CSI: Deadly Intent

November 16, 2009 by Susan Taylor  
Filed under Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, Reviews, Xbox 360

Overview

Title: CSI: Deadly Intent

Release date: PC/Xbox 360 – Oct 13th DS/Wii – Oct 20th

Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS

Genre: Point-and-click Adventure

Developers/Publishers: Telltale Games / Ubisoft

**Please note: I am reviewing the Xbox 360 version of this game**

Storyline

It’s time to pick up your bottle of Luminol once again and show the team of CSI Las Vegas what you are made of. As with the previous CSI games, you are the new kid on the block, but this time you are no longer a rookie. As a seasoned investigator, each case sees you working alongside one of the main characters  from Season 9 of the hit TV show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; Nick Stokes, Greg Sanders, Catherine Willows, Riley Adams and Robert Langdon. There are five cases that need to be cracked and it is up to you to get your hands dirty, work out who is lying through their teeth and put the criminals behind bars.

Gameplay

It will not take you long to realise that the gameplay has not changed much (if at all) since the first CSI game as Telltale Games have continued down the rather limited route of the “point and click” genre. From the first person perspective, you will be investigating crime scenes, examining the evidence in two separate labs, getting warrants at Jim Brass’ office, hearing about your victims at the morgue and giving suspects  the third degree in the interrogation room.

So expect to click, click, and click some more as you move between locations, review case files in your inventory, search for clues, use the lab equipment to examine and enhance your evidence and initiate conversations with your team, witness and suspects.

Graphics

I was not expecting much from the graphics and I am glad I kept my expectations low. While there is an increase in the quality of the graphics over the last few games, it is not a significant improvement and looks very out of place compared to other next gen games.

Environments are very basic, the character models are very outdated, although I will say that the main characters do look similar to the actors they are supposed to portray from the TV show.

Audio

The soundtrack seems to have been recycled from the previous game, with very few minor changes to the songs themselves. The music does fit in with the TV show however and fans of the show will enjoy the soundtrack.

The voice acting is good though and it should be; Telltale Games have got the cast from the show on board to voice their game counterparts. I was a little more impressed with the emotions displayed in the game compared to the previous games, the witnesses/suspects actually sound like they mean what they are saying.

Overall & Replayability

This is a rather short game (I completed it in under 8hrs, with 100% achievements obtained) and would only recommend renting this game if you are a fan of the series and/or the point-and-click detective genre. Having said that, it is not a bad game by any means and I could not put the controller down once I started the game.

Scrabble Interactive 2009 Edition

October 21, 2009 by Laura Broome  
Filed under Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, Reviews

Overview

Title: Scrabble Interactive 2009 Edition

Release Date: 2nd October 2009

Developer/Publisher: UBISOFT

Genre: Boardgame

Platform[s]: PC / Nintendo DS / Nintendo Wii - Please note, I am reviewing the PC version of this game!

Objective

The main objective is to make words using a random selection of  letters! No matter whether you play the classic mode or any of the puzzle games this really is the aim. Obviously there are tactical moves to be thought of and ways to make low scoring words in to higher scoring ones by placing them on double or triple score squares.

Basically it is the classic game of Scrabble, but on the computer!

Gameplay

This game has 3 main modes, Single Player, LAN or Multi-player. So far I have only been able to play the single player mode as nobody I know has the game yet, I am really hoping this changes. This doesn’t mean however that you are playing all by yourself. You are able to choose your opponents and they have avatars,  names and are of different abilities. There is a Tutorial Mode that unlocks characters and wallpapers as well as guiding you through all of the types of tactical play.  All in all this is a good word puzzle game with some interesting twists that keeps you mind working whilst playing the hours away.

In Single Player mode there are different games to play. The Classic version plays the same as the board game but is never easy, well for me anyway! I was dubious that the computer version of this game would spoil the real live aspect but actually I feel it enhances it, mainly because you never actually look or feel stupid when you spell something wrong you just get a little box that pops up telling you that the word you have entered is not allowed, and yes this does happen to me quite a lot! You also don’t have to wait for what seems like a life time for your opponents to play their turn as it is automatic. Personally I feel that I could get hooked on it. When I first began playing I was really finding it difficult, I had not heard of a lot of the words that the computer was playing and was missing obvious moves which would increase my score. At this point I did not think I would like this game and would end up putting it on the shelf to gather dust but unlike me (probably because I had to review it) I stuck with it and with a bit of practice I have adjusted to playing a computer and I have actually won a game now!

Along with the Classic Version there is also a selection of other mini games to play. There is something for everyone. The game that struck me the most was Scrabble Hold’em. This is a take on the poker game Texas Hold’em and it works very well. You play the computer which plays the part of the different characters. You then are given some money with which you can bet. The dealer button is passed round after each game and there is a small and big blind just like the real game. The basics are that instead of cards you have letters. You are dealt 2 letters with which you can bet, check or fold and then three more letters are drawn and again you can bet check or fold etc. This carries on and once 5 community letters have been drawn then you put in the word you wanted to make using your 2 letters and the community letters. The person with the highest scoring word, which is worked out using the numerical values for each letter, wins the pot. It is a fun way to pass some time and if like me, like poker and word games then you may just find it hard to stop playing.

Most of the other mini games are fairly generic for word games. There is one variation called Duplicate this is available to play in Single –Player mode but is the form that is also mainly played in Multi-Player mode. In this mode all the players are given the same letters to make words with. Once you have decided the word you want to play, you place it on the board, the person who comes up with the highest scoring word has their word put on the board however everyone’s score is added to their total. Once the highest scoring word has been put on the board everyone receives their next set of seven letters, again everyone is given the same tiles and the game carries on in this fashion until the bag of letters is empty. The winner is the one with the most points.

Other mini games include Anagrams, where you have to find all of the possible anagrams from the set of letters, you can move on to the next set of letters if you get stuck but you earn bonus points if you find all of the possible anagrams from the set. This is a good method of training for the real game.

Another game is Escalators which is where you have to form successive words by adding one letter at each step. You do get a time bonus if you manage to get all of the words on the grid without passing. I am not a massive fan of this mode but this is personal choice as it is not the type of word puzzle I favour.

The other mini game is called Puzzleletters and this is fast becoming top of my favourites list. In this mode you have a board of letters and you have to find words by linking adjacent letters together. You begin by having to find 2 words in 100 seconds and this increases as you progress. It is reasonably difficult and you have to try to ensure you don’t block yourself out of making further words as you can only use each letter on the board once.

It is a shame that at present it has not been possible to play the Multi-Play function however I keep popping online in the hope that other people have been out and purchased the game and I am confident that this will soon become quite popular.

This game is very easy to play and it is not a game that becomes frustrating, it allows you to place words in letter by letter or you click all the letters you want to use in order and move them to the board in one go. I have found that you can play this game in two mind-sets, if you want to just click away without much thought and the television on in the background you can although be warned you will probably get beaten! But you can put a lot of thought and concentration in to it as well. My advice would be not to play this after one too many drinks though as the words you try to put in are not usually accepted!

Graphics

The graphics are clear and straightforward and there is a useful bar at the top which gives a description of the words used, this helps when the computer plays something you have never heard of and also aids in helping you to remember the words that are high scoring. There are different backgrounds which you can choose from and most of these are unlocked by playing the tutorial mode. The backgrounds are nothing particularly special but you can change them to spice things up if you want to.

Sound

The audio for this game  is nothing to write home about, fairly usual for these type of games, however it is nice to have them there, especially if you are sitting at home by yourself with no other sound around you and helps you to focus. I tend to play with the sound off and the television or music on in the background but this is down to personal preference. The sound would probably get a little tedious after a while though.

Overall Score & Replayability

Overall this game is highly playable. You do lose track of time quite easily so if you have to be somewhere at a certain time then make sure you set yourself an alarm.  It is always nice when a classic board game hits the computer world but sometimes they can be hugely disappointing, this is not one them. Yes, it is another game that stops us playing with real people whilst having real discussions but lets face it there are times when you want to shut yourself away from the rest of the world and just have some time to yourself. At least if you are playing this you are giving your brain a work out at the same time.

If this was just purely a version of classic scrabble I would say that after a few goes you would become slightly bored, however because of the mini games and the Multi-Player functions then there always seems to be something else to entertain you. So on that note I shall sign off  here and get back to trying to beat my personal best score.

Wish me luck!

Need For Speed: Undercover

September 22, 2009 by Colin Ward  
Filed under Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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Overview

Title: Need for Speed: Undercover

Release Date: Nov 18th 2008 (NA) Nov 20th 200 (AU) Nov 21st 200 (EU)

Developer/Publisher: EA Black Box & Firebrand Games (DS) / EA

Genre: Racing

Platform[s]: PC, Playstation 2/3, Playstation Portable, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS

Storyline

You star as a expert police driver, trying to infiltrate a gang of car smugglers, so your task is a simple one, go deep undercover using your skills on the road to convince them that you’re a street racer and gain their trust so you can gain information and stop the gang in their tracks. The action takes place in the 80 miles of road, highway and alley ways of the Tri-City Bay Area – a fictional city made for the game based on several American cities.

Your main tool to gain the gangs trust, is to take place in various street race events, wheel jobs and to avoid the police at all costs, since your fellow police officers will hunt you down as a common criminal, since you’re in so deep undercover.. Your only contact in the police is Chase Linh played by Maggie Q and she is one tough cookie.

So hit the open world and hit the highway at speeds close to and over 180 miles an hour, and bring that gang to its knees… featuring over 55 licensed cars, a brand new Heroic Driving engine, which for the first time puts your car under a new cutting edge physics driven control method, perform amazing driving actions at high speed, and battle improved AI and push yourself to the limit..

Start your engine, turn up the music, and hit the road..

Need for Speed Undercover

Gameplay

The game as a whole seems to be aimed at the more casual player, right from the get go, just after the title sequence starts to roll, your dumped behind the wheel of the starting car [you have no choice in the car or colour ] and let loose in the Tri-City Bay Area, a huge and expansive open world. Being the 12th game in the need for speed series, undercover really needed to deliver something fresh to the series, which is the new physics based driving, which sounds great on paper, but can be a little tricky to handle at excess speed, but the driving aspects are never less than fun.  The first chase in the game really gets the blood pumping, and is a great taster for the game to come.

Anyone who has played Most Wanted will be at home with the Police chases, however this time, they have supposedly better AI and also some more daring tactics to hunt you down, such as pike strips so your job of losing the police, who can start chasing you at any point, is made slightly harder – however the ‘Pursuit Breakers’ are also back, which are items on the map that if you collided with them in just the right way will force any pursuing police to stop and deal with the  problem, however other units will engage you until you can hide and wait out the alert status. Adding to the cars, are also helicopter units that also seem to have been upgraded, these now dart under bridges and are much harder to loose, so watch the skies as well as the road!.

The many races and events are littered across the large open world, but can only be accessed via the in game map or handy downward push on the d-pad, which instantly launches the next rate so unlike other open world racers, such as Burnout Paradise, you can’t drive around finding them – so this does seem a bit of a backwards step, and ultimately limit’s the amount of fun had exploring the world considering the whole open map approach.

Races and events range from simple point to point races, with plenty of time to show off to other gang members to full on highway battles with not only other cars to race, but road traffic and police – so there’s a nice mix of different events and styles of driving, some will require you to have pixel perfect driving so you will be happy to know that the ‘speed breaker’ – a quick button press will slow time down to a crawl for a limited period- returns and is as helpful as ever, for both making tricky turns and avoiding police road blocks and spike strips.

As you progress through the game, towards the ultimate goal of bring the gang down, you also ‘rank up’ and gain driver points which are tallied to your cars specs, at seemly random points, however as the game can be incredibly easy to handle, depending on the car used, you’re never in any real need of them. You will also be able to unlock upgrades and new cars, which will need to be brought, to use, but the performance tuning in the game, is very in depth – from simple paint jobs – to full body kits and transfers there’s enough to keep all but the hard core car tuners happy – with some really great looking cars being able to be made.

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Another handy show off feature, is photo mode – your able to take a ‘photo’ of the car in action at any point in the game, simply hit pause, select ‘photo mode’ and line you your shot – the simple controls can produce some interesting shots, which are in turn uploaded to the NFS website, for viewing and sharing with your friends – a small addition to the game, but one that will be well used by car fans, since the game contains over 55 unlock able fully licensed cars, ranging from the Mercedes CL55 to the Audi R8 – there’s sure to be something to suit both your style of driving and also your look.

Up to 8 players can complete online, in either Sprint – simple point to point races, circuit races or the much more exciting new Cops N’ Robbers mode, where two teams of four take turns being either the Cops or the Robbers. During this new mode, the Robbers have to collect money and drop it off at a certain point on the map, while the Cops pursuit and try to take them down at any cost. This game mode can be very heated with the teams fighting it down to the last, and is a great bonus and building on the single player campaign by giving you a chance to play the ‘good guys’

Graphics

As soon as the games starts your treated to full screen video that sets the scene nicely, with some great acting as well as some really bad acting later in the game, but as a whole – it provides just the right feel.

When you hit the roads however, you may be slightly disappointed by the lack of detail on the streets of the Tri-City Bay Area, there is a total lack of people and any sense of ‘life’ in this sprawling city, and traffic even on the highways is a little thin on the ground, and lacking detail close up. You may also notice on coming cars fade into view, which can be a little off putting at 180 miles an hour.

The sense of speed is good, with blur effects and wind streams when you hit the 100’s – however there are some problems with the frame rate at times, more often than not with a strange stutter that happens every so often, much like in Most Wanted – where you could be tearing down a road at a rate of noughts only to seem a split second pause in the action. There’s also some nasty pop up on buildings etc and installing the game to the Hard drive did not seem to make this issue disappear – but did help slightly in the loading times of events – and being about 4.8gb it’s a fairly small amount of space to loose.

The cars are all nicely detailed and deformable, which you will notice after a few minutes of driving on the highway – with trucks that seemingly like to pull into your lane at the last second, but unlike Burnout, the crashes seem a little tied to the ground, so no exploding cars to be seen here.

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Sound

Over all the sound is well mixed and very realistic, from the growls of the higher performance cars to the clunk of the gear changers – if you like your racing games loud and proud – this game is for you.

Music in the game is also very fitting, ranging from some quite slow tracks to pumping techno tracks that add to the sense of speed on the road – one thing you may miss is the ability to choose the EA Trax, since in this game – you have no choice over it.

Police CB chatter is also very clear and also well voice acted along with being extremely handy – since not only do you know when they are looking for you, but you can also hear just where and when they want to set up a road block or a spike strip, so keep a ear out for important messages coming over the air waves.

The whole sound track mixes in to an exciting experience one which should be played LOUD.

Overall Score & Replayability

Even if the game seems to be aimed at the more casual racer – from the handling of the cars down to the easy race starts, the game is still a worthwhile play. The only downsides to it are the few graphical issues, such as the frame rate, pop up and lack of street detail which if your not that fussy is not a major factor, since some the police chases are some of the best seen.

I say ‘some’ since some of the police chases especially later in the game, are very, very basic with the Police fully intent on ramming you off the road, and that’s what they will try and do, some of the later missions are really a test of your stamina to put up with the crashing and bashing, and looking out for the pursuit breakers – which sometimes are very fair and few between.

It’s a shame that there is not more to do in the open map, with races just appearing on the map and selectable by clicking on them, or pressing down on the d-pad, there’s no real need to explore the city, unlike Burnout paradise – which expected you to find events. Not to say you cannot have fun just driving around, since many a time the police will lock on to you, and a great five or six minute pursuit can ensue.

Another slight letdown is the Heroic Driving – when you are racing or being pursued there’s not really enough time to pull any fancy moves – so even though the game will reward you if you’re able, many people with just forget about it, and put their foot down.

If you can handle that lack of a real need to explore, and are looking for a fun racer, then Undercover is a good choice, however with the likes of Burnout paradise and Midnight Club  LA already released, it has some strong competition.

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Rock Band 2

September 22, 2009 by Colin Ward  
Filed under Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

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Overview

Title: Rock Band 2

Developer/Publisher: Harmonix & Pi Studios / MTV Games

Genre: Rhythm Game

Platform[s]: Xbox 360, Playstation 2/3, Nintendo Wii

Storyline

As with Rock Band and just about every other music rhythm game on the market, the aim of the game is to hit the coloured notes as they travel down the ‘Highway’ – hit these notes at the correct time, and your onscreen instrument will play the correct note, make a mistake, and not only does the music suffer, but your score. Hitting certain special notes flawlessly will allow you to go into ‘Overdrive’ a mode where your score is doubled and the crowd cheer even more!

Unlike other music games, Rock Band was the first franchise to take the normal guitar based game and add in a new dimension – a complete [or near enough] band – up to four players can become part of your band, either offline on a single console, or via the magic of Xbox live.

Not only do you have the choice of playing lead guitar or bass, but also for the first time in a single game your able to pick up a microphone and sing, or play the drums with your friends or alone. Of course the options open to you depend on the controllers used, without any – you can only sing, via a Xbox live headset but add in a USB microphone or drums and guitars from other Xbox 360 music games [ which will all work on Rock Band 2 to differing levels of usability  - and you have a complete band..

There have been minor improvements to the game in general over Rock Band - but the fundamental game play dynamics remain the same - play gigs to earn money to spend on new items, such as instruments or outfits, and progress unlocking new songs along with venues until you reach super stardom

There are over 80 new tracks in the latest instalment [not including the free 20 tracks via the code inbox - and any tracks you already brought - since unlike other games the older RB1 tracks you have paid for and downloaded work in RB2], that coupled with the ability to export most of the songs from the first game disc, [over 60] for a fee of 400 Marketplace points and the promise of new downloadable songs every week, it will be a while before you are bored of the set list.

Time to get your Rock on!

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Gameplay

After connecting your instrument of choice, or the normal pad and a headset, you jump in creating your onscreen rock god [or goddess] – the process is basically the same as in the previous RB game, but this time your onscreen character is not locked to an instrument, so your free to change your role in the band at any time and carry on using the same avatar – this is very handy if you enjoy playing a few different instruments, since your core and money is pooled into one pot.

After that you’re able to choose a few training modes, quick play modes [basically a quick play version of the game] or world tour.

The training modes offers up a practice mode which allows you to practice sections of tracks, or the entire song, without the pressure of failure – you can also slow down the speed the track is played at – which can be handy for tricky parts

The tutorials offer a few basic skills, some Rock Band specific ones that you will need to know, tailored for the instrument you have plugged in. While this may be old news to fans of the games, there are a few special Rock Band moves you will need to learn, if you’re new to the series such as guitar solos, and drum fills. So it’s a good idea to check out the training tutorials, especially if you’re a drummer, since not only does RB2 have a drum beat trainer- allowing you to prefect many standard drum beat patterns, but there’s also a drum ‘freestyle’ mode – this allows you to jam along with any music that you have on your Xbox 360 hard drive, or external USB device. While this is a slight gimmick, the drum kit used has several ‘kits’ you can select from a roomy kit to a electronic ‘bee bop’ pop kit – so jamming along to some classic tunes from your HDD or ipod, adding in drum fills and beats, can keep you amused for a few hours.

Quick play has a few modes, Quick play – solo is unchanged from the first game, as before you can only choose from a small selection of tracks when you first start the game, with songs added as you progress through the ‘World Tour’ mode – but this mode allows you to just pick up and play either on your own or via multiplayer menu with friends on the same console or via Xbox live.

  • Quick play – band allows you and up to 3 others to play on the one console, in the same way as above each taking the role of drums, vocals, lead guitar or bass – you can choose preset characters and just jump in and start rocking.
  • Quick play – tug of war allows 2 players to battle it out, against each others skill at playing sections of the track, one after the other – try and hit more notes and keep the crowd on your side to win
  • Quick play – Score Duel does exactly what it says on the tin, both players play the same instrument, and at the same skill level and see who can rake in the most points.

World tour is the main meat of the game for most people, either once again solo or with others in a band, via one console or Xbox live, if you choose to go it alone – then your instrument you have connected at the time is the choice of your role, so if you need to swap to singing, you will need to connect a pad and microphone for example. Unlike the older game, you have friends who wish to play on the same console, they do not need a profile, they can simply jump in to the band, and choose a preset character – and get playing, this is a small but very welcome addition.

After making your onscreen persona [or one you created for quick play etc] you can name and design the logo for the band, or just choose a random name/ logo, after that you’re into your first gig. Unlike the first game – in offline tour as you go from place to place you can now earn [and lose] fans, a small addition, and one that adds a little to the game – at certain points your able to hire promoters to help boost your fan base, or hire and fire AI members of the band. You also can hire other people that may unlock new venues, so once again, this adds to the overall gameplay.

One of the new additions is the new ‘challenges’ which can pop up between venues / songs – these add another level to the game, since these can be from your downloaded content, so you sometimes have no idea of the song your being asked to play. You can also choose to play a challenge at any time from the main tour screen.

From the main tour screen you can also choose to play a ‘battle of the bands’ these are challenges set by other players and bands, via the rock band website with not only a set list but some also have rules and goals. This does add a little to the game, since these are updated regularly so offer new and exciting challenges every week.

The overall difficulty of the game has been tweaked slightly – so people looking for a challenging game should be very happy with some one the harder levels / tracks – and those new to the series or genre can even add in a ‘no fail’ from the option menu – this allows you to just enjoy playing a song without worrying about the score – this mode does disable saving and online – but it’s ideal for parties or a late Friday night session!

The entire main core game play has been tweaked slightly but remains true to the original, with the addition of a few new items

Online versions of all of the modes work in basically the same way as offline, but using Xbox live your other band members can be anywhere. These mode works well with minimal lag and can be a great deal of fun, the main aim of this mode remains the same, but the added bonus of Xbox live leader boards, so careful choices need to be made if you want to hit the top spots fro fans etc. if your friends also have the game, this might be the mode you may well spend the most time in, this along with leader boards and DLC, will keep this game popular online for many months to come – much like Rock Band 1.

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Graphics

As a music game goes – the game looks great – from the new 3d style menu system to the updated venues there’s only so much that can be done, but the background animation and effects look slightly better than before, with new video effects and lighting adding to the polish.

The notes are clear to see, without fading into the background of the ‘highway’ – which could happen on some other games, with plain background used as a base, unlike games such as Guitar Hero, where sometimes the highway can look a little busy.

Animation of the onscreen band is done well, with lips and body actions, such and strumming and hitting of the drums, matching the sound track perfectly along with a few special effects added when you hit certain parts of the track.

Sound

For a music game this is the most important part – and Rock band 2 delivers by the truck load. From classics like, American Woman to Living on a prayer – the set list is very good, with the added bonus of adding in most of the RB1 tracks – there’s expected to be nearly 500 songs to play – including DLC by the end of 2008

Each track is instantly recognisable [if you’re a fan!] and the punchy 5.1 sound track makes for a truly epic band experience. Adding to this the crowd singing along with the song, if you’re doing well, and you can really feel as if you’re playing a gig in one of the venues.
Sound effects for missed notes and special items, such as over drive being earned, add to the overall effect, but the effect of going into overdrive, which adds in reverb and echo really does get the blood flowing if you hit it at just the right part.

Overall Score & Replayability

Great update of an already great title, adding in a few new modes and minor tweaks to the difficulty level, has made the game slightly better than the older RB1 game. Add in the ability to export almost the entire track list from the first game for 400 MSP – you lose a few due to copyright issues – and you could well end up with well over 150 tracks to play without any downloads – but the fact that any DLC you have got from RB1 works with it, is the icing on the already very tasty cake.

Drum freestyle mode, even though a tiny addition is also great fun, but the main core game is still at the top of the list if your after a ’music and rhythm’ game, even though it’s completing against Guitar Hero World Tour, Rock Band 2, has the slight edge of a slightly better base set list – but the ability to export songs from the older titles and still play DLC from it as well, may just be the thing that makes this title the winner.

Call Of Duty: World at War

August 20, 2009 by Colin Ward  
Filed under Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

Overview

Title: Call of Duty: World at War
Release Date: November 11, 2008 (US) November 14, 2008 (EU) November 12, 2008 (AU)
Developer/Publisher: Treyarch/Activision
Genre: FPS
Platform[s]: PC, PS2, PS3, Nintendo DS, Xbox360, Wii

Storyline

In Treyarch’s newest addition to the Call of Duty franchise, it may seem as if they have been watching ‘back to the future‘, since where as Call of Duty 4 placed you  squarely in the boots of a modern day solider, in the latest game, we travel back in time to World War 2.

The single player/co-op story is based both in the Pacific, fighting the Japanese army and across Eastern Europe, fighting the Nazi’s and both story lines encompass the gritty real life feeling of war, unlike any other WWII game has managed before.

From the tropical jungles of the island of Makin, to the rainy streets of Berlin, you will visit many varied places, each reflecting a real life battle, that has made the history books..

Now it’s your turn to step into that history, and make a difference.

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Gameplay

Using the game engine from the award winning Call of Duty 4 : Modern Combat, Treyarch has been given a great starting point, but they have not just ‘re-skinned’ the older game. There are many advancements in not only game play but graphics, from the new dismemberment of enemy troops with either weapons or grenades, to the campaign co-op mode, which has been increased  from two to four players, it has also has been built from the ground up for this release, featuring not only normal game play, but also a new completive mode, which each player getting their own XP points for kills and objectives, these points also count towards your online ranking.

The basic game play remains unchanged in the series from day one, your role in the game is to complete objectives, killing the enemy in the process, and helping your troops move closer to winning the war. During this, you will play the normal ’ run and gun’ style levels as the Americans, or more a few more stealthy levels as a Russian sniper, in scenes similar to the film ’Enemy at the Gates’ – these sniper missions help break up the very intense close quarter battles, since now in the Pacific you face a new type of enemy, one that will try and kill you at any cost.. Even their own lives.

You also have the chance to not only ride on tanks, but also control them, in several sections you are either in control of or in a vehicle of some kind, ranging from driving a tank, to manning guns of a flying boat for a level.

The vehicle sections do make a change from the very intense fighting, and even though your AI friendly troops will appear to help you out, your mostly left to shoot the majority of the enemy yourself,  which can be a little over whelming on certain levels, so remember to use cover and grenades to your advantage.

On completion of the single player campaign, you will unlock a hidden bonus mode, called ‘Nacht Der Untoten’ or Night of the Undead.. Which places up to 4 players (via Xbox live co-op) up against a seemingly never ending waves of Nazi zombies.

The basic gameplay is to hold the building you start in, and defend it for as long as possible – with a short amount of time to rebuild defences, and rearm between waves – it plays like a horror versions of Gears of War 2’s hoard mode, but with the added need to bar windows and doors, to stop the Zombies from entering the building.

Online multiplayer remains mainly unchanged from the basic’s of Call of Duty 4, but with a few WWII twists…  First thing you will notice is the player limit has risen to 18 players on certain modes, and the weapons and perks have also been altered to fit the era, so while you may at first be unfamiliar with them, most are almost identical to modern combats sets, just the names are slightly different, and as always practice will reap rewards.

Prestige mode also makes a return, with the levels capping at 65 this time, and 10 prestige levels will keep many players going for months. Also different this time is the award of one extra custom slot for your weapon load out each time you prestige and the award of a gamer picture on second and tenth prestige levels.

Weapons and perks unlock as you play the online modes, as before, or via the new competitive co-op mode,  but when you first start, you also have a small selection of game types to play, so time needs to be invested in the game to rank up to a level that allows you to play some of the more advanced game types, such as hard core and search and destroy.

New additions to online game modes and making a welcome return from CoD 3, are tanks, which though powerful, can be blown to pieces with a little team work. Although they do not appear on all maps, these tanks are very much needed on some of the new maps – there are some simply huge maps, ranging from the battered streets of Berlin, to lush farm lands – each with plenty of hiding spots for snipers, or tunnels for tunnel rats.

Kill streak perks also return, but with the added WWII spice, 3 kills in a row will grant you an ‘Recon Plane’ which when activated, will highlight enemy positions using the on screen mini map (providing they are not using certain perks) – 5 kills in a row will allow you to launch a pinpoint artillery strike on any place on the map, so choose with care, or after a Recon Plane. And finally maybe the most debated perk..

The dogs.

7 kills in a row, will allow you to call in the attack dogs, which will proceed to hunt down and kill the enemy for you, or if you like you can follow them and pick off a few easy kills, while the unfortunate enemies battle the dogs. While this addition may at first seem odd, while playing the single player campaign, you will learn that dogs where used a lot during the war for many roles, so having them in the multiplayer is a welcome addition, to some.

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Graphics

From lush jungles to the gritty streets of war torn Berlin, the graphics are never less than impressive, there is a slight loss of texture detail, compared with other games, but the over all scale and visual style remain very, very good.

Only a few times was there noticeable slow down, but this is mainly when large explosions are happening, or several peoples limbs fly off in different directions, yes limbs…

New to the series is the feature of dismemberment when you score direct hits with grenades and some of the more powerful weapons in the game, sniper rifles can remove arms, legs etc and grenades, if placed correctly, can produce a blood fountain, with limbs flying off into the distance..

New fire effects are also put to good use not only in the backgrounds, but also in some of the weapons, such as the flame thrower – which in single player is as lethal for the user, as the people getting hosed with it – due to the explosive nature of the gas tanks, a well placed shot will detonate the tanks, and the resulting explosion of flames and blood will be one of the moments you remember from the game, yes it’s gory, but in keeping with real life.

All of the new visual effects merge with the ones we expect from the CoD4 engine, such as shards of light, with floating specks of dust catching the light.. Models are detailed, yet textures seem slightly lower than in CoD4 – maybe due to the size of the levels, but at no point does the game look anything less than impressive in single player.

Online multiplayer , the graphics still looks very good, with slightly lower texture detail than the previous game, but only very slightly but considering the size of the levels and amount of detail, they can not be faulted, indeed some maps seem twice the size of the largest maps from CoD4, when you include the tunnels etc.

Special mention should go to Nacht Der Untoten with the Zombie Nazi’s looking very impressive, not only can you blow limbs off them , and they continue to drag themselves towards you,  but you can also see internal organs etc with repeated hits to the chest. It may only be a small bonus game, but the graphics on it have still been given a lot of care.

There where a few minor glitches with textures etc, and arms / legs coming through walls, but none that really could be said as game breaking.

Sound

From the roar of planes over head – to the famous actors voicing some of the major characters you will run across during the game, sound effects and voice acting is second to none, with stars such as Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman staring as major support roles.

The score is also very well done, there is some slightly strange fusions of styles, with rock guitars punching their way though some of the more traditional themes, but the mix is very well done, if a little rock heavy but adds a breath of fresh air to the genre.

As you battle your way through the game, your AI comrades will shout out enemy positions and smack talk as you battle your way to victory. The enemy troops also are very vocal, and early in the game, you will fear hearing certain things from the hidden Japanese troops.. Such as ‘ banzai!’
Shots ring out with a great sense of power, especially the sniper rifles, which reverb around the surroundings, bullet hits on flesh and walls are also convincingly done, in fact your never in much doubt of when you obtain a headshot – since the sound of it is quite distinctive. The audio in the game all mixes into a very impressive 5.1 sound track, with enemy weapon fire easy to pin point, if like previously said, a little heavy on the electric guitar, considering the time scale.

Overall Score & Replayability

If you’re a fan of WWII games, from the moment the game starts – from the first slice to the final gunshot, you are in for a thrill ride, since this one of the finest games to show the conflict and scale of one of the most brutal wars. The new blood and dismemberment can seem a little over the top at times, but the general look and feel of the game is one of a top class title, Call of Duty: World at War – is one of , if not the best WWII first person shooter on the market at present. The warning about containing graphic war footage, one would assume also refers to the many bits of news reel footage used in the level intro’s which set the scene for the battle ahead, these scenes can be very graphic, but not more so than any War Documentary seen on TV.

The new pacific setting, and the Japanese troops who will run past soldiers to bayonet you, add a new dimension to the normal run of the mill game play, never again can you simply rush though open sections, since many times the enemy are waiting.

The single player campaign is a worthy successor to the other Call of Duty games, with two very interesting story lines, which this time, do not intertwine. It can seem a little short as a single player game at the lower skill levels, however veteran skill level returns and is as frustrating as ever on later levels, and will give a few hours more should you need it. Online co-op also adds to the fun, with not only competitive campaign, but Zombie Nazis to shoot, what’s not to like?

As with the previous games – there are some really stunning set pieces through out the game, and some truly amazing moments, which are equal to if not surpassing the previous games in both scale and drama.

Multiplayer is as good as ever, as long as you can make the backward leap from the modern combat of the previous game. The online game is equally as good to play as single player with  weapons and perks as rewarding as they are powerful.

The many online game modes and maps will have fans of WWII returning week after week, how many fans of CoD4 move to the older setting remains to be seen, however for some the gameplay of World at War may suit you more, since the mix of weapons, large maps,  perks and tanks is  a winning formula.

Overlord II

Overview

Title: Overlord II
Release Date: 26/06/2009
Developer/Publisher: Triumph Studios/Codemasters
Genre: RPG
Platform[s]: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii (Note: I am reviewing the Xbox 360 version)

Storyline

Overlord 2 is a game about domination, and not the kinky gimp mask kind either. The original was darkly humorous and became an underground cult smash which was missed by a lot gamers, which is a shame because it was a good game – albeit a slightly flawed and glitchy one. It was instantly likeable though, and offered something new in the form of The Minions, a rick-raggedy band of Gremlin-esque creatures you could send off to do your bidding on all manner of people, places and cutesy animals (mainly sheep). The new sequel sets out to address those flaws and glitches, expand on the dark humour and mythos of the franchise and (hopefully) entice some new gamers into the cold, oppressive arms of the Overlord…and The Minions.

Cast as the original Overlord’s offspring (Overlord 2 is set some years after the end of the first game’s last round of DLC), you set off to follow in your father’s footsteps and take revenge on the town of Nordberg after they cast you out as a weird, glowy-eyed youngster. The first level serves as a mini-tutorial where you play as the toddler version of the man himself, wrecking havoc on your similarly aged chums as they attempt to pelt you with snowballs. It also introduces you to some of the mechanics and humour of the game and the mischievous but destructive nature of The Minions.

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Gameplay

Those familiar with the demo (out now on Xbox Live) or the original game won’t find the controls too hard to pickup, although Overlord virgins may struggle with the Camera/Minion control to begin with, as they’re both allocated to the right stick. Nudging the stick forwards before making any further moves puts you in control of your Minions, although in several places the computer appears to select either the camera or Minions for you, regardless of which way you nudge the stick. You can move the camera by holding LB and rotating the right stick however, which is a far easier option – and can be done while moving the Overlord himself, who attacks using A and casts magic using X. So, the real stars of the show are the Minions – as mentioned previously, you can control them specifically as a group with the right stick (also known as “sweeping”) in which case they will attack anything in their paths, be it parts of the environment, your enemies, or (as in the previous game) cutesy animals…in this case, Baby Seals. And although you may feel slightly dirty at watching your Minions club a batch of the fluffy white blighters to begin with, once you begin reaping the rewards (glowing orbs known as lifeforce, which gives you more Minions) it will all become part of the Overlording process.

Minions can also be “sent” in a particular direction to do their own thing by a tap of RT to individually send Minions, or the whole group can be sent by holding it down until they have all scurried off. In this case, they will usually carry out whichever task they think is best – be it attacking/killing, picking up dropped items from the enemy (to use as weapons for themselves) or moving key items to their relevant locations. Triumph studios has made a point of trying to improve the AI of your rabble, and 99.9% of the time they do what they expect you to do, although in the case of some areas where there is more than one key item to control/pick up, you may find yourself calling them back to you (by holding the B button) in frustration as you watch them try to leg it off with a keystone when you were actually trying to get them to turn a wheel.

There are four main Minion types on offer in the game, each unlocked as you progress further and each offering strengths and weaknesses to help you overcome enemies and tasks. The first and most common type are the Browns, which are your typical grunt type Minion – able to take a fair bit of damage, are good in melee combat and the only type able to wield dropped items as weapons. The Reds are fairly weak and tend to die quickly in hand to hand, but they are able to shoot fireballs and can suck up fire (if something in your way is ablaze and you can’t get past, send the Reds in) as well. The Greens are your Stealth option, able to blend in with a lush, green environment and if left standing for a short period of time they will become invisible – good for infiltration missions. The Blues are your Mystics, the only type able to cross expanses of water and can reanimate dead Minions lost in the field – but they are tremendously weak. All the types work well together, and you will find yourself sending the Browns in to start a fight off while you station the Reds on a high plateau to rain fireballs down on an enemy at the same time while the Greens sneak in to steal a key item, and for the most part it is quite a satisfying tactical addition to the gameplay.

Frustrations arise in sending the wrong Minion for the job, or losing a complete Army of tooled up cretins to a particularly annoying Boss character and then dying yourself, which can be a regular occurrence in Overlord 2. Much the same as the bosses in the first game, some (but not all, mind) of the bosses in Overlord 2 are all too easy and predictable – most usually a case of finding their weak spot, working out the right Minions to send into the fray and then taking advantage and chipping away at them with your Axe/Spiked Bat etc until they die. And there is an alarming amount of this in the game as well. One other minor quibble is that the maps are big, but also fairly linear- a sandbox version of Overlord would be awesome, however…and with an RPG element built in (a la Fable 2) it would be a serious force to be reckoned with – and you do get the feeling of being hemmed in at points. Triumph have attempted to offset this by improving the draw distance and some of the vistas are quite impressive, but more on that in a bit.

One of the original games major flaws was the complete absence of a map (and by Lennart Sas’ own admission, he has no idea why they didn’t put one in), which led to a good amount of time lost running round in circles while you searched for your next objective – and this is thankfully one of the problems that has been addressed in the sequel, and by god it’s a welcome addition. The map is a godsend, but also hard to read at some points, whereas the road you should be taking is not immediately obvious to you, leading to some retreading, and retreading, and retreading of steps – followed by kicking of one’s self for not finding the path in the first place. Also worth mentioning are the different Mounts available to your Minions, starting off with Wolves (as per the demo) and progressing up to other nasty creatures for each type of Minion as the game goes on.

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Graphics

As mentioned earlier, the draw distance has been greatly improved and it really shows – some of the settings (although not up to Fable 2 standard, for example) are great, and the tone and feel of each level is perfect, and fits in nicely with the Overlord universe. New to this game is the ability to travel to different lands and countries (by boat), offering up some really nice stuff to look at. The Minions are well animated, but in places the Overlord can look a bit wooden, and some of the animations where he is jumping from area to area in his lair are wholly unnecessary. Some of the bosses are simply awful, too. The smaller enemies are great and look the part, however – and if you’re an Arachnophobe then watch out for the Everlight Temple level! Ultimately though, when compared to something like Dead Space or even Assassin’s Creed, Overlord is left looking like a slightly unattractive cousin that doesn’t use the 360’s processor power to its full capacity.

Audio

The sound in Overlord 2 is superb – the incessant chatter of the Minions in the battlefield is a constant source of amusement as they smash their way around the place, and even though the Overlord himself is silent the rest of the cast more than make up for it. The dark humour of the game is present throughout, and some of the voiceovers and jokes are well placed and raise a giggle or two. The music has also been well scored, and in places (particularly the Overlord’s private quarters) is quite beautiful – and it’s one of the main factors that make the game feel “right” and in context.

Overall Score & Replayability

The Overlord idea is a great concept, and despite a shaky start in the first offering, Overlord 2 redresses the balance with about 95% of niggles from the first game tightened up this time around. Despite a few minor quibbles here and there, none of them are particularly game-breaking and the new features will please the Overlord fans out there as well as offering a bit more bang for the newcomer’s buck – so if you were unfortunate enough to miss out on the first game, I would wholeheartedly recommend you head to your nearest game Shoppe on the 26th of June and purchase. If you don’t, I’m sending my Minions around…

Super Star Wars

August 18, 2009 by Aaron Green  
Filed under Nintendo Wii, Reviews

Overview

Title: Super Star Wars
Release Date: August 10, 2009 (NA)  TBC (EU)
Developer/Publisher: Sculptured Software/LucasArts
Genre: Action
Platform[s]: Wii (Virtual Console)

Storyline

Super Star Wars was originally released for the SNES back in ’92.  It was a videogame representation of the film hit Star Wars Episode IV: a New Hope.  So as you might expect it follows the same plot: a young farm boy’s tragic coming of age and his epic adventure in a galaxy ruled by the tyrannous Empire.  Of course this isn’t enough to base a game on apparently and so the developers took the liberty of applying a little artistic license – Luke fighting his away atop a Jawa Sandcrawler to save R2-D2 is one such example.     

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Gameplay

Back in the nineties it wasn’t uncommon for successful movies to be converted into side-scrolling action platformers, one of these was obviously Super Star Wars and thereafter its two sequels. 

Levels consist of the standard run, gun and jump split across Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca.  As a welcome break there are also a couple of vehicular sections namely in the form of an overpowered Landspeeder and an X-Wing.  Diehard SW fans will no doubt wonder why their pre-Jedi Luke uncharacteristically murders countless Jawas in the opening stages or why they’re hiding some kind of hideous fire beast in their less than humble abode – these aspects exist in order to keep players busy and whack up the difficulty by overwhelming them but is this truly required?  Super Star Wars is hardly an easy game; your average gamer won’t finish SSW on either the “brave” or “Jedi” difficulties and so for those wishing to get their money’s worth “easy” is the only way to go… so expect to die.  All this is hindered somewhat by the controls which occasionally turn out to be unresponsive particularly with the harder life-threatening jumps – don’t blame the Wii or the emulation though because this is a problem found in the original version.                 

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Graphics

Graphically SSW is a typical of its era.  There isn’t much that can said which isn’t demonstrated in the imagery found in this very review. 

Sound

What to expect?  Well the typical Star Wars music though presented in MIDI format rather than the orchestral excellence of the movies is a given.  Obviously verbal communication is a no-no and as with any sci-fi you can surely expect the familiar sound of lasers.  

Overall Score & Replayability

Currently no release date has been announced for the UK but none-the-less those Wii gamers stateside have an enjoyable slice of retro action to keep themselves busy and it’s no secret that Europe wont be left out – it’s only a mater of time.  So watch this space.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games

August 18, 2009 by Aaron Green  
Filed under Nintendo Wii, Reviews

Overview

Title: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games
Release Date: December 25, 2007 (JA) November 6, 2007 (US) November 23, 2007 (EU) November 22, 27 (AU)
Developer/Publisher: Sega
Genre: Sports
Platform[s]: Nintendo DS, Wii

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Storyline

Sports games don’t typically have a storyline; M&S is no different.  Unlike other Sega and Nintendo titles which when dead on the plot-front have an excerpt in the manual at least – this does not but then again why should it? 

Gameplay

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is a simple affair – in theory at least.  Two of the biggest mascots in videogame history (along with fourteen others taken from each franchise) battle it out across twenty-four Olympic Events.  Gameplay is then split over three modes: Circuit, Single and Mission.  In Circuit Mode the player basically chooses a Circuit to play (a pre-created sequence of events in which the highest scores win gold, silver or medal), this is the main way to play and as you complete – more Circuits become available as you progress through.  Single Match lets gamers choose individual events rather than the predefined Circuits.  Unlike the other modes which can be played alone or with up to three friends Mission Mode is single-player only and consists of a series of character specific challenges.  All events are controlled in the sort of mini-game fashion we’ve all come to know from Wii titles, wiggle the Wii Remote, spin the Wii Remote and thrust the Wii Remote/Nunchuk alternatively and so on.  Ultimately it’s all about time and speed something fans of other Olympic games will know well.  It replaces the usual button mashing with controller thrashing!  There are some deviations from this rule though and for me the real fun comes from such events such as the Archery which forces you to use the Wiimote and Nunchuk more like you would a bow and arrow.  Now it’s quite easy to see this as yet another mediocre, unimaginative sports format made approachable only by the branding associated with it.  The thing is it should be and when you play alone there are times when it probably is but the real fun comes in the form of multi-player where some how this title shines.  This is a party game through-and-through and perhaps because of the very novelty factor and the competitiveness associated with it this is potentially one of the most fun experiences on the Wii to date!  For those obsessed with proving their greatness to the world there is even an online scoreboard for you to place on.                 

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Graphics

Graphically the game is solid.  The entire experience is given a cartoony feel to fit in with the overall feel of the characters included.  The open cutscene is perfect and advertises the competitive nature of the events.  Camera angels are mostly fine.  My only gripe is with the low frame rates used in the action-replays.

Sound

The game opens with a somewhat epic score and from there onwards there are a lot of musical themes which seem somewhat inspired by the big ‘N’ and their associated content.  The crowd is present though there isn’t any proper communication beyond the usual one liners.  Everything is good.  Not great but good.

Overall Score & Replayability

Let’s get this straight, M&S does not present us with anything new or awe-inspiring but it does deliver a solid experience of pure fun.  Everything is enjoyable and the more people who join in the better.  This is only the first step in what will no doubt grow into a series of titles and it can only get better!

Super Mario Galaxy

August 17, 2009 by Aaron Green  
Filed under Nintendo Wii, Reviews

Overview

Title: Super Mario Galaxy
Release Date: November 1, 2007 (JA) November 12, 2007 (US) November 16, 2007 (EU) November 29, 2007 (AU)
Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Platformer
Platform[s]: Wii

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Storyline

Mario has been doing his thing for more than twenty years now and so most of us know exactly what to expect when the Big ‘N’ announce a new entry in the mainstream Super Mario series.  With but a few minor exceptions the formula is typically along the lines of this: Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach/Daisy and thus Mario takes it upon himself to rescue the clichéd damsel in distress from what is essentially an angry badass reptile.  The series has (of course) deviated from the previously mentioned formula on occasion alas not this time.  Super Mario Galaxy is a return to its retro roots but with a next gen twist – something Super Mario Sunshine failed to do but Super Mario 64 did oh so well!  Yes there is more to the story than the discussed formula but this is the foundation and why not?  It’s a successful tried-and-tested formula which along with the solid gameplay makes this a fantastic entry into seventh generation 3D platforming.  

Gameplay

Run, jump and attack.  Collect power-ups.  Repeat.  SMG is of course a platformer and the format does have certain genre specific traits which most of us are familiar with but for those who aren’t I’d say that the best way to sum up the gameplay is this: the aim is to progress from level to level (in this case each level is a galaxy and is composed of several planets) whilst defeating enemies, avoiding traps and overcoming all other obstacles.  

The above is of course made all the more interesting in Galaxies by a number of franchise specific features.  Power-ups exist in the form of: a Bee Suit, a Boo Suit (ghost), a Spring Suit, Fire Mario, Ice Mario and the all important Invincible Mario all of which aid the player in progressing through challenging situations and conquering issues occasionally presented by the environment.  The motion control doesn’t feel tacked on at all like it does in many Wii titles, instead it is almost seamless and certainly feels natural; the Nunchuck is used to move Mario and make him jump (Z) with the Wii Remote used alongside to target objects and perform special attacks/movements.  It’s all very simple and though it might take a novice a couple of levels to get it all mastered – soon enough it becomes second nature.  Finally, there’s level navigation and design to consider.  This is initially presented in the fashion we saw in Super Mario 64.  The player has a “Hub” in which at first only allows access to a couple of levels (aka Galaxies) but as levels are completed, stars are collected and more Galaxies are unlocked.  The levels themselves are presented in a number of different ways; there are racing levels (one example being as you have to ride a sting-ray down what is essentially a inter-galactic log flume), novelty levels (such as balancing on an over-grown marble) and of course the normal levels in which you have to rise above all danger and reach the star – as a twist though you have to planet hop through these in an environment which is more often than not presented in thee-hundred and sixty degrees!

 There is a multiplayer co-op option available however all it involves is the second player being able to shoot star bits from Mario whilst the first controls him as normal – it is very minimal and certainly not a selling feature of the game!

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Graphics

Mario is animated perfectly, the game is full of bright, beautiful visuals and it’s a colourful, cartoon wonderland.  Operating at 60fps almost flawlessly! Quite easily SMG is one of the best games to look at on the Wii to-date. 

Sound

Music and sound effects in Galaxy are exceptional.  Without a doubt unbeatable!  The lack of any solid verbal otput however can be a slight downfall but it is kind of a Nintendo tradition and one we know about all to well.

Overall Score & Replayability

The game can be completed with 60 Stars, this can be done a little too easily – the real challenge is in retrieving all 120.  Something that most dedicated players and the less casual will strive for.  This adds for much replayability and to guarantee both the hardcore and part-time gamers get their equal slice of pint-size plumber action.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

August 17, 2009 by Aaron Green  
Filed under Nintendo Wii, Reviews

Overview

Title: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Release Date: December 2, 2006 (JA) November 19, 2006 (US) December 08, 2006 (EU)
Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action/Adventure (with RPG elements)
Platform[s]: GameCube, Wii

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Storyline

As the game begins, Link is living in Ordon Village.  He works day-on-day as a ranch hand until one day a terrible thing happens, a horde of monsters kidnap the village’s children and so our hero sets out to help them.  However he is caught off guard by a Shadow Beast then turned into a wolf and finally imprisoned… so begins the tale of The Twilight Princess and to be honest it’s the kind of story we all know and love, especially us fans of Ocarina of Time!

Throughout the game the plot remains entirely constant and remains a pleasure to witness rather than a chore to endure though only diehard ant-fantasy gamers will have an issue with it.

Gameplay

The gameplay is split into two segments – playing as Link in his human form and playing as Link as a wolf.  Both are interestingly fun.  In general things are as they always have been; explore Hyrule, look for items, complete quests and defeat enemies but when the player reaches certain corrupt regions of Hyrule then things get more interesting as our hero morphs into the wolf and must resort to digging, biting and the use of his animal senses. 

Combat in its Legend of Zelda traditional standing is the sword and shield aided by bombs, slingshot, clawshot and the bow and arrow.  This is how players will fight for the majority of the game, luckily enough the Wii controls work brilliantly perhaps better than that of the GC version perhaps.  For the projectile attacks this is particularly cool! 

All this is awesome and with the massive variety of places to visit, people to engage with and things to do there’s plenty of use for these effective controls including but not limited to fishing.  The wide scope of mini-games and side quests are unbelievable (a personal favourite being the snowboarding).  A player could lose hours of game-time on these or if they choose to just ignore the lot.  This is after all Ocarina of Time for the new generation, there are similar puzzles, many fights, heaps of familiar locations and the same-old mechanics which worked so well before – some people wont like the fact that beyond the controls very little has changed but I say if it ain’t broken don’t fix it.  So, why not hop onto Espona (Link’s horse) and delve into one of the nine massive dungeons which make Twilight Princess one of the best fantasy experiences of the Wii?      

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Graphics

Visually the game isn’t terrible but the fact-of-the-matter is that games built from the ground up for the Wii are often better looking than simple ports which remains true even in this situation as unfortunately Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is just that but with widescreen support.  This is GameCube technology at its very best as model designs are great, water is fantastic and the landscape is admirable alas it would have been even better had it been built with the Wii in mind.

Sound

MIDI is not acceptable in this day and age yet still rather than epic scores TP pulls from this primitive form of ambience rather than one would make this game epic in many more ways.  Bad, Nintendo!

Overall Score & Replayability

In all honesty this is not the sort of game you are likely to play multiple times.  It’s a lengthy whole experience well worth a complete playthrough but because of such without an evolving story I can’t see people returning thereafter.  This here is a must have game of epic proportions but not without its flaws I’m afraid.

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