Attack of the Movies 3D
Publisher: Majesco (2010)
Rating: Teen (animated blood, fantasy violence)
This game is an absolute travesy!
Attack of the Movies 3D is one of the most heinous examples of by-the-numbers video game making I've ever seen. I tend to enjoy light-gun shooters, and was hoping Attack of the Movies would deliver shallow but fun arcade-style gameplay. Well, at least I got the shallow
part right. What I failed to anticipate is that the designers couldn't create an interesting level to save their lives. The game is composed of individual "movies" that rip off films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Terminator. The first-person perspective automatically guides you through war-ravaged streets, crumbling ruins, graveyards, and deep-sea trenches. The game comes with four sets of "3D" glasses, but the 3D effect is an absolute joke
. The images have no sense of depth and everything is bathed in hazy blue and yellow hues. You won't be able to switch over to the 2D mode fast enough. The graphics are about Dreamcast quality, but the stages are incredibly boring and lacking in detail. Whether you're exploring a tomb or flying around a space station, it feels like you're going in circles, shooting the same targets over and over again. In the deep sea level there are several times when you take aim at a boring green pipe spewing one explosive canister after another. The scenery is indestructible except for the occasional wooden crate, and power-ups are represented by large rotating icons. There are no alternate attacks, so that rules out any strategy. The game's opening level, Insect Invasion, is an absolute chore
to complete! Giant ants pelt you with green projectiles that home in from off the screen
, making you the target of endless cheap hits. Poorly-placed checkpoints ensure you'll be forced to relive the misery again and again. The game's bosses are as generic as they come, particularly that spinning "orb" in the space station. Upon completing each "movie" you're provided with a score and statistics, but none of the information is recorded. That's fine, because there's no way in hell
that you'll ever want to play this again. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Publisher: Warner Bros. (2010)
Rating: Everyone (10+)
Batman was a force to be reckoned with on the 8-bit and 16-bit platforms, but since the transition to 3D his track record has been spotty. The Brave and the Bold marks his long-awaited return to 2D, and sure enough, this is one of the more playable Batman titles in recent memory. The game is a series of episodes teaming Batman with various partners including Robin, Blue Beetle, and Hawkman. Brave and the Bold is based on the animated TV series, and I love its tongue-in-cheek style. The banter between Batman and his partner is downright hilarious at times - arguably the highlight of the game! A few lines even poke fun at video games
("Hey, didn't we just pass that mountain?") The game itself plays like an interactive cartoon, with rich scenery that looks hand-painted. The museum in the opening level is fun and imaginative, and I love the "cats throughout history" exhibits. Later levels are set in less-compelling sewers, caves, mines, and subways. The game often feels like an homage to the classic era, as you dodge steam vents, run along conveyers belts, and avoid falling stalactites. You'll grapple platforms, pummel thugs, and gather up the gold coins they drop. In addition to gangsters, you'll beat up robots, gorillas, zombies, and even swarms of bugs! Taking the tutorial is necessary to understand all of your moves, but it's the wide variety of attack options that keeps the fighting fresh. The motion controls are used effectively, mainly to unleash heavy attacks. You can point at the screen to mark targets for your batarangs, which is a lot of fun. It's especially satisfying to set off a string of floating mines. You'll fight your share of bosses, but most of these battles have some sort of twist to keep things interesting. For example, Cat Man will temporarily transform you into small caped feline
crusaders! The stages are ideal in length, your progress is automatically saved, and the jazzy musical score is fantastic. A gadget screen lets you buy and upgrade items, but it's hardly necessary because the game is so easy
. I'm not a fan of super-hard games, but a little challenge is needed to add tension. Part of the problem lies with the unlimited respawns, which makes you feel like you're playing the game with a cheat code
. It's a shame because Batman: The Bold and the Brave definitely gets the "hard stuff" right, combining old-school fun with new-school technology. A difficulty option would have gone a long way, but it's still a fun trip. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 2K Sports (2007)
This arcade-style baseball title feels like an Xbox 360 port with motion controls awkwardly "grafted" on top of it. Consequentially, the Bigs for the Wii may be the least intuitive
baseball game ever conceived. If there's any doubt, just have a few friends who've never played the game before attempt the tutorial mode. Watch the hilarity ensue as they flail their arms in frustration, resorting to crazy "back-scratching" and "pancake flipping" movements in their desperate attempts to grasp the controls. I actually had tears
running down my face! Yeah, The Bigs for the Wii is a real trainwreck. To pitch, you hold the Wi-mote in a neutral position, and then drop it down while contorting your wrist in an unnatural manner. Oh yeah, that's
how people throw in real life! Swinging the bat uses a more natural motion, but with the nun-chuck attached it's very awkward. In addition, there's a noticeable lag you need to compensate for, and you can't check your swing! Even when you get the hang of pitching and hitting, the fielding is atrocious. Infielders let balls roll right by, and outfielders slide in the grass for no discernable reason. Throwing the ball between bases is the worst of all. The manual says to flick the controller towards the base, but it might as well say "Good luck, you [expletive] bastard!" Thank God there's a secret, undocumented way of throwing the ball - just press the directional pad! Knowing this tidbit of information makes the game immensely
more playable. As bad as the controls are, the Bigs has its share of amusing moments. Using a power-up causes the entire screen to turn blue, prompting my friend Jonathan to inquire, "When did the Predator
become a catcher
?!" When both teams use power-ups at once, a "duel mode" kicks in, zooming in on the eyes of the batter and pitcher in an unintentionally hilarious manner. But the ultimate highlight of the game is its home-plate collisions, during which both players perform drum-roll motions to give their player the upper hand (that
makes sense!). The graphics are modest at best. The stadiums look jaggy, and the non-blinking, expressionless players look like zombies
. Once we grasped the controls, my friend Steve and I had some fun with The Bigs, but I don't know if it had more to do with the gameplay or the sheer absurdity of it all. There's a fun, arcade-style game buried here somewhere, but good luck finding it under the smoldering mass of misguided controls and last-generation graphics. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Aksys (2011)
You'd expect an old-school guy like me to love Bit.Trip Complete with its intentionally pixelated, late-70's style. Its six games include tributes to classics like Pong and Pitfall, along with some completely original titles. The first game, Beat, is a rhythmic version of Pong. You move a paddle along the left side of the screen by tilting the Wiimote, deflecting giant pixels approaching from the right at varying speeds and movement patterns. Psychedelic visuals and a pulsating musical score are perfectly synced with the gameplay, allowing you to get into a groove. Unfortunately the difficulty takes forever to ramp up, and I felt like I should be having more fun than I was. Core is a shooter like Cosmic Ark (Atari 2600, 1982) where you control a stationary cannon in the center of the screen that fires a laser in four directions. You try to blast blocks moving across the screen, but their movements are designed to trick you into shooting at the wrong times. Once again it drags on for too long, and by the time the game was over I had no desire to ever play it again. Void is a more inventive game, although you might call it a 2D version of Katamari Damacy (Playstation 2, 2004). You freely move a pixelated black circle around the screen attempting to "catch" black squares while avoiding white ones. Your black circle gradually increases in size, but you can press a button to reset it. It's easier to swallow blacks dots when large but harder to avoid the white ones, so it's a balancing act. Runner is a side-scrolling platformer that pays homage to classics like Moon Patrol and Pitfall. Your blocky character looks like something straight out of an Odyssey 2 game as he hops over obstacles while collecting gold bars. You get unlimited continues but the game is tiresome. Fate is a side-scrolling shooter where you move a spaceman along a curving rail, firing at aliens while avoiding their projectiles. Once again, it's a neat concept that wears out its welcome after about five or ten minutes. I was hoping multiplayer would improve the experience, but it was very confusing and setting up the controllers is an absolute nightmare!
I also take issue with the game menus which try to incorporate elements of the game. If you haven't played the game yet, these menus are confusing as hell. Overall Bit.Trip is very artistic, humorous, and gets an "A" or originality. Unfortunately, it would have been better had these games been short and sweet like the classics that inspired them. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
BlastWorks: Build, Trade, Destroy
Publisher: Majesco (2008)
Its minimal graphics and 2D gameplay may hint at old-school goodness, but BlastWorks is not very good. At the start, you control a biplane unleashing an unending stream of square missiles. Moving up and down has a "spraying" effect, allowing you to hit targets you're not lined up with. But what really makes BlastWorks unique is how defeated enemies go spinning into the air and tend to latch onto your ship. Once attached, they behave like both shields and secondary cannons. It doesn't take long to transform your modest plane into a mechanical monstrosity that takes up the whole screen! In that form, you'll be firing missiles every which way, but you can't avoid objects entering from the right. It's a shame the camera doesn't zoom out at this point. What ends up happening is that pieces continuously break off as new ones latch on. It's pretty cool at first, but once the novelty wears off, you're left with little strategy and plenty of chaos. Be sure to crank up the difficulty to at least "pilot" (if not "ace") or you'll find yourself racking up 17 extra ships on top of your six continues! As you might imagine, the two-player simultaneous mode is crazy, since you can't tell where one player begins and the other ends! Despite its novel premise, the visuals are terribly bland. Not only does the game toss the same old enemies at you over and over again, but the landscapes are incredibly uninspired - almost barren
. Apparently the developers put more effort into the editors that let you design your own ships and stages, but I really don't see the point. Hollow and unfulfilling, BlastWorks is less of a blast and more of a bust. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2008)
This innovative title was designed by Steven Spielberg, and I have to admit it's absolutely ingenious
. Boom Blox is best described in three words: "Jenga in reverse". Each screen consists of one or more structures composed of blocks. But instead of gently removing blocks, you toss balls at the structure in an attempt to knock away blocks, or better yet, destabilize the whole pile. Especially if you're a guy, the idea of knocking down large stacks of anything
has a certain primeval appeal - it's the essence of fun!
Boom Blox sidesteps being judged on its graphics by adopting a simplistic, cartoonish style. To throw, you lock onto your target (via the pointer), and then hurl the ball with a throwing motion. Spicing up the action are special blocks that can explode, vanish, or set off chain reactions. There are dozens of intriguing game variations, including some with point values printed on the side of each block. Boom Blox is absolutely gangbusters
when played against one or more friends. As you take turns targeting the teetering structure, there's a sense of excitement, strategy, and anticipation. The suspense really builds as you hope the player before you doesn't notice the devastating shot you've lined up in your mind. You may have a sore arm the next day, but you'll still want a rematch. My friends gave Boom Blox a solid "A" for the multiplayer action, but I found the single player modes less compelling. These offer a more puzzle-oriented experience as you try to take down structures in the fewest possible throws. It's only mildly addicting, and the "goodies" you unlock are mainly just items for use in the "create mode". The create mode is a powerful editor that lets you construct your own stages, but most gamers will only tinker with it briefly. Solo play doesn't do this game justice, but if you have one or more friends on hand, Boom Blox may be the ultimate Wii experience. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Boom Blox: Bash Party
Publisher: Electronics Arts (2009)
This lackluster sequel may as well be named Boom Bust
. In the original game, players took turns throwing balls at stacks of blocks, and its sheer simplicity made Boom Blox a joy to play. Bash Party tries to pull the franchise in several new directions at once, but its new layers of complexity undermine the spirit of the game. Bash Party offers a wider variety of challenges including targeting blocks of your color only or knocking small blue gems off larger structures. In addition to throwing, some stages let you use slingshots and cannons. New block types include "virus blox" and "change blox", and diverse scenery ranges from under the sea to outer space. This is a blatant case of more being less. When playing with friends, we would select a random stage only to find ourselves dazed and confused. Unlike the first Boom Blox, you can't just look at the screen and instantly know what to do. The objectives are often nebulous and the stage designs are boring. Heck, I couldn't even get psyched up about the pirate
stages! Lacking the pick-up-and-play quality of its predecessor, Bash Party is the ultimate party killer. The best thing about this sequel is the renewed appreciation it gives you for the original
Boom Blox. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Boy and his Blob, A
Publisher: Majesco (2008)
The original Boy and his Blob (NES, 1989) has apparently developed a cult following over the years. I suspect fans will approve of this well-produced remake which offers a leisurely mix of platform jumping and puzzle solving. It begins with a boy who investigates a meteor near his tree house and discovers a friendly white blob (which looks a lot like a ghost). In a scene reminiscent of ET, he instantly embraces the blob and the two become best friends. The stages are very old-school in design with their spiked pits, moveable blocks, collapsing platforms, and deadly water. The pacing is slow and methodical as you instruct your blob to transform into useful objects like a ladder, hole, trampoline, bowling ball, and an anvil. The early levels tend to hold your hand but later you're expected to figure things out for yourself. Shadowy creatures often stand in your way, but they can be disposed of by creating a hole or squishing them with a rock. A Boy and his Blob has the look of an interactive storybook. The rich backgrounds look hand-painted, although small objects in the foreground can be hard to make out (like snails or frogs). I've never claimed video games were art, but there is definitely art in
this game. From the dreamlike quality of moon-swept forests to the eye candy of a colorful city skyline, there are some beautiful sights. Complimenting the attractive visuals is a serene, orchestrated music track. The sound effects are minimal, but it's actually nice to play a "quiet" game for a change. I especially enjoyed the stages with the gently-falling rain. There's a lot to like, but A Boy and his Blob takes too long to gain traction, and the early stages are downright sleep-inducing!
There is little sense of excitement, although that huge cobra boss certainly got my attention. Even in the advanced stages I could only play for short sessions. The game fails to explain some key concepts, but I suspect it was designed that way to evoke the "wonder of discovery". That's fine, just as long as the player knows what he's getting into. Thrill seekers should avoid this, but cerebral gamers should appreciate the innocent charm of a Boy and his Blob. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Bully Scholarship Edition
Publisher: Rockstar (2008)
After playing the Xbox 360 version of Bully Scholarship Edition, this Wii version was exactly what I expected with its downgraded graphics but interesting use of motion controls. If you can imagine a Grand Theft Auto game within the confines of a high school environment, you'll know what to expect from Bully. Assuming the role of "the new kid", you freely explore a private campus while accepting "missions" and attending classes. You'll play pranks, escort nerds to their lockers, steal papers from teachers' desks, humiliate the bullies, and kiss the girls. The classes assume the form of surprisingly enjoyable mini-games, including word puzzles (English), rhythm games (Music), and a frog dissection that makes good use the Wii pointer (Biology). The motion controls also come in handy for aiming a slingshot or shaking loose from a disciplinarian. The Wii-mote and nun-chuck are used to punch with each hand, but the loose controls can be a liability when you're required to execute well-timed combinations. Bully's graphics appear to be about Xbox quality. The people look chunkier than the smooth 360 models, and lousy shadowing makes the lead character look like he has a bloody nose. The environments are still fascinating however, although "fog" tends to obscure buildings in the distance. Does the graphic degradation hurt the gameplay? A little bit, especially considering how much time you spend simply exploring the sprawling campus. Bully's storyline is conveyed via excellent cut-scenes that incorporate realistic high school humor with excellent voice acting. Likewise the playful music perfectly matches the juvenile tone of the game. Bully has a ton of brief load screens, but these aren't nearly as colorful as those on the 360, and I've never heard my Wii thrash
so much. The two-player mini-games might seem like an afterthought, but if you give them a chance you'll have a ball! At its core, Bully is just as playable on the Wii, but I'd have to give a slight edge to the 360 version for aesthetic reasons. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: GS Software (2007)
The Wii needs mini-games like Sony needs bad press, but it's hard to dislike Carnival Games. I was expecting a collection of generic target shooters, but these are faithful recreations of authentic
carnival games! Many bring back fond childhood memories of the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. There are 25 games available from the start, and many more that can be unlocked. Most are simple and fun, incorporating natural motion controls and realistic physics (too
real if you ask my friend Scott!). The best of the bunch are Alley Ball (aka Skeet Ball), Hoops (basketball), Ka-pow (throw at clown faces), Frog Leap, Balloon Darts, Nerves of Steel, Shooting Gallery, Horse Race, Hole In One, and Shoot for the Stars (BB gun!). The motion controls in Balloon Darts and Nerves of Steel are remarkably sensitive and precise. Less fun are the games that require you to shake the controller to power up some kind of gauge - that's too much work! Games that fall into this category are Test Your Strength, Clown Splash, and Bowler Coaster. Dunk tank and spilled milk are a bit too
simplistic, and I wish the football-throwing games used real throwing motions. Collection Plate, Ring Toss, and Lucky Cups depend more on luck than skill, but even these are fun when taken in small doses. The "competition mode" lets up to four people compete in five random games, several of which offer split-screen action. Even the single-player mode is engaging thanks to the innovative "prize" system that lets you "trade up" your winnings to unlock new games and other surprises. No game takes more than a minute or two to play, but if you play the entire circuit, it's easy to spend and hour or more playing Carnival Games. Don't expect much from the graphics and audio though. The "barkers" running each game have non-moving lips, and the scenery lacks detail. The audio is equally sparse, limited to traditional carnival music and quips from bystanders. One thing that I don't understand is why you're required to create your own little character from the start instead of using your Mii. Isn't that the whole purpose of the Mii system?? Even so, Carnival Games is a pleasant surprise which should appeal to gamers of all ages. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Carnival Games Mini Golf
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive (2008)
A few months ago I reviewed a mediocre game called Summer Sports: Paradise Island. Although marred by poor controls, Summer Sports featured elaborate mini-golf holes which I thought would be a great premise for a full-blown game. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Carnival Games Mini Golf, especially since I enjoyed the original Carnival Games so much. Unfortunately, this project was badly mishandled. Instead of a straightforward game of miniature golf with a variety of fun courses, Mini Golf goes off the deep end with annoying gimmicks.
There are great themes like pirates, the wild west, the Amazon jungle, and a fairy tale land, but each area only has three holes!
Worse yet, two
of those holes are trick
holes designed to be made in a single shot! Even the one "normal" hole in each area is extremely automated, so the ball is frequently transported via a bunch of bizarre contraptions. You're often required to play mediocre mini-games that include guiding a pterodactyl through a volcano, catching eggs in a basket, or firing a cannon at pirate ships. This is
supposed to be golf, right? The mini-games make good use of motion controls but run too long and aren't much fun. Even Mini Golf's putting controls are marginal. Although you swing the controller as you would an actual putter, gauging your strength is hard. The audio track features that annoying "barker" from the original Carnival Games, and he comments on every shot whether it's warranted or not. Carnival Games Mini Golf held my attention for a while, but only because I was determined to unlock the Spook-A-Rama location. But once you unlock everything there's little replay value, and competing against friends is just a miserable experience. Had Mini Golf offered traditional 18-hole mini-golf courses, this would have been a slam-dunk best seller. Take-Two really missed the boat with this one. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Castle of Shikigami III
Publisher: Aksys (2008)
Rating: Teen (mild fantasy violence, mild language, sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco)
I tend to enjoy crazy 2D shooters like this, but Castle of Shikigami III (CS3) may be too over-the-top for casual gamers. If you've never played a Shikigami game before, this one won't make any sense. If you have
played one, it won't make sense either, but at least you'll be expecting it not to make sense. Does that make any sense? You can download classic 2D shooters that are far better, but it's still nice to have an off-line option like this. Having played the last two Shikigami games on my PS2, I was mentally prepared for its boss-centric stages, goofy intermissions, and projectile overkill. I find it amusing when critics describe CS3's dialogue as "insane", because it's downright sensible
compared to the previous games! When a boss asks "Wait a minute, isn't this the one-player mode? Why are there two of you here?" - hey, at least it's in proper English! The gameplay is unchanged from previous games, but since nobody played those, I'll describe it. You guide a flying person around the lower part of a narrow screen, firing at enemies that emerge from the top and unleash barrages of missiles. You can tap the fire button to engage your cannon, or hold it in to initiate a more concentrated special attack (at the cost of slower movement). Bombs are also available in limited supply. The game's trademark "tension system" increases your firepower when you narrowly miss getting hit, effectively making the crazy parts of the game even crazier. As a mindless shooter, the game is fun, and since there's no motion control, you can hold the controller "NES style". I like how two players can blast away at once, sharing a combined score. The background graphics depict scenic canyons and castles, but there's nothing here that will turn any heads. It's a shame there's no stage select, because I got tired of working my way through the same stages and bosses. Your adversaries tend to be floating mechanical contraptions (are those trash cans?
), and bosses tend to be humans with shields who like to engage in preposterous conversations. Each of the eleven playable characters has a unique set of imaginative weapons. The game records high scores, but only if you set your auto-save to "on" and don't use a continue. The high scores are organized by character and weapon, but I would have preferred a single table. Also, without so much space on the screen, couldn't they keep the high score up there while you're playing? Castle of Shikigami 3 is decent option if you're in the mood for some twitch shooting action, but I'd prefer to see a more "back to the basics" 2D shooting title for the Wii. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (2008)
Rating: Teen (suggestive themes, violence)
The idea of a Castlevania fighter for the Wii seemed ill-advised to say the least, but I figured Konami had a few tricks up their sleeve. Unfortunately, this game is every bit as bad as everybody thought
it would be! Castlevania Judgement substitutes the button mashing you normally associate with fighting games with non-stop controller shaking!
Almost every attack requires you to shake the controller. A standard combo is "shake shake shake shake" - seriously! The directional combo is "direction + shake shake shake" and the jumping combo is "C + shake shake shake". If you haven't rolled your eyes yet, now would be a good time. This non-stop shaking is hell
on the wrist, and within a half hour I found myself in excruciating pain! The thumbstick gives you freedom of movement, but it's hard to line up your attacks, and too often you'll execute a chain of moves at thin air. There are icons on the battlefield, but these just cheapen things further. In terms of graphics, Judgement looks like a low-budget affair with PS2-grade visuals and unspectacular scenery. There's an impressive iron wolfman and a few bountiful chicks, but most of the dudes are hard to tell apart in the heat of battle. That's partially because everyone is surrounded by an unsightly, pixilated glow. Some of the bosses are so tall that their heads are cut off by the top of the screen! The swinging camera makes it hard to follow the action, so when you see "KO", there's usually some doubt as to whether you won or not. The heroic soundtrack reminded me of Soul Calibur, but the voice samples are so repetitive that it's comical. You'll hear the same shouts ("Take this!" and "It's futile!") over and over during the course of a match. Thank goodness each match only lasts one round. I suspect Judgement will be a collector's item one day, because I can't see many people wanting to buy this throwaway title. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (2011)
Rating: Everyone (animated blood, fantasy violence)
The original Centipede (1981) was one of the greatest arcade games of all time. Its rapid-fire shooting and relentless onslaught of vermin made for an incredibly addictive experience. Its follow-up (Millipede, 1982) was terrific, but after that Atari failed to capitalize on the Centipede brand. At first glance Infestation shows a lot of promise. Its visual style is faithful to the original and even the music strikes an early-80's vibe. In each stage your character is confined to an area about two screens wide. As insects approach in wave, you can fire rapidly in any direction by aiming with the Wiimote. The smaller critters are annoying, but the big spiders, beetles, ants, wasps, and scorpions are satisfying to splatter. Icons frequently appear to provide special weapons. Though limited in duration, some weapons are highly effective, like the flame-thrower and the two-way laser beam. Unfortunately most weapons are so ineffective or confusing (like the green goo) that you'll look forward to them running out
. Each stage culminates with the appearance of two huge centipedes, and you must shoot their segments to defeat them. Infestation is fun at first, but its stages are too long, repetitious, and easy. Even when I cranked the difficulty up to "hard", survival was not an issue. That's partly because advanced stages provide you with "tower" plants which act as sentries and do much of the shooting for
you. Even if a bug starts chewing on your leg, you just hit A to unleash stomp that obliterates everything in the area. There are some interesting "organic" sound effects in this game, and there were times when I thought my cat was hocking up a hairball before realizing it was just the game. The stages are held together via animated cartoons, and I kind of like their cheesy 80's production values. Centipede Infestation stays faithful to the arcade original on the surface, but there's no relentless challenge to keep you coming back. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Club Penguin Game Day
Publisher: Disney (2010)
I can appreciate the premise behind this game, but it's a bit of a mess. Club Penguin is a wacky version of the Winter Olympics with colorful penguins facing off in a series of off-beat events. There's snowball throwing, snowball rolling
, sledding, target shooting, and even a four-player mini-hockey game. What's not to like? I was just getting to that. First, when choosing a character there are four colored penguins to select from (red, blue, green, yellow). Next you choose a jersey from the same set of colors. Do you see a potential problem? When a blue penguin is decked out in a yellow shirt and a yellow penguin is wearing a blue shirt, it's really hard
to tell them apart! The events are a mixed bag. Games like Puffin Paddle offer precision control as you bounce round "puffins" in the air with a ping-pong paddle. Other games like Java Jump event are repetitive and tiresome because you must shake the controller throughout the entire race. Before each event you can view a screen which sums up the basic controls. That's great, but some of the controls are poorly thought out. In Fast Freeze you shake the controller to walk but press A to stop. Why not just stop shaking? The story mode lets you unlock additional events, but not only do you need to place first, you also have to complete a secondary goal like collecting 15 coins. That's really bogus. Some events seem totally out of place, like the disco-themed Dance Off. It would be great if you could select your favorite events in the tournament mode, but your only option is four randomized events. I reviewed Club Penguin with my young niece and nephew, and while there was some fun to be had, there was too much confusion and frustration. Club Penguin fans can bump up the grade by a letter, but all others should approach with extreme caution. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Code Lyoko: Quest For Infinity
Publisher: Game Factory (2007)
Code Lyoko is a French animated television series about four kids who embark on "virtual" adventures via a super computer. It's like a kid version of the Matrix, but much lighter. I had never even heard of the show before playing this game, but it didn't take me long to become comfortable with the premise and characters. Code Lyoko is mainly a platform shooter set in a series of blocky environments. You can toggle between four characters using the directional pad, and each has unique abilities required to solve puzzles and defeat foes. The cat-like Odd is an agile dude with the ability to climb. Yumi can target multiple foes at a time with her awesome fan weapon. Aelita can fly, and Ulrich wields a powerful sword. Unimpressive enemies materialize out of nowhere including a hodgepodge of crab, block, and insect-like monsters. You can "aim" your shots by pointing at the screen, and this would have been a notable feature if Mario Galaxy hadn't already stolen its thunder. You shake the Wi-mote to swing Ulrich's sword, but other motion-based moves, like wall jumping, are more confusing than intuitive. There's apparently no camera control, which is aggravating when something is shooting at you from off the screen. Code Lyoko's stages have a lot of generic floating platforms, but at least the jumping controls are responsive and forgiving. The puzzles tend to adopt the basic "shoot the target to open a portal" formula. Lyoko's difficulty is on the easy side, and most stages are short. Breaking up the monotony are flying stages that let you lock onto enemy aircraft with your missiles. Lyoko's cut-scenes are brief and seamlessly integrated with the action. My main beef with the game is its sparse, blocky environments. Although some have a pleasant surreal quality, they ultimately prove to be boring and monotonous - especially when you need to return
to a previously completed stage! The bleak electronic soundtrack does however fit right in with the sterile visuals. Code Lyoko tosses around a heck of a lot of technical jargon like sectors, encrypted files, coordinates, and super-calculators. Are kids really into this stuff? Overall Code Lyoko is playable but rarely compelling and ultimately forgettable. If you're a fan of the series however, feel free to bump up the grade by one letter. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Deep Silver (2007)
Rating: Mature (blood, sexual themes, violence)
On the surface Cursed Mountain looks like a dated survival horror title with stiff animation and contrived motion controls. Stick with it. You play the role of a hiker on the trail of your missing brother in the Himalayas. The game is cast from the same mold as Resident Evil, challenging you to solve easy puzzles (like find a rusty key), fend off ghosts, and collect glowing items. As you methodically work your way up a mountain you'll explore abandoned villages, ruins, and monasteries. The village in the opening stage is rich with detail, with dwellings and trails that exhibit an aged, weathered look. Later you'll explore creepy monasteries and enjoy scenic mountain views. Many areas you explore are incredibly dark. In fact, this is the darkest game I've ever played! There were times when I had to literally feel
my way around! When I entered the stage entitled "Into the Darkness", I thought, "Really?
I've been struggling to see for the last two hours!
" Cursed Mountain moves at a slow, deliberate pace, but its forgiving, linear structure ensures you'll make steady progress. The game does a great job of conveying a very desolate, haunting atmosphere. Heavy use of fog suggests unseen danger, and immersive sound effects include wind, drips, creaks, and moans. When climbing rocks the sense of depth is good, and thank goodness you can not
fall off ledges. Ghosts periodically attack, but you can defend yourself with a magic pickaxe and a staff that fires projectiles. Fighting ghosts hand-to-hand may seem silly, but it works. Many of these shadowy creeps have wrinkled faces and wear hoodies (Monkz in the hood!
). After "wearing down" a ghost you're prompted to perform a series of motions to "purify" it. Polishing them off using arm motions seems a little contrived at first but it's oddly satisfying! Cursed Mountain's storyline is very mysterious and its cut-scenes are nebulous. Books and journals you collect shed light on the story, but I was too impatient to read all that stuff. This game takes a while to grow on you but the moderate difficulty keeps you plugging along and the game automatically saves your progress. Cursed Mountain on the Wii provides a different kind of horror experience, and I was pleasantly surprised. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Family Friendly Video Games
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