Wii Reviews H-K

Haunted House
Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari Interactive (2010)
Posted: 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!

Each stage has you guiding 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)
Posted: 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 with 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 start 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.

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1 or 2 players 

House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (2008)
Posted: 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.

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1 or 2 players 

House of the Dead Overkill, The
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (2009)
Posted: 2009/2/28
Rating: Mature

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 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 a 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.

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1 or 2 players 

I Spy Spooky Mansion
Grade: B
Publisher: Scholastic (2010)
Posted: 2020/11/18
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI tried this one on a whim but soon found myself totally into it! Based on a series of kid books, I Spy Spooky Mansion is a well-crafted game of find-the-hidden-and-not-so-hidden-items. You've been locked inside a haunted house with a friendly skeleton who supplies a series of puzzles to help you escape. In each room you're given a list of ten objects to locate in your surroundings. These items tend to be totally random like frog legs, a fork, a shovel, eggs, a toy car... you name it.

The fact that each room is so jam-packed with stuff makes it fun to locate your particular items. You can look around freely but can't zoom in, and the low-resolution graphics can look a little indistinct at times. Some objects are not what you'd expect. A flower might be a literal flower or it might be a design on a vase. A rat might be an actual rat or merely the shadow of a rat.

This game is very clever. You'll usually spot a few right off the bat but that last one will have you pulling your hair out! While not especially scary the Halloween vibe is terrific. The decrepit house is fun to explore with all of its odd pictures, antiquated furniture, and secret passages. Contributing to the atmosphere are alarming sound effects like wind, footsteps, creaks, and howling wolves. These sounds really freaked out my cats!

The weakest aspect of the game are its mini-games which incorporate all the obligatory motion controls. You'll catch flies in a net, bob for apples, and navigate a marble through a maze. They're all pretty easy and mercifully short. Complete the entire house and you may be disappointed to discover you'll need to do it all over again with remixed items. Then again, maybe you won't be disappointed. I Spy Spooky Manor is aimed at kids but its addictive gameplay and Halloween spirit will enchant gamers of any age. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings
Grade: B
Publisher: LucasArts (2009)
Posted: 2009/8/9
Rating: Teen

screenshotWhen I see critics bash this game, I think to myself, "what the [expletive] were they expecting?" High definition graphics? Taken for what it is, Staff of Kings is exceptionally playable, incorporating intuitive motion controls while getting the most out of the system's limited graphic capabilities. Its third-person perspective evokes Tomb Raider, but there's far more emphasis on shooting and hand-to-hand combat.

The Indiana Jones character looks just like Harrison Ford (down to his bow legged run), and the voice acting is dead-on. The rich musical score and exotic environments really capture that distinctive Indiana Jones flavor. The tombs are interesting to explore, and the one in Panama reminded me of the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I like how you shake the controllers to punch, throw, or crack the whip. You're also prompted to shake frantically to escape hazards, and this keeps you on your toes.

During fight scenes, normal items like cue balls and pool sticks can be used as weapons. Aiming your gun with the Wii-mote is very precise - especially if you have Wii-motion plus. Your whip can also be used to rappel, bring down unstable platforms, and pull levers. Climbing, swinging, and taking cover is semi-automatic, and this makes up for some of the game's more awkward control moments.

Vehicle stages provide a nice change of pace, letting you pilot a plane through a rocky gorge or engage in a shootout on a run-away cable car. Critics enjoy mocking the graphics of Wii games like this, but I like the look of this game. The lighting and attention to detail is terrific, especially in dark, neon-lit alleyways of San Francisco.

Staff of Kings is compelling but it does have some rough edges. The checkpoints are frequent, but you're often forced to re-watch cut-scenes or tutorials. Some stages are confusing. One sequence involved saving a girl with my whip, but I couldn't make out what the diagram on the screen was prompting me to do. The game also has its share of minor graphical and frame-rate hiccups. If the adventure seems a tad short, that's partly due to the minimal load times and quick pacing.

As a neat bonus, a second complete Indiana Jones game is also included: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. This 1992 point-and-click PC game is still fun to play and its 2D graphics have held up well. Together, these two provide some of the best Indiana Jones action you'll find on any console. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Indy 500 Legends
Grade: B-
Publisher: Destineer (2007)
Posted: 2018/6/22
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe following review is ghost-written by a friend who has not only driven vintage Indy cars on an oval track, but has even lapped the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The intersection between diehard 60's-era Indy car fans and Wii owners must be exceedingly small. Having such a niche target audience however enabled developer Torus to go all-in and knock it out of the park. Considering this is a budget game limited in scope and variety, what they accomplished is fairly amazing. I grew up in Indiana during the 80's as many of the great traditions of the Indy 500 were either gone or fading. My father and grandfather would tell me stories from the 40's, 50's, and 60's when front engine cars dominated and the roar of an Offy was the greatest aural experience the world had to offer. Indy 500 Legends allows me to relive those significant years from 1961 to 1971 when American oval track racing saw the transition from the front engine cars (such as the dominant Watson roadsters) to the Ford-powered rear engined cars.

A couple years ago my father passed away. In the 30+ years I have owned and played video games I never detected any hint of genuine interest from him in any game until I fired up Indy 500 Legends. He was hooked. The tilt controls on the Wiimote can be tricky for realistic racing, but due to the subtle movements inherent in high speed oval track racing they work perfectly. Anyone can pick it up and play, but it takes a few laps to get the technique down. We worked through some of the challenges, pit stops, and a few short races. We watched all of the bonus video material. His intimate knowledge of the track enabled him to quickly master the game and teach me a thing or two. The historical accuracy of the track, cars, and audio clips of Tom Carnegie are great, and the graphics are not bad at all. The sound effects leave something to be desired and at times the gameplay borders on ridiculous (massive pileups get comical after the 15th car) but those don't hurt the playability or fun factor.

The VGC would be extremely reluctant to grant a niche game like this an A. That's fair. Amongst vintage racing games however, which admittedly are few and far between, this game certainly deserves an A. Indy 500 Legends gives the player a realistic taste of the most significant era of the world's most iconic racing event. In the context of Wii games in general I have no hesititation giving it a B- and considering that a great grade. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Jaws: Ultimate Predator
Grade: F-
Publisher: Majesco (2011)
Posted: 2012/9/18
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)

screenshotA few years back I played a really bad Jaws game called Jaws Unleashed (Xbox, 2005), which was about as fun as being consumed by an actual shark. Ultimate Predator is equally unpleasant. The opening cut-scene has still pictures with voice-overs. The characters are real actors processed by computers to give them a "painted" look. It's a bizarre effect that screams "low budget".

You view the action from behind your shark, not unlike Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future (Dreamcast, 2000). It seems reasonable that you can dart forward, bite, and swat with your tail. After all, this is the kind of stuff sharks do in their free time. Less convincing are moves like "block" and the ability to perform "combos". Umm... is this a fighting game?! The bloated control scheme even incorporates a targeting system and a "shark sense" which transforms the entire screen into split pea soup (ugh).

Short missions let you do stuff like maul divers, kill squid, and destroy boats. It sounds like a lot more fun than it is. Instead of ripping off limbs and ramming boats, you just kind of thrash around until your victims magically disappear. You wouldn't even be able to tell if you were dealing damage if the divers didn't blink red! The collision detection is pathetic, and the horrendous camera makes it hard to see what's going on. Where is the gore? Where's the bloody carnage?! Even kids will regard this as super lame. The game is bug-ridden as well, as I discovered when I became hopelessly stuck in the opening tutorial! Jaws Ultimate Predator is a bad game that preys on unsuspecting customers. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Jenga World Tour
Grade: D+
Publisher: Atari (2007)
Posted: 2008/2/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIf there was one board game that begged for a video game adaptation, it was not Jenga. I've been a fan of the actual game for years, but I've always associated it with rowdy social events and heavy alcohol consumption (not that I would ever condone rowdy social events).

The real game is played with a stack of rectangular wooden blocks. Players take turns pulling a block out of the tower, placing it on the top. As the tower becomes taller, it grows unstable, and the player who makes it fall is crowned the loser. So what's the point of playing Jenga on your Wii? Well, it's the same reason why people play Chess on their computer - it's the ability to compete against the CPU. You don't need anybody around to play Jenga World Tour, and you can adjust the skill level as high as you want.

Even so, reviewing Jenga World Tour required a lot of patience. The controls are so inordinately complicated that I couldn't even make it through the damned tutorial! The B button is used to "tap" loose blocks (which are outlined in green) and A is used to "grab" and carefully perform the extraction. It's hard to judge the depth of your disembodied hand, but you do have full control of the camera via the analog stick.

Once I got a feel for it, the game isn't so bad. It's kind of cool how you can yank a piece with a jerk of the wrist, and the game mirrors your precise movements as you set the piece back on top of the pile. When playing the CPU, his moves are executed without delay, so there's never a lull in the action. The World Tour mode provides a steady progression of challenges, and I really dig the scenery and relaxing music. The first stage is set in a high-rise apartment at night, and you can view a beautiful city skyline through the window.

An arcade mode lets you play Jenga for score, and it spices up the action with random factors like earthquakes (shakes the tower), ice (no friction when removing blocks), and vines (locks some blocks into place). Jenga World Tour is not for those with short attention spans, and arcade-minded gamers will absolutely hate it. But if you're looking for a calmer, more relaxing video game experience, Jenga World Tour might be worth a look. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Jurassic: The Hunted
Grade: C+
Publisher: Activision (2009)
Posted: 2010/6/22
Rating: Teen (blood, mild language, violence)

screenshotI've always been a sucker for dinosaur games, so Jurassic: The Hunted was a no-brainer for me. You begin this first-person shooter as a member of a search party flying over the Bermuda Triangle. Your plane is sucked into a time vortex (hate it when that happens) and suddenly you're stuck in the middle of a prehistoric jungle.

The Hunted is linear in structure, with your path constrained by dense foliage and rocky walls. The nun-chuck is used to move and the Wii-mote lets you look around and aim. You move at two speeds: slow (upright) and slower (crouch). I would have liked a run button, but for the most part the game demands a slow, measured approach.

Jurassic's graphics are a little muddled, making it easy for small dinosaurs to hide in the weeds or blend into rocks. The aiming controls are precise from a distance, but when a dinosaur starts chomping on your leg it's hard to tell which way is up. Your current objective is indicated by a marker on the horizon which also displays the distance. Blasting lunging dinosaurs is intense but not as satisfying as it should be. Most of the time you're pitted against small, scampering reptiles, and it can be hard to get a bead on them. You'll find a lot of useless weapons which either lack firepower or take forever to reload.

Not until you obtain the shotgun and assault rifle do things start to get interesting. Unfortunately, the game doesn't bother to inform you that picking up a new weapon will replace your current one, and on several occasions I accidentally swapped out my kick-ass machine gun for a Civil War-era peashooter. One feature I really like is the adrenaline meter. Not only does it slow down the action, but it gives you an x-ray view of the dinosaurs, making it easy to zero-in on critical organs. Don't stop firing until those drums stop beating! Occasionally you have the opportunity to man a turret against a dinosaur onslaught, allowing you to rack up a body count comparable to a Rambo movie.

The Hunted has a few annoyances, including long-distance spitting dinosaurs that make you wonder where the hell the damage is coming from. Giant predators like the T-Rex doesn't even make an appearance until you're halfway through the game. There are times when Jurassic: The Hunted feels like a second-rate shooter, but it did just enough right to hold my attention. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Kawasaki Jet Ski
Grade: F
Publisher: Data Design Interactive (2008)
Posted: 2008/6/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAs a fan of Wave Race 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996) and Hydro Thunder (Dreamcast, 1999), the idea of a Wii jet ski game had me frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog in a Snausage factory. It didn't take long to realize however that Kawasaki Jet Ski is another case of Wii shovelware - a disposable title if I ever saw one. Do they really think people are gullible enough to spend money on this?! Oh wait...

I had played Carve (Xbox, 2003) shortly before reviewing this, and believe it or not, that five-year-old game was far more advanced! Kawasaki Jet Ski's graphics are rudimentary, with plain environments and water that looks more like glass. Despite exotic locations like Venice and Thailand, the scenery conveys a complete lack of detail and imagination. The controls are extremely touchy and the framerate is erratic, resulting in wild oversteering. Upon going airborne, your jet ski floats unnaturally, occasionally stopping and then lurching forward for no apparent reason. When you become stuck in a corner (a common occurrence), you'll need to hit a special button to reset your jet ski because there's no reverse.

Glitches abound in the audio, which sounds like a headache-inducing din of motors. There's no commentator, but I did hear a voice say "Good!" when I came in last. But the worst aspect of the game is its atrocious course designs. Instead of cruising the open waters of a tropical paradise, you tediously navigate narrow canals with one abrupt 90-degree turn after the next. It's hard to tell where you're supposed to go! And get this - the difficulty levels are reversed, so the "easy" level is treacherous and the "hard" level is slow and forgiving!

Kawasaki Jet Ski is a real hatchet job. Adding insult to injury, the loading process makes you sit through no less less than five logo screens. Did these companies really want to take credit, or were they just trying to spread the blame?? © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Kawasaki Snowmobiles
Grade: F
Publisher: Data Design Interactive (2008)
Posted: 2009/1/28
Rating: Everyone

screenshotVideo games are meant to be played, but Kawasaki Snowmobiles can only be endured. I can handle sub-par graphics, but the abysmal controls make each race an agonizing experience. I guess I shouldn't have expected much, considering how heinous that Kawasaki Jet Ski game I reviewed last summer was.

Kawasaki Snowmobiles fails on every level. The stadium-enclosed courses are so generic you can't tell one from the next. The snow doesn't look bad, but the snowmobiles appear to be floating above the surface - not unlike Luke Skywalker's landspeeder! The controls are worthless. Kawasaki employs the standard "tilt-the-controller" steering scheme, but your mobile tends to veer unpredictably side-to-side, and you'll struggle to keep it from tipping over.

Staying on the track is futile, but that's okay because you can cut across the course and skip large track sections with no penalty! Occasionally you'll find yourself facing a wall, making it necessary to hit reverse. Inexplicably, this causes the camera angle to reverse itself, which is completely disorienting. Don't worry about falling too far behind though, because your three bunched-up opponents slow down for you when you fall behind. You'll wish they didn't wait up, because the races are so long that you'll be begging for their merciful conclusion.

There's no turbo button or any real strategy to speak of, besides the aforementioned cheating. Kawasaki Snowmobile proves an interesting point: Just because a game is dirt-cheap doesn't necessarily mean you'll get your money's worth. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga
Grade: A
Publisher: SNK (2008)
Posted: 2009/7/18
Rating: Teen

screenshotThese old King of Fighters games age like wine. Whenever I revisit them, I always discover a cool new move or notice an interesting detail in the artistic backdrops. With a possible exception of the Street Fighter 2 franchise, no series can touch King of Fighters' perfectly tuned gameplay. This value-priced compilation includes King of Fighters 94, 95, 96, 97, and 98. That's not all of them (they continued to 2003), but it does represent the hey-day of the series.

Each edition introduced new characters, backgrounds, and slight tweaks to the gameplay. Some of the characters may seem generic, but they all have a human quality that keeps the action grounded and easy to follow. The magnificent backgrounds include memorable locations like a smoky jazz bar and a bustling city street outside of a fictional Neo Geo store. Hell, even the smoke-belching factory looks like a work of art!

The outstanding gameplay shines with its fast pacing, familiar controls, and intense matches that end with a bang. The audio is also notable, dishing out high energy electronic tunes and crisp sound effects that punctuate each thwack of a punch and thud of a body hitting the ground. In addition to the original games, a challenge mode lets you unlock media including artwork and music. Some of these challenges are pretty imaginative, like the one in which fighters inflict no damage but the last one to take a hit is "poisoned", causing his life to gradually drain.

While this version of Orochi Saga is basically identical to the PS2 edition, the progressive scan output will play better on HDTVs (no lag). I should also mention that this game worked well with my "Fighting Stick Wii" arcade stick. It's hard to find fault with this collection, which delivers some of the best 2D fighting you'll see in the past, present, or future. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Kirby's Dream Collection Special Edition
Grade: C+
Publisher: Nintendo (2012)
Posted: 2013/6/15
Rating: Everyone 10+ (animated blood, cartoon violence)

screenshotEven if you hate his freakin' guts, you have to respect Kirby as a Nintendo icon. Since 1992 he has appeared in well over 20 games spanning all the Nintendo platforms. Dream Collection gives you six of them, and while I'd hardly call it a dream collection, it's still a good value. Kirby games were designed to be "fun for everyone" so don't expect much in the way of challenge.

Kirby is a jolly little pink fellow who can inhale enemies and spit them out. His debut title, Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy, 1992), was a refreshing change of pace from the standard Mario Bros. formula. Kirby's Adventure (NES, 1993) gave Kirby colorful fantasy worlds to explore and also empowered him to absorb the abilities of those he swallowed. This introduces all sorts of cool powers like breathing fire, growing porcupine needles, and smacking enemies with an umbrella.

Kirby's Dream Land 2 (Game Boy, 1995) brought that sophisticated gameplay to the Game Boy. It added the idea of collecting stars to earn lives, and you can even ride around on a hamster. Kirby Super Star (SNES, 1996) was an eight-games-in-one deal, making this a collection within a collection! These games up the ante with dazzling, candy-like graphics only the SNES can deliver.

Kirby's Dream Land 3 (SNES, 1998) was one of the final games released for the SNES, employing an artistic, illustrated style. Kirby and the Crystal Shards (Nintendo 64, 2000) had 3D graphics but maintained the same solid 2D gameplay. It features some nifty visual effects, like a little girl who draws pictures that come to life. These old games are fine but the all-new Kirby Challenge Stages really steal the show. Each stage arms you with one of Kirby's classic abilities like a sword, electricity, parasol (umbrella), kung fu, or whip. You have two and a half minutes to navigate platforms while collecting coins and smashing foes. The timer adds a sense of urgency, and the game has a fast-paced, chaotic quality.

If Kirby's Dream Collection has a flaw, it's the confusing quit/save system. For the older games you must use the "reset" option on the home screen, which saves your progress whether you like it or not. The Special Edition includes an informative color booklet and a soundtrack CD. Fans should bump up the grade by a letter, but this is probably more Kirby than the average gamer can withstand. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Kirby's Epic Yarn
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (2010)
Posted: 2011/1/29
Rating: Everyone

screenshotBetween this and Donkey Kong Returns, I'm starting to think that other companies might as well quit the platforming business because Nintendo's got the whole genre sewn up. Kirby's Epic Yarn has a captivating, original style that gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

Once you get past its yawn-inducing intro you're immersed in a soft world composed of fabrics, yarns, buttons, and zippers. The controls are instantly comfortable, and the degree of polish is extraordinary. Kirby is a cute pink ghost equally likely to elicit squeals of delight or groans of annoyance. In previous games Kirby could swallow his foes to obtain their powers, but in Epic Yarn he transforms into various shapes like a car, parachute, fish, or weight. Armed with a handy lasso, he can "untie" enemies or interact with the scenery in amazing ways.

The game strikes an old-school chord with its 2D gameplay, sideways control scheme, and point system. The fabricated visuals look photo-realistic (a la Little Big Planet), and when you yank a button to pull a platform closer, it's remarkably satisfying. The game moves at a leisurely pace, and the tranquil music combined with the surreal visuals makes it almost feel like a religious experience. It's fun to collect gems and patches as you explore each stage, and a handy meter at the top of the screen keeps you posted on your progress.

The stages are short and forgiving, and the game is definitely easy. But just when you're starting to get bored something unexpected will put a big smile on your face. Kirby will transform into a giant yarn tank and blast through the scenery, or become a fire truck that battles flames by tilting a hose. The one turn-off about the game is its childish voices and storybook-style cut-scenes. Even so, Epic Yarn is still appealing on many levels. It manages to take a lot of familiar concepts and present them in a way that seems completely fresh and original. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Kirby's Return to Dream Land
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (2009)
Posted: 2021/1/17
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI've grown a bit numb to Kirby's saccharine-sweet brand of platforming over the years, but Return to Dream Land's cheerful graphics put me in a good mood. Whenever a game asks you to hold the Wiimote sideways you know you know you're in for some old-school fun.

Dream Land reprises the classic "inhale enemies to assume their traits" gameplay. One minute you're a cowboy with a lasso, the next you're breathing fire, and then you're sprouting spikes. These powers add variety and you'll need to juggle them to access hidden areas. The overall format of the game is predictable as you collect parts of a ship while advancing through innocuously-named worlds like "cookie country", "raisin ruins", and "onion ocean". Since the graphics are very cartoonish, they aren't compromised by the system's lack of high definition.

Dream Land feels effortless to play at times, especially when controlling a character as nimble as Kirby. Not only can he scoot up and down ladders with ease, he can puff himself up to float above the fray. He has a life bar so taking an inadvertent hit is rarely fatal. The bosses are so easy you'll beat them on your first attempt. What sets Dream Land from previous Kirby outings is its degree of destruction. There's a hat weapon that constantly lobs cannonballs forward, obliterating everything in your path. There's a power that lets you transform into a giant snowball, steamrolling everything in your way. There's even a Zelda-esque "ultra sword" that will let you level a mountain in a single blow! These really elevate the excitement when the game really needs a shot in the arm.

Each stage has a set of hidden cogs and you will be scratching your head trying to track down all of these things. The game makes limited use of motion controls, but they are the worst kind - the ones where you need to frantically shake the Wiimote. To inhale large blocks you need to shake the Wii-mote while holding down the one button which is somewhat counter-intuitive. The game is rich with imagination but after a while however its wispy gameplay and happy-go-lucky music grow tiresome. That said, Kirby's Return to Dream Land will make you smile and there's something to be said for that. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Grade: B+
Publisher: Bandai (2008)
Posted: 2010/4/10
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotThis game is the embodiment of Spring with its lush green grass, flowery paths, cascading streams, and breezy music. Klonoa's simple platform gameplay and cheerful graphics harken back to the 16-bit era. While playing this game I experienced flashbacks of Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991), Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis, 1990), Donkey Kong Country (SNES, 1994), and Pandemonium! (PS1, 1996).

The Dreamcast-quality visuals are smooth and the water looks inviting. You guide our furry hero through windmills, tree houses, caves, castles, and forests. Some areas let you ride on mine carts or careen down waterslides. Klonoa's imaginative stages are rendered in 3D but played in 2D, delivering the best of both worlds. The pathways tend to intertwine, often giving you a glimpse of areas to come.

The simple control scheme is limited to grabbing and jumping - no motion controls to contend with. Jumping is a bit touchy, but your ability to hover momentarily allows for some margin for error. What makes Klonoa unique is how you manipulate chubby, bouncy enemies to perform basic actions. Whether you're vaulting off of one to perform a double-jump, or throwing one to clear an obstacle, you'll find a number of creative uses for these guys.

Conquering each stage isn't particularly hard, but collecting the elusive puzzle pieces gives the game some replay value. Frequent checkpoints appear in the form of alarm clocks and you can save your progress between stages. Klonoa's second-grade dialogue can get a little tedious, but you can hit the minus button to skip it. This is a relatively easy adventure, but even seasoned gamers will appreciate Klonoa's old-school gameplay and innocent charm. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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