Xbox Reviews O

OddWorld: Munch's Odyssee
Grade: C
Publisher: OddWorld Inhabitants (2001)
Reviewed: 2008/3/16
Rating: Teen


screenshotAfter a pair of successful 2D outings on the Playstation, the OddWorld franchise transitioned to 3D in the form of this Xbox launch title. Despite offering the same brand of puzzle-solving platform mayhem, Munch's Oddysee was largely overshadowed by the Halo juggernaut and those high-kicking babes of Dead or Alive 3. Even I was lukewarm on the game after playing an unimpressive demo. Now that I've finally played it, I can attest that the game remains quite faithful to the classic OddWorld formula, with intelligently designed stages that are puzzling but rarely frustrating.

In addition to controlling Abe (the star of the first two games), you also control a fish-like character named Munch. The two begin in separate locations, but when their paths cross they work as a team. The visuals are brighter than previous OddWorld titles, and the animation has a "claymation" quality to it. Unfortunately, the constrained valleys, sewer, and industrial locations are nowhere near as interesting as the 2D environments of the old games. You'll still pull switches, possess enemies, and save Mudokons (your alien species), but a few new elements have been added - for better or worse.

You spend much of the game collecting green mushrooms called "spooce". You need a certain number of these to open each door. You can "grow" additional spooce if you need to, but that's a tedious process. Resurrecting Mudokons is another new feature which I found to be a bit of chore. One worthwhile new element is your ability to round up creatures and have them fight enemies for you ("kick some booty!"). In typical OddWorld fashion, there are a lot of funny, unexpected surprises, like the squeaky wheelchair that lets Munch zip around from place to place.

The control scheme could be better. The main buttons are now used to speak, but having two phrases mapped to each button is confusing. The A button is used for both "action" and jumping, which is problematic when you try to grab a Mudokon and leap into an abyss instead! Sometimes the action button doesn't register at all, or does something other than you intended. The directional controls are very touchy, and I don't like the idea of firing a weapon by pushing in on the right thumbstick. Munch's Odyssee has flashes of brilliance here and there, but in the sea of 3D adventures, it doesn't stand out. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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OddWorld: Stranger's Wrath
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2006)
Reviewed: 2008/3/16
Rating: Teen


screenshotThe previous game, Oddworld: Munch's Odyssee (Xbox, 2001), received a lukewarm response so Stranger's Wrath tried to re-envision the franchise as a first-person shooter - with mixed results. Instead of controlling that dorky-but-loveable alien Abe, you play the role of a scruffy cowboy bounty hunter with a low, gravelly voice.

In contrast to the dark industrial environments of previous OddWorld games, Stranger's Wrath features sunny western locales like dusty towns and rocky canyons. The game still retains the same distinctive OddWorld look and feel however, with whimsical characters that appear to be half animal. I'm not generally a fan of the western motif, but I did enjoy exploring the meticulously detailed towns.

Stranger's gameplay is really a combination of third-person platform action and first-person shooter (toggled by pushing in the right thumbstick). What makes the shooting action unique is the nature of your ammo. Instead of bullets, you fire live creatures! It sounds a bit cruel, but the animals aren't harmed. You fire chipmunks to coax out enemies, spiders to tie them up, electric bugs to shock, and skunks to nauseate groups of adversaries. While they're incapacitated, you can vacuum them up using a special device.

It's a novel approach, but let's face it - capturing enemies is less fun than killing them outright. There's some strategy involved in using combinations of ammo to subdue enemies, but you have to collect ammo by hunting down the small creatures, and that's just tedious. Other key elements are your ability to hide in the weeds, and "shake off" damage at the cost of lower stamina. Stranger's Wrath features sharp graphics, finely tuned controls, and first-rate audio.

The dialogue is excellent, I really love the little quips from the chipmunks ("hey - you got somethin' hangin' from your nose!"). But as well constructed as the game is, the western motif wore on me, and after the novelty wore off, the game struggled to maintain my attention. Like the first game, Stranger's Wrath is thoughtfully designed but may be too clever for its own good. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (2004)
Reviewed: 2005/4/15
Rating: Teen (blood, fantasy violence)


screenshotBesides holding the world record for "slowest opening text crawl" in video game history (Zzzzz), Otogi 2 is best known for its stunning visuals. Set in an ancient Asian fantasy world, this hack-n-slash adventure has one thing going for it, and that's pure eye candy. The scenery is beautiful to behold and the hulking creatures are definitely not the usual suspects.

Adversaries include ferocious spiders, huge animated statues, and less-impressive "ghouls" that appear to be made of construction paper. But you haven't seen anything until you've witnessed about a hundred monsters attack you at once! As you pound buttons like there's no tomorrow, all HELL breaks loose on the screen. Your combos look spectacular as vivid lines trace your devastating swings, and the level of chaotic mayhem is unprecedented. As you send enemies flying, they tend to destroy the scenery as well.

There's a downside to this madness however. Quite simply, you can't tell what's going on much of the time, and when your ass gets knocked clear across the screen, you'll have no idea what hit you. Otogi 2 is better designed than its predecessor (it has to be), but it inherits the same shallow, monotonous gameplay. Each stage is introduced by some ostentatious background narration, but your goal is always the same: destroy everything. Before each stage you can select from a set of unique characters, some more animal than human. A stage select is also included, and it's a welcome departure from the linear gameplay of the original.

One of my big complaints about the first Otogi was how it never prompted you to save your game. Believe it or not, Otogi 2 doesn't either. Instead, it "reminds" you that you need to go to the options menu if you want to save. Would an autosave capability be asking too much? I mean, I know it's only 2005, but throw me a bone here! Otogi 2 is certainly a good-looking game, and that might be enough for some people. But it wasn't enough for me. Sorry. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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Otogi: Myth of Demons
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (2003)
Reviewed: 2005/4/15
Rating: Teen (fantasy violence)


screenshotPlaying Otogi: Myth of Demons was one of the worst video game experiences I've ever had to endure. How this putrid piece of trash was granted a sequel is beyond comprehension. Initially this repetitive hack-n-slash fighter reminded me of Shinobi (PS2, 2002). Playing as a mysterious ninja warrior, you move from area to area slashing everything in sight.

The hackneyed storyline involves a "broken seal" that's brought darkness to the world. By collecting four "essences" and "purging the demons", you can "revive the great seed". In other words, it's the same recycled garbage you always see in these kind of games. Otogi does feature unique monsters and ancient Asian scenery, but its gameplay is mind numbing at best.

I can't decide if the controls are more annoying or bizarre. You can leap great distances, but never with any degree of precision. Although armed with both a normal and hard attack, the hard one is all you need. While in mid-air, you can remain there indefinitely by continually hacking away at anything nearby. You can also execute a mid-air "dash" - many times in a row in fact. While in the air, you'll often find yourself disoriented, and perhaps inadvertently positioned over a bottomless chasm (great!).

Otogi's camera system is a real nightmare. It's always facing the wrong direction, and swinging it around is slow and tedious. But by far the worst aspect of Otogi is its wildly uneven difficulty. Some of the early stages are almost impossible to complete without a walk-through. The abysmal gameplay is matched by an equally inept menu system. At the conclusion of each stage, the game mentions something about "saving map data", but don't be fooled - it's NOT saving your game! To really save, you must take a detour to the options menu - another example of the game's pitiful design.

You can purchase weapons and items between stages, be warned that some weapons for sale may be weaker that your current one! The one thing cool about this game is the chain reactions that occur when you smash boxes. No question about it - Otogi should have never seen the light of day. . © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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Outlaw Golf: Holiday Golf
Grade: F
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (2002)
Reviewed: 2010/2/21
Rating: Teen (comic mischief, mild language, mild violence)

screenshotThis "interactive demo" was originally sold at Blockbuster video stores at the bargain price of $4.99. It's basically a scaled-down version of Outlaw Golf (GameCube, 2002) outfitted with a holiday theme. I like the concept! Unfortunately, the original Outlaw Golf was marred by unfunny commentary, poorly-designed courses, atrocious camera angles, and confusing controls. Consequently, Holiday Golf never had much of a chance.

Its festive title screen makes an effort to get you into a holiday mood with a nice rendition of Jingle Bells. The players are decked out in Christmas colors and diminutive elves serve as spectators. The scenic courses feature ice-encrusted trees and quaint cottages, and if you look closely, you might get a glimpse of Santa flying with his reindeer! Before you begin playing however, be sure to shut off that obnoxious buffoon of a commentator. There's a fine line between irreverent and stupid, and this guy didn't get the memo.

Even without the idiotic banter however, Holiday Golf is a disaster. I can accept the rock-hard, icy fairways, but obstacles like pipelines and overpasses seem strategically placed for the sole purpose of pissing you off. Many greens are unfairly sloped towards water or sand traps. The very first hole is an "island", and as you can guess, the ball rolls off of it all the time. The putting game is so bad, this game could qualify as cruel and unusual punishment.

You have the option of initiating tantrums and beating up your caddie, but these gimmicks are more pathetic than funny. Adding insult to injury, there are substantial load times between holes. Holiday Golf was meant to be a promotional stunt, but it's best remembered as a cautionary tale. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 84
1 or 2 players 

Outlaw Golf: Nine More Holes of Xmas
Grade: F
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (2003)
Reviewed: 2010/2/21
Rating: Teen (comic mischief, mature sexual themes, mild language, mild violence)

screenshotI question the existence of this sequel, considering what an utter travesty the first holiday golf game was! The back of the box states, "Stuff this! (in your stocking stoopid!)" which offers keen insight into the game's intellectual level. It's hard to believe someone actually got paid to write that.

Nine More Holes begins with the generic Outlaw Golf intro, but transitions into a nice holiday screen with Jingle Bell Rock music. The gameplay is on par with the previous Holiday Golf game, which puts it squarely into "trainwreck" territory. This edition offers tutorial videos which are unwatchable thanks to stereotyped characters that try hard to be funny but fail miserably.

For the first three holes or so, this game seems to be a modest improvement from the previous edition. The courses tend to be wider with less annoying obstacles. Then you reach a series of holes that look like floating islands. Two words: Ill-advised! In addition to inexplicable hole designs, the camera angles are atrocious. Sometimes after hitting the ball the camera will remain planted behind you, making you wonder where the hell your ball went. In one instance I found myself in an impossible situation, and if not for the shot limit, I would have been stuck on that hole for the rest of eternity.

As usual for Outlaw titles, the game's corny sense of humor is so bad that a barf bag should have been included in the package. The animations of a hot female golfer slapping her caddie and pulling their hair is pretty hilarious - if you're seven years old! How low can a video game go? Try Nine More Holes of Christmas and find out for yourself. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 71
1 or 2 players 

Outlaw Volleyball
Grade: C-
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (2003)
Reviewed: 2004/5/12
Rating: Mature (mature humor, mild violence, suggestive themes)

screenshotI tend to enjoy Volleyball games, and considering the incredible babes that grace this title, Outlaw Volleyball should have rated much higher. These chicks are even sexier than the gorgeous dames in Dead or Alive Volleyball (Xbox). Outlaw Volleyball also includes an assortment of male characters, but what's the point in that? What really stinks is that only two of the females are available off the bat, and you'll need to invest an inordinate amount of time in the single-player "tour" mode to unlock the others.

The gameplay itself is average at best. Well-designed controls let you set the ball and aim shots with precision, and a power meter determines the potency of your spikes. Unfortunately the females tend to be weak, and as a result most games feature endless volleys. But the biggest drawback to this game is its whole "outlaw" theme. The loud-mouthed, wisecracking announcer is a complete jerk, and I had to shut him off almost immediately.

The volleyball courts are set in unappealing places including a prison and a sewer. Wacky extra "features" like exploding balls, dynamite, and one-on-one fights do nothing but bog down the action. Although the packaging refers to the humor as "mature", in fact it's anything but! When all is said and done, Outlaw Volleyball is fair, but it's really no better than any of the other volleyball games on the market. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Outlaw Volleyball Red Hot
Grade: NA
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (2003)
Reviewed: 2004/3/5
Rating: Teen

screenshotYou may have seen this $5 demo game sitting at your local Blockbuster, and it's not a bad deal. Red Hot is basically a teaser for the full-blown Outlaw Volleyball game, and it certainly did attract my attention. This demo appeals to the primal urges of male players by featuring four incredibly shapely chicks playing volleyball on a court located in hell. These are hands-down the hottest women I've ever seen in a video game (as of this writing), even surpassing the gratuitously sexy dames of Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball (Xbox).

The scenery consists of fiery caverns and huge demon spectaculars that look downright scary. If the minimal gameplay offered here is any indication, the real Outlaw Volleyball is a pretty solid game. The controls are easy to learn and similar to Beach Spikers (Sega). The court is displayed vertically, and the camera can be an issue if you're playing on the far side of the net. In the true "Outlaw" spirit, you can also initiate fights with the other team, but inexplicably the girls do NOT use this opportunity to rip off each other's clothes, much to the chagrin of me and my friends.

The only real complaint I have is with the idiotic commentator. His nonstop remarks are both obnoxious and moronic, and I really felt like beating the living [expletive] out of him. But ultimately Red Hot is a nice little demo that serves its purpose quite well, and I'm not just saying that because it features a bunch of half-naked chicks. Okay, okay, I am just saying that because it features a bunch of half-naked chicks. Oh, and by the way, don't try to unlock any hidden players or courts, because you can't. . © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Outrun 2
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (2004)
Reviewed: 2019/8/17
Rating: Everyone

screenshotHow do I play Outrun 2? I sit my butt on the floor with my face right in the TV so I can let its bright arcade graphics wash over me. Add in simple controls and an upbeat soundtrack and you have a recipe for unadulterated joy. The original Outrun (Sega Master System, 1986) employed scaling sprites to convey the illusion of depth and speed, and it's actually unlockable here!

Outrun 2 delivers instant gratification like an IV drip, with fast action and jaw-dropping scenery that changes dramatically with each new section of track. Forks in the road provide a subtle way to adjust the difficulty, as the left branch is supposedly easier. Vibrant locations include a tropical resort, medieval castle, industrial facility, snowy mountainside, and amusement park. The sparkling Paris-at-night track might just be the most beautiful I've witnessed in any racing game!

Outrun 2's controls are basic but power-slides (initiated with the tap of the brake) are critical to navigate hairpin turns. There are several modes of play but it's hard to top the classic arcade mode where you attempt to finish before time runs out. You can rank in with a high score only if you finish the course (easier said than done). It's also hard to unlock the faster cars.

Novelty modes include the "heart attack mode" where your girl instructs you to complete tasks like hitting cones, avoiding crashes, or driving over colored areas. The more you screw up the more incensed she becomes. A "challenge mode" offers individual missions to complete but some require memorization (ugh!) or worse math! (gah!). There's a "take-turns" party mode but no split screen.

Outrun 2's relaxing soundtrack incorporates tunes from the original like Magical Sound Shower, and the new tunes feature vocals. Outrun 2 feels like a breath of fresh air. Its sublime arcade action reminds you that racing games are meant to be fun! © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast
Grade: A+
Publisher: Sega (2006)
Reviewed: 2019/8/17
Rating: Everyone

screenshotOutrun 2 (Xbox, 2003) was an exhilarating ride and Outrun 2: Coast to Coast builds on its promise. To the untrained eye both games appear to be the same, featuring bright graphics, simple controls, and breathtaking exotic locations. Outrun 2006 however offers a slew of new features like slipstreams, rivals, and new stages. The difficulty is far more reasonable and a wide selection of shiny cars are available. I find it amusing how the CGI-rendered intro actually looks far worse than the in-game graphics. What's the point?

Coast-to-Coast mode offers mission-based challenges like your girlfriend instructing you to ram others cars or dribble a giant beach ball down the road. That's fine but I'll take the old-fashioned arcade mode any day of the week. It's all about reaching the finish line before time expires and things get seriously intense as those last few seconds tick down. Reaching checkpoints adds time to the clock which provide a temporary sense of relief.

Outrun 2006's sense of speed is quite thrilling thanks to steep hills, long curves, and ample straightaways. I could actually feel my stomach drop when I plunged into the waterfall stage. Tracks branch frequently so you're likely to see something new with each play. The eye candy is off-the-charts and the Las Vegas stage is mind-blowing. Certain locations appear slightly grainy but that may have been intentional to simulate fog or mist.

The effortless controls make it fun to initiate a power slide, and you can keep it going for quite a while without slowing down. The new slipstream feature spices things up by providing a speed boost whenever you line up directly behind another racer. Outrun 2006 shines in the audio department, providing updated renditions of old favorites like Passing Breeze or Splash Wave.

The interface is a confusing maze of endless variations, many of which are not explained. Still, it feels like an embarrassment of riches. Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast bridged the gap between the primitive graphics of the past and the boring realism of the present, hitting a sweet spot that's oh-so-easy on the eyes. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, GameSpot, Xbox Addict, Playstation.com, Moby Games