Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Buggle Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, November 21, 2008

Super Mario Sluggers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mighty Jill Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Castlevania Judgment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Luminous Arc 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, November 17, 2008

Left 4 Dead

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, November 14, 2008

Animal Crossing: City Folk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mirror's Edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Call of Duty: World at War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wii Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gears of War 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Resistance 2

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

In a nutshell: Definitely not futile.

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

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

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

0:04 All installed and we're off.

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bejeweled Twist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full review at Crispy Gamer