Friday, November 20, 2009

Excitebike: World Rally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Modern Warfare 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monday, November 9, 2009

DJ Hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Half Minute Hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Monday, November 2, 2009

Rapala: We Fish

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

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

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

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

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