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All reviews - Games (45)

Good...But Not Worth Losing Your Head Over.

Posted : 8 years, 2 months ago on 19 January 2012 10:05 (A review of Dead Space)

If you want lots of gore in your horror experience...More so than usual, anyway...Then Dead Space is the game for you. Instead of the typical “aim for the head” style of gameplay, Dead Space goes a slightly different route...dismemberment. In order to survive in Dead Space, you’ll need to aim for the limbs of your enemies...And while this is a somewhat fun mechanic at first...By the time I finished Dead Space, I almost felt as if the dismemberment thing was a needless gimmick rather than a neat and important aspect of the game...But needless gore and dismemberment aside, is Dead Space an enjoyable experience? For the most part, yeah.

Dead Space starts out aboard a giant space ship. You’re part of a team sent to the ship in order to repair it and get it in working function once again. However, once you arrive, you’ll quickly see that repairing the ship is the least of your problems...Especially when one of your team members is murdered in front of you by some sort of hideous creature, and another creature comes after you and tries to help you join your fallen comrade in the underworld. From there, your focus turns to escaping the ship while you dismember any and all enemies that come your way.

Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, dismemberment is the name of the game here...But honestly, while it’s fun to shoot limbs off at first (especially in zero gravity where you can watch the limbs slowly float away) the thrill gets old after a while. It also takes most of the thrill out of the game...Most of the time, I would literally find a corner, stand in it, and just let the creatures come near me so I could shoot their limbs off with ease or use the handy, dandy saw weapon, that even at its weakest setting can take down most enemies with ease late in the game. When it’s so easy to kill most enemies, and you watch yourself taking limbs off of them, it feels more like you’re a sadistic kid ripping the arms off of insects rather than a guy stuck on a ship full of killing machines. There’s rarely any tension in this game due to how weak the enemies are...Which hurts the whole ‘horror’ game image it tries to capture.

Speaking if its horror theme, it’s done poorly. The scares here are so cliche that I actually rolled my eyes at a few of them...And nine times out of ten, you’ll see the ‘surprise attacks’ (which are supposed to scare you) from a mile away. Plus, as I mentioned above, you’ve got the means to dismember your enemies with ease...Why in the world would you be frightened when you’re a killing machine? If the scares were actually surprising, then maybe they’d be able to get a few surprise scares out of the player, making them jump...And while they try to be surprising, they never actually are. If you want to play this game to get scared, then you’re going to be very disappointed.

Anyway, back to the gameplay mechanics, there are three different areas that you’ll explore in. The first is normal gravity, which is like everyday stuff. The second is zero gravity, which plays exactly like normal gravity except you can jump onto walls and the ceiling and the like. The third are the vacuum areas; these areas are a bit different. First off, there’s no oxygen in these areas, so a timer is displayed on your back. If the timer runs out, you run out of oxygen, and you die. Next, and I actually like this because it’s logical, if you like to use the Flamethrower, you’ll be disappointed since you can’t use it in the vacuum areas. Like I said, it’s logical since fire needs oxygen to be fire and in a vacuum, there is no oxygen. But otherwise, aside from the timer and the inability to use a flamethrower, the vacuum areas are just like the normal gravity areas. Occasionally, a vacuum level will be mixed with a zero gravity level...But more often than not, you’ll have normal gravity in the vacuum levels.

There are minor customization abilities in the game...But, aside from upgrading your suit, they are all completely unnecessary. Like I stated earlier about the saw weapon, the Ripper, it’s completely unnecessary to upgrade weapons. Even at the end of the game, your basic weapons are more than enough to get by, without any upgrades. Heck, the game developers probably knew this, too. Afterall, they created an achievement/trophy for going through the entire game with just the gun you start with...Which, honestly, is powerful without upgrades. I upgraded it a little bit on a second playthrough and I was completely destroying everything with ease. I honestly think that they could have easily done away with the weapon upgrades and not have had it effect anything in the game at all. Upgrading your suit is really the only necessary upgrade in the game, as it allows you to hold more items with each upgrade, and towards the end of the game, you’ll want to carry as much ammo as possible at all times or you’ll probably run out often...Which isn't necessarily a bad thing as the risk of running out of ammo may actually make you feel like you have some sort of vulnerability, instead of being an unstoppable butcher.

Graphically, Dead Space is gorgeous. Everything looks really good and nicely detailed. Even all of the gore is well done...Little things, like stomping corpses and watching blood actually splatter onto the walls and floors rather than just flow out and not stick to anything, are nice little touches that really help the player get sucked into the game’s reality a little easier. The audio is alright...But it sometimes seems confused. Generally, when an enemy is around, the ‘fight’ music begins, which just sounds like typical horror game fight music, and when the enemy is dead, the music dies off. But every now and then, I’d be walking and the music would hit. I’d circle around a few times and see nothing....Check the nearby rooms and see nothing....And then the music would fade away. I’m not sure if these were audio glitches or the developers trying to make the player paranoid...But, if it was the later, it doesn’t work. Like I said, killing enemies is quite easy in the game and hearing that music doesn’t stress you out...It just lets you know that you’re about to do some killing.

All in all, I enjoyed my time with Dead Space...However, as a horror game, I was disappointed. I never felt a tense moment in the game, I never got startled, and I never felt an ounce of fear stir within me as I played. The ‘scares’ are predictable and you’ll never be in a predicament where you feel helpless enough to be frightened by enemies...Even when encountering the enemy that regenerates its limbs, you’ll feel more annoyed that he won’t die than afraid that you will. But, if you look at Dead Space as a regular third-person action game and toss the horror elements aside, you’ll find a pretty fun game here. It’s not perfect, but it’s enjoyable enough to be worth a playthrough for folks who like action games with lots of shooting involved. It’s also be a decent game to fill some of the ‘dead space’ on your game shelf, eh? No? Alright, I’m done.

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I want to fry sky high!...Wrong game, but it fits.

Posted : 8 years, 3 months ago on 30 December 2011 12:29 (A review of Skies of Arcadia)

In late 2000, the barely-hyped Skies of Arcadia hit store shelves and blew the very anticipated Grandia II out of the water. While Grandia II was a fantastic game in its own right, Skies of Arcadia was high above it, sailing around the skies in their Air Pirate ship. It seemingly came out of nowhere and quickly became one of the most beloved RPGs of all-time. To this day, fans of the game still clamor whenever there is a rumor of a sequel. However, is this game really as good as everyone believes? Indeed it is, friends. Indeed it is.

Lets get right to the combat. The combat in Skies of Arcadia is your standard turn-based fare with little tweaks and modifications to make it a system all its own. There is a bar at the top of the screen that shows you how many spirit points you have. The whole battle system revolves around this bar. Normal attacks and/or item usage will not diminish the bar during regular combat. However, if you want to use magic and/or special skills to really give your enemies a whuppin’, all of those will use up spirit points. If you don’t have enough spirit points during a turn, then you can’t use the skill. After each turn, the spirit point gauge fills up a little, and you can also use the ‘focus’ option during battle to fill it even faster, so you’ll still be able to use the skill you want eventually, but it may not be at the particular moment you wanted. This helps bring in some strategy to the battle system. It kind of requires you to plan ahead and figure out when to use moves that take spirit points, when to heal (which may take up spirit points), and when to use the focus command. If you allow the meter to fill up completely, then you’ll be allowed to perform a devastating move that can (and usually will) wipe out all of the enemies on screen, with the exception of boss encounters and a few above-average random enemies.

Also, a big part of combat are the moon stones. There are six different moonstone colors and each one grants an attribute to the weapon that it’s attached to. Each color has strengths and weaknesses when used against enemies of different colors. For example, a red (fire) weapon against an enemy with a blue (water) attribute will do above average damage...However, a red weapon against an enemy of a purple (ice) attribute will do much more damage. You can change the color of the weapon whenever you wish, even during the middle of a battle. However, once the battle is over, the color of your characters’ weapons will determine what color your experience will go to in regards to learning magic spells. This is important to remember, especially in later battles when some spells may be a necessity in order to survive.

There is another form of combat which involves your ship battling an enemy ship. In these fights, the spirit bar is still there, except in these battles everything aside from items takes spirit points away, including the basic attacks. Ship combat requires a bit more planning than regular combat due to the fact that the spirit point meter can diminish much more quickly, however there’s a grid system during each turn that helps you plan out your attacks to make things a little easier. If part of the grid is green, then that’s the time to unload some fire power, focus, or heal since there’s little danger. When part of the grid is yellow, that’s when you should be a little more cautious with what commands you make. If part of the grid is red, then that’s when you should be bracing for attacks from the enemy. At first, the combat is pretty much just a fire-fight with cannons. However, as you progress through the story, you’ll gain more weapons and abilities that will help prepare you for the various enemy ships and giant monsters that you’ll be battling.

The story in Skies of Arcadia is pretty good. You’ll see Vyse, the main character, slowly progress from the son of an Air Pirate to someone who not only is in charge of his own island and crew but someone who managed to sail around the world and make several unknown discoveries all while trying to prevent the world as he knows it from being destroyed. It’s very satisfying...It’s almost as if you’re not just seeing Vyse grow stronger as you level up but you’re also seeing him grow stronger as a leader as the story goes on as well. The story has Vyse travel all over the world, allowing various environments and areas to be visited and lots of unknown discoveries to be uncovered.

Discoveries are another important aspect to the game. Not only does the game allow you to wander around and explore the world, but it encourages it. As you sail around, you’ll eventually find discoveries that, when reported, will earn you money. This helps a lot, especially later in the game when you can skip the random battles while sailing, since you won’t have to fight to get some income. The hidden secrets of the game don’t end there, either. There are various crew members to seek out and find when you gain control of your own ship. Also out there to find are various secret ‘boss’ fights from giant birds, to giant squids, to giant....errr...dreamcatchers? But anyway, there is a lot to find for gamers who like to wander around and explore in their RPGs. Discovering things in Skies of Arcadia isn’t just a fun side-quest, it’s an important aspect of the game.

Graphically, Skies of Arcadia looked absolutely beautiful when it was released. Even today, the graphics still look pretty nice. The overall look and feel of the game really works well with the personality of the characters. Each area of the world has its own, unique look and feel that helps keep the game feeling fresh – even when you’re near the finale of the game. As far as sound is concerned, I’ve heard some say that the soundtrack is of standard fare, but personally, I adore it. Each track fits the area that it plays in very effectively. There are limited voice-overs for the characters, but they’re pretty much just one-word or one-sentence phrases, leaving the player to read what they’ve got to say. I know some folks really hate that...I’m not one of those folks. The little samples of their voices were enough to give some personality to the story as you read the dialogue.

There aren’t many flaws to the game that I can think of aside from the often-complained-about frequency of the random battles that you'll hear with most RPGs. The only time this became a nuisance for me was when I was exploring and trying to find discoveries on the ship, which seems to be when the random battles are at their most frequent. However, once you’ve got a feel for the battle system, the random battles, even at their most frequent, will be more of an annoyance than a problem...And later on in the game, you’ll gain the ability to avoid random battles all together while sailing on your ship...So, it’s not really a big deal to me, but it will likely annoy some.

Overall, Skies of Arcadia is a must-play game for anyone who enjoys RPGs. With its strategic battle systems, interesting story, and overall polish, this game is one of the absolute best games to grace Sega’s Dreamcast console and easily one of the best RPGs of all-time. After a few hours of sailing through the clouds and traversing the game’s varied dungeons, it’ll likely become clear to you why Skies of Arcadia has such a loyal fanbase...And why they all seem to foam at the mouth whenever a rumor pops up about a possible sequel. It almost seems fitting that most of the game takes place above the clouds; your time spent playing it will feel like heaven.

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I Enjoyed it 2600 Times More Than the Original

Posted : 8 years, 9 months ago on 29 June 2011 07:51 (A review of Halo 2600)

Wow...That’s really all I can say in regards to Halo 2600, a homebrew game developed by Ed Fries and released in limited quantities in 2010. I suppose I should start by stating that I’ve never been a huge Halo fan. I’ll never say that they’re bad, but I’ve never really been reeled in by a Halo game. I almost find it odd that the official games in the series could never really captivate me, yet this unlicensed, homebrew, 4-bit game sucked me in to the point where I wanted to keep playing until I beat the game. Who would’ve known that a 4-bit, pixelated Master Chief would be my favorite version of them all?

When you start Halo 2600, you’re unarmed. Unless you find a gun, you’ll likely find yourself to be dead rather quickly. Luckily, once you know where to find the first gun, you’re good to go. Once you’re equipped with some firepower, you quickly see that this game is going to be fun, as you dance around enemy fire while attempting to fire shots off of your own at moving targets. While doing this, you may be lucky and have an enemy drop a shield power-up. Normally, one shot kills you, but after picking up the shield power-up, you’re able to withstand an extra bullet, which is essential to defeating the game, especially towards the end.

You’ll also need to find keys laying about in order to progress to the next area, so you’ll be doing some minor exploration while attempting to find them. This exploration will also help you find some firepower and/or a nifty pair of boots that boosts your speed significantly, which is very much needed to ensure victory. If you manage to battle your way through the various terrain (like an icy area, where your character slides a bit if you try to stop) and increasingly-difficult-to-pass enemies, including some wearing stealth cammo, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with the final boss, a giant space ship that fires three beams at once while it bounces up and down in the screen. Beat the boss, and you’re rewarded by starting the game over, except you’ve got about half the speed as before, and touching walls will kill you, making the difficulty significantly greater than your previous playthrough.

This game is just a blast when compared to other Atari 2600 games. While it may not reach the greatness of a Pitfall! or match the simplistic, competitive fun of Combat, I honestly believe that Halo 2600 is among the absolute best Atari 2600 games ever made. Even after beating it, I wanted to keep playing, it’s honestly that good. For the hardware that this game was developed for, and the limited amount of space allowed for the game to fit on a cartridge, Halo 2600 is absolutely amazing. If E.T. would have ended up similar to this game, I doubt that there ever would have been a video game crash back in ‘82.

Now, with all the praising, I do have a few negatives that I can point out. The first being the bullets. The bullets of you and your enemies can sometimes blend into the background, making it difficult to dodge enemy attacks. Also worth noting about enemy bullets is that they can travel through objects like trees, while your bullets cannot. I liked this, as I felt it added the need to run around and dodge enemy attacks rather than simply ‘shoot, shoot, shoot,’ however, I can see some folks getting frustrated with this despite my like for it. My only other gripe is the larger enemies you encounter towards the end of the game. They’re almost too easy to dispose of, since they’re a larger target. Maybe if these giants could withstand more than one bullet, it would help continue with the increasing difficulty that the game has up to that point. But, these are minor gripes and aren’t major enough to prevent your enjoyment of this game.

Graphically, Halo 2600 is done very well. It’s very simple, but you’re also able to tell what is what with ease. As I stated before, the bullets sometimes blend in with the backgrounds, so perhaps a little more toying with the color schemes may have helped this game, but for the most part, everything is pretty nice-looking, given the hardware it runs on. As far as audio goes, there’s a nice little jingle at the title screen, but aside from that, the only other audio that you’ll hear are sound effects. The sound effects consist of the normal bloops and bleeps found in most video games of the early-80's. So, on the audio end of things, nothing too spectacular, but it still gets the job done.

Halo 2600 is one of those rare homebrew games that feels and plays like it would have been a gigantic hit had it been released back when the Atari 2600 was at its prime. It’s just an absolute blast to play and it blows most other 2600 games out of the water. Halo 2600 isn’t just what I hope for homebrew games to be like when I play them, but it’s what I hope for commercial games to be like, too. The Atari 2600 may be nearly 35 years old, but Halo 2600 proves that there’s still plenty of life to be found in the system if we get the right people developing for it.

(Note: I like to rate things on a 0.5 scale, so while I gave this a 10 here on Listal, I'd give it a 9.5 over on my site...Which I will whenever I get around to publishing this there.)

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Baked Goods? More Like Baked Bads.

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 7 May 2011 08:54 (A review of Ninjabread Man)

The Wii, while becoming a global phenomenon making video games popular amongst crowds of folks who once looked down on them, is packed to the gills with awful games. Much like the Atari 2600 back in the video game crash in the early 80's, several terrible games are being released on a regular basis just in order to make a quick buck off of the popularity of the system. Less than a year after its release in North America, there were already several shopping centers selling discount packages of Wii games. Ninjabread Man was one of the first ‘discount’ games for the Wii...And there’s a reason that it wasn’t released at the normal fifty dollar tag.

Ninjabread Man would be a sub-par platformer as it is, however it’s transformed into an almost unplayable mess due to the implementation of the Wii’s motion controls. You’ve got to shake the nunchuk to jump, then shake the remote to swing your sword, and control the movement of the character with the analog stick on the nunchuk. These controls would be alright (except for the jumping which feels very awkward) if it weren’t for the fact that they’re done poorly. Any action involving motion controls has a fifty percent chance of actually working. If you go and try to attack an enemy with a full health bar, it’s not out of the question for that enemy to kill you while you’re wildly swinging your controller around trying to get the Ninjabread Man to swing his sword just once.

The jumping is so bad that it deserves its own paragraph in this review. As I stated earlier, the jumping feels very awkward. This makes it very difficult to get used to the controls. Making it even harder is the fact that the motion sensor aspect is done so poorly that you’ll likely have an even more difficult time getting used to the controls. If there wasn’t so many platforming elements in this game, the jumping wouldn’t be as big of a deal...But you’ll often need to do platform jumping to advance. When jumping is this important of an aspect in a game, there’s no reason for it to be the weakest part of your control scheme.

But alas, even if the controls were done well, Ninjabread Man still wouldn’t be much of a game. The levels are laid out poorly and are pretty boring to wander around in. Also, the concept of the game and characters are kinda neat, but not neat enough to keep you playing through the bad controls and boring levels. Had this game gotten more polish and they created more imaginative levels, this game might be decent...But it didn’t get any of that. It didn’t get any of it at all.

Graphically, the game is a tad on the bland side, but it’s not completely awful. In all honesty, the graphics almost look like they’d be more at home on the Nintendo 64 than on the Wii...But, the environments sometimes have some charm to them, which helps the game out visually. Unfortunately, the music is pretty awful. It sounds like they went to a dollar store and grabbed a CD titled “Generic Party Music for Deaf People” and thought that it’d be a great fit for their game. Technically, it is a pretty good fit, though. Afterall, they’ve got awful music to match the awful gameplay.

Ninjabread Man is just a poor game all-around. I’d say that roughly seventy-five percent of the folks that sit down and play this will give up during the training level...Specifically the first part of training where you learn how to jump. The poor controls ravage an already bad game and just further prove that Ninjabread Man is part of a stale batch of games undeserving of the ‘Nintendo Seal of Quality’ that they’ve somehow obtained.

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Deceptively great.

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 18 December 2010 12:19 (A review of Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu)

Hudson Soft ported a few of its games from the 16-bit TurboGrafx-16 console to the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System...And surprisingly, they all ported over very well. One of those games is Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, a side-scrolling, action platformer that stars the man whose name is in the title; Jackie Chan. On the TurboGrafx-16, the game was one of the better platformers on the system if you ask me...But on the platformer-heavy NES console, can Jackie Chan hold his own? Yup.

The game starts out like a typical game of its time, a girl has been kidnaped by some evil thug and it’s up to the character you control to save the day...Except, like I mentioned above, the character you control is Jackie Chan, so how can you lose? The man knows martial arts AND with all of those stunts that he does, he obviously doesn’t care about his own well being...So, he’s dangerous and crazy...I’m surprised the game doesn’t consist of Jackie Chan walking on the screen and the enemies fleeing in terror when they see him. Then again, I suppose he does look like a nice guy...Maybe the enemies aren’t aware that he can kick their bums.

So yeah, there are five levels in the game for you to progress through, but each level looks very different from the others...And each level is also split up into different areas that also look different from each other...So, eventhough the game will take most players a maximum of two hours to beat the game from beginning to end, you’ll see a large variety of scenery as you progress through the adventure. There are also fun little bonus stages hidden in the levels, that have you play a mini game for extra lives or health. While these stages kind of disrupt the flow of the game, it’s a fun distruption. Each level also contains a boss fight or, in the case of the fifth level, two boss fights. This adds a little more satisfaction to when you beat a level as it’s more than simply just reaching the end, it’s reaching the end and fighting a boss that’s usually two or three times your size.

To fight the bosses, you’ve got the ability to punch, kick, and jump...But by punching or kicking frogs, they’ll barf up a bowl of noodles to replenish your health a little or a power-up icon that allows Jackie Chan to perform a limited number of special attacks, from a spin kick to a spinning, cannonball-like attack, to defeat his enemies and get out of each stage in one piece. While the special attacks are neat, they’re rarely needed...And generally only help you out if you happen to have the specific one that may make a boss fight easier, like the cannonball attack works wonders in the first part of the fight against the mutant frog.

The game controls wonderfully. When I wanted Mr. Chan to jump, he jumped. When I wanted him to attack, he attacked. There was no awkward delay, just the correct command executed when I pressed the appropriate button. The only time I really ever had control problems were in certain areas that required me to jump from one platform to another. For some reason of another, there’d be times where I’d continue to run off the side of the platform rather than jump. At first I just assumed it was a timing issue on my part, but when after three of four times in a row of falling off the exact same platform, I started to question if it was a glitch in the game itself rather than my own abilities. However, I only remember experiencing this problem just once or twice when I played. Aside from that, I’d say that the game pretty much controls perfectly.

The graphics in Jackie Chan’s Action Kung-Fu are pretty great. That’s not too surprising since, as I stated at the beginning of the review, it was ported from a 16-bit system. It also came out near the end of the NES’s lifespan, so again, it’s not surprising that the graphics look as nifty as they do. However, there is a bit of glitchiness with the graphics as you play. It’s the normal graphical glitches that you’ll find in many NES games, and I honestly didn’t really notice them until I went to capture screenshots and found it difficult at times (mostly boss fights) to get a nice, clean screenshot without a glitch on it. But, if you didn’t grow up on NES games or you just haven’t played many, you may be more likely to spot the glitches as they pop up on screen. The audio is decent here. It’s got a few songs that may stick in your head for a while, but it doesn’t have the charm that say, a Mega Man soundtrack has. Overall, the audio is good, but not great and the graphics are great, but not perfect.

All in all, Hudson Soft made a fantastic port of a fun game, and despite the NES being a weaker system in terms of hardware, Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu lost very little in the translation from 16-bit to 8-bit. The game is pretty fun to play, controls fantastically, and won’t have you feeling bored before you defeat the final boss. However, minor issues like graphical glitches, the fact that special moves are rarely needed, if at all, and the lack of any sort of save or password system in the game may bog down the experience for some. But, overall, Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu is a great addition to the library of any NES owner...Especially since the game will provide a decent amount of entertainment since most folks won’t be able to rush through it in an hour...Get it? Rush Hour?.....Nevermind.

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More of the same, but still a blast while it lasts

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 14 October 2010 09:20 (A review of Bomberman Ultra)

Bomberman has been around since the 8-bit days of gaming...And with good reason, too. His games are incredibly addictive – especially when playing with other people. With Bomberman Ultra, gamers get to see Bomberman in a brand new game for Playstation 3's Playstation Network. It’s a game that proves that Bomberman still has what it takes to steal hours from your life...But it also shows that some evolution in the series would probably be a good thing.

The gameplay is classic Bomberman and is all focused on multiplayer. That doesn’t mean that you can’t play alone, however. It just means that you can battle up to seven computer players in a deathmatch simulating multiplayer. Needless to say, while battling the computer is fun, you’ll grow tired of it much faster than if you were to play against a few friends locally or online. That’s the only real flaw in the single player gameplay. Aside from trying to collect trophies, there isn’t a whole lot of replay value if you plan on playing it alone. Yes, there are hazards in some levels and various modes to the deathmatches, but none of them are enough to make you want to keep playing after you’ve grown tired of the basic one-player deathmatch. But, Bomberman is rarely about the single player experience. It’s usually about multiplayer mayhem and fun...And Bomberman Ultra has that.

Playing online can be a bit of a hassle, however. Before a match starts, the game requires everyone to hit a button on their controllers to signify that they’re ready. This wouldn’t be a problem except that every time someone leaves or enters the ‘room’ before everyone can hit the button, everything resets and you’ll have to hit the button again....and again....and again until everyone manages to hit the button before someone else enters or leaves. My first attempt at getting online, I spent nearly ten minutes before we could finally get a game started. Once you start, though, the gameplay is generally smooth. There are hiccups here and there where you’ll see someone disappear and re-appear elsewhere on the screen, which can lead to the occasional cheap death, but overall it runs fine.

Bomberman Ultra also contains a mode called ‘Customize Bomberman’ in which you can dress Bomberman up to your liking. Several costumes are available from the beginning while the others have to be obtained during single-player matches by picking up rainbow-colored orbs that appear after a certain amount of time has passed during a match. Dressing Bomberman up like a pirate with a peg leg is a neat addition, but it’s more of a novelty than something that’d improve the game.

Graphically, it’s probably the best-looking game in the Bomberman series. Everything looks clean and pretty for high-def screens. The design is pretty simple, but that feels more like an art direction rather than laziness. As far as audio goes, the music is cheerful but it can quickly become tedious...Especially when you’re playing on the same stage repeatedly. Otherwise, aside from hearing a lot of explosions, there really isn’t anything else worth mentioning in the sound department.

Overall, Bomberman Ultra is a very fun game...And is up there with the best in the series. Unfortunately, without many changes to gameplay, if you already own a few Bomberman games there’s nothing really new here to make a purchase necessary...Unless you’d like to dress Bomberman up in a pink dress. The lack of innovation and the frustrating amount of time that can be spent just trying to start an online game bog down an excellent downloadable title on the Playstation Network. But, even with those flaws, Bomberman Ultra is a very fun game and well worth the money spent to download it.

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A nightmare I don't wanna wake up from.

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 9 October 2010 08:43 (A review of Silent Hill)

Though it wasn’t the first in the genre, for years Resident Evil was known as THE survival horror game. A few companies made Resident Evil clones in hopes of cashing in on this hot new genre, but they all fell short of reaching the success of Resident Evil...Then along came Konami with a little game called Silent Hill, and suddenly Resident Evil had itself some competition.

While the gameplay itself is very similar, the one thing that sets Silent Hill apart from Resident Evil is the way that it scares you. While Resident Evil generally relied on things jumping out of nowhere to provide the scares, Silent Hill is much more psychological. A lot of the time, you’re scared when nothing is actually there...But the music suddenly began to play a menacing tune, so you’re tense and ready for something to jump out at you. Sometimes the music leads to something actually being there, other times it’s just there to put you at unease. It’s stuff like this that creates the scares in Silent Hill, not a dog jumping through a window.

The story of Silent Hill is pretty good...You take the role of Harry Mason, who was headed to the quiet town of Silent Hill to vacation with his seven-year-old daughter, Cheryl. During the drive there, Harry sees a young woman in the road, swerves out of the way, and passes out. When he comes to, Cheryl is missing, and he sets out to find her. Upon some searching, he finds that the town is nearly deserted and that it’s now populated by various nightmarish creatures and that the real world likes to merge itself with a horrific alternate reality, which Harry must also venture through in order to find his daughter.

The puzzles in the game are also pretty well done. There are one or two that rely more on guessing than actually thinking to solve it, but the majority of the puzzles are fun little riddles that actually make you think, but aren’t too difficult to prevent you from advancing on in the game after devoting a little brainwork towards them. The only real problem with them is that some of them just seem out of place...Not so much that they ruin the enjoyment of the game, mind you, but enough where some may have you scratching your head as you try to figure out how this puzzle relates to the game.

Graphically, Silent Hill looked fairly impressive for its time. The fog that blankets most of the game both adds to the atmosphere and cleverly hides the graphical limitations within the game, so it’s a nice little touch. Most of the environments are pretty detailed...There’s never really a time while you play that you feel as if the designers slacked off when creating the various locations. As far as audio goes, it’s mostly there to help create the psychologically creepy atmosphere within the game. There’s the threatening music I mentioned earlier in the review that can be used as an example. Also, a good example is the radio that you pick up in the beginning of the game. The radio makes noise when enemies are nearby, which can lead to uneasy moments, but is also an essential item to keep you alive within the game; if you hear the radio make noise, make sure you’re armed and/or ready to run for it. Background music only plays during certain times in the game, otherwise you’re playing in silence...And it works well. There are also voice-overs....But they’re horrible. Absolutely horrible. Overall, though, the audio isn’t anything fancy, but it does the job it was meant to do.

Silent Hill, with this first entry in the series, solidified its place as a top contender for the survival horror crown. While it was hard not to compare it to Resident Evil back when it was released, it quickly proved that it was very much its own game once gamers began to play...And with five different endings and several secret items and weapons to discover, many gamers played it again and again to find them all. If you’re a Resident Evil freak and absolutely loved the first few games in the series before it became more action and less adventure, then you’ll probably love the similar, yet different experience that Silent Hill gives you. If you’ve never played a survival horror game, then this is a nice place to start. Either way, your first trip into Silent Hill will be one nightmare that you’ll be glad that you entered.

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"America's Largest Killer of Time?"...Not quite.

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 19 September 2010 10:13 (A review of Zoop)

When Zoop came out, it came out on EVERYTHING...Game Boy, Genesis, Super NES, and even the Playstation got it. Zoop is one of the harder-to-find Playstation One games. It was only released in the long cases in North America and is (as of this review) listed as having a rarity of seven out of ten, which is pretty dang rare, over at the Digital Press rarity guide. Sometimes games are rare simply because nobody wanted them...Either because it wasn’t hyped enough or because it was just plain terrible. With the number of systems it got thrown on, and I still remember all of the ads for the game in various gaming magazines (as well as a few in non-gaming magazines, too) it obviously got itself hyped just fine. So could the rarity of this game be based off of that it’s terrible? Well, probably not.

Zoop is a puzzle game put out by Viacom that gloats itself as being “America’s Largest Killer of Time.” While the game is enjoyable for a while, and does have the potential to be a game that you play to kill a lot of time, it just lacks something to make it really stand out as a great puzzle game – variety. Nothing really changes in Zoop aside from the backgrounds...And here and there, new little surprises pop up, but essentially, you’re just doing the exact same things over and over for 99 levels. The game is fun...But not so fun that you’ll be willing to play 99 levels of the exact same thing.

Basically, you’re an arrow within a square in the middle of the screen. Colored shapes start to move towards you, you need to eliminate these shapes. You can only eliminate shapes that are the same color as your arrow. If you eliminate a shape and a different colored shape is behind it, your arrow changes into the color of the shape that was behind the one that you eliminated. In the place of the shape that you changed colors into, the colored shape of the color you once were appears...So, let’s say you’re a red arrow and you eliminate a red shape that has a green shape behind it. By eliminating the red shape, you become a green arrow and a red shape appears in the place where that green shape was. It’s more confusing to read it than to actually play; you’ll catch on quickly once you pick up the controller. Once the shapes get close enough to you in the square, they’ll pounce on you and it’ll be game over, so you’ve got to be quick and eliminate the shapes as quickly as possible while trying to set up combos for a high score.

Graphically, this is the best version of Zoop that I’ve seen...Which makes sense because it’s the most powerful system of the Zoop games released in North America. Some of the backgrounds are quite beautiful, like the one with a blue sky and clouds in the background....However others aren’t quite as enjoyable. But, you won’t be focused on the backgrounds much, you’ll be focused more on the actual gameplay. The graphics aren’t great here, but they don’t need to be. They more than do their job. This audio is decent. It’s nothing that’ll ‘wow’ you, but it’s also not going to make you reach for the mute button, either. The audio is decent, and like the graphics of the actual gameplay, it’s not great, but it more than gets the job done.

Zoop is actually a pretty fun puzzle game and it’s kind of a shame that the Playstation version is so rare. If it had sold better, or if more folks had known about its existence, perhaps we could’ve seen a sequel expand on the ideas and gameplay found here and create a puzzle game that was truly great. As it is, Zoop is a decent puzzle game, but there’s only so much Zoop that one can take before getting bored. If the gameplay was as solid as, say Tetris, 99 levels of repetition isn’t so bad, but Zoop isn’t quite on the same level as Tetris. As it is, Zoop is a very good choice for any Playstation owners that are looking for a decent puzzle game....That is, if you’re able to find it.

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A puzzling music title

Posted : 9 years, 7 months ago on 4 September 2010 07:03 (A review of Puyo Puyo DA!)

A lot of North American gamers have no clue what Puyo Puyo is. If you happen to be one of them, think of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine or Kirby’s Avalanche...Those are games of the series modified with recognizable characters of the Sonic and Kirby franchises in order to try and make the game seem appealing to the non-Japanese public. If you’ve never played either of those two games, here’s the basic premise: globs of various color drop down the screen, Tetris-style, and by matching up the globs of the same color, they burst, giving you more room and possibly setting up a combo. The formula works well, making it one of the top puzzle game franchises in video games...So, imagine my surprise when I sat down to review Puyo Puyo DA! and found out that it’s not a puzzle game at all, but a music game set in the Puyo universe...And despite my love for the Puyo puzzle games, and initial disappointment that I wasn’t receiving the puzzle bliss that I was expecting, I actually enjoyed my experience here more than I thought.

As I stated above, Puyo Puyo DA! isn’t a puzzle game, but a music or rhythm game...And it plays as such. Basically, you have five commands to press; up/green, left/yellow, right/blue, down/red, and the left or right triggers. Based on what you see on screen, you input the correct buttons at the correct times and get a score. But here’s where the similarities to the Puyo puzzles games come in. You’re always facing a rival dancer. If they have a poor round and miss a lot of button commands when you have a good round, you’ll see some familiar globs appear in a rectangle above your rival’s head. If the song ends while they still have globs up there, the globs come crashing down and you become the winner of the all-important dance-off. It’s a pretty simple formula and it works well.

However, there is a downside to the simplicity of this game, and that is the simplicity of the game. There are only two modes - single player mode, where you challenge various computer opponents like in the style of an ‘arcade mode’ in a fighting game, and two-player mode, where you can battle a friend. That’s all. While the game will definitely keep you occupied for a little bit, unless you consider this to be one of your favorite games that you’ve ever played, there probably won’t be anything to keep you coming back for more. Aside from that, the lack of a ‘pause’ option can prove to be annoying if something happens, like you get a phone call or realize that you haven’t urinated in a day and need to release some fluids.

Graphically, the game is alright looking. The graphics won’t blow your mind; they’re simple and to the point, but not poorly done by any means. The audio is done alright as well. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the music, but I didn’t hate it, either. There’s also a decent variety in the songs, so you’re not hearing the same music over and over and over again, which is a plus. If you’re a fan of Japanese music, you’ll likely enjoy the soundtrack. If you’re not, well then maybe keep the mute button handy. Overall, though, the cosmetics aren’t fantastic, but they’re slightly above average and more than passable.

In the end, while it lasts, Puyo Puyo DA! can provide you with a lot of fun if you enjoy rhythm games..But there just isn’t enough content here for the fun to last very long for most people. For the most part, however, I’d say that the transition from puzzle games to a dance game went pretty well for the Puyo Puyo franchise. If you’re a fan of the Puyo games or just a fan of music and rhythm games, Puyo Puyo DA! is a great Dreamcast game to own...Just don’t expect it to be a game that you’ll be putting more than a few hours into.

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I wish this world would end

Posted : 9 years, 7 months ago on 28 August 2010 06:57 (A review of Spice World)

You know what I want? What I really, really want? To never play this game again. Honestly, I’d make this review that one, single phrase, but I feel the need to explain my anguish, so let’s do that. I have never heard a Spice Girls song from beginning to end. I can name a few of their hits due to their uses in movie soundtracks and the like, but I’ve never actually heard any of their songs from start to finish, and nor can I tell you the titles of any of their songs. And yet, when I saw Spice World, I felt the unexplainable urge to play it...”It’s a rhythm game,” I thought. “It’s gotta be at least somewhat enjoyable.” That’s a big negative. Spice World is one of the biggest wastes of time that I’ve ever played...It’s not really even a game. It’s just a chance to make a very lame, very poor, re-mixed music video of them...No more and no less.

There is no challenge here. You can make your video the worst thing ever created and you’ll still be rewarded with about a half an hour of Spice Girls video footage as a reward. This is great for someone who’s a Spice Girls fan...But I’m not one. But anyway, you start out by choosing the Spice Girl that’ll be doing most of the rehearsing that you’ll be in control of. Then, you’ll remix one of their songs to play in the background of the video, then you learn how to dance, then you dance, then you have the others dance, then you control the camera while you watch the Spice Girls use your dance moves to the remix that you made....Then you’ve ‘beaten’ the game. That’s it. No challenge, no fun, no nothing.

Graphically, the game is decent. The super-deformed versions of the Spice Girls have their own charm to them. The backgrounds, while kind of bland, still look pretty well done. The audio is alright...But when there’s this little to do in a game, and it’s all based around remixing one of their hit songs, why only include five of them? The replay value is already incredibly low and the small selection of songs doesn’t help the matter at all...And quite frankly, if you hate the Spice Girls, you’ll really hate the audio here. Cosmetically, the graphics are really the highlight of the game, with the decent-quality audio coming in second...The giant turd called ‘gameplay’ comes in a distant third.

In the end, I really don’t know what to say. I expected a moderately fun rhythm game with annoying Spice Girls music playing in the background. Instead, I got a music game that made me want to cover my hands in honey and shove ‘em into the mouth of a hungry grizzly bear so that I’d never be able to play this game again...with annoying Spice Girls music playing in the background. There is no gameplay here. People who hate the Spice Girls will spend roughly five to ten minutes tops before shutting it off...Which is how long it takes to ‘beat’ it, by the way. And with only five songs in the game, even Spice Girls fanatics won’t last much more than an hour before they’re done...And that includes the half-hour video montage that you get as a ‘reward’ for not murdering yourself with a blunt object during the gameplay. This may be the worst music game that I have ever played in my life. I guess that means that their ‘Girl Power’ made them number one in at least something...Even if their game is about as pleasant as number two.

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