Wii Reviews G-H

GT Pro Series
Grade: D-
Publisher: Ubisoft (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/5/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotA barebones racer like this released so early in the Wii's life cycle suggests Ubisoft may have been simply trying to cash-in on the launch pandemonium. As a semi-realistic sports car racer, GT Pro isn't terrible, but it certainly is boring! It's hard to overlook its rudimentary graphics, which resemble something you'd see on the Playstation One - on a bad day! GT Pro's coarse scenery is lined with pixelated buildings, flat "trees", fences marred by ugly aliasing (jaggies), and flat "grass" composed of crude texture maps. For the cars, Ubisoft opted for a simple, cell-shaded approach, which was probably a good idea. There are over 80 customizable cars to choose from, but you'll want to resist the temptation of selecting the faster ones, at least at first. My friends and I made that mistake and found ourselves all over the road. Stick with something slower but with good handling. If you do, you'll find the steering controls to be respectable, with power-slides that result in a pleasant "sling-shot" effect. The black plastic steering wheel provides a comfortable shell for the controller, but it's not necessary at all. GT seems to have a nice "pick-up-and-play" quality at first, but as I advanced skill levels, I was faced with annoying "driver tests" required in order to earn my next "license". I really hate that. Advanced races aren't much more exciting that the early ones - just longer. After a while, racing around the same courses over and over again gets old, especially since tracks like "Thrilling Harbor" were never thrilling to begin with. I gave the four-player split-screen a try, but its degraded graphics and control made it a colossal bore. In terms of audio, GT Pro features some of the worst ever, with goofy background music that sounds like a record being played at the wrong speed. GT Pro may be passable for newer gamers with time to kill, but if you've already "been around the track" a few times, there's no good reason to travel this road. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Geometry Wars Galaxies
Grade: A
Publisher: Bizarre Creations (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/12/23
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhat a coup it was for Nintendo to snag the definitive version of what is arguably the best game on the Xbox 360! The original Geometry Wars, downloadable from Xbox Live, is an Asteroids-on-steroids 2D shooter that perfectly blends spectacular visuals with classic arcade action. Galaxies expands the game to the n-th degree, incorporating a huge campaign mode that provides almost unlimited replayability. In case you're curious about the graphic quality, the Wii handles the space-bending vectors just fine. You might notice that your ship is slightly pixelated at first, but otherwise the graphics are just as mind-blowing as the original game. Geometry Wars' non-stop action involves blasting hundreds of floating geometric shapes as black holes crop up around the screen and wreak havoc with their gravitational fields. Your insane firepower creates a fireworks display of explosions that are a feast for the eyes. Whenever you destroy something, its point value appears right there on the screen. That's really satisfying, especially when these numbers reach the thousands and appear by the dozens. Galaxies' campaign mode features dozens of "missions" which tweak the game's formula in a number of imaginative ways. You'll contend with oversized shapes, floating barriers, bonus diamonds to gather up, and playing fields of various shapes. Another new feature is a helpful "drone" that floats by your ship, acting like a shield or providing auxiliary fire. There are actually eight selectable drone abilities for you to unlock and power-up to various degrees. Geometry War's pulsating techno soundtrack really helps you get "in the zone". Unlike the 360 version which could only save high scores on-line, Galaxies conveniently records all high scores (with initials) to your Wii. I guess Microsoft didn't have the technology to do that! Since the games tend to be short, trying to top your high scores is fun and addictive. The original Geometry Wars Evolved is also included, along with a number of two-player modes. One thing I can't emphasize enough is that you'll want to use a classic controller with this game, because the default Wii-mote/nunchuck configuration is awkward. The classic controller's dual joysticks make all the difference, although they are still a step down from the Xbox 360 controller. If you own a Wii, you need this game. Transcending time and space, Geometry Wars may be the ultimate pick-up-and-play shooter. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Ghost Squad
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (2007)
Reviewed: 2008/2/1
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)

screenshotFor long-time fans of light-gun shooters, a game like this might have you thinking that happy days are back again. Ghost Squad must have been created by the same people who did the Time Crisis games, because it has the same tight controls, mediocre graphics, and preposterous dialogue. You are a soldier in an elite military squad that "doesn't leave a trace". That's probably because all of your enemies disappear after you shoot them! The arcade mode's three missions take you into a villa, a jungle, and aboard a flying Air Force One. In the jungle stage you rescue a guy named Dr. Steve McCoy who looks like he's from the Planet of the Apes. When you rescue the President aboard Air Force One, he actually gives you a high-five! As with all light gun games, your movements are automatic as you view the action from a first-person perspective, although there are opportunities to select alternate routes. Ghost Squad's gameplay is basically "shoot or be shot", but take care not to blast hostages or members of your own squad. Most weapons fire in short bursts, and it doesn't take more than a shot or two to bring down most enemies. It's somewhat comical how a bad guy will slide right in front of you and sit there for a second, giving you a chance to shoot him in the face. Also funny is how 20 enemies will emerge from a small room or from behind a table (the term "clown car" comes to mind). A large aiming reticule is visible by default, but you can turn it off, which I would recommend for a more realistic, satisfying experience. After all, you don't get a reticule when you shoot at people in real life! I like the way you shake your controller to reload. Occasionally the game will prompt you to perform special tasks like sniping, knife fighting, or disarming a bomb. The responsiveness and accuracy of the controls is excellent, but the missions are cookie-cutter in design and you'll want to skip the boring cut-scenes every time. The heart of the game is the arcade mode, but its progression is very confusing. You get unlimited continues - until you reach a boss. Is there any penalty for using continues? Who knows. Your progress is not saved unless you play through all three scenarios or fail to continue. Would it be too much to have a save option between missions? The manual clarifies some things, but an arcade game like this shouldn't be so complicated. Once you begin completing the missions, you'll unlock alternate versions of the stages and comical features. It doesn't seem like Sega put a lot of effort into Ghost Squad, but at its core, it's still the mindless light-gun action we all know and love. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/7/18
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWould it be unfair to call this "Ghostbusters Light"? It feels like a simplified version of the PS3 game, with the same storyline but remixed stage layouts, puzzles, and bosses. The good news is, it's every bit as fun! This lighthearted adventure features the zany characters of the original film, and the actors lend their voices to good effect. You'll revisit the New York public library and Sedgewick hotel, and once again face off against the giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Just be advised that after putting in this disk you'll sit through no less than eight intro screens before finally reaching the title screen. Wow, that's got to be some kind of record or something. Ghostbuster's graphics lack the lush quality of the PS3 edition, but the clean, well-defined visuals are still appealing. You can still unleash ample destruction with your proton packs, obliterating every piece of furniture in sight. Blasting the books off shelves is particularly satisfying as pages and debris go flying all over the place. The controls are simpler and more comfortable than the PS3 version. You aim your proton pack using the Wii-mote, and when a ghost becomes trapped in your beam, arrow prompts signal you to swing the Wii-mote in various directions. Doing this slams the ghosts into walls and floors, weakening their resistance. Of course, this would never work in real life (the ghosts would pass through the walls), but this is only a video game, so it's all good. I found it interesting how the stages vary from the PS3 version. The library stage is considerably weaker, but the museum stage has better puzzles and a T-Rex boss. In addition to fine control, the Wii version also offers a sweet split-screen mode. I enjoyed Ghostbusting alongside a friend, despite the fact that the screen becomes chaotic during battles and annoying objective text tends to block your view. Perhaps the best aspect of this Ghostbusters game is its short, bite-sized levels. Unlike the never-ending PS3 stages, this game is broken up into manageable 5-15 minute chunks. I'm a run-and-gun kind of guy, but patient gamers can employ the PKE meter to scour each area for artwork and other hidden goodies. The only glitch I noticed was a lock-up during one loading sequence. Ghostbusters for the Wii may seem watered-down compared to the PS3 game, but with its easy-going style, intuitive controls, and brisk pacing, it has a charm of its own. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Go Diego Go! Safari Rescue
Grade: NA
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive (2007)
Reviewed: 2008/3/24
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis preschool adventure plays much differently than its Nintendo DS cousin, but is every bit as entertaining. Go Diego Go Safari Rescue is a simple side-scroller with inviting visuals, intuitive motion controls, and a gentle learning curve. It's actually two games in one: Safari Rescue and Safari Racing. Safari Rescue is a lengthy quest in which our young Hispanic hero saves animals in peril with the help of his cub sidekick. You'll rescue lost cubs, feed a hungry ostrich, and save elephants that have been turned to stone by an evil magician. The game begins with simple challenges like running down pathways and jumping over rocks, but gradually becomes more involved. In time, Diego will hop on trampolines, ride down zip-lines, swing on vines (Pitfall style) and even hang-glide over river valleys. The "mud board" sequences even have a slight Tony Hawk vibe (very slight). The motion controls aren't integral to the game, but they make it more involving as you shake trees, bang on drums, and dig holes. A small diagram in the corner of the screen makes it clear what movements are expected. Safari Rescue has ample variety and would probably even be enjoyable for adults if it offered any challenge at all. The characters are rendered as cartoons, but the layered backdrops look like hand-drawn illustrations. The game automatically saves your progress frequently, and there's even an option to let a parent "help out" using the second controller! Now that is a good idea! The Rescue mode alone would have been good enough to warrant a purchase, but then there's the Safari Race mode that lets two players go head-to-head in jeeps, hang gliders, canoes, or on elephants. Go Diego Go was good on the DS, but this slick Wii edition is far more engaging and offers substantially more replay value. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Go Vacation
Grade: C+
Publisher: Bandai (2011)
Reviewed: 2015/9/6
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotIt seems like the Wii library is chock-full of breezy party games set in tropical resorts. Go Vacation follows the same formula but goes beyond the call of duty, offering four expansive resorts: tropical, snow, mountain, and city. There are so many events (50+) it's almost overwhelming. At the marine resort you'll race jet skis, race ATVs, and surf waves. At the snow resort you'll ski, throw snowballs, and snowboard. The mountain resort lets you play tennis, equestrian, and off-road racing. City offers miscellaneous events like air hockey, skating, and auto racing. The motion controls work well, especially with events like tennis and volleyball. Some of the events are more obscure like dog sledding, bungee jumping, and "quick draw". Go Vacation makes fine use of the Mii characters, and exploring each resort is entertaining in its own right. Initially most events are locked so you'll need to seek them out on a map. Locating and unlocking each event is actually a pretty enjoyable way to sink a few hours into the game. Still, you could argue that Go Vacation is a case of quantity over quality. Paragliding and skydiving are terribly boring, and musical activities like the dancing and "glass harp" are just bizarre. It's amazing how awful the snowball and water gun battles turned out, considering how great target shooting is. Just when I was losing interest in the game I stumbled upon kayaking, which offers a wild ride through rapids and over waterfalls. The water effects are amazing. All games support up to four players and are easy to play. Some might say too easy, as I didn't feel a burning desire to replay any of them. Go Vacation exhibits typical Wii game annoyances like frequent prompts to reselect your character (huh?) or modify your controller ("please disconnect nun-chuck now"). Still, Go Vacation packs a heck of a lot of content and the sheer variety of activities ensures the game will be seasonally-correct all year long. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Goldeneye 007
Grade: B-
Publisher: Activision (2010)
Reviewed: 2011/4/10
Rating: Teen (blood, mild language, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotGoldeneye for the Nintendo 64 was one of the best selling games of all time, so it's not surprising to see it resurrected for the Wii. This explosive remake updates the storyline and places the "new Bond" in the lead role. Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond by far, but since this is a first-person shooter (FPS), his presence doesn't make a whole lot of difference. The original Goldeneye rose to popularity on the strength of its four-player split-screen mode which was pretty innovative for its time. The multiplayer in this new Goldeneye is a lot less compelling. Aiming with the Wii-mote works poorly on the split-screen, and you can't add CPU-controlled "bots" to spice things up. It's actually quite boring! On the other hand I really loved the exciting single-player missions, which are jam-packed with mayhem and destruction. The difficulty is easy enough for FPS novices to grasp, and checkpoints are generously placed. The shooting action is similar to Call of Duty with an auto-aim mechanism and red-around-the-edge-of-the-screen health indicator. Be sure to pump a few rounds in each enemy, because the first shot or two usually doesn't kill them - it just pisses them off! Your smart phone has a series of useful apps including the ability to activate security mechanisms remotely and perform facial recognition. The facial recognition software is so good that it even works if you aim the camera at the back of a person's head! The exotic scenery includes a rainy dam, a snow-swept Siberian radar base, and the colorful skyline of Dubai. The Barcelona nightclub has a cool vibe with pumping dance music and trippy lighting effects. My copy of the game included a golden "classic controller" which is really, really nice. It's lightweight, has comfortable grips, and uses a standard button configuration. It really is by far the optimal way to play this game. Goldeneye is the most enjoyable first-person shooter I've played on the Wii, but at times it feels more like a last-generation title. The henchmen all look like clones and the AI is weak. Graphical glitches include guns suspended in mid-air. There are a lot of strategically-placed red exploding barrels, and while they're the biggest video game cliche in the world, I find them impossible to resist. Goldeneye 007 is a real throw-back, and depending on your taste in games, that may be a good or bad thing. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Goosebumps Horrorland
Grade: C+

screenshotIt may look like bargain bin material, but this kid-friendly Halloween title is surprisingly entertaining. You are a kid exploring a horror-themed amusement park that turns out to be quite expansive. Once you begin unlocking macabre-themed rides and games, it becomes habit-forming. There's a lot of diverse areas to explore from a vampire village to a misty swamp to an Egyptian pyramid. The carnival-style games are mainly of the target-shooting variety, and most range from moderately fun to super lame. Still, there are some highlights like the skee-ball race and putt-putt courses. As with most golf games on the Wii, the swing controls tend to be erratic. The rides are the main attraction - especially the roller coasters. One lets you tilt your cart to the side to avoid hazards, and another lets you shoot ghosts and vampire targets. The illusion of plunging down hills and being whisked around turns is terrific. Likewise the bumper car ride conveys that half-way-out-of-control feeling similar to the real thing. The flume rides would be a lot more fun if you didn't have to paddle your way through them. Despite its rudimentary graphics Horrorland conveys a spooky atmosphere thanks to haunting music and eerie sound effects. The scare factor is low but the floating vampires in the "garlic crusher" game are creepy. The game's sense of progression is terrific. There are five separate areas to unlock, and it's fun to thoroughly explore each area to see what they have in store. Unlocked attractions become available in two-player mode, and I love how both players can ride the rollercoaster at once. Goosebumps Horrorland is one of the better amusement park-themed games I've played, and you can bump up the grade by a letter if it's close to Halloween. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grand Slam Tennis
Grade: C-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/9/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt must be really, really hard to program motion controls, because no one except for Nintendo can seem to get it right. Grand Slam Tennis is a good idea but its execution is lacking. The game tries to take the intuitive gameplay of Wii Sport Tennis and expand upon it with professional players, actual tournaments, and a robust career mode. This is a tennis game that requires you to stand up and play like you're actually on the court. Grand Slam offers an impressive list of past and present pros, including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Chris Evert, John McEnroe and Boris Becker. The graphics are modest. I don't mind the cartoonish players, but those blurry backgrounds, spherical trees, and cardboard cut-out spectators show a lack of effort on EA's part. The animations are interesting, and it's always fun to see McEnroe throw a temper tantrum. I also like how the players check the strings of their racket after a mis-hit. The commentators are mildly entertaining ("these players are showing perfect control - it's almost like a video game!") but they are also repetitive and offer little insight. You cut them off whenever you skip a cut-scene, which is pretty much all the time. But the real problem with Grand Slam Tennis is its controls. Even with the Wii Motion Plus, they feel clumsy and erratic. Don't even think about using the right stick to run around - stick with the swing-only controls if you hope to have any fun at all. Before the serve you seem to have perfect 1:1 synchronization with the racket on the screen, but once the action kicks in, it's a different story. You must hit with a forehand or backhand depending on which side the ball is on, and while you're turning from one side to the next the game can get confused. Sometimes your player will take a really awkward swing, or your swing might not even register at all. Applying spin is possible, but trying to place your shot is futile. In real life I can't make a baseline shot to save my life, yet in this game almost every shot is right down the line! Likewise the force of your swing seems to have no bearing on the game. The career mode is well structured, offering a series of short challenges while saving your progress frequently. A steady trickle of new items and events gradually become unlocked. Grand Slam Tennis had a lot of potential but EA really needs to get a handle on these motion controls. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters
Grade: D
Publisher: Warner Bros. (2011)
Reviewed: 2020/5/8
Rating: Teen

screenshotThere's no Ryan Reynolds to be found but Green Lantern is still appealing with its rapid-fire shooting and non-stop beat-em-up action. Rise of the Manhunters begins with our hero being trained by a motley crew of guardians that resemble a flying squirrel, a blonde chick, and The Thing from the Fantastic Four. Their dialog wouldn't be so bad to page through if the word bubbles had more than three or four words each. The control scheme seems overly complicated. It says to press B and C to examine an object, so why isn't that working? Oh you also need to point at the thing with the Wii-mote? Okay. The game gives you full freedom of movement within rigorously confined areas, if that makes any sense at all. You fly in any direction via the thumbstick and can shoot independently using the cursor to aim. It's not a bad system actually. Melee attacks include a punch that creates a big green Hulk fist, and there's a ground pound that produces shockwaves. You can also channel your energy into health when you're running low. It's fun to blow flying monkey robots out of the air but those "red ape" soldiers are another story - especially when they have shields. Until you get the proper upgrades those guys can take a pounding. Eventually you obtain the ability to turn into a spinning blade or call on your cohorts for assistance. The scenery doesn't look bad in the early going, with futuristic skylines rendered with varying degrees of destruction. Eventually however the endless caves and subways tunnels all start to look the same. You can bring up a map (which covers the middle of the screen) but the objectives are rarely clear. The game also suffers from invisible wall syndrome and doors that magically open when you perform some unrelated action. If there's a story, I didn't catch it at all. There's a lot of frenetic combat in Green Lantern, but after a while its cookie cutter stages leave the impression you're just going through the motions. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus
Grade: B-
Publisher: Aksys (2008)
Reviewed: 2010/2/27
Rating: Teen (language, mild blood, partial nudity, sexual themes, use of tobacco, violence)

screenshotThis has got to be the longest, most convoluted name for a fighting game since Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo Edition. Hell, even its abbreviation (GGXXACP) takes forever to pronounce! Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus is the latest in an endless series of Guilty Gear X games, and it's probably the best. GGXXACP looks like a million bucks, and even its load screens are a feast for the eyes. It's easy to mistake these graphics for high definition considering the amazing detail in both the character models and backgrounds. Some characters are nearly as tall as the screen! The controls are highly responsive and the action is intense. The button scheme may throw off newcomers (punch, kick, slash, heavy slash, dust), but the special moves are pretty easy to execute. The chaos can get a little out of hand at times, but as long as you're on the winning end, it's satisfying. I will admit that the matches run a little too long, and draining that final sliver of life from your opponent can be like pulling teeth! There are 25 martial artists and sexy chicks to choose from. Most of the guys are perfectly groomed and decked in flamboyant attire, giving the game an androgynous vibe. You get a few freaks like a lanky guy with a bag over his head, a girl who drags around an enormous key, and I can't forget to mention the lifeless corpse! The layered backgrounds have an attractive, hand-illustrated appearance. Stage locations include London, a fairytale forest, a Japanese tea garden, and Hell. If only there were as many stages as characters. In terms of audio, that announcer sounds pretty wimpy, but the guitar-driven soundtrack gives the game an edge. High scores are automatically saved, along with extensive statistics for each playing mode. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus may sound like a joke, but it doesn't play like one. Casual gamers may find themselves overwhelmed, but those with an appetite for 2D fighting will have plenty to chew on. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Gunblade NY & L.A. Machineguns Arcade Hits Pack
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/11/16
Rating: Teen (violence)

screenshotIf you love rapid-fire shooters, you'll want to brace yourself for this "arcade hits pack" from Sega. This disk serves up two fast-paced light gun titles from the late 90's. Each feels like a high-speed thrill ride as you're automatically whisked through urban environments while unleashing a torrent of bullets at angular terrorists. Gunblade NY is incredibly simple as you continuously blast away while moving a crosshair around the screen. The graphics are Dreamcast quality, and even though the scenery isn't very detailed, the smooth frame-rate makes it a fun ride. It's exhilarating to weave around buildings and plunge from great heights to ground level. Some enemies fire cannons, some wear jet-packs, and others hop around like fleas. Fortunately they tend to dress in bright colors and are highlighted in red when about to fire a missile. Most absorb several hits before disappearing in a mini mushroom cloud (what the?). The controls are extremely accurate. LA Machineguns is a sequel that incorporates better graphics and a little strategy. It's now possible for your gun to overheat, and you'll also get docked points for shooting civilians. I like its premise of rescuing the President - that's about as old-school as you can get! Although both games are fun for a quick play, the action does get monotonous eventually, and you might even experience motion sickness during extended play. Each game offers selectable stages and high scores are allegedly saved both locally and on-line. Unfortunately, the ranking/scoring system is so complicated that I couldn't make heads or tails out of it. This is probably the weirdest arcade compilation I've ever seen, but for a select group of trigger-happy gamers, this may just be a little slice of heaven. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Haunted House
Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari Interactive (2010)
Reviewed: 2012/9/18
Rating: Everyone (language, mild blood, mild cartoon violence)

screenshotThe original Haunted House (Atari 2600, 1981) let you guide a pair of eyeballs around a four-story house to collect pieces of urn while avoiding spiders, bats, and ghosts. A remake was long overdue, but why did they have to make it so boring? This game put me to sleep. In each stage you guide a kid around a maze of rooms while pulling levers, collecting keys, and trying to find the exit. The kid-friendly graphics are decent, and the ethereal ghosts are enhanced with some nifty lighting effects. The furnishings sport a plush, antiquated look appropriate for an old house. There are stone fireplaces, suits of armor, and plenty of big chests to open. Holding in the A button lets you search furniture as a brief progress meter appears - similar to Impossible Mission (Atari 7800, 1989). You'll find a lot of items like matches, coins, keys, and health. Unfortunately these items are so ubiquitous that you get tired of searching for them. Ghosts appear in the form of apparitions and yappy dogs, and frankly they are more annoying than scary. You can usually avoid them, and if they latch onto you, you can shake them off. I like the concept of using light sources to destroy the ghosts, but it's hard to tell if you're dealing damage. The best way to clear a room is to light its fireplaces using a torch, candle, or... a cell phone app?! Haunted House is mind-numbingly repetitive. The rooms all start to look the same after a while, and the stage layouts become more sprawling as you progress. And where are the scares? The creepiest aspect of the game is the occasional cackle, creak, or distant sound of a crying baby (always unnerving for some reason). The game itself is quiet and uneventful. In fact, the original Haunted House is more exciting - and playable - than this. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Heavenly Guardian
Grade: D+
Publisher: Starfish (2007)
Reviewed: 2009/4/23
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNothing annoys me more than a perfectly good game ruined by an unreasonable difficulty level. Heavenly Guardian is a very unique overhead adventure that has a lot going for it. The game stars two young girls (snow goddesses) who wander the countryside looking for items while shooting monsters. The 2D graphics have a real Zelda flavor, and the fact that you can play cooperatively with a friend is a huge bonus. You know the graphics are Japanese anime in style when the girls have pink and purple hair! You begin in a snowy wonderland but gradually move on to greener pastures and sprawling castles. The story begins with a ton of verbose text that's as unnecessary as it is unwelcome. Once the action gets underway however, Heavenly Guardian turns out to be an interesting adventure/shooter hybrid. As you freely explore the scrolling landscapes, you can fire projectiles rapidly in any direction. Power-ups provide you with bombs, three-way shots, and homing missiles. Targeting in the two-player mode is inexact (you fire the direction you're facing), but the one-player mode gives you the benefit of aiming with the Wii-mote. Enemies tend to be "cute" in appearance, including bouncy snowmen (with top hats), black cats (on brooms), and mummies that hurl rolls of toilet paper (nice touch). The distinct soundtrack gives the game a happy-go-lucky vibe. I would have loved Heavenly Guardian if not for its unforgiving, frustrating nature. There are a lot of cheap hits, including slugs that leap out of bushes without warning. The first boss, a huge skeleton, pounds you with large homing missiles and takes forever to defeat. Continues are available, but they return you to the beginning of the stage - even if you made it all the way to the boss! Also worth mentioning that the screen is heavily cropped for some reason. I tried very hard to enjoy Heavenly Guardian, but its difficulty borders on ludicrous. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/10/2
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)

screenshotI knew House of the Dead 2 was great when I played it on the Dreamcast in 1999, but little did I know I was playing the best light-gun game ever! It perfectly combines pulse-pounding zombie shooting action, amazing eye candy, and a unique tongue-in-cheek style. House of the Dead 2 is set in an old city with water canals (not unlike Venice), and its narrow walkways and antiquated buildings provide rich, claustrophobic environments. The memorable cast of creeps includes axe-throwing zombies, overweight chainsaw-toting ghouls, and slimy water creatures. Interesting bosses include a headless knight and a leaping lizard whose chest conveniently opens to expose his beating heart. The shooting action is terrific fun, and it's especially satisfying to blow holes in a zombie's head and chest. There are even alternate paths that branch when you shoot strategic targets. The dialogue is absolutely absurd, but it's also one of the more endearing qualities of the game. Memorable lines include "Suffer like G did?", "Don't come! Don't come!", and "Thank you for rescuing me!" House of the Dead 2 has aged like wine, and this Wii edition is dead-on. You can turn the crosshair on or off, and either option works well. House of the Dead 3 is also a fine game, although it can't quite match its predecessor. Its industrial locations are ho-hum, and the visuals look somewhat cartoonish. There are no weapon upgrades like a machine gun, but the default shotgun is pretty awesome. I like how you only have to aim offscreen to reload - not shoot. If only the original House of the Dead had been included with this package, it might have been an A+. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

House of the Dead Overkill, The
Grade: C

screenshotThis long-awaited fourth installment of the popular light gun series marks a major stylistic departure. House of the Dead Overkill boasts an outrageous storyline, excessive profanity, and disturbing, grotesque bosses. Its surf-rock music and "buddy" storyline indicates a strong Pulp Fiction influence, but as its name would imply, Overkill doesn't know when to say "when". Once the shock value of hearing non-stop F-bombs subsides, the long-winded dialogue becomes boring, and eventually just plain annoying. The ending is the most disgusting ever seen in a video game, and the less said about that, the better. At its core, Overkill offers classic House of the Dead (HotD) first-person zombie-shooting in a house, train, jail, swamp, hospital, and carnival. You can blow off limbs to slow them down, or go for the fatal head shot. The zombies move at varying speeds, but a few come running at you in an alarming manner! The game's pacing is excellent, and the melon-splattering sound effect of exploding heads is very pleasing to the ears. Shooting special icons kick in slow motion, giving you extra time to zero in on the undead hordes. The traditional HotD "save the civilian" scenes are included, but where are the branching paths? Also, in previous HotD games you could shoot random boxes or pots to discover bonuses, but here your targets are limited to glowing icons, which is lame. The two-player action is fun, but the crosshairs look too similar and are easy to confuse. Overkill features seven chapters, and since each plays like its own movie, there's plenty of replay value here. The highlight of the game is the frightful carnival stage. The clowns are almost as terrifying as they are in real life, and being able to ride through a haunted house is a blast. High scores are recorded after each stage, and continues are available at the cost of you half of your points, which turns out to be a pretty ingenious scheme! You can "buy" new weapons, but I found myself sticking with the default Magnum because the others (including the shotgun) are surprisingly ineffective. Overkill has style to burn but technically it's deficient. Compared to the crisp graphics and pinpoint controls of HotD2, the visuals look muddy and the controls are inexact. There's an option to turn off the cross-hair, but you almost need it to compensate for the lousy collision detection. Worst of all, serious frame-rate issues cause the action to become jerky or even freeze momentarily. Overkill is sure to entertain light gun fans, but its lack of restraint and rampant technical issues prevent it from achieving greatness. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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