I Spy Spooky Mansion
Publisher: Scholastic (2010)
I tried this one on a whim but soon found myself totally into it! Based on a series of kid books, I Spy Spooky Mansion is a well-crafted game of find-the-hidden-and-not-so-hidden-items. You've been locked inside a haunted house with a friendly skeleton who supplies a series of puzzles to help you escape. In each room you're given a list of ten objects to locate in your surroundings. These items tend to be totally random like frog legs, a fork, a shovel, eggs, a toy car... you name it. The fact that each room is so jam-packed with stuff makes it fun to locate your particular items. You can look around freely but can't zoom in, and the low-resolution graphics can look a little indistinct at times. Some objects are not what you'd expect. A flower might be a literal flower or it might be a design on a vase. A rat might be an actual rat or merely the shadow
of a rat. This game is very clever. You'll usually spot a few right off the bat but that last one will have you pulling your hair out!
While not especially scary the Halloween vibe is terrific. The decrepit house is fun to explore with all of its odd pictures, antiquated furniture, and secret passages. Contributing to the atmosphere are alarming sound effects like wind, footsteps, creaks, and howling wolves. These sounds really freaked out
my cats! The weakest aspect of the game are its mini-games which incorporate all the obligatory motion controls. You'll catch flies in a net, bob for apples, and navigate a marble through a maze. They're all pretty easy and mercifully short. Complete the entire house and you may be disappointed to discover you'll need to do it all over again with remixed items. Then again, maybe you won't
be disappointed. I Spy Spooky Manor is aimed at kids but its addictive gameplay and Halloween spirit will enchant gamers of any age. © Copyright 2020 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.
Indy 500 Legends
Publisher: Destineer (2007)
The following review is ghost-written by a friend who has not only driven vintage Indy cars on an oval track, but has even lapped the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The intersection between diehard 60's-era Indy car fans and Wii owners must be exceedingly small. Having such a niche target audience however enabled developer Torus to go all-in and knock it out of the park. Considering this is a budget game limited in scope and variety, what they accomplished is fairly amazing. I grew up in Indiana during the 80's as many of the great traditions of the Indy 500 were either gone or fading. My father and grandfather would tell me stories from the 40's, 50's, and 60's when front engine cars dominated and the roar of an Offy was the greatest aural experience the world had to offer. Indy 500 Legends allows me to relive those significant years from 1961 to 1971 when American oval track racing saw the transition from the front engine cars (such as the dominant Watson roadsters) to the Ford-powered rear engined cars.
A couple years ago my father passed away. In the 30+ years I have owned and played video games I never detected any hint of genuine interest from him in any game until I fired up Indy 500 Legends. He was hooked. The tilt controls on the Wiimote can be tricky for realistic racing, but due to the subtle movements inherent in high speed oval track racing they work perfectly. Anyone can pick it up and play, but it takes a few laps to get the technique down. We worked through some of the challenges, pit stops, and a few short races. We watched all of the bonus video material. His intimate knowledge of the track enabled him to quickly master the game and teach me a thing or two. The historical accuracy of the track, cars, and audio clips of Tom Carnegie are great, and the graphics are not bad at all. The sound effects leave something to be desired and at times the gameplay borders on ridiculous (massive pileups get comical after the 15th car) but those don't hurt the playability or fun factor.
The VGC would be extremely reluctant to grant a niche game like this an A. That's fair. Amongst vintage racing games however, which admittedly are few and far between, this game certainly deserves an A. Indy 500 Legends gives the player a realistic taste of the most significant era of the world's most iconic racing event. In the context of Wii games in general I have no hesititation giving it a B- and considering that a great grade. © Copyright 2018 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 called Jaws Unleashed
(Xbox, 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: Defender of the Future
(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 64
(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 Dream Collection Special Edition
Publisher: Nintendo (2012)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (animated blood, cartoon violence)
Even if you hate his freakin' guts, you have to respect Kirby as a Nintendo icon. Since 1992 he has appeared in well over 20 games spanning all the Nintendo platforms. Dream Collection gives you six of them, and while I'd hardly call it a dream
collection, it's still a good value. Kirby games were designed to be "fun for everyone" so don't expect much in the way of challenge. Kirby is a jolly little pink fellow who can inhale enemies and spit them out. His debut title, Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy, 1992), was a refreshing change of pace from the standard Mario Bros. formula. Kirby's Adventure
(NES, 1993) gave Kirby colorful fantasy worlds to explore and also empowered him to absorb the abilities of those he swallowed. This introduces all sorts of cool powers like breathing fire, growing porcupine needles, and smacking enemies with an umbrella. Kirby's Dream Land 2 (Game Boy, 1995) brought that sophisticated gameplay to the Game Boy. It added the idea of collecting stars to earn lives, and you can even ride around on a hamster. Kirby Super Star
(SNES, 1996) was an eight-games-in-one deal, making this a collection within a collection!
These games up the ante with dazzling, candy-like graphics only the SNES can deliver. Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES, 1998) was one of the final games released for the SNES, employing an artistic, illustrated style. Kirby and the Crystal Shards (Nintendo 64, 2000) had 3D graphics but maintained the same solid 2D gameplay. It features some nifty visual effects, like a little girl who draws pictures that come to life. These old games are fine but the all-new Kirby Challenge Stages really steal the show. Each stage arms you with one of the Kirby's classic abilities like a sword, electricity, parasol (umbrella), kung fu, or whip. You have two and a half minutes to navigate platforms while collecting coins and smashing foes. The timer adds a sense of urgency, and the game has a fast-paced, chaotic quality. If Kirby's Dream Collection has a flaw, it's the confusing quit/save system. For the older games you must use the "reset" option on the home screen, which saves your progress whether you like it or not. The Special Edition includes an informative color booklet and a soundtrack CD. Fans should bump up the grade by a letter, but this is probably more Kirby than the average gamer can withstand. © Copyright 2013 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.
Kirby's Return to Dream Land
Publisher: Nintendo (2009)
I've grown a bit numb to Kirby's saccharine-sweet brand of platforming over the years, but Return to Dream Land's cheerful graphics put me in a good mood. Whenever a game asks you to hold the Wiimote sideways you know you know you're in for some old-school fun. Dream Land reprises the classic "inhale enemies to assume their traits" gameplay. One minute you're a cowboy with a lasso, the next you're breathing fire, and then you're sprouting spikes. These powers add variety and you'll need to juggle them to access hidden areas. The overall format of the game is predictable as you collect parts of a ship while advancing through innocuously-named worlds like "cookie country", "raisin ruins", and "onion ocean". Since the graphics are very cartoonish, they aren't compromised by the system's lack of high definition. Dream Land feels effortless to play at times, especially when controlling a character as nimble as Kirby. Not only can he scoot up and down ladders with ease, he can puff himself up to float above the fray. He has a life bar so taking an inadvertent hit is rarely fatal. The bosses are so easy you'll beat them on your first attempt. What sets Dream Land from previous Kirby outings is its degree of destruction. There's a hat weapon that constantly lobs cannonballs forward, obliterating everything in your path. There's a power that lets you transform into a giant snowball, steamrolling everything in your way. There's even a Zelda-esque "ultra sword" that will let you level a mountain
in a single blow! These really elevate the excitement when the game really needs a shot in the arm. Each stage has a set of hidden cogs and you will be scratching your head trying to track down all of these things. The game makes limited use of motion controls, but they are the worst kind - the ones where you need to frantically shake the Wiimote. To inhale large blocks you need to shake the Wii-mote while holding down the one button which is somewhat counter-intuitive. The game is rich with imagination but after a while however its wispy gameplay and happy-go-lucky music grow tiresome. That said, Kirby's Return to Dream Land will make you smile and there's something to be said for that. © Copyright 2021 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: 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.
© Copyright 1999-2021 The Video Game Critic. The reviews presented on this site are intellectual property and are copyrighted. Any reproduction without the expressed written consent of the author is strictly prohibited. Anyone reproducing the site's copyrighted material improperly can be prosecuted in a court of law. Please report any instances of infringement to the site administrator.