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All reviews - Games (45)

It didn't burst my bubble.

Posted : 9 years, 7 months ago on 12 August 2010 06:47 (A review of Bubble Bobble)

When people toss out a list of their favorite NES games, Bubble Bobble is often a game that’s somewhere on that list. However, when folks list off their favorite Commodore 64 games, Bubble Bobble doesn’t appear quite as often. Now, it’s true that the Commodore 64 version of this Taito classic is inferior to the NES version in pretty much every way, but that doesn’t make it a terrible game. Let’s get into the details.

The gameplay found in the NES version of Bubble Bobble is pretty much intact here. The levels, the enemies, the power-ups...they’re all here. The only real difference in this version in comparison to the NES version is the control scheme, which is modified to work with the Commodore 64 joystick, where the ‘fire’ button controls the bubble barfing and moving the joystick up results in Bub and/or Bob jumping. For people used to a controller, this may take a little getting used to, but for the most part the Commodore 64 control scheme works alright.

Another big difference is the graphical presentation. The Commodore 64 produces weaker graphics than the NES, and it shows in Bubble Bobble. For the most part, everything is still easy to see, but the crisp-looking graphics found on the NES won’t be found here; it almost looks like a lego version of the game. Unfortunately, the lack of graphical power does effect the gameplay in some aspects...For example, in the NES version, when an enemy trapped inside a bubble is about to burst out, the bubble turns red and flashes a little bit. In the Commodore 64 version, the bubble remains white, but the bubble flashes on and off around the character. The way this is done on the C64 makes it kind of difficult to figure out when an enemy is about to escape or not, which can lead to deaths when you go try to pop a bubble and it pops in your face, resulting in death.

Now, honestly, it’s not really right for me to be doing these comparisons as the Commodore 64 version of Bubble Bobble actually came out a year before the NES version, buuut the NES version is a pretty accurate recreation of the arcade version of the game and while the Commodore 64 version is close enough to give C64 owners their money’s worth, it’s just not the same level of quality that was achieved a year later on Nintendo’s 8-bit console. With that being said, here’s a comparison-free opinion: it’s fun.

Graphically, Bubble Bobble looks alright. Long-time fans will know what enemy is what. They’ll recognize the same levels, notice the same power-ups and point-filled fruits, and be able to distinguish Bub from Bob. They’re blocky, but by no means bad-looking. The audio is good. The background music that fans know and love is here. However, the sound effects aren’t...At least not in my copy. It doesn’t really effect the experience much, but if you’re used to playing Bubble Bobble on any other system, it’ll seem a little weird when you see something happen and it’s not accompanied by a sound effect.

In the end, the Commodore 64 version of Bubble Bobble isn’t the best port of the game available, but it’s still fun. If all you happen to have is a Commodore 64, you can’t go wrong with Bubble Bobble. However, if you own any other system that contains Bubble Bobble, from the NES version to the recent Wii remake, I’d go with getting that one instead. But still, it speaks volumes about Bubble Bobble when even its weakest port is still very fun to play. Bubble Bobble may not be on everyone’s ‘Favorite Commodore 64 games’ list, but it’s definitely on mine.

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Loved it as a kid...But I've grown wiser with age.

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 24 July 2010 10:25 (A review of Puss 'N Boots: Pero's Great Adventure)

When I was a young lad, I remember my mom renting this game for me and I had absolutely loved it. I mean, it had an animal as a main character with three different kinds of weapons at his disposal, it featured multiple vehicles that you had to drive, and it had some nice music to listen to while you played. I mean, how could this game not be great? Well, you grow up that’s how. My fond memories of Puss ‘N Boots were mostly destroyed after sitting down to review this game...Which is a shame.

I’ll start out with the negatives. First off, the game is WAY too short. I beat it in ten minutes without too much of a problem. Secondly, the game is WAY too easy. You will cruise through every single level in the game without an issue (aside from some unresponsive control issues, but I’ll get to that later) until you reach the final level. It’s like they made the game super easy and then got to the last level and said, “We have poor jumping mechanics in the game, so let’s have the last level include a lot of platform jumping!...Wait, too easy. Let’s have fireballs shooting randomly during the platform jumping, so the player gets burned to a crisp while they’re already struggling to make a jump!” And that last boss fight isn’t just lame (the other bosses were kinda cool...why wasn’t the boss of England the final boss?), but it’s insanely difficult. If the controls were more responsive the final boss probably wouldn’t be so bad, but they aren’t...So, when you finally win, you feel as if it was based more on luck than skill.

I mentioned that the controls aren’t very responsive, so I’ll cover that a little more. The jumping in particular is a nightmare. If you tap the jump button, it’s sometimes a toss-up whether you’ll actually do a small jump or if you’ll jump as high as possible. This isn’t terrible for most of the game, but in England and New York precise platforming is an important part of the level...So, it’s easy to get a cheap death simply because you jumped way too high when you were really just trying for a little hop. The rest of the controls aren’t terribly bad, but the jumping will really get on the nerves of some folks.

But, there is good here. You do get three weapons to use at your disposal; a gun, bombs, and a boomerang. The gun is the default weapon. Every time you go on a different screen, you’ll have your gun, even if you had prepared the boomerang in the previous room for an upcoming boss fight, when you enter the room of the boss, you’ll be equipped with the gun again. It’s a little annoying, but nothing too anger-inducing. The weapons give a little variety to the action, but quite frankly, you won’t likely be using the bombs or boomerang aside from during boss fights. Then there’s the vehicles you drive. Most of the levels you’re in will actually be within a vehicle; airplanes, cars, boats, hot-air balloons, submarines...That cat must have a lot of licenses. But anyway, these vehicle levels are fun and all, but like most other levels, they’re to short. Some of them last only roughly a minute to complete.

Graphically, Puss ‘N Boots is decent. It’s not amongst the best graphics on the NES, but it’s also not amongst the worst. The levels seem to range from looking bland to looking way too busy. Most of the bosses look great (aside from the lame-looking final boss) but most of the regular enemies don’t really look that good. Overall, there’s just average graphics to be found here. The audio, however, is still like how I remember it. It’s pretty enjoyable. They’re not the kind of tunes to get stuck in your head for days, but they are pretty enjoyable. This really seems to be the only aspect of the game that is exactly how I remember it from when I was a child. It’s quite good.

So, after playing this game, a game from my beloved childhood, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that, aside from the soundtrack, it’s nothing like how I remember it to be. While I did enjoy my time with the game to a point, there are just so many flaws that it’s hard for me to give it a better score. Almost everything that I can praise the game for, I can also find a fault in...And yet, I can’t find much good in most of the things that bothered me about the game. There’s just too much bad and too little good in this short, little adventure to justify a higher score, but if you give Puss ‘N Boots a chance, you’ll likely have some fun...But you also may have enough of this ten-minute-long game before you reach the end.

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Decent game with a few Higgups...get it? Higs? nm.

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 21 July 2010 06:45 (A review of Killzone 2)

I had heard good things about Killzone 2 when I sat down to play it...About how it was better than Resistance and was one of the best first-person shooters available. I’ve heard the term ‘system seller’ used when people describe this game. I think those folks have been doing a bit of the ol’ boozin’, ‘cause while it’s a solid game, it’s not THAT great...and it has a few frustrating flaws, to boot.

In Killzone 2, you’re a member of a human military squad, Alpha, and are sent to a different planet to kill some Hig alien scum. Along the way, you’ll shoot...And shoot. Not a whole lot of variety here. No puzzles to solve, no really neat boss fights or little gimmicks tossed it, just shooting swarms of enemies...Which is fun at first, but it grows tired by the end of the game. Yeah, there are a variety of different guns, but they all work the same...point and shoot. With the exception of only a couple guns they’re all basically the same tactic, just a different type of firepower coming out of the barrel. After a while, it just feels very old. What’s worse is that the game occasionally teases that you’ll be doing something different, like driving a vehicle, or at least shooting from atop one. But alas, aside from a mission where you very briefly get inside a tank and shoot, one where you briefly get behind a turret inside your military base, and one where you’re in some sort of battle machine for the whole level (which oddly enough, plays almost exactly the same as if you weren’t in it), there’s really no change-up in the missions. You go into an area, you’ll find a lot of Higs that want to murder you, and then you kill them all. That’s it. This makes things feel pretty repetitive pretty fast.

That formula of kill, move, kill some more wouldn’t be quite so bad if it weren’t for some frustrating aspects of the gameplay. Your aim, for example, could be dead-on...But that still doesn’t mean you’re going to connect with your shot. Even when the cursor is red, meaning you’ve got an enemy locked in your sights, it still seems to be a toss-up as to whether you’ll actually connect or not sometimes. At certain points in the game, precise aiming is necessary and it just feels cheap when you feel that you’ve got a perfect shot, and the enemy doesn’t move, but you still miss anyway. Another big problem I had was how the screen changes when you’re close to death. When you’re almost dead, that’s the time you need to be able to see the most...So having blood cover most of the screen as the action turns into a blown-out black and white picture is extremely difficult to not only see where you’re going if you’re looking for cover, but it’s also hard to see where any enemies are. Again, this feels cheap rather than challenging when you’re picked off while blinded by the ‘near-death’ screen. Another problem I have is how you constantly lose your weapons at the end of each level. This would be fine if it were like, say Resistance 2, where each level is a new location. But in Killzone 2, half the time, you’re starting the next level where you left off in the first. I jump on a train at the end of one level with some useful weaponry, and when the next level starts on that same train, I suddenly have nothing. Basically, you’re telling me that this Sev guy is in the middle of a war and just says, “Eh, it’s a train. No enemies here, I’ll just throw my weapons away.” That deserves a one word reply; Dumb. I’m not even gonna get into all of the mysterious ‘instant deaths’ that I got as I played. I’ll just say that you don’t see them coming, you don’t know where they came from, but they happen...And it’s not fun.

Another problem I had, that has less to do with the combat, is that the game lacks a map of any kind. I don’t know how many times I had no idea where I was going, or heard a voice say ‘Over here, Sev!’ and I had absolutely no idea where ‘here’ was. A map with a little marker or something with a dot locating where you need to go would have been nice, even if it was just in the pause menu. Heck, add in some blips for enemy movement while you’re at it since when you’re near death you probably won’t be able to see ‘em anyway. Something useful like that could’ve been added to the game instead of the stupid ‘tilt the loading screens by tilting the controller’ garbage they added to apparently make the loading screens less boring. It doesn’t work, by the way.

Now, while I have a lot of complaints, that’s not to say that this game doesn’t have any good to it. While a gun feels like a gun in that they all require you to aim and fire, there are different ones to find, like machine guns and shotguns...And you’ll often find gun racks laying around with two or three weapons for you to choose from. I liked this since it allowed me to choose what weapon I wanted to use rather than be stuck with one I didn’t want. There’s also a neat gun called the electricity gun that’s kind of like a flamethrower, except it shoots out electricity...And it has infinite ammo. Once you get ahold of one of those, the game almost becomes ridiculously easy...Perhaps they made that weapon a little too good. Also, the Higs aren’t all exactly the same, different ones carry different weapons and use different attack patterns...It’s a nice little variety that slightly helps prevent boredom from kicking in when you’re just shooting everything in sight. I also enjoy the intelligence of the computer. They don’t just stand there and wait for you to shoot them; they’ll duck under cover or try to get out of the way of your line of fire. Again, this helps to prevent boredom since it adds some challenge to the game.

The online aspects of Killzone 2 are alright. It’s fun shooting other players from around the world, but Killzone 2 makes you work for the best weapons in the game when playing online. You have to basically unlock weapons, which is fine and good, but when you’re stuck playing against folks who have had the game for months and have the deadliest weapons unlocked, and you’re stuck with the basic supplies, it just gets a tad frustrating. So, while I enjoy the idea of unlocking and earning what you get, it just doesn’t work when battling other folks online...It just puts a severe handicap on all newcomers, who already have a handicap in getting used to the controls. And while the game is multiplayer online, it’s not multiplayer during campaign mode...Which just plain doesn’t make sense since you’ve got an AI partner fighting alongside you during the vast majority of the game.

As far as graphics go, Killzone 2 is up there as amongst the best of the Playstation 3 library. The opening cutscene looks pretty good on a high-def screen and all those explosions and smoke effects look quite lovely as well. The audio for the game feels more like a soundtrack you’d hear in a war movie. It’s nearly all instrumental, with the exception of a few vocals, and sounds like an orchestra is playing. It fits the battles pretty nicely...But you likely won’t be able to remember a note of it once you shut the console down. That’s not to say that the audio isn’t good or that it doesn’t do its job well...It’s just not very memorable. Likewise, all the sound effects and voice-overs are all top-notch. Cosmetically, Killzone 2 got a lot of love.

Overall, Killzone 2 isn’t a bad game by any means...It just seems like it’s missing something to make it great. It doesn’t really have anything within it to make it stand out among all of the other first-person shooters of the current generation of consoles. The story is decent, but not great. The gameplay is decent, but not great. The game itself is decent, but not great. With no real innovation and multiple flaws, Killzone 2 is a decent game to play if you love first-person shooters, but everyone else may be scratching their heads as to why people were thinking that this game was going to be a ‘system seller’ for the Playstation 3.

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Great concept...not-so-great execution.

Posted : 9 years, 10 months ago on 24 May 2010 06:40 (A review of Muscle March)

I first caught a glimpse of Muscle March back when it first released on Japan’s WiiWare store back in May of 2009. I saw a video and immediately frowned when I realized that there weren’t any plans to bring the game stateside at the time. It looked so completely bizarre that I wanted to play it...Badly. As time passed, Namco Bandai eventually made the call to bring the game to North America and I was very, very happy. So, after downloading and playing Muscle March, am I glad that they made it available out here? Well, yes and no.

The game itself is moderately fun. Basically, someone steals the protein powder of the loveable cast of bodybuilders, so you have to chase the culprit around town. In an attempt to lose the bodybuilders, the thief poses as he crashes through walls, forcing those in pursuit (which would be you) to strike the same pose in order to make it through the wall without any issues. In other words, it’s basically a game of simon says that requires reflexes that progressively get faster as the level goes on...And that’s where the problems start.

Like many games on the Wii, the motion controls absolutely suck. Just because you have quick enough of reflexes to strike the correct pose in time, it doesn’t mean that you actually will. I’ve noticed that it’s pretty frequent that when going from one pose from another, the game has the character I’m controlling do two or three different poses before it finally settles on the one I’m doing...And nine times out of ten, this results in my character crashing through a wall. When playing by yourself, this can become very frustrating very fast....And it happens a LOT. It happens so much, in fact, that it is almost the sole reason for the score being so low in this review. The other reasons, which are partially responsible for the low score are the size of the game (you can probably beat it in mere minutes) and the lack of variety, as all you’re doing is the same simon says-type gameplay through the entire game.

The only time that the poor motion controls seem to be bearable (pun intended, in regards to Rossi, the cheerful, bodybuilder polar bear of the game) is when you’re playing multiplayer with other people...Mainly because they’re experiencing the same problems that you are, which helps nullify some of the frustration that you’d experience when playing alone. The multiplayer also adds a significant amount of replay value to the game. I can’t see anyone playing this game by themselves for any longer than an hour before they’d be done. When playing with friends, the game stays fun longer...And the oddball concept just seem to make the game feel more fun than it actually is, which may have you and your friends playing longer than you might think.

When it comes to graphics, the game just kind of oozes visual style. It’s full of bright colors and objects and creatures roaming around the levels that make no sense. For a downloadable title, I thought the graphics were really well done. The levels were designed well too...The game is as much fun to watch and look at the weird stuff going on in the backgrounds as it is to play, which is a good thing in my book. The audio just adds to the overall feel of the game, with a custom Japanese soundtrack that really wouldn’t fit any serious game about bodybuilders, but easily fits the story, characters, and game as a whole in Muscle March. For a downloadable game, I really feel that this game is done really well cosmetically.

So, in the end, even at its low, 500 point price tag, Muscle March is probably only worth a download for fans of the odd and absurd, like myself. The gameplay is moderately fun, but it just plain doesn’t last. The multiplayer aspect of the game makes the fun last a little longer, but without a whole lot to do, it just doesn’t last. If the motion controls were done a little better, then maybe I’d bump the score up a little bit...But unfortunately in a game where controls need to be precise, I can’t really give a higher score to a game when they’re not. I really, really wanted to like this game. And as far as the personality and concept of the game goes, I absolutely love it....But the gameplay just needs a little work. With better controls and a few more gameplay modes, this would’ve been a really great download...Unfortunately, as it stands, most gamers are going to wish that these charming muscle-bound folks march right off of their gaming console so that they won’t have to play it again.

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Blood, Boobs, and Boredom

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 8 May 2010 07:29 (A review of Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers)

The first Onechanbara had some solid, fun gameplay but some serious repetitiveness issues really prevented it from being good. This game in the Onechanbara seres (which was actually released on the same day as the first game here in the ‘States) suffers from many of the same problems, unfortunately...And also introduces a new problem; one that really makes this game feel like more of a slight downgrade than a sequel.

The premise of Bikini Zombie Slayers is very much like the one found in Bikini Samurai Squad on the Xbox 360 – kill zombies while controlling scantily clad women that carry deadly weapons and watch an amusingly cheesy story unfold. This concept is mindless fun that can be great to pop in and play for a few minutes every now and then when you’re bored...But it’s likely not a game that you’d happily spend hours at a time playing. Mostly because the thrills can, and will, get old fairly quickly.

Repetition. That is the biggest flaw in the Onechanbara series. Bikini Zombie Slayers is no exception to the rule. While hacking and slashing through zombies is fun, there comes a point when you’re playing and just wondering to yourself, “Are they gonna throw any puzzles or anything my way or is this all I’ll be doing?” The environments are also a little repetitive as well. Though they’re not quite as bad as the first game, if you’ve played through the first game, you’ll likely groan as you’ll find that most of the environments from Bikini Samurai Squad have been ported over so you’ll get to enjoy hacking and slashing through the city you got bored looking at the first time around.

The controls in Onechanbara are actually not bad. They use the motion sensors of the Wii remote and nunchuk for attacking and the like and it actually works pretty well. It’s pretty rare for you to swing the remote and not have it register. That’s a good thing...Especially when you’ve got twenty zombies circling around you wanting to eat your brains. There is one flaw in the controls, however, but it’s a pretty big and very annoying one; the lock-on system. The original Onechanbara also had a lock-on system, but you didn’t really need to use it very often. You will need it in this game a lot...Which is a shame because it is terrible. When you’re able to lock on to an enemy, the system works wonderfully...Even switching to another zombie after you kill the one you’ve locked onto. However, there are times (and it happens WAY too often) when you’ll try to lock onto a zombie that is literally right in front of you....And the game just doesn’t register....Or, it’ll lock onto a zombie that is a good distance away and of no threat to you at the moment, allowing the nearby zombie to get a hit in. In the later levels, when stuff like this happens, it can mean death...And it becomes very frustrating.

Graphically, the game is inferior to the first game, which is understandable due to the difference in system hardware. However, the graphics still aren’t terrible. The only real flaw in the graphics department is the design of the levels...They’re very bland and boring to look at. Audio-wise, I found it to be a step-up from the first game. While the music still isn’t very memorable or good, it did feel like the developers put some thought into it rather than just saying, “Lame, generic techno music? Put it in!” like they did in the first game.

The first Onechanbara, Bikini Samurai Squad, was a fun, passable game, but so repetitive that it was borderline bad. This one feels slightly more repetitive and has a few problems that the first game didn’t have. Bikini Zombie Slayers doesn’t have the honor of being borderline bad...It has crossed the border. The game is fun for short periods of time, but ultimately you’ll get bored quickly and may get frustrated with trying to get the lock-on system to lock onto something that you actually want it to lock onto. The first Onechanbara wasn’t a landmark title, but it had its charm...With Bikini Zombie Slayers, most of that charm has faded away.

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Great story, passable gameplay, poor combat

Posted : 10 years, 2 months ago on 1 February 2010 08:17 (A review of Rule of Rose)

Underage lesbian children. Good, now that I’ve gotten the attention of every pervert on the internet, let’s continue. Before I really start this review I just wanted to touch on why this game was banned in a few European countries. The main argument was that it contained lesbianism in very young girls. It does. BUT, they also claim that the game is very sexual in nature. It’s not. Aside from the two girls rubbing their noses together in the intro movie, their expressed love for one another never really goes beyond one telling the other that they love them. So, unless you’re offended by homosexual stuff in general, there’s really nothing here to offend anyone. The supposed strong sexuality between two young lesbian girls never happens. So, basically, the folks who got up in arms about this game never actually played it...Nor did they actually look into what it was about. They basically just generalized...Which is a shame. A few European countries were left out in the cold and not allowed to enjoy the enjoyable story found within Rule of Rose.

Anyway, let’s get on with the review, eh? Rule of Rose was actually published by Sony in Japan...But supposedly, they thought that publishing it elsewhere may lead to what happened in Europe. Atlus, never to shy away from controversy, then picked up the publishing rights for North America and brought her stateside. It’s a survival horror-style of game with an emphasis on avoiding fights rather than trying to kill every enemy you find. You take the role of a young woman named Jennifer as she is seemingly led to a strange house and quickly finds herself in a world that is run by brutal, morbid children who have created a hierarchy-type society, in which Jennifer is at the very bottom.

As you progress through the story, you slowly uncover the mystery of why you’ve been summoned to this place. It’s done in such a way that there are a lot of questions left unanswered until the very end, which helps allow you to be surprised when you reach the end and discover why exactly Jennifer is there and who that little boy is in relation to her. The story as a whole is EXTREMELY well done and was the whole reason that I wanted to keep playing the game. I was very curious to see how everything played out and often wondering what the next morbid moment in the game would be...In my opinion, it’s one of the best stories that I’ve seen within a video game. It’s a very macabre tale, but it’s told extremely well and doesn’t contain an ending that you’ll see a mile away...Well, aside from the final boss fight since they kind of hint at that through the game.

Speaking of fighting, that’s where the game take a nose-dive. The fighting mechanics in Rule of Rose are absolutely awful. Granted, one could argue that it makes the game more realistic since Jennifer obviously isn’t someone trained in combat...But, quite frankly, it doesn’t make for a fun game. The biggest problem I had with the combat was the lack of a lock-on system. With no lock-on system to be found, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for you jab a fork (or whatever weapon you’re carrying) towards an enemy, but have the weapon hit nothing but the air on the side of your target. This, of course leaves you open for an attack. When you’re left open for enough attacks, it leaves you open for death...And that’s just not fun. The only efficient way to kill enemies (that I’ve found, anyway) is to run around, attack once, then run around some more. Yes, if you swing your weapon enough, you kind of build up a combo that culminates with a heavy hit...But nine times out of ten, you’ll be attacked before you can even finish the swing for your second blow. So, the general rule is to run and attack...And honestly, it gets old fast. However, while there are times where you’re forced to fight, whether it be against a boss like a puking mermaid that lowers from the ceiling or if you’re locked in a room and not allowed out until you manage to kill a wimpy imp, the game generally encourages you to run away.

The non-fighting aspects of the game, while not bad, aren’t really anything special. They’re just average. They’re mostly tasks that require you to ‘do this’ and ‘get that’ with a few puzzles tossed in to prevent things from getting too awful repetitive. It’s not bad, but it’s not going to wow you. The mechanic of having your dog friend, Brown, find items is done pretty well, though. You can explore and find hidden items by having Brown search for particular things, or you can just stick with the story and have Brown look for the items needed to advance on in the game. It’s pretty neat having a dog sniff out clues for you...But after a while, it does feel a little boring. Afterall, you’re just following him from place to place. Yeah, sometimes he’ll lead you to a locked door and you’ll have to find a different way around, but for the most part it’s a little too simple...Have Brown search for the item, follow Brown, receive item.

There is a bit of replayability here, though, for those who can deal with the poor fighting and average gameplay. There are several items to find as you play, from movie reels that let you play specific cutscenes from the game when you find a working film projector to hidden costumes and weapons...There is a lot to discover in Rule of Rose if you’re someone who likes to uncover hidden stuff, which can really boost up the replayability level quite a bit. The game also encourages people to play again if they get the good ending by giving them a key to open the four-leaf clover door, a door that you’re unable to open on your first playthrough. The game takes roughly six to seven hours to beat when you’re not collecting anything or searching for items, you could probably toss another four or five hours on if you’re planning on collecting everything and seeing everything that the game has to offer, plus add another six or seven hours on top of that since you’ll have to play through at least twice to see everything.

Graphically, Rule of Rose is pretty impressive. I’m a pretty big fan of the little things in the game, like how light shines through windows and how filthy certain areas of the game look...It all comes together and creates a morbidly beautiful scene for the game. The animations are also quite good. The character models all have personality to them. You can see emotion in their body movements and facial expressions, which really helps you get lost in the story easier rather than just seeing two people standing still with their mouths moving. The audio is equally impressive. The soundtrack fits the game perfectly...And again, like the graphics, the audio is beautiful, but also somewhat morbid. The voice-overs are all done well, too. Overall, Rule of Rose is great in the cosmetics area.

All in all, Rule of Rose is a passable game. What it lacks in gameplay, it makes up for in story, graphics, audio, and replayability. Yes, the combat is terrible. Yes, the gameplay itself can sometimes feel tedious. However, the story will be enough for most folks to look past all of that. Could the game be better? Definitely. But even with its flaws, it’s still decent enough for you to be willing to play through until the end. If the developers had put as much time into the gameplay as they did everything else, however, I can’t help but think that this game would have been one of the must-buy titles for the system rather than have the small cult following that it has right now.

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A short, but surprisingly fun experience

Posted : 10 years, 2 months ago on 11 January 2010 07:57 (A review of Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition)

Natsume is pretty well known for publishing some of the most relaxing games available, their most famous and popular being the Harvest Moon series, and Animal Kingdom follows in that tradition. This game is very relaxing as all you’re basically doing is touring around an island and taking pictures...That’s it. I know some folks may be thinking, “That’s it? How can this possibly be any good?” But Natsume, like they’ve done with the Harvest Moon games and the need to do farming chores, has made it pretty fun. But there is a difference between a fun game and a great game...So, I’ll get into the review and let you folks know what’s going on.

First off, the game is pretty easy. Literally, all you do is ride around in a jeep, take photos of wildlife, and send your three best photos to your headquarters each day for evaluation. It’s actually pretty hard to fail during evaluations...Well, in my experience it was anyway. My only failed photo was the first one I took, since you’re very limited as to what you can do with the shot. The most common evaluation that you’ll get is ‘Silver’, however once you kind of get the hang of what they look for in evaluations, it’s not hard to start pumping out ‘Gold’ evaluations on a regular basis. To add a tiny bit of challenge to the game, while you’re out taking pics of the wildlife, you’ll have a specific goal to try and obtain. Headquarters may want you to get a photo of an animal and its child or of a specific animal eating, etc. So, as you explore around, you’ll want to keep an eye out for that stuff.

The concept of finding animals is kind of neat, but kind of annoying at the same time. As the jeep drives, you control the eyesight of your character from a first-person perspective. As you look around, you’ll never actually see an animal. Instead, you’ll see dust kicked up, leaves rustling in a tree, or splashes in a pond. When you see this, you need to use the Wiimote and point to the location and press the ‘A’ button. This will allow you to get a closer look and see what animals you’ll discover there. When you’re in the area with the animals, you need to slowly approach them or you’ll frighten them and they’ll run away...However, if you keep snapping some good photos of that specific animal, their tolerance and like for you will increase, allowing you to get closer and closer and reducing the need to sneak before the animals decide to run. With dangerous critters, a warning also appears if you’re too close....But you’ll never die or get attacked. If the animals turn ‘hostile’ you’re just simply told that it’s become dangerous and you’re returned to the jeep unscathed. The hostile animals have the same tolerance rules, though...So, if you take enough good photos, you’ll be able to literally stand right next to them without them turning hostile. And getting a good, close-up photo of some of them, like the lion, will usually result in a ‘Gold’ evaluation with little to no effort on your end.

There are kind of other things to do aside from simply taking pictures...But I never found them to be important enough to spend too much time with. You may receive items as you play...Like alternate paint jobs for your jeep, etc. It allows you to do some minor customization within the game...But again, I felt no need to really customize anything. There are some items that I do enjoy using, however, for example there’s a device that makes it rain for a short period of time. After the rain, you’ll be able to find animals doing things that they normally wouldn’t be doing before due to the puddles and such created from the storm. But, for the most part, I never really used any of the items, either. I didn’t see any need to. Even the seemingly helpful ones, like the disguises that supposedly help you sneak up on animals for photos, I very rarely used. It’s neat that they were added in the game, but I wish that there was a reason for them being there...It mostly just feels like they added these items to create a false sense that this is a deep game. While the game is fun and I enjoyed my time playing it, it’s not deep at all. There’s no real need for most of the items...They’re basically just there as an option rather than a necessity. The lone non-photography thing that I enjoyed was the ability to see detailed information about all of the animals you’ve sent in photos for, including the ability to study the 3D model used for the creature as well as being able to hear what kind of noises they make. It’s a nice learning tool for the little ones, if you have them play.

Aside from the needless items, I wasn’t too pleased with the load times...Or more specifically, the game’s need to play a lame cutscene of your character hopping out of the jeep every time you leave to take pictures. Yes, you can skip the cutscene by hitting a button, but an option to simply turn it off would have been nice. The scene, even when skipping it, is like adding double the load times in during the gameplay...It just doesn’t seem like it’s necessary to be there. I’m also not a huge fan of the whole ‘Hey, you beat the game! Here’s a secret area for you to explore...Which we aren’t actually going to let you explore.’ Where, like in the jungle areas, you’re put into an area where you can look in three directions....And then you’ve got to leave. If you visit this area and nothing is to be found in any of the three locations, then that’s it. Visit again on another day and hope for the best. I do like that they added a few more assignments for that area, and there are a couple ‘secret’ animals for that area that aren’t found anywhere else in the game...But still, it seems like a very lame bonus area for folks who beat the game. The last thing I’ll complain about is that dang robot...Randomly it’ll pop up with some sort of comment...And on several occasions, I’ve actually had a shot ruined because it popped up with a comment just as I was lining up a shot. By the time I had rushed through what it had to say, the animal had run away and I had nothing but a landscape in my lens.

Graphically, I really enjoyed the style that they went with; a cartoony character that the player controls moving around very life-like-looking animals. I thought the contrast between very fake-looking characters and realistic-looking animals and backgrounds added character to the game. The graphics are all well done as well. The animals look absolutely incredible. However, there are some glitches in the graphics that you’re bound to notice as you play. There is also often a lot of slow down, particularly when there are several animals on the screen at once. Those problems never really effect the enjoyment of the game too much, though. Audio-wise, the music works...But it’s extremely forgettable. I can’t remember a single note from a single song in the game, but I never hated listening to it. And for those ‘voice-over snobs’ out there, there aren’t any voice overs here, it’s all reading text....Which personally, I prefer.

In the end, Animal Kingdom isn’t a game that’ll turn heads or sell systems...Nor is it a ‘must buy’ title by any means. It is, however, an enjoyable, relaxing experience that serves as a nice break from the real world. The difficulty is a bit on the easy side, which makes it a nice game for children...But it’s not so incredibly easy that adults will get bored by it. Natsume created a good game here and if you’re looking for a relaxing experience for Nintendo’s Wii, then this is a great game to pick up. If I were a lion, I’d roar in approval....Get it? ‘Cause it’s an animal game...So I tried to end it in a clever way.....Nevermind.

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Poor, boring pinball

Posted : 10 years, 3 months ago on 14 December 2009 10:32 (A review of Kiss Pinball)

Take 2 had a unique approach to selling games towards the end of the Playstation’s lifecycle...They’d release various games at ten dollar price tags in hope that cheap gamers would buy from them rather than a well-known company that sold their games for fifty dollars a piece. Some of their games weren’t that bad...Dare I say, some of them were good enough to be sold for fifty dollars...But KISS Pinball is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, not one of them.

First off, I honestly don’t listen to music, so I don’t know much about KISS...However, I do know that you could easily take the KISS name off of this game, and remove the images of the and members from the tables, and you’d have just a normal pinball game. There is no KISS music as you play, there are no cutscenes, all there is their images on the two available (and very, very boring) tables. In other words, it’s just a very poor pinball game with no real association with the band listed in the title.

Next, let’s talk about the gameplay. I’d rather not, honestly...But let’s talk about it anyway. This game is fast-paced...But too fast paced for the camera. The camera is constantly trying to keep up with the ball, but it often fails. There also seems to be timing issues here. I have never ever had problems setting up ‘shots’ in any other pinball game I’ve played...But, for some reason or another, I can’t set up anything for the life of me. I hit the trigger and it always seems as if I’m off...Normally, I’d just attribute it to me being terrible and needing more practice, but when I gave it to a few friends to try, they experienced the same issues that I did. The game also seems to like to do two things; one is place the ball right between the two paddles so that even if you wildly trigger them, you’re not going to connect and the other is that it likes to not launch the ball sometimes when the paddle is triggered...instead, it rolls onto the other paddle, and rolls down beneath the one you had triggered, effectively causing you to lose your ball. The boards are also WAY too colorful...You can’t distinguish what your ball will bounce off of and what it won’t since there really isn’t a contrast between the two, so you’ll launch the ball and suddenly have the ball hurled back at you when you’re not expecting it. It happens a lot and it always feels very cheap.

Graphically....It doesn’t look good, even for a ten dollar game. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone successfully emulated this game on Super NES hardware and kept all of the imagery intact. Granted, games aren’t all about graphics, but when a game is this much of a stinker, a little eye candy would make me feel less terrible for playing it. As far as audio goes, like I said, there is absolutely no KISS music in here....But, there is one good option here that prevents me from giving this game an even lower score; custom soundtracks. Yes, custom soundtracks in a Playstation One game. To do this, once the table has loaded, pause the game and eject the CD. Then put in a CD of your choice and follow the instructions that appear onscreen. It’s a neat feature, and it felt nice playing KISS Pinball while listening to Wesley Willis, but ultimately not neat enough to make me feel like I didn’t waste my money by purchasing this game.

What we’ve got here is a KISS game that KISS fans will be disappointed by and a pinball game that pinball fans will be disappointed by. The only good thing about the game is the neat, unique ability (for its time) to have custom soundtracks as you play...But when you don’t want to play the game to begin with, what’s the point? There are just way too many problems with this game for it to create any sort of enjoyment for the person playing it. The only enjoyment one might have with this game is throwing it in the trash and watching the garbage truck take it away from your life forever. KISS Pinball came out at ten dollars new...I found it used for under a dollar, and I still feel as if I paid way too much.

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These blasts from the past are duds in the present

Posted : 10 years, 4 months ago on 2 December 2009 06:43 (A review of Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack)

Ever want to shoot bullets out of a remote control at some awful actors portraying folks from the wild west? Yeah? Well, it's my humble opinion that you should figure out something else that you want instead. Mad Dog McCree: Gunslinger Pack is a mess, plain and simple. I really wanted to like this game compilation just for all of the poor acting found within...But alas, when games are this frustrating, it’s very hard to like them.

Mad Dog McCree - 2.0/10

The original Mad Dog McCree is the worst of the bunch. It has a fun concept, but it’s got one major flaw: the video-based gameplay itself. The video looks wonderful, however due to the limitations of actual video footage, you need absolute EXACT timing otherwise you’re going to be shot. Yup, you can shoot the guy you need to shoot all you want, but unless you hit him at the time you need to hit him, he’s not going to die and you’re going to be shot. You also need to hit on the very first shot. If you’re off on your timing in the first shot, but fire off five more rounds in the enemy during the correct time frame, they won’t count. Nice logic, eh? On top of that bit of fun, it’s not always clear on what you need to do. Do you shoot the guy pointing a gun at you at the bar? Instinct says yes...The game says no, shoot the other guy trying to kill the bartender then shoot the guy aiming at you. The only way to figure this out is through trial and error while you get frustrated from constantly dying without knowing what you’re doing wrong. That’s not replay value, friends....That’s poor programing.

Mad Dog McCree II: The Lost Gold - 3.0/10

Up next is Mad Dog McCree II: The Lost Gold. This game suffers from the same gameplay flaws as the original Mad Dog McCree, but during my time with the game, it felt slightly better as far as how forgiving your timing was, which is a plus. However, you’re still just watching video and will be doing the old trial and error routine to get your timing down on a few levels. This game also has a new element of gameplay added in with the form of one of three ‘guides’ to join you in your journey. This allows three slightly different stories to unfold, which helps the replay value a little bit. A bit of a downside is the repetitiveness of some death videos...They’re kind of funny the first time you see them, but due to the trial and error gameplay, you’ll be watching the same death scenes over and over...And they’ll go from charming to annoying pretty quickly. It’s still not a good game, but it’s better than the original in every way.

The Last Bounty Hunter - 4.0/10

Finally, we’ve got the Last Bounty Hunter. This is the best game in the compilation; it improves upon just about everything in Mad Dog McCree II. It doesn’t have the different stories that Mad Dog McCree II had, but the Last Bounty Hunter does have four different enemies to go after, which you can do in any order you wish. Instead of getting the replay value from the various stories, the Last Bounty Hunter does so in randomizing the order that enemies appear in on some stages. Everything is a little more interesting visually, too. Instead of enemies just popping up out of nowhere, you’ll occasionally see enemies doing fancier things like swinging from chandeliers and the like, which is a nice little change of pace. However, the timing problems of the previous two games are still here, which really bog down the whole experience to a hard-to-play mess....But still more fun than the previous two.

All and all, this compilation would’ve turned heads twenty years ago and if I were reviewing these games based on when they first came out, they’d get more favorable scores...But games have evolved from the original days of Mad Dog McCree and I’m reviewing this new compilation based on how games are now. Much like how someone who didn’t play Dragon’s Lair in its heyday is likely not to see what all the hooplah was about, anyone who has never played Mad Dog McCree back when it was first released will likely not understand why this game was fairly beloved for its time. This compilation may be a nice trip down memory lane for several older gamers who played these in the arcade, but in comparison to the games of today, there are just way too many flaws to recommend this ol’ fossil of gaming history to anybody else.

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Posted : 10 years, 4 months ago on 30 November 2009 10:05 (A review of Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures in the Park)

Imagine walking into a funhouse and finding nothing but decorations and such that make you groan in disgust...You find yourself thinking the worst as you walk in only to find that the fun house, while not great, wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it would be. That’s the feeling you’ll get with Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures in the Park. For a game with a license as lame as the Cabbage Patch Kids, it’s actually a passable screen-to-screen platforming game.

In Adventures in the Park, you control a Cabbage Patch Kid and platform your way through to the end of the level. You’ll swing from vines, jump on platforms, jump over obstacles that are both moving and stationary, amongst other things....And it’s all done pretty well. The controls are responsive for the most part...Except for when you’re on spring platforms, in which case it can be difficult to move the Cabbage Patch lass from platform to platform. The levels go from screen to screen, similar to how Pitfall! is set up, and are generally fun to traverse. The only real downside to the level design is that the obstacles are usually pretty plain and certain screens can be pretty boring to navigate through. However, overall the experience is passable.

Graphically, the game is pretty easy on the eyes in comparison to other Colecovision games. The overall look of the level can drastically change from screen to screen, which is a very good thing. It helps prevent the player from feeling that the game is getting repetitive...Although the slight variety in the level design also does a decent job of preventing that feeling on its own. The audio involves the bloopy-bleepy sound effects that most games of the time had, but it also has some background music as well as some nice musical shorts that play at the start and end of each level as well as when you perish. It honestly feels as if they really packed this game with a lot of cosmetic love.

Overall, Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures in the Park is a very pleasant surprise for anyone expecting the worst when playing the game. Not only is it kind of fun, it’s pretty much a passable game. There are times where it can feel repetitive, boring, or too easy...Which bog it down a little, but for the most part, you’ve got a pretty decent game buried beneath that lame Cabbage Patch Kids license.

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