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All reviews - Games (45)

Repetitive, but fun game with pixelated gore

Posted : 7 years, 10 months ago on 10 August 2009 11:17 (A review of Halloween)

Throughout the history of video games, one stereotype seems to remain constant; if it’s a game based off of a movie, then it probably won’t be all that good. This trend started way back on the Atari 2600 with various movies like Porky’s, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and, of course, E.T. being turned into painful-to-play games. Then there’s Halloween, which isn’t quite as confusing as Porky’s, frustrating as Raiders of the Lost Ark, or broken as E.T....In fact, it’s actually a fairly competent game.

The premise of Halloween is simple: Save children by guiding them to safe rooms on two floors before Michael Myers is able to kill them or you. Repeat this step and rack up points. That’s it. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself with a knife that you can stab Michael with to make him run away and score some extra points...However, it takes some practice to time the attack right. Without good timing, there’s a decent chance that Mr. Myers will decapitate you while you attempt to stab him.

That’s right. Halloween is a game on the Atari 2600 that not only contains blood, but decapitation of the character you control. After Michael Myers murders you, your head is gone and you get to watch an animation of your character running across the screen, sans head, with squirts of blood flowing from the neck. It’s comical and tame by today’s standards, but I’m sure that back then this kind of stuff was pretty wild and crazy to see within a game.

Aside from the comical gore, Halloween attempts to obtain some atmosphere by having certain rooms in the house with flickering lights, making it difficult to see Michael Myers as he marches toward you with his trusty knife. The rooms flash completely black at points and then flash back for a brief moment to let you know that Michael is coming for you before flashing black again, leaving you to kind of make a guess as to how to dodge the knife-wielding killer. While this is a kind of neat concept that can actually make the game feel a tad more suspenseful, there’s one flaw with it: You never need to enter those rooms. You’re free to go back the way you came, head up or down to the next level of the house and completely avoid it as you continue to save the kiddies.

Graphically, this is your basic Atari 2600 fare. There isn’t much detail, but enough is there to let you know what’s going on. The change of colors on the walls of each room is also a nice touch to help prevent a feeling of visual repetitiveness. As far as audio goes, there’s only one song, and that’s the theme to Halloween...And for an Atari 2600 game, it’s not absolutely terrible. It actually sounds like the theme and not a bunch of noise that only somewhat resembles it. It’s some pretty nice audio considering the software and hardware that it’s being played on.

When it’s all said and done, what you’ve got is a video game based off a movie that, while not an excellent title, is a passable one. This is a decent game to pull out and play every now and then for the lame cheesiness of the deaths. The biggest downside to this game is that it’s way too easy, so you’ll likely get bored of successfully dodging Michael Myers over and over again. The ability to grab a knife and fight back is neat...But it’s not enough to make this game feel truly great. As it is, it’s still worth your time if you ever get the chance to play it. But I can’t help but think that it could have been better with just a few more ideas thrown in.


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A solid beginning to a solid franchise

Posted : 7 years, 10 months ago on 10 August 2009 10:19 (A review of Mega Man)

Mega Man is one of the very few stars of the 8-bit generation to still be an active character in the ol’ video game community, with the newest Mega Man title, Mega Man 9 being released on all three current consoles; Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii. With a few spin-off series added in, Mega Man has been on nearly every console and hand-held system since his NES debut. There’s a reason that Mega Man has such longevity; his games are just plain fun...And this is the one that started it all...Though it’s not without its flaws.

The first bit of criticism that you’ll hear from most folks, in regards to Mega Man, is that it’s too difficult. In my opinion, that’s a poor way to judge a game...Especially on the NES where several difficult games can easily be overcome once you know what to do. Yes, Mega Man can be difficult the first time you play...But the game is fun enough that you’ll keep coming back anyway. As you continue to come back, you’ll learn the lay-outs of the levels and weaknesses of the bosses...As you learn the lay-outs of the levels and weaknesses of the bosses, you’ll find that the game really isn’t that difficult at all once you’ve got the hang of everything. To me, this isn’t a bad thing – it’s a very good thing. It almost feels like you’re rewarded for learning as you play, which in turn, will make you want to keep playing since you’ve just run through a level with ease that you got a ‘Game Over’ screen from just a few attempts prior.

The only criticism I’ve heard that I actually agree with is the lack of a password system of any sort. If you want to beat Mega Man, you’ll have to do it all in one play-through. Granted, it shouldn’t take more than a half an hour to finish the game, but since you do kind of need to learn level lay-outs, enemy weaknesses and patterns, etc. in order to make it to the end, a way to begin where you left off would have been nice rather than have to start over every time you turn on the console. But, in a sense, it does make seeing the ending of the game feel that much more rewarding when you know that you managed to get there without the need to record your progress along the way.

Mega Man controls very well. With the exception, maybe, of sliding around in Iceman’s level, you always feel like you’re in complete control of the blue guy...Which is good ‘cause to finish the game, you’re going to really need to have precise movements and timing (especially against the Yellow Devil) otherwise you’ll be a dead robot...If robots can die, anyway. You’ll also fire your weapon when you want/need to. The only issue there is that not every weapon fires the same way...But with a little practice and usage of all of the game’s weapons, you’ll gradually get a feel of where you have to be and where you have to aim in order to get specific weapons to hit a specific enemy without problems. There’s also the ability to jump at various heights based on how long you press the jump button down...Which is a skill you’ll need to use in order to survive.

In the ol’ graphics department, Mega Man look pretty nice for its time. Granted, some levels look better than others, but for the most part everything looks pretty dang good. The layout of the levels is also generally well done. None of the levels really look or play alike. In the audio area of the game, you’ve got quite the nice soundtrack...Which is fitting considering the Mega Man series later became very well known for its magnificent soundtracks. The first Mega Man set the bar for all Mega Man games to follow as far as background music goes...The bar would later be raised by Mega Man 2, but for its time, the first Mega Man easily had one of the best soundtracks that you could find in a video game up until that point.

Some folks complain that the original Mega Man is too hard to be fun...I say that those folks haven’t played the game enough to learn the levels. When a game is difficult, but not too difficult to be overcome with some patience and practice, I think it’s great. However, the lack of a password and/or battery save feature does hurt this title a bit as it can be frustrating to have to play through a level multiple times after you’ve already mastered it just so you can learn the layout of another level...Which applies more towards Dr. Wily’s levels than the six robot levels that you can pick and choose to enter. However, when its all said and done, what you’ve got is a very solid first title in the Mega Man series. It falls a little short of being great, but it’s a solid foundation of which the rest of the games in the series added to and improved upon. Yeah, some folks find it too difficult to play...But there’s also a large audience that find Mega Man too difficult to put down.


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It had promise...But sometimes promises are broken

Posted : 7 years, 10 months ago on 9 August 2009 04:04 (A review of Hannah Montana: The Movie)

I’m going to be honest with you all; I’ve never seen the Hannah Montana movie and I’ve never seen a single episode of the TV show. I didn’t even know the premise of the show until I had a friend who did watch it explain it to me. When I first realized that I’d be reviewing this game, one thought crossed my mind, “Oh, no.” Then I tried to build up my confidence...Afterall, I survived the fifty-two stages of heck known as Action 52, so how bad could this game really be? So, after playing it way more than I wanted to, is this as terrible as I had imagined or was it surprisingly decent...or even good? Well, read on and find out.

The gameplay of Hannah Montana: The Movie is split into two parts. The first part, the part that you’re forced into a tutorial for, is performing musical stuff on stage. This part is actually kind of fun. It’s essentially a series of minigames involving playing to the crowd, singing, dancing, and playing instruments. It’s a neat little concept and it’s done fairly well, aside from some shoddy motion controls. If you’re not a fan of the music, though, you may want to hit the mute button during these sequences; you’ll still be able to do the mini games, you just won’t have to deal with the tunes. If you’re a fan of this kind of music, though, you’ll likely really enjoy these parts of the game.

There is one really big flaw regarding these parts of the game, though: The difficulty. It’s impossible to lose. When I say impossible, I mean IMPOSSIBLE. You can go out of your way to make sure that your score is zero and they’ll still push you forward. The game won’t tell you to do it again until you’ve made the crowd happy. In fact, the crowd never boos you...EVER. The game never tells you that you’ve done poorly...EVER. While the concert areas of the game can be fun, a lot of the enjoyment is ripped out when you realize that no matter what you do, you’re going to succeed...Unless your goal is to fail...In which case you’ll fail at failing. Ironic, isn’t it?

If the whole game was those concert scenes, with a little difficulty and an ability to fail added in, I’d probably give this game a somewhat decent score...However, second type of gameplay pretty much ruins the game as a whole. The rest of the game, or should I say the majority of the game, consists of awful third-person “do-this-and-that” garbage with a horrible “save our country livin’ from the evil mall that they want to build” storyline. In this part of the game, you’ll sometimes have a compass telling you where you need to go and everything...It’s awful. It makes this part of the game so incredibly easy that it’s boring and repetitive. There’s even a part in the game where you’re ‘timed’ to find some equipment, but it’s no challenge since if you follow the compass, you’ll easily grab it all in time. Not that the tasks you’re asked to do are challenging, but the little challenge that’s there is sucked away by the compass, which makes things so very, very boring.

Also, another very poor aspect of the game is the ability to get yourself stuck. I mean that in two ways, actually. First, everything in the game seems to be like velcro. If you bump into a person or an object there’s a decent chance that you’ll become stuck to that person or object for a second or two before you’re able to wiggle free. It’s not fun trying to walk past random people knowing that if they’re too close, you’ll become glued to one another. The other version of ‘stuck’ that I spoke about is the actual game itself. The game encourages you to buy stuff, so whenever the player gets money, the game pretty much expects you to go out and buy new outfits and the like...Well, I never did that. Then I saw that a trophy was awarded for buying 100 articles of clothing and I had enough money to do that, so I went crazy and pretty much bought every article of clothing there was. Then, later in the game, you need to go to a specific store and buy a dress...Well, I had already cleaned that store out of all its merchandise. It didn’t matter. The game refused to progress until I bought said dress from said store...Even if the store lacked anything to buy because I had bought the article of clothing before I was supposed to. In a game where buying items is very much encouraged, why in the world would the programmers make it so something like this could happen?

In the third-person area there’s also a bunch of minigames to be found...But none of them are particularly enjoyable. The horse-riding one in particular can just plain be frustrating since the six-axis motion controls don’t always seem to work. In fact, most mini games use motion controls, which can make most of them pretty frustrating. Also, like I stated in the paragraph above, you’re also encouraged to play dress-up and buy dresses and shoes and jewelry and various other forms of clothing....You know, the stereotypical girl-type stuff. The game can get so girly at times, I actually had to pause the game so I could go outside, grab an axe, and start chopping firewood to make myself feel more manly again. This girliness can be good or bad depending on who’s playing the game. A little girl will probably love it...A guy in his mid-twenties, not so much.

The graphics of Hannah Montana: The Movie are done well...For a Playstation 2 game. They’re not terrible graphics by any means, but they do look a generation behind. The environments also seem to lack any sort of personality to them...Most locations, while detailed, just look bland. The audio of the game is done very well though...Most of the voice-acting is pretty well done and the musical bits are in good quality...Which can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your taste in music.

Even with its enjoyable concert levels, when it’s all said and done, this game is a flop. Some people may argue that I’m being harsh because it was made for kids. I disagree. Even if a child is playing this, there’s no reason for them to have to deal with the bad controls and poor gameplay of the third-person areas. Anyone who plays this game will likely be pleasantly surprised at first with the concert stages, but once you get hurled into that third-person part of the game, you’ll likely find it not worth your while to make your way through it to get to the next concert area. Even then, the fact that you don’t even need to touch the controller to successfully complete the concerts really takes away any reason to play those levels, too. There’s way too much of the bad and way too little of the good. This game actually had promise...Unfortunately, sometimes promises are broken.


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It's out of this world -- poor pun intended...

Posted : 7 years, 10 months ago on 8 August 2009 05:52 (A review of Astro Robo Sasa)

The launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System/Family Computer System initiated the rebirth of video games after the big crash of 1983. The lineup of games in the beginning of the system was crucial to its success. Games like Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, and Tetris all made the NES/Famicom a must-play system. However, some games, like this gem, never really got the recognition they deserved. Granted, Astro Robo Sasa was available soley for the Famicom in Japan and never made it stateside, but still, there should have been come clamoring for it by the Nintendo fanboys to bring it west for a North American release.

At first, Astro Robo Sasa feels kind of like a mix between Balloon Fight and Joust...But as you advance through the levels, it shows that it's a game all of its own. You control an alien with a big gun. The goal is for you to fire your gun and use your momentum to reach your targets while avoiding and shooting down enemies that try and prevent you from doing so. This control scheme takes a little bit to get used to (especially when you're trying to propell yourself in one direction and trying to shoot at something in the same direction) but once you begin to learn the controls, the gameplay is very thought-provoking and fun.

The gameplay feels very much like you're playing an arcade game...And much like the early arcade games, when your little alien friend dies, which will likely happen often at first, you won't feel the urge to quit. Rather, you'll want to keep on playing since you'll notice your gradual improvement each time you take control over the loveable little gun-slinging martian. The noticable improvement you experience makes the gameplay actually seem rewarding in the old 'get the high score so you can gloat to your friends about how big a nerd you are' kind of way.

The levels are fairly basic in nature...There's no side-scrolling here. What you see on the screen is what your level consists of. They start off fairly simple involving you to simply get or destroy (we suggest getting) the little 'E' tanks you collect in order to progress further in the game. As you continue through the levels, however, you'll find that you'll need to destroy barricades blocking the tanks you seek...And after the barricades, you're faced with enemies and barricades. None of the above would probably be a problem except the levels are timed, in a sense. There's no clock ticking down, but every time you shoot a bullet to propel yourself and/or shoot something, your 'E' points drop. If you're hit by an enemy the 'E' points drop even more dramatically, making it essential that you dodge or destroy any enemies you encounter along the way.

Graphically the game is on par with other early NES/Famicom games...In other words, it's really nothing special when compared to games that came out for the system just a year or two later. And as far as sound goes, there isn't a whole lot of variety in the little theme that plays. Basically, it's the same song over and over for several levels at a time, which may annoy some folks. But honestly, while the graphics and music are generally lacking, the gameplay does more than enough to make up for it with its style and enjoyability.

In closing, Astro Robo Sasa probably isn't for everyone. The somewhat steep learning curve will likely turn many people off. However, once you get past the difficulty, you'll find a wonderful little game that's hard not to enjoy. If you love old, late-70's/early-80's arcade games, then you'll likely love this game. If you don't, well then give the game a shot anyway...No need to alienate this adorable alien anymore.


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Innovation doesn't always lead to success.

Posted : 7 years, 10 months ago on 6 August 2009 06:33 (A review of Ghost Lion)


Ghost Lion, or Legend of the Ghost Lion according to the title screen, is an RPG that tries to incorporate several new ideas into the RPG formula. However, they show that while innovation is the only way to bring something new and enjoyable to the table, it’s also very easy to come up with something that’ll bomb. This game manages to bring in interesting new ideas to the RPG formula...But some of them, particularly the leveling-up system, just really bog the game down.

I’ll just start right off with the leveling-up. In this game, you do NOT get experience points. Defeating enemies will not raise your level. In order to level up, you need to find a ‘Fragment of Hope.’ These fragments are scattered around in dungeons and you need to do some exploring to find them. If you don’t like to explore in games, you’re not going to enjoy your time here. To put it simply, if you don’t explore, you won’t be leveling up...If you don’t level up, you don’t have a chance in the later areas of the game. Now, honestly, this wouldn’t be so bad except for one thing – the random battles.

With no experience to be gained, all you get from battles are money...Which can really make the random battles get on your nerves. Unless you constantly die (in which case, your money is halved) you will never, ever have any money problems in this game. So, if you aren’t fighting to level up...and you aren’t fighting to gain more money....Why do you need to fight so often? Also, since this game rewards exploration by leveling the character up, it’s just kind of annoying to have so many random battles while you’re trying to explore.

However, as far as battles go, that’s where more innovation comes in...And unlike the leveling-up system, the battles are actually pretty well done. You control a young girl named Maria from the start...And she will be your only party member for the entire game. Instead of recruiting new members to your party, you’ll be collecting artifacts that contain spirits for you to summon. Every battle, you start off by yourself. But, you can take a turn to summon an ally...And you can continue to summon allies for as long as you have ‘dream points’ (MP) to do so. Once an ally is summoned, it’s just like they’re a party member; you control their actions. If they die, they’ll fade away...But if you feel that ally needs to still be in the battle, you can always immediately summon them back again. It’s a very interesting system, it’s challenging, and it works well....But with the frequency of random battles, it just gets boring after a while.

Back to the exploration, on the world map, it can be a lot more difficult to find where you need to go than it should be. There are towns that are a lone mushroom slightly off to the side of a forest of mushrooms...The mushroom to the side doesn’t look any different than the others, it’s just off to the side. I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to at least color it differently to give players a heads-up that it’s something to check out. Worse yet is a lake that you need to find later in the game. It’s not even marked, you simply have to walk up to the water shore...Again, it looks like part of the world map. A few markings would have been nice. Granted, the majority of places you need to visit are marked as clearly-visible castles, towers, and caves...But that just further makes me question why those other locations aren’t marked as clearly when they did it everywhere else.

If you’re looking for a long RPG experience, you won’t really find it here. I beat it in a little over twenty hours. If you know where you need to go and what you need to do, you could probably finish the game in ten hours. The story, while a very interesting concept, just isn’t executed well. The story won’t drive you to keep playing at all...In fact, after the introduction, you really won’t get a whole lot of story until you’ve beaten the final boss and watch the conclusion. Granted, talking to some townsfolk will unveil some story aspects...And one particular person in a town basically spoiled any chance of surprising me with the ending, but for the most part, the game is devoid of story.

As far as cosmetics go, Ghost Lion does alright. Graphically, the game is generally well-done. Some dungeons and areas look pretty neat while others, while not bad-looking, just don’t have the same flair. The character designs are all pretty well done as well. The only real gripe I have regarding the graphics are that there’s a bit of recycling in the game. Several dungeons look alike, just with different layouts. There’s also the common RPG practice of re-coloring of enemies found here...But since the actual number of enemies you’ll encounter is so low, it doesn’t seem like it’d be too hard to create individual sprites for each one. In the audio department, the game is so-so. The music gets the job done for the most part, but it’s not really anything great. You won’t hate it, but you won’t enjoy it, either. It’s just kind of there....Until you enter a battle. The battle music is kind of annoying...it’s pretty much just two notes repeating...Then the two notes change....Then go back. It’s not so bad at first...But you’ll hear it a LOT...and each time you do, the urge to hit the mute button will grow.

I really wanted to like Legend of the Ghost Lion...I really did. It tries to innovate the RPG genre, and while the battle system works alright, the leveling-up system makes the random battles seem more like an unnecessary chore than a needed aspect to the game. If the random battles were turned down a bit, the experience would be much more enjoyable, but for what it’s worth, Ghost Lion is still worth playing for die-hard RPG fans. There are some neat ideas to be found in this game...Unfortunately, the bad of the game slightly outweighs the good.


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