the menus. Using the d-pad is much less natural to me. Oh, well.

0:02 In Rank mode, "Bogey the pig will rank your true nature!" How can I say no to that?

0:03 Bogey is a cute, green pig in a neon room right out of "The Matrix." "You came here so I can measure your true nature and rank you, right?" I believe we have established that. I love the old-school, 16-bit style music.

0:04 I get to choose which five mini-games I'm ranked in. Brain, Power, Balance and Technique are the categories. Sonic Blastman! Pocky and Rocky! Awesome! Puzzle Expert, Unwrap the Money, less awesome.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

High Velocity Bowling

Developer: SCEA
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: Dec. 6, 2007
Systems: PS3 (PSN download)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Shoobidy-doo-wop Bowling

0:00 After yesterday's disappointing experience with Brunswick Pro Bowling, I thought I'd try Sony's answer to Wii Sports. Who will be best in the better bowling battle?

0:01 Apparently I need to download 30MB of update data to run this game, which I downloaded months ago. All righty then.

0:04 The download and install are finally done. Let's go bowling!

0:05 The game is THX certified. My TV is barely stereo. What a waste.

Read the full review over at Crispy Gamer

Monday, April 7, 2008

Brunswick Pro Bowling

Developer: Point of View
Publisher: Crave
Release Date: Aug. 28, 2007
Systems: Wii (reviewed), PS2, PSP
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Brunswick Pro Bowling

0:01 0:00 Bowling was by far my favorite part of Wii Sports, so I'm looking forward to see what a game with a "Pro" license can do with the concept.

0:01 Right off, I'm doubled over by the Disc Channel's hilarious, bass-heavy R&B groove. This is possibly the least appropriate bowling music I've ever heard.

0:02 In the options menu, the music starts at 70 percent and the sound effects at 60 percent. Is this a concession to the cranky old people that are the game's target audience?

0:03 On to Career mode. The create-a-bowler has a perpetual frown and slumped shoulders. He looks like he'd rather be anywhere else. Bad sign.

0:05 Still playing around with the somewhat meager character creation options. "Facial-hair type 2" is a perfect Hitler mustache. I love it! There are a grand total of two body types: Athletic and Husky.

0:06 HuskyHilter is too long for the name field, so HskyHtlr will have to do. But we know what his real name is.

Read the full review over at Crispy Gamer

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Geometry Wars Galaxies

Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Sierra
Release Date: Nov. 27, 2007
Systems: Nintendo DS (reviewed), Wii
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: A flawed pocket universe

0:00 The original Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was the reason I bought an Xbox 360. Well, not the sole reason, but it probably put me over the top. Anyway, here's hoping the experience transfers well to the small screens.

0:01 Some nice techno music plays over a title screen with a picture of a spiral galaxy (appropriately enough). Retro Evolved is an option, so I try that out in order to get a feel for the controls with a game type I know.

0:02 Immediately, I notice things are slower-paced than the Xbox 360 version. I mean a lot slower. Not just the frame rate, but the enemies that used to quickly attack are now lackadaisically lurching towards me. Not a good sign.

0:05 150K points before my first death. Not only are the enemies slower, but they seem less prevalent than the original. Hypothesis: The DS is not powerful enough to handle too many enemies at once.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

WipEout Pulse

Sony Liverpool
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: Feb. 12
Systems: PSP
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Fast to the Future

0:00 I haven't played a badly-capitalized WipEout game since XL on the original PlayStation, so this should be a futuristic hover-racing blast from the past.

0:01 Stylistic, computer-styled menus flash by before some relatively standard hovercar porn video. "Welcome to WipEout Pulse," says a computerized voice.

0:04 I end up spending three minutes just sampling the 16 techno tracks in the options screen's Music Playlist. The soundtrack was big reason I got into WipEout originally, even though I don't listen to much techno in everyday life.

0:05 Time to dive into Campaign mode, "The definitive WipEout single-player experience." Definitive? Like there are so many others?

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Jam Sessions

Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Sept. 11, 2007
Systems: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Guitar for Dummies

0:01 I love rhythm games, and I've heard a lot about this one. I just worry that it'll be too undirected to actually be fun.

0:03 I mean to go into the tutorial, but before I know it I'm jamming out in the "free play" mode. I immediately figure out how to strum on the touch-screen and pick chords with the d-pad. I quickly compose a little two-chord ditty that sounds surprisingly good, if I do say so myself. I even record it for posterity.

0:04 I like how the touch-screen allows for strong and weak notes. There's much more opportunity for original expression than in Guitar Hero and such. Nice.

0:06 I finally make it to the tutorial. "Jam Sessions lets you play and sing in your own way without any experience playing the guitar." That much is already obvious.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer