Wii Reviews D-F

Data East Arcade Classics
Grade: B+
Publisher: Majesco (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/3/16
Rating: Teen (animated blood, mild suggestive themes, mild violence)

screenshotFor gamers who grew up in the 80's, the Data East name is synonymous with arcade fun, and this compilation bears that out. There are only a few legimate classics here, but even the more obscure titles are fascinating. The first game is Bad Dudes Vs. the Dragon Ninja, and the game deserves an A+ for the title alone! Its intro warns of "rampant ninja-related crimes these days", and having lived through the 80's, I can attest that it was pretty rough back then! Bad Dudes has a "so bad it's good" quality, and the voice samples are hilarious ("I'm bad!"). Crude Busters is a post-apocalyptic slugfest that lets you battle mutants-gone-wild, including one that looks like a praying mantis, and another which resembles a colon polyp. The intro screen shows "New York, 2010" superimposed over a crumbling city, and my friends and I were rolling with laughter when we saw that. Burnin' Rubber is the arcade version of Bump N Jump, and it's easily one of the more addictive driving games of the 80's. Caveman Ninja is a whimsical prehistoric platformer in the style of Bonk, and its comical animations are terrific. Express Raider is a western side-scroller with pixelated graphics that are really charming. Burgertime is a top-notch platformer, and it's still one of the hardest games you'll ever play. Lock N Chase is a thinking-man's Pac-Man, and simply clearing a single screen is a challenge. Heavy Barrel is a Rambo-style shooter with awkward controls, and Magical Drop 3 is puzzle game best described as Bust-A-Move in reverse. Ice Cream Factory is the sequel to Burgertime, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to play the thing. Secret Agent is a James Bond shooter with stiff controls but spectacular 2D graphics depicting Washington DC. Side Pocket is a billiards game, and it's nearly identical to the Genesis version. Street Hoop is an uptempo NBA Jam style basketball contest which some may remember from the Neo Geo. Super Real Darwin is an oddball space shooter, and WizardFire is an amazing-looking arcade-style dungeon crawler. As with most classic game compilations, the developers found imaginative ways to screw this up. There's an over-emphasis on achieving certain arbitrary "goals". You can't configure the games, and each offers unlimited continues. Only the top score is automatically recorded, but you can get around this by using the save and load options for each individual game. Data East Arcade Classics is poorly designed, but I still have to recommend this based on the merit of these fun, historic titles. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

De Blob
Grade: D
Publisher: THQ (2007)
Reviewed: 2011/5/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDe Blob lets you guide a little rolly-polly dude through oppressed cities devoid of color - not unlike the old East Germany. Each town offers a set of challenges which usually involve painting certain buildings specific colors before a timer runs out. To do this, your Blob smashes a canister to obtain paint and then rubs against the buildings, causing them to become magically encased with vibrant color. It's a neat effect that's both satisfying and visually appealing, but I'd probably be more impressed had I not already played Epic Mickey (which uses a similar painting mechanic). Sometimes you'll need to mix colors, but hey, it's not rocket science. Standing in your way are police baddies, bugs, pools of ink, and spikes. Avoiding these hazards would be easier if the controls weren't so [expletive] clumsy! Whose idea was it to shake the Wii-mote in order to jump? That's pretty much the worst idea ever. Adding insult to injury, you tend to carom off walls, so one inadvertent shake will send you sailing clear across town. Whether you're jumping, attacking, or activating switches, it seems like every move involves shaking the Wii-mote, and your wrist will pay the price for it. Each mission is preceded by a detailed description, but if you accidentally skip the instructions you might find yourself stuck. De Blob is more complicated than it needs to be, as new objects are constantly appearing for no apparent reason. The strongest aspect of the game is its jazzy music and laid-back style. The animation is smooth and there are comical touches like the little people who squeal with delight as you paint them. Some of the cut-scenes are very funny. My biggest issue with De Blob is that you can only save between levels. Granted, it's possible to rush through most stages in under 30 minutes or so, but if you're trying to unlock everything it can take a lot longer. During one session I felt compelled to finish out a level despite the fact that my wrist was killing me. I respect the simplicity and originality of De Blob, but the more I played, the less fun I had. Like a night with Lady Gaga, it's an unappealing mix of pleasure and pain. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 

Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop
Grade: C
Publisher: Capcom (2009)
Reviewed: 2010/11/16
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, language)

screenshotIts visuals pale to the original Dead Rising for the 360, but this late-arriving Wii edition has a few things going for it. You play an investigative reporter dropped off at a sprawling mall in the midst of massive zombie outbreak. You soon team up with others and fight to save survivors while unraveling a dark mystery. During search-and-rescue missions you can use whatever objects are lying around as weapons, including bowling balls, baseball bats, circular saws, cash registers, and lawnmowers! Plowing through mobs with a shopping cart is almost as fun as doing it in real life! Experimenting with new weapons is part of the fun as you see how high you can ratchet up the body count. Aiming at the screen places you into an over-the-shoulder shooting mode, where you can experience the joys of making heads explode. The original Dead Rising suffered from unrelenting difficulty and a poor save system, but Chop Till You Drop remedies those flaws. It's not hard to make steady progress thanks to the ubiquitous save points and forgiving gameplay. The Wii motion controls are intuitive but imprecise. Occasionally you'll swing a bat when you don't intend to, or find yourself staring at the ceiling while under attack. The button scheme is a little confusing. Was it really necessary to map the most common action ("examine") to Z+A? The limited processing power of the Wii is also on full display as zombies materialize from thin air as you walk through the mall. The system can't seem to render very many zombies at a time, but wasn't that one of the draws of the original game? Chop Till You Drop is also bogged down with excessive load screens and backtracking. And whose idea was it to incorporate pesky zombie poodles and dive-bombing zombie parrots? C'mon man!! Chop Till You Drop offers a slightly watered down Dead Rising experience, but less frustration means you can enjoy the zombie apocalypse. Finally! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Dead Space: Extraction
Grade: A
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/11/29
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotGamers expecting this to be a second-rate knock off of Dead Space (PS3, 2009) are in for a surprise. Dead Space: Extraction blurs the line between light-gun and first-person shooting action, delivering the best of both worlds. Much like the original game, Extraction is a terrifying space adventure where you escort a group of people out of a colony infested with gruesome aliens. The twisted creatures move in a freaky manner and lash out with their extended limbs. The game's dark tone is not something you expect on the Wii, with extreme gore and strong profanity. The graphics are hands-down the best I've seen on the system, and the art direction is sensational. The fog effects, lighting, and dramatic camera angles immerse you in a space station that feels as though it's coming apart at the seams. Your path is mostly predetermined, but it's a wild ride. The cinematic cut-scenes are seamlessly intertwined with the action, and the character models are exceptional - especially with regard to their facial expressions. There's some occasional "down time" during scenes with heavy dialogue, but even then you can scout around for hidden items, which are easily snagged by pointing and pressing the A button. Extraction might not be as scary or intense as the PS3 game, but it's faster and less tedious. Even the zero-gravity areas that were such a bust on the PS3 game are entertaining here. The Wii-mote provides excellent aiming control, and twisting your wrist puts your weapon into its secondary mode. The flamethrower is money at close range, but few things are more satisfying than slicing through several aliens in a row with a "blade" from your line gun. Dismembering aliens is the name of the game, and it's a welcome change from other shooters that focus on headshots. Extraction employs a Gears of War-style reload mechanism that lets you reload quickly if your timing is right. Periodically things will settle down so you can solve a puzzle, select a path, or search for items. The connect-the-circuit mini-games make perfect use of the Wii pointer, and they are as fun as they are ingenious. Shaking the nun-chuck is used to initiate melee, and shaking the Wii-mote lights your "glow stick". Your performance is rated after each chapter of the story, and a score-based challenge mode adds replay value. There are even digital "comics" you can unlock which fill in the background story. I was skeptical about Dead Space Extraction, but the more I played it, the more impressed I became. As a software developer, I really have to hand it to the team responsible for this. If you're an adult looking for an intense, high-quality shooter for your Wii, look no further. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Deadly Creatures
Grade: C-
Publisher: THQ (2008)
Reviewed: 2010/8/14
Rating: Teen (alcohol reference, mild language, violence)

screenshotI get the impression that the designers of Deadly Creatures were genuinely interested in creating something that was totally unique. Unfortunately, it appears it was necessary to fall back on standard conventions in order to inject some excitement into this game. Deadly Creatures lets you assume the role of a tarantula and a scorpion in alternating chapters set in harsh desert environments. Each creature has its own set of abilities and special attacks. For example, the tarantula can jump and sling web, and the scorpion has the ability to dig and sting. You'll spend a lot of time creeping through endless thorny tunnels while chomping on grubs (yummy!) and fighting off other bugs. Occasionally you'll encounter larger creatures that are best to evade like lizards and rattlesnakes. The spider and scorpion are fluidly animated, and watching them slink along is actually a little creepy! The snakes are also nicely rendered and slither with lifelike realism. The environments are far less compelling however as you trek through cactus, rocks, and endless narrow underground passages. A handy arrow points the way, and it's absolutely necessary because otherwise it would be hard to tell if you were forging ahead or backtracking. The bland environments don't offer much incentive to explore, but that's okay because the stages are very linear. You can employ a number of attacks when fighting other insects, some of which are pretty ridiculous. If you've ever wanted to see a tarantula bitch-slap a scorpion like a pimp, here's your big chance. I don't recall ever seeing a scorpion execute a body slam on a grasshopper on the Discovery Channel. There are even fatalities! Deadly Creatures makes a nice effort to incorporate motion controls, but they're not always very responsive. The most exciting parts of the game by far are the "quick response" action sequences where you must frantically fight for survival. The game is held together by the story of two outlaws as voiced by Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton. Wow, that's some pricey voice talent! These guys must have owed somebody a big favor! The disk even contains interviews with the actors as they discuss the game and pretend to be intrigued by it. Deadly Creatures is an admirable attempt at originality, but there's only so much you can do with the subject matter, and the game struggled to hold my attention. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Dino Strike
Grade: C-
Publisher: N-Fusion (2010)
Reviewed: 2012/6/15
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)

screenshotDino Strike's brand of simple light gun shooting might be described as "House of the Dead with dinosaurs". The game automatically guides you through jungles, volcanoes, and ruins on a remote island. The raptors, pterodactyls, and obligatory T-Rex are nicely detailed and move in a convincing manner. I like how the spitting dinosaurs appear to be hocking up a massive loogie before unleashing their yellow goo. There's not much variety in terms of dinosaurs, but it's nice to see the underrated Ankylosaurus in the mix. Dinosaurs usually attack one or two at a time, and they tend to repeat the same attack patterns, making the game feel repetitive. The jungle scenery is a little sparse and the waterfalls look too angular, but the overgrown ruins look nice. Aiming with the reticule is fairly precise, and you can toggle between a handgun, shotgun, machine gun, and crossbow (as ammo permits). Be sure to reload whenever there's a lull in the action, because it's not automatic and reloading is time consuming. A dual-wield option lets you blast away with two controllers, but while it sounds awesome, it's confusing to use two weapons with different reload cycles. That said, mowing down charging beasts with two machine guns is always a good time. Blasting crates reveal health and ammo, but the crates are always in plain view which removes the thrill of discovery. The lengthy stages can wear out their welcome but the difficulty is just about right. On the normal skill level you'll need to make a concerted effort to survive each stage. Upon completion you enter your initials which get recorded in the high score screen (what a concept!). Continues can be used if you die within a stage, but they take a lot of fun out of the game, as you can easily plow through the whole adventure in one sitting. I like the concept behind Dino Strike but the game lacks suspense, surprises, and creativity. It's moderately fun for a little while, but you'll forget it about as soon as you put down the controller. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 

Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3
Grade: B-
Publisher: Disney (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/2/28
Rating: Everyone

screenshotMost critics wouldn't touch this game with a ten-foot pole. Cowards! The VGC says, "Bring it on!" This second edition of Disney's Sing It line of karaoke games takes advantage of the unbridled popularity of the High School Musical series. The game is quite engaging thanks to its slick production values and upbeat pop tunes. There's no sappy love songs or cheesy showtunes to slog through, just a bunch of high-energy dance numbers. A microphone is included, and its USB plug had me asking, "Where do I plug this thing in?" I soon realized there were USB ports on the back of the Wii! Who knew? High School Musical 3 offers 25 songs that span all three High School Musicals. Upon selecting a song, you can select a part to sing (either side of the duet, or both) and your skill level. As a music video plays on the screen, words are displayed across the bottom along with a moving pitch indicator. It's not necessary to sing the exact words, so you can just hum along if you'd like. Staying on pitch is not easy, but if you can hold the tune for long enough, a multiplier kicks in. High scores are saved in a table along with the player's name. Although mainly targeted to teenagers, these High School Musicals are appealing to a much wider audience. My niece and nephew love this, and they're both under the age of 7! I have no idea who's pumping out all of these catchy songs, but they're quite good and have a way of getting under your skin. Their non-objectionable lyrics include such thought-provoking lines as "You are the music in me", "Bop to the top - don't ever stop", and "What time is it? Summertime!" These kids have a lot of spirit. Whether they're dining in the cafeteria, practicing basketball, or working at a fast food joint, life is just one non-stop party. It's been a while since I've been in high school, but I don't recall too many dance numbers breaking out in study hall. Karaoke games like this don't appeal to everyone, but it's really hard to dislike this one. Bump the grade up by a letter if you're a High School Musical fanatic. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Donkey Kong Country Returns
Grade: A-

screenshotDonkey Kong Returns retains the spirit of the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy (SNES) while introducing a slew of imaginative new elements and fantastic 3D effects. The basic gameplay picks up where the old games left off as you pounce on crazed animals, snag floating bananas, and propel yourself through the air via explosive barrels. One excellent new move is your ability to pound the ground with your hands by shaking the controller. Not only does it look hilarious, it's also very effective to nail in pegs, break trap doors, and reduce stone blocks to rubble. Donkey Kong also has the ability to crawl along grass-covered walls and ceilings. Little Diddy Kong is back, and this time he rides on your back with a little jet pack that lets you hover in the air momentarily (to extend jumps). As in the original game, there are animals to ride (like the powerful rhino), mine carts, bonus areas, and enough hidden items to provide ample replay value. And if you think the game goes a little heavy with the mine carts, you're right! The original Donkey Kong Country stunned gamers with its "clay-mation" style graphics, but Returns adopts a less-impressive, cartoonish style. That's not to say the game doesn't have its moments, especially when you see huge temples topple over or towering waves crash into the shore. The musical score has been recycled from the original game, but the sounds are enhanced by an echo from the Wii-mote, creating an almost three-dimensional audio effect. One legitimate beef with the game is the high difficulty due to some very unforgiving stage designs. You'll go through lives by the dozen, and that bird boss really pushed me to the edge. The game does toss out occasional hints, and when it notices you're dying repeatedly, it'll offer to play the level for you. Donkey Kong Returns has traditional map screens that offer a linear progression through jungles, beaches, ruins, caves, etc. The beach areas offer some of the best summer-themed scenery I've seen with their tropical foliage, translucent water, pirate ships, thunderstorms, and festive steel drum music. Donkey Kong Returns will give your thumbs more than they bargained for, but it's still more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Well, in this case I guess it's exactly as much fun as a barrel of monkeys. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Dream Pinball
Grade: C+
Publisher: Southpeak (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/6/16
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDream Pinball was a pleasant surprise on my Nintendo DS, but my standards for the Wii are a little higher. This collection features six fictional pinball tables with intriguing themes like medieval times, monsters, dinosaurs, aquatic life, and cars. I still can't figure out what the hell that "Amber Moon" table is supposed to be. Although generally realistic in their layouts, the tables go a little overboard with the flippers, with some sporting as many as six! The motion controls work very well. It took me a while to figure out you have to hold A and pull back to activate the plunger, but my friends picked up on this right away. Using the triggers of the Wii-mote and nun-chuck allows for intuitive flipper control, and you simply shake the controllers to nudge the table. I was hoping the larger screen would reveal a lot of interesting table details over the DS version, but that's not really the case. The shiny metal rails stand out more, but the artwork is minimal and the targets are indistinct. Still, tables with multiple layers (like Amber Moon) are definitely easier to play on the larger screen, especially when a multi-ball kicks in. Dream Pinball is generally fun but it has some quirks that got on my nerves. Whenever you hit a target, a red substance "splatters" on the board, and while I suspect this was meant to add a little pizzazz, it just looks ugly. I also find it odd how the balls count down instead of up, so your last ball is referred to as "ball 1". In terms of audio, I get really tired of the voice constantly asking, "Are you ready for ball change?" I don't even know what the [expletive] that means! The other voice samples are equally cheesy, like the woman who observes "that's a huge beast" in the dinosaur table (du-uh!) Each table is fully customizable and supports up to four players. High scores are saved and it's always satisfying to beat the top score. Dream Pinball has the feel of a low-budget effort, but there's plenty of replay value here. Pinball junkies might even want to bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Endless Ocean
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/8/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI think I just discovered the perfect game for old people! Endless Ocean is slow and plodding, with no elements of challenge or danger. As a bonus, the game features a lot of tranquil songs that would make Celine Dion proud. I can understand why Nintendo would want to offer a gentle, educational title for the Wii, but did they really have to make it so boring? As a fan of undersea documentaries, I was totally psyched up for some deep-sea exploration, but Endless Ocean feels entirely too scripted. You play a diver on a boat in the South Pacific, accompanied by a very unattractive woman scientist. I find it a little ironic how this woman yammers away about "loving the outdoors" and "never wanting to work in an office", yet the first thing she tells you to do is go into the cabin to check your email! Email?! I bought this game to experience the magic of the sea, not to weed through newsletters and spam! Ugh! And that's not the only contradiction in this game. The title would seem to imply boundless exploration possibilities, yet the dive areas are quite constrained and your activities seem regimented. Expect to see this message a lot: "You're leaving the target dive area. You must go back". The underwater graphics are semi-realistic, but not impressive. Instead of expansive true-to-life environments, you get a lot of artificial gorges that lead you by the nose to your next objective. Educational details are provided about fish you discover, but only if you feed them or fondle them repeatedly. Beautiful, serene music plays throughout the game, making it feel surreal at times. Staying awake can be a problem though. Occasionally you'll encounter something interesting like a whale or hammerhead shark, but when I tried to harass the shark, he completely ignored me! Where's the realism!? I just wanted to be eaten alive - is that asking too much?! Since you can't be devoured by sharks, Endless Ocean is a colossal waste of time. Did I learn anything? Only that the ocean is very small, and sharks are not dangerous. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Epic Mickey
Grade: C+
Publisher: Disney (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/12/29
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI have fond memories of playing Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis, 1990) back in the day. That game charmed players with its surreal visuals, easy gameplay, and frequent surprises. I was hoping Epic Mickey would rekindle the magic, but it left me feeling a little empty. After an exciting intro in which Mickey is strapped to a table with scissors, a drill, and a chainsaw hovering above, the game soon settles into a predictable pattern of alternating 2D and 3D stages. The 2D side-scrolling stages are short and sweet, effectively placing you in vintage Disney shorts such as Steamboat Willie, Mickey and the Beanstalk, Clock Cleaners, and Lonesome Ghosts. Although not particularly difficult or inventive, these are a visual treat. The 3D areas tend to be inspired by theme park attractions like Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and It's a Small World. Sadly, they tend to look unattractive and are dominated by rivers of ugly green paint thinner. You can roam freely as you solve puzzles, collect items, and run errands for generic characters milling around. Some errands are a little tedious (take this book to so-and-so), but most of the puzzles aren't bad because they have multiple solutions. Locating key items is no problem because the stages are relatively small, but the treasure-hunting element is watered down by the fact that collectable items are everywhere. Epic Mickey has one killer gimmick, and that's your ability to "paint" items by hosing them down from a distance. This opens a world of possibilities as you can create your own bridge or fire up a machine by "painting" its missing gear. Likewise you can use paint thinner to remove obstacles, vanquish enemies, or erase walls to reveal secret areas. Sometimes the two actions work in tandem, allowing you to solve some intricate puzzles. While cool in concept, it's also surprisingly non-intuitive! You really need to experiment to determine what scenery is and isn't affected. Fighting enemies by hosing them down is time-consuming and unsatisfying. But Epic Mickey's biggest flaw is its abysmal camera system. It's often hard to see where you're headed, and aiming your paint is also problematic. The structure of the game is confusing as well, as you'll get half way through a 3D area only to be whisked away to an unrelated 2D stage. Various stages and cut-scenes employ a hodgepodge of visual styles that make the game feel like a disjointed effort. I got the impression that this was produced by some very talented people who never talked to each other. Despite its flaws Epic Mickey is still engaging - at least for the first few hours. There are glimmers of Disney magic as you find yourself hopping across clouds, gliding on musical notes, or having flashbacks to your childhood. The easy difficulty and short stages mean you'll rarely get stuck and your progress is frequently saved. The orchestrated musical score is first-rate, and thank goodness the characters do not have voices. Epic Mickey is a big game, but it's not epic, and in my opinion is less than the sum of its parts. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Excite Truck
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/5/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt would be difficult to find a more entertaining off-road racer than Excite Truck. MotorStorm (Playstation 3, 2007) comes to mind, but while that game looks substantially better than Excite Truck, when it comes to fun, there is no comparison. Easy to play and visually over-the-top, Excite Truck races are blindingly fast with a half-way-out-of-control flavor that's quite thrilling. There are plenty of natural ramps, and the degree of "air" you can catch is unprecedented. One remarkable feature is the ability of certain icons to reshape the geography, morphing low roads into rivers, and hills into mountains. It looks absolutely stunning, especially the first time you witness it. Steering is performed by tilting the controller, which feels surprisingly natural once you get the hang of it. The directional pad is used to activate your turbo boost, and using too much at a time will overheat your engine. You'll want to use your turbo sparingly, except when in water, where your car can't overheat! You also earn stars in each race by executing power slides, catching big air, flying through rings, and other stunts. Excite Truck's graphics are modest - even pixelated at times - but the smooth frame rate and the impressive distance you can see ahead (especially when high in the air) makes the lack of detail practically irrelevant. Unlike Motor Storm, the load times are brief and the races are reasonably short. The single player mode rewards you with a steady stream of unlockables, and the split-screen is fantastic, even without the option of CPU opponents. In terms of audio, I opted to turn down the frenetic guitar music, but it certainly fits with the spirit of the game. Living up to its name, Excite Truck is easy to pick up but hard to put down. For new Wii owners this is pretty much a "must have". © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Excitebots: Trick Racing
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/5/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe Wii is the strange animal. Many Wii games struggle to incorporate motion control, but when done right, the result can be incredibly fun. Excitebots fits the Wii like a glove. How long has it been since a Wii game made my arm sore? Too long! Exitebots is really a sequel to Excite Truck (Nintendo, 2006), and to be frank, the code is probably 80% the same. In this fast and furious racer you view the action from behind your robot which is shaped like an animal (or bug) with wheels on its feet. They look pretty awesome and have a "Transformers" (the movie) quality about them. There's a frog, a ladybug, a grasshopper, a praying mantis, and a bat just to name a few. As you careen through off-road courses, you'll fly off ramps, perform mid-air tricks, and make heavy use of turbo. The basic formula has Excite Truck written all over it, but Excitebots ups the ante with crazy gimmicks and goofy weapons. There are bars you latch onto that spin you around before launching you into the air. There are rails you can grind. There are bowling pins in the road and soccer balls to knock into goals. One power-up lets your robot scamper on two legs, and this looks hilarious but can be hard to control (mine would always veer to one side). In a lesser game these gimmicks would get in the way, but in Excitebots they complement the action perfectly. Motion controls are seamlessly incorporated into the steering, bar swings, and crash recoveries, forcing you to become physically involved. Collecting stars is a lot of fun, although they are awarded far too liberally. Hell, you even get one for crashing. The motion sensitivity can be a little erratic (par for the course), giving the controls a decidedly "loose" feel. I really wish the tracks didn't revisit the same locations as Excite Truck including Fuji, Canada, Scotland, and Mexico. At least the techno soundtrack is less grating than Excite Truck's guitar riffs. The theme song is outstanding, but some of the more quirky tunes can get annoying. The graphics are bright and inviting, and the game has an addictive, pick-up-and-play quality. Sometimes it takes a game like Exitebots to remind you that video games are supposed to be fun. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Grade: F
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/7/22
Rating: Teen (fantasy violence)

screenshotMy experience playing Fantastic 4 with a group of friends was one I'll not soon forget. It captured such a wide range of human emotion, including excitement, apprehension, disenchantment, denial, frustration, anger, disgust, dejection, misery, and finally euphoria (when I took the damn thing out). The graphics look rough compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, but since the Wii is all about gameplay, who cares about the graphics, right? Fantastic 4's brief tutorial explains how to add "oomph" to your attacks by swinging the controllers downward, executing drum-rolls, or crossing them over. I like how the game doesn't depend on the motion controls, but they still play a key role. Once thrust into the generic cave environments of the first stage, my friends and I proceeded to beat the living crap out of gangs of purple aliens and generic machines lining each wall. There's a lot of action on the screen, but it's hard to tell what's going on amid the button-pounding chaos, and the frame rate is terribly erratic. The endless rooms and corridors all look the same, and the missions are as repetitive as they are mindless ("destroy four more reactors"). Fast forward about 45 minutes, and guess what we're doing? That's right, we're still busting up the same machines and beating the crap out of regenerating purple goons. At one point even the Invisible Woman in the game bellyaches about having to destroy yet another reactor! I kept assuring my friends that the boss was "right around the next corner", but that was just wishful thinking. The stage just kept going, inflicting upon us a degree of monotony we had not known. When my friend Scott advised "Dave, your energy is almost gone", my subdued response was "I don't care if I live or die." Fantastic 4 is bad on so many levels. At certain points it's necessary for the Invisible Woman to use an energy ball to destroy a target that's barely even visible on the far edge of the screen! As you accumulate new motion-controlled attacks, there's no way you can remember them all. You're forced to sit through some painfully cheesy dialogue. Does Fantastic 4 have anything going for it? "I like the loading screen," chimed in my friend Scott. "Only because it means we're not playing the game!" Jonathan countered. Before leaving my house, Scott actually offered to send this game back to the publisher for me (overnight express no less) just to ensure he would never be asked to play it again. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Fishing Master World Tour
Grade: C
Publisher: Hudson (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/9/1
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSince Sega Bass Fishing made a splash on the Dreamcast in 1999, every fishing game has been pretty much the same. You select a bait, wave your arm to cast, and fight fish by swinging the controller when prompted. Fishing Master is no different, except the difficulty is extremely low. Sporting bright graphics and arcade-style gameplay, it's ideal for gamers with short attention spans. The big, juicy fish are clearly visible in the water, often splashing around on the surface. The game prompts you to "pull up!" when you hook a fish, and then guides you through every step of the fight, including "stop reeling!" Skilled gamers are likely to get annoyed with the excessive handholding. In my mind, part of the challenge of fishing lies in figuring out what techniques work best for each situation. Fishing Master's opening stages feel like prolonged tutorials as you bag dumb fish and perform mini "missions" for the captain. New locations, fish, and lures gradually become available, but it takes a while before things get interesting. Hints arrive via email, and while I would usually dock a game for even having an email feature, the messages tend to be short and sweet. In addition to a wide variety of fish, you'll also catch garbage like cans and tires. Your lure selection also includes a few oddball items like a cucumber, magnet, and catcher's mitt! Fishing Master does not save your progress automatically, and you'll really need to hunt for the save game option (hint: look under "records"). Despite its flaws, Fishing Master has its charms. The upbeat music has an old-school vibe, and the bright, crisp graphics are inviting. There are locations from all around the world, and even Detroit looks good! Fishing Master is moderately fun and best played in small doses. For those looking for an action-oriented fishing experience, this is the way to go. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Fortune Street
Grade: A-
Publisher: Square Enix (2012)
Reviewed: 2012/6/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDo you like Monopoly? Well, Fortune Street is about a million times better than that. As a kid I always knew Monopoly was too complicated so I would use dumbed-down rules when playing with friends. Fortune Street has the exact same philosophy. Developed by Square Enix and featuring all your favorite Nintendo characters, you know this is a high-quality, family-friendly title. You select from a wide range of board configurations, most of which form a series of loops. Four players take turns buying up properties, upgrading shops, buying out each other, and charging rent. Collecting four "suit" symbols and returning the bank (the starting point) will get you promoted, along with a handsome paycheck. The suit spaces also let you pick a card that affects the game in unpredictable ways (all your properties increase in value, for example). You win when your overall wealth reaches a certain predetermined level (such as 10,000 GP). Fortune Street is a very well designed game that's incredibly competitive whether playing against friends or CPU opponents (or both). You can also play on-line. The action unfolds slowly but gradually sucks you in. The "easy" variation keeps things simple, and the "standard" variation incorporates the ability to trade stocks (not as hard as it sounds, by the way). The stages feature themes like castles and pirate ships, but those images just serve as backdrops with the boards floating in the sky. Each board offers its own interesting features and strategic possibilities, and some even change configuration on the fly. The pacing is a little slow with the default settings, but you can customize the options to speed things up. The musical themes are well done but they can wear on you over the course of a game. Keep in mind that some games can last as long as two hours. Even so, time seems to fly when you play Fortune Street. My friend Steve and I missed the entire seventh game of the Stanley Cup because of this! © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Family Friendly Video Games

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