Ten actual pinball games released from 1970 to 1990 have been precisely recreated here, retaining the colorful artwork, digitized music, and cheesy electronic voices. Best of all, they play just like the real thing, with lightning-fast action, precision controls, and realistic physics. This game is a perfect fit for the Wii controller tandem, letting you comfortably command one flipper with each hand. If you're new to pinball, be aware that the flipper buttons also rotate the rollover target lights. When it looks like your ball is about to drain, you can shake your controllers to "nudge" the machine. This comes so natural that I did it before I even realized it was a feature!
The tables look good but not great. The Wii's limited resolution makes it hard to discern all the subtle details, but the game does a fine job of zooming in on the upper area of the table when necessary. I'd be very interested to see what this game would look like on the Xbox 360. Each table delivers a totally different experience. Themes range from fantasy (Black Knight, Gorgar, Sorcerer) to high tech (Space Shuttle, Pinbot, Firepower), to just plain quirky (Jive Time, Taxi, Fun House). Jive Time (1970) is a bit sparse, and Funhouse (1990) is cluttered with gadgets, but others like Gorgar, Sorcerer, and Black Knight strike a nice balance. High scores are recorded, but I really wish the best score was displayed as you were playing, so you'd know what to shoot for.
You can play the games freely or try the addictive Williams Challenge mode which requires you to attain a minimal score on each machine. Also included are comprehensive instructions for each game, and you'd be surprised just how elaborate and sophisticated the rules can be. Even so, you can just dive into any of these tables and start having fun immediately. My friends and I played this game for hours on end, moving from one table to the next. With a replay value that's through the stratosphere, Pinball Hall of Fame is a fantastic addition to any Wii collection. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Up to four people can hack their way through side-scrolling islands, pirate ships, and murky swamps. You'll battle pirates, tiki men, and lots and lots of skeletons. Your buccaneer (or wench) can toggle between two weapons, and there's a wide range of swords, axes, clubs, guns, and unconventional weapons like hams and mops. The game employs an NES control scheme, with motion only used to unleash special attacks. There's no shortage of button-mashing as you hop around and slash like mad, causing damage points to rise up all over the place. You can stab an enemy while he's down, and the rolling attack is effective for plowing through a gang.
Power-ups and health abound in barrels and chests. Pirates Plundarrr has the right ingredients, but its sum is less than its parts. Wiping out a gang of skeletons would be more satisfying if another identical gang didn't suddenly materialize in their place. Certain foes have the annoying ability to teleport around the screen or wield electricity. The multi-player co-op looks fun on paper but in practice it's hard to tell what's going on. When things heat up the frame-rate becomes herky-jerky, and it's not a pretty sight. I actually prefer to play the game solo.
Pirate Plundarrr has no score - it's just one continuous romp as you attempt to unlock all of the stages. It's extremely hard in the early-going, but once your pirate attains a high level the game becomes too easy. The electronic soundtrack is catchy, even if it doesn't sound very piratey. Pirates Plundarrr is amusing but less fun than I expected. I love the whimsical style and vivid graphics, but its repetitive gameplay is only enjoyable in small doses. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
You play the role of a young boxer named Little Mac who is working his way up the ranks. In the ring you view the action behind a semi-translucent Mac, giving you an optimal view of your wacky competitors. Punch-Out's gameplay is so simple and straightforward that there's not even a tutorial - how sweet is that? The motion controls are fully supported (including the balance board), but I always reverted to the "sideways Wii-mote" (NES) configuration - especially when my arms got tired.
Most boxing games tend to be slugfests, but the key to Punch Out is studying your opponent's mannerisms and taking advantage when they let their guard down. It doesn't take long to pinpoint each fighter's strengths and weaknesses, but capitalizing on them requires excellent timing. The career mode lets you work your way through a series of increasingly difficult fighters of all nationalities. Your trainer is a hilarious fat black guy named Doc Louis with a fondness for chocolate bars. Besides providing comic relief, he offers useful advice between rounds.
The memorable cast of fighters incorporates classic characters like Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, and Bald Bull. Each character is unique and colorful, making the fighters in other games seem bland by comparison. Although rendered with far more detail than the original Punch-Out, the fighters still maintain the same appealing, cartoonish style. There's a modest amount of damage modeling, mostly in the form of bruises and band-aids.
The new head-to-head mode lets you compete against a friend on a split-screen. It's okay, but you can only play as Little Mac, and the controls feel a bit stiff and mechanical. Occasionally one player transforms into a Hulk-like "Giga Mac", adding a bit of intrigue. It's the single-player career mode however that will have you up until the wee hours of the morning. Punch-Out has a "one more time" quality few other games can match. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
In real life Las Vegas and San Francisco would be perfectly good places to destroy, but in this game the scenery is repetitive and dull. The developers wholeheartedly embraced the Wii motion controls, and that was their first mistake. You move by tilting the controller, and it couldn't be less intuitive. Swinging the Wiimote lets you bash buildings, but it's both imprecise and murder on your wrist. I don't see how anyone could tolerate these controls for more than five minutes.
Later I discovered the game supports the nun-chuck attachment, and while it's certainly an improvement the game still sucks. Controlling your monster is an endless struggle and why can't I squash those annoying soldiers shooting me from the ground?! Punching windows reveals all sorts of goofy bonus items, but they are so ubiquitous you get tired of picking them up! You can consume humans for energy, but I noticed the people continue talking even after they've been swallowed. So much for realism.
If the disc has a saving grace, it's the inclusion of the original Rampage arcade game along with Rampage World Tour. While not great, these further reinforce the notion that Rampage Total Destruction is just a steaming pile of [expletive]. The destruction of this franchise is now complete. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
The main menu presents several modes including free fishing, tournament, and arcade. You'll want to begin with the free fishing, because its sparse hints are the closest thing you'll get to a tutorial. During the loading process you're presented with a series of multiple-choice questions, like "On an average cast, how deep does a size 3 mini fat rap dive?" Where's the choice for "Who gives a [expletive]?" You can fish at many locations worldwide, but the scenery always looks grainy and unattractive. Clearly these graphics were ported directly over from the ugly PS2 version.
Rapala's controls are terribly unresponsive, and even the simple act of casting the line feels totally wrong. Considering Sega perfected these motion controls seven years ago on the Dreamcast (with their fishing controller), Rapala has absolutely no excuse! As you move your lure around in the water hoping to attract a fish, the view is blurry and moving your rod jars the camera in a disorienting manner. Your fisherman is superimposed on the left side, making it look like you're having some kind of out-of-body redneck experience. Reeling in the line can be done by moving the nun-chuck attachment in a circular manner, but since you can just hold in the A button instead, what's the point? I do like how the reeling sound effect plays through the little speaker in your controller.
These fish aren't shy, so it doesn't take long to get a bite. Once on your line, the fish typically provides zero resistance as you drag his scaly ass through about 50 feet of pixelated sludge. Once he approaches the boat however, that fish goes buck-wild! During the ensuing fight, the game instructs you to do stuff like releasing the line, despite the fact that it's never explained how to do that.
The instruction manual assigns that function to the A button, but that's what I use to reel, so what the hell? Upon pulling in a catch, your fisherman raises and lowers the fish, only to have it disappear over his crotch! "Did that guy just stick a fish into his pants?" I asked my friend Scott. "Well Dave, it was a wide-mouthed bass, after all. You know what? That fish is alll-right!" Rapala Tournament Fishing should have been a slam-dunk on the Wii, but it's just terrible. Will somebody please notify the Coast Guard about this horrible port? © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The action takes place in scenic lakes surrounded by dense foliage. Excellent natural sound effects and variable weather conditions (including pouring rain) greatly enhance the experience. The tournament mode offers a series of challenges like "catch three largemouth bass in 15 minutes". Rapala's controls are more complicated than they need to be, beginning with the casting, which requires you to push up on the thumbstick while making your casting motion. A nice underwater view of your bait reveals plantlife, rock formations, schools of fish, and the occasional sea snake. I like how the sun's rays penetrate the murky waters. You can adjust the camera using the d-pad, but the thumbstick would have made more sense considering you use the B button to reel.
While waiting for a bite, you're sometimes prompted to "attract" the fish by making quick moves - rolling the thumbstick for example. The fish battles can be pretty lengthy, and the side-to-side tension meter doesn't feel very responsive. Occasionally you're asked to perform a series of special moves, like a twirl maneuver called "the time warp". I doubt real fishermen do that, but hey, it's a game.
You can cruise around the lake in your boat, but the driving controls are anything but intuitive. Likewise, the menu system lacks basic information like a description of your bait or the fish you've caught so far. The commentator is normally low-key but occasionally chips in with a Marv Albert-like "YES!!" The challenges are timed, and it gets pretty intense as those final seconds tick away. The action stops abruptly when time runs out - even when a fight is in progress. Rapala's Fishing Frenzy didn't rock my world, but if you're up for a challenge, you'll find it here. Fishing enthusiasts can probably bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
In addition to the good humor, Raving Rabbids offers a lot of variety. There are rhythm-based dance games, line-tracing challenges, and Olympic-style events like the hilarious "cow throw". You'll race on warthogs (the animals - not the jeeps), launch a bunny through the air (face first no less), and dash across an island at Sonic-like speeds. But the most memorable events involve firing plungers at rabbits-gone-wild in exotic locations like a beach and a Wild West town. These play like classic light-gun shooters, and it's really satisfying to nail one of those crazy rabbits square in the face. The graphics are simple but incorporate some amusing touches like rabbits wearing Splinter Cell-style goggles.
Each game that's unlocked in the single-player mode becomes available in the multiplayer "score" mode, but the entertainment value is uneven. A few of the timed games are absolute torture, like the one where you need to slam shut the doors of four bathroom stalls as they slowly swing open. The motion controls in some games are erratic, and you could argue that the shape-tracing controls are altogether broken! This is also one of the only Wii games that complained about me sitting too far away from the television. In the final analysis, Rayman Raving Rabbids offers shallow fun with games you'll both love and hate. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The Wii's remote/nunchuk combination makes aiming a gun, opening doors, and just sneaking around feel natural and effortless. Intuitive motion controls are used to push buttons, flip tables, and roll grenades with ease. With certain weapons, pushing the remote forward allows you to "zoom in", although this requires some practice. Your gun sight moves with a degree of accuracy comparable to a mouse, making it easy to zero in on each target. There's plenty of sniping action and strategically placed exploding barrels.
One aspect of the game that disappointed critics was the Red Steel's sword-fighting action. If you're expecting your sword to move in sync with your controller, you'll be sorely disappointed. The sword fights feel totally staged, and the controls are very much "by the numbers", as you methodically block weak attacks, dodge strong ones, and quickly counter to strike your opponent. It's not nearly as natural as the gunplay, but still challenging and intense (although somewhat cheap in later stages). Even the gun aiming controls tend to suffer in advanced stages when the action gets hectic. Red Steel is forgiving though, with a Halo-style health meter that fully recharges if you can remain out of harm's way for a few seconds.
Despite what the title would insinuate, there is no blood in this game. The graphics are decided low-resolution compared to other recent first-person shooters, but I still enjoyed the Japanese settings and attention to detail. Yes, there are boring locations like factories and warehouses, but also imaginative areas like dance clubs, massage parlors, a working car wash, and a fun house. I really enjoyed riding the conveyor belts during factory shootouts.
Red Steel's musical score is terrific, and I love how it picks up the tempo during critical confrontations. Topping it all off is a nice four-player split-screen mode. Red Steel may not have lived up to its lofty expectations, but judging it for what it is, I'd have to say that it's a lot of fun. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Red Steel 2 reminded me of another substandard title: Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (Xbox, 2006). In this one you are a ninja armed with guns and swords defending your clan against gangs of bandits. At first glance it looks like traditional cowboy fare, but Red Steel 2 blends in all sorts of modern contraptions like trucks, vending machines, and even flying robotic drones. The visual style is less realistic than the first game, with more of a cell-shaded look. There's no shortage of violence but instead of blood there's splattering yellow liquid.
Combat is a combination of first-person shooting and motion-controlled swordplay. The sword controls are much tighter than the first game, but I still found myself flailing my arms in the heat of battle. It's tiresome. You're encouraged to make large, sweeping arm movements which makes it very easy to knock over your drink. Expletive! A cute actress demonstrates each new move in actual video clips - something rarely seen in modern games. There are some interesting special maneuvers like the ability to send an enemy into the air by swinging upward. The moves are introduced slowly but it's hard to remember them after a while, and there's no handy reference sheet to fall back on.
Red Steel 2 is heavy on treasure hunting, allowing you to break most barrels, boxes, and bottles to reveal coins and bonus items. While fun at first, these breakable objects are too common and eventually you get tired of bashing them. A map in the upper right keeps you headed towards your objective, and that's good because the scenery always looks the same. Connecting locations are elevators and electronic doors, and these do a lousy job of disguising the frequent load times.
Even more annoying is the game's save system. The auto-save icon is poorly designed (a gray box with an arrow) and sometimes it flashes too quickly for you to notice. What's so objectionable about displaying the words "saving progress" on the screen? Other confusing icons are flashed with alarming regularity. Red Steel 2 is more polished than the first game but I found its ninjas-meets-cowboys theme less than appealing. The original game was chock full of surprises, but I grew weary of this one's repetitive, cookie-cutter missions and level lay-outs. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
RE4's pacing and difficulty are perfectly tuned with frequent checkpoints and strategically-placed typewriters to save your progress. Its controls are a compromise between a first-person and third-person shooting perspective, offering an "over the shoulder" view. Except for a few minor bonus missions, this Wii edition is almost a carbon copy of the GameCube version, with no perceivable graphical or audio upgrades.
The only difference is the Wii's motion controls, which have been grafted onto the game in a rather clumsy manner. Especially after experiencing the comfortable controls of Metroid Prime 3, I found RE4's to be awkward and remarkably non-intuitive! Being able to aim directly at the screen is nice, but everything else takes time to grasp. To look around, you hold the B button on Wii-mote while moving the joystick on the nun-chuck, and I often found myself staring at the sky as some madman was slicing into my flesh. While aiming, the camera "zooms in" a bit, effectively obstructing the left side of the screen with your character's head.
Even navigating the map and item screens feels clumsy. I guess Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition serves its purpose as a port of the classic game, but I would hardly regard this as an upgrade. Those who never played the original can bump up the grade by a letter, but those who experienced the GameCube version will find themselves wondering what the point of this is. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Darkside arms you with a crosshair that moves smoothly across the screen for precision aiming. Unfortunately, the developers felt compelled to artificially bump the difficulty and lengthen the game by increasing the number of shots each monster can absorb. Instead of a single head-shot to take down a zombie, you'll need three. And instead of disposing of a boss in twenty shots, it takes 100 (if you're lucky).
The graphics are surprisingly detailed but the cut-scenes are so dull and pointless, you'll always skip them. The first stage is a nod to Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360, 2009), set during the day in a small village in South America. As zombies, giant spiders, and frog creatures attack, you shoot with the Wii-mote and use your nun-chuck to slash with your knife. The camera is constantly veering all over the place, and while it's meant for dramatic effect it proves detrimental to the gameplay. Not only is it hard to get a bead on enemies, but you might start getting motion sick after a few stages. Starting with stage two the game reuses locations from Resident Evil 2 (Playstation, 1998) with burning cars in the streets, a zombie-infested police department, and a giant alligator in the sewer. I enjoyed revisiting these areas but it struck me how much less scary they were this time around.
Being a sucker for toys I purchased this game in a bundle containing the Magnum and knife attachments. These look cool as hell but were clearly designed for form over function. The gun looks cool, but with the Wii-mote in the barrel it's very front-heavy. Your instinct is to support it with your second hand, except that hand is holding the nun-chuck with the foam knife attachment. The triggers on the gun aren't nearly as responsive as using a plain Wii-mote, and shaking the gun to reload is a pain (literally). After extended use my friend Chris complained of getting a stress fracture. Darkside Chronicles had a lot going for it but it turned out to be more tiresome than fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
At first glance Umbrella Chronicles seems like a dream come true for Resident Evil fans, with its straightforward gameplay, precision controls, and rich visuals. But the game is not as fun as you would expect, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, the first chapter (based on Resident Evil 0) is infested with leaping slugs, whose only purpose seems to be to aggravate the hell out of you. Countless in number and continually cluttering up the screen, these things alone should cost the game a letter grade.
Monsters can absorb an inordinate number of shots. Even the weakest zombies will keep coming after taking several shots to the face at point-blank range! Don't even get me started about the bosses, who consume bullets like they're Doritos. At one point the game told me to shoot some shapeless boss in the mouth, and I couldn't even tell where its [expletive] mouth was!
Unlike Sega's House of the Dead games which offer fast, arcade-style carnage, Chronicles tends to be slow going, and the action is constantly interrupted by load screens, dull cut-scenes, and checkpoints. Dying often forces you to repeat a large chunk of the game. Even the two-player simultaneous mode is lousy. I like the idea of both players sharing a health meter, but it's really easy to get those crosshairs mixed up considering they're both glowing red half of the time! The Umbrella Chronicles should have been a joyride of a game, but it didn't take long for me to grow weary of this. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Rhythm Heaven Fever is a unique concept with some charming cartoon visuals. I appreciate the concept, but it's not particularly fun. The tutorials feel long, and it takes a while to get the hang of each challenge. When you get off beat, the game becomes frustrating. Even when you get into a groove, the game is only moderately entertaining.
The best aspect of Rhythm Heaven is its cute, comical graphics. The characters (especially the monkeys) look hilarious, and there are a lot of subtle animations. In the stage where you kick footballs for example, and you can see tiny players leaping for them in the distance. Unfortunately Rhythm Heavy Fever's good intentions aren't enough. Rhythm games need to hit a certain "sweet spot", and this isn't it. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Another interesting variation is "Guide", which calls to mind ChuChu Rocket! (Dreamcast, 2000). In this one you place directional tiles on a platform in order to direct rolling cubes toward an exit. The "Switch" and "Fit" variations let you swap and reposition blocks to solve puzzles, but I found these to be only mildly amusing. The "View" variation is downright tedious as you try to create a stack that looks different from various angles. "Create" and "Compose" let you build stuff or create music, but I really didn't see the point of either one. It goes without saying that there's a Rubik's Cube mode that lets you manipulate a 3D cube in a futile attempt to make all of its sides a solid color. The motion controls work fine, but if you really want to tackle this monumental challenge, you may want to just break down and buy a real Rubik's Cube.
Rubik's World features realistic physics, intuitive controls, soothing synthesized music, and a clean user interface. Each variation offers a series of progressively difficult levels, beginning with "starter" levels that help you get the basics down. Rubik's World isn't a standout title by any means, but if you're a gamer looking for a cerebral challenge, you may want to bump the grade up by a letter. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
You can play as several memorable characters from the TV special including Rudolph, Hermey the Elf, Yukon, Santa, and Clarice. The snow monster only makes a brief appearance at the end of each game. Each game is motion-controlled, timed, and mercifully short. The first challenges you to bounce toys and gifts air, letting them come to rest in Santa's bag or under a tree. The motion controls are pretty bad. Next you're in Santa's workshop hurling paint at toys on conveyor belts. This would have been great if there were some skill involved. All you do is waggle the Wiimote when a toy is highlighted.
Next is a mildly amusing cookie-baking game where you follow motion prompts on the screen. Finally you "save Christmas" by tossing presents into chimneys from Santa's sleigh. I enjoyed this one and liked the fact that you are delivering the "misfit toys" from the show. The music is festive enough but some of the voice samples ("I'm a dentist!") are repetitive. High scores are recorded for one and two players, but without initials. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a meager offering, but at least it won't take up any more than 15 minutes of your time. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com