DDRMAX2 addresses those shortcomings with an easy-to-play beginner mode and an improved dance mat with a rubber undercoating that doesn't slide nearly as much. There are four arrows on the mat, and you step on these in sync with the arrows moving up the screen. New "freeze" moves require you to leave your foot on an arrow for an extended number of beats. DDR is crazy fun, but you can't help but look ridiculous playing it. Due to the physical nature of the game, you'll be bombarded with unintentionally funny "precaution" screens advising you to keep lights on and maintain your distance from the monitor.
Dance Dance Revolution is certainly unique in the realm of video games. The first time I played it, the game had me smiling and even laughing out loud as I struggled to keep up. I'm sure it provides good exercise as well, judging from the sweat I worked up. No dancing game would succeed without some catchy tunes, and DDR has its moments. There are some actual music videos from Kylie Minogue, Dirty Vegas, and 2 Unlimited, along with a few less-recognizable artists. Of the 65+ remaining songs, a few are nightclub caliber gems, but too many are mediocre and generic. I wish they could have licensed more big name acts and included more videos. Once they do that, this is 'A' material. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
I like the mode that directs you to touch parts of the screen while "dancing", but the other camera variations royally suck. Most are unplayable, like the one that requires you to constantly "wipe" the screen as it clouds up. I suspect most gamers will play around with the camera for about ten minutes and then say the hell with it.
At its core, Extreme still offers regular DDR action with a brand new set of songs, many of which have been shortened for game-playing purposes. Highlights include remixed renditions of "Your Rain", "Bizarre Love Triangle", "Like a Virgin", "Never Ending Story", and "Waiting For Tonight". Songs by original artists include "Go West" (Pet Shop Boys), "Kids In America" (Kim Wilde), "YMCA" (Village People) and "The Reflex" (Duran Duran).
As usual, the bulk of the tunes are generic dance numbers electronically generated by DJs with names like "Shawn the Horny Master". There are a few hidden gems however, like the insanely catchy grooves of "Move Your Feet" and "Only You" (Captain Jack). "Mobo Moga" has an easy-going, lounge vibe that's appealing. There are more modes than you can shake a booty at, including a Workout mode specifically designed to burn calories. The new Mission mode gives the solo player something to work through, but the disappointing Party mode is just a collection of annoying, non-dancing mini-games. Since most white guys can't dance like John Travolta, Lesson and Training modes are also included.
The main problem with Extreme is its user-hostile interface that makes it hard (if not impossible) to "back out" when you accidentally select a wrong option. That's unacceptable, considering how clumsy the dance pads are for navigating menus (hint: press start and select to reset the game). Also, I found the increase in difficulty from "light" to "standard" to be rather steep. Otherwise DDR Extreme is sure to please gamers who like to get off of their asses every now and then. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
As usual, Konami has padded the soundtrack with generic DJ-generated tunes, but there are a few standout tracks. First and foremost, there's Beyonce's "Crazy in Love". How much did Konami have to pay her for that one? Other notable jams include "Get Busy" (Sean Paul), "Captain Jack" (Captain Jack), and "Pump up the Volume" (MARRS). Some of the better tunes are in fact radical remixes (for better or worse) including "Spin Spin Sugar" (Sneaker Pimps), "Genie in a Bottle" (Christine Aguilera), and "Oops I Did It Again" (Britney Spears).
The soundtrack didn't blow me away, and there's not much new in terms of gameplay, but at least the user interface is more user-friendly. That's right, you can now back up after selecting a wrong menu option. The DDR franchise seems to be treading water with Extreme 2, but those looking for more of the same will enjoy its appealing brand of upbeat dance action. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
As usual, Konami makes the interface a lot more complicated than it has to be. You have to shuffle through a confusing maze of screens to determine what your next challenge is, and even then your objectives are rarely clear. I prefer the basic "Game mode" where you just select songs and boogie for high score. The song selection is slightly better than usual, although the bulk of the tunes are locked initially.
Standout tracks include "Dance Dance" (Fallout Boy), "Since You've Been Gone" (Kelly Clarkson), "Let's Dance" (David Bowie), "Do You Want To" (Franz Ferdinand), "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" (Cyndi Lauper) and "Video Killed The Radio Star" (The Buggles). Many of these are accompanied by their original music videos. Some gamers may write off the Japanese songs, but in fact most are extremely catchy. The only song I really found objectionable was the heinous cover of "Centerfold" by Captain Jack.
Supernova is aimed at wannabe dancers of all skill levels, with plenty of customization options, a tutorial for beginners, and a workout mode. I only wish the workout mode didn't have the pauses between songs - that kind of defeats the purpose! The core DDR gameplay is fun as always, and it will make you work up a sweat. An announcer periodically comments on your performance, but he always seems a few beats behind. I really don't like when he yells "You're not an ordinary fella!" What's that supposed to mean exactly?! DDR Supernova is a predictable but likeable addition to the repetitive line of DDR games, although calling this "Supernova" is laying it on a little thick. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
As usual, Konami mucks up the user interface so bad that you'd think this was their first video game! For example, why does it ask if I want to retry after I clear a mission?! So I can get a better score? I think most gamers are satisfied to just move on, thank you.
The basic "Game mode" is still the best, allowing you to select the song and difficulty of your choice before cutting the rug like Elaine Benes. Some of the more recognizable tunes include "Rock Your Body" (Justin Timberlake), "Say Goodbye" (Chris Brown), "Temperature" (Sean Paul), and "Unbelievable" (EMF). There are a few nice old R&B jams like "Le Freak" (Chic), "Every Little Step" (Bobby Brown), and "Got To Be Real" (Cheryl Lynn).
"Wind It Up" by Gwen Stefani is indisputably the worst song ever conceived. As usual there are a slew of Japanese pop songs that range from ultra-cheesy to insanely infectious. Supernova 2 also includes the ability for four players to play against each other(!), but would you believe that's on-line only!? There's really nothing super about Supernova, but the beat goes on... © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The opening scene shows Nina sunbathing in a tiny silver bikini and high heels. Who sunbathes in high heels? She immediately proceeds to dispose of a whole gang of henchmen. Soon after, she slips into something more appropriate - a trashy negligee! Wow - for a secret operative, she sure tends to draw a lot of attention to herself! It looks downright comical to see her crawling through vents and swinging from pipes dressed like that!
The big gimmick behind Death by Degrees is its 360-degree fighting system. By flicking the right stick you can target enemies approaching from any direction. It's fun, especially when you're armed with a club! Special "focus" attacks present a slow-motion, x-ray view so you can zoom in on the bone you want to break. The ensuing animation is very satisfying! When you're not fighting, you're sneaking around the ship collecting useful items like infrared goggles and a hand-crank (what is this, a Capcom game?).
Death by Degrees has a few things going for it. The sniping scenes are fun (in the tradition of Silent Scope), and I like the concept of scanning fingerprints to circumvent access codes. A bar indicator on the screen indicates when a save point is near. The swimming is incredibly realistic with a cool first-person view and muffled bubble effects.
Still, I can't recommend Death by Degrees with a clear conscience, and it's all because of the [expletive] camera. It's the clumsiest, most unwieldy camera system ever devised. For some reason it wants to show you everything except what's ahead of you! Some of the fixed viewing angles are crazy, like when I had to fight a gang of thugs while staring at the back of a white pillar! You can get away with it sometimes, but not when you're facing a boss!
Speaking of bosses, how come I can smash a guy's skull and shatter his ribs but he keeps coming? The game's lesser offenses include a broken tutorial, an unwieldy status screen, and too much loading. But for all its flaws, Death By Degrees has a so-bad-it's-good quality that's fascinating at times. Namco obviously sunk a lot of money into this, which makes its epic failure all the more spectacular. Collectors take note. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Def Jam Vendetta deserves credit however for its high production values, smooth animation, and well-designed controls. The characters are huge and execute their moves in fluid motions. The control scheme is reasonable, and I appreciate the fact that not all of the buttons on the controller are used. A refreshingly brief tutorial tells you all you need to know to get started. The four main buttons allow you to attack, grapple, run, and climb in/out of the ring. Experimenting with the buttons can yield some amazing maneuvers - I don't know how the developers came up with so many imaginative moves.
The fights tend to be exciting back-and-forth contests, with life meters that regenerate quickly. It's not uncommon for one guy to be completely beaten down only to regain his strength and pull out the victory. Come to think of it, I guess that makes Vendetta a lot like "real" professional wrestling! The key is to finish off your opponent when he's down. Being a Def Jam game, it should go without saying that the audio should kick ass, but the music played during matches is just understated beats with no vocals.
The menu screen music does feature actual rap tunes, and they're pretty good. I'll say one thing about Vendetta - it's hard, so you'll have to exhibit mad skills to progress through the story mode. Cool bonus features include a four-player free-for-all and female fighters you can unlock. These girls typically wear tight dresses, and you better believe they are hot. I can only get so excited about a wrestling game, but Def Jam Vendetta is probably as good as any I've played. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
For those of you expecting Despicable Me to be aimed at young children, the difficulty may come as a bit of a shock. My friends and I struggled mightily to complete the freakin' tutorial, which doesn't even bother to explain the controls. Umm, isn't that what a tutorial is for?! The platform stages take every familiar concept you've ever seen and present them in various combinations. You'll leap over spiked pits. You'll dodge boxing gloves. You'll duck under laser beams. Special "guns" let you do things like blow air and freeze platforms, but they're not especially fun to use.
The analog controls are responsive enough but the collision detection is absolutely ruthless. Even touching a drop of water spells instant death. The puzzles require you to trigger switches by strategically positioning round "minions" and shooting them to trigger various effects. How hard are these puzzles? Well, you basically need to be a PHD working at NASA to figure out some of these. Thank goodness the game gives you the option to skip an area if it sees you dying repeatedly.
A few flying/shooting stages are included, but these are marred by excruciating escort missions (argh!) and lengthy boss encounters (gahh!!) They really pushed me over the top! Fans of the film can bump up the grade by a letter, but others will find Despicable Me a bit hard to take. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The "destruction bowl" mode is the heart of the game, pitting 19 cars in a circular smash-up-derby arena. It's a lot of fun - at least for the first few minutes. The L2 button kicks in your turbo, and it's thrilling to plow into cars and send them flipping end over end. Cars explode when they incur enough damage, causing the number of vehicles remaining to gradually dwindle. Abundant power-ups scattered around the arena provide turbo, shields, health, and some of the most worthless "weapons" ever. The existence of a health power-up is an awful idea that completely defeats the purpose of the game! Imagine banging the crap out of an opponent for several minutes, only to see him emerge good as new simply by grabbing a lucky icon!
The camera is a major liability, swinging wildly whenever you approach the edge of the course. In theory, the last car standing in Destruction Derby should be the victor, but I suppose that would make too much sense. Instead, matches always end prematurely at the hands of a five minute timer. That's the game's biggest sin. Adding insult to injury, there are NO options to set the timer or adjust the power-ups.
As tainted as the destruction bowl mode is, Arena's racing mode is even more ill conceived. You "win" a race by out-scoring your opponents, so you'll need to wreck other cars and try to finish first. Needless to say, these two goals conflict with each other in the worst way and make each race a confusing mess. The X accelerate button is touch-sensitive, meaning you need to jam your thumb into it the whole time to maintain your speed - not fun! The cars model damage, but you'll barely notice due to the sub-par graphics.
Destruction Derby Arena is riddled with other annoyances as well. For one thing, when the game displays text during the race (about a new leader or whatever) it's never displayed long enough for you to actually read the damn thing! I've seen some incompetent design flaws, but that's a first. The announcer contributes nothing except for moronic lines like, "Imagine these guys with shopping carts!". Bonus point icons are all over the place, providing a cheap way to score points. Your progress is not saved automatically, and you're not even prompted to save! No, you have to remember to navigate back to the save option on the main screen. Destruction Derby Arena is a case study in poor design. It's one of those rare games that completely misses the point - of itself! © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Although Devil May Cry's basic gameplay is straightforward, figuring out where to go next can be frustrating, especially since it's possible to wander back into older areas you don't need to be in. The game's main strength lies in its tremendous visual presentation. The monsters are very imaginative, and the castle scenery is beautiful and sometimes breathtaking. Each room is painstakingly detailed, and some of the outside areas can induce vertigo. The background music is a strange cacophony of sounds, including screams and organ music, creating a surreal atmosphere.
As polished as the game looks, the control scheme could use some work. Unlike Resident Evil or Tomb Raider where pushing up always moves you forward, Dante will move on the screen exactly the direction you move the joystick. This wouldn't be a problem if the camera remained in place, but it's constantly changing! Parents should note that this game contains a LOT of gore. Heck, Dante gets impaled even before the game begins - and it won't be the last time! Devil May Cry is a far cry from the Resident Evil games, but the constant action and stellar graphics will captivate most gamers. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The game looks unpolished, and many of the monsters and locations look positively rough. The water in the "harbor" section looks particularly heinous. Still, there are some cool creature designs, like skeletons encased in metal cages, giant orangutans, and a mammoth flaming Minotaur. DMC2 is definitely less cerebral than the first, with more emphasis on action. Heck, you can even hack your way through most of the puzzles!
Still, you have to love the combination of sword fighting and shooting. The unlimited ammo and auto-aim makes picking off enemies from a distance quite satisfying. Pressing the "Devil Trigger" (L1) turns you into a flaming demon with a host of power-ups. Besides Dante the "devil slayer", you can play though the game as a hot chick named Lucia (via the second disk).
The game is generally fun, but there are a few obvious flaws. Certain areas contain creeps that respawn indefinitely, which is bad design in my book. Sometimes a red force field will box you in with a bunch of enemies, and won't disappear until you vanquish them all. Dante is definitely more agile this time, but the new Matrix-inspired moves aren't very useful. In fact, some of the cinematics are such blatant Matrix rip-offs that it made me nauseous.
The control problems from the first game are back in full force, although by now I'm practically used to them. Certain parts of the story make no sense, and the concept of demonically possessed tanks and helicopters is downright idiotic. Despite these issues, Devil May Cry 2 has a fun, arcade quality that I enjoy. The constant button mashing eventually caused my hand to cramp, but I still found the game hard to put down. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The combat is a nice combination of frenetic slashing, strategic shooting, and evasive maneuvers. There are plenty of puzzles, but nothing too taxing. Even when things get crazy, the control feels crisp and the camera does a remarkable job of providing the tightest possible shot of the action. Many of the demons you battle are the standard grim reaper types, but there are also a few imaginative ghouls that really caught me off-guard. I love how they disintegrate into dust as you strike them down.
The action takes place in a modern city, and you'll actually battle in a bar and nightclub before entering the huge stone tower that suddenly arises from the center of town. Unlike similar games that recycle the same locations, each room feels unique and is meticulously detailed in a distinctive gothic style. You begin the game armed with a sword and pistols, but later collect additional weapons including a shotgun and nun-chucks made of ice.
DMC3 maintains a torrid pace with stages broken up into bite-sized chunks. A frenetic techno mix kicks in whenever the action heats up, and it really gets you pumped up. The original version of Devil May Cry 3 was infamous for its steep difficulty, but this special edition offers an easy mode that should minimize the frustration. While it's an impressive game, the main character is a bit of a jerk.
Impervious to death and cocky beyond belief, Dante gleefully surfs on missiles and spouts wisecracks as he's being impaled. After a while, you almost wish he would die. Also, the cringe-worthy use of outdated expressions like "let's party" and "dope!" makes you wonder if the dialogue was written in 1988. Still, Devil May Cry 3 avoids the traps of many sequels and offers an engaging adventure every bit as fun as the original. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately, Dino Stalker suffers from an inexplicably bad control scheme. Yes, even with the state-of-the-art, usually accurate Guncon 2, the control sucks. Most of the complications arise from the fact that Capcom has given the player full range of movement. That's right, you move freely like a first-person shooter, but aim and shoot with your light gun. It sounds good, but turns out to be more than a little awkward. The directional pad on the back of the gun is used to move, and the button on the bottom switches weapons. That's fine, but then you need to use the A and B buttons to strafe, which are inconveniently located on opposite sides of the gun. To engage sniper mode, you hold both A and B. I experimented with holding the gun several ways but I never felt comfortable.
Worse yet, the Guncon 2 isn't even accurate! My shots were all over the place! After getting fed up with the gun, I switched to the control pad, only to find a whole new set of problems. The right joystick is used to aim your cursor, and it's entirely too squirrelly to aim accurately. In addition to bad control, Dino Stalker doesn't have enough save points, and you'll be forced to sit through the CGI intermissions since they can't be skipped. Despite these problems, the game can still be quite a rush. You feel paranoid walking through tall grass, and the sheer size of some of these creatures will scare the heck out of you. Too bad poor control spoils the fun. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Disney Sing It boasts sky-high production values, and its elegant user interface looks like something you'd see on an i-pod. There's an extensive voice lesson mode, but the handy "quick play" option lets you dive right in. Music videos play on the screen as song lyrics are displayed across the bottom, with bars over each word indicating the proper pitch. As a little star moves over the words, you try to align it with the bars as you sing.
It's pretty obvious if you're a little high or low, so you can adjust your vocals on the fly. The more frequently you stay on pitch, the higher your score, and there's a high score screen for each song. Granted, the game doesn't truly gauge your voice quality, since you don't need to sing the correct words and the game can't even tell if you're singing in the right key. That's fine though, because it means the game can be enjoyed by good and bad singers alike. Many songs are duets, and it's possible for two players to sing the respective parts.
Your voice tends to drown out the actual singer, so it's a good idea to turn down the microphone volume from the options menu. Disney Sing It comes packaged with a high-quality microphone that plugs into a USB port. The young demographic is sure to go crazy over this one. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The game itself is easy to play (singing the correct lyrics is optional), but it takes some lungs to hold those long notes! The user interface is slick, and the soundtrack includes 25 feel-good tunes covering all three High School Musicals (of which I have seen exactly zero). Truth be told, these songs aren't half bad, and there's even a number for you tough guys out there ("The Boys Are Back"). If there are any kids in your household, chances are this game will be an instant hit. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Unlike its sibling game (Go Diego Go! Safari Rescue) Dora has some freedom of movement within constrained 3D environments. The tropical scenery is fun, and it's nice how when she runs through a flowerbed a bunch of butterflies will flutter away. The action primarily consists of easy platform jumping as Dora tries to collect the gems of a magical crown that will save the Mermaids.
The game finds a lot of little ways to spice things up. When you step on a teeter-totter, a crab will hop on the other side to vault you over to another island, and it's oddly satisfying! Also fun is careening down mudslides while collecting icons. Other simple activities include vine swinging (Pitfall style), hopping over logs (Frogger style), and solving simple color and shape-matching puzzles.
Dora tends to offer the player a lot of positive reinforcement ("Yooouuu did it!!"). What put this game over the top for me was her cute little purple monkey sidekick. That thing looks funny to begin with, and when he speaks in that slow, high-pitched voice, it's hilarious! Dora Save the Mermaids has less dialogue than Go Diego Go: Safari Rescue, so it flows better and is easier for grown-ups to sit through. A handy "helper" feature is included for parents, and an auto-save kicks in between stages.
Although it's possible to finish the game in under an hour, you can always try to collect more gems to earn a higher score. Dora Saves The Mermaids is a polished, pleasant romp for kids, and its bright tropical scenery and pleasant steel drum music make it ideal for summertime fun. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The speed is exhilarating, even in the four-player split screen. You view the action from behind your bike, which is always upright from your point of view - it's the scenery that swings around, and this unique approach really helps you keep your bearings. Obstacles include cabins, mountain goats, hikers, and off-road vehicles. There are plenty of natural ramps, giving you the opportunity to perform SSX-like tricks and fill your turbo meter.
In many racing games, a major problem is difficulty seeing the road ahead. It's not really a problem in Downhill Domination, because you can pretty much go anywhere. Whether you are plowing through the brush, careening over rocks, or flying off of a cliff, the trail is so wide open that you don't even need to know where you're going. Thanks to the intuitive (and very forgiving) controls, unless you run directly into a wall, you're not going to crash. Even when you do wipe out, the game puts you back on the trail almost immediately.
While this makes Downhill Domination very easy to play, it also makes it a slightly less satisfying racing experience. Punching and kicking your opponents can causes you to crash, but the projectile weapons are extremely accurate and fun. My biggest complaint about the game is that playing for an extended period of time makes me feel sick (seriously!). People who tend to get motion sickness should keep their distance from Downhill Domination, but extreme sports enthusiasts should get a kick out of it. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
I've read a few magazine reviews that were critical of the "old English" style of voice acting, but in my opinion it adds character and class. When I play a game set in the middle ages, the LAST thing I want to hear is modern slang and an American accent. The cut scenes are plentiful but tend to be short, conveying the story in small doses. The lavish, orchestrated musical score is outstanding in every respect - it made quite an impression on me.
Although Drakengard's narrative is quite involved, its gameplay and controls are relatively simple. The crux of the game involves wiping out huge armies using magic and your sword. The first time you play, the sheer number of enemy knights can seem insurmountable. However, by wearing them down with explosive magic attacks and then going nuts with your sword, you can take out dozens at a time. Battles take place in castles, courtyards, ruins, forests, and other large, expansive areas that require a "radar" display to navigate.
In some stages you only have to destroy strategic marked targets to complete the level. Despite the ability to acquire new moves and weapons, the hand-to-hand stages do become repetitive after a while. This first dawned on me after I struck down a fireball-throwing wizard, only to watch about 50 more suddenly appear scattered around the landscape, and I had to go around and kill each and every one! I was glad when that was over.
Adding variety are some exhilarating dragon-riding sequences, some of which allow you to shoot giant fireballs down on massive armies from the air. It's supremely satisfying when a well-placed blast sends dozens of soldiers flying. Some of the dragon stages feature air-to-air combat, and these play much like Panzer Dragoon (Saturn, Xbox). These air stages feature some odd enemies, including a lot of floating rectangular stone faces (huh?).
One drawback is the lack of any kind of camera control. It's usually in the right spot, but tends to pan very slowly. Drakengard's graphics are exceptional. The red dragon's skin has a brilliant sheen, and enemies wear impressive suits of armor. One graphical flaw is the ubiquitous "fog" that hides scenery when you are wandering around on foot. It's especially egregious when you know a castle is near but you can't see it. Darkengard features multiple endings, and if you manage to collect all the weapons, you get to see a particularly bizarre one. Drakengard is a good-looking, quality title for those who like a lot of action in their adventures. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.