While reviewing the game late one night and not trying to disturb the wife, I was surprised when it prompted me to say "Jamba!" into the microphone. I spoke it gently, only to have the game respond with "Louder!" All I could do at that point was laugh.
Go Diego Go is whimsical fun that lets you bang on drums, blow balloons in the air, snap pictures of animals, and drag sticks out of an elephant's path. There are some easy side-scrolling stages where you move around rocks and jump over logs by tapping the screen. The scenery looks fairly plain, but the exotic drum music is appealing. One thing I really like about this game is how there's no text to read - all the instructions are conveyed by a clear voice.
My nephew Jordan (age 5) found the game to be fairly easy, although I noticed he got stuck on the same spot I did! Sometimes you're asked to drag branches to the pile, but it doesn't always register, instead responding with "Try again!"
Otherwise it's pretty smooth sailing, and kids will learn some Spanish words and animal facts over the course of the game (Did you know that elephants can swim?). The game isn't very long (under an hour), but with its auto-save, it's ideal for small gamers with short attention spans. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The control scheme is not what I expected. You move and strafe using the thumbpad, viewing the action on the upper screen. What's cool is how you use the stylus on the lower touch screen to aim and look around. This control scheme only leaves you with easy access to a single button - the left trigger, used to fire your weapon.
It works like a charm. Using the opposite screen to aim indirectly feels strange yet oddly satisfying. Your accuracy is pinpoint compared to what you'd get from a standard thumbstick. Context-sensitive icons appear on the lower screen as needed, allowing you to perform simple actions like opening a door or planting a charge.
The stages are well-designed and there's always a waypoint to keep you headed in the right direction. The action is pretty much non-stop, with plenty of opportunities for gratuitous destruction. The storyline follows the film to a large extent.
One drawback to your limited first-person perspective is that it can be tough to locate enemies. You might need to swipe the touchpad several times just to turn around. It's almost comical when taking fire and you turn around to find an enemy standing right behind you!
Goldeneye for the DS is not what I was expecting but I can't say I didn't enjoy it. As a matter of fact, I think it has aged better than the original Goldeneye (Nintendo 64, 1997). It's also unlike anything I've played before, and that's saying something. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
The controls had to be tweaked to allow for easy movement between the platforms, but this comes at the expense of attack options. Cheap power-ups (like food that fully restores health) appear constantly, making luck the single biggest factor for victory. I couldn't believe how easily I plowed through the single player mode, despite not really knowing what I was doing half the time. In several matches I seemed to get my ass handed to me, only to be declared the victor. High scores aren't retained, which hurts the replay value.
In what could be construed as an apology for the main game, Dust Strikers also includes a collection of light-hearted mini-games starring Guilty Gear characters. There's a whack-a-mole game starring Faust, a food-catching game, and a bizarre one where you clean a yo-yo! These stylus-controlled games are cute, but they drag on for so long that your amusement gradually turns to hate. I was curious to see how Guilty Gear would translate to the DS, and now that I know, I can only hope and pray it never happens again! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Once you gather the minimum number of items, you can climb up the chimney and move onto the next house. Unlike most stealth games where you need to remain out of eyesight, the Grinch can walk right in front of people without anybody noticing. Only by touching someone will you find yourself in trouble.
Some of these encounters trigger mini-games you can play to "escape" detection. These easy, stylus-driven games usually involve tapping on wandering people (to send them back to their rooms) or avoiding a crowd of sleepwalkers.
The Grinch would be okay if it had some variety, but every house looks exactly the same except for a new layout. By the fourth one, you'll practically be begging for some generic platform jumping! The colorful graphics aren't bad, and I like how the Grinch slinks around in a sneaky manner. The jazzy background music is catchy, but doesn't have much of a holiday ring to it. Treats are promised to those who conquer the advanced levels, but getting there will be a chore. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The Hulk conveys a real sense of mass as he stomps around and lays waste to his surroundings. His furious attacks shatter large objects, and even unbreakable walls suffer visible collateral damage. Nearly as satisfying is the way Hulk sends enemies flying across the screen with a flick of his wrist. The action begins in Antarctica before moving to Brazil, but there's precious little in the way of eye candy.
Many stages overstay their welcome, but the difficulty is reasonable and your progress saves automatically. Simple and fast, the action often takes on a Sonic the Hedgehog vibe (for better or worse), especially when Hulk launches into a high-speed "rage", or pounces on the heads of enemies (which is often safer than punching).
The worst part of the game is the fact that it's necessary to obtain health packs in order to offset the numerous mandatory hits you'll absorb. When it comes to bad design, that's Video Game 101 stuff. When Hulk is defeated, enemy soldiers celebrate by dancing around, and this makes Hulk angry. Very angry.
As you progress, new "skins" are unlocked but does anyone really want to play the game with the Hulk dressed like a professor? And who was the genius who thought the tedious swimming stages were such a good idea? The Incredible Hulk won't win any awards for good design, but its gratuitous violence and old-school 2D charm prove a potent combination. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Intellivision Lives gives you the benefit of clean, crisp graphics, comfortable controls, and in some cases the ability to save your high scores! You get over 60 titles including classics like B-17 Bomber, Tower of Doom, Astrosmash, World Championship Baseball, Frog Bog, Shark Shark, and Sea Battle. There are a few notable omissions like Lock N Chase and the Tron games. Most games can be played solo, but a multiplayer mode is available via Wi-Fi. As a bonus you get a few unreleased titles like Brickout and Deep Pockets.
I was very impressed by Intellivision Lives, but extended play revealed a few minor flaws. Abbreviated instructions are included via the menu screens, but they tend to be insufficient and often fail to explain the keypad functions. I wish they had scanned in the original manuals as they did in the Atari Greatest Hit compilations. Certain games save high scores, but others inexplicably do not (notably Shark Shark).
I like how the lower screen emulates the keypad, but you can't use your thumb to "feel around" as you could with an actual keypad. Newcomers should be forewarned that most Intellivision games lack the pick-up-and-play quality of Atari 2600 games and require a certain degree of patience to enjoy. Intellivision Lives for the DS is definitely the best Intellivision compilation I've come across, and longtime fans should be pleased. And if you've always wanted to learn what this system was all about, this is an inexpensive way to find out. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Kirby is in constant motion, but you can direct him around dangers by drawing rainbow-colored "bridges". You can also subdue his enemies by tapping on them. Tapping on Kirby himself causes him to dash, and drawing a wall in front of him makes him reverse direction. Of course it wouldn't be a real Kirby game if he couldn't assume the powers of other creatures he encounters.
Canvas Curse's modest 2D graphics and whimsical music might not win you over, but its imaginative stages just might. The game seems awfully simple at first, but each subsequent stage introduces a new wrinkle to keep the action fresh and challenging. The boss stages are totally unique, and the "jump for distance" bonus stages are a blast.
So what's not to like? Well, unlike Yoshi's Touch and Go, Kirby's Canvas has a real puzzle vibe that taxes the cranium a bit more than I would prefer. More advanced stages take place underwater or in total blackness, and these border on tedious. Still, for DS fans looking for something substantial, Canvas Curse delivers the quality gameplay we've come to expect from Nintendo. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
LoK2 conveys an old school flare as you slice and dice generic ninja that pour out of the woodwork. The controls let you slash, jump, throw shuriken, and activate magical ninjutsu powers. You can cycle through these powers using the shoulder buttons. The DS is well suited to Kage's high-jumping style of play, since both screens together provide a tall vertical view, letting you see who's lurking in the trees above!
As you collect colored orbs, you can arrange them on a special screen to create various combinations of ninjutsu magic (power-ups). Each stage culminates with an interesting boss encounter, including a brainiac magician who grows three stories tall! The bosses aren't terribly hard to beat, and in my book that's a good thing.
LoK2 is overflowing with old-school goodness, but it's not terribly fun. First of all, the back-story is way overdone, with lengthy cut scenes and never-ending dialogue. Real old school games didn't need a story! The stages contain a lot of repeating areas, sometimes giving you the impression that you're moving in circles.
The concept of climbing walls is beaten to death, and the jumping controls feel stiff and remarkably non-intuitive. Finally, the sheer number of mindless enemies you slash through will dull your senses and turn your brain into mush. More is not always better, and too much of anything is just boring. Apparently the Kage 2 developers didn't get the memo. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Much of the action takes place in the open ocean, as our hero Link motors from one island to the next in his quest to locate a mysterious ghost ship where Zelda is held prisoner. While on land you lead Link around with the stylus, and it works surprisingly well. Tapping on items makes Link pick them up, and tapping on enemies makes Link lash out at them with his sword. Although generally intuitive, there are occasional frustrations, like when you accidentally attack a bomb instead of picking it up (ouch).
Phantom Hourglass also gives you the ability to scribble notes directly on your map screen, which comes in handy when you need to triangulate a treasure location. The stylus makes the boomerang a joy to use. Since you draw its flight path, it's easy to nail several targets on one round-trip! Unfortunately, the game sometimes prompted me to yell or blow into the microphone, prompting my wife to yell "What?!" from the next room. "I'm playing a game!" "You're what?!" "NOTHING!!"
Anyway, to travel to a new island you first plot your course on the map screen, and then sit back and enjoy the ride. This is a treat, because you can slide the stylus to look around your boat, and tap on the screen to fire cannons at pirates and sea monsters. It's amazing how your destination gradually looms into view as you approach. The islands are small enough that you can easily explore every inch, but the caves all start looking the same after a while, and the enemies repeat a lot. Some dungeons incorporate some Metal Gear-style stealth action (complete with vision cones) - for better or worse.
Phantom's dialogue manages to be genuinely funny, and despite the small screen, characters like Captain Linebeck convey some hilarious expressions and mannerisms. One side effect of using the stylus is your hand tends to cramp up after a while, so I could only enjoy Phantom Hourglass in small doses (you can save at any time). Even so, this is an engaging little adventure that fits the DS like a glove. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Driving a train might sound boring, but there's more to it than you might think. You'll need to adjust your speed to avoid collisions with other trains. You'll blow the horn to scare animals off the track. You can even fire a cannon to blow away obstacles. I actually prefer this over the sea exploration in Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS, 2007).
The dungeons themselves are classic Zelda creations, outfitted with thoughtful puzzles that usually involve using a new item in a number of imaginative ways. The controls are responsive, but the stylus can be inexact when navigating delicate terrain like thin ice. Zelda herself assumes the form of a ghostly guide for most of the game, and she has the power to possess the bodies of enemies (including wandering guards). This adds a new twist, but having to toggle between Zelda and Link can get a little tedious.
But the biggest annoyance is how the game requires you to constantly blow into the microphone. Between playing your "spirit flute" and attacking with your cyclone weapon, you may be feeling a little lightheaded. The game also prompts you to take "notes" on a map with the stylus, even though it could just as easily mark it for you. Navigating the "lost forest" area is frustrating until you talk to a specific character who divulges its secret.
Spirit Tracks offers a number of mini-games and collectibles, but frankly I didn't find any of them worthwhile. Still, the game has a nice sense of progression, and the snow areas are especially fun. You can save your progress at any time, and you'll want to do so on a regular basis. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks relies a little too heavily on gimmicks, but after you invest some time in it, you'll be on board. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
I like the idea of exploring interesting locales like the palace on Naboo or the rainy water planet of Kamino. When you're not hacking up or blasting stormtroopers you're solving simple puzzles and collecting a million items. I love the satisfying "clicks" of picking up the little "studs". I guess the main challenge is collecting all the hidden items, although I use the word "challenge" loosely. Dying in combat is pretty hard to do, and even then you respawn immediately.
The controls are simple but a little inexact. I noticed that switching to another character requires you to face that character. The camera angles are fixed and sometimes it's not clear where to go. The touch screen is used to activate Force powers and since you just follow a pattern with your finger, it feels a little contrived. The cutscenes are fun to watch but I just wish you could skip them during repeat viewings.
The audio is tremendous, with memorable sound effects and orchestrated music lifted directly from the films. But the headliner has got to be the double-screen view employed in so many stages including the pod race, the battle of Hoth, and the battle over Coruscant. It's a little confusing but the visual effect on playing over two screens is amazing. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga would be a good way to kill some time on an airplane ride. It's more a game of persistence than skill, but it works well if you're looking for some casual, good-natured fun. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Moby Games, Nintendo Life