Midnight Club: Los Angeles Review: Expect More Than Traffic

January 20, 2009

Hollywood and 300

Needless to say, this review of “Midnight Club: Los Angeles” is long overdue; I have been writing it for a while, but a few issues had my opinion flip-flopping like politicians with pending indictments. So, finally, here are my complete and final thoughts on the game:

It’s roughly 10:30 P.M., and I’m driving around Los Angeles bumping The Game and feeling mighty nice. I need to make a right on Wilshire Blvd, so I get over in the far right lane. The moon is full and bright and I pass a few women who I assume are night club rejects; I prepare to brake and reach down for the turn signal and… After a couple of swipes at pure air, I get the hilariously shocking realization that I’m still just a North Carolina apartment dweller with a need for loud music, fast cars, and video games. Since my Suzuki isn’t getting me anywhere too swiftly and most of the other games in my collection don’t mesh too well with Hip-Hop, I’ve been spending a lot of time with “Midnight Club: Los Angeles.”

Needless to say, I am a big fan of driving games; I feel like I have a connection with them that I don’t have with many other games. It’s probably because I spend much more time driving in real life than I do sword fighting, casting flame spells, and popping off AK-47s. Even with that in mind, I still feel like this is a game for almost everyone over 13 years of age (Midnight Club: Los Angeles is rated Teen by the ESRB). [Read more]

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts Review: Like Build-A-Bear, But Better

January 6, 2009

Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

There were a number of reasons that I didn’t expect “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts” to be pretty much the only Xbox 360 game I’ve played in the last month or so. Based on previews of the game, and the fact that my Xbox red-ringed the day I received the game, I had little to no intentions of playing the game outside of the average time I planned on spending with the game to write this review. Boy, was I wrong. “Banjo” just kept sucking me back in. Sure, it may have had something to do with my achievement addiction that I though I had under control (wrong about that too), but it’s one of those games that consumes you, and keeps you playing just a little bit longer… and then it’s 3 A.M. “Banjo” caught me off-guard, and kept me playing on, and on, and on. The last time that this exact same thing happened was with “Viva Pinata.” Damn you Rare.

I need to be completely honest to convey a good review to you my reader friends, and I have a confession – “Nuts & Bolts” is the first “Banjo-Kazooie” game I’ve ever played. Yes, that’s right, for various reasons I missed the N64 and various portable iterations of this little bears quest to take down that evil witch Gruntilda. I’ve missed out, I know, so I can neither confirm nor deny if “Nuts & Bolts” is on the same level of addictiveness as the previous titles – I can only speak from my experience, and it’s pretty addictive. I can neither confirm nor deny if “Nuts & Bolts” is even anything like the previous titles, and while I have a hunch that at least some of it is, I can only say that is incredibly unique, and one of the most satisfying games I’ve played all year. [Read more]

Sonic Unleashed Review: Unleashing The Beast

December 23, 2008

Sonic UnleashedI’m certain I wasn’t the only gamer who got their hopes up a few months ago after seeing the first batch of screenshots for Sega’s new Sonic title, “Sonic Unleashed.” For some reason it seemed like there was some extra glimmer of hope this time around, and that we wouldn’t be let down by yet another Sonic game. From the screens there appeared to be some semblance of a return to 2D, and a step away from everything that has caused the series to deteriorate over the last few years. However, after actually sitting down and playing “Unleashed” I can say that anyone that got their hopes up might end up being letdown, yet again. HOWEVER, “Unleashed” isn’t a bad game, it’s just not the game that we were hoping for.

3D is a tough dimensional proposition for any game that established itself as a 2D classic. This goes for all franchises that have been around for the last 25 years, and not just our blue hedgehog friend. Sure, some 2D games have made the jump to 3D successfully, and have continued on in that form for multiple titles, but no matter how well those games have done, there’s still something to be said for their original releases. Those games introduced us to a 2D hedgehog, plumber, and elf (seriously, what the hell is Link?) to an entire generation, and that’s how we fell in love with them. At the same time, I’ve always felt that it’s unfair to hold Sonic to the same standards as we have placed on Nintendo’s titles. Sonic is, was, and will always be different. His games have always been faster, less predictable, and less linear than any Mario title. His 3D games have always tried to reflect those characteristics, and, unfortunately, they’ve never really succeeded, mostly because those mechanics are extremely hard to express in a 3D game. Somehow, despite everything it has working against it, “Sonic Unleashed” manages to be fun, but Team Sonic manages to spread out the fun so much that it’s really hard to enjoy the overall product. [Read more]

Prince of Persia Review: Beauty And The Beast

December 22, 2008

Prince

The long-time “Prince of Persia” fans that have followed it throughout its’ remake trilogy on the PS2 and XBOX have been anticipating the release of the PS3 and XBOX 360 versions. Those gamers that spent several hours playing through those games, already have an idea of what to expect in the new version’s story.  Sadly, I haven’t played any of the previous revamps for the series.  The last time I played “Prince of Persia” was on my PC back in the West Indies.  Before you brush me aside for this atrocity, consider that it is perhaps best to get an opinion from someone like myself, in its most unbiased form.  Like anything under the Sun, “Prince of Persia” is not without fault, even though it has a lot going for it in its current incarnation, but there’s always room for more.  The ending cements itself and sets up what could be another (at least) 4 years of wall runs, leaps, double jumps, and light seed collecting.

Perhaps holding back made this game easy, but nevertheless this game is easy. It may have been intentional by the creators to make it approachable, or it could have been a strong belief in not punishing users with the “Game Over” screen.  It’s odd, but just because you don’t ever see a game over screen, does it make a game easy?   Although, with “Prince of Persia” it might not be necessary; perhaps that’s when all the visuals kick in, and you’re stuck, stuck with it like staring at a midnight Gypsy dancer.  It’s perhaps the right  time for anyone to get aquatinted with the series.  In its current form it is an obvious amalgamation of technologies used in the PS2 titles, and newer systems like the XBOX 360.  Yet, for all the power available to the creators, I’m puzzled why the gameplay mechanics forces you on a set path, one that you are punished heavily for if you do not follow?  For instance, if you don’t perform a double jump when you are supposed to, even though there may be a wall near by that you could do a wall-run jump off of, you will … die or be saved by your partner Elika.  That’s where most people will begin to label this game as not easy.  And, let’s not forget that 14-hit combo that’s almost impossible to pull off for beginners.  In the hopes of keeping the flow of the game going, you will want to be saved by Elika, and every time you fall into a pit, you are almost satisfied that there will be no Game Over screen.  Think of Elika’s life saving cut scenes akin to the reviving chambers in “Bioshock.” At the same time, there is a trophy that you can obtain which requires you to use Elika less than 100 times, however, you’ll quickly find out that attempting this the first time around may seem more challenging that you originally thought. [Read more]

Chrono Trigger Review: Turning Back The Clock

December 19, 2008

Chrono TriggerRereleasing a 13-year-old game, with only minimal updates had to be a risky proposition for Square Enix. The original Super Nintendo version of “Chrono Trigger” is a title that is held near and dear to many gamer’s hearts, and, updating it, much like they have begun to do with the “Final Fantasy” series, could have really offended some diehard fanboys. However, releasing a game with outdated 16-bit sprites on the DS might turn off even more of the gamer population, leaving them looking for a different portable RPG, with better graphics or even touch screen gameplay. Well, for once, the fanboys win, and thankfully Square Enix adhered to the old adage – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. “Chrono Trigger” was released (mostly) as it was back in 1995, it does, however, include the movies that were added for the PS1 rerelease, as well as some additional dungeons and a multiplayer mode. Is that enough to carry a game whose technology can’t compete with what’s currently available on the market?

The answer, in one word, is, yes. [Read more]

Shaun White Snowboarding Review: Tomato On The Slopes

December 8, 2008

When I was younger, I’m sure there was a point where I dreamed of winning an Olympic Gold Metal, and I can completely guarantee that there was a point where I dreamed of having my own video game. Unfortunately, neither has come true for me (yet) – Shaun White, on the other hand, now, he’s living out my dreams (a well as those of countless other males). He’s already won a gold metal at the 2006 Torino Olympic games, and now he has his own video game “Shawn White Snowboarding” out for just about every console. I never thought I’d be so jealous of someone with red hair … or with the middle name Roger.

“Shaun White Snowboarding” is the first game in a long time to take a more realistic look at hitting the slopes, as opposed to the over-the-top releases of the last few years. Most of the successful snowboarding games that hit the market since the PS2 launched have been very arcadey, and all about landing the biggest tricks possible – throwing the laws of physics out the window completely. “Shaun White” is more firmly rooted in reality, lending a solid nod to gravity, moreso than any snowboarding game … ever. Take that as you will… if you were hoping to go Uber-big as the Flying Tomato, you might want to stay home, but if you want to prove that you can rule the mountain without having to push the limits of reality, then “Shaun White” just might be for you. [Read more]

Bonetown Review: Less Town, More Bone

December 5, 2008

When I first read about “Bonetown,” the obvious comparison to “Leisure Suit Larry” instantly popped into my head. “Leisure Suit Larry” is a long running adventure series that didn’t consist of much game play; it was a point and click, but it earned its’ fame by not only being focused on sex, but also being funny as hell. However, “Bonetown” doesn’t contain any decent writing, or a good game to go along with it. Just because you paid voice actors to swear constantly, pretend to have orgasms, and have racially stereotypical accents, doesn’t mean your game is “edgy.” Now, please don’t get the impression I’m offended by the politically incorrect nature of the game, I’m more offended by just how terrible “Bonetown” is.

Like every other review, the second paragraph is supposed to be about the plot, but since this is “Bonetown” we’re talking about here, we won’t be staying too long. Basically the story starts off with you waking up on Missionary Beach courtesy of a golden shower from a local drunk frat boy. After a series of poorly written dialog lines laced with constant swearing, a “hot” chick named Candy approaches you and gives you a brief tour of how “Bonetown” is played. Shortly after the verbal tour, I was treated to an unintentionally humorous sex scene with her which was suddenly interrupted by a Men in Black extra. Candy then explains that the suit works for “The Man” (not a typo), and they are trying to take over Bonetown. For what reason? Who knows, but, in the end, she gets arrested and I get a warning. [Read more]

Metal Slug 7 Review: Heavy Metal 4-Ever

December 2, 2008

There are very few franchises that have survived as long as the “Metal Slug” series has, without fundamental changes to their gameplay. For example, if you put “Metal Slug 7” up against the original Neo Geo “Metal Slug,” your average gamer would most likely be able to play both of them, without being able to tell the difference. However, “Metal Slug 7” is different, for a host of different reasons… but is it better?

And the definitive answer is … Kinda?

“Metal Slug 7” takes the long-running franchises standards and carries them through into the new game. SNK and Ignition don’t try to add in anything to the story, gameplay, graphics, etc. It’s all pretty much the same game that everyone should know and love – shoot your way through the levels, toss a few grenades, stab some bad guys, and save the hostages. After all, it it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it. For that I thank SNK for a worthy addition to the “Metal Slug” series, and, possibly the best portable version of the game (I can’t say for sure because I haven’t played “Meal Slug Advance” or either of the Neo Geo Pocket titles). The series has become reliable – in a very good way – especially since its’ closest relative, “Contra,” went so far askew, for so long. [Read more]

LittleBigPlanet Review: LittleBigger Is Better

November 25, 2008

“LittleBigPlanet” is Sony’s saving grace this holiday season. If it didn’t come out there’s a chance that the PS3 might have fallen off the radar for a lot of gamers, especially the ones that haven’t picked one up yet. I’ve had numerous arguments about how “LBP” isn’t a system seller, but I genuinely think that it’s the breath of cute, fresh air that the console needed to get its’ second wind. “LittleBigPlanet” sold me on the PS3 a few years ago when I first saw it, and now that it’s finally here, it has lived up to just about every expectation that I’ve had.

“LittleBigPlanet” has a bunch of things going for it. The graphics are adorable, stylized, and inspired. The gameplay, although time-tested and classic, has been updated to offer new and creative ways of navigation and puzzle solving. The level of character customization rivals that of almost any other triple-A title on the market. It’s also simple enough for anyone to enjoy; even the lapsed gamers who haven’t picked up a controller since their NES stopped working. Not to mention, “LittleBigPlanet” may have the best character to never be seen on-screen in the game’s tutor. While, most of those things aren’t necessarily revolutionary, “LBP” achieves each of them superbly, and really makes it a delight to take your Sackboy and run all over each of the levels looking for all the collectables. [Read more]

Neverland Card Battles Review: It’s In The Cards

November 24, 2008

One of the great things about video games is that, no matter what your interests are, there’s a game for you somewhere out there. Of course, for more traditional gamers, there’s your standard fare – sports, shooting, and platformers, but what if you’re not looking for something as commonplace as the new “Gears of War?” Say you really want to merge two different kinds of “gaming” together – video and card - and then mix in a bit of a tactics twist to the game, what do you do then? That recipe, while it may only appeal to picky eaters, really results in just one gaming concoction, “Neverland Card Battles.” It’s an extremely unique title which takes on the tactics meets card battles gameplay mechanic, and while “Neverland Card Battles” isn’t for everybody, it’s definitely for somebody.

Over the last few years, there have been more than a few trading card inspired video games that have been released, which draw on their real-world counterparts like Magic the Gathering to outline how to play the games. These games allow players to compete using cards for their characters and attacks, and stat crunch to see who is the victor. While traditional gamers may look like the “cool kids” to trading card gamers, those games are wildly popular, and people really do enjoy them. These are the people that really need to give “Neverland Card Battles” a try. [Read more]

Left 4 Dead Review: Check your Fire!

November 24, 2008


Valve has done it again. “Left 4 Dead” for the XBOX360 and PC brings multiplayer gamers together in, what can only be deemed the best zombie-film-to-game adaptations ever. But wait… it’s not a film, but the chapters are films? … I’m confused!

“Left 4 Dead” wisely chose to go with the “Unbelievably Fast Swarming Infected” zombies of movies like 28 Days and 28 Weeks Later, instead of the plodding, slow-footed zombies of the Night of the Living Dead fame. I believe this is hinted at in the game, as the enemies are referred to as “infected,” rather than zombies. That’s where Valve added the challenge into the game, since it would have been much too easy to beat if you had four human controlled characters up against a mob of the slow moving undead, ala “Dead Rising.” [Read more]

Brothers In Arms: Double Time Review: Hell’s Highway Indeed

November 21, 2008

The year is 2005 - Ubisoft releases “Brother in Arms: Road to Hill 30,” a historical game first-person shooter that introduced players to a more personal, and mature World War II storyline. There isn’t much sugar coating in this game, as there is plenty of uncensored dialog encompassing situations that would probably haunt the most of us for a very long time. However, it was a somewhat heavily flawed game with repetitive, and retarded, “I need a babysitter” AI.

Why did I just waste a paragraph on a game that came out in 2005 I’m supposed to be talking about one that came out in 2008? Because, “Brother in Arms: Double Time” is a port of this three year old game, or, should I say, games. Without any sort of indication on the package, “Double Time” is actually two games in one. The first is “Brother in Arms: Road to Hill 30” and the other is “Brother in Arms: Earned in Blood.” Ordinarily it would sound like a good deal, assuming the port wasn’t a desperate half-assed attempt to swindle gamers from their money. [Read more]

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe Review: Bloody Fun

November 18, 2008

At first glance, “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” seems like it should have come out around 1998, to go head-to-head with the wildly popular “Marvel vs. Capcom” series, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t. Fast forward to today, and, through some wild twist of fate, or, possibly the will of the Elder Gods, 10 years after the game should have been released, gamers finally have the chance to kick Scorpion’s ass with Batman. On the plus side, waiting may have paid off; after a string of less-than-awesome “MK” games “MK vs. DC” may put the franchise back on track.

“Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” isn’t the best “MK” game ever released (that honor goes to “Mortal Kombat 2”), but there are some redeeming factors that might make fans that soured on the series years ago think twice about this iteration. A good deal of the game has been revamped, since “Armageddon” was released, taking full advantage of this generation of consoles. The controls, gameplay, graphics, and characters were all treated to a much-needed upgrade, and the improvements show over the course of the game. [Read more]

Fallout 3 Review: Boom Goes The Nuclear Blast

November 13, 2008

“Oblivion” with guns; those three words have been repeated across the vast ocean of the internet ever since Bethesda announced “Fallout 3.” After beating the game, and working through my second play through, I am going to have to agree with those three words. The quick traveling, interface, and even the way you sleep are all elements borrowed from “Oblivion.” However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the game is bad; on its’ own, it’s jammed with content that places heavy emphasis on exploration and morale decisions. It’s just too bad that while the ideas of “Fallout 3” sound good on paper, a lot of it falls apart in the end due to bugs, and shoddy execution.

“Fallout 3” starts out with your 21-year-old character on the verge of escaping Vault 101, where he has lived for his entire life. He was born and raised in Vault 101, got his Pip-Boy at age 10, took his G.O.A.T test at age 18, and, at age 21, his old man escapes the Vault. The Overseer (the guy who runs this particular Vault) gets pissed off, and begins searching for you. Don’t worry though; his daughter wakes you up in your room to and informs you of the ordeal. After nabbing a pistol, some medical supplies, and a baseball bat, you’re on your merry way to follow in your Papa’s footsteps and escape the Vault - by beating up some highly trained security officers, as a level 1 character. [Read more]

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