Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

1 I’m Playing: MadWorld (Wii)

November 10th, 2009 by John

If anyone ever tries to convince you that the Wii’s lineup of games is full of fluffy clouds, cute animals and big pink lollipops, please steer their Wiimote towards Sega’s MadWorld. On second thought, don’t. Because MadWorld is perhaps the most vulgar video game to ever grace any console, let alone the Wii. It takes the phrase “mature themes” and bends it and twists it until it screams the safe word. And yet, the game feels completely at home on Nintendo’s “console for everybody.”

MadWorld (Wii)
You’ve seen the story of MadWorld many times before. Like many of Platinum Games (nee Clover Studios) previous games, MadWorld mines and matches elements from a variety of movies, TV Shows and comics. Taking place sometime in the not-too-distant future, MadWorld places players in the shoes of Jack, a new player in the “Death Watch”, a bloodsport very similar to The Running Man. And like John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, the hunting grounds for this game are actually a city taken over by terrorists. In this case, the mysterious Organizers have cut off Varrigan City from the rest of the world and forced its citizenry to kill or be killed.

Jack himself even seems to have been created from mixed and matched parts as the character is an amalgam of Hellboy (his goggles resemble Big Red’s horns and they both swing the Right Hand of Doom), Sin City‘s Marv (Jack’s chiseled face looks just like Marv) and The Evil Dead‘s Ash (he’s got a chainsaw for an arm). (more…)


1 I’m Playing: X-Men Origins Wolverine (Xbox 360)

August 6th, 2009 by John

Wolverine has not had a very successful track record when it comes to his appearances in video games. From his painful debut on the NES (and I mean that literally, he took damage whenever he used his claws) up through the movie tie-ins X2: Wolverine’s Revenge and X-Men: The Official Game, there has yet to be a “definitive” Wolverine game. With the character’s first solo movie hitting theaters back in May, Activision and Raven Software took another crack at it with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and while it’s not a perfect Wolverine game, it’s definitely the best one yet.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Xbox 360)
Origins follows Wolverine’s humble beginnings (as long as you ignore the 100 years he’d lived before that) with Canada’s Team X, a mutant strike team made up of himself, Sabretooth, Agent Zero, The Blob, Wade Wilson (AKA Deadpool) and John Wraith. The team was lead by William Stryker, the main baddie of X2: X-Men United. Expanding upon the movie’s storyline, the game uses flashbacks to tell the story of an African mission gone awry interspersed with the “present day” action at Alkali Lake (where Wolverine’s undergoes the Adamantium bonding process), a Sentinel factory, New Orleans and the new Weapon X facility on Three Mile Island.

The game shares a lot in common with another recent licensed game, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Both have taken franchises that have fallen on hard times recently and resurrected them as a brutal beat ‘em up that showcases the dark edge both licenses have always had just below the surface. In the case of Origins, that dark edge is very apparent in the Xbox 360′s “Uncaged Edition” (also available on the PC and PS3). The Uncaged Edition portrays the world that Wolverine lives in as it would really be: bloody, violent and with lots of dismemberment (the man has a pair of razor-sharp claws jutting out from the back of his hand after all). How brutal is it? In the first ten minutes Wolverine slices and dices on no less than a dozen heavily armed enemies after freefalling out of an exploding helicopter. He then leaps onto another helicopter, pulls the pilot out and decapitates him on the whirlybird’s rotors. (more…)


1 I’m Playing: Ultimate Shooting Collection (Wii)

July 15th, 2009 by John

Ultimate Shooting Collection is a terrible name for a video game. The words evoke images of a cheaply made mini-game collection, most likely of the “huntin’ varmits” variety, that would be found at Wal-Mart for a few bucks. Instead, the game is a collection of three shoot ‘em ups created by Milestone, a Japanese developer who specializes in the genre (the game was actually titled Milestone Shooting Collection in Japan). Obscure, yes. But shovelware this ain’t. And yet, calling it the ultimate anything is stretching things a bit too far.

Ultimate Shooting Collection (Wii)
The three games included in the package are Chaos Field, Karous and Radio Allergy. All three games are vertically-scrolling top-down shooters that allow the player to step into the cockpit of a “flying suit.” The flying suit of each game is basically a giant flying robot that has some kind of shooting weapon (a laser or a machine gun or a bubble cannon) and a sword that is used to deflect bullets and damage close-range enemies. Chaos Field was previously released in America on the GameCube in 2005 while Radio Allergy was in development for Nintendo’s purple lunchbox, but was canceled after the Wii’s emergence in 2006. Karous is notable for being one of the last games released for the Dreamcast, a full six years after the system was discontinued. (more…)


1 I’m Playing: Punch-Out!! (Wii)

July 6th, 2009 by John

It has been fifteen long years since the release of Super Punch-Out!! on the Super NES. Since that time, video gamedom’s premiere boxing franchise has been on hiatus and two entire console generations, the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube, passed by with nary a peep about the further adventures of Little Mac. But when Nintendo introduced Wii Sports (and its two-fisted boxing mode) to the world, gamers knew that Doc Louis would begin training a new generation of Little Macs someday soon. That day was May 18, 2009. After months of speculation about the fight card and the control scheme, Nintendo released the third game in the series, simply titled Punch-Out!!, for the Wii.

Punch-Out!! (Wii)
Punch-Out!! for the Wii is actually an interesting blend of the first game in the series, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! and its Super NES sequel. More than a simple remake, the game takes the roster of the NES Punch-Out!! (along with the Star Punch mechanic) and mixes it with the play style of Super Punch-Out!! (with the camera zoomed in close, behind Mac’s back).

To that end, this Wii update feels like little more than a new coat of paint on an old game at first. Glass Joe, Von Kaiser and King Hippo play exactly like they do in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, right down to the timing patterns of their attacks. But as you delve deeper into the game, familiar boxers start sporting new attack patterns. And having to dodge certain attacks with a move to the left or to the right or even ducking (like in Super Punch-Out!!) makes the game feel even more different. (more…)


1 I’m Playing: Space Invaders Extreme (Xbox 360)

June 30th, 2009 by John

With the advent of the Xbox Live Arcade and other console download services, retro-tinged games have gotten quite a boost in the last couple of years. “Remixed” versions of old favorites abound such as Pac-Man: Championship Edition, Gradius ReBirth and now Space Invaders Extreme

Space Invaders Extreme (Xbox 360)
Space Invaders Extreme was first released on the DS and PSP in honor of the franchise’s 30th anniversary. This version was met with some decent success (and a few Game of the Year honors), so it’s no surprise to see it pop up on the XBLA a few weeks ago. Like last year’s handheld versions, the XBLA version of Space Invaders Extreme places the player in the cockpit of a laser cannon that can slide back and forth across the bottom of the screen shooting at invaders above them. The invaders swoop back and forth and they get nearer and nearer to the player, or as Futurama famously put it, “Increase speed, drop down, and reverse direction!”

However, that’s not all there is to the game with Space Invaders Extreme. (more…)


Review Round-Up Round-Up: Godfather II, Guitar Hero Metallica, Excitebots, X-Men Origins Wolverine

June 22nd, 2009 by John

I’ve been a bit lax on posting Review Round-Ups of some of the newest releases, so here’s a look back at what a variety of video game critics had to say about Guitar Hero: Metallica (PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360), The Godfather II (PC, PS3, Xbox 360), Excitebots: Trick Racing (Wii), and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (the PC, PS3 & Xbox 360 “Uncaged Edition”)…

Guitar Hero: Metallica (PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360)

  • Boomtown (7/10
  • Eurogamer (8/10)
  • GameSpot (7.5/10)
  • GameZone (9/10)
  • Worth Playing (9.5/10)

    Metallica fans will find the most to like in Guitar Hero: Metallica, but Guitar Hero fans in general will find another great entry in the series. Even if it is a tad on the short side.
    Verdict: Buy It (VGL Review Guide)

    The Vitals
    Publisher: Activision
    Developer: Neversoft
    Release Date: March 29, 2009
    Genre: Music Game With Plastic Instruments
    ESRB Rating: Teen

    The Godfather II (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

  • Crispy Gamer (Fry It AKA 1/3)
  • Kotaku (Overall Negative)
  • Game Daily (8/10)
  • GameSpot (4.5/10)
  • Giant Bomb (3/5)

    The Godfather II is little more than a poorly done Grand Theft Auto rehash that features awkward controls, tiny open world environments and ugly graphics. Also, the “Don’s View” portion of the game isn’t particularly interesting and the Godfather license feels more or less tacked on.
    Verdict: Skip It (VGL Review Guide)

    The Vitals
    Publisher: Electronic Arts
    Developer: EA Redwood Shores (AKA Visceral Games)
    Release Date: April 7, 2009
    Genre: Open World Action/Mob Simulator
    ESRB Rating: Mature (more…)


  • 1 I’m Playing: OutRun Online Arcade (Xbox 360)

    June 18th, 2009 by John

    When Sega announced OutRun Online Arcade back in December, they touted it as a high definition remake of the original OutRun arcade game. But somewhere along the way to the game’s release on the Xbox Live Arcade, it became an HD update of OutRun 2 SP (which was last seen as part of the PC/PS2/PSP/Xbox package OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast) instead. While it’s not quite the same game I envisioned when it was first revealed, OutRun Online Arcade supplies that sense of speed and reckless abandon that you want from an arcade racer.

    OutRun Online Arcade (Xbox 360)
    As a port of OutRun 2 SP (a game of rather recent vintage), OutRun Online Arcade features few changes beyond the cosmetic touchups needed to make the graphics high definition. Not that that’s a bad thing. OutRun 2006 was a fantastic game that spent a good deal of time in my PS2 and OutRun Online Arcade retains the slick arcade racing gameplay of its predecessor. And seeing as how the game has never looked prettier, what’s not to love? Sumo Digital (the developer of both OutRun 2006 and OutRun Online Arcade) even managed to smooth out the slowdown that was present on a few tracks in OutRun 2006.

    However, that’s not to say that OutRun Online Arcade is the definitive version of OutRun 2 SP. While gamers that loved OutRun 2006 will find plenty to like here, they will also find fewer options overall. Fewer tracks, fewer cars and fewer gameplay modes prove that OutRun Online Arcade is more or less meant to be a faithful adaptation of the OutRun 2 SP arcade game. How faithful is it? After completing the OutRun Mode, the game displays the staff credits for the arcade version. Another change for the worse is that all of the cars have been rebalanced and now handle more or less the same. While OutRun 2006 only boasted slight variations among it’s nearly 40 vehicle lineup, at least they had some differences. (more…)


    1 I’m Playing: Gradius ReBirth (Wii)

    June 12th, 2009 by John

    While people are quick to slap the dreaded “casual gaming” label on the Wii, Nintendo’s little system that could has also brought about another revolution to the world of video games: It made retro gaming cool again. From the wild success of the Virtual Console to the beautiful Mega Man 9 to recently resurrected Punch-Out!!, older games and “new” older games rule the Wii. Which brings us to this review of the WiiWare shooter Gradius ReBirth.

    Gradius ReBirth (Wii)
    Not a completely original game like Mega Man 9, ReBirth is closer to a remix of previous Gradius levels, enemies and concepts. For example, the first level of ReBirth is a rough recreation of the first level of the original Gradius, while the first boss is a reworking of a boss found in Gradius V. So, if you’ve played any of the previous games in the series, you’ll know exactly what to expect from Gradius ReBirth.

    But if you haven’t, allow me to give you a crash course on the finer points of one of the best shooter series’ to come out of the 80s. In Gradius, players control the Vic Viper in a side-scrolling space shooter. Enemy ships (or robots or mutants or giant Easter Island statues) charge your ship and you have to shoot them down. Some enemies drop glowing orange power-ups that begin to fill a meter at the bottom of the screen. Pressing 2 on the Wii Remote (Gradius ReBirth is played with the Wii Remote held sideways like an NES controller) allows you to purchase an upgrade that could be a new weapon, a shield, a speed increase or a “Multiple” (an indestructible ball that flies next to you and doubles your firepower). (more…)


    Pokemon Platinum Review Round-Up (DS)

    April 6th, 2009 by John


    Pokemon Platinum follows the tradition of releasing a “side story” game before the next full-fledged Pokemon sequel. Following up on the first entry in the series to appear on the DS, the well-received Pokemon Diamond/Pearl, Pokemon Platinum adds a few tweaks to the series and a few additions and enhancements over Diamond/Pearl.

    Does Pokemon Platinum make gamers want to catch ‘em all again? Here’s what a selection of five reviewers had to say about Pokemon Platinum and what the overall verdict on the game is.

    1UP: “Following in the tradition of Yellow, Crystal, and Emerald, Nintendo brings yet another slightly revised side-story Pokémon game to the DS. If you’ve already played Diamond/Pearl, then Platinum will feel familiar — but with some noticeable changes. While a new dungeon to explore after you collect most of your badges and new forms of familiar Pokémon to catch, provide reasons for Pokédex completionists to return to Sinnoh, this version feels more like it should be called Pokémon Diamond/Pearl: Special Edition.” (B+)

    GameDaily: “Yeah, Pokemon Platinum could’ve undergone a few more visual upgrades beyond the weirdly-designed Distortion Town. And sure, the gameplay hasn’t changed enough. Nevertheless, Pokemon Platinum delivers a single-player quest that lasts dozens of hours, and the Wi-Fi supported options, limited by Friend Codes as they may be, are still welcome. Platinum should have no problem living up to its name, selling a million-plus and guaranteeing the legacy of Pokemon will live on. So go on, catch ‘em all.” (8/10) (more…)


    1 I’m Playing: Spider-Man Web of Shadows (Xbox 360)

    March 24th, 2009 by John

    Spider-Man had a bit of a rocky introduction to the next-generation of systems with Spider-Man 3 in 2007. The game was criticized for being little more than a graphical upgrade of the PS2/Xbox version. The poor reception of the movie it was based on probably didn’t help matters either. Last year, free of the movie series (for now), publisher Activision, developer Treyarch and new co-developer Shaba Games went back to the drawing board with Spider-Man: Web of Shadows and pulled out one of the most impressive Spider-Man games ever.

    Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (Xbox 360)
    Like a lot of recent Spider-Man fiction, Web of Shadows is ultimately an internal battle for Spider-Man symbolized by the Symbiotes. In the game, Venom’s Symbiote has begun to reproduce and one of the first people it infects is Spider-Man, restoring his black suit powers. But this time it’s different and Spider-Man is able to control the black suit, switching between it and his familiar red suit at any time. What follows is a war that spills over into the wider Marvel universe between Venom’s new Symbiote army and the heroes (and a couple of villains working for their own self-preservation). (more…)