Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Publisher: Nintendo (2017)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes, use of alcohol)
I think we all knew Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was going to be good. I mean, it was only in development for five years
for crying out loud! This epic journey begins with Link emerging from a 100-year slumber and gazing across a sunny rolling landscape with distant castles, ruins, and volcanoes. I usually stick to the main quest in open-world games, yet Breath of the Wild made me want to explore every inch of its vast uncharted wilderness. Maybe it's the tight, responsive controls. The dash move lets you cover a lot of ground in a hurry, and the new climbing controls mean nowhere is out of reach. The crisp, cell-shaded graphics are more realistic than previous Zeldas but still possess an anime charm. The control scheme is so well designed that sifting through your inventory is a pleasure. In addition to a captivating storyline there are endless side quests and over 100 shrines scattered around the world. Each shrine is a dungeon offering mind-bending challenges employing the powers of magnetism, time, fire, and energy. As jaded as I am, I found myself constantly amazed at this game's ingenuity. Awe-inspiring boss encounters feature four "divine beasts" which brought back fond memories of Shadow of the Colossus
(PS2, 2005). I was skeptical about some of the new features but they won me over. The stamina meter adds a lot of suspense as you try to climb a peak without losing your grip. I scoffed at the idea of cooking, yet it turns out to be surprisingly entertaining to toss ingredients into a pot and see what comes out. The fact that weapons break down adds a layer of strategy as you try to conserve your best items for the toughest beasts. Breath of the Wild is a massive game that will not only dominate your Switch but leave your other systems starved for attention. An NES-style manual would have been nice, but frankly it's hard to find fault with this. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a title you'll anxiously look forward to playing every day after school or work, and when was the last time a game made you feel like that?
© Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ubisoft (2018)
I like a good fishing game but this one just sucks, man. The user interface is a nightmare. No matter what control scheme I tried the game complains it's not supported. "You cannot play with dual-controller grip in Arcade Mode. Please adjust your settings". WTF?
Setting up a two-player contest was such a headache that Kevin and I actually threw in the towel!
The single player experience feels like a colossal chore. Only one rod and lure is available from the outset. When trying to examine locked bait the menu automatically cycles through them all like your controller is broken. In terms of graphics Legendary Fishing would be a good-looking Wii title. The water surface looks realistic but the scenery looks far too clean and artificial. After casting your line the camera focuses in on your lure just below the surface, removing any sense of suspense or mystery. Hooking a fish isn't a challenge because there's always plenty around. As several converge on your line a creepy announcer coos in your ear "Oooo - I like
that! Here it comes!
" We are
talking about fishing, right?
Once the fish is hooked the game fails in spectacular fashion. To keep the fish on the line you need to center him within some kind of half-assed viewfinder as he darts from side-to-side. Am I trying to catch a fish or snap a photo of the damn thing?!
Trying to keep it in the frame is an agonizing experience, and your reel is so slow
. Taking a picture of Bigfoot
would be easier! The announcer adds insult to injury with his repetitive commentary ("Get that fish!" "Get that fish!"
). Shut the [expletive] up!
Legendary Fishing's career mode offers an extensive number of missions and locations, but what's the point if it's no fun? The only thing legendary about this game is its degree of ineptitude. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Luigi's Mansion 3
Publisher: Nintendo (2019)
I always enjoyed the innocent brand of horror served up by the Luigi's Mansion
(GameCube, 2001) series. This third edition takes place in an expansive hotel, opening up the possibilities for all sorts of unlikely paranormal hijinx. Each floor offers a unique location to explore. They include a shopping center, plant conservatory, restaurant, concert hall, and even a Medieval Times arena! Luigi is outfitted with a ghost vacuum that doubles as a flashlight, blower, black light, and plunger shooter. I feel like Luigi's Mansion 3 wasn't so much programmed as crafted. Each room has its own story to tell, chock full of clever puzzles, loot, and hidden secrets. The hotel exudes atmosphere with stereo storm effects and terrific situational music. The music is the arena has a distinctive Game of Thrones vibe, and I love the hilarious "cop show" music that kicks in during the shopping stage. The pictures on the wall are vaguely creepy, typically depicting a dark figure in the woods. Fighting ghosts requires scaring them with your flashlight before sucking them up with your vacuum. I love how smaller ghosts scream with high-pitched voices, sounding a lot like my cats being restrained. A new teamwork element is facilitated by Luigi's doppelganger "Gooigi" - combination T-1000 shape-changer and green Jello. What's surprising is the game's destruction quotient. You can wreck everything in sight, causing copious coins, gold bars, and dollar bills to pour forth. Raising havoc in the dining hall reminded me of Ghostbusters. In the conservatory you even get a chainsaw attachment, letting you reduce furniture to splinters. The fact that a Virtual Boy serves as your radar display provides tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating humor. The puzzles are devilishly clever from the start but soon progress to the "try anything" variety before becoming so obtuse even YouTube can't help. The controls are problematic as well. I felt as if I needed an extra set of thumbs to pull off certain maneuvers until I learned the shoulder buttons can duplicate the face button functions. So why does the game train you to use the face buttons in the first place? This is why we need manuals. Multiplayer modes are available but none maintained my interest. Luigi's Mansion 3 is inventive and charming but it may be too clever for its own good. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Publisher: Ubisoft (2017)
Ubisoft hasn't had the best track record as of late so Mario + Rabbids comes as a pleasant surprise. Kingdom Battle has the look and feel of an Nintendo title, and that is high praise indeed. It's turned-based "strategy lite" designed for casual gamers, with wacky characters, simplified gameplay, and a gently-ramping difficulty. It's like a kid-friendly version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown
(Xbox 360, 2012). In the chaotic intro mischievous "rabbids" wreak havoc with a virtual reality machine, causing objects to fuse together with crazy results. To restore order Mario finds himself teaming up with two friendly "cosplay" rabbids (dressed as Peach and Luigi) in a fanciful world that looks like a Candyland board game. There's some lightweight puzzles and exploration but the game is mostly a series of short battles. During each turn you methodically position your three characters, attack exposed enemies, and employ special abilities (like healing or weaken) to tilt the advantage. The first few battles are mindlessly simple and it takes a while for the game to gain traction. But once you get to the meat of the game Kingdom Battle is one heck of a good time. Battle concepts tend to build upon each other and the multi-tiered environments provide all sorts of strategic possibilities. Each character can cover a lot of ground per turn by utilizing transportation pipes and "team jump" techniques. The graphics look extremely polished and the shimmering blue water is gorgeous. I noticed a few collision detection and camera issues but not nearly enough to derail the fun. The cut-scenes are funny and I found the frequent "progress saved" messages reassuring. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle isn't the type of game I'd play for hours on end, but it's a good option if you need a quick fix. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Publisher: Nintendo (2017)
Okay, so it's a blatant rehash. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still the best kart racer you've ever played. The original Mario Kart 8
(Wii U, 2014) was spectacular, save for a weak battle mode. With Deluxe that oversight has been addressed to the full extent of the law. Instead of taking shots at players while doing laps, you battle in layered arenas with all sorts of interleaving, crisscrossing paths. It's chaotic, exhilarating, and with eight players per match there are always plenty of targets. Fun locations include Luigi's Mansion, a Japanese temple, a lunar colony, and a stage inspired by Splatoon
(Wii U, 2015). All of the DLC released for the original game is baked in, and since I never purchased any, I was thrilled with the wide selection of characters and tracks. One drawback to having so much unlocked is there's little incentive to master each circuit, although you'll still win coins for upgrades. The eye candy is mesmerizing as you race through a pristine airport, careen down jungle water slides, and zoom through an underwater kingdom. My personal favorite track is the rainy metropolis with its colorful neon lights (a la Blade Runner). Once I started playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe it was hard to stop. The gameplay is well balanced, although I wish there were more ways to defend yourself from shells. The controls feel great and the revving vibration is remarkable. Unless you are absolutely sick of Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U (not likely), this Deluxe version is a good investment. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Mario Tennis Aces
Publisher: Nintendo (2018)
I was almost certain Mario Tennis Aces was going to be Nintendo's latest runaway hit, but it turned out to be a gimmick-laden mess
. The default adventure mode forces you to traverse a map with more mini-games and boss battles than actual tennis matches. In addition to standard shots (topspin, lob, backspin) there's a laundry list of special moves: star shots, charge shots, leap shots, power shots, slow-motion shots, trick shots, target shots, zone shots, and more! You can even initiate bullet time
for Pete's sake! I couldn't grasp the controls and can't imagine trying to explain them to a friend. What's wrong with regular tennis? The exotic court locations (jungle, temple, haunted house) look nice but even those are gimmicky. The pirate ship court has a mast that deflects the ball and the haunted house court has floating mirrors that intercept your hits. Stuff like that may add variety but it's not particularly fun. I hated adventure mode and found no joy in tournament mode either. Aces is less about playing tennis and more trying to figure out what crazy shot you can pull out of your ass. And do we really need to view an automatic replay after every point?
When you're not skipping replays you're mashing buttons to page through the pointless dialog. Why does a tennis game need so much dialog? Most Nintendo sports titles lean toward the arcade end of the spectrum, but Mario Tennis Aces went completely off the deep end. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
Publisher: FDG Entertainment (2018)
After recently playing through the retro-flavored Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap
(PS4, 2017), Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom gave me a case of deja vu. It turns out Monster Boy is the spiritual successor
to the Wonder Boy series. In this vibrant 2D platform adventure you are a boy who can assume the form of several animals including a sniffing pig, a snake who can slither up walls, and a frog with a slingshot tongue. The layered forests and colorful underwater scenes are a real feast for the eyes. The controls feel crisp and responsive, and if that laid-back, jazzy soundtrack doesn't put you in a good mood, nothing will. The various animal forms add variety and the weapons are fun too. The ability to hurl multiple boomerangs at a time is great, but even better is unleashing little tornados that bounce around and clear a path for you. The platform action is mixed with clever puzzles and I love the Zelda-esque fanfare that plays when you solve one. As much as I enjoyed Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom the game did test my patience at times. It's frustrating when you're sinking in mud while trying to avoid a swooping bat, or getting pushed off a platform into a bed of spikes when you run out of real estate. Your pig has a "poke range" of about a millimeter, so have your weapons ready. Speaking of which, switching weapons is a hassle. Instead of just clicking a shoulder button to cycle through them you need to select from a "wheel" using the right thumbstick. Otherwise the game's polish is commendable. There are ample save points and if a boss is giving you a hard time, the game will begin doling out more hearts to give you a hand. The box contains a glossy, full-color booklet that harkens back to the NES days. Friendly, fun, and not too hard, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a good-looking title that's hard to dislike. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
MudRunner: American Wilds
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive (2018)
Why would an arcade junkie like myself indulge in a tedious grind like MudRunner: American Wilds? Well, a few weeks ago I was watching one of those reality shows about tow truck drivers called in for the biggest, heaviest wrecks - like an overturned tractor trailer. Watching these guys work was an awesome display of raw power and ingenuity. I guess I was hoping this game would be like that, but Mudrunner is more about performing fetch quests in the elements, using mechanisms like differential lock, winches, and all-wheel-drive to power through swamps and rocky streams. It's a unique premise but is it fun? I think it could
be fun, but the user interface is abysmal, the controls unresponsive, and the game is buggy in general. Every button serves some kind of function except what you need
at a given time. You tend to get stuck in different control modes with no apparent way out. I constantly have to turn off my parking brake, despite never once turning it on. Good luck restoring your view if you inadvertently change it. The trucks move incredibly slow - even on the highway - and the controls are laggy as hell. The first mission requires delivering logs to a mill. Okay, so where are the logs? Would you believe I had to check the internet
for this information? From there I was in for a painstaking slog, moving like a snail through the hilly, muddy terrain, constantly getting stuck or incurring damage by some unseen rocks. The grimy trucks look realistic enough but the mud looks chunky and the grass grows before your eyes. Upon finally reaching the log depot I was told I couldn't load logs without installing the log carriage. Didn't I do that at the beginning?!
Demoralized, I gave the "challenge" mode a try. Once again I became hopelessly stuck early on while trying to hitch a trailer to my truck. MudRunner is awful. It won't be the first time I've described a game as an "ordeal", only this time I am not
being facetious at all. You have been warned. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Mutant Football League
Publisher: Digital Dreams (2018)
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, drug reference, mature humor, strong language, violence)
The original Mutant League Football
(Genesis, 1993) was an offbeat title pitting monsters against each other on trap-laden fields. Sounds like a blast, right? Well, the action was choppy and the hazards were more annoying than fun. That said, it was an interesting concept. This updated version actually has more in common with NFL Blitz
(PS1, 1998). They even brought back the same announcer! The teams are a mishmash of armored creatures including skeletons, werewolves, demons, aliens, and trolls. The action kicks off with a horribly non-intuitive kick meter, complete with incorrect on-screen instructions. The play-calling interface is easy enough although the play selection is paltry. It's easy to initiate a run or pass, but what happens next is hard to discern. With all those spikes, tails, and wings flying it's impossible to tell what the [expletive] is going on! After a chaotic scrum you'll assume the play is dead, only to push the thumbstick up and continue running. It's hard to tell how a fumble or interception occurred, and no instant replay either. Hazards like spikes and mines add gratuitous gore, and occasionally players will brandish weapons like a shotgun or chainsaw! In a game like this where anything goes, how could there be penalties?!
I had three touchdowns
called back in a single game!
So dumb. I will admit the stadiums look awesome and some resemble gothic cathedrals. There's a little "shoot the ref" halftime game that plays like an overhead shooter. Wanton violence is something you would expect from a game like this, but who thought strong profanity was a good idea? The play-by-play is unfunny to begin with, and the raining F-bombs make it downright embarrassing. My friend Chris assured me that this game would be hilarious... if we were 12 years old.
The problem is, this is supposed to be a mature (17+) title. I'm glad the quarters are mercifully short because I found Mutant Football League extremely hard to stomach. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.