Publisher: Ubisoft (2007)
A barebones racer like this released so early in the Wii's life cycle suggests Ubisoft may have been simply trying to cash-in on the launch pandemonium. As a semi-realistic sports car racer, GT Pro isn't terrible, but it certainly is boring! It's hard to overlook its rudimentary graphics, which resemble something you'd see on the Playstation One - on a bad day! GT Pro's coarse scenery is lined with pixelated buildings, flat "trees", fences marred by ugly aliasing (jaggies), and flat "grass" composed of crude texture maps. For the cars, Ubisoft opted for a simple, cell-shaded approach, which was probably a good idea. There are over 80 customizable cars to choose from, but you'll want to resist the temptation of selecting the faster ones, at least at first. My friends and I made that mistake and found ourselves all over the road. Stick with something slower but with good handling. If you do, you'll find the steering controls to be respectable, with power-slides that result in a pleasant "sling-shot" effect. The black plastic steering wheel provides a comfortable shell for the controller, but it's not necessary at all. GT seems to have a nice "pick-up-and-play" quality at first, but as I advanced skill levels, I was faced with annoying "driver tests" required in order to earn my next "license". I really hate that. Advanced races aren't much more exciting that the early ones - just longer. After a while, racing around the same courses over and over again gets old, especially since tracks like "Thrilling Harbor" were never thrilling to begin with. I gave the four-player split-screen a try, but its degraded graphics and control made it a colossal bore. In terms of audio, GT Pro features some of the worst ever, with goofy background music that sounds like a record being played at the wrong speed. GT Pro may be passable for newer gamers with time to kill, but if you've already "been around the track" a few times, there's no good reason to travel this road. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Geometry Wars Galaxies
Publisher: Bizarre Creations (2007)
What a coup
it was for Nintendo to snag the definitive version
of what is arguably the best game on the Xbox 360!
The original Geometry Wars, downloadable from Xbox Live, is an Asteroids-on-steroids 2D shooter that perfectly blends spectacular visuals with classic arcade action. Galaxies expands the game to the n-th degree, incorporating a huge campaign mode that provides almost unlimited replayability. In case you're curious about the graphic quality, the Wii handles the space-bending vectors just fine. You might notice that your ship is slightly pixelated at first, but otherwise the graphics are just as mind-blowing as the original game. Geometry Wars' non-stop action involves blasting hundreds of floating geometric shapes as black holes crop up around the screen and wreak havoc with their gravitational fields. Your insane firepower creates a fireworks display of explosions that are a feast for the eyes. Whenever you destroy something, its point value appears right there on the screen. That's really satisfying, especially when these numbers reach the thousands
and appear by the dozens
. Galaxies' campaign mode features dozens of "missions" which tweak the game's formula in a number of imaginative ways. You'll contend with oversized shapes, floating barriers, bonus diamonds to gather up, and playing fields of various shapes. Another new feature is a helpful "drone" that floats by your ship, acting like a shield or providing auxiliary fire. There are actually eight selectable drone abilities for you to unlock and power-up to various degrees. Geometry War's pulsating techno soundtrack really helps you get "in the zone". Unlike the 360 version which could only save high scores on-line, Galaxies conveniently records all high scores (with initials) to your Wii. I guess Microsoft didn't have the technology
to do that! Since the games tend to be short, trying to top your high scores is fun and addictive. The original Geometry Wars Evolved is also included, along with a number of two-player modes. One thing I can't emphasize enough is that you'll want to use a classic controller
with this game, because the default Wii-mote/nunchuck configuration is awkward. The classic controller's dual joysticks make all the difference, although they are still a step down from the Xbox 360 controller. If you own a Wii, you need this game. Transcending time and space, Geometry Wars may be the ultimate pick-up-and-play shooter. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2007)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)
For long-time fans of light-gun shooters, a game like this might have you thinking that happy days are back again. Ghost Squad must have been created by the same people who did the Time Crisis games, because it has the same tight controls, mediocre graphics, and preposterous dialogue. You are a soldier in an elite military squad that "doesn't leave a trace". That's probably because all of your enemies disappear
after you shoot them! The arcade mode's three missions take you into a villa, a jungle, and aboard a flying Air Force One. In the jungle stage you rescue a guy named Dr. Steve McCoy who looks like he's from the Planet of the Apes. When you rescue the President aboard Air Force One, he actually gives you a high-five
! As with all light gun games, your movements are automatic as you view the action from a first-person perspective, although there are opportunities to select alternate routes. Ghost Squad's gameplay is basically "shoot or be shot", but take care not to blast hostages or members of your own squad. Most weapons fire in short bursts, and it doesn't take more than a shot or two to bring down most enemies. It's somewhat comical how a bad guy will slide right in front of you and sit there for a second, giving you a chance to shoot him in the face. Also funny is how 20 enemies will emerge from a small room or from behind a table (the term "clown car" comes to mind). A large aiming reticule is visible by default, but you can turn it off, which I would recommend for a more realistic, satisfying experience. After all, you don't get a reticule when you shoot at people in real life! I like the way you shake your controller to reload. Occasionally the game will prompt you to perform special tasks like sniping, knife fighting, or disarming a bomb. The responsiveness and accuracy of the controls is excellent, but the missions are cookie-cutter in design and you'll want to skip the boring cut-scenes every time. The heart of the game is the arcade mode, but its progression is very confusing. You get unlimited continues - until
you reach a boss. Is there any penalty for using continues? Who knows. Your progress is not
saved unless you play through all three scenarios or
fail to continue. Would it be too much to have a save option between missions? The manual clarifies some things, but an arcade game like this shouldn't be so complicated. Once you begin completing the missions, you'll unlock alternate versions of the stages and comical features. It doesn't seem like Sega put a lot of effort into Ghost Squad, but at its core, it's still the mindless light-gun action we all know and love. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Publisher: Atari (2009)
Would it be unfair to call this "Ghostbusters Light"? It feels like a simplified version of the PS3 game, with the same storyline but remixed stage layouts, puzzles, and bosses. The good news is, it's every bit as fun! This lighthearted adventure features the zany characters of the original film, and the actors lend their voices to good effect. You'll revisit the New York public library and Sedgewick hotel, and once again face off against the giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Just be advised that after putting in this disk you'll sit through no less than eight
intro screens before finally reaching the title screen. Wow, that's got to be some kind of record or something. Ghostbuster's graphics lack the lush quality of the PS3 edition, but the clean, well-defined visuals are still appealing. You can still unleash ample destruction with your proton packs, obliterating every piece of furniture in sight. Blasting the books off shelves is particularly satisfying as pages and debris go flying all over the place. The controls are simpler and more comfortable than the PS3 version. You aim your proton pack using the Wii-mote, and when a ghost becomes trapped in your beam, arrow prompts signal you to swing the Wii-mote in various directions. Doing this slams the ghosts into walls and floors, weakening their resistance. Of course, this would never work in real life (the ghosts would pass through the walls), but this is only a video game, so it's all good
. I found it interesting how the stages vary from the PS3 version. The library stage is considerably weaker, but the museum stage has better puzzles and a T-Rex boss. In addition to fine control, the Wii version also offers a sweet split-screen mode. I enjoyed Ghostbusting alongside a friend, despite the fact that the screen becomes chaotic during battles and annoying objective text tends to block your view. Perhaps the best aspect of this Ghostbusters game is its short, bite-sized levels. Unlike the never-ending PS3 stages, this game is broken up into manageable 5-15 minute chunks. I'm a run-and-gun kind of guy, but patient gamers can employ the PKE meter to scour each area for artwork and other hidden goodies. The only glitch I noticed was a lock-up during one loading sequence. Ghostbusters for the Wii may seem watered-down compared to the PS3 game, but with its easy-going style, intuitive controls, and brisk pacing, it has a charm of its own. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Go Diego Go! Safari Rescue
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive (2007)
This preschool adventure plays much differently than its Nintendo DS cousin, but is every bit as entertaining. Go Diego Go Safari Rescue is a simple side-scroller with inviting visuals, intuitive motion controls, and a gentle learning curve. It's actually two games in one: Safari Rescue and Safari Racing. Safari Rescue is a lengthy quest in which our young Hispanic hero saves animals in peril with the help of his cub sidekick. You'll rescue lost cubs, feed a hungry ostrich, and save elephants that have been turned to stone by an evil magician. The game begins with simple challenges like running down pathways and jumping over rocks, but gradually becomes more involved. In time, Diego will hop on trampolines, ride down zip-lines, swing on vines (Pitfall style) and even hang-glide over river valleys. The "mud board" sequences even have a slight Tony Hawk vibe (very slight). The motion controls aren't integral to the game, but they make it more involving as you shake trees, bang on drums, and dig holes. A small diagram in the corner of the screen makes it clear what movements are expected. Safari Rescue has ample variety and would probably even be enjoyable for adults if it offered any challenge at all. The characters are rendered as cartoons, but the layered backdrops look like hand-drawn illustrations. The game automatically saves your progress frequently, and there's even an option to let a parent "help out" using the second controller! Now that
is a good idea! The Rescue mode alone would have been good enough to warrant a purchase, but then there's the Safari Race mode that lets two players go head-to-head in jeeps, hang gliders, canoes, or on elephants. Go Diego Go was good on the DS, but this slick Wii edition is far more engaging and offers substantially more replay value. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Activision (2010)
Rating: Teen (blood, mild language, suggestive themes, violence)
Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64 was one of the best selling games of all time, so it's not surprising to see it resurrected for the Wii. This explosive remake updates the storyline and places the "new Bond" in the lead role. Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond by far, but since this is a first-person shooter (FPS), his presence doesn't make a whole lot of difference. The original Goldeneye rose to popularity on the strength of its four-player split-screen mode which was pretty innovative for its time. The multiplayer in this new Goldeneye is a lot
less compelling. Aiming with the Wii-mote works poorly on the split-screen, and you can't add CPU-controlled "bots" to spice things up. It's actually quite boring! On the other hand I really loved the exciting single-player missions, which are jam-packed with mayhem and destruction. The difficulty is easy enough for FPS novices to grasp, and checkpoints are generously placed. The shooting action is similar to Call of Duty with an auto-aim mechanism and red-around-the-edge-of-the-screen health indicator. Be sure to pump a few rounds in each enemy, because the first shot or two usually doesn't kill them - it just pisses them off!
Your smart phone has a series of useful apps including the ability to activate security mechanisms remotely and perform facial recognition. The facial recognition software is so good
that it even works if you aim the camera at the back
of a person's head! The exotic scenery includes a rainy dam, a snow-swept Siberian radar base, and the colorful skyline of Dubai. The Barcelona nightclub has a cool vibe with pumping dance music and trippy lighting effects. My copy of the game included a golden "classic controller" which is really, really nice. It's lightweight, has comfortable grips, and uses a standard button configuration. It really is by far the optimal way to play this game. Goldeneye is the most enjoyable first-person shooter I've played on the Wii, but at times it feels more like a last
-generation title. The henchmen all look like clones and the AI is weak. Graphical glitches include guns suspended in mid-air. There are a lot of strategically-placed red exploding barrels, and while they're the biggest video game cliche in the world, I find them impossible to resist. Goldeneye 007 is a real throw-back, and depending on your taste in games, that may be a good or bad thing. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Grand Slam Tennis
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2009)
It must be really, really
hard to program motion controls, because no one except for Nintendo can seem to get it right. Grand Slam Tennis is a good idea but its execution is lacking. The game tries to take the intuitive gameplay of Wii Sport Tennis and expand upon it with professional players, actual tournaments, and a robust career mode. This is a tennis game that requires you to stand up and play like you're actually on the court. Grand Slam offers an impressive list of past and present pros, including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Chris Evert, John McEnroe and Boris Becker. The graphics are modest. I don't mind the cartoonish players, but those blurry backgrounds, spherical trees, and cardboard cut-out spectators show a lack of effort on EA's part. The animations are interesting, and it's always fun to see McEnroe throw a temper tantrum. I also like how the players check the strings of their racket after a mis-hit. The commentators are mildly entertaining ("these players are showing perfect control - it's almost like a video game!
") but they are also repetitive and offer little insight. You cut them off whenever you skip a cut-scene, which is pretty much all the time
. But the real problem with Grand Slam Tennis is its controls. Even with the Wii Motion Plus, they feel clumsy and erratic. Don't even think
about using the right stick to run around - stick with the swing-only controls if you hope to have any fun at all. Before the serve you seem to have perfect 1:1 synchronization with the racket on the screen, but once the action kicks in, it's a different story. You must hit with a forehand or backhand depending on which side the ball is on, and while you're turning from one side to the next the game can get confused. Sometimes your player will take a really awkward swing, or your swing might not even register at all. Applying spin is possible, but trying to place your shot is futile. In real life I can't make a baseline shot to save my life, yet in this game almost every shot is right down the line! Likewise the force of your swing seems to have no bearing on the game. The career mode is well structured, offering a series of short challenges while saving your progress frequently. A steady trickle of new items and events gradually become unlocked. Grand Slam Tennis had a lot of potential but EA really needs to get a handle on these motion controls. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus
Publisher: Aksys (2008)
Rating: Teen (language, mild blood, partial nudity, sexual themes, use of tobacco, violence)
This has got to be the longest, most convoluted name for a fighting game since Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo Edition. Hell, even its abbreviation
(GGXXACP) takes forever to pronounce! Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus is the latest in an endless series of Guilty Gear X games, and it's probably the best. GGXXACP looks like a million bucks, and even its load
screens are a feast for the eyes. It's easy to mistake these graphics for high definition considering the amazing detail in both the character models and backgrounds. Some characters are nearly as tall as the screen! The controls are highly responsive and the action is intense. The button scheme may throw off newcomers (punch, kick, slash, heavy slash, dust), but the special moves are pretty easy to execute. The chaos can get a little out of hand at times, but as long as you're on the winning end, it's satisfying. I will admit that the matches run a little too long, and draining that final sliver of life from your opponent can be like pulling teeth! There are 25 martial artists and sexy chicks to choose from. Most of the guys are perfectly groomed and decked in flamboyant attire, giving the game an androgynous vibe. You get a few freaks like a lanky guy with a bag over his head, a girl who drags around an enormous key, and I can't forget to mention the lifeless corpse!
The layered backgrounds have an attractive, hand-illustrated appearance. Stage locations include London, a fairytale forest, a Japanese tea garden, and Hell.
If only there were as many stages as characters. In terms of audio, that announcer sounds pretty wimpy, but the guitar-driven soundtrack gives the game an edge. High scores are automatically saved, along with extensive statistics for each playing mode. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus may sound like a joke, but it doesn't play like one. Casual gamers may find themselves overwhelmed, but those with an appetite for 2D fighting will have plenty to chew on. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Gunblade NY & L.A. Machineguns Arcade Hits Pack
Publisher: Sega (2010)
Rating: Teen (violence)
If you love rapid-fire shooters, you'll want to brace yourself for this "arcade hits pack" from Sega. This disk serves up two fast-paced light gun titles from the late 90's. Each feels like a high-speed thrill ride as you're automatically whisked through urban environments while unleashing a torrent of bullets at angular terrorists. Gunblade NY is incredibly simple as you continuously blast away while moving a crosshair around the screen. The graphics are Dreamcast quality, and even though the scenery isn't very detailed, the smooth frame-rate makes it a fun ride. It's exhilarating to weave around buildings and plunge from great heights to ground level. Some enemies fire cannons, some wear jet-packs, and others hop around like fleas. Fortunately they tend to dress in bright colors and are highlighted in red when about to fire a missile. Most absorb several hits before disappearing in a mini mushroom cloud (what the?). The controls are extremely accurate. LA Machineguns is a sequel that incorporates better graphics and a little strategy. It's now possible for your gun to overheat, and you'll also get docked points for shooting civilians. I like its premise of rescuing the President - that's about as old-school as you can get! Although both games are fun for a quick play, the action does get monotonous eventually, and you might even experience motion sickness during extended play. Each game offers selectable stages and high scores are allegedly saved both locally and on-line. Unfortunately, the ranking/scoring system is so complicated that I couldn't make heads or tails out of it. This is probably the weirdest arcade compilation I've ever seen, but for a select group of trigger-happy gamers, this may just be a little slice of heaven. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari Interactive (2010)
Rating: Everyone (language, mild blood, mild cartoon violence)
The original Haunted House (Atari 2600, 1981) let you guide a pair of eyeballs around a four-story house to collect pieces of urn while avoiding spiders, bats, and ghosts. A remake was long overdue, but why did they have to make it so boring?
This game put me to sleep.
In each stage you guide a kid around a maze of rooms while pulling levers, collecting keys, and trying to find the exit. The kid-friendly graphics are decent, and the ethereal ghosts are enhanced with some nifty lighting effects. The furnishings sport a plush, antiquated look appropriate for an old house. There are stone fireplaces, suits of armor, and plenty of big chests to open. Holding in the A button lets you search furniture as a brief progress meter appears - similar to Impossible Mission (Atari 7800, 1989). You'll find a lot of items like matches, coins, keys, and health. Unfortunately these items are so ubiquitous that you get tired of searching for them. Ghosts appear in the form of apparitions and yappy dogs, and frankly they are more annoying than scary. You can usually avoid them, and if they latch onto you, you can shake them off. I like the concept of using light sources to destroy the ghosts, but it's hard to tell if you're dealing damage. The best way to clear a room is to light its fireplaces using a torch, candle, or... a cell phone app?!
Haunted House is mind-numbingly repetitive. The rooms all start to look the same after a while, and the stage layouts become more sprawling as you progress. And where are the scares? The creepiest aspect of the game is the occasional cackle, creak, or distant sound of a crying baby (always unnerving for some reason). The game itself is quiet and uneventful. In fact, the original
Haunted House is more exciting - and playable - than this. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Starfish (2007)
Nothing annoys me more than a perfectly good game ruined
by an unreasonable difficulty level. Heavenly Guardian is a very unique overhead adventure that has a lot going for it. The game stars two young girls (snow goddesses) who wander the countryside looking for items while shooting monsters. The 2D graphics have a real Zelda flavor, and the fact that you can play cooperatively with a friend is a huge bonus. You know the graphics are Japanese anime in style when the girls have pink and purple hair! You begin in a snowy wonderland but gradually move on to greener pastures and sprawling castles. The story begins with a ton of verbose text that's as unnecessary as it is unwelcome. Once the action gets underway however, Heavenly Guardian turns out to be an interesting adventure/shooter hybrid. As you freely explore the scrolling landscapes, you can fire projectiles rapidly in any direction. Power-ups provide you with bombs, three-way shots, and homing missiles. Targeting in the two-player mode is inexact (you fire the direction you're facing), but the one-player mode gives you the benefit of aiming with the Wii-mote. Enemies tend to be "cute" in appearance, including bouncy snowmen (with top hats), black cats (on brooms), and mummies that hurl rolls of toilet paper (nice touch). The distinct soundtrack gives the game a happy-go-lucky vibe. I would have loved Heavenly Guardian if not for its unforgiving, frustrating nature. There are a lot
of cheap hits, including slugs that leap out of bushes without warning. The first boss, a huge skeleton, pounds you with large homing missiles and takes forever
to defeat. Continues are available, but they return you to the beginning
of the stage - even if you made it all the way to the boss! Also worth mentioning that the screen is heavily cropped for some reason. I tried very hard to enjoy Heavenly Guardian, but its difficulty borders on ludicrous.
© Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return
Publisher: Sega (2008)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)
I knew House of the Dead 2 was great when I played it on the Dreamcast in 1999, but little did I know I was playing the best light-gun game ever!
It perfectly combines pulse-pounding zombie shooting action, amazing eye candy, and a unique tongue-in-cheek style. House of the Dead 2 is set in an old city with water canals (not unlike Venice), and its narrow walkways and antiquated buildings provide rich, claustrophobic environments. The memorable cast of creeps includes axe-throwing zombies, overweight chainsaw-toting ghouls, and slimy water creatures. Interesting bosses include a headless knight and a leaping lizard whose chest conveniently opens to expose his beating heart. The shooting action is terrific fun, and it's especially satisfying to blow holes in a zombie's head and chest. There are even alternate paths that branch when you shoot strategic targets. The dialogue is absolutely absurd, but it's also one of the more endearing qualities of the game. Memorable lines include "Suffer like G did?", "Don't come! Don't come!", and "Thank you for rescuing me!" House of the Dead 2 has aged like wine, and this Wii edition is dead-on. You can turn the crosshair on or off, and either option works well. House of the Dead 3 is also a fine game, although it can't quite match its predecessor. Its industrial locations are ho-hum, and the visuals look somewhat cartoonish. There are no weapon upgrades like a machine gun, but the default shotgun is pretty awesome. I like how you only have to aim
offscreen to reload - not shoot. If only the original
House of the Dead had been included with this package, it might have been an A+. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
House of the Dead Overkill, The
Publisher: Sega (2009)
This long-awaited fourth installment of the popular light gun series marks a major stylistic departure. House of the Dead Overkill boasts an outrageous storyline, excessive profanity, and disturbing, grotesque bosses. Its surf-rock music and "buddy" storyline indicates a strong Pulp Fiction influence, but as its name would imply, Overkill doesn't know when to say "when". Once the shock value of hearing non-stop F-bombs subsides, the long-winded dialogue becomes boring, and eventually just plain annoying
. The ending is the most disgusting ever seen in a video game, and the less said about that, the better. At its core, Overkill offers classic House of the Dead (HotD) first-person zombie-shooting in a house, train, jail, swamp, hospital, and carnival. You can blow off limbs to slow them down, or go for the fatal head shot. The zombies move at varying speeds, but a few come running at you in an alarming manner! The game's pacing is excellent, and the melon-splattering sound effect of exploding heads is very pleasing to the ears. Shooting special icons kick in slow motion, giving you extra time to zero in on the undead hordes. The traditional HotD "save the civilian" scenes are included, but where are the branching paths? Also, in previous HotD games you could shoot random boxes or pots to discover bonuses, but here your targets are limited to glowing icons, which is lame. The two-player action is fun, but the crosshairs look too similar and are easy to confuse. Overkill features seven chapters, and since each plays like its own movie, there's plenty of replay value here. The highlight of the game is the frightful carnival stage. The clowns are almost as terrifying as they are in real life, and being able to ride through a haunted house
is a blast. High scores are recorded after each stage, and continues are available at the cost of you half of your points, which turns out to be a pretty ingenious scheme! You can "buy" new weapons, but I found myself sticking with the default Magnum because the others (including the shotgun) are surprisingly ineffective. Overkill has style to burn but technically it's deficient. Compared to the crisp graphics and pinpoint controls of HotD2, the visuals look muddy and the controls are inexact. There's an option to turn off the cross-hair, but you almost need it to compensate for the lousy collision detection. Worst of all, serious frame-rate issues cause the action to become jerky or even freeze momentarily. Overkill is sure to entertain light gun fans, but its lack of restraint and rampant technical issues prevent it from achieving greatness. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings
Publisher: LucasArts (2009)
When I see critics bash this game, I think to myself, "what the [expletive] were they expecting?
" High definition graphics? Taken for what it is, Staff of Kings is exceptionally playable, incorporating intuitive motion controls while getting the most out of the system's limited graphic capabilities. Its third-person perspective evokes Tomb Raider, but there's far more emphasis on shooting and hand-to-hand combat. The Indiana Jones character looks just like Harrison Ford (down to his bowlegged run), and the voice acting is dead-on. The rich musical score and exotic environments really capture that distinctive Indiana Jones flavor. The tombs are interesting to explore, and the one in Panama reminded me of the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I like how you shake the controllers to punch, throw, or crack the whip. You're also prompted to shake frantically to escape hazards, and this keeps you on your toes. During fight scenes, normal items like cue balls and pool sticks can be used as weapons. Aiming your gun with the Wii-mote is very precise - especially if you have Wii-motion plus. Your whip can also be used to rappel, bring down unstable platforms, and pull levers. Climbing, swinging, and taking cover is semi-automatic, and this makes up for some of the game's more awkward control moments. Vehicle stages provide a nice change of pace, letting you pilot a plane through a rocky gorge or engage in a shootout on a run-away cable car. Critics enjoy mocking the graphics of Wii games like this, but I like the look of this game. The lighting and attention to detail is terrific, especially in dark, neon-lit alleyways of San Francisco. Staff of Kings is compelling but it does have some rough edges. The checkpoints are frequent, but you're often forced to re-watch cut-scenes or tutorials. Some stages are confusing. One sequence involved saving a girl with my whip, but I couldn't make out what the diagram on the screen was prompting me to do. The game also has its share of minor graphical and frame-rate hiccups. If the adventure seems a tad short, that's partly due to the minimal load times and quick pacing. As a neat bonus, a second
complete Indiana Jones game is also included: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. This 1992 point-and-click PC game is still fun to play and its 2D graphics have held up well. Together, these two provide some of the best Indiana Jones action you'll find on any console. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Jaws: Ultimate Predator
Publisher: Majesco (2011)
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)
A few years back I played a really bad Jaws game on my Xbox (Jaws Unleashed, 2005), which was about as fun as being consumed by an actual shark. Ultimate Predator is equally unpleasant. The opening cut-scene has still pictures with voice-overs. The characters are real actors processed by computers to give them a "painted" look. It's a bizarre effect that screams "low budget". You view the action from behind your shark, not unlike Ecco the Dolphin (Dreamcast, 2000). It seems reasonable that you can dart forward, bite, and swat with your tail. After all, this is the kind of stuff sharks do in their free time. Less convincing are moves like "block" and the ability to perform "combos". Umm... is this a fighting game?!
The bloated control scheme even incorporates a targeting system and a "shark sense" which transforms the entire screen into split pea soup (ugh). Short missions let you do stuff like maul divers, kill squid, and destroy boats. It sounds like a lot more fun than it is. Instead of ripping off limbs and ramming boats, you just kind of thrash around until your victims magically disappear. You wouldn't even be able to tell if you were dealing damage if the divers didn't blink red! The collision detection is pathetic, and the horrendous camera makes it hard to see what's going on. Where is the gore? Where's the bloody carnage?! Even kids will regard this as super lame. It's bug-ridden as well, as I discovered when I became hopelessly stuck in the opening tutorial!
Jaws Ultimate Predator is a bad game that preys on unsuspecting customers. Stay out of the water. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Jenga World Tour
Publisher: Atari (2007)
If there was one board game that begged
for a video game adaptation, it was not
Jenga. I've been a fan of the actual game for years, but I've always associated it with rowdy social events and heavy alcohol consumption (not that I would ever condone rowdy social events). The game is played with a stack of rectangular wooden blocks. Players take turns pulling a block out of the tower, placing it on the top. As the tower becomes taller, it grows unstable, and the player who makes it fall is crowned the loser. So what's the point of playing Jenga on your Wii? Well, it's the same reason why people play Chess on their computer - it's the ability to compete against the CPU. You don't need anybody around to play Jenga World Tour, and you can adjust the skill level as high as you want. Even so, reviewing Jenga World Tour required a lot
of patience. The controls are so inordinately complicated that I couldn't even make it through the damned tutorial
! The B button is used to "tap" loose blocks (which are outlined in green) and A is used to "grab" and carefully perform the extraction. It's hard to judge the depth of your disembodied hand, but you do have full control of the camera via the analog stick. Once I got a feel for it, the game isn't so bad. It's kind of cool how you can yank a piece with a jerk of the wrist, and the game mirrors your precise movements as you set the piece back on top of the pile. When playing the CPU, his moves are executed without delay, so there's never a lull in the action. The World Tour mode provides a steady progression of challenges, and I really dig the scenery and relaxing music. The first stage is set in a high-rise apartment at night, and you can view a beautiful city skyline through the window. An arcade mode lets you play Jenga for score, and it spices up the action with random factors like earthquakes (shakes the tower), ice (no friction when removing block), and vines (locks some blocks into place). Jenga World Tour is not for those with short attention spans, and arcade-minded gamers will absolutely hate
it. But if you're looking for a calmer, more relaxing video game experience, Jenga World Tour might be worth a look. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Jurassic: The Hunted
Publisher: Activision (2009)
Rating: Teen (blood, mild language, violence)
I've always been a sucker for dinosaur games, so Jurassic: The Hunted was a no-brainer for me. You begin this first-person shooter as a member of a search party flying over the Bermuda Triangle. Your plane is sucked into a time vortex (hate it when that happens) and suddenly you're stuck in the middle of a prehistoric jungle. The Hunted is linear in structure, with your path constrained by dense foliage and rocky walls. The nun-chuck is used to move and the Wii-mote lets you look around and aim. You move at two speeds: slow (upright) and slower (crouch). I would have liked a run button, but for the most part the game demands a slow, measured approach. Jurassic's graphics are a little muddled, making it easy for small dinosaurs to hide in the weeds or blend into rocks. The aiming controls are precise from a distance, but when a dinosaur starts chomping on your leg it's hard to tell which way is up. Your current objective is indicated by a marker on the horizon which also displays the distance. Blasting lunging dinosaurs is intense but not as satisfying as it should be. Most of the time you're pitted against small, scampering reptiles, and it can be hard to get a bead on them. You'll find a lot of useless weapons which either lack firepower or take forever to reload. Not until you obtain the shotgun and assault rifle do things start to get interesting. Unfortunately, the game doesn't bother to inform you that picking up a new weapon will replace
your current one, and on several occasions I accidentally swapped out my kick-ass machine gun for a Civil War-era peashooter. One feature I really like is the adrenaline meter. Not only does it slow down the action, but it gives you an x-ray view of the dinosaurs, making it easy to zero-in on critical organs. Don't stop firing until those drums stop beating! Occasionally you have the opportunity to man a turret against a dinosaur onslaught, allowing you to rack up a body count comparable to a Rambo movie. The Hunted has a few annoyances, including long-distance spitting dinosaurs that make you wonder where the hell
the damage is coming from. Giant predators like the T-Rex doesn't even make an appearance
until you're halfway through the game. There are times when Jurassic: The Hunted feels like a second-rate shooter, but it did just enough right to hold my attention. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Data Design Interactive (2008)
As a fan of Wave Race (Nintendo 64, 1996) and Hydro Thunder (Dreamcast, 1999), the idea of a Wii jet ski game had me frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog in a Snausage
factory. It didn't take long to realize however that Kawasaki Jet Ski is another case of Wii shovelware - a disposable title if I ever saw one. Do they really think people are gullible enough to spend money
on this?! Oh wait... Anyway,
I had played Carve (Xbox, 2003) shortly before reviewing this, and believe it or not, that five-year-old game was far
more advanced! Kawasaki Jet Ski's graphics are rudimentary, with plain environments and water that looks more like glass. Despite exotic locations like Venice and Thailand, the scenery conveys a complete lack detail and imagination. The controls are extremely touchy and the framerate is erratic, resulting in wild oversteering. Upon going airborne, your jet ski floats unnaturally, occasionally stopping and then lurching forward for no apparent reason. When you become stuck in a corner (a common occurrence), you'll need to hit a special button to reset your jet ski because there's no reverse. Glitches abound in the audio, which sounds like a headache-inducing din of motors. There's no commentator, but I did hear a voice say "Good!" when I came in last
. But the worst aspect of the game is its atrocious
course designs. Instead of cruising the open waters of a tropical paradise, you tediously navigate narrow canals with one abrupt 90-degree turn after the next. It's hard to tell where you're supposed to go! And get this - the difficulty levels are reversed
, so the "easy" level is treacherous and the "hard" level is slow and forgiving! Kawasaki Jet Ski is a real hatchet job. Adding insult to injury, the loading process makes you sit through no less less than five
logo screens. Did these companies really want to take credit, or were they just trying to spread the blame?? © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Data Design Interactive (2008)
Video games are meant to be played, but Kawasaki Snowmobiles can only be endured.
I can handle sub-par graphics, but the abysmal controls make each race an agonizing experience. I guess I shouldn't have expected much, considering how heinous
that Kawasaki Jet Ski game I reviewed last summer was. Kawasaki Snowmobiles fails on every level. The stadium-enclosed courses are so generic you can't tell one from the next. The snow doesn't look bad, but the snowmobiles appear to be floating
above the surface - not unlike Luke Skywalker's landspeeder! The controls are worthless. Kawasaki employs the standard "tilt-the-controller" steering scheme, but your mobile tends to veer unpredictably side-to-side, and you'll struggle to keep it from tipping over. Staying on the track is futile, but that's okay because you can cut across the course and skip large track sections with no penalty! Occasionally you'll find yourself facing a wall, making it necessary to hit reverse. Inexplicably, this causes the camera angle to reverse itself, which is completely disorienting. Don't worry about falling too far behind though, because your three bunched-up opponents slow down
for you when you fall behind. You'll wish they didn't wait up, because the races are so long that you'll be begging
for their merciful conclusion. There's no turbo button or any real strategy to speak of, besides the aforementioned cheating. Kawasaki Snowmobile proves an interesting point: Just because a game is dirt-cheap doesn't necessarily mean you'll get your money's worth. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga
Publisher: SNK (2008)
These old King of Fighters games age like wine. Whenever I revisit them, I always discover a cool new move or notice an interesting detail in the artistic backdrops. With a possible exception of the Street Fighter 2 franchise, no series can touch King of Fighter's perfectly tuned gameplay. This value-priced compilation includes King of Fighters 94, 95, 96, 97, and 98. That's not all of them (they continued to 2003), but it does represent the hey-day of the series. Each edition introduced new characters, backgrounds, and slight tweaks to the gameplay. Some of the characters may seem generic, but they all have a human quality that keeps the action grounded and easy to follow. The magnificent backgrounds include memorable locations like a smoky jazz bar and a bustling city street outside of a fictional Neo Geo store. Hell, even the smoke-belching factory looks like a work of art! The outstanding gameplay shines with its fast pacing, familiar controls, and intense matches that end with a bang. The audio is also notable, dishing out high energy electronic tunes and crisp sound effects that punctuate each thwack of a punch and thud of a body hitting the ground. In addition to the original games, a challenge mode lets you unlock media including artwork and music. Some of these challenges are pretty imaginative, like the one in which fighters inflict no damage but the last one to take a hit is "poisoned", causing his life to gradually drain. While this version of Orochi Saga is basically identical to the PS2 edition, the progressive scan output will play better on HDTVs (no lag). I should also mention that this game worked well with my "Fighting Stick Wii" arcade stick. It's hard to find fault with this collection, which delivers some of the best 2D fighting you'll see in the past, present, or future. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Kirby's Epic Yarn
Publisher: Nintendo (2010)
Between this and Donkey Kong Returns, I'm starting to think that other companies might as well quit the platforming business because Nintendo's got the whole genre sewn up. Kirby's Epic Yarn has a captivating, original style that gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Once you get past the yawn-inducing intro you're immersed in a soft world composed of fabrics, yarns, buttons, and zippers. The controls are instantly comfortable, and the degree of polish is extraordinary. Kirby is a cute pink ghost equally likely to elicit squeals of delight or groans of annoyance. In previous games Kirby could swallow his foes to obtain their powers, but in Epic Yarn he transforms into various shapes like a car, parachute, fish, or weight. Armed with a handy lasso, he can "untie" enemies or interact with the scenery in amazing ways. The game strikes an old-school chord with its 2D gameplay, sideways control scheme, and point system. The fabricated visuals look photo-realistic (a la Little Big Planet), and when you yank a button to pull a platform closer, it's remarkably satisfying. The game moves at a leisurely pace, and the tranquil music combined with the surreal visuals makes it almost feel like a religious experience. It's fun to collect gems and patches as you explore each stage, and a handy meter at the top of the screen keeps you posted on your progress. The stages are short and forgiving, and the game is definitely easy. But just when you're starting to get bored something unexpected will put a big smile on your face. Kirby will transform into a giant yarn tank and blast through the scenery, or become a fire truck that battles flames by tilting a hose. The one turn-off about the game is its childish voices and storybook-style cut-scenes. My friend Chris commented that "if you asked a random guy off the street to play this with you, he'd probably think you were gay." That's probably true, but Epic Yarn is still appealing on many levels. It manages to take a lot of familiar concepts and present them in a way that seems completely fresh and original. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Bandai (2008)
Rating: Everyone 10+
This game is the embodiment of Spring with its lush green grass, flowery paths, cascading streams, and breezy music. Klonoa's simple platform gameplay and cheerful graphics harken back to the 16-bit era. While playing this game I experienced flashbacks of Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991), Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis, 1990), Donkey Kong Country (SNES, 1994), and Pandemonium (PS1, 1996). The Dreamcast-quality visuals are smooth and the water looks inviting. You guide our furry hero through windmills, tree houses, caves, castles, and forests. Some areas let you ride on mine carts or careen down waterslides. Klonoa's imaginative stages are rendered in 3D but played in 2D, delivering the best of both worlds. The pathways tend to intertwine, often giving you a glimpse of areas to come. The simple control scheme is limited to grabbing and jumping - no motion controls to contend with. Jumping is a bit touchy, but your ability to hover momentarily allows for some margin for error. What makes Klonoa unique is how you manipulate chubby, bouncy enemies to perform basic actions. Whether you're vaulting off of one to perform a double-jump, or throwing one to clear an obstacle, you'll find a number of creative uses for these guys. Conquering each stage isn't particularly hard, but collecting the elusive puzzle pieces gives the game some replay value. Frequent checkpoints appear in the form of alarm clocks and you can save your progress between stages. Klonoa's second-grade dialogue can get a little tedious, but you can hit the minus button to skip it. This is a relatively easy adventure, but even seasoned gamers will appreciate Klonoa's old-school gameplay and innocent charm. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, The
Publisher: Nintendo (2011)
Rating: Everyone 10+
Skyward Sword is set around the time when Zelda was a teenager and Link was going through his Justin Bieber phase. They both live on a floating chunk of land called Skyloft, which is a beautiful, idyllic place where everyone has a bird "guardian" to fly on. Skyward Sword's graphics have a soft, illustrated look that's inviting. The exotic musical score is amazing and familiar sound effects will make Zelda fans feel right at home. Instead of using voices, the characters murmur to displayed text, and that's a good idea. New concepts are gradually introduced and motion controls are used extensively. I wouldn't call the sword controls "precise", but it's fun to slice through ropes, cut down trees, and target unprotected body parts. Other interesting motions let you "bowl" bombs and guide a remote-controlled flying beetle. It's cool how that beetle can actually pick up and drop items - like bombs. Other motion moves are more tedious than exciting, like tightrope walking or "dowsing" for hidden items. You might expect heavy use of motion would make the controls more intuitive, but that's not the case. There's a lot of stuff to remember and the motion detection can be temperamental. Strenuous moves like pushing, running, and climbing drain your stamina gauge, so you can only perform these in measured bursts. This forces you to be deliberate in your actions. The overall design of the game is extremely clever, and I like how easy it is to travel between Skyloft and the various ground locations. The dungeons incorporate a lot of original ideas but some rely on subtle visual cues like cracks in walls that are really
hard to see. I often found myself wishing there was an "on the fly" camera control, which might have prevented me from walking into lava
so much. Skyward Sword takes a while to gain traction, so you need to invest a few hours before that classic Zelda "magic" kicks in. Save points come in the form of ubiquitous bird statues. Skyward Sword can be a little slow at times, but it's such a well-constructed adventure that you'll want to stick with it. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Publisher: Nintendo (2006)
Rating: Teen (animated blood, fantasy violence)
Submitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
Nintendo promised an engaging, fresh, satisfying Zelda game, and that's precisely what we got - albeit a year late. Twilight Princess is a darker-themed visit to the Zelda universe - the first Zelda rated "T for Teen". Set in an immersive world and armed with a brilliant storyline, Princess delivers on most if not all expectations. As the story goes, a supernatural "Twilight" plane is creeping across the land of Hyrule, and Link must banish it while seeking powerful relics to defeat the evil Zant. In the twilight universe, Link takes the form of the wolf, and once the twilight is banished from the area, he reassumes human form. Wolf Link cannot use items, but he gains the ability to dig and use extra senses that let him detect scent trails and ghosts. The puzzles and dungeons are expertly designed, and some are very challenging. Boss fights tend to be standard Zelda fare, where you use a newly acquired item in a cunning way to attack the boss' weak spot. A stunning selection of side-quests and mini games are also available if you have the time. For the most part, the Wii controls are intuitive and comfortable. The game retains its lock-on mechanism from past titles, and camera angles are easily adjustable. I like how the camera positions itself directly behind you when you lock onto an enemy. Using the bow, grappling hook, and similar items is a breeze using the Wii remote's on-screen pointer. The only difficulty I experienced was that sometimes the nun-chuck registered a forward push (shield bash) as a shake from side-to-side (Link's spin attack). There are a few differences between the Gamecube and Wii versions, both for better and worse. The graphics, which are perfectly attractive, look almost identical on both systems, so I don't think it's wise to say that this game is a great benchmark for the Wii's capabilities. The art style is brilliant however, even if the graphics aren't bleeding edge. Cut scenes are rendered using the game engine and most are skippable. The music features some old favorites and many new themes. Some audio effects are played through the Wii remote's speaker, which unfortunately sounds a little tinny and shallow. All in all, Nintendo shipped a shining example of how an adventure game should play. If you're ready to invest 50 hours of gameplay to complete eight dungeons and save Hyrule, pony up 50 bucks and enjoy a great addition to the Zelda legacy. Only a few minor hindrances keep this from an A+. VGC Note: The graphics in this Wii editon are "mirrored" from the GameCube edition, so a road that heads left in one will head right in the other. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Lego Indiana Jones 2
Publisher: LucasArts (2009)
I was less than enthused by the first Lego Indiana Jones game, and this second edition confirms my suspicions that these games are pretty bad
. Considering I'm a big Indy fan, my sheer hatred of this game even took me
by surprise! Lego Indiana Jones 2 focuses on the "Crystal Skull" movie, but also contains scenes from the original trilogy. The level design is all over the place, with the "hub" leading to various locations that invariably say, "you need so-and-so character (or object) to play this stage". What the [expletive] ever! The stage designs are confusing at best and often infuriating. The low-resolution Wii graphics don't help matters, as you often have no idea what you're looking at. In one case I thought a box was a television set, but it turned out to be a critical "push plate" I had to move in order make progress. You're constantly prompted what to do, but many objectives make absolutely no sense (find a spear and target a wall socket?
) Smashing up the scenery to release cogs is moderately fun, but the fact that I could often break stuff on the other side of a wall
only corroborates how shoddy the programming is. The control scheme is hardly conducive to the Wii, and I found the B (attack) and Z (use) buttons extremely hard to keep straight. You can't even shake the Wii-mote to crack your whip! The stages only vaguely follow the movie storylines, and I often had a hard time identifying characters or figuring out what scene I was playing. The combat sucks, but that pretty much goes without saying. What ultimately pushed me over the edge were the horrendous driving stages. The steering controls are an absolute nightmare!
Even the cut-scenes are a headache since there's no way to pause or skip them. I usually find these Lego games to be moderately enjoyable, but playing Lego Indiana Jones 2 is an absolute chore. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
Publisher: LucasArts (2008)
Indiana Jones is a pretty natural fit for the Lego games. Not only did the original trilogy offer plenty of exotic locations, but Indy usually had a sidekick or two, making it conducive to Lego's brand of tag-team action. The environments themselves are not composed of Legos, and look fairly realistic. From the blowing snow of the mountain stage to the rainy, neon-lit streets of Shanghai, the scenery looks exceptionally good. Casual gamers can breeze right through the three stories, but dedicated gamers will want to uncover all of the hidden secrets in each level. It sounds like a winner, but Lego Indiana Jones isn't as fun as you might expect. The stages are inspired by movie locations, but some are very extended and tend to wear out their welcome. Each room has its own set of puzzles, which often involve repairing machinery, operating elevators, turning keys, and standing on buttons. The game constantly nudges you along, highlighting items of interest with spotlights and white arrows. The platform jumping tends to be forgiving, but there's no camera control and some jumps are very hard to judge. As with the Star Wars Lego titles, you can destroy just about any object composed of Legos. This causes "cogs" to spill out, generating those "tic tic tic" sounds as you collect them. Although fun at first, destroying every last pot or table to maximize your score becomes tiresome after a while, and the constant explosive sounds are headache inducing. The fighting action isn't much fun at all. Unlike the bright laser blasts of the Star Wars games, the bullets here are hard to see, and you'll often fall to pieces without knowing what hit you. There's little technique involved in fighting, and since Indy always regenerates, there's little challenge either. You'd expect the controls to be simple as can be, but I never felt comfortable with them. It's very easy to get the Z and B buttons confused. Z is normally used to manipulate items, but can also attack with your whip. The C doubles as "get in vehicle" and "switch character", and it doesn't always do what you intend. I deliberately purchased the Wii edition of this game for ability to swing Indy's whip via motion control, but the thrill is fleeting. The game's musical score is first-rate, and the mildly amusing cut-scenes try to water down the more graphic parts of the films. There's an auto-save feature, but even when you complete a stage, it doesn't save until you continue, so don't be too quick to hit the power button. I hate to rain on the parade, but I found Lego Indiana Jones to be only moderately fun, and boring at times. It's interesting to see the game's interpretation of the films' scenes, but after a while you feel like you're just going through the motions. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Link's Crossbow Training
Publisher: Nintendo (2007)
Rating: Teen (fantasy violence)
It's amazing how much mileage Nintendo has gotten out of Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess (Gamecube, 2006). First they release a slightly modified version for the Wii with mirrored graphics and motion controls, and now we get a target shooter with recycled enemies and stages! It's all good though, because Twilight Princess provides an excellent backdrop with its soaring waterfalls, serene villages, dusty ghost towns, and haunted castles. Of course the main purpose of Link's Crossbow Training is to introduce the Nintendo Zapper, which is packaged with the game. The Zapper is actually little more than a plastic shell that lets you attach a Wii-mote and nun-chuck (with some difficulty) to form something that looks vaguely like a gun (well it does
have a trigger). You don't need the Zapper to play, and I'm sure many gamers will be happy to ditch the thing. Despite the gimmick factor, Crossbow Training proves to be remarkably entertaining. There are nine levels with three stages each, and scoring is key to winning medals and unlocking new levels. The game effectively uses "multipliers" to increases point values based on how many targets you can hit in a row. You'll also score more for hitting the bullseye of targets. It's easy to aim thanks to the large crosshair and fine degree of control. In addition to shooting spiders, trolls, fish, and skeletons, you can also take out pots, barrels, and scarecrows in the background for extra points. There's always something
to aim for so there's never a dull moment. In some stages Link is surrounded by converging monsters (tracked via a radar display) and in other stages you wander around freely (using the analog thumbstick) to hunt down a certain number of enemies within a time limit. The game is undeniably fun, but I did notice a slight case of "lag" associated with moving the crosshair across the screen. Also, the multiplayer modes only support alternating turns. Even so, for a game so simple and plain, Link's Crossbow Training is a hell of a lot of fun. You won't want to play it for hours on end, but if you pull it out every once in a while, you'll always have a good time. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
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