Wii Reviews O-Q

Obscure: The Aftermath
Grade: D
Publisher: Ignition (2008)
Reviewed: 2012/11/27
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, mild sexual themes, violence)

screenshotThis low-profile survival horror title begins at a college campus with a party atmosphere and rocking soundtrack. It's a refreshing change, but it quickly transitions into the typical doom and gloom we're all more accustomed to. You control two students at a time, toggling between them as they work as a team. In addition to a deserted college campus you'll explore a creepy forest and nearby hospital. Characters have unique skills like the ability to jump, move heavy objects, or solve puzzles.

Obscure does a good job of conveying an ominous, mysterious atmosphere. The buildings look properly aged, the furnishings are lush, and the shadowy lighting is effective. The haunting soundtrack is appropriate but the sound effects are too understated. You probably won't even notice a huge behemoth approaching until it's bearing down on you. Don't be afraid to touch the mysterious plants, because these offer a very non-intuitive way to save your progress!

Some of the game's puzzles can be hard to grasp, and invisible walls add to the frustration. You can bash generic monsters with baseball bats and hockey sticks, but the controls are unwieldy. There are constant prompts to "look" or "use" objects, but you don't know what it's referring to! To fire your gun you'll need to hold the Z button, point the Wii-mote at the monster, hold A to lock on, and press B to shoot. Wow - maybe next time they can incorporate a third controller!

The roving camera rarely gives you a decent view of the action, and monsters tend to lurk off-screen. Fights tend to be in close quarters or dark areas, so you just flail away and hope for the best. With two-players the camera spins like a carousel, and it made me absolutely nauseous. Save points are unevenly spaced, and there are no checkpoints. Obscure isn't a bad option if you're desperate for something new in the genre, but be prepared for some serious aggravation. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers
Grade: D+
Publisher: D3 Publishing (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/8/9
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, sexual themes, violence)

screenshotTo best describe this game, I'll take a line from ex-Ravens coach Brian Billick: "It is what it is". Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers is a preposterous beat-em-up pitting cute chicks in sexy costumes against legions of zombies. The 360 version of the game is an unapologetic button masher, so naturally this Wii version is an arm-shaker.

In case you're wondering what the title means, "Onechan" is Japanese for "big/older sister and "Chanbara" means over-the-top samurai swordplay. Put them together and you get a potent mix of action and eye candy. You select from a stripper wearing some cowboy get-up, or her sister decked out in a schoolgirl uniform. The game begins in a subway station crawling with shambling ghouls. By shaking the Wii-mote repeatedly, you efficiently slice, dice and fillet ghouls as blood splatters and limbs fly.

When you tear into a group of zombies, blurry motion effects kick in, and they are both satisfying and mesmerizing. New attacks and combos are unlocked as you progress, but the mindless beatings never end. You hack up one mob, and another sprouts from the ground to take their place. The fact that the instruction book is a paltry three pages in length says a lot about the depth of the gameplay. The graphics are fair, but to be honest, these babes look 100 times better in the Xbox 360 version.

The endless shaking of the controllers took its toll on my wrist, but I found that moving my arm at the elbow was just as effective and less painful. A two-player mode is also included, but it's boring and feels tacked-on. Onechanbara is an oddball title, and I'm surprised it's even available stateside. If you're ever in the mood for bikinis, zombies, and slaying, you might find this entertaining in short doses. But you definitely have to be in the mood. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Oregon Trail: 40th Anniversary Edition
Grade: B-
Publisher: Red Wagons Games (2011)
Reviewed: 2020/9/1
Rating: Everyone (comic mischief, cartoon violence, use of tobacco)

screenshotIf you grew up in the 1980's the name Oregon Trail may bring a smile to your face. This classic educational computer title simulated the covered wagon trek from Missouri to Oregon circa 1846. Mostly text and menu-driven, it focused heavily on resource management. This remake boasts an intuitive point-and-click interface sprinkled with arcade elements.

Steering your oxen-led wagon down the winding trail can be a challenge as you'll need to avoid rocks and fallen trees. Shaking the Wiimote cracks your whip for a speed boost. You can cruise through open areas but rocky terrain will damage your wagon and oxen. Fortunately there are copious repair icons on the road to collect. The river crossing segments have a Frogger (Atari 2600, 1982) vibe as you navigate currents while avoiding floating logs. Roadside stops provide opportunities to trade, forage, fish, hunt, and help people in need. The point-and-shoot hunter sequences are shallow and I felt bad picking off those cute little rabbits. Likewise the fishing mini-game is rudimentary and rarely worth the effort.

Your journey is broken up into short legs, and at the end of each you'll arrive in a fort or town where your progress is recorded. What makes Oregon Trail so endearing is its atmosphere. The sound of hooves clomping, birds cawing, streams, and rickety wheels on the dusty trail put you in the mind of the wild west. Fiddle, piano, and banjo music kick in with charming renditions of Oh Susana or Home of the Range and other old standards. As you travel day turns to night and variable weather conditions includes storms and tornadoes. Wooden placards along the edge of the screen tell you at a glance the status of your wagon, oxen, food supply, and family. Sleeping improves your status but makes you vulnerable to thieves and wolf attacks.

I love the understated dialog. "Jessica got bit by a snake." [Ignore it]. "Jessica isn't feeling well." Kids tend to come down with every illness from Cholera to Dysentery to the mumps. After dismissing Jessica as a total drama queen I felt really bad when she passed away. Whoops! The show must go on however and once you begin your journey you'll want to see it through. Upon reaching Oregon City I was greeted by an angry mob of protesters. Just kidding. You are treated to fireworks as you do a victory lap around town while your final score is tallied.

I loved Oregon Trail the first time through but subsequent plays felt like more of the same. The game crashed hard once, making me grateful the game saves between legs. For an educational title Oregon Trails seems a bit lacking in the geography department and I'm not sure I learned much. Still, for several hours I found myself captivated by this charming, unusual history-based software title. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection
Grade: B+
Publisher: Far Sight Studios (2007)
Reviewed: 2008/7/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIf you love pinball, this is the only game you really need for your Wii. Pinball Hall of Fame's replay value is simply tremendous. As a pinball machine owner, I'll be the first to admit that no video game can truly convey the experience of playing the real thing, but Pinball Hall of Fame comes remarkably close!

Ten actual pinball games released from 1970 to 1990 have been precisely recreated here, retaining the colorful artwork, digitized music, and cheesy electronic voices. Best of all, they play just like the real thing, with lightning-fast action, precision controls, and realistic physics. This game is a perfect fit for the Wii controller tandem, letting you comfortably command one flipper with each hand. If you're new to pinball, be aware that the flipper buttons also rotate the rollover target lights. When it looks like your ball is about to drain, you can shake your controllers to "nudge" the machine. This comes so natural that I did it before I even realized it was a feature!

The tables look good but not great. The Wii's limited resolution makes it hard to discern all the subtle details, but the game does a fine job of zooming in on the upper area of the table when necessary. I'd be very interested to see what this game would look like on the Xbox 360. Each table delivers a totally different experience. Themes range from fantasy (Black Knight, Gorgar, Sorcerer) to high tech (Space Shuttle, Pinbot, Firepower), to just plain quirky (Jive Time, Taxi, Fun House). Jive Time (1970) is a bit sparse, and Funhouse (1990) is cluttered with gadgets, but others like Gorgar, Sorcerer, and Black Knight strike a nice balance. High scores are recorded, but I really wish the best score was displayed as you were playing, so you'd know what to shoot for.

You can play the games freely or try the addictive Williams Challenge mode which requires you to attain a minimal score on each machine. Also included are comprehensive instructions for each game, and you'd be surprised just how elaborate and sophisticated the rules can be. Even so, you can just dive into any of these tables and start having fun immediately. My friends and I played this game for hours on end, moving from one table to the next. With a replay value that's through the stratosphere, Pinball Hall of Fame is a fantastic addition to any Wii collection. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Pirates Plundarrr
Grade: C+
Publisher: Majesco (2010)
Reviewed: 2010/8/29
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSo who likes pirates around here? I do! I do! As a rabid fan of both the side-scrolling beat-em-up and pirate genres, this game really hit the VGC's sweet spot. Pirates Plundarrr is almost identical to the popular download-only game Castle Crashers - except this one sports a tropical pirate motif. The cartoon scenery looks sweet, and the small pirates are rendered with personality and humor.

Up to four people can hack their way through side-scrolling islands, pirate ships, and murky swamps. You'll battle pirates, tiki men, and lots and lots of skeletons. Your buccaneer (or wench) can toggle between two weapons, and there's a wide range of swords, axes, clubs, guns, and unconventional weapons like hams and mops. The game employs an NES control scheme, with motion only used to unleash special attacks. There's no shortage of button-mashing as you hop around and slash like mad, causing damage points to rise up all over the place. You can stab an enemy while he's down, and the rolling attack is effective for plowing through a gang.

Power-ups and health abound in barrels and chests. Pirates Plundarrr has the right ingredients, but its sum is less than its parts. Wiping out a gang of skeletons would be more satisfying if another identical gang didn't suddenly materialize in their place. Certain foes have the annoying ability to teleport around the screen or wield electricity. The multi-player co-op looks fun on paper but in practice it's hard to tell what's going on. When things heat up the frame-rate becomes herky-jerky, and it's not a pretty sight. I actually prefer to play the game solo.

Pirate Plundarrr has no score - it's just one continuous romp as you attempt to unlock all of the stages. It's extremely hard in the early-going, but once your pirate attains a high level the game becomes too easy. The electronic soundtrack is catchy, even if it doesn't sound very piratey. Pirates Plundarrr is amusing but less fun than I expected. I love the whimsical style and vivid graphics, but its repetitive gameplay is only enjoyable in small doses. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/6/16
Rating: Everyone (10+)

screenshotPunch-Out first hit the arcades in 1984, and this modern version is remarkably faithful to it. Nintendo wisely preserved the traditional gameplay while adding more fighters, new control options, and enhanced graphics. I was mesmerized by this charming game as a kid, and guess what? I still am!

You play the role of a young boxer named Little Mac who is working his way up the ranks. In the ring you view the action behind a semi-translucent Mac, giving you an optimal view of your wacky competitors. Punch-Out's gameplay is so simple and straightforward that there's not even a tutorial - how sweet is that? The motion controls are fully supported (including the balance board), but I always reverted to the "sideways Wii-mote" (NES) configuration - especially when my arms got tired.

Most boxing games tend to be slugfests, but the key to Punch Out is studying your opponent's mannerisms and taking advantage when they let their guard down. It doesn't take long to pinpoint each fighter's strengths and weaknesses, but capitalizing on them requires excellent timing. The career mode lets you work your way through a series of increasingly difficult fighters of all nationalities. Your trainer is a hilarious fat black guy named Doc Louis with a fondness for chocolate bars. Besides providing comic relief, he offers useful advice between rounds.

The memorable cast of fighters incorporates classic characters like Glass Joe, Von Kaiser, and Bald Bull. Each character is unique and colorful, making the fighters in other games seem bland by comparison. Although rendered with far more detail than the original Punch-Out, the fighters still maintain the same appealing, cartoonish style. There's a modest amount of damage modeling, mostly in the form of bruises and band-aids.

The new head-to-head mode lets you compete against a friend on a split-screen. It's okay, but you can only play as Little Mac, and the controls feel a bit stiff and mechanical. Occasionally one player transforms into a Hulk-like "Giga Mac", adding a bit of intrigue. It's the single-player career mode however that will have you up until the wee hours of the morning. Punch-Out has a "one more time" quality few other games can match. © 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