Angry Birds Trilogy
Publisher: Activision (2012)
Rating: Everyone (comic mischief)
Publisher: Ubisoft (2011)
Rating: Everyone 10+
Asphalt 3D strikes me as a "lowest common denominator" title for the 3DS. Sure, the tracks are rendered in 3D, but after playing for a minute or so you don't even notice. At that point you're left with a pretty generic racing game. You get a nice selection of track locations at least, including Athens, San Francisco, and Aspen (snow!). The controls are simple and the courses are forgiving. Guardrails bounce you back on the track and not-so-hidden shortcuts give you a leg-up on the CPU racers. Along the courses are icons you collect to pump up your boost meter or bank account. The racing action is very arcade-ish, but I don't like how using turbo blurs the screen. It's hard enough to stay focused on these 3D games as it is! I also noticed the frame-rate can stutter while rounding corners. It's fun to run other cars off the road, but it's often unclear who crashed - you or the other guy! I really hate the idea of other traffic on the road besides the racers. Not only is it hard to see oncoming cars, but one wreck will ruin an otherwise flawless run. The tracks exhibit nice lighting effects and the roads look shiny, but the scenery is forgettable. No 3D effects will catch your eye besides maybe the leaves getting kicked up by your tires. I do enjoy the relentless, grinding soundtrack, and the deep career mode can keep you busy for a long time. Asphalt 3D isn't bad if you can get it cheap, but it's not exactly a showcase title for the system. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive (2013)
Rating: Teen (blood, mild language, mild suggestive themes, use of tobacco, violence)
I enjoyed Batman: Arkham Origins
(Wii U, 2013) but I like Blackgate even more!
This has the playability of a classic 2D side-scroller with the style and visual pizzazz of a 3D Arkham title. The opening stage absolutely knocked my socks off
as I chased Cat Woman around Gotham on a dark, stormy night. The characters and scenery are richly detailed and the 3D effects are visually arresting. This is easily the best-looking game I've played on my 3DS. Batman's movement is limited to a single plane, but this means less aimless wandering, less wasted time, and a tighter storyline. When the action transitions to the prison facilities there's less eye candy but the grungy, dilapidated scenery still looks impressive as hell. You'll need to move back and forth between locations, but I love how you acquire new items (like a zip-line) that let you access new areas. Hazards like spikes, poison gas, and electrical charges feel like throwbacks to the 16-bit era. The well-designed control scheme mimics the 3D titles, making it easy to climb, grapple, and perform sneak attacks. The combat places heavy emphasis on counters and combos, and it's satisfying to witness that final, slow-motion blow. I really got into this game. Heck, I even enjoyed using the detective mode and cracking codes with my crypto sequencer. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is no joke. This is one game that plays as well as it looks, and in this case that's really saying something. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: NIS (2011)
This one looks really good
on paper. Cave Story 3D is a quirky 2D platformer that lets you explore subterranean areas while shooting bats, jumping between platforms, and solving puzzles. The rapid-fire shooting is the best part, and I like how you can fire straight up to destroy leaping blue blobs. To propel the story you'll converse with floppy-eared characters that offer clues on how to complete missions in dark forests and high-tech factories. The cartoonish characters, catchy music, and silly dialog give the game an old-school quality. The action is pretty slow however, requiring a lot of tedious exploration and plenty of trial and error. You can jump pretty high, but the slippery controls make it tricky to hop between narrow platforms. There are a heck
of a lot of one-hit deaths, sending you back to your last save point (and there's no auto-save). I also have a little problem with the size of the characters. The main character is literally
the size of a flea! This was the first video game that forced me to use my reading glasses!
The 3D effects are modest at best and really have no bearing on the gameplay. Frankly I suspect the game would play better on a big screen. Cave Story 3D has some appealing qualities but in the end I found the gameplay more tedious and aggravating than fun. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (2011)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (animated blood, fantasy violence)
My feelings toward this 3DS version of Centipede Infestation mirror those I have for the Wii version. You control a guy scampering around a confined area while unleashing rapid-fire shots at bugs crawling out of the woodwork. The game seems fun at first but the novelty wears off quickly. One issue is obvious right off the bat: you need to use the four face buttons to aim. You'll be wishing for a second thumbstick in the worst way. The touchpad is used to select special weapons you collect. The problem is, I only have two thumbs, which means I either have to stop moving or stop shooting to change weapons. That sucks, and it's not even worth it because the special weapons really aren't very special. Certain types of bugs you shoot will produce "sentries" which function like cannons that work on your behalf. That seems awesome, but it really just gives you less to do in a game that already has a lot of dead time between waves. Other bugs produce huge mushrooms which are super annoying because they tend to get in your way. Giant centipedes inject some excitement, but they only appear in the waning moments of each round. The 3D effects have little bearing on the gameplay, and they're actually more noticeable during the cheesy cartoon intermissions. Infestation comes up short when it comes to challenge, sense of progression, and replay value. This by-the-numbers shooter was a weak attempt to cash in on the Centipede name. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: D3 Publisher (2011)
Rating: No one
I felt a disturbance in the Force, as though a great many people who bought Dream Trigger 3D cried out in pain, and were suddenly silenced. The box has the audacity to call it "the ultimate handheld shooter". What kind of gullible chump would fall for that
one? Oh wait - that would be me
. Good thing being a sucker isn't against the law, or I'd be doing hard time!
Dream Trigger is a bad idea masquerading around as an even worse game. It cannot be played - only endured
. Its 3D effects are limited to layered backgrounds which have absolutely no bearing on its incomprehensible gameplay. The idea is to rub moving squares on your lower screen, causing flower-shaped enemies to appear up top. You then move this fairy thing over targets with the thumbstick and press the shoulder button to shoot. The designers failed to take into account that it's really hard
to watch both screens at the same time! While you're rubbing and shooting like a madman, hundreds of red projectiles appear from nowhere and criss-cross the screen in inescapable patterns. The fact that you're invincible while firing only further lowers my opinion of this putrid game. Dream Trigger's single redeeming feature is its serene soundtrack which envelops you in relaxing 3D audio. What a [expletive] waste. Designed on a cocktail napkin over a few drinks, Dream Trigger is a total sham. I'm calling out all critics who don't trash this game! You
are a fraud!
And for all the poor schmucks who made the mistake of buying this, I have a little piece of advice. Force yourself to play Dream Trigger every morning
, and you can rest assured that nothing worse
will happen to you for the rest of the day. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion
Publisher: Disney (2012)
Fire Emblem Awakening
Publisher: Nintendo (2013)
Rating: Teen (alcohol reference, fantasy violence, mild language, mild suggestive themes)
Special report by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
This is the thirteenth
entry in the Fire Emblem franchise, a series largely unknown to North America until its characters appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube, 2001)
. Simply put, Awakening
is a delightfully addictive tactical role-playing game. The story, revealed via action-packed cut-scenes, follows a royal family during a time of strife, cultists, and zombies. Awakening
offers no towns to explore, no hidden items to find in someone's cupboard, and no vague conversations with villagers. What it does offer is a load of strategy/combat action at interesting locations like cliffsides, flooded forests, and catacombs. The characters are colorful and likeable, but often rendered with no feet
, which is just plain weird. You have the choice of Japanese or English language, but the game lacks true spoken dialogue. Instead characters sport a dozen or so canned expressions and exclamations displayed during combat and their witty conversations. The musical score is stellar, contributing to the atmosphere of each stage (a five
-disc soundtrack was released in Japan). The game's class system allows you to carefully mix and match unique talents for each of your units. There's no armor to worry about, only weapons. In combat, there are lots of factors to account for during each turn. Melee weapons (swords, spears, and axes) have a rock-paper-scissors dynamic. Some weapons deal bonus damage to certain units, so never bring a pegasus to an archery fight. As units fight in close proximity, they become friends and in some cases can fall in love and even get married!
These relationships provide in-combat bonuses, allowing for dual attacks or parrying damage. On top of that, the children
from these marriages (!) actually travel back in time
(!!) to help you fight. You can flex your strategy muscles by choosing which of your first generation units get hitched and pass on their desirable skills. Now, if the Fire Emblem franchise is known for one thing, it's permanent death
. When a unit dies, they're gone for good. Fortunately for newcomers and casual players, Awakening
includes a mode where death only lasts the duration of the current fight. The game prompts you to save your progress after combat, and there's even a quick-save feature available mid-fight. The menus are polished and the data screens offer a wealth of information at your fingertips - literally! The touch screen features all inventory and unit stats, and you can tap on anything
for a description. A whole cadre of DLC is available, providing extra maps for a buck or two each. You can also fight and recruit characters from basically every
past Fire Emblem title for free. Your 3DS StreetPass feature can share 10 units (of your choice) with other nearby Awakening
players. The local two-player mode isn't terribly good and feels tacked on. I've played Fire Emblem Awakening (with perma-death on) for a combined two-hundred
hours. Suffice to say I would regard this game alone as a perfectly valid
reason to invest in a 3DS. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Kid Icarus Uprising
Publisher: Nintendo (2012)
Rating: Everyone 10+
Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, The
Publisher: Nintendo (2013)
Rating: Everyone (fantasy violence)
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D
Publisher: Nintendo (2015)
Rating: Everyone 10+
It's time someone said what a lot of people are thinking: Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is not very good!
Originally released in 2000 as the follow-up to Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
(Nintendo 64, 1998), this bizarre sequel relies heavily on confusing gimmicks. Majora's Mask is also very dark - and in more ways than one. During the disturbing opening scene a maniacal freak in a mask casts a spell on Link, giving him the frightening appearance of a Deku creature. The hub of the game is a town in a continual state of counting down 72 hours to doom. Time can be magically reset to the beginning but at the cost of losing items and rupees. The time of day changes frequently and after dark shops close and it becomes hard to see. At some point you obtain a song that lets you slow down time to a more reasonable pace. The game keeps you on a tight schedule, providing you with a notebook to keep track of important events and appointments. How is this supposed to be fun? You don masks to activate special abilities, but the masks themselves look creepy as hell. Some of the mechanics of this game seem very arbitrary, like having to remove your mask just to plant a seed. The camera angles are occasionally deceptive, especially in the overhead stealth areas. That said, Majora's Mask does have flashes of classic Zelda charm. There are some clever dungeon designs and the game provides regular clues to keep nudging you along. The automatic jumping is nice and using the 3DS touch screen to assign items to buttons is a snap. The controls are precise but I found myself contorting my hands to perform certain sword attacks. The 3D graphics are novel at first but I ended up shutting them off. The game's Nintendo 64 origins occasionally show through, like when you can't read a poster because it's so pixelated up close. The audio is surprisingly effective, delivering a surround sound quality you don't expect from a portable. Diehard Zelda fans who couldn't get enough of Ocarina are sure to relish the challenge and complexity of Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D. Personally I found reviewing this game to be a bit of a chore. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Lego Pirates of the Caribbean
Publisher: Disney (2011)
Rating: Everyone 10+
I was pretty high on the console version of Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, but this portable edition is actually a better game. All four Pirates of the Caribbean films are represented and fully unlocked after you complete the first few stages. You'll explore tropical environments, solve simple puzzles, and engage in hand-to-hand combat. It's shallow, light-hearted fun best enjoyed in small doses. The stages are different from the console versions, and they are less complex and easier to complete. You still toggle between characters, only one is shown at a time, resulting in less clutter on-screen. There are some new elements like rowboat challenges, the chance to control a parrot, and the ability to hit multiple targets with one gunshot. I liked playing while wearing earphones because the tic-tic-tic sound of collecting cogs is pleasing to the ears. You'll also notice the crisp sound effects of churning water, clanking swords, crackling fire, and even sipping tea. There are some brief load times, and the cut-scenes look a little grainy. The stages are shorter and less frustrating however, making this a nice title for those looking for some casual fun. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
Publisher: Nintendo (2013)