Friday, August 29, 2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Release Date: Sept. 16, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii, PS2, a bunch of handhelds no one cares about
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: See what happens when Jedis stop being polite and start being freakin' bad-ass.

0:00 I've been looking forward to this one ever since I saw a demo of the physics/materials engine back at GDC '07. Let's see if the gameplay stands up to the impressive base.

0:01 The LucasArts logo just threw a lightsaber like a boomerang, cutting a hole in the black background. I can't decide if this was cheesy or inspired.

0:02 We jump directly to the title screen with standard Star Wars-style orchestra music and a silhouette standing in front of the "O" in "Force." After a while, a video demo begins. "THE SAGA CONTINUES" blares the title card as we pan over some impressively diverse alien environments. Man, this guy sure likes killing things with his lightsaber. "CHANGE THE FATE OF THE GALAXY." A few scenes feature what looks like Imperial Senate debates -- not as exciting. "MAY THE FORCE BLOW YOUR MIND." Is that supposed to be a pun on "May the force be with you"? Because if so, it's awful. The video ends with Mr. Lightsaber-man (didn't catch his name yet) standing next to Darth Vader. Ominous!

0:04 On to the Force Grip tutorial, which is something every young Jedi has to go through, I'm sure. "Welcome aboard the Rogue Shadow, master," says an off-screen robot. He goes on to tell me a bit about the training room. "All modules are designed to kill you... just like me." Wait, what? The narrator is designed to kill me?

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fight Night Round 3

Developer: EA Chicago
Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: Feb. 20, 2006
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox, PSP, PS2
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Reach out and punch someone

0:00 I've somehow avoided playing this series through all three iterations until today. Will this finally be the boxing game to make me forget about Punch-Out!!?

0:01 "THE LAST FIGHT DIDN'T GO YOUR WAY" blares an on-screen message. Scenes of two generic boxers pummeling each other, featuring a slow-mo shot of a face crumpling and spewing blood. "B-HOP" (as his trunks identify him) raises a fist in triumph. "SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE." And... title. What was that?

0:03 Looking over the controls, I'm tickled by the existence of an "illegal blow" button. I'm not nearly as tickled by the persistent, relatively slow loading.

0:04 I finally found a "training" option hidden in the game modes menu. I choose the sparring mode, which promises to teach me "the basics of total punch control and advanced moves." Sounds good to me!

0:06 Right off, I'm impressed with how responsive the controls are. The left stick moves me around the ring and the right stick throws a wide variety of punches. I end up jabbing the guy 30 times in a row. Heh.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

King of Clubs

Developer: Oxygen Studios
Publisher: Crave Entertainment
Release Date: Aug. 4, 2008
Systems: Wii (reviewed), PS2, PC, DS, PSP
ESRB Rating: E

In a nutshell: Mini-golf, maxi-annoyance.
0:00 I hadn't heard of this game until it appeared in my mailbox just before I moved. I'm a big fan of real-life mini-golf, though, so it shouldn't be a tough sell.

0:01 "Oh, bless my soul," says an Elvis impersonator on the preview screen. Wha? Then straight into the intro, with the desert countryside rolling by. "Under the blistering heat of the Nevada sun, five men (there are six of us!)... six men struggle against the odds." They have to fight traps and the elements and "they're gonna have to do it all in stupid costumes." Silly scenes of the characters doing a sort of screen test and antagonizing each other. "I don't want to see no spittin', no quittin', and no out-of-bounds hittin'," says the Elvis impersonator who seems to lead this ragtag group. "Perhaps I should play the caveman," says the very English guy in the knight getup. Wow, this is gonna be cheese-tastic, I can already tell.

0:03 A quick, one-screen explanation of the controls: I have to stand up, press A, pull back, press A again, and swing.

0:04 Some desert scrub scrolls by in the background as some endearing twangy rockabilly plays. I pick career mode, where I have to "clear as many pars as possible to advance." Jurassic Classic is the first course. The course par is 36.

0:05 A simple little interface lets me purchase pedestrian things like balls and clubs, but also weird things like mulligans (buy in bulk and they're cheaper), colored balls and trails (I pick red!) soundtracks and even action figures of the characters. Cute.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding

Developer: Indie Built
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: Nov. 20, 2001
System: Xbox
ESRB Rating: E

In a nutshell: I'm surprisingly not very amped about this game.

0:00 SSX, which came out about a year earlier, was one of my favorite PlayStation 2 games of all time. So there's no excuse for this to be any worse, right? Right! I'll just be happy if the game makes me forget about the current summer heat.

0:01 Sounds of an old film projector whir about as the title burns away to show real video of snowboarders mixed with video of in-game snowboarders. The real boarders look a lot better. This isn't that surprising, I guess, since they're real, but putting the game right next to real video doesn't make the game look too good.

0:03 I start a new career and I'm asked to divide some stat points between spin, balance, jump, speed and switch. I go for a balanced breakfast of stats because I am incredibly boring.

0:04 Now I can choose from a bunch of extremely generic-looking characters who don't even have names. I'm practically begging for the over-the-top stereotypes of SSX at this point. I go with the slightly Asian-looking guy, because Asians are good at snowboarding, right? I can't even keep my stereotypes straight anymore.

0:05 Not only can I can choose from four colors of baseball caps, but also a smattering of beanies and bandanas. WHOA! I pick a snowboard that helps my balance, jump and speed ratings a bit. Let's go!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3

Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Publisher: Capcom
Release Date: June 11, 2008
System: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Shoot stuff.

0:00 I have some vague memories of the NES-era original Commando, but it wasn't one of the gaming staples of my youth or anything.

0:01 The Backbone logo just fired a couple of Gatling guns into the air for no reason. Some quick loading and the title appears over some jungle/island rhythms.

0:02 "Use guns to defeat enemies and destroy barricades." Oh, my, how original.

0:03 Looks like your basic two-stick move-and-shoot game. I can avoid taking damage for a score multiplier. Plus there are items and such! I like the exaggerated art style in the menu screens.

0:04 The difficulties are: Cake Walk, Routine Exercise, Black Ops and Suicide Mission. All games should have a Suicide Mission difficulty. Even Pong! I go with Routine Exercise. Wolf, Coyote and Fox are my character choices. I choose Fox, because everything about her is "Classified." Also, she's fast.

0:05 My first mission is titled "Beach." Does this extremely generic beach have a name, or does everyone just call it beach?

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, August 15, 2008

New Intenational Track and Field

Developer: Sumo Handheld
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: July 22, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Disqualified for excessive button mashing.
0:00 The thick of the Beijing Olympics seems the perfect time to try this modern, portable retread of a button-mashing arcade classic.

0:01 An X-TREME sounding-announcer announces the title of the game. On the bottom screen, some extremely big-headed, big-eyed characters compete in hurdles, javelin, running, etc. They all seem stereotypical in some way, from the huge Afro on the black runner to the hair streaks on the "goth."

0:02 "Welcome to New International Track and Field. I am the referee and I will be your guide." The music is a light techno remix of the Chariots of Fire theme. Nice!

0:03 I can choose my nationality from 60 options! Part of me wants to claim to be from Luxembourg, but Olympic fever has got my patriotism levels up. U-S-A! U-S-A!

0:05 I can only choose an Easy Career mode to start. Lame! What if I'm an Olympic-caliber button masher already?

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reset Generation

Developer: RedLynx
Publisher: Nokia
Release Date: Aug. 4, 2008
Systems: PC (reviewed), N-Gage
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Equal parts farce, nostalgia and strategy game.

0:00 Nokia is generating a bit of low-level buzz about this faux retro game, and the full version is available for free on the PC, so I figured it's worth a try.

0:04 These first few minutes have been spent struggling to get the game to recognize my Java installation and downloading the applet that will actually run the game. Reminds me of a PlayStation 3 game.

0:05 "We are the reset generation," says a princess named... Princess. "We grew up with computer and video games ... this is our story." A bunch of videogame stereotypes -- a ninja, an alien, a plumber, a hedgehog, "Babe Gunner," etc. -- pipe in with generic voices of support. "Drop your blocks, fire your cannons, rescue the princess." "And so it begins," says Dr. Lovebomber, the bad guy. Good voice acting, if a little tinny. Then, more downloading.

0:07 The game runs in a faux phone on a Web page. Believe it or not, I just got stuck in the options menu. Who knew the shift key was the "back" button? Not me!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Siren: Blood Curse

Developer: SCE Japan
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: July 24, 2008
System: PS3
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Is the curse being forced to play this game?

0:00 I know next to nothing about this episodic horror game, but Sony gave me a code for a free downloadable copy, so...

0:01 I get thrown directly to the title screen, with some eerie theremin music and raindrop ripples on a blood-red background. I'm already a little creeped out.

0:02 I start Episode 1, Chapter 1 on Normal difficulty (rather than Easy). "In 1976, a village deep in the mountains of Japan vanished overnight." Later, a TV crew came to investigate. The camerawork looks like it came right out of "The Blair Witch Project." The crew is apparently witnessing a grisly murder, but I can't make out what's going on between the shaky camera and extreme darkness. Thank god for the film crew's curse-filled narration: "Damn, that's some f***ed up shit. They straight-up killed her. F***!"

0:05 "Shit. How could they have just murdered her like that? Goddamn psychos. F***. F***!" Apparently the translators come from the Quentin Tarantino school of curse-filled dialogue design. Anyway, Howard Wright, one of the students, runs off from the carnage to an abandoned house looking for help. The phone is out. Uh-oh.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Developer: Number None
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: Aug. 6, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Not the hair-braiding simulator I was expecting.

0:00 Designer Jonathan Blow himself gave me a personal demo of this game back a few E3s ago. Been looking forward to it ever since, and now that it's here, it seems everyone is sharing in that excitement.

0:01 The title appears rendered in fire over a red and black oil-painting cityscape. A silhouette of a small man is on the left. "Use the left analog stick to move," is my only instruction. Let's-a go.

0:02 As I walk from the dark city into a bright interior room, my character turns from silhouette to a little tow-headed little boy with red hair, a red tie and a blue blazer. Elegiac strings fill the background as we enter "World 2." (I guess this is World 1?)

0:03 "Time and forgiveness" is the name of the world. Tim (our protagonist) made a mistake and now has to find a princess taken by a monster. "Our world, with its rules of causality, has trained us to be miserly with forgiveness." Heady stuff.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, August 11, 2008


Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: May 30, 2008
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: I have no idea what the name GRID is supposed to mean.

0:00 I've heard this game compared favorably to MotorStorm and Dirt, two other driving games I enjoyed quite a bit.

0:01 "CODEMASTERS PRESENTS" some generic shots of European cities and tracks. Extremely shiny car porn commences, complete with extreme camera shaking during some spectacular crashes. Nice shots from inside the cockpit and wheel well. My wife Michelle watches from the couch: "I'm not the demographic, but it doesn't even seem like good car porn to me."

0:02 "Please Press Start," the screen says. So polite! Most games would just order me to press start. "Welcome. Please fill out your driver profile," says a semi-robotic female voice. I enter Drivey McDriverson, causing Michelle to say, I'm "very predictable." What can I say?

0:03 I can choose from a list of "audio names" for the voice actors to call me during play, I guess. I choose Spanky, because it's just so ridiculous. I mean, come on, Spanky?

0:04 "Hello, Spanky. You're now ready to race," says the semi-robotic voice. I nearly fall out of my chair with laughter. SPANKY!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, August 8, 2008

Spectral Force 3

Developer: Idea Factory
Publisher: Atlus
System: Xbox 360
Release Date: July 29, 2008
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Take that, bad guy

0:00 Before I received this game in the mail, I did not know that Spectral Force 3 existed, much less Spectral Force 1 and 2!

0:01 A desolate, anime mountainscape with smoke coming from the volcanic core. A boy in rags lies on the ground. "Where... where am I? What happened to me?" Fair questions, both. Floating humanoid beasts appear behind him. He runs off as they glow blue and float after him. He screams as the camera pans away. Cut to shots of green fields with blue rivers. Quick cuts of anime battle scenes. A girl prays at a statue. A guy drinks straight from a large bottle. The intro ends with a band of warriors standing heroically on a hillside, one of them waving. Cue title!

0:05 "Neverland... A world where gods reside in heaven, the dead in the underworld, and demons, humans and other races struggle for dominance over each other on the Earth." What a clunky description. The evil overlord Janus was defeated by human heroes, but his daughter started a war with a new "Overlord army." Bands of mercenaries formed in response, "not restrained by the bounds of race or nationality."

0:06 Back to the present, a guy on horseback sends in two more units after his first band got annihilated. Suddenly, a black-clad fellow walks in, using two flailing tentacles on his shoulders to knock the unit about like tenpins. The King is impaled rather dramatically by the same tentacles. "Pathetic humans are so fragile," says the mysterious figure. Ain't it the truth.

0:07 The anime cut scenes have stopped, replaced with spoken and subtitled text over still, drawn pictures of the characters. "Hey old man, when are we gonna get some action?" asks Dragan. "Easy there kid, we're the backup unit," replies Judo. Are these the good guys? A messenger brings word that King Zaflak has been killed. Sounds like he needs supplemental insurance? ZAFLAK!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Dig

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Release Date: November 1995
Systems: PC, Mac
ESRB Rating: K-A

In a nutshell: In space, everyone can hear you talk a lot.

0:00 Don't know much about this game, but the LucasArts and "Steven Spielberg" names on the CD case convinced me to throw down the $1.20 asking price at the thrift shop.

0:01 The camera pans over a stormy night with soaring clouds above "The Borneo Deep Space Observatory." String-heavy music in the background. "Of course I miss you, darling," says a radar operator. "This is the loneliest place on Earth. Most exciting thing that happens here is a day when it don't rain." Suddenly, a new object appears on the radar! "What the heck is that?" Earth collision possible... odds of impact are 1 in 1!" according to the screen. "THE DIG" appears in big letters against a black background.

0:03 "The asteroid has been named Atilla after the leader of the huns," says a TV commentator over video of a rocket launch countdown. The rocket launches, and we cut to a press conference. "If the shuttle is the last hope of the human race, then it will have to do the job, won't it?" says Commander Lowe. The voice acting has a cheesy but sincere quality to it. The low-res animation does the job, but the mouths don't even come close to matching the speech.

0:04 Reporter Maggie Robbins is in charge of laying the nuclear charges that will destroy the asteroid. Also, a candidate for Congress is part of the mission. This is starting to seem a little contrived. "We wanted the best and brightest for this mission," the square-jawed Lowe explains. "My job is to keep everybody alive. I don't have to be brilliant, I just have to be careful."

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Spore Creature Creator

Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: June 18, 2008
Systems: PC, Mac
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: And God said "It is good."

0:00 I know this isn't really a full game, but EA is selling it for nearly $10, so I figure it deserves a column. My previous experience with this game is pretty much limited to being live in the audience for this Robin Williams-led demo two years ago

0:01 I'm not including the roughly five minutes of install time in my minute-by-minute count, because I'm a horrible hypocrite.

0:02 I am, however, including the two minutes or so it took to download and install the EA download manager. Fair and balanced, that's me.

0:03 Some gentle bells and synthesizer horns play in the background as I register for a Spore account. I'm KyleOrl if you want to follow my stuff.

0:05 Account registered. There are only two options against a whirling galaxy background: "create a creature" and "load a creature." Well, since I don't have anything to load...

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

PixelJunk Eden

Developer: Q-Games
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: July 31, 2008
System: PS3
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A garden party.
0:00 I've heard this game described as good but "hard to describe." Good thing I don't have to describe my experience playing it for the next hour or anything...

0:01 After adjusting the display size to my tiny SDTV and skipping through a 12-page license agreement, a title screen... grows. It's red and yellow silhouettes of flowing flowers amidst a black background. Ethereal synth music drones on behind.

0:02 Before I know it an extremely tiny gnome-like guy appears on the floor. I bring up the options screen and immediately gravitate to "How to Play."

0:03 "Eden is on an unknown garden. You use the oscillator to tune into other gardens which you can explore freely." Um... what? The game recommends an HDTV and headphones. THANKS FOR RUBBING IT IN, GAME!

0:04 So far, I've gathered that collecting floating Spectra, whatever they are, can make my home garden grow. "If the oscillator goes out of tune you will be ejected from the garden." Oh sure... who wants an out-of-tune oscillator in their garden? Not me!

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, August 1, 2008

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: July 30, 2008
System: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site

In a nutshell: I'm rooting for the triangles.

0:00 Considering I've played the original game probably more than any other Xbox 360 title, the question of playing this one for "more than an hour" already seems kind of moot.

0:01 Jumping right in to Deadline mode, the only mode available initially. I see one of my Xbox Live friends, DangerPenguin, is ahead of me with 325,635 points. I wonder if that's good. I also wonder who DangerPenguin is.

0:02 "Avoid the deadly enemy shapes." You have to love a game that can have an instruction like that. You HAVE to! Seems a lot like its predecessor right off: 2-D, overheard perspective, left stick moves, right stick fires.

0:03 In the first game, my score multiplier went up automatically as I killed enemies. This time I have to pick up little golden "Geoms" the enemies drop to increase the multiplier. I'm not a fan. Especially because I lose my first life trying to collect some.

0:04 Most interesting new enemy: A white line that reflects my shots back at other enemies. I can't figure out how to kill it, short of a screen-clearing bomb. Least interesting new enemy: An orange triangle that flies in a straight line. Snooze.

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer