Monday, December 21, 2009

Level Up: Lady Sia + Schedule announcement

Hey everybody, before I get started on this week's game, I just wanted to explain why it took so long for it to get posted up and why it's not on iTunes yet. See, I'm on vacation! I went back home and, sadly, I only have limited connectivity here. Furthermore, Word was wiped off my computer AFTER I wrote this weeks review, but BEFORE I could post it up.
While I'm talking about posts being late, the one scheduled for this saturday will probably be late due to the holidays (ironically, it's a holiday special...). Also, there will be none on January 2nd (this was planned in advance as a holiday break). A New Years special will occure on the 9th. After that, updates should continue regularly until further notice.
Anyways, you've waited enough, so here it is, this weeks review.

Talk about underrated games, I can’t tell you how shocked I am no one I know has heard of Lady Sia. Coming out in 2001, just a few months after the Game Boy Advance, this game was developed by RFX Interactive and produced by TDK Mediactive. Both these companies are technically now gone, but they should never be forgotten, just simply for this game. So, let’s look at Lady Sia for the Game Boy Advance.

This game is classic hack and slash platforming. Lady Sia looks to fight the invading T’soa army (I think that’s how it’s pronounced) with her trusted sword, used to chop all enemies down to size. Both the B and R button swing her sword, but in different ways, meaning you can use them to make combos. Another way you can get rid of enemies is your magic ring, which shoots a chargeable ball of energy. Although she does need to stand still to use it, she can shoot it off in any of 8 directions. There’s also few magic spells you activate by hitting button combos, but they’re hard to memorize and not useful enough to bother with. Using all your skills, you’ll help Lady Sia achieve peace by navigating through fun levels and taking down all who stand in you way. To put it simply, Lady Sia controls really well and the game play is fun.

The levels in this game can easily be compared to the ones in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s island. What I mean by that is that Yoshi’s Island had a score system at the end of each level, and so does Lady Sia: she’s scored based on how many gems she’s collected, hostages she’s saved, how much magic she has left and how much heath. Also like Yoshi’s Island, if you get perfect scores in each level of a particular world, you get a bonus level. However, unlike Yoshi’s Island, Lady Sia seems to have a small number of levels, but they are quite difficult, pretty much evening the time you’ll spend playing the game. An advantage that Lady Sia has for having fewer levels is that less of them seem pointless. Sure you can argue that in platformers, no level is pointless since you need to get to the end, but in this game, each level also has a mission to help reach your goal: meet with the members of the alliance, destroy the machines bringing in the invading army, etc… Playing through these levels would still be fun, but it’s nice to know that I also have a reason to be doing it.

The last aspect of the game I want to talk about is the enemies. I love the T’soa. I don’t know what it is, I just love them. Like everything else, they are wonderfully sprited, and beyond that, they’re also well designed. A lot, if not all, of them are anthropomorphs (half animals, half beast), so it’s also amazing that they’ve been able to take this old concept and still seem creative. Like I said, I don’t know what it is, but it’s rare that I meet a game with enemies I enjoy so much.

Seriously, I am still shocked that this game isn’t more popular then it is. It’s fun with very few flaws, and the few flaws are easy to overlook (most games need their imperfections, right?). I don’t know what cause this game to be overlooked like it was when it came out, maybe it was the lack of promotion, maybe it was because the companies that made it weren’t well known or maybe it was because it came out at a time when people were more interested in getting SNES ports for that same consol. Its unpopularity also caused the sequel to be cancelled, so this game is the only of its kind. If you see it in a store or an online game seller, I strongly suggest you buy it. I give Lady Sia for the Game Boy Advance 8.5 Levels out 10.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Level Up: Darkwing Duck

Well folks, it’s already Capcom time again. As stated in my Little Nemo review, it seemed that they had very original ideas for their game play in licensed games (other examples include Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Ducktales and The Little Mermaid). However, their Darkwing Duck game came off as a Mega Man clone. Was this a bad thing? No, but may cause some people to over look it. That’s why I’m not only about to review Darkwing Duck, but the Game Boy version, which is even less popular.

The Mega Man influence is undeniable. The feeling of jumping around and shooting your little circles feels just like the blue bomber’s games (didn’t Darkwing have a GAS gun anyways?). The you can select the levels you feel like doing, unlocking new ones each time you beat your current selection, with a final one after all are done. The stages themselves even scream of Mega Man, the way they look, the way they’re designed, everything. Even some of the enemies seem like Mega Man ones.

But once you scratch passed surface, you can see they did try to make this game different. The most noticeable difference is that DW has the ability to grab onto most platforms, ropes and hook like objects. This is one of the main aspects of this game, along with jumping around and shooting, and is used just as much, which really makes this worth playing, even if you have played Mega Man games. Beyond that, there are other things that make it different. These include (but aren’t limited to) the fact that Darkwing can only take 4 hits; he can use his cape as a shield against some attacks and can only have one alternate type of ammo at a time. All these make it so Darkwing Duck should be viewed as it’s own game and not JUST a Mega Man clone.

The plot is basic: Saint Canard has broken out in chaos, with DW’s enemies each attacking their own section of the city. You’ll fight recognizable characters, such as The Liquidator, Bushroot, Quacker Jack and my personal favourite (Sound clip “Megavolt”). There’s also Professor Moliarty and even an original character for the game, Wolfduck. Of course, all of this leads to the climactic showdown against none other then Negadu- Steelebeak? Ok, no, stop the review! *Music stops* How can NegaDuck not be in this game; he was one of Darkwing’s baddest enemies! Not having him in the Darkwing Duck game is crazy! Sure, there was this plot about F.O.W.L., but you could of just changed all of that to “The Fearsome Five”: You already fight the 4 others and NO other member of F.O.W.L. except Steelbeak. NegaDuck would have been the obvious choice. They could have also added a secret final fight where he absorbs the other’s powers like he did in that one episode. I mean… Moliarty? Wolfduck? No NegaDuck? He would have been so easy to sprite too! Let’s just go to the next part of the review!

This game is also fun to look at and listen to. As I said earlier, the game’s look has a definite Mega Man inspiration, but it’s defiantly blended well with Darkwing Duck style and feel: that wacky, yet semi-serious style. You’ll want to jump and move around just to watch him do it. The music is exceptional with a jazzy feel throughout the game, even in the high tense parts. Both of these set the mood perfectly for the adventures of a duck in a cape that’s taking down his enemies.

This is a great port of an NES game. Even though I can notice differences in the levels with the short bit I’ve played of the original, it doesn’t really matter when it’s this good. It’s not only fun, but it’s the type of fun that makes you want to beat the game so you can shut it off and beat it again! Long story short, don’t over look this game for any reason: don’t do it because it’s a licensed game, don’t do it because it’s a port and do it do it because it’s like a Mega Man clone. Don’t even over look it cause it lacks NegaDuck! I give Darkwing Duck for the Game Boy 9 out of 10 Levels.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Level Up: Buster's Hidden Treasure

Tiny Toon Adventures was a great show. Even long after it was over, I continued to enjoy the wackiness in the reruns. The video games based on it however are… hit or miss. To pay homage to such an influential show, I’m going to review one of the “hits”: Buster’s Hidden Treasure for the Sega Genesis.

The first thing I noticed about the game was that it seemed a little derivative, especially since it’s on the Genesis. Think about it, blue woodland creature that’s very fast and is a great jumper… on the Genesis. Sound familiar? (Sonic music plays) But I do think it’s all just coincidence, what other abilities would a rabbit have? But really, the game isn’t that similar to Sonic. The levels seem designed for jumping instead of running, Buster has the ability to slide, wall jump and call on one of his friends to kill all enemies on screen, there’s a world map, the carrots you collect don’t give you lives and your health is determined by how many hearts you have. It’s not really ripping off any one platform game; it’s kind of like a little bit of all of them and pulls it off quite nicely.

The controls aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee… Average. All the buttons are quite responsive and controlling direction is easy, so I can’t really bash them much. But, the slide is difficult to use at a time when it would be useful, jumping can end too suddenly and running starts up slowly. It doesn’t help that, once you start getting momentum, the level will throw you an obstacle just to ruin it.

Speaking of annoyances with running and jumping, here’s the sound effect Buster makes when you jump *plays* and here’s the one he makes if you’re running and you jump *plays*. Yeah, get used to it, since you jump a lot in this game.

Like I said, this game has a world map. This means that you can go back to replay levels, which is great because there are secret levels throughout the game. Because there are so many levels to play through, this game has a password system (since a save feature was apparently rare on the Genesis). It’s good they got around it, but they’re quite long and repetitive. Just to show you, I’m going to read one, but the Bs will be replaces with the normal jumping noise and the Ls with the running jump. Ready? BBBQ LLDL DLBB LDLL DLTM See? I haven’t done the exact calculations, but I’m sure the code could have been shorter. At the end of each “section”, there’s a boss. Often, it’ll be one of the other tiny toon characters under the control of Professor Gene Splicer. They are way too easy, enough said.

One thing that I really liked about the game are the graphics. They really capture the look of the show. They’re stylish and smooth. The colors are vibrant and clear. The different poses are well pulled off and it really brings the fun of playing this game to the level of fun watching the show was.

I am not doing this game justice. Despite all the flaws it has, it’s really an enjoyable gaming experience. It combines so many familiar game play elements so well that trying to find all the different paths and levels in this game becomes just as entertaining as playing them. If you liked Tiny Toon Adventures or platforming games, I strongly suggest that you give this game a try. I give Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure 8 out of 10 levels.

I’m Leo Melanson, and now you know the score.

...and now the review’s done!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Level Up: Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage

(Audio will no longer be posted here, I'll explain soon)

I have to admit, I like Spyro the Dragon. Even though he’s marketed towards younger kids, I still enjoy most of his games. So, today I’ll be talking about one of my favourite Spyro games; Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage for the Playstation.

The game starts with Spyro saying that he needs a vacation (from what, I have no idea) and goes through a portal. However, instead of reaching the sandy beaches of Dragon Shores, he ends up on the distant world of Avalar. There he meets Elora, a faun, Hunter, a comic relief type cheetah, and the Professor, who built the portal to get Spyro there. He also meets Ripto, an evil sorcerer who was also accidentally transported there by the professor. Ripto has taken over most of Avalar and the one thing that can stop him is a Dragon (for some reason), and although Spyro is small for his species, he’s up to the task.

The levels are well designed. It will normally have you have to follow the residents of the land around once, help them out so you can continue and reward you with a talisman needed to eventually move on and finish the game. However, the levels are not linear. There is the path that you have to follow at first, but afterwards you’ll see there is a lot more space to explore. There are 400 gems and a few orbs for you to collect in most levels, and though some are on that first path, most aren’t. Since they both eventually become necessary, you’ll want to find most of them. Though the gems are just found on the ground, most orbs are not. Most of the time you’ll have to talk to a citizen of the level and do a favour for him and he’ll reward you with an orb.

The levels grouped and divided into areas called home worlds. These also have orbs and gems to collect, but no talisman to find. They are also significantly bigger than most levels. These home worlds make it so you can adventure around the levels available in any order you want so long as you complete all of them so you can move to the next home world. At the end of each home world is a boss (otherwise, there are none in the game). The bosses are a piece of cake and shouldn’t be a problem for most gamers.

All this is fun, but I have to say the best things about this game are the controls, which is important in platformers (especially in 3D). In this game, Spyro has the ability to breathe fire, jump, glide, run and ram stuff. The L and R buttons are used to adjust to camera and this game works with the analog stick Playstation controllers. I highly recommend using it by the way because the analog stick gives you better control while running. Running like that moves the pace of the game to a whole other level so you will want to use it most of the game.

If I had to say I had a problem with the game, it’s that this game is too easy. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since this game seems made for kids, but it takes away from the replay-ability of the game. See, in a game like this, the replay-ability lies in finding all the orbs and gems in each level and home world. But this game is often so easy that you can easily find everything on your first visit to a level if you just adventure around a bit (exceptions for when you need a skill you can only use later in the game). Like I said, this isn’t a bad thing, but when I beat and find everything so easily the first time, it doesn’t make me want to play it again after I finished the game.

This game is great. It’s a great 3D platforming game that makes you want to get everything right away, since you often know you can. The animation is also fun to watch, making up for the Playstations graphical limitations with cartoonishly exaggerated movements. The only downside is its lack of a challenge so I feel I have to take away some of its score. I give this game 8 out of 10 levels.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Level Up: Mario & Luigi: Partner's in Time

I always like talking about underrated or over looked game during Level Up, but there’s one game that surprises me that’s overlooked like it is: it was made by Nintendo, stars the Mario bros and is part of the popular Mario RPG side series. I’m talking about Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time. I don’t know why this game isn’t all that popular, but I can tell you why it should be.

The game opens to our heroes in Princess Peach’s castle as she hops in a time machine. When it returns, the princess is no where to be found. It ends up that Peach had gone back to the past when an alien invasion was taking place. Speaking of the Mushroom Kingdom of the past, guess who else was in the castle? Baby Mario and Baby Luigi! Luckily, right before the aliens (known as the Shroobs) attacked, Baby Bowser kidnapped them and Baby Princess Peach. Of course, the Baby brothers fight to get the Baby princess back. (Sound bite: Chili’s Baby Back Ribs) Anyways, back to the future (to reference one of my favourite sci-fi series) where a time hole to that same time has opened up. After Luigi accidentally falls in a Mario jumps in to save his brother and possibly the princess, the plumbers meet up with their younger selves and team up to save the Princess and the Kingdom of the past from the Shoob invasion.

I just have one problem with the story: it makes Swiss Cheese out of the time continuum. As someone who is intrigued by the concept of time travel and a fan of Back to the Future, this bugs me beyond reason. (Sound clip: Back to the Future) Not only was there an entire alien invasion that no one remembered, but there are many plot holes that stem from characters interacting with themselves. Although it was sometimes clever, these moments are few and far between. This is a big downside to the game that I always try my best to ignore to just have fun.

Battling is probably where you’ll have the most fun. Like in the rest of the Mario RPG series, the battles are turn based and give you a variety of choices on how you want to use your turns. However, during your opponents turn, you have to opportunity to either dodge their attacks or even counter them using a sense of timing and by studying your enemies. As a matter of fact, you’re never really sure which brother the enemies will go for unless you figure out the hints they drop. This turns the battles into a mix between classic RPG and platforming.

While you’re not battling, you’ll be adventuring around both times as, not only Mario and Luigi, but as their baby forms, which they carry on their backs. (Sound bite: Chili’s Baby Back Ribs). You’ll want to keep the two pairs together if you plan on battling, but when they go their separate ways, they get to use different abilities to reach new areas. A mastery of these skills is required to get to where you’re going and it’s this concept that really gives the exploration in all Mario and Luigi games its allure.

As for why this game is the less liked of the Mario RPG games, I have a few theories. First off, maybe it’s because it’s too childish. I’m not just talking about the fact that this game stars babies, but also that the game holds your hand and makes sure you understand everything perfectly before letting you use any of your skills. This isn’t a bad thing, but can turn off some veteran gamers. Also, the humour is pretty childish, like both young and adult Luigi constantly crying, or young Toadsworth unknowingly fighting his older self to get the baby Princess Peach back. (Sound bite: Chili’s Baby Back Ribs). (Leo interrupts) NO! That joke’s getting old. Another reason why it wasn’t liked might be because it offers too much of the same. Sure we have the babies added and it’s a new story, but otherwise most game play elements are the same as Mario and Luigi: Super Star Saga which came out two years prior. Not that it’s a bad thing, it just seems like Partners in Time is trying to be a bit too much like Super Star Saga.

None the less, this is a fun game. Despite its flaws, the story is fun, a little cheesy in a good way and has a few twists along the way I was not expecting. Most of the game play elements were taken from Mario and Luigi: Super Star Saga, and that’s a good thing since it was a great game (but that’s a review for another day). All and all, if you loved Super Star Saga, you should at least like Partners in Time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Level Up: Pokemon Stadium

When I was growing up, there was probably no bigger fad then Pokémon. It was a hit TV show, a great game and had tons of other merchandise. Everyone I knew had to have one of the first games, either Pokémon Blue or Red. So, when we learned there was going to be a Pokémon game in 3D, we lost it. Enter Pokémon Stadium.

Seeing all the Pokémon of the time in 3D was the big reason to get it. Personally, having watched the show before playing the game, there were certain Pokémon, like Koffing or Ghastly, that just made me go “what have they done to you?” or “no, that’s wrong” when I saw their first pixalized forms. When I saw them in Pokémon stadium I went “Yes! That’s right! That’s what a Pokémon should look like!”... Except for Pidgey, it took until the Game Boy Advanced games for him to look right...

Pokémon stadium was pretty basic; it just gave fans the ability to fight with their favourite Pokémon, but in 3D! It might not seem like much, but to 10 year old kids riding the current fad, this was awesome. There were many areas of the game to play in, such as the different cups and the Gym Leader castle, where you had to beat a bunch of trainers, and the Battle Now feature, where you were thrown into a fight with a pre-chosen team. There was also the Free Battle, a personal favourite of mine where you could just fight for fun and chose which rules you wanted t go by.

Another feature that made this a must have for anyone who had the Blue, Red or Yellow Pokémon games was this games use of the Transfer Pack Accessory (you even got one with each copy of this game). This was a device you could insert a Game Boy cartridge into and then plug it into you Nintendo 64 controller. With this game, you could put your Pokémon Blue, Red or Yellow game into the Transfer Pack, start playing Pokémon Stadium and use your Pokémon for some of the fights (if they meet the requirements). Otherwise, you had to “rent” Pokémon, which meant they weren’t always fitted with the moves you wanted. You could also visit the GB Tower and play the game in your Transfer Pack on your TV screen (which saved on having to buy countless batteries for your Game Boy). Also, you could visit Prof. Oak’s lab to view the stats of your Pokémon, keep some on your N64 instead of the Game Boy or trade them around with other games. These are only some of the many ways that Pokémon Stadium took advantage of this neat accessory.

But wait, what if, god forbid, you ever got tired of battling? Pokémon Stadium though of a solution for that: The Kids Club. This area of the game was a collection of 9 Pokémon themed mini games. Each one was fun and made use of different Pokémon: there were games where players had to make their Magikarps hop, race their Rattatas and throw hooped Ekans around Diglettes. These games were not only fun, but I can clearly recall some days where me and my friends popped in Stadium just to play these games for hours. As a matter of fact, I found that the music from one of these games, Thundering Dynamo, best suited the mood of this review. Listen… aren’t I right? It’s one of the first games I’ve played to feature optional mini-games completely separate from the main game, and one of the best.

Pokémon Stadium might not have seemed like much at first glance, but once you scratched its surface, you could spend a long time figuring everything out. There were many modes to play in and lots of stuff to unlock. It made excellent use of an otherwise little known accessory and made it so every Pokémon fan needed this and at least one of the Game Boy games. Upon thinking about it, Stadium seemed a little hollow with out owning Pokémon Blue, Red or Yellow, and there were a lot of reasons to get Pokémon Stadium if you already owned those games. It’s kind of like if you could buy shoes separately: they would still be comfortable on one foot, but to get the full feeling, you need both. None the less, this was a great contribution to a rising game series.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Level Up: Little Nemo the Dream Master

Little Nemo: The Dream Master is another awesome licensed game by Capcom for the NES. At the time of its release, this was a winning combination (DuckTales, Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck...). This is of course not an exception.

The game play is fun. You feed candy to animals, then use them (in a very Kirby like fashion) to find keys all around the level and continue on. Each animal naturally does something different: fly, climb walls, jump impossible heights... Only a few animals can kill enemies, which is still an improvement since Nemo can only stun them using his candy. Some animals also temporarily increase your health bar, so you’ll want to have one most of the game. They’re always found at the same spots and regenerate if that spot leaves your screen.

This game seems to embody childhood. First off, you're a kid running around a fantasy dream land. Even with everything trying to kill you, it's still a joy simply to be there. The magic of it all sort of stems from the locations you’re in: a giant mushroom forest, a toy land, a cloud city, etc. 8 levels of wonder. The music also supplies a great deal of the mood; its fun and light hearted. It makes it so that no matter how frustrating a moment might be, you can’t really get angry for long. Another area that captures the mood is the colors of the games; it has a lot of purple and aquamarine neon type colors. It gives the feeling for the surreal nature of what a dream land should be.

The levels can be challenging, since you do need to cover most of the map to find the keys to move on. You have possibilities of non-liniality, but generally, there seems to be an order in which most of the levels can be figured out: i.e. you need the bee to get to the end, you need the lizard to get to the bee, you need the gorilla to get to the lizard... It's kind of like a puzzle, figuring out the order of things. This kind of reminds me of DuckTales, in the way you can adventure around, but there’s still really only one path to the end.

As for figuring out the path, it can be a little challenge, but once you start getting into it, it starts getting simple. This brings me to the challenge rating of this game. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about how difficult this game is. For a game staring a little boy, its harder then would be expected. But is this horribly out of reason? No, this is far from being one of the most difficult games on the consol. Sure, it’s not as easy as other “child” oriented games, like Felix the Cat or DuckTales, but it’s defiantly not as hard as StarTropics, Batman or even Mario. It still offers a challenge, without it being a cakewalk to anybody.

This game is simply fun. It embodies childhood in almost every aspect of the game. Like most Capcom games of that time, it’s unique and original, even though it’s based off a movie based off a comic. If you enjoy most platformers like Kirby, Mega man or the licensed Capcom NES games mentioned earlier, this game is a must have.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Correction on "Level Up: Dead Rising"

In my Dead Rising review I meantion that "Zombies in a mall" was also the plot of the movie "Night of the Living Dead". It wasn't the plot of that movie, it was the plot of the movie "Dawn of the Dead". I don't know why I made that mistake, I saw that one...

Level Up: Thrill Kill

(Picture of offical game art you get when you Download certain versions of the game)

Hey everyone, hope you’re all having a happy Halloween. To celebrate, I’m going to talk about Thrill Kill, the most violent game you have never played. What do I mean by that? Well...

Thrill Kill was going to be a game based solely on killing your opponent. Not tactically avoiding him to save your health: this was rushing in to cause damage. More on that later. Because of this, there were lots of concerns of it simply being released. None the less, it was still planned on coming out in October 1999. That is until its publishers, Virgin Interactive, were bought out by another company. I’m not going to say which one, not to bad mouth them, but their initials are EA...

Erin Ashley *opens door to the prod studio*: Are you talking about me?

Oh, no, not you...

Erin: Alright *closes door*

With about a week to go before its intended release, EA cancelled the game. They also refused to sell it to any other publisher that might want it since they didn’t want such a “needlessly violent game to get out.” Of course, the designers and such that worked on it were pretty furious about this, however they had a solution. Someone on the team actually released several versions of the game on the internet. That means that you can play this game with a modded Playstation or an emulator of it.

*Voice whispers, page gets passed rustled* Oh *clears throat, music changes* Level Up and all people affiliated with it do not encourage the ROMing, Emulating, Burning or modding of any games or systems, or any illegal distribution of video games. That good? *voice sounds pleased, music returns* Moving on.

Second only to the amount of gore, the main attraction to this game was its unique battle system. As mentioned before, it encouraged an offensive battling technique instead of a defensive one. Here’s how: in most games you have health and if you lose all your health by getting hit too many times, you lose. In this game you start with an empty “kill meter” and each time you hit your opponent, you add a little to it. The first person to fill their kill meter gets to perform a thrill kill (ladies and gentlemen, we have a title); a gruesome attack that kills one person permanently taking them out of the round.

The characters are also an intriguing bunch. Playing as them, you got your clichéd fighters: the strong but slow one, the small but quick one, the nimble one, the average one, the one whose better with basic moves, the one who has awesome special moves, etc... But it’s their actual character that’s intriguing about them. Currently their fighting in hell for the right to be reincarnated and seem to be physical manifestations of their tortured mind and sins from their past life. For example, one of the most popular characters is Belladonna, a former house wife and part-time librarian who snapped one day when she found out her husband was cheating on her with her sister. She became a lethal dominatrix favouring the cattle prod and that’s what she’s like in the game. There’s also the Imp, a little person suffering from a napoleon complex who died after amputating his legs and trying to attach experimental false legs to be taller. He fights in hell at his normal height, but with stilts grafted to his ankles. My personal favourite character is Doctor Faustus, a plastic surgeon with a modified bear trap for a mouth (he died due to an infection he got while grafting it on). In his former life, he actually tried to graft it onto some of his patients. Seriously, isn’t this a disturbing thought: a psychotic doctor who tried to unknowingly give people bear trap mouths while they were under the knife? There are 8 characters in total with equally interesting back stories and 3 others who are just... there. All fun to play and learn about.

It’s a shame that this game was never released. It has a very unique fighting system, fascinating character and the whole atmosphere of it is great too. It’s really cool that someone took it upon themselves to let it free, and it sucks that we really can’t legally play this game. I’m not a big fan of fighting games, but this one is something special. If can handle gore and violence and are looking for something unlike anything else, I suggest giving Thrill Kill a try.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Level Up: Dead Rising: Chop til you Drop

What could be more fun than being locked a mall and being able to use anything you get your hands on? How about being locked in a Zombie filled mall and having to use anything you can get your hands on to kill them! Enter the simple yet awesome concept of Dead Rising.

Dead Rising: Chop til you Drop is a Wii port of the original X-Box title. There are differences between the two titles, but most are only noticeable if you are quite familiar with the original. The most noticeable one is the lack of the 3 day time limit. But, we aren’t here to compare, so let’s move on.

The story of Dead Rising goes that you are Frank West, a gung-ho photo journalist hell bent on finding out what is going on at the small town of Willamette, Colorado. He hires a helicopter pilot to bring him to the mall, where most of the ruckus is happening, and tells him to pick him up in 3 days. There he finds out the disturbing truth: the town has been turned into Zombies! But this isn’t enough for Frank, he has to find out what has happened and why. Between Zombie killing fun, you’ll dive deeper and deeper into this mystery.

“Zombies in a mall” has been done before in Night of the Living Dead. In that movie it was used as a sociological statement about consumerism. This game seems keeps that statement, but it also adds its own into the mix, modernizing it a bit. You clue onto it rather easily (they say a good part of it at one point), but I don’t want to give it away (I got to get you to play the game, one way or another).

The gameplay is pretty basic: you either grab something and hit the zombies with it, or grab a gun and shoot the zombies with it. The way you finish them off depends on the item your holding: you can knock their heads off with a bat, use a sword to slice em in half or grab a lawnmower and... (blood splatters effect) Yeah... You can keep things easy and stick with one awesome weapon, but with the amount of killing you’ll have to do, this might make the gameplay as mindless as the zombies you’re smashing.

Now let’s talk about using your guns. As you’d expect, you use your wii-mote to point and shoot who you want. I just have one problem with this: you can’t shoot while moving. You press and hold B, Frank stands still, then you aim and shoot with A. Why not make it so you can point and shoot at any point just using B as the trigger?

The missions in the game are pretty basic too: find blank person in the blank store and bring him back safely. Exceptions for missions that are important to the story. There are also boss battles that can offer a pretty good challenge, you can level up Frank by destroying the undead and completing mission and upgrade your weapons by finding some cash. These things keep the game from getting monotonous.

The story is classic zombie mayhem with classic zombie symbolism. The game is fun for random carnage, but just can get boring if you don’t mix it up yourself. All and all, it’s pretty a pretty cool game. My advice is not to take this game too seriously and just take it for what it is: an excuse for zombie killing!

Oh! One more thing I can’t forget to tell you, and this makes the game a lot easier is- *Zombies bust through the door* Whoa! Gotta use the mic here! *Mic thumping, blood splatter, fades out*

Notes: Sorry for being a day late with this post. This might effect posting up the Things I Like for this week too, but I don't know yet, we'll see how the rest of this day goes. Also, I'm working on getting the Mp3 version of this review for you guys, but Julie and I haven't quite set up my account yet, so just hang tight.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Level Up: Ghostbusters the Video Game

I have a tradition each October: at some point during the month, I watch both Ghostbusters movies. This year, I might have to make a new addition to the tradition: make a purpose to play Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

Coming out last June, this game was a must have for any Ghostbusters fan who is also a gamer. Sure, there have been games released based on the series before, but this one is special for one big reason: it stars the original cast! Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray reprise their roles as Egon Spangler, Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore and Peter Venkman respectively. We also got Annie Potts doing Janine Melnitz again. However, Signourney Weaver and Rick Moranis (who played Dana and Louis) didn’t want to be in the movie, so instead we have Alyssa Milano playing a new character, Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn. Beyond just starring in the movie, Aykroyd and Ramis also wrote a good part of the game, as they did with the movie, so for most fans, this wasn’t just a video game: this had the potential of being the third movie we never got!

The game starts in 1991 (two years after Ghostbusters 2). In the opening scene, we learn that the Ghostbusters have lived pretty hassle free and have been living well, with the mayor supporting them all the way. With their new success, they decide to hire you as an Experimental Equipment Technician to test out new equipment (Voice clip from the game: “That could potentially blow you into New Jersey). Soon after showing up for your first shift, they city seems to get hit with a burst of PKE energy. This leads to a sharp increase of ghosts originating from mysterious sources. And... That’s all I want to say: I really don’t want to give too much away, you really have to play it and experience the story for the first time.

The best thing about the story and the cut scenes is defiantly the fact that you are a Ghostbuster and all the famous characters are actually talking to you. It feels amazing, I mean, just listen to your introduction to the team. (Voice clip: Introductory scene). Even while you’re playing, the others will be talking about something around you. You could go on and ignore it, but its fun to stay and listen to the clever dialog. It’s just excellent fan service. On the subject of fan service, the first few ghosts in the game are some familiar faces: Slimer, Stay Puft (or Gozer) and the Gray Lady (a.k.a. the librarian ghost). This was probably made to make any fan of the series happy that they appeared in a game written by the original writers of the game, but quickly goes to its original content and it feels just as natural.

There are technically three versions of this game that came out: one for the PS3, X-Box 360 and Windows, one for the Wii, PS2 and PSP and a third for the DS. Naturally, the game play changes during each version. I have the Wii copy, so I’ll be talking about that one. I honestly have to suggest this version because of the Wii-mote action. When you’re blasting a ghost, because you actually have to point at him and shoot, it partially feels like you’re actually blasting a ghost like a real Ghostbuster! You’ll also have to solve puzzles and fight bosses, giving the over all game a Legend of Zelda crossed with first person shooters feel.

This game is just fun on so many levels: its fun to play, its fun to watch, its fun to figure out. It honestly captures the true feeling of being a Ghostbuster. People who say that it’s the third movie aren’t exaggerating: it has the same cast, was written by the same people and is just as enjoyable, if not more. If you are a Ghostbusters fan, this game is a must have. Even if you’re not, this is still a great game, and I strongly recommend you play it: you might turn into a fan afterwards.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Level Up: Luigi's Mansion

By the way, you may notice the rest of the October games seem to have a theme...

When the Nintendo GameCube came out, it needed some good games to start off on the right foot. Luigi’s Mansion did just that. Coming out as a launch title for the system, it sold over 2.5 Million copies, became the first game to be rereleased as a player’s choice title and was the 5th best selling GameCube game in the United States. It was a truly fun game that really made its mark on the system...

“Kanye West”: *Interrupting* Sorry Leo, I really did like Luigi’s Mansion, and Imma let you finish, but Super Smash Brothers Melee was the best GameCube game of all time!

Riiiiiight... Anyways, the game plot was classic Mario style, in the sense that someone was captured and you have to save them. The big difference is that its Mario captured this time! This made Luigi have to be the hero for the first time (unless you count Mario is Missing as a game, which I DON’T!). The game actually starts with Luigi arriving at his Mansion which he won in a contest he never actually entered (sounds like junk mail to me). He enters it to see it’s not the dream mansion he expected; it’s run down and ghost infested! Professor Elvin Gadd (E. Gadd for short) then appears on scene to teach Luigi how to capture ghost using a flashlight and a vacuum the professor calls the Poltergust 3000. E Gadd also informs Luigi that he saw Mario go in, but didn’t see him come out or inside the mansion.

I think this is what makes the game so good: our unlikely hero and the games atmosphere. Luigi has never really been much of an adventurer on his own, and only ever gets coaxed into it when either dragged along by his brother (Mario & Luigi series) or when Mario is unavailable. While in the house, he’s always looking around and whistling to himself and he always jumps a bit when something pops up. But he has good reason to be scared since he’s in a huge ghost filled mansion with most rooms only being lighted by his flashlight. I know most of you will be like “oh, it’s not all that scary”, but once you start putting yourself in the shoes of the character, the place starts getting to you.

Onto the game play. The biggest aspect is capturing ghosts. To capture a ghost, you shine a light on them, and then suck them up with the Poltergust 3000 when their hit points show up. I was surprised at how easy this was to master. In most rooms (except for maybe 5) there are also portrait Ghosts, called that since they originate and will be returned into painting. They have 100 hit points and are never as simple as the others. You’ll need to use your surroundings and what you know of the ghosts to expose their weak points and suck them up. One of my favorites is Mr.Luggs, a glutton who ate himself to death and continues to eat. You have to suck up his food from the table and stop the butler ghosts from serving him more to expose his week point. As you can see, the puzzles are rarely hard and should be no problem for the veteran adventure gamer.

There’s quite a bit of optional things in the mansion too. First off, some of the ghosts are optional; you don’t even need to see and others you can just pass by. Another optional aspect are the boos. These are ghosts that hide in a room after you turn the light on (which you do by getting rid of all the other ghosts). When you do find them, you can try to capture them, put they can go through walls, unlike other ghosts, so they can be a little tricky and annoying. Finally, there’s also money in this game. You find money everywhere: in vases, behind pictures, ghosts drop some... Everywhere! At the end of the game, how much money you collect determines your grade (A being the best grade possible, going all the way down to H). Getting the A grade means having to pretty much go through every nook and cranny through the house: defeating all the ghosts, finding secret rooms and catching all the boos. This adds that extra little touch to the game that really makes you want to search the mansion high and low.

Luigi’s Mansion is a fun game with great puzzles and so many secrets and can be a great light scare if you let it. If you have a GameCube and have not played this game, you are missing out.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Level Up: Earthworm Jim

Note: This is the way I wrote the script for me to read when recording, so that's why there are notes for when sound effects are supposed to come in. I'm also working on making it so you can download the audio verson of my reviews.

Earthworm Jim is probably the most unlikely hero EVER. Why? Because he’s probably the lowliest creature ever: an Earthworm. At the height of the popularity animal game mascots, like Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong, developers Shiny Entertainment decided to release this wonderful guy: a worm with a super suit to make him stronger than anyone and an awesome ray-gun. In truth, with this concept, it was more of a parody of the current fad, but it still worked!

The plot line behind this game was simple, yet wacky, proven by the names I’m about to say. The evil Psy-Crow had one day taken the "Ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit" built by professor Monkey-for-a-Head, but had dropped it in battle over earth where it landed on the Earthworm we know as Jim. After that, Jim overhears Psy-Crow talking to (stop the music, I want to get this right) Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt (called Queen Slug-for-a-Butt for short)and their plans for the kidnapping of the Queen’s sister, Princess What’s-her-name. After that, Jim sets off to the princess by going from planet to planet defeating enemies like Evil the Cat, Bob the evil Goldfish and Major Mucus.

By the way, just from their name you can pretty much attain who everyone is: Psy-Crow is indeed a psychotic crow, Professor Monkey-for-a-Head has a monkey grafted to his head and Queen Slug-for-a-butt does have a giant slug for her butt. Once again, I think this was a parody of the obviously named Sonic the Hedgehog.

Once you start playing, you get pure platforming joy. You’ll play as Jim as you shoot enemies with your ray gun or whip them using your own HEAD! Seriously, how cool is that? The levels are each unique and probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen. For example, the first level is New Junk City, a garbage dump level, where you’ll have to bounce on tires, climb up conveyer belts and fight a robot made of garbage. You also launch a cow into space using a fridge in this level. That cow actually follows you throughout the game (pay attention to the background), but I don’t want to give to much away.

The game mixes it up quite a bit, not just with randomness of some of the settings but also the game play. There are levels where you’ll have to race against time under water, bungee using snot and clear the path for the adorable Peter Puppy (seriously, do NOT let him get hurt, he looks cute at first, but he mess you up!).

Earthworm Jim was originally released for the Genesis, but after his success, he was ported onto other consoles: Super Nintendo, Sega Mega-CD, Sega Game Gear, Game Boy... Personally, I own a Windows 95 CD release which I found for 2$, which was awesome (crowd cheers) but there is a scratch on the CD causing the sound FX not to work, which is not awesome. It really does suck, cause I’m missing out on things like this: (play a few sound effects at random). It’s also available for the Virtual Consol, X-box live arcade and the Playstation Network, so there is no excuse for you not to play this game. If you like platforming, you’ll love this brilliantly funny game.