It's a good time, but Homecourt's controls are lacking compared to NBA Street V3 (PS2, 2005). There are two "trick" buttons, jumps are performed via the O button, and the right thumbstick doesn't play much of a role. I will admit however that the new "double dunk" move absolutely kicks ass. When you go up for a dunk, a meter appears, and if you hold down the shot button until the meter is exactly full, your player performs a truly imaginative "double dunk". Hold down the button for too long however, and the ball just clanks off of the iron. That's over-the-top enough, but Homecourt goes off the deep end with its "gamebreaker" sequences, which practically turn the game into a silly break-dancing contest. As if there wasn't enough showboating already, you can kick the ball off your opponent's face!
Compared to its PS2 cousins, Homecourt's graphics are substantially more realistic with amazing textures and lighting. The NBA players are uncanny models of their real-life counterparts, and the playing surfaces look photo-realistic down to the tiniest cracks. On the downside, the colors look washed-out, and it's often hard to differentiate teammates from opponents. Homecourt's audio is impressive, with constant banter between the players that sounds totally convincing. The only time it lets me down is when someone asks what the score is, and no one answers. If one guy had yelled out the actual score, I would have been tempted to bump this up a grade!
Homecourt's multiplayer action is tremendous. This game turns your friends into a bunch of [expletive] [expletive]s, whooping it up and yelling all sorts of trash. You can select not only from NBA teams but also "hometown" squads, including a "B-more" crew stocked with Juan Dixon, Sam Cassell, and Carmelo Anthony. Unfortunately, the single-player Challenge mode forces you to ascend the ranks using a bunch of fictional players like "Carl Archer", "Quincy Teel", and "Junior Santos". It would be far more interesting to bring up a real NBA star like Carmelo Anthony, especially since the game is interspersed with video clips of NBA stars reminiscing about the courts they grew up on. EA really missed the boat on that one. NBA Street Homecourt comes up short on the solo tip, but when you're in a competitive mood with your friends, this game is a slam dunk. Make that a double slam. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The frame-rate is erratic, and the action on the court seems to move in slow motion much of the time. March Madness is still playable however - even exciting at times. It plays a more wide-open game than College Hoops, so it's easier to drive the hoop. But you can't ignore the game's sloppiness, which is infuriating at times. The ball makes no noise at all when it clanks off the rim - although it does "whoosh" through the net.
There are serious glitches in the AI, including players who run out of bounds for no reason, and balls that sometimes rocket into the stratosphere. Fouls are sometimes called without any indication why. But the most glaring oversight is the fact that there are no coaches. It looks so dumb when the players huddle around each other during time-outs.
Dick Vitalle provides spirited color commentary (as usual), but Brad Nessler says some really inexplicable things, like "This crowd is about to go silly!" NCAA 08 would have been a reasonably good college basketball game five years ago, but EA has a lot of nerve to charge $60 for this. Especially considering how smooth and polished their NBA Live 08 is, this is inexcusable. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The default controls use the right thumbstick to wind up a shot and rocket the puck towards the goal. The right stick is also used to check on defense, but those hits are awfully soft. Personally I'd recommend switching over to the "classic control" scheme, which employs a minimal number of buttons much like the old Genesis NHL games. Not only does it make the game much easier to play, but you'll find yourself clocking opponents with ferocious body checks.
NHL 08 also tends to "flow" better than 2K8, letting you maintain control of the puck on offense and execute pinpoint passes. The CPU is very clever, especially with its unpredictable give-and-go moves on fast-break opportunities. The graphics aren't quite as colorful as 2K8, but far more realistic. The players look impressive close-up, and I love how they hang onto each other and celebrate after a goal. The audio is remarkable as well. When the crowd starts chanting "GO DUCKS" in unison, it sounds amazing. The commentators are very much in tune with the action, and even admonished me on one occasion for "going back to the well" and using the same ineffective shot over and over. NHL 08's pop music soundtrack is far more appealing than 2K8's head-banging bull-[expletive].
Between periods the game provides a "scouting report" and even offers advice to each player. Unfortunately, the game lacks that televised presentation that sports fans find appealing, and there are few bells and whistles. Even so, with its user-friendly controls and realistic gameplay, NHL 08 is an easy choice for hockey fans this season. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The instruction book would be a good place to explain stuff like this, but 2K got lazy and didn't even bother! There are special face-off moves, and you can now pin your opponents against the boards, but you'll need to memorize new sets of moves for those too! On offense R1 is used to shoot, and R2 is the speed burst, which is a really, really bad idea. I mean, c'mon now. The right thumbstick controls the position of your hockey stick, but I didn't find that useful at all. It's difficult to maintain possession of the puck in general, making each contest very chaotic.
Despite being clueless about the controls, my friend Steve and I still managed to score 13 goals in our very first game! Yes, it's way too easy to score. A lot of times you'll have your goalie kick the puck out to avoid a time-consuming face-off, and then accidentally score on yourself!
The NHL 2K franchise has also fallen behind in terms of graphics. Everything looks very artificial, and those plastic player faces look downright scary! On the bright side, the two-man commentary is sharp and the games move along at a brisk pace. The action is very physical, and I even saw one player get checked into the bench. The loud, abrasive guitar noise is some of the worst background music I've heard in years. NHL 2K8 is an arcade game cursed with the controls of a tedious simulation. As a result, this isn't likely to appeal to casual gamers or hardcore hockey fans. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately, the rest of the game fails to measure up. You play as a grieving boy whose favorite doll comes alive, taking him to a different world on the promise of bringing his mother back to life. For a story that begins on such a dark, serious note, it's jarring to witness it devolve into childish drivel. The very first mission requires you rescue the cat king of Ding Dong Dell from the mouse king in the Ding Dong Well. Is this an RPG, a Dora the Explorer game, or a nursery rhyme?
One interesting element is the ability to "borrow" emotions and give it to people who need them. It's a shame this boldly-original feature is ruined by the game’s constant hand-holding, telling you exactly what to do every step of the way. The convoluted battle system is a strange mix of real-time and turn-based combat, allowing for free movement but requiring you to cycle through menus of actions. Trying to dodge enemy attacks while cueing up your next move feels clumsy. Expect a lot of encounters with copy-and-paste monsters with names like “baatender” or “purrloiner”. These fast critters are so cute I actually felt bad killing them! Small monsters go down without much of a fight but random difficulty spikes can make your life very difficult. In fact, I can see many younger players giving up on this game in its early stages.
The most irritating level is a timed race to the top of a volcano with so many obstacles in your path that you run out of time. Suffice to say I didn’t finish this game. I'll give it points for its amazing visuals but Ni No Kuni feels like a game that doesn't know who it was made for. It's too convoluted for children yet insultingly stupid for adults. It’s a shame too, because it means a lot of fine work by Studio Ghibli effectively went to waste. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Your view is mainly third-person as you move from town to town, fighting monsters, exploring dungeons, and embarking on sidequests. It sounds conventional but Nier has a way of catching you off guard. At any time the game can suddenly morph into a top-down dungeon crawler, a fishing simulator, or even a text adventure! Combat is refreshingly simple for a genre that often gets bogged down in stats and grinding. Your sweeping sword swings, double jumps, and ground pounds make Nier feel like an old-school platformer at times. You learn a slew of spells over the course of the game yet I only found two worth using.
What sets Nier apart is its rich narrative and extensive character development. The manner in which the people interact early lay the groundwork for some emotionally-charged sequences later in the game. For added replay value, each subsequent playthrough presents the cutscenes from a different point of view. Nier’s sense of humor is enjoyable when it pokes fun at other games (namely Zelda), but it occasionally drifts into vulgar territory, aka House of the Dead Overkill (Wii, 2009). Nier has the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard in a game, with a great many songs finding a place on my MP3 list. Nier is widely underrated and undoubtedly a hidden gem. Pick it up if you're in the mood for a light RPG backed an engrossing story. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
For this game Sony was forced to dig deep, exhuming Parappa the Rapper (PS1, 1997) from his grave, borrowing the hulking Big Daddy from 2K Game's Bioshock (Xbox 360, 2007), and pretending Fat Princess is a legitimate franchise. The roster is an awkward mishmash of characters that run the gamut from tame children's games to violent mature titles. There are some very innocent characters like Sackboy (Little Big World), Ratchet and Clank, Spike (Ape Escape), Jak and Daxter, and Sly Cooper. Some of the scarier ones include Colonel Radec (Killzone 2), Sir Daniel (Medieval), Sweet Tooth (Twisted Metal), and Kratos (God of War).
Rounding out the roster are some really boring guys like Nathan Drake (Uncharted) and Cole (Infamous). Nariko of Heavenly Sword (PS3, 2007) provides a good foil for Kratos since they both swing chains, but when they're hacking away at poor Sackboy, it doesn't seem right. It's even weirder when the happy-go-lucky cartoon background transforms into the third dimension of hell.
The gameplay isn't bad. The controls are responsive and there are some imaginative attacks, like Fat Princess going on a rampage while riding on a giant chicken. I like having a jump button (instead of pushing up on the controller), and the stages are constrained so you don't need to worry about falling off the screen. Using the right stick to throw didn't win me over, but I like the idea of a one-button special move.
The screen zooms in and out as the action unfolds, but the exquisite detail in the characters and backdrops make it really easy to lose track of your character. The solo mode is very easy on the default "legend" difficulty, and the still-image intros and endings are not very satisfying. I thought the four-player mayhem was a mess, but my friends seemed to enjoy the chaos and they defended the game. Playstation All-Stars is a freak show of sorts, but it should attract the attention of Sony fans and fighting game enthusiasts. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
The first stage has a creepy Nightmare Before Christmas vibe, with layered sets offering a level of detail you would not believe. Between sequences the sets are rapidly deconstructed and reconstructed before your eyes, and the sound of jostling props combined with controller vibration is amazing. The audio features emphatic voice acting, a sweeping musical score, and a crowd that laughs and applauses. Surround sound makes it feel as if a large audience is sitting right behind you.
Puppeteer was clearly designed to be viewed on a 3D television, and I imagine that would look absolutely spectacular. The first stage serves as an extended tutorial, and like the rest of the game it's extremely verbose. You'll learn how to swap "heads" for different purposes and use magic scissors to cut (and propel) your way through cloth, paper, and plants. Later you'll learn how to use a shield, toss bombs, and deploy a grappling hook.
The memorable stages range from the scorching deserts of the Wild West, to pirate ships on raging seas, to the twisted dark forests of the Halloween area. The level of creativity with regard to character design and variety of play is off the charts. You'll interact with the environments in ways you've never imagined. Puppeteer's innovative gameplay is only bogged down by its overwrought storyline and endless cut-scenes. These are hard to sit through and the corny dialogue doesn't help. Fortunately you can skip these, something I found myself doing habitually.
Puppeteer's gameplay also feels scripted at times, displaying button prompts that give you the feeling of going through the motions. Some stages are so repetitive even the characters start to complain ("when will this ever end?!"). The concept of interchangeable heads is confusing and unnecessary, as is the idea of clipping pink buds from defeated enemies to release their souls. But for all its flaws, you simply can't deny the staggering amount of imagination and visual splendor embodied in this grand title. Puppeteer is the showcase title for the Playstation 3. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.