Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2002)
I've never been a big fan of Tiger Woods golf games, but this one is pretty solid. Perhaps the analog swing control is finally beginning to grow on me, or maybe it's just better suited to the GameCube controller. Unlike the "old-school" golf games that use "swing meters", pulling back on the stick engages your backswing, and pushing forward swings through. Tapping the Z button during your backswing adds power, and tapping it while the ball is in mid-air applies spin. The Z button is in an awkward position to tap, but you'll get used to it. Changing the ball's rotation in-flight is hardly realistic but it sure is fun. The camera always provides a nice angle of your shot, and holding the A button expedites the sequence so you don't have to wait for those long, slow rolls. The courses are simple and plain, but at least you have twelve to choose from (nine real, three fantasy). The golfer animation is silky smooth, and the facial close-ups look nearly photographic. Besides Tiger and a few other pros, there are also some humorous characters including a sumo wrestler and an old man who doesn't move his body at all when he swings. The swing setup screen is well organized, but I hate how the "distance" information alternates with the general hole stats. Something that important should remain on the screen at all times! The X button provides a nice zoom to the spot you're aiming for, but hitting for proper distance is tricky and can be frustrating for new players. Exceptional shots are dramatized by slow-motion effects and a thumping heartbeat. The game has some bizarre sound effects, and at one point I thought I was being attacked by a roving band of spider monkeys. Likewise, the generic rock music seems very much out of place for a golf game. If you're looking for replay value, however, Tiger Woods delivers. Besides the standard fare (skins, match play, stroke, tournament), there are several addicting single-player modes. "Tiger Challenge" lets you compete against individual players to open additional golfers, courses, and other prizes. The "Scenarios" mode provides 50 specific tough challenges covering a wide range of strategic situations. You constantly open new features and earn awards. More realistic than Hot Shots but with an arcade sensibility of its own, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 really makes a name for itself. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Time Splitters 2
Publisher: Eidos (2002)
Rating: Teen (violence)
Time Splitters 2 (TS2) is a well-programmed first-person shooter (FPS) with an interesting "time travel" theme. What its stages lack in graphical detail they compensate for with sheer variety. They include a Siberian Dam stage (shades of Goldeneye), the Wild West (1853), the gangter-era Chicago (1932), and the futuristic Planet X (2280). Also notable is the Blade-Runner-esque "Neo Toyko" (2019) and the gothic Notre Dame in Paris (1895) - complete with obligatory hunchback! The weapons tend to be suited to the particular time period, and they go well beyond the standard fare, including twin Tommy Guns, bouncing lasers, crossbows, and homing missiles. TS2's gameplay is pretty standard, but I was impressed by its frenetic pacing and silky smooth animation. The heart of the game lies in the "arcade mode", offering dozens of short, predefined scenarios for one to four players. Some of these exhibit a strange sense of humor. One stage is overrun with pyromaniac monkeys setting everyone ablaze, and another causes each combatant to "shrink" upon respawning. The configuration menu is rich, and you can even create your own stages using a mapmaker feature. TS2's graphics are sharp and clean, but not especially detailed or realistic. The character models look cartoonish, but this allows for a wide variety of facial expressions - something you rarely see in this type of game. The frame-rate is uncommonly smooth, even on the split screen. A decent control scheme utilizes both thumbsticks, and I like how enemies react to where they're shot. Zombies tend to lose their heads, and cowboys dance around when you shoot them in the feet. One side effect of the high-speed mayhem is that it can be hard to aim with precision. One of my friends went as far as dismissing the game as too spastic
. Enemies tend absorb a lot of bullets, and it's often hard to tell when they're dead, so you tend to pump more lead into them than necessary. TS2's music is exceptional and appropriate for each stage, including a jazzy score for 1932 Chicago, religious hymns in Notre Dame, and electronic music for Planet X. It took a while for me to fully appreciate this one, but Time Splitters 2 is a well-constructed shooter that's both goofy and fun. Some may find it shallow, but never underestimate the all-important monkey factor. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Timesplitters: Future Perfect
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2005)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)
When I first played Future Perfect, I was under the impression that this was the original
Timesplitters. What a fool I was!
Fortunately, a reader explained that this is actually the sequel
to Timesplitters 2 (TS2), and the original was never even released
on the GameCube! Well, at least that explains why this game is so much better
than TS2! Future Perfect offers the same brand of first-person shooting action, except with more realistic graphics, better stages, and more sophisticated missions. The story mode takes the player through a variety of time periods and diverse locations including a futuristic wasteland, a Scottish castle, and cold-war Russia. There's even a haunted house
stage! Your character is a bad-ass space marine name Cortez who is cast from the same mold as Vin Diesel. The missions focus on shooting, but simple puzzles and driving sequences add variety. The story is very tongue-in-cheek, with each stage providing you with a memorable sidekick. The animation is remarkably smooth, and some of the explosions incorporate remarkable "time ripple" effects. The attention to detail is commendable. When you're up in a castle tower, you can actually look out windows to enjoy panoramic views. The controls are okay, but they would probably be better if you didn't have to use a GameCube controller. The right stick is touchy to aim with, and pressing the clunky right trigger to swing a weapon is awkward. A split-screen co-op mode is included, supporting up to four players. Some of the playable characters are a riot, including robot R-110 ("Eat my laser! Eat it!!
"), the evil genius ("Me and my pussy are going to have lots
of fun"), the bizarre "Deerhaunter", and an agitated monkey. Some of the more interesting arenas include Venice, a disco, and a flying zeppelin. A nice "wide screen" option makes the most of the screen's real estate, and thanks to the option of adding computer "bots", the game plays a mean solo death match. As icing on the cake, Future Perfect even includes a "map maker" that lets you construct your own levels! First-person shooters don't tend to age well, but this would have to rank as one of its best on the GameCube. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure
Publisher: Kemco (2001)
Rating: Teen 13+ (mild violence)
Imagine a game where you are a kid wandering around a virtual Universal Studios theme park, collecting items and visiting attractions that play like mini-games. It sounds promising - especially if you enjoy theme parks as I do. Sadly, this game takes that perfectly good concept and butchers it beyond recognition. It's as if the developers went out of their way
to make the gameplay as frustrating and awkward as possible. You begin by selecting between six of the most hideous "children" I've ever seen in a video game. Then your guide, Woody Woodpecker, provides a short introduction. Could they have come up with a more annoying and unlikable guide? I doubt it. Whenever I hear that high-pitched voice, I just feel nauseous. The theme park itself doesn't look bad, with its lush scenery and crowds of people walking around, but navigating the place is a real chore! You're extremely limited as to where you can move - there are invisible walls all over the place! You'll see all sorts of interesting buildings you'd like to explore, but as I learned - if you want to go there, you can't. The fixed camera angles are disconcerting, and it's sometimes even hard to locate your kid amidst the other pedestrians. Entering an attraction lets you play a mildly amusing mini-game, like riding a bike in the side-scrolling ET stage, or shooting targets in the first-person Wild West level. Other attractions, like Water World, simply consist of watching about five-seconds worth of not-so-special effects. I didn't get to try all of the attractions, because most of the time Woody Woodpecker says, "You can't get in here because there's too many people". What the [expletive] is that
all about? When Woody won't let you in, there's not much to do except pick up trash around the park. Can you believe it? Instead of experiencing the wonders of Universal Studios, and I'm forced to collect trash instead! Who designed this thing? You can stop and talk to people, but it's pointless, as they just utter rubbish like "Hello", and "This is exciting!" Exciting? What game are they
playing?! There's also an idiotic movie trivia game, which offers really bad multiple-choice questions about inconsequential films like Dragon Heart, Patch Adams, and Back to the Future 3. Due to a bug in the game, occasionally the choices aren't even displayed on the screen! Univeral Studios Theme Park Adventure is an absolute travesty - the video game equivalent of raw sewage. I'm usually quite amused when I review bad games, but this one just left me feeling disgusted. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2003)
Rating: Teen (Cartoon violence, suggestive themes)
Here's an unusual side-scroller that's certainly innovative but somewhat over-hyped. Viewtiful Joe offers dazzling 2D gameplay and is one of the best-looking video games you'll see on the GameCube. Its premise involves a kid named Joe who's been sucked into an old-fashioned superhero movie. Assuming the role of the hero in the movie, Joe must rescue his girlfriend from a dark villain and his robotic henchmen. Viewtiful Joe's rich graphics resemble a 3D graphic-novel, with bold outlines and vivid color. The storyline leaves much to be desired, but in terms of raw gameplay, Viewiful Joe is certainly unique. A "danger" symbol is displayed when an enemy is about to attack, allowing you to duck or jump in time to set up a devastating counter. Beating up the robots is enormously satisfying because punches and kicks send metal parts flying in all directions. There's a lot of button-mashing in this game, and it will
take its toll on your hands. But the game's real "hook" is Joe's ability to slow down time in order to dodge bullets or perform Matrix-like attacks. Not only is this fun to execute, but it adds a whole new dimension to the action. You later acquire additional abilities like "Mach speed" or "Zoom in" which play a key role in puzzle-solving as well as combat. Unfortunately, the game's difficulty is uneven, and I wish Capcom had included a "medium" difficulty to go along with the "Adult" and "Kid" skill levels. Viewtiful Joe is a refreshing change from all the cookie-cutter 3D platform games out there, but I didn't find it especially addictive once the novelty wore off. Also, the name "Viewtiful Joe" really sucks in my opinion. Still, I'll give Joe credit for its good looks and innovation. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2003)
In this "by-the-numbers" 3D platformer you play the role of Mario's nefarious alter ego. The evil, cackling Wario is not the most likeable character in the world, but his wacky antics are amusing at times. The action is viewed from the side, and the stages are thoughtfully constructed to minimize backtracking. In terms of visuals, Wario World sports a very clean look and incorporates some amazing textures. You'll explore a dinosaur world, a circus, a haunted house, and a festive winter stage. Whimsical enemies include personified animals, dinosaurs, and (ugh) evil clowns
. The controls are extremely responsive, and Wario scuttles around quickly to keep things lively. New moves are introduced gradually, including a shoulder charge, ground pound, and a devastating piledriver! I especially enjoyed swinging a dinosaur around by the tail, knocking out all others in the vicinity. Defeated foes drop coins, and the way Wario can suck them up with his mouth is just plain disturbing!
Each stage features dozens of hidden objects, but you can progress through the game by simply defeating the bosses. Tedious "puzzle rooms" challenge you to snag elusive red gems, and you'll need good depth perception to beat them. The goofy bosses tend to be oversized beasts, including a lizard with a knob on his tail that Wario can conveniently latch onto. I like how you can use coins to buy continues and pick up right where you left off. Less fun is falling off a ledge and having to beat down a bunch of ghost dogs to return to the surface. I really enjoyed Wario World's early stages, but by the time I reached the obligatory ice stages, I began to grow weary of it all. I really hate that obnoxious pause screen, which plays that irritating "nah nah na-nah nah" sample over and over. Wario World isn't consistently good, but there's still some fun to be had with this GameCube original. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Wave Race Blue Storm
Publisher: Nintendo (2001)
Considerably harder and far more attractive than Wave Race 64
(Nintendo 64, 1996), Blue Storm offers the ultimate jet ski racing experience. Even the load screens
impressed the hell out of me with their amazing ripple effects. Nintendo really put a lot of effort into the water, evident by the smooth undulating waves and clear surface that offers glimpses of colorful coral and ocean life underneath. The gorgeous courses include exotic beaches, autumn lakes, arctic ice floes, and a resort town at night with well-lit skyscrapers. Not only does each course provide alternate routes, but the courses actually change
slightly with each lap. Adding more excitement are random weather conditions, including driving rain and violent thunderstorms. Unlike the first Wave Race, steering is somewhat difficult because you really need to fight the force of the waves in order to maintain your position. And be careful not to smack into the colored buoys that you're supposed to be weaving around. There's nothing more frustrating than leading the pack in the final lap before plowing into the very last buoy and watching everyone else pass you by! Blue Storm is tough, but once you get "in the zone", it provides an adrenaline rush few other racers can match. There's an addictive championship mode for the single player, and a four-player split screen to entertain your friends. A stupid commentator spouts pointless stuff like "Alright keep doing it just like that!", but thankfully he can
be turned off. As a fan of arcade-style water games, Wave Race Blue Storm ranks as one of my all-time favorite GameCube titles. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (2002)
Also known as "Tetris on acid", Zoocube is a crazy addictive and spectacularly original 3D puzzle game. Gameplay involves rotating a cube in the center of the screen as odd shapes approach from four directions. Each shape has distinctive colors and features that vaguely resemble an animal species. The "walrus", for example, is a brown circle with two protruding incisors. When you stack two of the same shapes, they combine and disappear, triggering a cute animation and a distinctive animal sound effect. In advanced stages (and multi-player games), it starts to sound like a real zoo as animals are released in rapid succession. Control is tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it feels natural. You can get by using the main analog stick, but expert players will also use the "C" stick to rotate the cube more efficiently. There's plenty of technique involved, and floating power-ups and bonuses spice up the action. The game ends when a column of animals becomes too long. Zoocube's single major flaw is how a column turns gray as it's about to reach its limit. This makes it hard to make out the animals on the stack, complicating matters at the worst possible time. Zoocube has its share of special modes and multi-player games, but the shapes are much smaller and hard to discern on the split-screen. The new age music playing in the background is absolutely amazing, and combined with the cerebral gameplay, it puts you into a trance-like state. Zoocube is one-of-a-kind, and guaranteed to appeal to men and women of any age. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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