Wii Reviews D

Data East Arcade Classics
Grade: B+
Publisher: Majesco (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/3/16
Rating: Teen (animated blood, mild suggestive themes, mild violence)

screenshotFor gamers who grew up in the 80's, the Data East name is synonymous with arcade fun, and this compilation bears that out. There are only a few legitimate classics here, but even the more obscure titles are fascinating. The first game is Bad Dudes Vs. the Dragon Ninja, and the game deserves an A+ for the title alone! Its intro warns of "rampant ninja-related crimes these days", and having lived through the 80's, I can attest that it was pretty rough back then! Bad Dudes has a "so bad it's good" quality, and the voice samples are hilarious ("I'm bad!").

Crude Busters is a post-apocalyptic slugfest that lets you battle mutants-gone-wild, including one that looks like a praying mantis, and another which resembles a colon polyp. The intro screen shows "New York, 2010" superimposed over a crumbling city, and my friends and I were rolling with laughter when we saw that. Burnin' Rubber is the arcade version of Bump N Jump, and it's easily one of the more addictive driving games of the 80's.

Caveman Ninja is a whimsical prehistoric platformer in the style of Bonk, and its comical animations are terrific. Express Raider is a western side-scroller with pixelated graphics that are really charming. Burgertime is a top-notch platformer, and it's still one of the hardest games you'll ever play. Lock N Chase is a thinking-man's Pac-Man, and simply clearing a single screen is a challenge.

Heavy Barrel is a Rambo-style shooter with awkward controls, and Magical Drop 3 is a puzzle game best described as Bust-A-Move in reverse. Ice Cream Factory is the sequel to Burgertime, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how to play the thing. Secret Agent is a James Bond shooter with stiff controls but spectacular 2D graphics depicting Washington DC.

Side Pocket is a billiards game, and it's nearly identical to the Genesis version. Street Hoop is an uptempo NBA Jam style basketball contest which some may remember from the Neo Geo. Super Real Darwin is an oddball space shooter, and WizardFire is an amazing-looking arcade-style dungeon crawler.

As with most classic game compilations, the developers found imaginative ways to screw this up. There's an over-emphasis on achieving certain arbitrary "goals". You can't configure the games, and each offers unlimited continues. Only the top score is automatically recorded, but you can get around this by using the save and load options for each individual game. Data East Arcade Classics is poorly designed, but I still have to recommend this based on the merit of these fun, historic titles. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

De Blob
Grade: D
Publisher: THQ (2007)
Reviewed: 2011/5/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDe Blob lets you guide a little rolly-polly dude through oppressed cities devoid of color - not unlike Cold War East Germany. Each town offers a set of challenges which usually involve painting certain buildings specific colors before a timer runs out. To do this, your Blob smashes a canister to obtain paint and then rubs against the buildings, causing them to become magically encased with vibrant color.

It's a neat effect that's both satisfying and visually appealing, but I'd probably be more impressed had I not already played Epic Mickey (which uses a similar painting mechanic). Sometimes you'll need to mix colors, but hey, it's not rocket science. Standing in your way are police baddies, bugs, pools of ink, and spikes. Avoiding these hazards would be easier if the controls weren't so [expletive] clumsy! Whose idea was it to shake the Wii-mote in order to jump? That's pretty much the worst idea ever.

Adding insult to injury, you tend to carom off walls, so one inadvertent shake will send you sailing clear across town. Whether you're jumping, attacking, or activating switches, it seems like every move involves shaking the Wii-mote, and your wrist will pay the price for it. Each mission is preceded by a detailed description, but if you accidentally skip the instructions you might find yourself stuck. De Blob is more complicated than it needs to be, as new objects are constantly appearing for no apparent reason.

The strongest aspect of the game is its jazzy music and laid-back style. The animation is smooth and there are comical touches like the little people who squeal with delight as you paint them. Some of the cut-scenes are very funny. My biggest issue with De Blob is that you can only save between levels. Granted, it's possible to rush through most stages in under 30 minutes or so, but if you're trying to unlock everything it can take a lot longer. During one session I felt compelled to finish out a level despite the fact that my wrist was killing me. I respect the simplicity and originality of De Blob, but the gameplay is an unappealing mix of pleasure and pain. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop
Grade: C
Publisher: Capcom (2009)
Reviewed: 2010/11/16
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, language)

screenshotIts visuals pale to the original Dead Rising for the 360, but this late-arriving Wii edition has a few things going for it. You play an investigative reporter dropped off at a sprawling mall in the midst of a massive zombie outbreak. You soon team up with others and fight to save survivors while unraveling a dark mystery.

During search-and-rescue missions you can use whatever objects are lying around as weapons, including bowling balls, baseball bats, circular saws, cash registers, and lawnmowers! Plowing through mobs with a shopping cart is almost as fun as doing it in real life! Experimenting with new weapons is part of the fun as you see how high you can ratchet up the body count. Aiming at the screen places you into an over-the-shoulder shooting mode, where you can experience the joys of making heads explode.

The original Dead Rising suffered from unrelenting difficulty and a poor save system, but Chop Till You Drop remedies those flaws. It's not hard to make steady progress thanks to the ubiquitous save points and forgiving gameplay. The Wii motion controls are intuitive but imprecise. Occasionally you'll swing a bat when you don't intend to, or find yourself staring at the ceiling while under attack. The button scheme is a little confusing. Was it really necessary to map the most common action ("examine") to Z+A?

The limited processing power of the Wii is also on full display as zombies materialize from thin air as you walk through the mall. The system can't seem to render very many zombies at a time, but wasn't that one of the draws of the original game? Chop Till You Drop is also bogged down with excessive load screens and backtracking. And whose idea was it to incorporate pesky zombie poodles and dive-bombing zombie parrots? C'mon man!! Chop Till You Drop offers a slightly watered down Dead Rising experience, but less frustration means you can enjoy the zombie apocalypse. Finally! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Dead Space: Extraction
Grade: A
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/11/29
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotGamers expecting this to be a second-rate knock off of Dead Space (PS3, 2009) are in for a surprise. Dead Space: Extraction blurs the line between light-gun and first-person shooting action, delivering the best of both worlds.

Much like the original game, Extraction is a terrifying space adventure where you escort a group of people out of a colony infested with gruesome aliens. The twisted creatures move in a freaky manner and lash out with their extended limbs. The game's dark tone is not something you expect on the Wii, with extreme gore and strong profanity. The graphics are hands-down the best I've seen on the system, and the art direction is sensational. The fog effects, lighting, and dramatic camera angles immerse you in a space station that feels as though it's coming apart at the seams.

Your path is mostly predetermined, but it's a wild ride. The cinematic cut-scenes are seamlessly intertwined with the action, and the character models are exceptional - especially with regard to their facial expressions. There's some occasional "down time" during scenes with heavy dialogue, but even then you can scout around for hidden items, which are easily snagged by pointing and pressing the A button. Extraction might not be as scary or intense as the PS3 game, but it's faster and less tedious.

Even the zero-gravity areas that were such a bust on the PS3 game are entertaining here. The Wii-mote provides excellent aiming control, and twisting your wrist puts your weapon into its secondary mode. The flamethrower is money at close range, but few things are more satisfying than slicing through several aliens in a row with a "blade" from your line gun. Dismembering aliens is the name of the game, and it's a welcome change from other shooters that focus on headshots. Extraction employs a Gears of War-style reload mechanism that lets you reload quickly if your timing is right.

Periodically things will settle down so you can solve a puzzle, select a path, or search for items. The connect-the-circuit mini-games make perfect use of the Wii pointer, and they are as fun as they are ingenious. Shaking the nun-chuck is used to initiate melee, and shaking the Wii-mote lights your "glow stick". Your performance is rated after each chapter of the story, and a score-based challenge mode adds replay value. There are even digital "comics" you can unlock which fill in the background story.

I was skeptical about Dead Space Extraction, but the more I played it, the more impressed I became. As a software developer, I really have to hand it to the team responsible for this. If you're an adult looking for an intense, high-quality shooter for your Wii, look no further. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Deadly Creatures
Grade: C-
Publisher: THQ (2008)
Reviewed: 2010/8/14
Rating: Teen (alcohol reference, mild language, violence)

screenshotI get the impression that the designers of Deadly Creatures were genuinely interested in creating something that was totally unique. Unfortunately, it appears it was necessary to fall back on standard conventions in order to inject some excitement into this game.

Deadly Creatures lets you assume the role of a tarantula and a scorpion in alternating chapters set in harsh desert environments. Each creature has its own set of abilities and special attacks. For example, the tarantula can jump and sling web, and the scorpion has the ability to dig and sting. You'll spend a lot of time creeping through endless thorny tunnels while chomping on grubs (yummy!) and fighting off other bugs. Occasionally you'll encounter larger creatures that are best to evade like lizards and rattlesnakes.

The spider and scorpion are fluidly animated, and watching them slink along is actually a little creepy! The snakes are also nicely rendered and slither with lifelike realism. The environments are far less compelling however as you trek through cactus, rocks, and endless narrow underground passages. A handy arrow points the way, and it's absolutely necessary because otherwise it would be hard to tell if you were forging ahead or backtracking. The bland environments don't offer much incentive to explore, but that's okay because the stages are very linear.

You can employ a number of attacks when fighting other insects, some of which are pretty ridiculous. If you've ever wanted to see a tarantula bitch-slap a scorpion like a pimp, here's your big chance. I don't recall ever seeing a scorpion execute a body slam on a grasshopper on the Discovery Channel. There are even fatalities! Deadly Creatures makes a nice effort to incorporate motion controls, but they're not always very responsive. The most exciting parts of the game by far are the "quick response" action sequences where you must frantically fight for survival.

The game is held together by the story of two outlaws as voiced by Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton. Wow, that's some pricey voice talent! These guys must have owed somebody a big favor! The disk even contains interviews with the actors as they discuss the game and pretend to be intrigued by it. Deadly Creatures is an admirable attempt at originality, but there's only so much you can do with the subject matter, and the game struggled to hold my attention. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Dino Strike
Grade: C-
Publisher: N-Fusion (2010)
Reviewed: 2012/6/15
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)

screenshotDino Strike's brand of simple light gun shooting might be described as "House of the Dead with dinosaurs". The game automatically guides you through jungles, volcanoes, and ruins on a remote island. The raptors, pterodactyls, and obligatory T-Rex are nicely detailed and move in a convincing manner. I like how the spitting dinosaurs appear to be hocking up a massive loogie before unleashing their yellow goo. There's not much variety in terms of dinosaurs, but it's nice to see the underrated Ankylosaurus in the mix. Dinosaurs usually attack one or two at a time, and they tend to repeat the same attack patterns, making the game feel repetitive.

The jungle scenery is a little sparse and the waterfalls look too angular, but the overgrown ruins look nice. Aiming with the reticule is fairly precise, and you can toggle between a handgun, shotgun, machine gun, and crossbow (as ammo permits). Be sure to reload whenever there's a lull in the action, because it's not automatic and reloading is time consuming. A dual-wield option lets you blast away with two controllers, but while it sounds awesome, it's confusing to use two weapons with different reload cycles. That said, mowing down charging beasts with two machine guns is always a good time. Blasting crates reveal health and ammo, but the crates are always in plain view which removes the thrill of discovery.

The lengthy stages can wear out their welcome but the difficulty is just about right. On the normal skill level you'll need to make a concerted effort to survive each stage. Upon completion you enter your initials which get recorded in the high score screen (what a concept!). Continues can be used if you die within a stage, but they take a lot of fun out of the game, as you can easily plow through the whole adventure in one sitting. I like the concept behind Dino Strike but the game lacks suspense, surprises, and creativity. It's moderately fun for a little while, but you'll forget about it as soon as you put down the controller. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3
Grade: B-
Publisher: Disney (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/2/28
Rating: Everyone

screenshotMost critics wouldn't touch this game with a ten-foot pole but the VGC says, "Bring it on!" This second edition of Disney's Sing It line of karaoke games takes advantage of the unbridled popularity of the High School Musical series. The game is quite engaging thanks to its slick production values and upbeat pop tunes. There's no sappy love songs or cheesy showtunes to slog through, just a bunch of high-energy dance numbers. A microphone is included, and its USB plug had me asking, "Where do I plug this thing in?" I soon realized there were USB ports on the back of the Wii! Who knew?

High School Musical 3 offers 25 songs that span all three High School Musicals. Upon selecting a song, you can select a part to sing (either side of the duet, or both) and your skill level. As a music video plays on the screen, words are displayed across the bottom along with a moving pitch indicator. It's not necessary to sing the exact words, so you can just hum along if you'd like. Staying on pitch is not easy, but if you can hold the tune for long enough, a multiplier kicks in. High scores are saved in a table along with the player's name.

Although targeted at teenagers, these High School Musicals are appealing to a much wider audience. My niece and nephew love this, and they're both under the age of 7! I have no idea who's pumping out all of these catchy songs, but they're quite good and have a way of getting under your skin. Their non-objectionable lyrics include such thought-provoking lines as "You are the music in me", "Bop to the top - don't ever stop", and "What time is it? Summertime!" These kids have a lot of spirit. Whether they're dining in the cafeteria, practicing basketball, or working at a fast food joint, life is just one non-stop party. It's been a while since I've been in high school, but I don't recall too many dance numbers breaking out in study hall. Karaoke games like this don't appeal to everyone, but it's really hard to dislike this one. Bump the grade up by a letter if you're a High School Musical fanatic. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Donkey Kong Country Returns
Grade: A-

screenshotDonkey Kong Returns retains the spirit of the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy (SNES) while introducing a slew of imaginative new elements and fantastic 3D effects. The basic gameplay picks up where the old games left off as you pounce on crazed animals, snag floating bananas, and propel yourself through the air via explosive barrels. One excellent new move is your ability to pound the ground with your hands by shaking the controller. Not only does it look hilarious, it's also very effective to nail in pegs, break trap doors, and reduce stone blocks to rubble. Donkey Kong also has the ability to crawl along grass-covered walls and ceilings. Little Diddy Kong is back, and this time he rides on your back with a little jet pack that lets you hover in the air momentarily (to extend jumps).

As in the original game, there are animals to ride (like the powerful rhino), mine carts, bonus areas, and enough hidden items to provide ample replay value. And if you think the game goes a little heavy with the mine carts, you're right! The original Donkey Kong Country stunned gamers with its "clay-mation" style graphics, but Returns adopts a less-impressive, cartoonish style. That's not to say the game doesn't have its moments, especially when you see huge temples topple over or towering waves crash into the shore. The musical score has been recycled from the original game, but the sounds are enhanced by an echo from the Wii-mote, creating an almost three-dimensional audio effect.

One legitimate beef with the game is the high difficulty due to some very unforgiving stage designs. You'll go through lives by the dozen, and that bird boss really pushed me to the edge. The game does toss out occasional hints, and when it notices you're dying repeatedly, it'll offer to play the level for you. Donkey Kong Returns has traditional map screens that offer a linear progression through jungles, beaches, ruins, caves, etc. The beach areas offer some of the best summer-themed scenery I've seen with their tropical foliage, translucent water, pirate ships, thunderstorms, and festive steel drum music. Donkey Kong Returns will give your thumbs more than they bargained for, but it's still more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Well, in this case I guess it's exactly as much fun as a barrel of monkeys. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Dragon's Lair Trilogy
Grade: B
Publisher: Digital Leisure (2010)
Reviewed: 2020/6/14
Rating: Teen

screenshotSince the Wii doesn't support HD I wasn't expecting these old laser-disc titles to look very good. But I was wrong. These games look so sharp I'd been hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and the Blu Ray (except that this one actually works).

The original Dragon's Lair was an arcade sensation in 1983, featuring a knight seeking to rescue a fair maiden in a dangerous castle. Players would crowd around the game to get a peek at Don Bluth's stylized and often humorous animations. The difficulty however was brutal, and your fifty cents rarely bought you more than a minute of action. The player was required to perform exact joystick and button moves in perfect time to save Dirk from painful-but-fun death animations.

The gameplay was limited but the visuals continue to dazzle even today. Like most home versions of the game, this one offers both visual and audio clues to help you along. Even so, you'll still need to be quick on the trigger. The original Dragon's Lair is great but Space Ace and Dragon's Lair II were marred by extended scenes that required too many moves. Frankly it's hard to even tell what's going on in those games.

This Wii compilation provides a tutorial, an attract mode, a watch mode, and multiple variations each game. Customizable options include difficulty and audio/visual cues. I'm sold on Dragon's Lair Trilogy. Especially considering this is completely offline, it might be the best way to experience these classic games. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Dream Pinball
Grade: C+
Publisher: Southpeak (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/6/16
Rating: Everyone


screenshotDream Pinball was a pleasant surprise on my Nintendo DS, but my standards for the Wii are a little higher. This collection features six fictional pinball tables with intriguing themes like medieval times, monsters, dinosaurs, aquatic life, and cars. I still can't figure out what the hell that "Amber Moon" table is supposed to be.

Although generally realistic in their layouts, the tables go a little overboard with the flippers, with some sporting as many as six! The motion controls work very well. It took me a while to figure out you have to hold A and pull back to activate the plunger, but my friends picked up on this right away. Using the triggers of the Wii-mote and nun-chuck allows for intuitive flipper control, and you simply shake the controllers to nudge the table.

I was hoping the larger screen would reveal a lot of interesting table details over the DS version, but that's not really the case. The shiny metal rails stand out more, but the artwork is minimal and the targets are indistinct. Still, tables with multiple layers (like Amber Moon) are definitely easier to play on the larger screen, especially when a multi-ball kicks in.

Dream Pinball is generally fun but it has some quirks that got on my nerves. Whenever you hit a target, a red substance "splatters" on the board, and while I suspect this was meant to add a little pizzazz, it just looks ugly. I also find it odd how the balls count down instead of up, so your last ball is referred to as "ball 1". In terms of audio, I get really tired of the voice constantly asking, "Are you ready for ball change?" I don't even know what the [expletive] that means! The other voice samples are equally cheesy, like the woman who observes "that's a huge beast" in the dinosaur table.

Each table is fully customizable and supports up to four players. High scores are saved and it's always satisfying to beat the top score. Dream Pinball has the feel of a low-budget effort, but there's plenty of replay value here. Pinball junkies might even want to bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


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