Wii Reviews C

Carnival Games
Grade: B
Publisher: GS Software (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/9/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe Wii needs mini-games like Sony needs bad press, but it's hard to dislike Carnival Games. I was expecting a collection of generic target shooters, but these are faithful recreations of authentic carnival games! Many bring back fond childhood memories of the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland.

There are 25 games available from the start, and many more that can be unlocked. Most are simple and fun, incorporating natural motion controls and realistic physics (too real if you ask my friend Scott!). The best of the bunch are Alley Ball (aka Skee Ball), Hoops (basketball), Ka-pow (throw at clown faces), Frog Leap, Balloon Darts, Nerves of Steel, Shooting Gallery, Horse Race, Hole In One, and Shoot for the Stars (BB gun!). The motion controls in Balloon Darts and Nerves of Steel are remarkably sensitive and precise.

Less fun are the games that require you to shake the controller to power up some kind of gauge - that's too much work! Games that fall into this category are Test Your Strength, Clown Splash, and Bowler Coaster. Dunk tank and spilled milk are a bit too simplistic, and I wish the football-throwing games used real throwing motions. Collection Plate, Ring Toss, and Lucky Cups depend more on luck than skill, but even these are fun when taken in small doses.

The "competition mode" lets up to four people compete in five random games, several of which offer split-screen action. Even the single-player mode is engaging thanks to the innovative "prize" system that lets you "trade up" your winnings to unlock new games and other surprises. No game takes more than a minute or two to play, but if you play the entire circuit, it's easy to spend an hour or more playing Carnival Games.

Don't expect much from the graphics and audio though. The "barkers" running each game have non-moving lips, and the scenery lacks detail. The audio is equally sparse, limited to traditional carnival music and quips from bystanders. One thing that I don't understand is why you're required to create your own little character from the start instead of using your Mii. Isn't that the whole purpose of the Mii system?? Even so, Carnival Games is a pleasant surprise which should appeal to gamers of all ages. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Carnival Games Mini Golf
Grade: D
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/11/19
Rating: Everyone


screenshotA few months ago I reviewed a mediocre game called Summer Sports: Paradise Island. Although marred by poor controls, Summer Sports featured elaborate mini-golf holes which I thought would be a great premise for a full-blown game. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Carnival Games Mini Golf, especially since I enjoyed the original Carnival Games so much.

Unfortunately, this project was badly mishandled. Instead of a straightforward game of miniature golf with a variety of fun courses, Mini Golf goes off the deep end with annoying gimmicks. There are great themes like pirates, the wild west, the Amazon jungle, and a fairy tale land, but each area only has three holes! Worse yet, two of those holes are trick holes designed to be made in a single shot! Even the one "normal" hole in each area is extremely automated, so the ball is frequently transported via a bunch of bizarre contraptions. You're often required to play mediocre mini-games that include guiding a pterodactyl through a volcano, catching eggs in a basket, or firing a cannon at pirate ships. This is supposed to be golf, right? The mini-games make good use of motion controls but run too long and aren't much fun.

Even Mini Golf's putting controls are marginal. Although you swing the controller as you would an actual putter, gauging your strength is hard. The audio track features that annoying "barker" from the original Carnival Games, and he comments on every shot whether it's warranted or not. Carnival Games Mini Golf held my attention for a while, but only because I was determined to unlock the Spook-A-Rama location. But once you unlock everything there's little replay value, and competing against friends is just a miserable experience. Had Mini Golf offered traditional 18-hole mini-golf courses, this would have been a slam-dunk best seller. Take-Two really missed the boat with this one. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Castle of Shikigami III
Grade: C
Publisher: Aksys (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/6/14
Rating: Teen (mild fantasy violence, mild language, sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco)


screenshotI tend to enjoy crazy 2D shooters like this, but Castle of Shikigami III (CS3) may be too over-the-top for casual gamers. If you've never played a Shikigami game before, this one won't make any sense. If you have played one, it won't make sense either, but at least you'll be expecting it not to make sense. Does that make any sense? You can download classic 2D shooters that are far better, but it's still nice to have an off-line option like this.

Having played the last two Shikigami games on my PS2, I was mentally prepared for its boss-centric stages, goofy intermissions, and projectile overkill. I find it amusing when critics describe CS3's dialogue as "insane", because it's downright sensible compared to the previous games! When a boss asks "Wait a minute, isn't this the one-player mode? Why are there two of you here?" - hey, at least it's in proper English!

The gameplay is unchanged from previous games, but since nobody played those, I'll describe it. You guide a flying person around the lower part of a narrow screen, firing at enemies that emerge from the top and unleash barrages of missiles. You can tap the fire button to engage your cannon, or hold it in to initiate a more concentrated special attack (at the cost of slower movement). Bombs are also available in limited supply. The game's trademark "tension system" increases your firepower when you narrowly miss getting hit, effectively making the crazy parts of the game even crazier.

As a mindless shooter, the game is fun, and since there's no motion control, you can hold the controller "NES style". I like how two players can blast away at once, sharing a combined score. The background graphics depict scenic canyons and castles, but there's nothing here that will turn any heads. It's a shame there's no stage select, because I got tired of working my way through the same stages and bosses. Your adversaries tend to be floating mechanical contraptions (are those trash cans?), and bosses tend to be humans with shields who like to engage in preposterous conversations.

Each of the eleven playable characters has a unique set of imaginative weapons. The game records high scores, but only if you set your auto-save to "on" and don't use a continue. The high scores are organized by character and weapon, but I would have preferred a single table. Also, without so much space on the screen, couldn't they keep the high score up there while you're playing? Castle of Shikigami 3 is decent option if you're in the mood for some twitch shooting action, but I'd prefer to see a more "back to the basics" 2D shooting title for the Wii. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Castlevania Judgement
Grade: F
Publisher: Konami (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/1/8
Rating: Teen (suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotThe idea of a Castlevania fighter for the Wii seemed ill-advised to say the least, but I figured Konami had a few tricks up their sleeve. Unfortunately, this game is every bit as bad as everybody thought it would be! Castlevania Judgement substitutes the button mashing you normally associate with fighting games with non-stop controller shaking!

Almost every attack requires you to shake the controller. A standard combo is "shake shake shake shake" - seriously! The directional combo is "direction + shake shake shake" and the jumping combo is "C + shake shake shake". If you haven't rolled your eyes yet, now would be a good time. This non-stop shaking is hell on the wrist, and within a half hour I found myself in excruciating pain! The thumbstick gives you freedom of movement, but it's hard to line up your attacks, and too often you'll execute a chain of moves at thin air. There are icons on the battlefield, but these just cheapen things further.

In terms of graphics, Judgement looks like a low-budget affair with PS2-grade visuals and unspectacular scenery. There's an impressive iron wolfman and a few bountiful chicks, but most of the dudes are hard to tell apart in the heat of battle. That's partially because everyone is surrounded by an unsightly, pixelated glow. Some of the bosses are so tall that their heads are cut off by the top of the screen! The swinging camera makes it hard to follow the action, so when you see "KO", there's usually some doubt as to whether you won or not.

The heroic soundtrack reminded me of Soul Calibur, but the voice samples are so repetitive that it's comical. You'll hear the same shouts ("Take this!" and "It's futile!") over and over during the course of a match. Thank goodness each match only lasts one round. I suspect Judgement will be a collector's item one day, because I can't see many people wanting to buy this throwaway title. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Centipede Infestation
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (2011)
Reviewed: 2013/3/10
Rating: Everyone (animated blood, fantasy violence)

screenshotThe original Centipede (1981) was one of the greatest arcade games of all time. Its rapid-fire shooting and relentless onslaught of vermin made for an incredibly addictive experience. Its follow-up, Millipede (1982), was terrific, but after that Atari failed to capitalize on the Centipede brand.

At first glance Infestation shows a lot of promise. Its visual style is faithful to the original and even the music strikes an early-80's vibe. In each stage your character is confined to an area about two screens wide. As insects approach in waves you can fire rapidly in any direction by aiming with the Wiimote. The smaller critters are annoying, but the big spiders, beetles, ants, wasps, and scorpions are satisfying to splatter. Icons frequently appear to provide special weapons. Though limited in duration, some weapons are highly effective, like the flame-thrower and the two-way laser beam. Unfortunately most weapons are so ineffective or confusing (like the green goo) that you'll look forward to them running out.

Each stage culminates with the appearance of two huge centipedes, and you must shoot their segments to defeat them. Infestation is fun at first, but its stages are too long, repetitious, and easy. Even when I cranked the difficulty up to "hard", survival was not an issue. That's partly because advanced stages provide you with "tower" plants which act as sentries and do much of the shooting for you. Even if a bug starts chewing on your leg, you just hit A to unleash a stomp that obliterates everything in the area.

There are some interesting "organic" sound effects in this game, and there were times when I thought my cat was hocking up a hairball before realizing it was just the game. The stages are held together via animated cartoons, and I kind of like their cheesy 80's production values. Centipede Infestation stays faithful to the arcade original on the surface, but there's no relentless challenge to keep you coming back. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Club Penguin Game Day
Grade: D
Publisher: Disney (2010)
Reviewed: 2011/2/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI can appreciate the premise behind this game, but it's a bit of a mess. Club Penguin is a wacky version of the Winter Olympics with colorful penguins facing off in a series of off-beat events. There's snowball throwing, snowball rolling, sledding, target shooting, and even a four-player mini-hockey game. What's not to like? I was just getting to that.

First, when choosing a character there are four colored penguins to select from (red, blue, green, yellow). Next you choose a jersey from the same set of colors. Do you see a potential problem? When a blue penguin is decked out in a yellow shirt and a yellow penguin is wearing a blue shirt, it's really hard to tell them apart! The events are a mixed bag. Games like Puffin Paddle offer precision control as you bounce round "puffins" in the air with a ping-pong paddle. Other games like Java Jump events are repetitive and tiresome because you must shake the controller throughout the entire race.

Before each event you can view a screen which sums up the basic controls. That's great, but some of the controls are poorly thought out. In Fast Freeze you shake the controller to walk but press A to stop. Why not just stop shaking? The story mode lets you unlock additional events, but not only do you need to place first, you also have to complete a secondary goal like collecting 15 coins. That's really bogus.

Some events seem totally out of place, like the disco-themed Dance Off. It would be great if you could select your favorite events in the tournament mode, but your only option is four randomized events. I reviewed Club Penguin with my young niece and nephew, and while there was some fun to be had, there was too much confusion and frustration. Club Penguin fans can bump up the grade by a letter, but all others should approach with extreme caution. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Code Lyoko: Quest For Infinity
Grade: D+
Publisher: Game Factory (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/12/23
Rating: Everyone

screenshotCode Lyoko is a French animated television series about four kids who embark on "virtual" adventures via a super computer. It's like a kid version of the Matrix, but much lighter. I had never even heard of the show before playing this game, but it didn't take me long to become comfortable with the premise and characters.

Code Lyoko is mainly a platform shooter set in a series of blocky environments. You can toggle between four characters using the directional pad, and each has unique abilities required to solve puzzles and defeat foes. The cat-like Odd is an agile dude with the ability to climb. Yumi can target multiple foes at a time with her awesome fan weapon. Aelita can fly, and Ulrich wields a powerful sword. Unimpressive enemies materialize out of nowhere including a hodgepodge of crab, block, and insect-like monsters. You can "aim" your shots by pointing at the screen, and this would have been a notable feature if Mario Galaxy hadn't already stolen its thunder.

You shake the Wii-mote to swing Ulrich's sword, but other motion-based moves, like wall jumping, are more confusing than intuitive. There's apparently no camera control, which is aggravating when something is shooting at you from off the screen. Code Lyoko's stages have a lot of generic floating platforms, but at least the jumping controls are responsive and forgiving. The puzzles tend to adopt the basic "shoot the target to open a portal" formula.

Lyoko's difficulty is on the easy side, and most stages are short. Breaking up the monotony are flying stages that let you lock onto enemy aircraft with your missiles. Lyoko's cut-scenes are brief and seamlessly integrated with the action. My main beef with the game is its sparse, blocky environments. Although some have a pleasant surreal quality, they ultimately prove to be boring and monotonous - especially when you need to return to a previously completed stage!

The bleak electronic soundtrack does however fit right in with the sterile visuals. Code Lyoko tosses around a heck of a lot of technical jargon like sectors, encrypted files, coordinates, and super-calculators. Are kids really into this stuff? Overall Code Lyoko is playable but rarely compelling and ultimately forgettable. If you're a fan of the series however, feel free to bump up the grade by one letter. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Cruis'n
Grade: B-
Publisher: Midway (2007)
Reviewed: 2013/6/15
Rating: Everyone (mild suggestive themes, mild violence)

screenshotRemember back when games were shallow, politically-incorrect, and fun? No - you're too young! Playing Cruis'n took me back in time. This arcade racer is a close relative of San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing (Nintendo 64, 1996), kicking realism to the curb in favor of razzle-dazzle.

Each race pits you against seven sports cars in some of the fastest, most chaotic racing action you've ever seen. Stages include Times Square, Malibu, Chinatown, Hollywood, San Francisco, and other flashy destinations. Though relatively short, the tracks pack so much eye candy you'll want to stop just to look around. You steer by tilting the Wii-mote, which is imprecise but sufficient for a game like this.

The nitrous-fueled races are insanely fast and the physics is crazy. You'll plow through just about any obstacle including street lamps, trees, and even oncoming traffic! They'll slow you down only slightly, but that split-second is often the difference between first and second place. Insane shortcuts add to the fun. You can work your way through the main circuit challenge in just two or three hours, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

The voices and sound effects are cheesy as hell. When the female voice says "LA Ghetto", she makes it sound so sexy! Cruis'n also uses digitized babes, which is a technology I'd like to see much more of. After completing the circuit you can try for best scores in arcade mode, unlock new cars, and challenge friends in the split screen. Technically, Cruis'n is a little sloppy. Glitches abound with regard to the frame-rate, collision detection, and AI. Stuff like that would spoil a serious racer, but Cruis'n is anything but. If you're tired of games that feel like work, let your hair down and give this one a shot. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Cursed Mountain
Grade: B-
Publisher: Deep Silver (2007)
Reviewed: 2012/2/28
Rating: Mature (blood, sexual themes, violence)

screenshotOn the surface Cursed Mountain looks like a dated survival horror title with stiff animation and contrived motion controls. Stick with it. You play the role of a hiker on the trail of your missing brother in the Himalayas. The game is cast from the same mold as Resident Evil, challenging you to solve easy puzzles (like find a rusty key), fend off ghosts, and collect glowing items.

As you methodically work your way up a mountain you'll explore abandoned villages, ruins, and monasteries. The village in the opening stage is rich with detail, with dwellings and trails that exhibit an aged, weathered look. Later you'll explore creepy monasteries and enjoy scenic mountain views. Many areas you explore are incredibly dark. In fact, this is the darkest game I've ever played! There were times when I had to literally feel my way around! When I entered the stage entitled "Into the Darkness", I thought, "Really? I've been struggling to see for the last two hours!"

Cursed Mountain moves at a slow, deliberate pace, but its forgiving, linear structure ensures you'll make steady progress. The game does a great job of conveying a very desolate, haunting atmosphere. Heavy use of fog suggests unseen danger, and immersive sound effects include wind, drips, creaks, and moans. When climbing rocks the sense of depth is good, and thank goodness you can not fall off ledges. Ghosts periodically attack, but you can defend yourself with a magic pickaxe and a staff that fires projectiles. Fighting ghosts hand-to-hand may seem silly, but it works. Many of these shadowy creeps have wrinkled faces and wear hoodies (Monkz in the hood!). After "wearing down" a ghost you're prompted to perform a series of motions to "purify" it. Polishing them off using arm motions seems a little contrived at first but it's oddly satisfying!

Cursed Mountain's storyline is very mysterious and its cut-scenes are nebulous. Books and journals you collect shed light on the story, but I was too impatient to read all that stuff. This game takes a while to grow on you but the moderate difficulty keeps you plugging along and the game automatically saves your progress. Cursed Mountain on the Wii provides a different kind of horror experience, and I was pleasantly surprised. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Family Friendly Video Games, MobyGames.com, Cheat Code Central