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MLB Power Pros 2008
Grade: B-
Publisher: 2K Sports (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/9/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhat Power Pros lacks in realism it makes up for in pure entertainment value, putting many "realistic" baseball games to shame. MLB Power Pros 2008 features short cartoon characters, not unlike "Miis", or those squat players in old NES baseball titles. During one game my player was taken out due to a knee injury, and I was like, "Wait a minute, these guys don't even have knees!" You can expect a lot of comical animations, like when a batter glares back at the ump after a called third strike. It also looks funny when all the fielder's heads look straight up during a pop-up. Power Pros 2008 is almost exactly the same as last year's MLB Power Pros for the Playstation 2, and that's disappointing. Motion controls are only used in the home run derby mode, and even then, the control is minimal. Still, I will admit that the basic controls are very intuitive. You can pitch a ball or swing a bat with a single press of a button, and pressing the directional pad throws to the appropriate base. Best of all, the games move along at a blistering pace with minimal pauses between pitches, few fouls balls, and no discernable load times once the game begins. That's great, but there are some problems. First of all, pitchers tend to give up way too many runs in the first inning before settling down in the second. The fielders move extremely slowly, minimizing the possibility of a great defensive play. Two very excitable announcers rant and rave but provide little insight. The 58-page instruction book is a complete disaster. Want to know how to steal? The manual will leave you bewildered! When you see at all those pages of tiny text and symbols, you'll wonder how it could possibly have any connection to such a simple, lighthearted game. The options screens are also cumbersome, and the "quick season" mode forced me to sift through dozens of pages of text and menus before tossing one pitch! 2K went a bit overboard with this game, but if you're looking for a casual contest against a friend, MLB Power Pros 2008 is tough to beat. Besides, how many other nine-inning baseball games can you play in under a half-hour? © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack
Grade: F
Publisher: Majesco (2009)
Reviewed: 2010/8/14
Rating: Teen (alcohol and tobacco reference, crude humor, mild blood, mild suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotThis light gun title is a throwback from the not-so-golden days of full-motion video (that would be the early 90's). Mad Dog McCree originally appeared on the 3DO and Philips CD-i, offending dozens of gamers with its erratic controls and poor gameplay. How McCree earned two sequels is a mystery that has baffled scientists for nearly two decades. The fact that this game is now available on the Wii is a paradox that's been known to short circuit supercomputers! Mad Dog McCree Gunslinger Pack includes all three original games, and each one is inexcusably bad. The stages are a series of choreographed gunfights using live, videotaped actors. As bad guys pop up from behind scenery you have a split-second to aim and fire. The predictable locations include a corral, sheriff's office, saloon, and stagecoach. Brief cut-scenes convey a flimsy storyline, and some of the dialogue is hard to make out. The scenery looks realistic enough, and I love how bandits insist on dying in the most dramatic manner possible. You can shoot an outlaw in the face and he'll still have enough energy to dive off of a balcony! This Wii version offers more accurate control than the original games, but the underlying engine is terribly unforgiving. If you don't unload a perfect shot the first time, you're dead - even you fire a second, accurate shot before he returns fire. This lag problem is especially glaring during the showdown stages, which are basically unplayable. I'm sure three or four people were clamoring for McCree's return, but Majesco probably would have been wise to let this sleeping Dog lie. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


MadWorld
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (2008)
Reviewed: 2010/6/22
Rating: Mature (blood, gore, drug reference, intense violence, mature humor, sexual themes, strong language)

screenshotA lot of people in the industry threw a tantrum when this game didn't sell well, questioning the viability of the Wii's mature market. Did anybody take a moment to consider the game just isn't very good? MadWorld carries a "mature" rating despite the fact that only minors will appreciate its excessive gore, juvenile humor, and gratuitous profanity. The graphics are rendered entirely in black and white with the exception of the red blood that's splattered liberally throughout each stage. This visual novelty wears off in about 30 seconds, leaving you with one truly ugly game! Objects are sharp up close but appear fuzzy in the distance, making it hard to distinguish thugs and key items. You play a cigarette-smoking musclehead who enjoys impaling creeps and dismembering bosses in his free time. Each stage presents a parade of zombie-like thugs for you to decimate in gritty, urban locations. Pound-for-pound, MadWorld offers more mindless violence than any other game. It's like Mortal Kombat on steroids! Each level has its share of grinders, slicers, spiked walls, and turbines. Points are awarded for eliminating bad guys in the most brutal manner, and performing combos lets you rack up big points. For example, you can throw a tire around a thug to incapacitate him, stick a street sign through his neck, and then toss him in the path of an oncoming subway train. Each stage offers new and imaginative ways to kill, and the formula works for a while. The game is certainly stylish but it has some technical issues. The camera tends to be pulled in very tight, and while this accentuates the gore, it's hard to see things in your immediate vicinity. The movement controls are touchy and the inexact motion controls will have you shaking your Wii-mote like a madman. During boss battles the non-stop prompts make it feel as if the game is playing you and not vice versa. You can only save your progress at the end of each level, and some can be pretty grueling. Like the game itself, the hip-hop soundtrack is edgy but repetitive. The commentators are terribly annoying with their infantile attempts at humor. MadWorld gets credit for originality, but once the novelty wears off the rampant violence gets boring in a hurry. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Madden NFL 08
Grade: C-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/11/2
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen you graft Wii motion controls on top of Madden football, you get a game that's challenging and unique, but not very intuitive. In fact, the first time you play Madden 08 for the Wii, you'll probably think it royally sucks. The visuals are no better than the GameCube incarnations of Madden, and the new motion controls take a lot of getting used to. Let's face it - Madden was pretty complicated to begin with, and forcing you to swing your arms while playing doesn't help matters! Before hiking the ball you can hear the snap count through the controller's microphone, which is pretty cool. Hiking is done by pulling up on the controller, which is no problem at all. Unfortunately, any symbols displayed while calling audibles tend to linger on the screen after you hike the ball, obstructing your vision temporarily. Throwing the ball is performed using a real passing motion, but you'll also need to fiddle with buttons if you want to throw to a receiver other than the default. I wish you could just cycle through your receivers like you could in those old Tecmo Football games. To catch or defend a pass you have to quickly raise both arms. The passing game is a challenge, but I have to admit it feels extra satisfying when you complete a pass - probably because it's so much work! The running game is much easier, but jerking the controllers to perform jukes and stiff-arms takes practice to get the timing right. Be sure your Wii-mote is fully charged, because there's not much room for error in this game. I had problems navigating the play-calling screens, and sometimes had to call a time-out in order to get the play right. When playing against my friend Steve (who helped a lot with this review), I felt pretty silly flailing my arms around, and at one point began laughing hysterically. The graphics are minimal (the crowd is completely flat), but the excellent play-by-play features Al Michaels and John Madden - a huge upgrade from the droning "radio voice" of the 360. Otherwise, Madden 08 for the Wii is a pretty barebones package. Not only is there no half-time show, but you don't even get half-time statistics! When you challenge a play, the camera doesn't zoom in at all, making it impossible to see what transpired. Considering the unorthodox controls and lack of features, It's hard to recommend the Wii version of Madden if you own any other game console. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Manhunt 2
Grade: C+
Publisher: Rockstar (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/11/17
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs)

screenshotThe Wii controller was designed with three basic movements in mind: Swinging a tennis racket, steering a car, and bashing some poor bastard's head into a toilet bowl. In Manhunt 2, you play the role of an escaped prisoner on the run, forced to use brutal tactics to subdue his pursuers. Like a low-budget slasher flick, the game isn't great but provides its share of visceral thrills. Your journey takes you into some grimy "red light" districts of town where you'll prowl dark, rainy alleys and damp basements. These areas and their muffled sound effects help convey a feeling of uneasiness not unlike the movie Seven. Much has been made of the game's violent content, and at least in this Wii version, I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Yes, you do sneak up on thugs and initiate brutal acts by pressing A. To carry out the carnage, you must performing a series of controller movements in response to on-screen prompts. But even so, the visuals are so obfuscated with effects that you can barely make out what's going on! The most explicit aspect of the violence is the "crunching" sound effects. The graphics are about PS2 quality, and the visuals are in fact purposely degraded with fake "interference" in order to make the game look grittier. The controls lack precision, but swinging a controller to punch is cool. Likewise, breaking some low-life's neck by swinging controllers is far more satisfying than merely pressing a button (although still less satisfying than doing it for real). Manhunt 2 is simple stealth fun, and the only items you really need to worry are things like axes, circular saws, plastic bags, hypodermic needles, and crossbows. The cut-scenes and stages are short - which is a good thing. Checkpoints are well spaced, and you can save your progress at any time. Unfortunately, you have to sit through the same cut-scenes whenever you repeat an area, and that's just aggravating. Why can't I skip these? The background story unfolds as you uncover your past, and it's more interesting than your typical stealth tale. I tend to be jaded when it comes to complicated stealth games like Metal Gear and Splinter Cell, but I found Manhunt 2's straightforward brand of mayhem appealing. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Mario Kart Wii
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/6/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIf you enjoy breathing air, you'll probably enjoy Mario Kart Wii. I doubt there's ever been another racer as inviting or readily enjoyable. Unlike Mario Kart Double Dash (GameCube, 2003), there's only one character per car, but there's a much wider selection of vehicles to choose from. Besides the standard karts, you can drive off-road four-by-fours, dragsters, stock cars, and motorcycles. The motorcycles are unique because they take up less space on the road and have the ability to execute "wheelies" for mini speed bursts. The game borrows some ideas from Mario Kart DS, like the view-obstructing squid ink attack and the inclusion of tracks from classic Mario Kart titles. If the old tracks give you a "been there, done that" feeling, rest assured the new tracks are amazing. I love the shopping mall's dual levels, escalators, and a bright, palm tree-lined parking lot. The mine-cart track is a virtual rollercoaster, and the snow courses feature mammoth half-pipes. A relaxing autumn stage lets you plow through leaves, and the wet-and-wild island track feels like a virtual water slide! The graphics are comparable to the GameCube, but close inspection reveals a lot of subtle details, like your character pumping his fist when one of his weapons hits. Playing solo is madly addictive and the raucous split-screen mode accommodates up to four players. I hear the on-line action is also superb. The motion-based controls are fantastic, providing the most precise steering ever. Although the included plastic steering wheel is not really necessary, it feels comfortable. Mario Kart Wii would have been an A+ title if Nintendo had shown a little restraint with the power-ups, which are far too ubiquitous. Not only are there item boxes along every stretch of road, but you typically get three items at a time! The trailing karts get the best power-ups, and the leader routinely gets pelted with multiple shells - sometimes going from first to last in two seconds. I was never a fan of the unavoidable purple shell, and that new "POW" block is an unwelcome addition. You feel obligated to immediately unload whatever you pick up just so you'll be able to collect the next batch. The squid ink attack is a neat concept, but it occurs too often. Maybe Nintendo went overboard in an attempt to distance this game from Double Dash. It's not perfect, but Mario Kart Wii is undeniably fun and has universal appeal. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Mario Party 8
Grade: B
Publisher: Nintendo (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/8/28
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDespite having been in decline over the past few years, the Mario Party franchise seems to have been reinvigorated by the Wii's innovative motion controls. The general formula remains the same, as players take turns moving around an elaborate "board" while engaging in mini-games and trying to collect the most stars. I love how each board looks and plays like a completely different game. On the pirate board you collect a star each time you reach the end of the path, but on the city board you must invest coins in hotels which gradually increase in "star value". Coins are used for other purposes as well, including buying "candy" that provides extra options like stealing coins or rolling an extra dice on your turn. But it's the mini-games that really steal the show, and that's how it should be. As everyone knows, the Wii's motion controls are well suited to mini-games, and Mario Party 8 makes the most of them. Whether turning the hands of a clock, navigating a river, shooting targets, or guiding an airplane through obstacles, most games tend to be easy and intuitive to play. Unfortunately, the one-on-three and two-on-two "team" games can be confusing, and should have been axed altogether. MP8's graphics are bright and inviting, with pleasant music and entertaining sound effects. I especially enjoyed the steel drum music of the pirate board, and how your character yells through that little speaker in your controller when it's your turn. Mario Party 8 is fun to play either solo or with friends. Even if you're losing, you'll want to stick around for the "closing ceremonies", since you might be awarded an unexpected "bonus" star that puts you over to the top! One obvious flaw with the game is its slow, plodding pace. You can blame the usual suspects: too many prompts, tedious spinning wheels, unnecessary "cute" animations, and inane, verbose dialogue ("Let's see you all do your best!") Even if you're only playing the 10-turn (short) contest against one person, it can still take over an hour! I can't even imagine playing 50 turns - you'd be playing all day! Had there been a "fast mode" to expedite the action, Mario Party 8 would probably be in "A" territory. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Mario Sports Mix
Grade: D-
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
Reviewed: 2012/11/27
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIn past years Mario has excelled in sports like soccer, tennis, and golf, so this four-in-one package should have been a slam-dunk. Up to four players can participate in basketball, volleyball, dodge ball, and hockey, with some "party" variations tossed in for good measure. The games incorporate all your favorite Nintendo characters and some very imaginative courts and rinks. Fountains serve as a net in the castle volleyball court, waves wash over the beach dodge ball court, and ghosts swing from chandeliers in the haunted mansion basketball arena. Shell weapons spice things up, and I like how collecting coins let you score extra points. Each sport offers a series of tournaments where you unlock new locations and hidden characters. It sounds like a recipe for awesome, but Mario Sports Mix falters. For one thing, the tournament difficulty is so easy, it's unbearable. The CPU players are so clueless that you can leave the game unattended for minutes at a time without giving up any points. To say Nintendo was catering to pre-schoolers would be an insult to pre-schoolers! Five-minute games feel more like a half hour, especially when each score is followed by unnecessary celebration and score tabulation sequences. And by limiting the basic controls to "shake" and "press A", the games feel simplistic and unsatisfying. Playing Sports Mix with friends is like attending a Wii-mote waggle rally. Moves like diving for errant volleyballs are totally automatic. The passes in dodge ball are too soft and floaty. The extra "party" games are too random to be fun, and the musical one hardly qualifies as a game. Mario Sports Mix was loaded with potential but poor execution makes this a spectacular disappointment. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Mario Strikers Charged
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/8/28
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDespite the system's unbridled popularity, one could argue that the Wii hasn't had an outstanding game since Wii Sports. Enter Mario Strikers Charged. I was a bit lukewarm on the original Super Mario Strikers (GameCube, 2005), but Charged won me over from the start. Not only is the single-player mode incredibly addictive and fun, but the multi-player action is the most raucous I've played in years! Making use of the nun-chuck attachment, the control scheme incorporates motion controls without feeling forced or contrived. The thumbstick moves your player, and shaking the Wi-mote effectively clobbers a nearby opponent. These "checking" controls are a great idea, but overly-enthusiastic gamers might accidentally smack their other controller (or hand) in the midst of the mayhem (not that I would ever do something like that). During powered-up "mega-shots" on goal, pointing the controller at the screen allows a defender to move around a pair of hands to block the bombardment of incoming shots. Mario Strikers Charged looks like the GameCube version, but the action is far more chaotic thanks to a healthy supply of weapons and arena-specific obstacles that appear when you least expect. You can lose track of the ball when things get crazy, but you're not likely to lose track of your player since large "player numbers" are displayed over people-controlled characters. Your team is customizable this time around, so you can select teammates with specific physical attributes and skill sets. Team captains possess their own special abilities, but unless you choose an oversized character like Donkey Kong or Bowser, it can be hard to discern your captain from your teammates on the field. Each match only lasts for three minutes, but those are intense minutes! Of course, should you end up in a tight overtime contest, it's not unusual for the match to run over ten minutes. The excellent audio is also worth mentioning, with high-octane music that really gets the adrenaline flowing. That cheesy "elevator music" that plays during the pause screen is pretty funny. Mario Striker Charged is an extremely fun sports title in the tradition of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz. This proves that a Wii game doesn't have to totally rely on motion controls to be a hit. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Mario Super Sluggers
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/4/23
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe baseball portion of Wii Sports (Nintendo, 2006) showed a lot of potential, but Mario Super Sluggers fails miserably to capitalize on that promise. This game has too much nonsense and not enough baseball. Graphically this game is on par with Mario Superstar Baseball (GameCube, 2005). You can populate your roster with any number of Nintendo personalities, including obscure characters like Toadette, Monty Mole, and Blue Pianta. That "random roster" option really comes in handy! I was pretty excited about the game's motion controls, but they turned out to be a bust. Pitching, fielding, and batting can be done with controller movements, but the game is designed for short flicks - not realistic baseball motions. The controls terribly erratic, so your character will often begin his wind-up or swing before you're even ready! After a few innings of frustration you'll ditch the motion controls in favor of the old-fashioned sideways configuration (NES style). You'll be glad you did, because it makes the game 12 times better. But even with decent controls, Super Sluggers is a flawed baseball game. The close camera angles are not ideal for grounders, and by the time you locate your fielder, the ball has already rolled past. Runners take off on contact, so many fly balls lead to cheap double plays. There are entirely too many foul balls. Whatever you do, be sure you turn off the star pitches and error items. Not only are these dumb gimmicks irritating, but they're so plentiful that you can employ them constantly! At least the ballparks are interesting, including a palace with an ice-covered surface, a field set against an amusement park backdrop, and a jungle field with overgrown ruins. Each has unique hazards, including rolling barrels, green pipes, and moving glaciers. Super Sluggers lacks a manual instant replay feature, but automated replays and cute animations constantly disrupt the flow of the game. Is it really necessary for Peach to curtsy after every strikeout? Besides the exhibition mode, a separate adventure mode slowly introduces game concepts. The mini-games are pretty weak, and the Toy Field mode is a complete mess. There's no season mode, if you can believe that. Wow, Mario Superstar Baseball for the GameCube is looking better all the time! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (2011)
Reviewed: 2012/8/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotOlympic-style video games have been around for 30 years, so it astounds me how Sega managed to botch this one so badly. Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Games packs over 30 events, including traditional stuff like track and field, swimming, gymnastics, and volleyball. But you also get fringe sports like equestrian, fencing, canoeing, shooting, synchronized swimming, and rhythmic ribbon gymnastics. Instead of tradition button-mashing, most events are played by shaking the controllers with good timing. For example, in swimming you must move your arms to the rhythm, but move too fast you'll tire out. The controls are often oversimplified on the instruction screen, so you'll be caught off-guard when you're presented with a series of non-intuitive prompts during the actual games. London 2012 is brimming with multiplayer action, but it's shallow and unsatisfying. The motion controls can be imprecise and the outcome often hinges on executing a super cheap "special move". Table Tennis is rendered unplayable by the bad controls, and Badminton is just an exercise in mass confusion. The better events like swimming and equestrian are simple and intuitive, but they're the exception to the rule. Most events are mercifully short, but others (like football and shooting) wear out their welcome. Event records are recorded, but there's no player associated with them if you use a Sega character instead of your Mii. The "dream events" are flashy mini-games that have nothing to do with the Olympics. For example, Dream Sprint is a Super Monkey Ball clone. Lengthy and yawn-inducing, you'll be begging for these to end. The main menu lets you play any individual event, but there's no way to put together a list of events to play in a tournament format. This huge oversight makes the game hard to play competitively with friends. The London Party mode should have served this purpose, but it feels like a glorified game show with irritating mini-games that involve collecting rings and answering trivia questions. Bogged down with repetitive cut-scenes and unwanted replays, Sonic and Mario at the London 2012 Games is long on pomp and circumstance and short on gameplay. A clear case of quantity over quality, only younger gamers will find much to like in this hodgepodge of events. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/12/6
Rating: Everyone

screenshotEver since Summer Games (Atari XEGS, 1984) I've always had a "thing" for these multi-event, Olympic-style titles. In this case, the Sonic and Mario franchises provide a likeable roster of competitors, including Shadow, Knuckles, Tails, Peach, Yoshi, and Bowser. You can even play as your "Mii", who apparently has sprouted little arms and legs! The game is fun to play alone, but absolute gangbusters when played with three or four people. You can select from a series of "circuits" comprised of three events each, with the option to customize your own tournaments. Keeping the number of events small is a good idea, not only because it lets you play a quick game, but because some of these events will really wear you out! As expected, the Wii's motion controls add a new dimension to a genre formerly characterized by crazy button mashing. Running is performed by quickly alternating both hands up and down, which works great. During long-distance events, the game mercifully "locks in" your speed, functioning like cruise control. I love how the hammer throw requires you to twirl the controller around, but other events, like the javelin throw, are far less intuitive. Initiating jumps is done by raising the controller quickly, but until you've played the game a few times, it's hard to determine how much force is ideal. The swimming events require you to move your arms and press the B button at an even tempo. Table Tennis plays like a scaled-down version of Wii Sports Tennis, and is arguably more playable that Rockstar's recent full-blown Table Tennis game. As you might expect, the Wii excels at target-shooting events like skeet shooting and archery. A few events like trampoline and rowing require you to quickly react to button prompts on the screen. But the biggest surprise is the marathon events which resemble Sonic and the Secret Rings (Sega, 2007). Racing through exotic environments, you'll navigate around obstacles and employ power-ups like shells missiles to gain the upper hand. I found all of the events to be fun to some degree, but a few of the control schemes are more complicated than they need to be. "Powering up" before each sprint seems unnecessary, and clapping your hands to excite the crowd is just pointless. Even more annoying is the excessive number of superfluous screens you'll need to hit "A" to page through. Do we really need introductions before every event? How in the hell do I turn off these lame replays? Get on with the game already! Although most events clock in at less than five minutes, Ping Pong and Archery can easily run over a half-hour, wearing out their welcome in the process. Also, I wish the game would record world records based on initials instead of character names. Despite a few missteps however, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games offers competitive, fat-burning fun for the whole family. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (2009)
Reviewed: 2010/1/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAs a gamer who loves the Winter Olympics, this should have been my dream game. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games packs plenty of wintry competition, but its overbearing user interface is awful! The skiing, snowboarding, and ski jump events are just as I had hoped - fleshed-out versions of the mini-games in Wii Fit. The bobsleigh and skeleton events are amusing because you can control them by sitting on the balance board. At long last, I can finally say that I played a game with my ass! Hockey is chaotic but exciting in a Mario Strikers Charged (Wii, 2007) kind of way. The figure skating is a little silly (especially when your character is a gorilla), but hey, chicks dig that kind of stuff. Curling is slow-paced strategy game that's much different from the other events. The controls are generally intuitive, but you'd never know from the convoluted instruction screens. Each event has up to four sub-menus of instructions to wade through! The events tend to be short and sweet, but you're forced to page through endless set-up and results screens. Especially when playing with four players, you'll constantly yelling "press A somebody!" The game does make good use of the split-screen when playing against friends, but since certain characters have specific attributes (Sonic is extra fast, Donkey Kong is strong), one particular player often has a noticeable advantage. The CPU doesn't provide much of a challenge. The unlockable "dream events" should have been called "nightmare events". "Dream skiing" is reminiscent of those out-of-control Sonic Adventure stages where you whiz through loops and get bounced all over the place, and "dream ski jump" uses leftover scenery from Mario Galaxy. Not only do these over-the-top variations feel totally out of place, but they are not particularly fun. In addition to competing in individual events, you can participate in a 16-day "festival" mode that creates a full-scale tournament out of random events. This gives Winter Games plenty of replay value, and I like being able to save my progress at any time. Too bad you're forced to participate in all those super-easy "training" events. An obligatory "party mode" is also included, but its game-show format is painfully tedious. The balance board works extremely well, so why can't it be used in the multi-player or festival mode? Winter Games is one of those titles that only manages to be fun in spite of itself! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Masters: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12, The
Grade: C-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2011)
Reviewed: 2011/6/29
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAfter Tiger's personal life fell apart, it seemed like things could only get better for him. Then he forgot how to play golf. Perhaps these events had some bearing on EA's decision to rename their golf franchise "The Masters", relegating Tiger to footnote status. When I booted up the game I heard relaxing piano music that brought back fond memories of PGA Tour 96 for the PS1. Be careful not to say "Yes" to the Wiimote-plus tutorial prompt, because otherwise you'll be subjected to ten minutes of unskippable misery. After suffering through some agonizing set-up screens, my friend George and I played a very glitchy round of golf. The Masters makes an awful initial impression, beginning with its PS2-quality graphics. The "rough" areas look anything but, and the golfers are freaky mannequins. Is the Wii so graphically weak or is EA just lazy? Worse yet, our balls were spotted in the wrong places with alarming regularity. In one instance we both hit the ball into the water, yet George had to hit from the drop zone while my ball was spotted on the green 15 feet away from the hole! The motion controls are decent, and the fact that you use your actual golf swing gives this game a leg up over other golf titles. The "Road to the Masters" career mode offers a nice variety of events and a "level up" mechanism not unlike Wii Sports. I love the quick loading and the way you can expedite your ball rolls by holding in A. For such a mature franchise however, the Masters lacks polish. Your default shot is always way off, and the interface to adjust your clubs is a real hassle. You'll typically find yourself going with whatever the caddy recommends because it's the path of least resistance. Tiger Woods must have personally advised EA on the putting game, because it totally sucks. Whether using the classic or "precision" scheme, it's hard to judge the strength of your hit. Occasionally the action kicks into a dramatic, slow-motion "heart-beat" mode for a potentially good shot, but the close-up camera angle makes it hard to tell what the hell is going on! There are some interesting courses (like the castle-laden Highlands) but the level of detail is low, and blurring effects are used to hide the low resolution. The jungle course had potential but it's too dense to navigate. One huge flaw is the fact that if you save your progress mid-round, you cannot play any other modes without wiping out your save! Not even a quick round of mini-golf! Speaking of which, the mini-golf mode features fun courses including a boardwalk, jungle, and speedway. If it wasn't for the lousy putting controls this mode may have put this game over the top. As it is, the Masters serves its purpose but EA should really consider hiring a play tester and an interface designer. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Metal Slug Anthology
Grade: B-
Publisher: SNK (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/5/12
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)

screenshotFew software companies are as adept at mishandling their flagship franchises as SNK. Metal Slug Anthology should be an easy A+, but SNK crippled it by incorporating hideous control schemes and an awkward user interface. Since 1996, the Metal Slug games have represented the pinnacle of 2D shooters, featuring insane destruction, fantastic artwork, edgy humor, and imaginative enemies and locales. One or two players are mercenaries in a side-scrolling journey against legions of soldiers and oversized mechanical weapons. Anthology contains all seven editions of the game, which is quite a value considering Metal Slug games typically sell for big bucks on Ebay. But sadly, SNK did everything in their power to taint what should have been every shooter fan's dream. First there's the issue of the controls. Metal Slug games were designed for a joystick and three buttons (jump, shoot, grenade). That shouldn't have been a problem for the Wii controller, but somebody at SNK insisted that the Wii motion controls be incorporated. Consequentially, four of the five control schemes are unplayable. The best one allows you to use the remote like an NES controller, but inexplicably you have to shake the controller to throw a grenade! For a shooter that requires precision and quick reflexes, that's not a good idea! You also have the option of using a GameCube controller, but that's a pain to hook up, and its digital pad isn't even supported! Next there's this business with "continues". The default is "unlimited continues", which is idiotic, considering a chimpanzee could finish these games with that on! You can switch to "limited continues", but instead of letting you specify the number of continues, it's based on difficulty level. On easy you get 30 continues, on normal you get 20, and on hard you get ten. While 20 is reasonable considering how fast you can burn through lives in these games, that still amounts to quite a long play session. Have the people running SNK ever played a Metal Slug game? Besides these user interface issues, the games themselves are outstanding. Some are better than others, but they all feature the same style of non-stop action and spectacular visuals effects. I've always loved Metal Slug, but it's a shame that a new generation of gamers will be introduced to it in such a shoddy package. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/9/29
Rating: Teen Adolescents (animated blood, violence)

screenshotCorruption looks just like the previous Metroid Prime games for the GameCube, but its intuitive control scheme propels it to the next level. Using a system similar to Red Steel, you move using the joystick and look around by aiming with the Wii-mote. The first two Metroid Primes were hampered by a lousy targeting system, but the Wii's ability to aim directly at the screen provides a fine degree of precision you won't find on another system. Motion controls are also effectively used to manipulate keys, grapple from hooks, and even disarm enemies! Another novel feature is the abilitiy to control your ship remotely. Your mission requires you to travel between several planets as you disinfect "organic supercomputers" while fending off invading space pirates. A trio of fearsome aliens play key roles in the game, serving as valuable allies in early stages before becoming "corrupted". One looks like something from Aliens, another is a shape-shifter, and the third wears an intimidating mech suit. Metroid Prime 3 contains some breathtaking sequences, including a lengthy battle with a bird monster as you both plunge into an abyss (not unlike like Gandolf versus Balrog in Lord of the Rings). Like all Metroid games, you have the power to transform into a small metal ball to penetrate narrow openings. Corruption incorporates a lot of imaginative morph ball sequences that let you navigate tubes like a hamster while avoiding hazards like giant birds, hovering robots, and electrical changes. For its first two hours, Metroid Prime 3 is linear and maintains a break-neck pace that suggests a major departure from the first two games. Upon arriving on the planet Bryyo however, its gameplay reverts to the more traditional Prime style, with sprawling levels, considerable backtracking, and mind-bending puzzles that will have you reaching for the FAQ. Hardcore gamers will relish the game's ingenious complex design, but casual players may struggle to maintain interest. As with previous Metroid Primes, you can only save your progress in specific rooms (or your ship), and these are strategically placed throughout the levels. Prime 3's graphics are more illustrative than realistic, but the artistry is impressive, as are clever touches like the reflection of Samus on her specialty visors. Prime 3's soundtrack is more organic that its predecessors, including one stage's ominous chanting refrain that calls to mind Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. All in all, Metroid Prime 3 Corruption effectively reinvigorates the franchise with the best FPS controls around and the strongest storyline of the series. Those looking for a more cerebral brand of first-person shooting will be thrilled, but gamers geared more towards mindless "fragging" are in for a headache. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Metroid: Other M
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/10/23
Rating: Teen (adolescents)

screenshotIt had all the promise in the world, but Metroid: Other M falls short of expectations with a resounding thud. Previews for the game showcased a tantalizing third-perspective - a welcome departure from the first-person view used by the long-running Metroid Prime series. But if you're hoping for a return to the classic 2D formula, your hopes are about to be dashed. Big time. Other M gets off to a dubious start with some incomprehensible cut-scenes filled with pseudo-cerebral exposition and awful voice acting. Samus begins her quest by heading off to a frigate in distress, and once there she runs into her old squad and former commander. But unlike any self-respecting bounty hunter, she proceeds to take orders from the guy like a freakin' lap-dog. Boba Fett must be rolling in his grave right now! It takes a while for the game to gain any traction at all, but eventually it falls into the familiar Metroid formula of blasting scampering aliens, solving puzzles, and rolling into a ball to navigate shafts. Other M requires you to hold the controller sideways (NES style), but again - don't get too excited. The third-person perspective allows for some dramatic camera angles, but shooting your gun uses a bizarre, semi-accurate auto-aim mechanism. It's really hard to direct your shots, and they tend to scatter all over the place. Pointing the Wii-mote at the screen places you into a first-person mode where you can freely look around and fire missiles with accuracy (lock-on). Unfortunately, you're a sitting duck in this mode. That's fine if you're just exploring, but when it comes to fighting bosses, switching between the two perspectives is terribly awkward. And when facing mammoth worms that constantly pelt you with balls of plasma, the scheme becomes an utter nightmare. The special attacks are confusing, and some only function at arbitrary times. I found the stage designs conducive to making the player wander in circles, desperately seeking an escape route. I'm sure a lot of people enjoy Metroid: Other M and God bless them. Personally, I found this awkward hybrid of two game styles to bring out the worst of both. I'm filing this one under M - as in Mess. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Monster 4x4 World Circuit
Grade: D
Publisher: Ubisoft (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/6/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt's no prize, but Monster 4x4 World Circuit is at least more inspired than Ubisoft's insipid GT Pro racer. The problem is, the Wii already has an off-road racer (Excite Truck, Nintendo 2006) which absolutely kicks this one's ass in every which way. Monster's main mode is a series of contests over hilly dirt tracks in locations like Mount Rushmore, an Alaskan port, and a California amusement park. The game primarily focuses on racing monster trucks, but other oversized vehicles are available including a school bus and fire truck. Using the Wii remote to steer works well enough, and the plastic steering wheel attachment feels okay. The sense of speed is modest however, at least until you kick in your turbo by pushing the controller forward. Colored "stunt ramps" allow you to perform stunts for boosts, and these are executed with circular movements that initiate flips and spins. While fun to execute, these don't always register as well as you'd like. Barrels in the road become projectiles when you run into them, setting the trucks ahead on fire and slowing them to a crawl in the process. As you can imagine, these barrels are a major pain in the ass if you're in the lead. Monster's gameplay is not particularly exciting, partially due to its bland tracks. Heck, even the amusement park is devoid of personality. Certain tracks are also marred by ill-conceived flame-throwers which are nearly impossible to avoid (at least without a shield power-up). I was hoping the four-player split screen might redeem Monster 4x4, but its degraded graphics and lack of a map turned it into a muddled mess. My friends and I were ready to quit long before the races actually ended. As I pondered my last-place finish, my friend Scott asked, "Are you really surprised Dave? I mean, you were driving a freakin' school bus!" The single player mode might keep you occupied for a short period of time, but Monster 4x4 just seems pointless after a while. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 


Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars
Grade: C+
Publisher: SouthPeak (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/1/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDespite its unusual title, Mushroom Men is one of the least original games in recent memory, borrowing elements from every 3D platformer I've ever played. Fortunately it's so well constructed that only a jaded bastard like me would find much to complain about. You assume the role of Pax, a small mushroom forging his way through hazardous environments like a bathroom, garage, and back yard. Pax defends himself against spiders, moles, and rabbits by fashioning weapons using everyday items like batteries, thimbles, and toothpicks. Pax can pull himself up to high platforms via a sticky rope and glide down safely using his own cap head. One interesting twist is your ability to move and activate items using the Wii-mote pointer. You can even hurl certain oversized objects with a flick of the wrist! Mushroom Men's gameplay is very familiar but at least it avoids the common pratfalls that often mar platform titles. The stages are sized just right so you can explore them without feeling overwhelmed. Some puzzles are more interesting than usual (knock a fan onto a rabbit?!), but a few areas border on repetitive. Even so, when the action is in danger of becoming tedious, some new weapon or old-school-inspired mini-game will usually present itself. Mushroom Men makes minimal effort to position the camera, instead relinquishing control to the player. It sounds like a monumental cop-out, but it's nice not having to wrestle with the CPU, and being able to look straight up at the star-lit sky is refreshing. The state of your health is not determined by a meter, but by the number of chunks missing from your head! The difficulty is reasonable, checkpoints are frequent, and saves are automatic. Mushroom Men does falter in a few cases where you're forced to navigate tight spaces, in which case it's hard to see your surroundings and movement is frustrating. Also, shaking the controller to perform attacks is not very precise. The graphics are unspectacular, but the soft, oil-painted style is easy on the eyes. The background music has a whimsical but understated quality, and that's true of the game in general. Mushroom Men is cute without being childish, and quirky without being obnoxious. It's just a likeable little adventure that's suitable for all ages. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 



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