Publisher: O-3 Entertainment (2005)
Rating: Everyone (fantasy violence)
Holy cow - this may be the worst shooter
played! Like most modern shooters, it attempts to meld 3D visuals with 2D gameplay. I'm the biggest fan of the genre you could ever meet, but Chaos Field is a disgrace. It's nothing but one pointless "boss" battle after another! By 2006, everybody
knows that boss battles are totally played out, and everybody just hates
them in general. But apparently O-3 Entertainment didn't get the memo! In Chaos Field, you encounter one huge ship after another, and each takes forever to wear down while it disseminates hundreds of slow-moving projectiles. Besides normal shots and lock-on missiles, there's the concept of "changing fields", but this is poorly explained in the manual and confusing in general. You also have a "sword", which acts like a windshield wiper, cleaning out projectiles in front of you ship. Since you can't fire while using the sword, you'll need to alternate it with your attacks, which is tedious and dumb. The techno soundtrack is decent, but Chaos Field's graphics are completely forgettable and lacking in detail and imagination. The gaming media loves to refer to games like Chaos Field "old school", but they forgot that old school games were actually fun
. This isn't. As a shooter expert, let me assure you that this game totally sucks. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Publisher: Nintendo (2004)
I suspect Nintendo was pretty desperate for a new game that would utilize their bongo drum controllers, and Jungle Beat fits the bill nicely. Visually the game resembles Donkey Kong Country, with attractive, 3D-rendered characters and simple 2D gameplay. It's the controls however that really set this game apart. Tapping the left or right bongo makes your ape run in that direction. Hitting both at the same time initiates a jump, and clapping causes Kong to emit a shock wave. This dual-purpose wave sucks in floating bananas and stuns nearby enemies. There are times in the game when Kong will latch onto a larger creature, and tapping both drums alternately lets you beat the hell
out of it, which is quite satisfying. The controls lack that crisp, responsive feel, but that's compensated for by Jungle Beat's easy difficulty and forgiving gameplay. The game offers a nice variety of brief stages, incorporating standard platform jumping, flying, swimming, racing, and obligatory boss encounters. The bosses are imaginative enough, but they tend to repeat. As you would expect from a Nintendo game, the presentation is beyond reproach. Jungle Beat's graphics are sugary sweet and its festive music will get your toes tapping. Although most stages are your standard Donkey Kong fare, there is one that truly stands out, in which you swim through what appear to be chunks of floating Jell-o! It's fairly amazing and certainly original. Jungle Beat is strictly a single player game, and there's only one playing mode. That's fine, because with the constant pounding and clapping, you'll want to keep your play sessions brief anyway. Beware - this game will
give your arms a workout! For the record, I tried using a normal controller but that just sucked. It's easy to write off Jungle Beat as a novelty item, but this game is too fun to resist. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2004)
Here's an innovative little game that will appeal to anyone who enjoys dance music. In the tradition of Dance Dance Revolution or Samba De Amigo, the idea is to hit bongo drums (left, right, or both) and rhythmically clap your hands in time to symbols moving across the screen. Donkey Konga comes packaged with a sturdy little set of drums, making it a terrific value. I've played Konga with several friends, and it never fails to elicit big smiles and frequent laughter. Once you get into the rhythm, the game feels natural and almost hypnotic. Then again, it only takes a brief lapse in concentration to totally throw you off. The controller is very responsive (sometimes too much so), and a nice rubber undercoating keeps it from slipping off the table. A microphone between the drums is used to pick up the "clap" sounds. Of course, what makes or breaks any music game is its song selection, and Konga includes 33 tunes that cover just about every genre including pop, Latin, country, classical, and rap. Some of my personal favorites include "All The Small Things", "Whip It", "The Impression I Get", "Rock Lobster", and the "Loco-Motion". There are even some jazzy renditions of Nintendo themes like Mario Bros and the Legend of Zelda. 33 might seem like a lot of songs, but after going through them all you'll be wishing for more. In addition to the single player mode, there's a "jam session" mode that allows up to four players to perform simultaneously - each with their own separate rhythm track. Donkey Kongo is great fun, but it's sometimes hard to tell who won after each contest. Even if you only have one drum set however, you can still play cooperatively
with a friend by letting him take care of the clapping responsibilities as you beat on the drum. Donkey Konga throws in a few mini-games (notably a wack-a-mole clone), but these are only mildly entertaining. One magazine claimed Konga was a rip-off off Drum Mania, but I've never heard of that game before. In my opinion Donkey Konga is a brilliantly executed concept, and a rare title that the whole family can enjoy. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2005)
Rating: Teen (mild lyrics)
I went ape over the original Donkey Konga, but this sequel feels like a half-hearted rehash. Donkey Konga 2's gameplay is practically identical to the first, save for a few new wrinkles and 25 new songs. Like any type of musical game, the soundtrack is key, but this new lineup leaves a lot
to be desired. There are a handful of decent tunes (U Don't Have To Call, Hit 'Em Up Style, The Anthem), but really no truly standout tracks. Worse yet, a few of these songs seem woefully out of place. What the [expletive] is "Losing My Religion" doing in there? And even if you do
like the song selection (unlikely), you'll sense that something is very wrong
once you actually start listening to these tunes, because it's woefully clear that these were not
performed by the original artists! You couldn't even tell with the first game, but some of these are way
off. It really put a damper on my desire to play through the single player mode. Earning "coins" offers little incentive, as they just unlock pointless "bonuses" like irritating sound effects and alternate song mixes (pass!). The annoying bongo sound effects are one bonus feature I'd prefer to re
-lock! Not only do they sound awful, but they drown out the music! The two-player mode routinely awards victory to the worst player, and the quirky "rock-paper-sissors" ending sequences are worthless. Then there's the highly touted "Freestyle" mode, which lets you bang away as random images are plastered across the screen. Can you say "Worst Mode Ever"? After about 10 seconds of that garbage, my friend Jonathan gasped "What the [expletive]
?!" Sorry to say, only the most devoted Donkey Konga fans will find this lame follow-up worthy of their attention. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
ESPN International Winter Sports 2002
Publisher: Disney (2002)
When I see an unwieldy name like "ESPN International Winter Sports 2002", I can only assume they couldn't get the Olympic license. Too bad! Winter Sports lets one or two players compete in events like alpine skiing, ski jumping, speed skating, bobsleigh, half-pipe, figure skating, and curling. This isn't a remarkable game by any stretch, but it's not a dud either. The pacing is brisk and you have to love the snowy landscapes with their rolling hills and ice-encrusted evergreen trees. You select the specific events you want to compete in, which is always a nice option. Each is preceded by an explanation screen which explains the controls well but tends to drag on for a little too long. The events tend to be more difficult than they need to be. The skiing events look great, but it's hard to make tight turns and missing a single gate
instantly disqualifies you! The ski jump event really isn't that hard, but the elaborate set of gauges on the screen will make you feel like landing the freakin' space shuttle!
The curling event is pretty long and tedious, but it does offer a strategic aspect the other events lack. Figure skating will only appeal to girls, and since girls don't play video games, it won't appeal to anybody
. You might expect Winter Sports 2002 to be a good multiplayer title, but that's not the case due to its learning curve. Even the simpler events typically require several attempts before you really get the hang of them. There is however one event that really stands out above the rest, and that's bobsled. When played solo, you navigate a rollercoaster-like pipe complete with speed boost strips!
In two-player mode the game is played on a split-screen with both players racing on the same track!
It's not realistic at all, but it's a blast to jockey with a friend at high speeds. Winter Sports 2002 is a quirky title. The menu screens feature disco music and the A button is referred to as the "decide" button. The game could definitely be more playable, but there's something to be said for its short events and inviting scenery. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2002)
Rating: Mature (17+) (Blood and gore, violence)
Mixing elements of Resident Evil and Tomb Raider, this dark adventure offers some a number of original features including multiple playable characters, spell-casting, finishing moves, and an inventive "sanity meter" that's bound to freak you out. Eternal Darkness unofficially marks the Gamecube's transition to the "mature" demographic. That's right, this is a mature-rated (17+) title from the company who brought you Yoshi. Initially, the game feels like Resident Evil as you guide a woman around her grandfather's mansion to investigate his gruesome death. Her subtle facial expressions are amazing, but her hair looks chunky. While collecting items and solving puzzles, the calm is occasionally shattered by a startling event that will scare the living hell
out of you. As it soon becomes apparent, this mansion serves as the "hub" of the game. Certain books and transcripts send you back in time
where you play out
ancient stories as a Roman soldier, a servant woman, a swashbuckling swordsman, and a colonial American doctor. These stages feel a lot like Tomb Raider, offering a nice blend of traps, puzzles, and hand-to-hand combat. The animated monsters look incredible, and I love how they writhe on the floor after being mortally injured. Characters don't show external injuries, but they do slow down and limp as their life depletes. The audio effects in Eternal Darkness are outstanding. From water trickling in a fountain, to mysterious whispers, to the shambling sound of rotting flesh, a number of effects really caught my ear. The game's unique control scheme lets you target specific body parts, so you can hack off the limbs of approaching creeps. I love it how the skeletons feel for their heads
after being decapitated. Finishing moves are also available - very unusual for an adventure game. Unlike many survival horror games, the bosses in Eternal Darkness are few and far between, thank goodness. The spell casting aspect might have been a good idea had it not been so ridiculously complicated. Not only do you need to collect the necessary spells, artifacts, runes, and tablets to create a spell, but then you need to combine everything correctly! The most interesting feature of the game is its bizarre sanity meter which triggers events that blur the line between fantasy and reality. Your character will grow larger, the camera will sway, the title screen will appear, or a message will tell you you're controller isn't connected! While these don't really affect the gameplay, they usually catch you off guard and sometimes freak you out. Scary, quirky, and fun, Eternal Darkness is a good choice for those looking for an original horror title for the GameCube. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, Nintendo.com, Sega.com