Wii Reviews N

NBA Jam
Grade: A-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/11/16
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAfter years of dealing with complicated basketball simulations, it feels great to play some straight-up, arcade-style hoops. NBA Jam is pure, unadulterated fun. Electronic Arts scored a coup when they gobbled up this long-dormant series, which was really long overdue for a comeback.

I'll give EA credit - they really stayed true to the spirit of the original NBA Jam (SNES, 1993). Before each contest you actually have to enter your initials! How old-school is that!? There are a few new moves like pump fakes and crossover dribbles, but the fast-paced two-on-two action is better than ever.

A handful of current players are available for each team, but you can gradually unlock players from the past. In terms of graphics, the classic look and style has been retained. The player models are fluidly animated and their faces are now digitized. The backgrounds are rendered entirely in 2D - something EA hasn't done in forever.

It's crazy fun as players zip from one end of the court to the other amid a flurry of blocks, steals, and thunderous, rim-rocking dunks. The number of blocked shots is excessive, but using pump-fakes can minimize these. Motion controls are used to shoot and dunk, and while they are somewhat imprecise, there's something about slamming the controller down that makes dunking all the more satisfying. The classic controller is also supported.

The original commentator has returned, and he tosses out old favorites ("he's heating up!", "boom-shaka-laka!") as well as funny new lines ("stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey!") Even the soundtrack has an old-school vibe. The only thing missing from the original series is the "tag mode", which lets you retain control after passing the ball to a CPU partner. It's a slight blemish on the single-player game, but the two-player co-op is always a rip-roaring good time. And if you get tired of the classic mode (not likely) you can even try the "remix" mode which adds even more razzle-dazzle (power-ups). So get ready to party like it's 1993, people. You don't even need to be a basketball fan to love this one. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

NHL Slapshot
Grade: A
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2010)
Reviewed: 2011/2/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNHL 11 for the Xbox 360 is a fine hockey game for die-hard fans, but NHL Slapshot is for fans and everybody else. I'm glad a reader clued me in on this one, because it wasn't even on my radar! Slapshot is a lot easier to play than NHL 11 thanks to its upbeat arcade style. We're talking simple controls, fast gameplay, minimal stoppages, and dramatic animations. Hard body checks and slap shots are punctuated by explosive audio/visual effects which makes them all the more satisfying.

The game is packaged with a contraption that holds a Wii-mote and nun-chuck so you can create your very own hockey-stick-shaped controller. I'm not going to lie to you - it's awkward, especially when the puck is loose in the front of the goal and you're flailing away like mad. Still, there's something to be said for the smooth motion of slapping the puck past the goalie in a blaze of glory. The concept could have worked if the stick was a little more comfortable. It's still worth trying, but be sure to stand up and distance yourself from fragile objects. My friend Steve practically wiped off my coffee table with one wild swing!

Once the novelty fades, you'll switch over to a normal Wii-mote/nun-chuck control scheme which is very comfortable. Shaking the Wii-mote to body-check is effective (maybe too effective), and feels a lot like Mario Strikers Charged (Wii, 2007). The only buttons you really need to use are A (pass,switch players) and B (turbo,spin). Unlike NHL 11, passing and scoring are easy, resulting in exciting contests that remain in doubt until the final few seconds. The graphics are surprisingly good - like NHL 11 minus the high-def gloss. All the NHL teams and players are included along with a wealth of minor league teams.

One feature that's easy to overlook is the 3-on-3 Pee-Wee mode which uses little kid versions of NHL stars. It's remarkably fun and its outdoor rinks offer pleasant scenery like snow-covered trees and houses. NHL Slapshot is great because it emphasizes the strengths of the sport and downplays the boring aspects. It's like the NBA Jam of hockey, and the soundtrack kicks ass as well. My friend Steve is the biggest hockey fan I know, and after a few contests he proclaimed this an "A" game with no hesitation. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Need For Speed Nitro
Grade: B-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2009)
Reviewed: 2012/6/15
Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild lyrics, mild violence)

screenshotAs one of several Need For Speed titles to grace the Wii, Nitro is decent but unspectacular. The career mode takes you through exotic locations around the globe including Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Dubai, Madrid, and Singapore.

Your first car is a real piece of crap but it handles surprisingly well. There are several control options, and I gravitated toward the one-handed scheme which is specifically designed to let you race while holding a beer. I could accelerate, brake, and turn left with ease, but when I tried to turn right I almost broke my wrist. To avoid further bodily harm I opted for the Mario Kart-style "sideways" configuration, which works like a charm.

The controls are great, and I love how you can initiate long power-slides by tapping the brake and then hitting the accelerator. Double-tapping the A button kicks in the turbo which literally sets the road on fire (true story bro). The graphics are the weakest aspect of the game. With such exotic locations you would expect bright, arcade-style graphics, but the scenery looks foggy and washed-out. This lack of pizzazz is just magnified in the split-screen mode.

To atone for the dull scenery the game incorporates special effects like having buildings washed over with graffiti as you drive by them. It's fun to work through the career mode to gradually unlock cars and tracks. The police can be annoying, but they do play a strategic role in the game. Need for Speed Nitro plays well, and if you sink your teeth into the career mode just might just get hooked. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/11/29
Rating: Everyone


screenshotFor years I've lamented how 2D titles have been relegated to portable systems and downloadables. As the popularity of classic gaming attests, the 2D style of play is still viable, and if anything, the games age better than their 3D counterparts. Finally Nintendo has relented and released a traditional 2D Super Mario game for the Wii - and they did it right.

The understated visuals and toe-tapping music are consistent with the classic NES games - almost to a fault! The jump, bump, and pounce action is just as enjoyable as it's always been, with the turtles, fire-ball spewing flowers, beanstalks rising to the sky, and haunted house stages. You can even ride Yoshi! The cleverly designed stages are spiced up with interesting rotation effects, and the bright snow areas exude holiday cheer. New moves include the ability to throw objects and vault off of walls. New suits give you the ability to fly like a helicopter, slide like a penguin, or become tiny.

Nintendo managed to incorporate motion controls without having them feel forced or contrived. Shaking the controller lets you "take off" with the propeller suit, and tilting the Wii-mote lets you adjust the angle of certain platforms. Finishing each stage is only moderately difficult, but the real challenge lies in collecting all of the star coins.

One major new feature is the ability for four players to participate at once, but while it sounds great on paper, the characters tend to knock into each other, making it difficult to execute jumps. It's very chaotic and I really wish the players would "overlap" each other instead. Oh well, you don't throw away a Cadillac just because it has a dent in it! New Super Mario Bros. Wii proves that graphics are only screen-deep, but classic gameplay is timeless. The 3D Mario games were terrific, but Nintendo has finally given us what we've wanted all along. Take note, Sega! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Nights: Journey Into Dreams
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (2007)
Reviewed: 2008/3/24
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe first game in this series, Nights Into Dreams (Saturn, 1997), was one of the more innovative titles for the system, developing a cult status over the years. Fans have waited an eternity for this sequel, but sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for. While Journey Into Dreams maintains the same magical, fairytale style of the original game, it's not nearly as fun.

As in the first Nights, a kid-turned-fairy glides through wondrous 3D environments while flying through hoops and looping around foes. Although the action takes place on a 2D plane, a swinging camera conveys the depth and visual wonder of a rich fantasy world. In the original game your goal was to collect chips in a certain period of time, but in Journey you chase down birds to obtain keys, and your proximity to the bird seems controlled in large part by the CPU. There's a slew of bonus stages including a wild river ride, but your objectives are rarely clear.

Journey Into Dreams is also guilty of an unnecessary, overwrought storyline, complete with cringe-worthy, unskippable cut-scenes. Instead of sensible dialogue, we get garbage like "It's the white Ideya! This is the purity that was missing from my heart!" Your dream world is populated with giggly "Nightopian" midgets, and these things are the worst idea since Ewoks! I wish very much for harm to come upon them all. The pinball-inspired boss stages feature creepy clowns, but these would be better if you could tell what was going on, as the camera has a mind of its own.

Last but not least, the controls are terrible. Pointing a Wii-mote to "aim" your flying character is counter-intuitive and awkward. The classic controller fares slightly better, but the ridges around the thumbsticks limit the ability to fine-tune your angle. I finally settled on the GameCube controller, which also has ridges, but they are a bit less pronounced. The sad fact of the matter is, this game would have been better suited to the 360 or PS3. The scenery is colorful and pleasant, but not spectacular. The musical score offers a gentle, dreamy theme that blends well with the action on the screen.

The game's design and user interface could have used some fine-tuning. It took me a while to realize the little book on the corner of the screen indicated my game was being saved. Would displaying the word "saving" have been too hard? Likewise, the obscure objectives and sometimes hard-to-read screen indicators make you wonder if Sega fired their entire Quality Assurance department. And you might as well forget about the headache-inducing two-player mode. After about 15 seconds, my friends exclaimed "Ugh! Turn this [expletive] thing off!" Not only does Journey Into Dreams fail to live up to expectations, but it calls into question the viability of the franchise as a whole. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Ninja Reflex
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/11/19
Rating: Everyone


screenshotHere's a mildly entertaining title that incorporates martial arts skills into a series of brief mini-games. Ironically, Ninja Reflex does not use the nun-chuck attachment, despite the fact that it does have a nun-chuck game! When played solo, your goal is to earn a series of colored belts while working your way through increasingly difficult challenges.

The six basic game variations include shuriken (throwing star) tossing, katana (sword) fighting, and smashing fruit with nun-chucks. The other three variations focus on your reflexes as you catch flies with chopsticks (not as hard as it sounds!), pull fish from a pond with your bare hands, or catch lightning bugs. No challenge runs more than a minute, and many last just a few seconds.

I found them all to be fairly enjoyable when taken in small doses - there's really not a dud in the bunch. If you're looking for some sophisticated swordplay however, you'll be disappointed with the katana game. Not only are you limited to simple blocking and slashing motions, but it's hard to get the side-blocks to register. Still, it's satisfying to slash your foes with the simple flick of the wrist.

The graphics and audio are a pleasant surprise. Despite what the generic box cover would imply, each stage offers gorgeous views of traditional Asian villages with dense foliage and colorful flowers. The traditional string music is also effective. Ninja Reflex is shallow fun, and if you can pick it up cheap, it's not a bad way to spend a few hours. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Nitrobike
Grade: B
Publisher: Ubisoft (2008)
Reviewed: 2014/3/22
Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotThis grungy, high-octane motorcycle racer incorporates short tracks, rugged terrain, and an amazing sense of speed. As in Excite Truck (Wii, 2006), you'll slide around banked turns, fly off ramps, and kick in the nitro on long straightaways. The first time I hit the nitro (sometimes known as turbo) I was like, "WHOA!!" It has that Millenium Falcon hyperdrive effect! Time it right and you can soar over large sections of hills and obstacles. Some of the curvier tracks can be hard to follow, but animated arrows help guide you along.

The career mode is divided into a series of races and challenges (time trial, rings), culminating in a cup event that lets you unlock the next series. There's a lot of muddy tracks that look downright junky but offer plenty of opportunity for mayhem. Later you can unlock snowy mountains and coastal tracks that look more appealing. The controls force you to tilt the Wiimote, and it's easy to oversteer.

My friend Scott claims Nitrobike would have been "A" material with better control options. At least it's forgiving. You can't fall over unless you crash, and even after mammoth jumps you always land flat on your tires. Your nitro supply is unlimited but using too much causes your engine to overheat and explode. CPU opponents tend to bunch up, making it easy to go from "worst to first" or vice versa. Just try to stay in the hunt! I like how the CPU riders can make mistakes. They will occasionally crash and burn, accompanied by some funny rag-doll physics. Upon earning a medal in a race you can save your progress. Unfortunately, the endless number of prompts you need to complete the save process is almost comical.

The soundtrack features the standard grinding guitars but nothing objectionable. The single player mode is addictive as hell, and you will find yourself cursing out loud during certain tracks. The split-screen action is very good, although the controls feel different. There's a lot of play value here, including unlockable bonus games like a motorcycle version of bowling. Nitrobike may not be as polished as other racers in its class, but if you're looking for a shot of adrenaline this one won't let you down. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

No More Heroes
Grade: B+
Publisher: Ubisoft (2008)
Reviewed: 2020/9/19
Rating: Mature (17+) blood and gore, crude humor, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language

screenshotWith dramatic camera angles, quick-cut editing, and immersive controls, No More Heroes is a fighting game with style to burn. Its protagonist is a guy named Travis Touchdown armed with a "beam katana" which looks a heck of a lot like a lightsaber. With his slim build and glasses, Travis has a refreshing everyman quality. Your goal is to become the world's number one professional killer by fighting your way up the ranks. The gameplay consists of exploration, mini-games, and a truckload of sword-fighting mayhem.

Buttons are used for basic attacks but motion still plays a role. Orienting the Wii-mote lets you assume a high or low stance, and swinging the controller delivers devastating finishing blows punctuated by fountains of blood. You can decapitate a henchman or slice him in two with a flick of the wrist. Recharging your katana is done by shaking the Wii-mote in a fairly obscene manner, and considering the game's irreverent tone I suspect that was by design.

No More Heroes boils down to a series of boss encounters set in diverse locations ranging from a subway to a beach to an exotic mansion. Naturally you'll first have to work your way through an army of henchmen. Between bouts you'll cruise around the city on your motorcycle looking for odd jobs to earn enough cash for the next "entry fee". This is the weakest aspect of the game, as you're forced to perform menial chores like cutting grass, pumping gas, and picking up trash.

A quirky sense of humor pervades the entire game and there's an odd sense of self-awareness, celebrating the fact that it's a video game with pixelated icons, old-school sound effects, and classic game references. You have to respect a game willing to take chances and No More Heroes doesn't pull any punches. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

No More Heroes 2
Grade: C+
Publisher: Ubisoft (2010)
Reviewed: 2020/9/19
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language)

screenshotThe original No More Heroes (Ubisoft, 2008) won me over with its brash style and unbridled violence. The thing is, I'm reviewing this sequel over a decade after its release. Does the gameplay still hold up? No More Heroes 2 is set in the decadent city of "Santa Destroy". Real subtle huh? The game immediately shows its age with a scene showing criminals knocking off a video rental store.

Our hero Travis Touchdown gets down to business with a one-on-one rooftop showdown. The gently-falling snowflakes and beautiful night skyline create a terrific sense of atmosphere. Your "beam katana" weapon is kind of a cross between a lightsaber and a fluorescent lightbulb. The hectic fighting action combines button mashing with Wii-mote movements. The Wii doesn't support high definition graphics but the game does a nice job of softening the edges to keep things looking clean.

Travis' goal is to win over his female love interest by working his way up the fighter rankings, beginning at number 52! It's not as hard as it sounds, as you might jump a dozen or more places after a single match. Between fights you'll regroup in your apartment and play with your overweight cat. As a cat owner I'm shocked these cat minigames don't employ motion controls.

Like the original game No More Heroes 2 prides itself on being as outrageous as possible. The women all dress sexy and the camera lingers over their bodies. The dialog is profane and sometimes breaks the "fourth wall". The battles are worth the price of admission, with villains so unique you'll always look forward to seeing what the next one has in store. Dealing with their henchmen becomes kind of routine, but once you meet the boss things can escalate to comical proportions. One minute you're fighting a ghoul in a haunted house, and the next you're battling a shogun warrior on another planet! This game is so over the top I can't always follow what's going on, but when that excellent music kicks in it can feel quite exhilarating.

The main flaw with No More Heroes 2 is its camerawork. It's so hard to locate the boss at a given time I frequently found myself lashing out blindly. Having to wag the Wiimote for heavy attacks and recharging is tiresome. The audio can be downright obnoxious, whether it's a boss repeatedly shouting "F--- YOU!" or being subjected to an annoying Wiimote beep when your energy is low. Between fights you perform "side jobs" in the form of 8-bit video games but despite their visual charm I didn't find any to be the least bit fun. It's not a complete success but you can't deny No More Heroes 2 is one epic testosterone-fueled exhibition of kick-ass. They don't make 'em like this anymore. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


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