Posts Tagged ‘wii’

Game 805/1001 according to the list

Genre: Adventure/Puzzle
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Another day, another Capcom game. Yet… we’re not bored yet. Gimme a high-five Capcom…*crickets*Fine, we’re never going to be invited to a game unveiling where we can rub shoulders with Capcom execs whilst we pocket the Hors d’oeurves and avoid the fire-eaters but we can dream.

Ever since we played Drop 7 we of Pong and Beyond have been attempting to limit the number of puzzle games we cover since we had already covered more than we had meant to. I missed them so much so I’ve been really looking forward to the titular mouthful that is Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure. Golden money ‘an all.

Our Thoughts

This title just looked strange from the start, and having played it, it has only become stranger. There were reportedly about 200 names drafted up for the game and this is the best they came up with. On the one hand I can see what they did there since it makes sense on a number of levels. It namedrops the two protagonists as do games such as Ratchet & Clank, Banjo-Kazooie and Jak and Daxter, it describes exactly what the game is and it has great kid appeal. It ticks all the boxes and it misses the point completely. Whilst in Japan the childish, anime-feel has universal appeal the name and cover art only really appeals to those under twelve. Thus it has remained largely unsuccessful in the West – much to the chagrin of critics and Capcom-fans who really fell for this game.

When you play the puzzles you can see their point as their complexity ramps up very quickly to the point where very lateral thinking is needed. I would love to see the eight year old who could solve all the puzzles without a visit to an online walkthough… or not as they would be some kind of wizard. In fact, while we might have worked it out ourselves more often, in the interest of time we used one once or twice. Part of this is due to the strange mechanics this game sometimes offer. In particular, the animals transforming into items when you ring the bell that’s called ‘Wiki’ (it somehow eventually makes sense) seem random. While a mole turning into a drill makes some sense, a boar into a hammer is harder to understand, and a bat turning into an umbrella simply seems insane. The thing that really helped with this game is having another person playing it with you to offer a fresh perspective on a puzzle. An advantage we obviously had.

The thing that makes this game really interesting is that it is a very rare example of a well executed console-based point and click adventure game, which actually makes this the first within that genre we have covered. Somehow I thought it would have been either Broken Sword or Sam & Max (there’s another eponymous duo) but that’s what happens with borrowing. Not that I’m complaining… I’m not… I really enjoyed this game despite the fact my arm ached from the fishing minigame. Some of the funniest and most clever games in that sense are still coming up… to the point where Sierra’s offering was mostly ignored in the list in favour of most of the Lucasarts catalogue.

One of the good things about this game appearing on a console is that it makes full use of the Wiimote’s capabilities. Aside from the pointing using the Wiimote, a lot of actions you take are actually movements made using the controller. This is rarely strictly necessary – turning a key might as well be a click instead of you actually doing it – but it  makes it a bit more immersive and clever. It is still, however, used for good measure in a few puzzles, such as defeating a fish by trying to reel it in, as well as a music-based minigame that comes back on several levels. There are very few games made by third-party developers that have used the Wii controller in such a versatile fashion. True games like Okami and Dead Space: Extraction have also been praised for good Wii controls but neither contain as much variation in Wiimote movements that can be found in Zack & Wiki. And while they may seem gimmicky at times, they’re still better than the ewww-factor implicit in the Wiimote use in No More Heroes. Even if there is a half-naked man in the top-right hand corner of the screen shaking the Wiimote like an empty ketchup bottle. True, it’s close, but the graphics make everything look a lot more innocent.

The graphics, as so many things in the game, are quite Japanese – anime-like. There’s an element of kiddishness in there, cute and cartoonish. They’ve even kept the original ‘dialogue’ noted by Wiki’s occastional cry of “Zakku!” Something that was easy to do as they were mostly cries of ‘Alright’ and similar.

One thing we have neglected to mention is that this game is pirate-themed. Something that was just falling out of fashion upon the game’s release and which makes it more surprising that this was not commercially successful.  Who, on some level, does not like pirates? It’s not a big part of the game – it has no impact on the actual game, and really only influences the look and feel of some parts – but it makes it fun.. And in a way cute, when you consider Zack looks rather young. That isn’t helped by the fact that he chomps on a chocolate bar whenever left idle. It was added as an afterthought, and you can see that sometimes. Even so, it doesn’t make the game any less cute, and it certainly helps give him a reason to collect treasure… what more could you want there?

Final Thoughts

So our little pirate guy? Aside from the fact that it’s a pretty good game, it’s also a good adventure. It’s not entirely like the original point and click games – the story is fairly flimsy and not the main drive of the game – but it has some interesting (and at times obscure) puzzles to work out. It’s also a very nice-looking games with some very strange and fun environments – the water slide in particular making me want to go down them.

The controls have their issues and make the game harder to control sometimes, but most of the time, when it works, it works well, and out of everything, it’s the use of the Wiimote that truely stands out during this adventure. That and the cute bell-monkey. He’s just adorable. Ding!

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Game 66: No More Heroes

Posted: July 3, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 772/1001 according to the list

Genre: Action/Fighting
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment (JP), Rising Star Games (EU), Ubisoft (NA)

When it comes to RPGs there is defining difference between those produced in the East and those from the West (as can be seen in our posts about Final Fantasy IX and Baldur’s Gate 2). This can also be seen in the world of free-roamers and the fact that we in the West produce games in this vein which are generally better reviewed even though far more are made.

What’s interesting is that No More Heroes is essentially an attempt to bring the Western free-roaming game to Japan whilst combining the two cultures in a number of ways… sounds like a cool experiment don’t it?

Our Thoughts

Considering this was a Japanese attempt to marry Eastern and Western gaming culture, how well do you think the makers of No More Heroes did in achieving this goal? It’s an interesting choice, and the places where some of these parts came from are fairly obvious. While this game owes a lot to GTA in design, it contains a love of repetition (in a sense) often seen in Eastern games, more often their MMORPGs. Not to mention the main characters love of anime… and wrestling. In a way they tried to create a Californian-style otaku who is able to wield a light-sabre style weapon. It’s slightly strange how he appears to live in a motel and yet has a cat and a shelf containing all his figurines of anime girls. It’s like something out of anime series such as Chaos;Head and Genshiken.

All this, together with his appearance, do make him feel Japanese, and the art direction pushes the game in that direction as well. Yes, the whole look of the game is incredibly stylised. It brings to mind the graphics of games such as Okami, Viewtiful Joe and Street Fighter IV.

It’s a great look but there are times where, due to the shading of both the main character and the surroundings, it is hard to distinguish where you are since they can blend into each other. Sometimes the colour palette is not the best choice but it works well most of the time. It’s just the times where it doesn’t work is when enemies are attacking you with guns and baseballs also when the fights take place in dark environments, where you can’t see the enemies three feet away.

Luckily the game has auto-targeting, but it makes gameplay confusing – is an enemy remaining or not, and where are they? The targeting is a great part of the fighting system, especially since it allows more accurate dodging of attacks.

Now that we’re on it… we really need to make a big deal of the fighting system. This is the main thing to recommend No More Heroes since it makes such great use of the Wii Controller and Nunchuk that it can feel like you are there hacking and slashing with him.  Making you wonder how any ports of this game would have worked. In terms of ports it was released over hear on the PS3 with Move compatibility (which makes sense) but how the Japanese-exclusive Xbox 360 version worked is anyone’s guess.

While not fully requiring you to slash the nunchuk (button mashing remains useful), big finishing and high damage moves require you to slash the katana or nunchuk in different directions, while blocking, at times, require you to shake the controller to push back. Since the fighting system makes such great use of the controllers there are times where it is best to stand up in order to complete the task.

Also, as we’re on the idea of “completing the task” a small mention has to be made of how you recharge the battery on your katana. Yeah, because this involves a physical action where, to put it nicely, you polish your katana. You hold the controller and move your hands up and down. On screen your character joins you, hands in front of him, katana extending from his crotch, as he moves his hands up and down. And yeah, there are special sounds when you… fill your battery. All in the absence of his beloved Japanese love pillow (yes, I think I spied one of those in a cut-scene). Oh, it’s not just the love pillow. He also hands in the wrong video or DVD he rented. This time of… a certain man… humping his pillow. I might have spotted a camera in a cut scene too.

I just feel sorry for his cat. No matter how much you pet it… it’s probably so traumatised that any show of affection is an exercise in futility. And no, this time it’s not a euphemism. Nor is there any other point for the cat, it’s just there to be nice to.

On that note, it’s worth mentioning one more ‘feature’ of the game. You save by using the toilet. Our hero sits down, idling, while you make the choice to save and so on. The toilet even looks different depending on the save point you’re at.

 

 

Another major criticism of this game is how repetitive it gets. I mean its phone call, train in the gym, raise money collecting coconuts, mowing lawns and fights then take on one of the ten assassins. It’s almost as bad as the first Assassin’s Creed game in that respect. What doesn’t help is that while the main comparison here seems to be the later GTA games, it looks that way, it tries to do the racing, but it misses out a lot of it too that would’ve been nice to have. Despite there being no more heroes, you can’t be evil either. You do some missions, some of which have their violence in nicely contained areas, and yeah, some assassins change you, but there’s no potential for random violence or any other fun in the large free roaming world. The world is really just for moving from one place to the other – from icon to icon – and as free roaming as it might seem, it’s just scenery without much point to it, unless you like driving around randomly and look for some ‘hidden’ balls.

We seem overly critical for a game that we are very likely to buy for ourselves. In the end though there is a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it very likable. It’s a somewhat non-linear fighter with some nice additional feature, rather than the sandbox games some play this up to be. And as a fighter, it’s extremely good fun.

Final Thoughts

This is the first game that we have covered where I am almost completely sure it will be replaced on the next incarnation of the list. This is not due to any inherent fault with this game (as you can probably tell it was one we really enjoyed) but because it’s sequel was released just after they probably started making this list and it was apparently an improvement on the original. Part of me is looking forward to the new list since it will mean a chance to play a whole new heap of games… but it will mean that a large number of games already covered will be removed… ah well even more of an excuse to continue gaming.

Game 64: The Beatles: Rock Band

Posted: June 25, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 968/1001 according to the list

(will someone PLEASE think of the children!)

Genre: Music
Platform: Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2009
Developer:  Harmonix, Pi Studios (Wii Only)
Publisher: MTV Games

So, we spent some simoleons investing in a complete instrument set for the Xbox 360 and it is time to take them on a bit of a test drive. It would have probably made more sense for us to buy a copy of the earlier games but The Beatles: Rock Band really did seem so warm and inviting that it seemed to be well worth it.

Our Thoughts

With the exception of Band Hero this was Jeroen’s first exposure to both the drum and guitar controllers so I think I’ll let him lead the charge in talking about these. The benefit of this being that when we later play other games with the same exact controllers we NEVER have discuss them again (which when you consider the number of times we will be strumming and banging will be a blessing to anyone reading this). Yeah, although this of course does tie in to DJ Hero, with its own controller and music tie ins. Beforehand, I had read the warnings that the controller were not like the normal ones (microphone, of course, exempted), which seemed like a good thing – I can’t play a guitar, and drums were limited to a very basic rhythm during secondary school music lessons. Out of the two remaining, the drums feel more ‘right’. You don’t get as much feedback as you’d normally expect, but they play well. The main issue is that it sometimes felt the recognition was a bit off and it didn’t always recognise your drumming. The guitar seems more different (it’s not as if you’d normally have that many buttons). It seems vaguely easier to keep up with, just moving your fingers, but then again, the additional buttons and speed make it harder to keep up with. They do, however, accomplish their main goal: They make you look cool. Especially the guitars look right. And nothing else matters. On a side note I have always been more a fan of the guitar as the snare pedal usually gives me the beginnings of foot carpel tunnel. Something we did manage to vaguely alleviate in our last playthrough. On the other hand, I’m as good… or bad… as any at them and it’s clear my singing training (yeah, I did) didn’t leave much of an impression.

Anyway. The game itself then. Unlike what you would have thought considering the legal battles between Apple Records and Apple Computers this game was pretty much controversy free. There was only one main stipulation from the likes of Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono… that the game features songs spanning the entire Beatles catalogue. This is something that, to be honest, is a huge strength of the game since it managed to skirt around being a vanity project showcasing the Beatles greatest hits and instead walks the player through the band’s history by re-enacting some of their major concerts (such as the infamous outing on the Ed Sullivan Show). I guess that in the end what the game has been able to do is introduce the music of the Beatles to the Google generation which is always a positive when you consider that they stand amongst the true musical trail-blazers. The downside to this is that songs such as ‘A Day In The Life’ and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ don’t feature in the main game (ka-ching downloadable content) whilst questionable songs such as ‘Eight Days a Week’ get some of the spotlight. It’s of some comfort that John Lennon was quoted as calling the song “lousy”… but this re-opens the question of its inclusion. But… I digress. I was personally looking forward to ‘Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da’, a song that isn’t even on the DLC list.

The sound is supplemented by some gorgeous visuals. Obviously, they don’t usually have much of an impact – when playing you’ve got better things to do than gawk at the visuals – but there are some gorgeous options here. First, during the actual music playing, the background is often that of the band playing. The earlier albums and studios obviously feature known Beatles concerts and appearances, but as there were few to none in the Beatles’ later years, it changes into fantasy concerts, often based on the visuals they included on their albums and in their later movies. The first we saw of these is Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it was exemplified by I am the Walrus. The song is… trippy, to say the least (with a very interesting story behind it), but the visuals in the background are just insane. Usually not as scary as what we see above, but it makes you wonder how, what and why. It ranks up there with the mindf***ery that is the current anime season Deadman Wonderland (try it out). However there are no ways that you can fault the graphics on show during this game – both during the songs and during the opening sequence. And intervening FMVs. So much time and effort has been invested in giving most of the songs their own music video that it will be hard to go back to earlier games in the Guitar Hero/Rock Band bracket without sarcastically thinking “oh great it’s the stage again, fantastic”. Although you still get that in earlier games, with a few songs on the same stage, it’s not as repetitive as I noted in Band Hero. Don’t worry you’ll see it in all the other games within their respective franchises. Except for this one, obviously.

And that leaves us with the gameplay. I’m not sure what’s new here compared to other games of the franchises, but there seems little that could be different. Not a bad thing, as it’s fun to jam along to songs of one of the best bands in the world, but it makes it hard to say more about it. The enjoyment of this game really does depend on how well you like the music of The Beatles. I am not their greatest fan but can appreciate what they did for pop music so have really enjoyed this game. It’s impressive how well this sold considering the game’s singular focus on one artist’s back catalogue. Especially since the first Guitar Hero games featured avatars more aimed at the rock/metal crowd. Only five bands have had games of this genre centered around their music… and the Beatles does stick out against the likes of Van Halen and Metallica. Granted there was also a Green Day: Rock Band… but I doubt we’ll ever have to cover that when the book gets an updated. In the end, as we’ve said before, a game like this stands or falls with the music.

I guess in the end The Beatles: Rock Band has the mass appeal that previous installments lacked. This is probably why this was so warmly received critically and by fans of music games (unlike Band Hero whose sequel plans were shelved pretty quickly).

Final Thoughts

It’s a good fun game but to be honest there is not much more that can be said for this compared to the earlier games in the batch… so look forward to some short write-ups in the future!

Game 58: Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis

Posted: June 1, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 702/1001 according to the list

Genre: Sports
Platform: Xbox 360, Wii
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Publisher: Rockstar Games

If ever there was a game that could be inspired by an AIR song it would be this one. Yes ‘Kelly Watch The Stars‘ is not exactly the sort of song you would associate with gaming but when there is a realistic depiction of table tennis on offer you can bet Moon Safari will be playing in my mind.

Our Thoughts

And so here we already go full circle, from table tennis game to table tennis game. I think the weirder thing to note is that of all the Rockstar developed games on the list we have first chosen to do the only one where you are unable to maim people. Unless you count the possible trajectories of rogue ping-pong balls. I suspect they won’t do more than leave a bruise. Unlike paintballs which, as Byker Grove taught us, can blind you. Or hurt you far more than a ping-pong ball, as a particularly fierce game taught me.

The title of the game really says all about what it is, and that’s pretty much what it is. No complicated submodes, no special features, just playing table tennis versus CPU or player. In the race to make games with all the features under the yellow sun it is somewhat a breath of fresh air to have a game which is so focussed on one thing and decides to do it very well. Some would say that it was a test-run of the RAGE gaming engine which would later go on to power the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. However, one thing that I would say about this is that it was a rip-off at the original release price. Since we got this second-hand in a Game in York I feel we got it for a steal. Yeah, 5 pounds for this game is a very good deal. Full price for a game like this… Because it does the one thing well, it doesn’t do more, and while it’ll hold your attention, it doesn’t do it in a way that, say, Fallout 3 does. It’s a good game, and a great try at the engine, but it’s not a full game. Well, not in the current climate… in the amount of gameplay, this game lags a few years. This game was released a bit before downloadable content made it big. If this was made now I can see it being up on offer on Xbox Live instead. Yeah, that makes sense for this game. Perhaps they should, it would be worthwhile if they could do it. We appear to be underselling this game (excuse the pun). In a way, yes, but it would serve as a good warning not to expect ten storylines and lots of background. There’s less of a storyline than your standard fighting game… and that’s saying something.

What the game does, it does well: allow you to play table tennis, in a way that works well despite the limits of the controller. I have to admit that I was very impressed how they were able to bring table tennis to life using shoulder and coloured buttons as well as the joystick. During the tournament mode I actually felt my heart beating fast as I got further and further into it. It was quite frustrating to see him do not entirely 10-0… Someone… was not happy. True, this was not a cakewalk of a game. Each player has their own strengths and weaknesses which mean some can be hell for amateurs like us to play against.

One way you can try to level the playing field is with focus shots which, on the 360, are activated using the right shoulder button. This slows time down and allows you to make difficult shots which can either allow you to win the point or to stretch your arm out to prevent your opponent from scoring a winner. Making for not just an easier moment, but also a fairly exciting more cinematic game. Even more interesting to watch that way – even if you’re not playing. It also makes for better screenshots. Very true. Except for the blur, of course. It also helps to showcase the graphics, which are pretty damned good. As the game progresses your player actually begins to glisten with sweat.

In the end this is a nice little sports game to waste an afternoon on but not much else to be honest. However, it stands as the best and arguably most realistic attempt ever made to bring ping-pong to the home console. And with it being available for cheaper now you know where to look, it’s worth going after it to spend an afternoon on it. And possibly another one too. Pick up, play and try more. All available from your local second-hand game retailers.

Final Thoughts

So many people have sold this game off to the likes of Gamestation, Game, CEX and HMV (all fantastic stores) so they can invest in the newest games. This is great for the likes of us and is also for the likes of you. If you can pick this up for less than a fiver I suggest you to pick it up as it is well worth it as both a sports title and a mild video-gaming curiosity.

Game 38: DJ Hero

Posted: March 13, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 908/1001 according to the list

Genre: Music
Platform: Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: FreeStyleGames
Publisher: Activision

We may be jumping a little late into the music game franchises by taking on DJ Hero, a spin-off title from the bestselling Guitar Hero series, but when both the game and a controller are available on the cheap we just had to do it. It is also a fantastic welcome back for my new Xbox 360 with this being it’s first outing on the blog.

Having had a lot of experience with Guitar Hero when playing in a 360 band called Hardcore Street (hi Mike and Prerna!) this is a game I have been looking forward to playing this ever since it came out.

Our Thoughts

Do you feel funky? Surely there is a cooler way we can start this. I mean for the first time in my life I actually feel rather ‘with it’. I’ve been trying to find one for the past half hour while you were selecting the picture.

Since you have mentioned that you should be good at this game because of the abundance of successful Dutch DJs would you like to give the first topic of discussion? Yes, with DJ Tiesto, Armin van Buuren and other large names being Dutch, this game is obviously of high cultural significance to me, similar to how the Brits would appreciate a good game of Queuing Tycoon. And this game certainly works incredibly well for what it tries to do.

First, the gameplay is similar to try and remember – there are a couple of options, but there’s not much that happens, all of this comes from the reflexes required to do well. Reflexes that can be combined with the music, as the controls follow it and drag you in. Combine that with a large crowd dancing to your music and the lights and all that changing in response and you get an immersive, fun game.

Of course the most important being the controller, being an actual similar turntable. Well the game itself would be utterly impossible if it was not for the controller. Yeah, true, but that actually adds to the immersion. You have to hand it to the guys behind the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises since they really raised the bar for gaming peripherals. Making the games more expensive (yay for a 25 pound discounted set at HMV), but helping immersion a lot. They really have been selling off a lot of music game controllers… may have to invest in a drum set and guitar in the near future. So expect more of these games soon.

Aside from special controllers there is one thing that really makes or breaks music games: the soundtrack. All the fantastic gameplay in the world cannot save a music game if you aren’t enjoying the music itself. DJ Hero has it more difficult than more conventional games in the same genre since the tracks are all remixes. It really helps that professional DJs such as Daft Punk, DJ Yoda and Grandmaster Flash are involved since they have so much accumulated know-how on which songs work together that neither FreeStyleGames nor Activision could possibly lose. With the last of the three also being your voice through the tutorials.

Very well done tutorials they were too, I mean it was actually fun learning how to play with the turntable controller. You were basically pulled in, DJing from the start. This really helped with building a beautifully executed difficulty where you felt confident trying out some of the harder songs almost from the word go. Granted you would still not too well on them, but it sure is great fun to give it a go. Although due to the progressive star system, you can give them a go early on and get some nice results on it, and you get better when you go back to the songs later on.

The star system works very well since there is a whole wealth of unlockables including character customisations, new set lists and levels. Aside from the obvious Sprite product placement in one stage (Sprite: Quench you Thirst Now!) there is a great variation which allows you to really make the experience all the more personal. Yeah, and while only the set lists really matter to gameplay, the visuals (when the game allows you to pay attention to them) look so good that they’re a reward into your own right. Getting new headphones might not matter as much, but the DJs and stages look gorgeous and make a major difference. I think the customisable turntables are fun; I liked spinning vinyl on radar displays. They were interesting and well, and very futuristic.

I guess one thing that I would have liked to have seen was a ‘career mode’ which can be found in the original version of Singstar as well as Guitar Hero. It would have been really cool to pay as a DJ who rises the rankings to become the next headliner at Ibiza. This was something actually added in DJ Hero 2, so I look forward to seeing it’s placement on the next edition of the 1001 list.

One thing that saves that for me is that there are plenty of set lists that allow for crossover with Guitar Hero by having you scratch decks as a friend rocks on their guitar. Granted this option is not universally available but enough songs have it to make it a worthwhile feature. The Guitar Hero addition makes me curious about playing that, and seeing how well it integrates, but it looks interesting – just as the multiplayer DJing possibilities we haven’t been able to try out – we haven’t had a second controller to do so.

Summarizing all that, we’ve had a great time playing the game – in turns, finishing sets together or competing with each other, marvelling at the visuals, but mostly enjoying the music and feeling you’re actually being the DJ in the club.

Final Thoughts

As the cultural (though not actual) DJ Hero on here, I can say that this is a game that makes you feel like one – probably not if you’re actually a DJ, but that’s similar to how you probably won’t normally crawl down pipes to save a mushroom kingdom. The visuals are gorgeous – extravagant for a game where they’re no more than just the background – and the gameplay is exciting and fun. It feels right and plays well, with lots of nice unlockables. Most important, there is a great collection of music and the game makes great use of that through the mixes it offers.

Music games may not be for everyone, and our judgement is probably influence by how unique the game is, butthis is a worthwhile game in the genre. I’ll be looking forward to the next one we get to play.

Game 22: Little King’s Story

Posted: January 24, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 942/1001 according to the list


Genre: Strategy/RPG
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Cing
Publisher:  JP/NA: Marvelous Entertainment, EU: Rising Star Games

Following a rat through a hole, you end up in a magical kingdom where you are the king of the only kingdom in the world. Then it turns out there’s about eight more, all of which you have to conquer. In the mean time, your kingdom grows and you build houses to get more citizens and to make them have proper jobs instead of being ‘carefree adults’.

The story and all is told through cute crayon drawings, and although both theme and layout seem child-like, they do not always turn out to be such.

Our Playthrough

We, where we turned out to mostly be my boyfriend, made our way through the world, taking care of the first king and gaining a princess in the progress. (Why never a cute prince? Jees your mind is always set on one thing!) and working on developing our kingdom.

Our Thoughts

All is not what it seems in Little King’s Story. For a game that wraps itself up in kiddy story you cannot help but notice the more sinister undertones that permeates the game. The more mature themes are mostly just hinted at but eventually come out and it feels a bit uncomfortably at first.

One major example being the sudden appearance of a priest who, rather than using veiled generic references, refers more openly to a god that seems very much like the Christian one. He threatens force if you choose not to build his church to worship soup (ramen); divine retribution indeed. There is also the almost genocide of neighbouring races which actually did not sit right when presented in such a child-friendly fashion. It can feel kind of disturbing at times, although you’re pulled in further as the game goes on.

It is incredibly addictive and exceedingly cute. Most of the time, it is. It’s nice to just walk around and see the citizens do their thing sometimes – especially when there are festivities on because, for example, you’ve killed the demon cow. Another nice touch which adds to making this a world only a kid would dream up is that none of your population can truly die. As long as there is enough room in the villages they wash up on the shores of the beach with sections of their memory erased. It’s also a world where hat denotes occupation; just like a nursery school game or at least it’s the clearest indicator and they are ridiculously oversized and cute (I’m surprised the soldiers can see anything from below their helmets. Same with the archers with their kitsune masks. They are cute.)

Graphically too it’s a beauty, especially the watercolour style cut scenes and the chalkboard tutorials (both featuring cow drool. Yeah, he likes that.) It looks amazing and really adds to the atmosphere of a child’s dream, while still being detailed enough. Looks especially beautiful as the sun starts to set and everything is given a peach-coloured hue. Adding to this are the sounds, and in particular the music. You’ve probably heard all of them already, but they’re used to great effect. Absolutely, a lot of the classical music was featured in Disney’s Fantasia. The best is the use of Grieg’s ‘Morning Mood’ whenever you awaken from your slumber. Another point in case is the musical cue as you walk out of your villages into a wild area. I don’t know the names of the songs, but it moves from a gentle song to something a bit faster and exciting coupled with a palette alteration to give everything a more hostile feel. One you often don’t really notice, showing how seamless the changes can be.

We’re being overly positive so it’s time to drag it down with the negative point that made me relish the deaths of my subjects (the one that made me let Peter play more of the game after I got frustrated with it). The somewhat pitiable AI of some of your subjects really does leave much to be desired. They are horrible. They can’t even manage to walk up the stairs half of the time, meaning three or four stay behind and you have to spend quite a while trying to get them back up. You have to position yourself directly in the centre of the ramp or they get stuck. This is even worse in boss battles when for some unknown reason your archers start to dismantle the only shelter to hand instead of firing their arrows.

 

A nice feature would also be some sort of algorithm meaning that they attack enemies within a certain radius meaning you don’t have to fling them time after time after time. That would really make the game a whole lot easier and the experience a whole lot less draining especially as aiming them can be hard at times too, with a system that requires you to look in the exact right direction and even if you are facing in the exact direction it can still make believe you are aiming it about 3 parsecs to the left.

There’s a nice idea behind the controls, but in practice they could do with some tweaking to make them more reliable something to be updated in the sequel… whenever that comes out.

Final Thoughts

This is most certainly a game which needs more than 5 hours in order get an accurate impression. It’s a loveable little game marrying strategy with RPG but there are some niggles which stop this from being unmissable.

Game 20: Mario Kart Wii

Posted: January 18, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 818/1001 according to the list


Genre: Racing
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Earlier we kinda made a pledge that if there was a series then we would cover them from the first game on the 1001 list… we may not have mentioned it on here but such a promise was made to ourselves. Such ideals really do get thrown out of the window when you have relatives over who are itching to play titles from your gaming collection. Not that I’m complaining, I really do love this game.

The Mario Kart franchise started life back in 1992 when released on the SNES (yes we will be covering it) and has since become one of the most successful series of racing games ever released. This current incarnation sees it move onto the Wii and as such embrace the Wii motion technology. Every addition of the game was packed with a Wii Wheel which meant you could control how your car steered by turning the wheel itself (next thing will be the Wii Motion Accelerator pedals…maybe). If  this wasn’t for you then there was always the option of using an old Gamecube remote or the Wii Remote in conjunction with the nunchuck controller.

Our Playthrough

This has become known as one of the essential multiplayer games. In this vein we played this game with Jeroen’s brother as well as over the internet with our friend Mike. I would say that we’ll try out every character… but when you get settled into a racer you love it’s very hard to shift (hooray for King Boo!)

Our Thoughts

Wow, how much racing has changed; I remember playing Mario Kart on the SNES, looked worse and was quite a bit simpler. My first attempt at a racing game was an arcade version of Sega Rally Championship. Will we be covering that? Yes, game 299. Fantastic, this time it won’t take my mum’s 50ps! Awwww… that can’t have been pleasant for her.

She always preferred the Point Blank machine. I am not surprised somehow (excuse me, I need to move out of the way before physical violence is enacted) Haha, just throw another bloody blue shell at me if you want to see true violence being enacted on your person. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I am going to beat you which happens on special occasions. True, but it’s not entirely unheard of either. Yea, then again I have had probably 100 times more hours spent on it compared with you, no exaggeration. It made me miss the fun times I had with the housemates.

That makes any win worth celebrating, apart from when it’s been at the hands of the really strange AI which is really the only downside of this game. It’s been complained about by everyone who has played it that the AI in the game doesn’t act consistently and sometimes ‘cheats’. Like how suddenly in a space of 4 seconds you get red-shelled, inked, blue-shelled and then struck by lightning.

It can get rather overwhelming, and seems to be a lot of ‘all or nothing’. You can go a race without seeing anything, or have a race where you’re beaten on left, right and centre. It’s worse when suddenly your blue-shelled at the finish line… and yet when you are sitting in 3rd place for the entire last lap all you get is bananas. To be fair, part of that is based on the items you get (with default settings) being based on your position in the race. It’s worth wondering whether that applies to AI players, though.

The slight unevenness can make you feel like you are playing against human opponents even in single player mode. It certainly does, and it becomes quite a tough game, unexpectedly so at times. The difficulty curve almost becomes a vertical line when you get to certain courses (Rainbow Road being an obvious ones and the revival of Ghost Valley 2 from the SNES version).

Why don’t they ever fall off the course? I think it’s because the world is against you personally.

The SNES tracks (and it’s worth noting half the courses are remakes from earlier games) are relatively hard anything, due to their harsh turns and small layouts that are quite a change from the faster tracks with gentler curves new to the game or from other games. The oil slicks on Mario Circuit 3 are a real bitch. Absolutely, and a number of 180 degree turns that they are always in. Those are usually supplemented by Boost Pads where you can do jumps of off to get an extra speed boost. Yes, making the turns harder but allowing you to maintain speed as long as you don’t run into anything, very true.

Needless to say though, this is one fantastic racing game. Absolutely, and one of the more interesting things that set this game apart are the controls (that is to say, the Wii Wheel). I love using the Wii Wheel for this, somehow it feels like a more relaxing method to play a game… yet it’s more difficult. It probably gives the least feedback of how you’re steering, with the control stick normally providing this; you don’t know how far you’re actually turning, and are likely to overcompensate or steer too little and so are more likely to drive into a Chain Chomp. It’s especially lethal in stages like the aforementioned Rainbow Road. Still, it’s an interesting addition to a good racing game series and worth playing as its latest instalment.

The motion control aspect really does make it deserve a place on the list, as will the 3d aspect of the upcoming Mario Kart 3DS. I cannot wait for that handheld to arrive!

Final Thoughts

A very playable racing game, from a series that started off nice and got better. It’s fun and looks good. The controls are getting, better, with the Wii Wheel being a great addition. While the game can be frustrating, the AI makes the game as tough at times as playing with people sitting next to you… even though the taunting possible when playing with real people is far more worth it.

Game 4: Wii Fit

Posted: December 1, 2010 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 801/1001 according to the list

Genre: Fitness
Platform: Wii
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

Before the advent of Wii Fit there were very few games out there (minus Dance Dance Revolution) that could offer both a gaming experience and a way to lose weight.

By doing this they were able to create a new image of casual gamers who are healthy and yet still like to wander through Hyrule in search of currency.

Our Playthrough

I am always on the Wii Fit, in fact the weight loss documented in my other blog is partially due to exercising on it a few times every week. So since I knew this game back to front it was up to me to show Jeroen the true Balance Board experience.

This meant hula-hooping, yoga, muscle exercises and basically any excuse to find a way to make him look silly. Truly it was a great time to be me.

Yeah. I’ll admit, it wasn’t as dreadful as it may seem. Some of the exercises were fun, and all in all I could start to feel an effect.

Let’s be fair on this first – I’m a skinny guy. I’m the skinny geek who’s blown away in a good storm. For this reason, calorie burning isn’t a concern of mine – in fact, right now I’d be better off gaining weight instead. At the same time, I used to get regular exercise – cycling to work and back, totalling about an hour – that I’ve been lacking since I moved. For that reason, getting some more exercise is a good thing, and this was a surprisingly nice way to do so.

Our Thoughts

Wii Fit… basically your game that you subjected me to. And a game I subjected myself to 30 minutes a day, five days a week during the summer. I know. And the results show.

So how did you find it? It’s not bad. I wouldn’t go for the whole half hour each day – I try to keep up some exercise in other ways (such as a lunchtime walk), but 10-15 minutes for some exercise might be a good idea from now on.

What I love about it is that depending on how serious you are about your work-out it can either be gentle or fairly intense. It’s the customisability that makes it the best fitness game created. Wii Fit Plus really built on that by adding new options to create a work-out plan rather than having to select a new exercise after completing the old one.

Yeah. Some of the games are really just fun. That penguin one is a blast. And it’s probably the only fitness game worthy of inclusion. The steps game reminded me a bit of the dancing I once did (as part of acting classes!) This was about the level I reached.

The jogging reminds me of the warm-ups I hated during games, but more colourful and with dogs to chase. If anything, that’d be the yoga exercises for me.

Still, I think we can say that this is the game most likely to make you sweat while playing it, from the pure exercise, and that alone is notable here. And if you own a Wii, this is probably the best alternative to going to a gym that you can get.

I maintain that it’s the best £70 I ever spent in my quest for a reduced waistline. With it’s help I’ve achieved just that. So thank you Wii Fit.

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to this Wii Fit is great at what it is: a fitness game. I can not imagine many people coming home from a day of work and saying “I’ll crack out the old Wii Fit” as a means to relax.

But it never pretends to be anything else than what it is which is why it is so great and is well deserving of a place on the list.