Saturday, December 18, 2010

Level Up: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Genesis)

Let me tell you another story of my gaming childhood. If you were around in the fourth console generation era, then you would know that the Power Rangers were very popular back then. Unsurprisingly, they had a few games based on them. There was one I remember playing for the Super Nintendo that was pretty good, and all my friends seemed to like it too. However, it was rented and I didn’t have the ability to purchase it at the time. Flash forward over a decade later when I decide to finally get a Sega Genesis with opportunity to get a game by the same title for just 4$ at the same time. Thinking it was the same game, I couldn’t pass it up. It wasn’t the same game. At all. This is Mighty Morphin Power Rangers FOR THE SEGA GENESIS!

Now, the plot is where I’m going to go easy on this game, because if I run my mouth off too much, someone will say the Power Rangers are why it fails. The basic story line of the arcade mode is that Rita Repulsa is trying to destroy the Power Rangers by sending monsters after them. That’s alright, but my problem is the way it’s presented: it’s far too quickly paced; a monster comes, you beat it, Rita makes it grow, you beat it, next. This especially annoys me when you fight the Green Ranger, because that story had a lot to offer, but all that is never even TOUCHED on. Also, the way it’s presented is terrible; everyone in (what I am graciously calling) the cut-scenes looks like they’re cardboard and most of the scenes are reused to an annoying amount. And remember, this is me going easy on this game.

You know how normally, when I review 2D fighters, I say how I don’t like them, yet every time I’ve reviewed them, it’s been alright? Well, this is an example of one that I don’t like, and I think it illustrates why. First off, there is nothing original about this one: characters are all licenced from the Power Rangers while the fighting system is as basic as you can get. It’s pretty much just cut and pasted from the standard Fighting game format where all you have to do is “insert characters here” and make up some random button combinations for moves. The second problem with the game play is that everything seems to be slow. Moving your character feels stiff and I think there’s a delay in the button response. It definitely takes away from the fact that this is based on a show known for karate action. I actually think I can win more battles by tossing the controller around, then trying to play.

If you’re thinking the last redeemable aspect of this game might be its audio/visuals, then you’re sadly mistaking. As I’ve already mentioned, the cut scenes look like they are made with cardboard. Adding to that, any image taken from the show looks like it had a layer of feces smeared on it. The game made sprites suck too. The Power Rangers look… inhuman, like they’re flat or missing detail. The monsters, however, have the opposite problem: they are overly detailed, which clashes with the rangers (mind the pun). The Megazord also clashes since it’s done in a cartoon style, which is honestly the best looking sprite in the game (except for a tiny sword). Also; the cut-scenes, game over screen an actual game all look like they’re from completely different sources. At least pick ONE crappy look and stick with it!

The sound isn’t at all better either. Everything seems somewhat Atari quality. The voices should have been left out since it’s obvious they couldn’t be properly converted. Each note of the music tends to ring out with its own mix of mediocrity and disappointment. None of it makes me want to fight harder: it makes me want to turn off the volume. The worst offense is what they did to the theme song. Remember how awesome this was: *theme song plays*? Right, listen to this crap: *Genesis version plays*. It’s despicable.

Right, let me just finish this now, cause I don’t want to talk about this game much longer. The story is uninspired and rushed, the look is consistent only in crappiness, the sound is broken, the controls are stiff and the AI is cheap. God, even the game label art is horrible; off centered, poorly chosen and boring. (You really should look it up and see how bad it is.) A game like Xiaolin Showdown can be boring and unoriginal, but get a pass if it’s not flawed, because that’s what separates a good game from a bad game to me. This is flawed. I think if I had played this game instead of the SNES one as a kid, I would have given up on the Power Rangers long before Turbo. Congratulations Banpresto, you’re the developers of the first game I give a failing score to. I give Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for the Sega Genesis 4 levels out of 10.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Level Up: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

I don’t know why, but when it comes to the subject of the Ninja Turtles, I always think they work better as video game characters. Yes, I know they were originally comic book characters and popularised by a TV show, but whenever I think of my earliest enjoyment of the 4 brothers, I always tend to go back to the NES games. Think about it, these are giant reptiles’ fighting robots, what about that doesn’t SCREAM video game? The popularity of the TMNT has died down since the 80’s and early 90’s, and so has their appearance in video games, but one of the games I still hear people bring up today is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Listen and you’ll see there’s a good reason why.

Now, I’m going to get this out of the way right now: yes this is called an arcade game when it is really a console game. The explanation is simple: it’s a port. The arcade game was just originally called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but a game by that title already existed on the NES’s library. Despite liking it as a 6 year old, I now see that it is a flawed game (mostly thanks to the AVGN), which would explain why they decided to port this much better game. Looking at the screenshots (since I never played the original arcade machine), I can notice just a few differences between the versions. One is a severely downgraded look (16 bit to 8 bit it appears) which is to be expected and luckily handled well. The second is that the arcade version allowed for 4 played, while you can only play 2 on the NES port. Disappointing yes, but what are you going to do with the Four Score only coming out in that same year? However, not all changes between the versions are downgrades: upon doing a little research, I found out that there are actually MORE levels in the NES port. There are other changes, but most of them just don’t matter. So, if you’re like me and aren’t bothered too much about the downed graphics or the two missing turtles on screen, then this might be one of those ports that’s more fun than the original.

In true typical Ninja Turtles fashion, the main focus of the game is a “Stop/Defeat Shredder plot” with of course the need to save April at one point. To do this, you need to beat up wave after wave of Foot soldiers coming at you, by far the most common enemy. You also do have some Mouser Unit and other random robots, not to mention the boss battles, which feature known turtle rivals such as Bebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman and others, so don’t think it’ll get too boring. Even the Foot Soldiers themselves aren’t that dull since they come in noticeably different colors and have different abilities: some wield weapons while others can jump or have better endurance. All this to say “Don’t think you’ll get bored by the beating up of enemies”.

As a matter of fact, the way you beat them up is pretty fun on its own. Unlike other typical brawlers like Streets of Rage, when the Turtles jump in this game, they FLY! This helps with the combos, which includes ones that may make the game a little too easy, but might be useful for someone just looking to beat the game. Anyways, the combat system is otherwise basic: you can move in 8 different directions while you simply try to punch the surrounding bad guys out before they do it to you. If all of this still isn’t enough to keep you satisfied, then maybe the level designs will: they’re full of things that could take your life away (such as mines, holes you can fall down or giant balls that can knock you over) that will need your attention. And there is also a skateboarding level, and that’s pretty cool in itself.

Like I said when I started, this game is a classic. On the surface, its music is kicking, the graphics are “ok” and there’s generally nothing to complain about. Playing the game itself is just a joy: easy game play that’s always familiar, but with enough of a challenge to keep it interesting. It also has a really smooth style and is well paced. But… there’s just something missing, and I think its variety: you still fight a lot off Foot Soldiers (who are easily dispatched) and most of the levels are just areas around New York, which is a little bland. That might not be the whole problem, which I can’t really put my finger on otherwise, but it could be a factor. Anyways, this game is great; if you haven’t played it, I am ashamed of you, but seriously, go find a copy (it’s apparently coming to the Wii Virtual console soon too). I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 for the Nintendo Entertainment System 9 Levels out of 10.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Level Up: Majora's Mask

First, gonna say, I don't know what's up with the previous post, but I can't delete it. However, it's just image and text, so it's not hurting anyone. I'll just leave it. Anyways, here's the review that wasn't posted last week cause of it.

When I did my review of The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, I felt as if I was being a little unfair to the series. The point I was trying to make was that every game that Zelda touches isn’t automatically great, and some should just be considered on their own. The reason I felt bad though was because I was using an already beat down game to make that point, which made me feel like I was picking on the series for doing ONE bad thing. To make up for it, I am going to review a Zelda game that truly does stand on its own, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the Nintendo 64.

Coming off the success of Ocarina of Time (the game all future Zelda titles would be compared to) Majora’s mask was trying to continue on Link’s adventure, but I would consider this more of a spin-off, since so much is different. You start off as young Link travelling on Epona looking for unnamed friend (it’s hinted to be Navi, who doesn’t appear in this game, but this plot point never comes up again anyways). During his search, Link gets knocked out and knocked off Epona by a skull kid wearing an odd mask. Waking up and realising that his magical ocarina has been stolen from, Link chases after the Skull kid only to fall down a hole. The Skull Kid laughs at Link and uses the mask’s power to turn Link into a Deku shrub. (Yeah, crap has already hit the fan.) The Skull kid then escapes, but leaves behind Talt, who reluctantly becomes Link’s fairy for this game. Link loses the Skull Kid, but meets up with Traveling Happy Mask Salesman. He informs our transmuted protagonist that he can help him out, but needs the Ocarina and would like the mask the Skull Kid had on (which was stolen from him) back. Link is given 3 days to complete this task.

I am now going to stop here, even though I could go on forever about the little details in this game’s story. It has a lot of depth and cool happenings in it. However, part of the fun of the game is experiencing it all first hand. Besides, this is where the game actually begins, and I think that’s a fair reason to move onto the game play.

If you haven’t guessed it already from our “No Ganon, no Zelda, no Hyrule” plot, this game is anything but typical for the series, and there are two Big curve balls to the game play: a time cycle and the masks. It has the normal Zelda adventuring elements, but these are the points WORTH mentioning.

I’ll start with the masks. I already told you that Young Link gets turned into a Deku, but eventually the Happy Mask Salesman helps him out by turning Link’s Deku form into a mask, allowing Link to transform back into one whenever he wants. There are a total of 3 transformation masks that Link will be able to use at any time: Zora, Goron and the already mentioned Deku. As you would imagine, each one has its own use (example: Zora has limitless swim ability and will never drown). There are other types of masks and they all do something special (mostly obtained during or relating to side quests), but these 3 are the real game play element; you’ll always be using them. And rolling around as a Goron is so fun it’s worth mentioning.

The 3 day cycle, though not as fun, is something that was just inspired. Majora’s Mask has a clock in the game that works on 3 (not real time) days. At the end of the third day, it’s game over. However, after you get back your Ocarina, you can go back to the start of the first day. The truly inspired thing is that this game is full of events, and some of them just happen at certain times. For example, there’s an alien abduction scene (once again, far from typical Zelda) and it only ever happens during the night of the second day. You should eventually become impressed by how much time specific stuff is happening in this game outside of the actual adventuring. Restarting the 3 day cycle, however, will undo some events, such as paths you unblocked or people you helped. While this can seem like a headache (especially since its how you save) I think it helps with the replay value of this game: you can redo any dungeon you would like at any time.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is an awesome game not afraid to take risks. Yet, it’s also quite similar to Ocarina of time without being a direct sequel by making references to some of the bit characters seen before and giving it more depth (the Happy Mask Salesman for example). Some may critic it for being short (4 real levels, plus the intro and outro) but the side quests should keep you busy for a while. This game is just all around enjoyable: from the natural feeling setting, to the fun game play, to the creepy pasta story and cut-scenes. Seriously, what can you hate about a game with a gold cartridge? Especially one that lets you roll around as a Goron! I give the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 10 levels out of 10.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Level Up: BEN

Monday, November 15, 2010

Level Up: Streets of Rage 2

There are some beat-em-up series of the late 80’s and early 90’s that are just truly memorable: from Double Dragon, to Final Fight and even today’s subject, Streets of Rage (known as Bare Knuckle in Japan). The big difference between Streets of Rage and the other two I mentioned is that the others were designed as arcade games and eventually ported onto game consoles, causing two possible things: 1, there would be a lot of differences that people would complain about and 2, that the “original” games would eventually be loss, since they were far less accessible. Did Streets of Rage use this to their full advantage? We’ll find out as I review Streets of Rage 2 for the Sega Genesis.

The game starts off one year after the events from the first game, with Adam Hunter, Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding celebrating the anniversary their victor over Mr.X. The next morning, Axel gets a call from Eddie Hunter, the younger brother of Adam, better known as Skate. It seems Adam was kidnapped by Mr.X who is seeking revenge. After that, Skate, Axel and Blaze set off on a rescue mission to Mr.X’s hideout. Oh, and this wrestler, Max Thunder, tags along. Really there’s not much info on him, it just says he’s Axel’s friend and helping them out. I guess it makes sense, cause if I were Axel and I had a friend the size of Max Thunder, I’d probably want him along too. Anyways, the story is a classic revenge plot, but cheesy in such a way that just works in early 90’s video games. Wait a minute, why am I even talking about the plot? It honestly doesn’t come up in game, it’s easily missed and doesn’t hurt or help the game. Um, yeah… next?

Once I said “Beat-em-up” at the start of the review, you should have already had a basic idea of how this game would play: you walk around, punching enemies and move on. The controls are pretty good safe for the jumping, which is really slow and seemed to have a delay (don’t worry, I don’t remember any point where jumping became crucial). Other than that, the controls are pretty responsive, the characters move well in the directions you chose (though up and down is a little stiff) and the hit detections is pretty accurate. You also have a button you can press to use a special attack. Although it will use up some of your life, it’s pretty good at getting rid of enemies circling you. You also have a few other special moves you can do by pressing the right button combinations, but don’t worry if you don’t know them, they are far from necessary.

Using all your skill, you’ll travels far and wide to recover Adam. Sure, you may start off on a street of rage, but eventually you’ll be fighting in an amusement park of rage, a baseball stadium of rage, a boat of rage, a beach of rage, a factory of rage and an office building… of rage. Yeah, maybe the “Bare Knuckle” title was better after all (also invites less comparison with Street Fighters). Speaking of the names, every enemy in this is named. The main reason I bring this up is because a lot of the recolors (something I’ll get in soon) are named after a theme. Now, this may sound good when you start with someone named Storm (not the X-men), who sounds like he could destroy a tiny village, but eventually you’ll have to get names like “Fog”. Really what’s he going to do, summon Silent Hill? At least there isn’t any one named 60% chance of rain; that would be too terrifying.

As I’ve just mentioned, most of the enemies are recolors of other enemies seen earlier. Most of the designs are nothing too uncommon to beat-em-ups: normal guys in jean vests, shirtless bald guys, fat guys bouncing around, hot but bad-ass looking women, martial artists and dudes with Mohawks (seriously, that last one is a staple in the genre). They are recolored, but sometimes not enough to make a difference. Also… why have them? They aren’t stronger or any different and you still beat up a illogical amount of the same person… Though, this game is not devoid of any originality; most of the characters introduced as bosses are really unique and are well designed. Also, this is one of those advantages of starting out on the console: no odd downgraded look. This game looks like what this game should look like.

If it doesn’t sound like I’m overly impressed with this game, it’s probably because it’s not the game itself that makes it fun, it’s the genre. If you’re a fan of beat-em-ups, you WILL like this game. It plays it a little safe, yes (with the omission of the different endings seen in the first game) but while still keeping things interesting enough. The challenge is what’s really well done: it’s just at that level of difficulty that, if you lose, you are going to want to play again just to get a little further. If you just play it for the first few levels, you might not be overly impressed by it, but if you get into it, you REALLY get into it. I suggest you check it out: it’s available on the Virtual Console, X-Box live arcade and a few collection games (including the Japanese Sonic Gems Collection, which I forgot to mention). It’s a perfectly balanced representation of a genre of gaming that I really enjoy, and there is a reason this instalment is the highest rated one of the series. I give Streets of Rage 2 for the Sega Genesis 8.5 Levels out of 10.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Level Up: X-men: Mutant Academy 2

Some of you may remember that, roughly a year ago, I reviewed the awesome, but unreleased game of Thrill Kill. As I’ve said, nothing could keep that game from being released anyways, proven not only by the fact that it was released online, but also that parts of it appeared in other games. This is mostly due to the fact that its developers, Paradox Development, still had a right to the engine they made for the game; it was just the gory content that was banned by EA. The best example of its legacy would be Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, which is pretty much a re-skinning of Thrill Kill (and a game I would LOVE to get my hands on), but the X-men: Mutant Academy series also uses its engine (though the game play has drastically changed). It’s also worth mentioning now that all those titles were produced by Activision (giving me another reason to why they’re my favourite company). So, let’s take a look at a game that uses the Thrill Kill engine, X-men: Mutant Academy 2 for the Sony PlayStation.

Have I used the term “standard 2D fighting” enough that you guys know what I meant by now? This is basically it, which is odd since the graphics are clearly 3D. Despite removing most of the awesome game play elements I like from Thrill Kill (3D roaming and kill meter) I was really surprised to find that this game FEELS like Thrill Kill. Whenever you move, hit or throw someone, it really looks the same way it would have in Thrill Kill. Anyone that has played that has played it would notice it right away in X-men: Mutant Academy 2.

There are also still meters in the game that fill according to how much damage you do to you enemy, but not quite like the kill meter in Thrill Kill. You have three different meters, which will fill depending on which attack you’re using. Once they’re full, you can press the corresponding button combination to launch a special attack towards your adversary. Also, don’t worry about not remembering the combo for the meter attacks, they are clearly displayed for you before each fight and are really easy to pull off. As a matter of fact, a lot of the moves in this game are really easy to pull off, which as always, is something I like to see in fighting games.

Here’s one last cool game play feature: while you’re playing, you’ll notice you have a red section to your health meter after you get damage. That section is health you get back over time. Though the section does get bigger the more damage you take, it still goes down, so it’s not unlimited. Also, if the green part hits the end, you still get K.O.’d. Still, knowing how to properly use this can mean the difference between your loss and a come from behind victory.

*Mystique: lick my boot*

This game has a good-WHOA, WHAT DID SHE SAY? *Mystique: “lick my boot” x2* Hehehe, sorry, Mytique has just been my favourite X-women ever since the second movie and-THAT GETS ME to my next point: the characters. Normally I have to describe them to you, but I mean, come on, this is an X-men game, these guys are pretty widely known. Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Sabre-tooth: you know these guys. They also added a lot more from the previous game, which is good, cause X-men has a lot of diverse characters and I think the selection in this game represents a fair microcosm of them. Though this does make me wonder: why are X-men fighting other X-men? I mean, I get things like Wolverine against Magneto and all that, but what does Cyclops have against Beast? This is really never explained, and as much as tried, I just couldn’t go a long with it. While I’m at asking questions relating to characters: why can’t Mystique change her look? That fighting element is used in other games, look at Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung. Sorry, some things just really bug me there.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about X-men: Mutant Academy 2. It’s definitely no Thrill Kill, but still really good for a 2D fighter, especially since it has the X-men licence. The game’s look can be a little iffy, the character’s sayings can get old quickly, the music can be boring and there’s the complete lack of a plot for this super hero game, but I think the solid game play should compensate for all of that. Mix it with the unloackable content, the Thrill Kill engine and the fact that-come on- it’s X-men, and you got a pretty decent game. I give X-men: Mutant Academy 2 for the Sony PlayStation 8 levels out of 10.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Level Up: D

Let me tell you about a man named Kenji Eno. A child genius with an interest in video games and music, Kenji Eno (Ano) spent a lot of time playing around with programming, eventually winning competitions with games he made. After working for a few other companies, he would eventually band with other programmers and animators to form the company WARP Incorporated in 1994. This is where today’s game comes in. Kenji actually considered this is “opus,” his “masterpiece” of sorts. As a matter of fact, there are a few stories of how dedicated he was to this game.

Here’s one. First off, I’m going to tell you that it is a very disturbing game at some points, and that was ok in Japan (his native land) but would not fly by the manufacturers over in USA. That’s why Kenji made two version of the same; one without the story line, and one fully intact. He submitted the “clean” version, and it was approved. However, Kenji purposely failed to submit the master version of the game to the manufacturers in time, and the punishment was that he had to deliver the game by hand. While on the plane, Kenji switched the “clean” version for the full version, there by foregoing all censorship and allowed the world to be exposed to this horrible wonder.

This next dedication story may just be business sense, but I also think it shows how much this meant to him. See, this game (still not telling you the title before I start the review btw) was originally released on the 3DO. Yeah, not betting on the right pony there. Luckily, it was eventually ported to the Sega Saturn (probably the most popular version), the PC (as I’ll be playing it) and the Sony PlayStation. Most of them turned out alright, however, Sony was busy at the time of manufacturing the game and didn’t give it much priority; while the demand for this game was about 100 000 copies, they only promised 40 000 and provided only 28 000 copies. Eventually, sequels to this game and other WARP titles would never be released on Sony consoles and mostly stick to Sega.

Kenji Eno would eventually go on after this game to have a roller coaster career in gaming, including forming a few other companies and going out of the business for a bit, but this was probably the high point. This week’s game is the one letter terror of D.

The story in a nutshell is that Laura Harris is called to a hospital one night. It seems that her father, Dr. Richter Harris, has for some reason taken hostages and even already killed some people. The police are unable to help for some reason, and she goes in. Upon entering the hospital, Laura gets sucked into a portal to some kind of other dimension, which is mostly composed of a haunted castle. You now need to help her find a way out and figure what in god name is going on.

I honestly really had to force myself to play this game again, which is saying something since I’m currently locked in this place with nothing to do except play this game. The thing is, this game actually scared me so much, I locked it up with this DOS box in a dungeon (which I forgot about until I had no escape route from Piggsy). Man things make this game absolutely terrifying, at least for me. I think the main thing is the setting. As Laura, you are ALONE in this place, with the exception of your father and god knows what else. You’re also in an unfamiliar place that is creepy as all sin, and it doesn’t help that every now and then something freakily will happen for no reason or you’ll open a door and see something you just weren’t expecting. It doesn’t help that the game style gives you limted control of Laura anyways, continuing to make you feel like you feel like you just can’t escape anything bad thing that could happen to you. With the lights in your room shut off and with headphones (or the volume up high) you really get into it. Oh, and you do have to play it like that, it says so in the instruction booklet.

D’s main flaw is that is a very dated game. First off, it plays like the old type of puzzle/adventure game. You know, kind of like Myst where you go to a spot, then decide where to go or what to do at each point. (I think they are making a comeback on the DS though.) Also, the graphics look really lame, not even up to a Reboot standard I hold for 3D graphics; a lot of things just look stiff or half-assed. Granted, this was one of the first (if not THE first) completely CGI games, but still, you just know it’ll turn off some gamers. Finally, there’s this game’s length. To put it in perspective, you actually have a 2 hour, real-time time limit. Therefore, unlike modern games where you can just play and play and play, this one is over pretty quick. I counteract this argument though with the fact that the sheer suspense and creepiness should leave a lasting impression, much more then recent long and forgettable titles. I say, if you’re the kind of person who likes to watch old black and white horror movies, read scary books in the dark or are just a fan of these kinds of puzzle games looking for a scare, I think you should really check out this out. I give D for the PC 9.5 levels out 10.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Level Up: Manhunt

When it comes to “scary” games, you don’t always need things like ghosts, monsters and demons lurking around. As a matter of fact, some of the scariest concepts can be that a human could be able to such unspeakable acts (look at your 6 o’clock news). Today, I’m going to talk to you about a game where one person lurks in the shadows, killing anyone that’s dumb enough to turn their back to them, and what’s worst, you’re that killer. This week’s game is the first Manhunt game, for the X-box, PlayStation 2 and PC as I’ll be playing it.

The game starts off with James Earl Cash waking up after his execution. Obviously it was faked, but why? A voice from a speaker in the room he wakes up in tells him to put in an ear piece. The voice on the other end calls himself the director, and he wants Cash to be the star of his latest series of films. But Cash isn’t an actor, that’s why he wants a convict… to KILL. He informs his latest “Star” that he’s planted cameras everywhere he’s going to go, to produce a series of underground snuff films. Now you play as the lesser of two evils to take out people who will take him out if they get the chance, all just to please the entertainment needs of the director and his clients. There are also some pretty good twists along the way, and honestly, for a game that was mostly made for gore, I bought into it.

This is stealth game, but I’m just going to explain my two favourite game play elements: the assassinations and the radar. Starting off with the assassination, these were the main reason to get this game. Like with most stealth games, Cash isn’t that great with fighting and getting out numbered is pretty easy. The assassinations, however, make taking out enemies a lot easier: once you sneak up on someone close enough, you can kill him in a brutal way. The brutality will depend on how long you held the attack button, with 3 types of death with each weapon. You’ll pretty much be using these all through the game, not only because it make the game easier, but because they’re such a guilty pleasure to watch.

The radar, however, might not be something everyone enjoys as much as I do, mostly because I am partially an audio geek. See, the radar is based on sound: if you can hear an enemy, he will appear on your radar. This of course works the other way around; you make some noise and all enemies within earshot will rush to you. You’ll also know when this happens, cause you see how far you the noise you made went. So basically, you have make sure they don’t see OR hear you, adding another level to the game play, not that many other games use.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this in my Bully review or not, but Rockstar are not known for their graphics for a reason. In Manhunt, they’re probably less than standard for their time and didn’t age well. However, Rockstar did find a way around: this game was apparently “filmed” with low quality cameras, so the whole the whole game has this gray static filter on top of it. That doesn’t make it better, but makes it fit. What I really liked though were the sounds; they were great, they had to be. Not only was their entire radar system based on sound, but for the good, full effect of the gore, you need realistic sounds to accompany the visuals (just think about the horror movies you’ve watched). There is also very little music most of the time, which heightens the tension. Oh, and the character dialogs deserves to be mentioned, just cause of the messed up things some of them actually say.

This is a very controversial game, but also a good stealth game. However, when guns are introduced, it just becomes a shootout for the rest of the level, which I didn’t like. None the less, the assassinations will provide sick entertainment for people who can handle it, the sound design was just amazing and the stealth will make you nervous at the thought that a killer could be in the next dark corner you see. If this sounds good to you, get it… if you CAN: this game is actually BANNED in some places (sorry for teasing you New Zealand). I give Manhunt for the PC 9 Levels out of 10.

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

*Knocking is heard* Oh not this again. Look, if this is James Earl Cash, I have nothing to do with Starkweather. *Pig squeals, chain saw roar* OH CRAP! IT’S PIGGSY! *Shuffling of papers, footsteps chair moving* what’s this? A door? *Piggsy breaks through, big heavy door moves open then closes with a bang, pounding against concrete and muffled pig squeals are heard, then fades* Alright well… Wait, I remember this place. Oh this next review is going to be something… *Footsteps fade away*

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Level Up: Killer Instinct

(Once again, blogspot flips this picture on its side, even though the original picture was not like this.)

Oh, just give me a second here, I’m nailing my door shut. After last week’s “guest”, I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again this month, what with the characters I’m gonna be talking about. There…

When selecting a game to review, it’s sometimes hard to choose exactly which ones to do. However, in a month with a Halloween theme, this week’s game definitely stood out, almost calling me and with it’s pure black cartridge and title. Those of you who have this game know exactly what I’m talking about: Killer Instinct for the Super Nintendo.

If you haven’t listened to my Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat 2 review, do it, because I’ll be referencing those two games quite a bit. This game is like them, in the sense that it’s a 2D fighter, but different in some key areas. First up, it’s the life bar: it doesn’t refill at the end of the round. In most other fighting games, once you knock out your enemy, a new round starts and both your energy meters refill. In this game, the damage carries over. You are given two full life bars and that’s it. Make it last.

This can be very hard though, because it’s easy to put the hurt on your opponent. I mentioned that in games like Street Fighter, pushing the right button combination for special moves can be difficult. In Killer Instinct, a lot of the special moves can be activated by pressing a two or three buttons. Even without this, it’s easy to pound your enemy with basic attacks, because this game allows for automatic combos. It only ends when your opponent either breaks it, or you launch him in the air. These are hard to explain, but the feel of it is great and they are fun to do.

Finally, you have finishing moves: either the No Mercy or Danger move depending on which version you play. This is honestly just a rip of Mortal Kombat’s Fatalities. (It’d be fair to point out that Midway games helped publish the Arcade versions of both titles.) However, they are a lot tamer in this game; remember this one is only rated T, while Mortal Kombat got an M rating. I can probably call this a flop as far as this game goes though. Other than these elements, this game is pretty much your basic 2D fighting game, where you jump around, hit your opponent and try not to take too much damage.

As usual, with fighting games, I gotta talk about the characters. This time around, there are 10, which doesn’t seem like much now a days, but back in 1994, it was just around average. As usual, what I like is the diversity, and I am not talking about this game during October for no reason. You get a few usual fighters: the token ninja and female. Then you also get a boxer and a dual Tomahawk user, which are two things you don’t see in many games. Finally, the other 6 are the true reason for playing: a werewolf, a dinosaur, an iceman, a man of flames, a skeleton and Fulgor, who I can only guess is a suit of armour based robot. Even with only 10 characters, all the different mix ups you can make with these diverse characters makes them one of the best aspects of this game.

This is another game developed by Rare, like Donkey Kong Country, so I found a lot of the graphics and music quite similar. Once again, Rare used the polygon technique for making their graphics, which suits this game perfectly. Though, I will admit, the Arcade version looks much better, especially with Cider. I have the same problem with the sound effect I have with most fighting games though: it’s easy to get audio fatigue from the constant shouting going on. The music, however, is pretty cool, and worth keeping the volume up on your TV. As I’ve said, this was developed by Rare, so it has the same quality as DKC. It’s kind of industrial in a sense, but really works at invoking one’s Killer Instinct.

This game is different from most 2D fighters, which makes it’s one of my favourites. But at the same time, I could see some of the more hard core fighter game fans not liking this game. This is good for people who play games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat by mostly button mashing, but for people who bother to memorize the huge button moves, this might not be enough of a challenge. Also, getting trapped in a combo might seem cheap to these people. But the big disappointment might come from the fact that this game is rated T, and for a game called “KILLER” Instinct, that’s a big problem. Still, the great graphic, music and monstrous characters should be enjoyable to anyone, even if the game play might be hit or miss for most people (and for me, it’s a definite hit). I give Killer Instinct for the Super Nintendo 7.5 Levels out 10.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Level Up: Super Ghouls N Ghosts

Hey there faithful reader: sorry, but I can't post up the transcript for this weeks review. Simply put, it is too long (5 pages), and that's a bit much. So, I will link you directly to the audio. For you deaf readers or people without speakers or headphones (even though they cost like a buck now), sorry again.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Level Up: Earthworm Jim 2

It’s now time for Level Up season 2. After a full year, I got to say, I’m pretty pleased with where it’s been going and how it’s turned out. And to think, it all started with a review of Earthworm Jim. Some of you might be wondering why I picked that for my first one? Simply put, I think it captured the feeling I wanted for this show (a little funny, but good overall). So naturally, with Level Up season 2, I have to pay homage to that first review. Here’s Earthworm Jim 2, once again available for a lot of consoles, but I’ll be playing it on the Sega Genesis.

The story is pretty much the same, but with the omission of Queen-blah-blah-Slug-For-A-Slug (yeah, so much for being the final boss, eh?). This time, Psycrow has decided to capture Princess-What’s-Her-Name just too basically be a douche towards our wormy hero. It’s pretty much standard, which I guess was the point since, like the first game, it was supposed to parody the other “save the girl games” of the time. The one thing I don’t like about the story is that it omits a lot of the funny characters (like Prof. Monkey-For-A-Head) and doesn’t add enough new characters. The few that it does add, like Pedro Pupa and Flamin’ Yawn, are a little faceless (literally in their cases). This game’s story just doesn’t live up to the expectations that the first game set up.

In my review of the first game, I mentioned that the levels have a lot of variety to them. This time, it’s more like the makers had a PHOBIA of repeating themselves. The first level you’ll ride up some stares using a chair lift at one point. Next level you have to dig though some dirt using your gun, then you’re a blind cave salamander floating in a digestive system, then you’re flying over a world on your pocket rocket, then you’ll need to save cows to get through and after that you’ll inflate your head to float to the top of a level. Seriously, those are the first 6 levels of the game in order, minus the Puppy Love intervals. This does demonstrate one awesome thing: only Earthworm Jim can get away with something like this, only with his games could the makers go “let’s just change Jim to a salamander” and still seem natural.

Of course, new levels were expected, so there are more changes. This time around, Jim has more guns, instead of just the one. He has a HOMEing missile (hopefully you’ll get the pun when you play) a three-finger shot (which is as awesome as it sounds), a bubble gun (which is as lame as it sounds) and a kill all shot called the barn blaster. Not only can Jim find new guns, but he can also find new power-ups which will give him extra continues or 200% health. Another change that was the addition of Snott. Basically, you’ll have to send Snott out of your backpack to swing off a ceiling or you can use him as a parachute to slow your descent. The problem is that Jim already had these abilities in the last game, so that change was just superficial.

In the last review, I didn’t talk about the graphics or the music and just grazed the sounds. This game pretty much matches most of those aspects, so consider this a make good. Seeing how ridiculous and cartoony the concept and characters already were, they decided to make that the look of the series. This is fitting, but doesn’t always work: some things will need to be more detailed and therefore clash, while others won’t have enough detail and look flat. The sound effects are pretty good in both games and haven’t changed much. It is however likely that you become annoyed by Jim’s repeated shouts of “tender” or “groovy”. But where both games really shine are their soundtracks, and honestly, I think EWJ2 has a better one, using a couple of classical tracks to round things out (noticeably, Funiculy Funicula, as used in the Puppy Love stages and the background music to this review). The original tracks are also great, but it’s just the juxtaposition of something so classical put in something so wacky has to be mentioned.

If it sounds like I’m disappointed with Earthworm Jim 2, it’s probably because I already talked about the first Earthworm Jim and, since nothing much else has changed, the tiny changes they did make are all I have to talk about, pretty much forcing me to nit-pick. Still, this is Earthworm Jim’s grand return and it was less then what I’d hoped for: it feels a little all over the place and the story seems dull this time around. All the good points come from the last game though: this is still a really solid platform game, it’s funny, the levels are fun, etc… To sum this up, if you liked Earthworm Jim, then you should still enjoy Earthworm Jim 2. Sadly, this would be the last game Jim’s original creators, Shiny Entertainment, would work on, which sucks, because I would have liked to see where they were going. I would probably give the first Earthworm Jim about a 9, so I’ll give Earthworm Jim 2 for the Sega Genesis 8 levels out of 10.

(Now I’ll have to track down Earthworm Jim 3D for next year…)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Level Up: Felix the Cat

With Level Up’s one year anniversary coming up, I thought I would take this time to talk about the game that made me decide to start all of this. Yes, this whole podcast and show was started after having played one particular game: Felix the Cat for the NES. I had never heard of this game before and actually wanted to share my thoughts about it with people. I also had to come up with an audio feature for my college course at the same time, so this seemed only natural. So this week, I’m talking about the game that made me start Level Up, Felix the Cat for the Nintendo entertainment system.

The first thing I noticed about this game was the graphics. I was half expecting some awfully coloured mess of pixels, but I was really impressed. The colours are really vibrant and the sprites are the perfect size: big enough so you have some details in them, but they don’t take more space then what they need. Like with Dr. Mario, this game was released late in the NES’ life (1992 to be exact) and is almost on par with its graphics. The music in this game is also really good, having an upbeat and care free overtone, much like Felix himself. One superficial aspect I don’t like though are the sound effects: the jumping one gets annoying quickly and the one for collecting items sounds more like an alarm. There are a lot more bad ones in the game, those are just the two you hear the most frequently.

As with Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, I find the gameplay in this platformer very smooth. It’s fair to point out that they were both published and developed by the same company: Hudson Soft. In this game, you seem to slide a bit more then you did in Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, which makes it easy to run into enemies by accident, but even easier to hit enemies with an attack while sliding.

One of the main attractions of this game is Felix’s power ups. There are these Felix head icons everywhere in the game, and every time your amount hits number ending in 0, a heart comes out. Collect this, and Felix gets another power up (which also indicated how many hits he can take). On land, he goes from using a punch glove, to surrounding himself in stars, to a one wheeled car with a killer horn and his final power up is a tank. This is awesome. Cause he’s a cat and driving TANK. (Family Guy: Did I mention the tank’s a tank?) Also, I mentioned that it’s only on land he has those particular upgrades, because Felix has some flying and water based levels, each with their different power ups. These levels play out differently and are an occasional and refreshing change.

My one major problem with this game is that it is too easy. Honestly, the first time I played this game, I beat it in like an hour and I never saw the continue screen. One thing that makes this really easy is the fact that, when you’re a tank (Bobby Lee: TTANK!), every heart you collect gives you a life. The other reason this game is so easy is because most of the enemies are easily avoided cause they’re small and don’t use projectile attacks often (unlike Felix, and his car kitty tank). Some of the enemies in the flying levels do use ranged attacks, but you can just go under them. But here’s how dying can become easy: if you die, you have the weapon that it is the hardest to kill enemies with and one hit will kill you (and like I said, its more than possible to accidentally slide into enemies). Still, this game is so easy that’s not hard to avoid a few enemies until you get at least 10 Felix heads and power up.

What can I say about Felix the Cat except that it’s good fun but far too easy. But hey, that’s not really a big issue. This game is probably underrated for several reasons. First off is its timing; it came out when the Nintendo was dying. Secondly is the subject: you have to admit, Felix is rather old and a little obscure for more people. Finally, this game is slightly rare because of its timing, so not talked about often, despite being awesome enough to give a tank to a cat! (Nostalgia Critic: CCCAAAATTTT) All and all, this game was interesting enough to make me have to start a series of video game reviews, so I think that should say something. I give Felix the Cat for the Nintendo Entertainment system 8.5 levels out of 10.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Level Up: Collection Collection 1

Ever since I started this show, I’ve been wrestling with the issue of collection games. I just kept asking myself if I should actually review them or if I should just review the games within them. Finally, I decided; I am going to review them, but only based on how well they collect the games and what else they offer, reviewing the games included at another time. This means that I am unable to give a rating to the collections since how much you like a collection will depend on how much you like the games they make up. Because of all of this, the reviews will be so short so I’ll have to review a bunch at time, a collection of collection games if you will. Here are some of the Mario and Sonic compilation games in this first collection collection.

Super Mario All Star has become a definitive must have for anyone’s super Nintendo game library. Not only does it collect Super Mario brothers one, two and three, but also introduced North American to Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels. (I suggest you check out the Gaming Historian’s video explaining what that’s all about, while you wait for my review on that subject). This game also offers the ability to save four game files in each game, which was appreciated. It also featured improved graphics for all the games. It was kind of like they used Super Mario World as the base, but then added more details and shading into it. Speaking of Super Mario World, there is a collection called of Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World which brought the awesome factor to a whole new level.

The Sonic Mega Collection for the Nintendo Gamecube came out a decade later than most of the games included in it. It assembles most (if not all) of the Sonic games originally for the Sega Genesis. You only start with 7 of the 12 games found within this disk though and will need to unlock the others. The graphics remain true to the original game and there is no save feature unless the original game also had one (in other words: Sonic 3). This game does have some cool bonus features, such as a gallery where you can see the covers of all the Sonic comics (I won’t mention Linkara here) and features that better explain the evolution and history of Sonic. This pretty much confirms that this game was marketed towards people, who stuck with Nintendo growing up and didn’t experience Sonic’s growth first hand. When this game was brought to the other consoles of that generation, it became the Sonic Mega Collection Plus. This featured 2 games that were originally found on the Japanese version of this game, but omitted for the North American release, and 6 more Sonic games on it from the Game Gear.

The Game Gear games gets me to my next compilation: Sonic Gems Collection, also for the Gamecube. Following the success of Sonic Mega Collection, Sonic Gems Collection compiled many of the Sonic games not featured in it. This includes Sonic R, Sonic CD, Sonic the Fighters and several games for the Game Gear, excluding the ones feature in the Sonic Mega Collection Plus. Also, there were the two Vector Man games added in the mix. However, I have to shake my head to how Knuckles Chaotix was excluded (I wish it were released on the Wii Virtual Console at least). This time, you also had the option of saving at any time and as many game files as you want to each game, given you have the space on your memory card. The gallery in the game is also really big, with a total 320 items to unlock and view (this itself can keep you busy for a while). Despite this game having more to offer then Mega Collection, I like this one less since I find the games it has in it obscure as far as Sonic goes, but since that’s all subjective, I must say this is a really well done collection game.

There you go, Level Up’s first collection collection. I want to remind everyone that in most cases, how much one likes these games will normally depend on how much one enjoys the individual games included. All this just to say though, sometimes compilations are more than just the sum of their parts. Some have special things to offer, like saving features, improved graphics or galleries, while other just concentrate on staying true to the original games. Once again, no scores this week since how much most people like the collections will depend more on the individual games included and not the collection itself.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Level Up: Fantastic 4

I find that the media is not fair to the great super hero team of the Fantastic Four. Unlike other Marvel creations like X-men, Spider-man or the Hulk, they get less than flattering TV shows and generally very little exposure (which is why I honestly don’t know all that much about them). However, they did manage to get a movie out in 2005. This gets me on my subject of the day: there was a Fantastic 4 video game based off the movie. It was available for the GameCube, Play Station and PC, but I’ll be playing it on the X-box.

I’m just gonna come right out and say it: this game has almost nothing to do with the movie and seems based on the comic books. This causes some big problems for me, but the one I want to address now is that it just causes the plot to fail. Granted the turmoil of heroes having to deal with this drastic change is really hard to recreate in a video game, but what we got was a disjointed mish-mash of villains coming and going quite randomly. The individual appearances aren’t too bad, but as a whole it’s really weird. You’d think that, since I like Freedom Force, I would like this, but in Freedom Force it was well pulled off with a good underlying story. This game has the underlying story (mainly just trying to return Ben back to normal) but it’s so weak, it just can support the game.

Being based on the Fantastic FOUR, you will often be controlling more than one character at a time. Though you can only directly play as one person, you can press a direction on the control pad and change to another character. You will need to do this somewhat often since each character has their own unique inherent skills needed to get farther in the game. This gets me to the Super Powers. To use them, hold R and press one of the colourful lettered buttons. This uses some of the cosmic power meter, but that refills automatically over time anyways. The only button that is different is the Y button; to use this attack, you must fill up your super bar by executing combos or find a golden letter 4. This lets you do an epic move that will leave you invincible for a short while and damage the enemy a lot.

The graphics in this game aren’t all that good. Like with Gun (btw, this is another Activision game) things seem flat, blurry and have some random jagged edges, but it’s a LOT worse in this one. Being based on the movie, they tried to make the characters look as much as the actors as possible, and I have to say they succeeded… which is bad thing. Remember how I mentioned the plot had nothing to do with the movie? Well having it look like it should is weird. I think if it were of a more cartoon or comic bookish look, this game would feel a lot better. The only time I think the realistic stuff would fit in is in the cut scenes, but that’s when the graphics are at they’re worse, looking like a really bland Reboot episode.

Now that I’m on the subject of the cut scenes, I gotta mention something that caught me by surprise: like in Ghostbusters the video game, the voice actors in this game are the movie actors. HUH!? How did they get them to do it, it’s not like they wrote it like GB crew did? I have to say though, that probably makes the voice acting in this game its best feature, though they forgot the reverb on Dr.Doom. Here’s what it sounds like in the movie (movie clip) and here’s what he sounds like in game (game clip). The music is also pretty cool, with each member of the FF having their own original theme song. But really, how DID they get them all to voice this thing?

This game is based on a movie which is based on a comic book, but more like the comic book then the movie. Man, just saying that feels weird. The plot works in short term and the graphics are passable, but they were both poorly chosen. The audio and game play are pretty cool though, so it’s probably enough to get by for most people. Some might call this a “mindlessly fun” game, since it’s inspired by classic brawlers and you can just smash people all over the place. While this is true, “mindlessness” isn’t always wanted or a good game feature. The collectables in this game are a bit cool though, which include interviews with Stan Lee (that was enough to make me play some levels again). Still, while playing, I had this slightly dirty and unfitting feeling, kind of like wearing someone else’s underwear. Though I know it’s not bad, I think this is one game Activision published that you can skip. I give Fantastic 4 for the X-Box 5.5 levels out 10.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Level Up: Lego Batman the Video Game

This final submission in Batmonth has some deep nostalgia for me because it mixes together three of the things I clearly remember enjoying the most as a kid. The first would obviously be Batman and the second would be video games. The third thing this week’s game mixes up is Legos. Yeah, I enjoyed the little bricks as a kid and a few years back (mostly with Lego Star Wars) they’ve made a big uprising in video games. So let’s take a look at Lego Batman the Video Game for the Nintendo Wii.

I personally enjoyed the story in this game, but I think it’s more the way it’s told then what it tells. The basic plot is pretty much the same as last weeks; a bunch of villains escape, they cause crimes and it’s up to Batman and Robin to stop them. This time though, they didn’t cheap out on the villains with a total 15 baddies divided up in teams with leaders Riddler, Joker and Penguin. All three have their own plans and every character shines with a bit of their own personality. Here’s the thing though: no one can talk in Lego land. I should probably consider this a good thing when you think about how Batman sounds in recent adaptations. (Clip from Joker Interrogation scene spoof) (chuckle, I still love that video). Instead, the game relies on extreme body language to tell the tale, which is AWESOME since they are Lego! It’s exaggerated to a comical point and I think it’s something you have to see. However, when you have limited facial expression and have to show directly what you’re thinking with actions, it makes it so there’s absolutely no depth to the characters. But, this is Lego Batman the Video Game, you really shouldn’t be expecting all that much depth anyways. What has to happen happens and the message that needs to get across gets across, all while still being entertaining. What more could you ask for?

Now, I haven’t really played any other Lego game developed by Travellers Tales (I’ve maybe played all of 5 minutes of Lego Star Wars) but, from what I’ve seen, the game play isn’t too different from game to game, almost becoming its own sub category. Mostly, it’s the regular adventure platforming type game where you beat enemies and solve a variety of puzzles with game play mechanics. However, there is one main game play element I think is pretty unique: destruction and building. Since your world is made of Lego, you can destroy objects and rebuild them into the device you need. By the way, just gotta mention this sound: (bricks rattle). Get used to it, because EVERYTHING you destroy makes this noise! Play this game too much and you’ll eventually hear it all the time. And you will be destroying a lot of stuff, not only to figure what you need to build, but also cause you get the form of money in this game by breaking random crap (the idea of a millionaire, dressed a protector, going around smashing windows for more money is disturbing to me). There’s a lot to collect and buy, so yeah, you’ll be trying to break everything.

However, the game play tries to mix it up sometimes. First off, in every “episode” there’s at least one vehicle level. I have to say, I don’t like these: they aren’t the “refreshing change” they were going for like the shooting levels in The Death and Return of Superman. I find they mostly feel like the same thing, but with a big character that has a hard time moving around. I’ve seen a lot of critics say they like these, so maybe it just me, but I just found it to be a sudden road block in the game play. One other “mode” (for want of a better term) that I do like is the ability to play the villains side of the story. This is not only because playing as the bad is normally always more fun, but because you keep changing characters in villain story mode. This means, you have to keep adapting to different abilities ever level. As Batman and Robin, you’re given different costumes throughout a level, but it’s just not the same thing as such a permanent and drastic change.

This game was fun and definitely lived up to the expectations my nostalgia put in place for me. Though it has a few flaws; it can become mindless quickly, it’s easy to go in circles if you don’t know what to do and it’s too easy making it impossible to get game over (almost the exact opposite problem the other two Batman games had). But all of this is pretty easy to ignore due to how much fun simply playing as Batman characters in Lego form can be. The game’s look is really cool, the music is awesome, actually using Danny Elfman’s amazing scores, and the game play is overall enjoyable. And out of all the Batman games I’ve reviewed this month, this one is probably the most loyal to its source content. The only people I can see not enjoying this game are those adults who refuse to have any type of inner child. I give Lego Batman the Video Game for the Nintendo Wii 8.5 Levels out of 10.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s August theme of Bat-month.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Level Up: The Adventures of Batman and Robin

Since we’re in Bat-month, I want to give my thoughts on the whole “Joker” argument that came out with the movie The Dark Knight (yes, I know it’s an old issue, but I’m going somewhere with this). A lot of people were arguing the case of either Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson. While I sided with Nicholson, he just wasn’t the Joker I remembered. Cesar Romero is close too, but not my favorite Joker. For me, the perfect clown prince is portrayed by Mark Hamill who voiced the Joker in the Batman animated series. That series is how I remember Batman and it is the Dark Knight I grew up with. This gets me to my point: there were games based directly off of that series for video games. Here’s one of them: The Adventures of Batman & Robin for the Sega Genesis.

Blah blah blah, Joker, Two-Face, Mad Hatter and Mr.Freeze escape, start causing crimes, regular Batman plot. Let’s just skip the story and get to what I really want to talk about the game’s difficulty.

The game is HARD! And I don’t mean though like Batman from last week, or tough like a well done steak. If I had to compare this game to a steak, I would say that this game is like gnawing on a pierce of still frozen meat. I am serious, if you don’t pay constant attention and know what you’re doing, this game will be quick to kick your ass. I started up this game to refresh my memory to review it, and I couldn’t get past the first area! I remember having beaten this game once, but I can’t for the like of me see how that happened. Though, the same way that a steak will eventually thaw out after gnawing on it, this game does seem to get a little easier after a while. I don’t know if it’s because the levels get easier (the layout of Two-Face’s levels makes it easy for me) or if it’s just because to simply get past the first level you have to get so used to the game that you seem to enter its “mind”. All this just to warn you: this is a hard game with no way to really make it any easier, so better get ready.

This game is what’s described as a “run-and-gun” game. It would be very easy to make a platform or brawler game based on Batman, so this decision really stands out; considering Batman doesn’t use any actual guns, it seems weird to have something that seems quite similar to Contra. What’s even weirder is that Konami, makers of Contra, actually handled the SNES Adventures of Batman and Robin title, which was more of a platform/brawler based game, while this version was published by Sega. I am just looking too much into this?

RIGHT, game play… basically, move from left to right while taking out bad guys, mostly by throwing these weapons. You have to stand still to fire, but you can shoot in 8 different directions. You have three category of weapons, and although there are more technical terms for them, I just call them red, green and blue, since those are the colors representing them. As you upgrade each one, you’ll notice they each do something different. Though I could elaborate on what it is they do, I’d rather explain to you how you make your attack stronger. Let’s say you start off with the red power (since you do) and you see a weapon icon (often dropped by enemies or hidden in items). If you collect it while it’s red, then your power will go up. However, if you collect it while it’s green or blue, then the power level stays the same, you just change weapons. Basically, try to constantly collect the same color to stay as powerful as possible.

This game looks amazing. Quite frankly, it’s the backgrounds; they are well handled, multi layered and perfectly colored to suit the feel of the show. Though, I have a problem with the character sprites; they’re just too small. Although you can make out who all the characters are, I feel as though there isn’t enough definition to them and they look a little faceless. The music is also really good. Probably not as good as the NES Batman game from last week, or even close to the Danny Elfman works, but still suits this game just fine. It has a certain excitement yet mysteriousness to it that just says “Batman run-and-gun game” to it. Yeah, hard to believe any music could say that, eh?

Though this game is fun once you get past how hard it is, it’s pretty disappointing as Batman game. The similarities between the show and this game are shallow (a common theme for Batman so far), the gameplay was oddly chosen and plot is basically non-existent. It’s a really good looking game and it does handle well, but it just feels a little empty and mindless. Also, I have to say it feels short, using only 4 bad guys (5 if you count Harley) out of the Batman repertoire which includes over a dozen. I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s a good game, but far from how good it could have been, especially considering the source content. Still, you might want to not overlook this game. I give The Adventures of Batman and Robin for the Sega Genesis 7.5 Levels out of 10.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Level Up: Batman

Alright, I think the time is right… I now declare the rest of august to be… BAT-MONTH! (nanananananananana, BATMONTH!) That’s right. I decided that every august I would dedicate a good part of the month to reviewing games that all fit a certain theme. This year I’ve chosen to review three games based on Batman. I’m going to review them in chronological order of when they come out. First up is Batman for the NES.

This game came out in 1989, same year as the movie it’s based off of, which also has the same title… Batman. (1989 was a good year, eh?) Honestly though, the similarities between the movie and video game are very minimal. Here’s what it has in common: Batman is the main character, it ends with a showdown against the Joker and there are a few random cut scenes in the game from the movie (though with no other similar events, it’s just disjointed and random). Other than that; nothing. This game honestly looks more like someone came up with their own game, made all the enemies, level design, etc… then at the last moment, slapped a Batman license so it would sell better. This doesn’t hinder the game play, but they could have definitely made a creative way to feature more things from the movie in game.

I have a lot of thoughts about the game play. The first thing you will notice is that this game can feel a little stiff. First off, Batman seems to move slow, but if you watch the movie, he’s not exactly speedy in that either; he mostly just walked slowly up to enemies, freaking them out, then take em out. This game should also be approached with a similar sense of confidence. The second reason it might feel stiff is because of the jumping. Unlike most platformers, like Mario, Sonic or Earthworm Jim, you have very little control of Batman while he’s in the air. From what I understand, developer and producer Sunsoft were going for a more “realistic” type of jumping in their games at that time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it takes some getting used to. Remember: look before you leap.

Speaking of jumping, this game also gives you the ability to wall jump (usually compared to the same way Ryu from Ninja Gaiden also does that). Simply put, jump, hit against a wall, you bounce off in the other direction. It’s a simple game mechanic found in a hand full of game (including Buster’s Hidden Treasure) that’s often used in some pretty unique ways. In this game, the wall jump was pretty easy for me to master, but there are a lot of points where you will need to be very precise so you’ll still need to be careful.

The last worthwhile ability that Batman has is the ranged weapons. Instead of just punching, you can use Baterangs, a gun or a triple shuriken. To use these, you need to pick up ammo that enemies drop. This is both good and bad. Good, because if you use less than 10 ammo to kill a bad guy and he drops a pack, since each are worth 10, it becomes really worth it (with the alternative being losing health). This is bad, because it means you can run out of ammo (which doesn’t make sense for the baterangs since they come back to you). In short, you’ll have to use your own good judgment to know when to use a ranged attack.

However, switching to ranged weapons is something interesting, which gets me to my final point: the button layout. To rotate your ranged weapon, you press start. Now, get what I mean here: you don’t pause the game to switch weapons, pressing start goes to the next one and select pauses the game. At first, I thought this should be reversed, until my roommate pointed something out to me; the start button is on the right hand side. This makes it easier to quickly get your weapon out without stopping the action. The problem comes though when you want a weapon three presses away while enemies are close by: that’s when I would like a weapon select menu. Also, I always get fooled when I go to pause. Anyways, that’s the game play in a nutshell, all coming together to make something fun and interesting, like the dark knight himself.

I’ve said it a couple of times in this review, but this game is interesting. It has near nothing to do with the movie or character it’s based on, but it’s still pretty fun. It’s a pretty tough game and feels a little stiff, but in a way, that just adds to how bad ass Batman can seem. The music is pretty cool and the game has this dark cartoon style (it gives the same feel as the movie, but does so while looking differently). All and all, I would recommend this game to any fan of platforming games, but reluctantly so to people who are just fans of Batman. I give Batman for the Nintendo Entertainment System 8 levels out of 10.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Level Up: Pokemon Snap

If you’ll remember from my Pokémon Stadium review, I mentioned that it was great to see every Pokémon at the time in 3D for the first time. In that sentence though, I made sure to mention “every” Pokémon, because there was a game that came out before Stadium that had part of the original 151 in 3D. That game would be Pokémon Snap. As odd as it might sound, it’s a Pokémon photography game, but like I said, it was 3D and also the first Pokémon game on a non-handheld console. Naturally, we all wanted it. How does this game hold up in hind sight? Let’s find out as I review Pokémon Snap for the Nintendo 64 this week.

You play as a professional Phokémon Potographer- Pokémon Photographer (say that 10 times fast) hired by professor Oak to take pictures for a Pokémon report. For some reason though, Oak is only interested in the Pokémon found on this particular island, which excuses the game to only have around 63 of the original 151 Pokémon there were at the time. The professor gives you this vehicle to ride in called the Zero-One, which follows a rail, but can float in the air and over water and… I don’t know how it works. Anyways, this turns the game into a rail shooter (mind the pun) since you can’t stop the Zero-One, pick your direction or change your speed (until you beat the last level at least).

However, this does not mean that this game is entirely un-interactive, many times to get pictures of certain Pokémon you’ll have to make certain events happen by interacting with the Pokémon’s environment. You’re given three devices to achieve this: food, the pester ball and a poke flute. Sometimes it can be rather obvious how to get some Pokémon, like playing the poke flute near Snorlax to get a distinguishable shot of him. Other times it’s just experiment and see what happens, like for the Garydos picture.

Also, don’t think you can get away with taking an off-centre picture of a single Charmander 10 yards away: despite this game’s otherwise simplistic nature, Professor Oak’s rating system is somewhat sophisticated. He rates you based on what’s going on in the picture, how big the Pokémon appears, if there are any addition Pokémon of the same species in the photo and if it’s centered or not. It’s scientific, yet artistic at the same time: once you can SEE why he gives you certain scores, you can figure out HOW he’s going to rate your picture. So, all and all, the game play is less boring then perceived by concept alone, but probably less fun then it could have been.

Since this game is all about taking pictures of Pokémon and that the big hype was it was the first 3D Pokémon game, the graphics are pretty important. I have to say they live up to the expectations, but definitely don’t surpass it. For example, Slowpoke and Slowbro look really good in this game, though close enough you can see they’re made of polygons. Electrode is one I had a problem with, since he’s supposed to be perfectly rounded. Also, his eyebrows really look flat and pixelated. But generally, the Pokémon looked really cool and like what I expected them to (as I’ve said for my Pokémon Stadium review). The sounds in this game are amazing. The environmental ambiance is perfect for the scenic view and the music is just at the right level to complement it but not over power it. Also, the Pokémon in this game say their names, like in the show, but unlike most other games. This was an interesting choice, but I’m glad they went in that direction: it makes this game stand out just a bit more.

Pokémon Snap was a fun game, but it definitely hasn’t aged well. Its real weakness comes from its concept; I mean, Pokémon PHOTOGRAPHY? But, as stupid as it sounds, it’s also what makes it so unique and fun to play every once in a while (though, since it severely lacks in reply value, you’ll usually start a whole new game when you do). This was a good way to tide the Pokémon fans over until stadium for their 3D fix, which kind of makes me surprised there was never a Pokémon Snap 2; it would have been a clever way to tease the fans with some second generation Pokémon and would sell well if it did that. Anyways, I’m getting off topic. The gameplay is good… for what it is. You really get immersed in the environment and it’s all really well pulled off even though there were less than half of the Pokémon at the time in this game. If you grew up with this game, then you know how nostalgic it can feel, but if you didn’t, you’ll either find it lame or like how unique it is. I give Pokémon Snap for the Nintendo 64 7 levels out of 10.

I’m Leo Melanson, and I promise, next time I talk about a Pokémon game, it’ll be one of the actual main series games.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Level Up: Gun

Once again, had to cut a whole paragraph due to time limitations on the audio version. So, for those of you actually reading this, you get EXTRA CONTENT!

Let me talk about the game companies I’ve mentioned on this show. So far, I’ve said some pretty big name: Nintendo has come up at least half a dozen times, EA games has popped up on a few occasions somehow and Capcom has been reviewed so frequently I had to create the Capcom time. But none are my favorite game company: that would be Activision. I don’t know how it hasn’t come up sooner, maybe I’m saving most of their games cause they’re so good, but I feel bad for not having them come up sooner. (Which isn’t fair, because they had something to do with the PC port of my first review, Earthworm Jim, which was the version I played.) I really like this company, they’ve been around for over 30 years and they’re now stronger than ever: from Tony Hawk to Call of Duty, from Guitar Hero to Marvel Ultimate Alliance and from Pitfall to Transformers: War for Cybertron (which I haven’t played but I heard is ridiculously good). So, with that out of the way, here’s an Activision creation: Gun, available for the X-Box, PS2 and PC, but I’m playing the Nintendo GameCube version.

I love the story and it’s definitely the biggest reason to play the game. This is a western based game, and I’m going to throw this out there, I haven’t seen many western films, which might be why I like this game so much. Here’s the story, straight from the horse’s mouth (not literally of course). (Clip: 5 seconds) The game takes off when the steamboat Colton and Ned (Colton’s father) are travelling on gets attacked and Ned goes down with it. Colton then manages to find his way into Dodge city, where, like any Sandbox game hero, he is asked to do everything for the people. Coincidentally though, this moves him towards his personal goal: find out why the boat was attacked and why his father was killed. He eventually falls into series of lies, deceits, betrayals and cover ups. This leads to some interesting plot twists, dramatic moments and real suspense. I also want to point out that this game was written Randall Johnson, a Hollywood writer probably most famous for writing the Mask of Zorro in ’98. Though the story mode is short on its own, it’s so well written, you might not even notice.

For those of you who haven’t guessed by the game’s title, this game is a shooter game, third person most of the time. You end up having a total of 5 gun types: a pistol, rifle, shotgun, sharpshooter for sniping and a bow and arrow. Like most games, each weapon does something different and is useful at different times, but I’m just going to mention the pistol. With this gun, you can activate the quick draw mode, which is essentially bullet time, but trust me, you’ll be using it a lot. Of course, you do upgrade your weapons as you go along, but that requires money, which gets me to the main talking point of this game. As I’ve said, this is classified as a sandbox game, meaning in between the story check points, you can adventure around, get more stuff and improve your stats. The activities you do can be taking on bounty hunting missions, help out as a ranch hand or even play poker for some extra cash. There are a lot of different side missions and all will not only give you money and improve your stats, but also train you in certain skills needed to finish the game. What I’m getting at is: play these. Not only do they help in long term, but they turn what would be a short game (with a great story) into a journey to becoming the best.

Despite this game being beautifully written, I will admit it is not beautiful to look at. Graphically speaking, a lot of things look flat when they shouldn’t, some of the more complicated images seem blurry and objects pass through other objects they shouldn’t. Another thing is that the animals look a bit 2D, kind of like if they were in Doom or Quake. The music also doesn’t add much; though it suits the cowboy theme and keeps it low key in the moments it should, the moments where it should enhance the feeling, it fails to do so. Neither of these really stop you from enjoying both story and gameplay unless they really bug you, which I know some people will let it get to them. Just try to ignore it and concentrate on what really matters.

Gun just blew me away. It’s a horse riding, gun slinging, whiskey shooting fun of a game. I like this game so much that I haven’t really had the time to get into all the little thinks I like, but just take my word, this is a great game: I enjoyed the experience through and through. This is one of many Activision games I’m going to recommend, and it’s not hard to find, I see at least one copy for one of the consoles its available for every time I go into a used game store, so next time you see it, pick it up. Now I can’t leave you with the sound of failure as I usually do, I think we need some appropriate rock to finish this off. I give Gun for the Nintendo GameCube 9 levels out of 10.