Dec 08

Finally, another great success for the Wii!  While Wii titles that are genuinely all around good seemingly come far too infrequently, Wario Land: Shake It! was well worth the wait!  Immediately when you pop the game into your Wii you’ll be stepping into the time machine and will feel like you’re back in the golden days of Nintendo.  Wario Land: Shake It (from here on out WLSI) builds upon the great successes of past Nintendo titles without distorting it beyond recognition or fun by excessive use of the Wii’s features.  What I mean by this is that the controls will feel extremely intuitive.  Everything works exactly as you think it would – if you play any Wii games at all you know that this is becoming less and less common.  You hold the Wiimote sideways and use the buttons like a simple NES title.  While there is some waggle involved it isn’t to the point where it is over done.  For instance, to get the coins out of a bag of money you shake the Wiimote until the bag is empty.  A quick downward flick of the Wiimote will make Wario blast at the ground which is necessary throughout the game to solve the puzzles of each stage and find the treasures hidden within.

While the game is of course not in HD – it still will look great on an HDTV with the Nintendo component cables.  The actual artwork and graphics of the game are quite impressive!  The cartoonish style images are colorful, fun, and pretty straight forward.  The game looks and feels a lot like Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land for the original Game Boy.  Wario will use familiar moves like jumping up and smashing the ground or charging into enemies and breakable bricks.  What the game does not have are the various power up hats, which really doesn’t detract from the game experience as every power Wario does have is all you’ll need.  Each level has 3 treasures hidden within — trying to find them all is a rewarding experience alone.  You’ll need to think on your feet to solve puzzles while meanwhile trying to make it to the end of the level before time runs out.  The game features a Super Mario Land 3 (NES) map system with a boss at the end of each world.  Each level also has challenges built in such as collecting X amount of gold coins, avoid falling into water, so on and so forth – which continues to add into the reply factor.  While the game is not very hard, to actually get the full extent you will need to put time and thought into it.

Like any Nintendo game, an outstanding sound track will play you along in your journey as Wario to accumulate mass wealth and treasure.  Not only does the music really add to the game but simple sound effects are pretty good too – while they may not be the most inventive, they fit.

Overall, Wario Land: Shake It! is most definitely worth the buy for the upcoming holiday season, it is bound to please everyone who owns a Wii!

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Oct 25

OK I’ll admit it; I don’t play my Wii very often. To be totally honest, it’s been months. Sad, isn’t it? That there has been so little to draw my attention to Nintendo’s console in the past few months. With the advancements we’ve seen in games recently, it’s been harder and harder to stay interested in Nintendo’s distinctively ”last generation” gaming machine. But recently something has caught my attention and pulled me back in. I’m sure you’ve heard it — the internet’s collective song of praise for a little WiiWare title called ‘World Of Goo‘. You’ve heard it, right? Well I’m adding my voice to the chorus. World of Goo is incredible. The simple game mechanics combined with incredibly creative puzzles and a uniquely beautiful art direction make for a game that’s impossible not to love.

The basic premise of World of Goo is simple; your goal is to get a certain number of goo balls to an exit pipe, while using those same goo balls to build the structure that delivers the balls to the pipe. When you begin a level there will be a base structure to build off of. The standard goo ball can be attached to two nearby points to form a triangle. With enough goo balls you can build almost anything. The game has a very advanced physics engine, so these structures will react realistically to the forces of gravity. The shapes are solid, but by no means rigid. Since they are made of goo, the forms will bend and sway as gravity takes hold. If a single joint in the structure is put under too much pressure, it will eventually crumble. It becomes a literal balancing act between the architectural integrity and weight of your goo structure. All the while you must keep in mind the number of goo balls you have to work with and how many have to be delivered safely to the exit pipe in order to complete the stage.

Throughout the game you’ll be introduced to many different “species” of goo, many of which have special attributes. Some can be taken apart and reassembled. Others can stick to walls or touch dangerous surfaces. Some burn, some explode, some hang limp, some float like balloons. You’ll have to use the specialty of each type of goo to get through the level and achieve your goal. Every type of goo is used in imaginative ways that only get more ingenious as the game progresses. As soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out, the game throws something at you that will force you to use a type of goo in a way you never thought of before. You’ll be using new techniques right up until the last stage.

The game has incredible style. The art direction is somewhere between Dr. Seuss and Tim Burton. Every chapter has an overarching visual theme, and every stage is unique enough that you will never feel like you’re in the same place twice. There are times where you will be amazed that you are playing a WiiWare game. It would be nice to see these graphics in HD, but in all honesty, you will not notice unless you make a point to. There are certain levels in the game that are stunningly beautiful, not just in a graphical sense, but as a genuine piece of art. The visuals are crisp, clean, and colorful, and it works perfectly with this type of game.

The music in World of Goo is just as impressive. There are a lot of different styles represented here. Some tracks remind me of epic movie scores, while others seem to take another page out of the Tim Burton library. The main theme is very reminiscent of Beatlejuice. Certain areas, the windmill stage for example, work incredibly well as a combination of music and visual art. It really is amazing. Sometimes you have to take a second to soak it all in. Like the levels themselves, there is so much variety in the music. You will never get sick of these themes.

Though this game is mostly about puzzle solving, there are bits and pieces of a story that ties the whole thing together. These little details are delivered through signs located around the stages. They consist mostly of the observations and insights of the unnamed sign painter, and they often add a touch of humor to the game. They’ve even snuck a few geeky jokes in there that are sure to get a chuckle for those in the know. They have no reservations about breaking the 4th wall either. On one occasion the sign painter even pokes fun at the fact that the game doesn’t run in HD. On another sign he mentions how life seems to be nothing more than a big physics demo. It all helps add to the charm of the world, making the game build up it’s own personality that sets it apart from the competition.

Worlf of Goo will take you between four to six hours to complete on your first attempt, but that’s not to say you couldn’t sink many more hours into the title. After you finish the main game, you can go back and try to finish the special “OCD” challenge in each level. These include collecting a certain number of goos in a given level or finishing in under a certain amount of time. These challenges will certainly have you scratching your head, and maybe even pulling out your hair on occasion. They’re extremely difficult, and will keep you busy for a very long time. At the end of the game there is also a special area unlocked where you can go and try to build the tallest possible tower of goo. You can see the top scores of other individuals around the world and try to beat their records. You use the extra goo you rescued from the entirety of the game here, which gives you more incentive to go back and try to finish every stage as efficiently as possible. It’s amazing what you can build when you have several hundred goo balls at your disposal. It is a shame though that there is almost no information given about the record holders around the world. The only thing you know about these individuals is their country of origin. This kind of takes some of the thrill out of going for the world record, knowing that no one will ever know it was you. This is most likely a result of Nintendo’s limited online functionality, so it‘s hard to hold this against the game. In the end it’s still a welcome addition.

All of this adds up to an amazing package that’s a steal at only $15. World Of Goo is not only the best WiiWare game to date, it’s one of the best Wii games period. Its simple, addictive gameplay design may be hard to describe, but by the time you finish the first stage, you‘ll realize what all the fuss was about. You owe it to yourself to play this game, even if it means hooking up your Wii for the first time in months. Just do it — you’ll be happy you did.

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Oct 16

I’ve been playing THQ’s new title De Blob for a while now over the past few days and feel its about time to  write a fair and descriptive review of the game that perhaps is a little less biased than some of the other reviews out there.  To clarify that statement, it seemed to me that many other reviews were written by people who were somewhat close to the game – or people who really wanted this to be an amazing game.

The Story:  Essentially you’re a blob whose objective is to save the black and white city that lost all of its color to the evil INKT Corporation.  Playing as De Blob, you must make your way through the city returning color and saving the Greylings by coloring their apartments and then adding color to them, destroying INKT propoganda devices, and there are some other challengs too.  That’s really about it.

The Premises:  As stated before you’re playing as De Blob whose mission it is to return color to the black and white city.  How you do this is to attack these monster things that have colored ink in them (which you can also blend multiple colors) and just touch everything to turn it that color.  Basically the game is a big puzzle.

The Controls:  This is De Blob’s number one problem.  The controls are awful.  To jump it requires you to flick the wii mote and then you have to haphazardly guide yourself in air with the nunchuck’s analog stick all the while battling the less than perfect camera system.  De Blob has a Kirby-esque feel when he goes airborne but has far less control which can add a lot of frustration when you’re trying to scale some buildings and meeting tons of Resistance.  Not because the game is hard but simply because it seems to be a serious design flaw.

Thoughts:  Overall De Blob is moderately fun in spite of the horrid controls.  The premises is neat enough and the animations are pretty pleasing to look at.  Yes, it can be fun at times to go around acting as a giant paint bucket but this alone does not seem to justify the $49.99 USD Price tag.  Realistically the game is worth about $29.99.  I feel the game got hyped up unjustifiably and that is why so many people have written such praising reviews.  The music is quite nice to listen to and does add to the environment but if you’re anything like me – which you may or may not be – you will see it hard to justify having to flick the wiimote to jump when a simple button press would have sufficed.  Perhaps I’m being to knit picky but to me I am greatly disillusioned in just how the game feels.  Great concept, not so great execution.  Overall I’d say the game is a 7.1 and that’s pushing it.  If you’re really into this type of game pick it up, otherwise rent it or wait for a price drop.

The Breakdown
Graphics – 8.5
Controls – 5
Music – 9
Replay – 5
Concept / Story – 8


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Sep 12

Box Art for Original SNES game

The year was 1996 – the summer Olympics were to be held  in Atlanta, Ga – and a then 10 year old Ryan Kenward was about to discover one of the most amazing games of his life up to that point.  Being a proud SNES owner in a time where my friends were getting their PlayStations complete with 32-bit graphical eye candy, I was starting to think that perhaps the SNES ship had begun to sink.  Much to my excitement I remember seeing an article in a Nintendo Power Magazine about a little game called Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars – not knowing what the hell RPG meant I was excited as hell nonetheless.  I never owned this game, but I spent my allowance renting it several times.  Needless to say, it was a breath of relief that my SNES had not yet met it’s untimely demise and that perhaps I had another year or two until all of my friends had their PlayStations and I would be laughing when I had the “Nintendo Dolphin” — later known as N64.

Simply put, Super Mario RPG was quite a feat at the time of its release.  Now years later available in the Wii’s virtual console library I can say it is no less satisfying to play now than it was over 12 years ago.  The game starts out like all Mario games preceding it, Princess Peach has once again been kidnapped by Bowser (If I knew about restraining orders at 10 years old I may have suggested she get one) – like always, our hero Mario sets out to rescue her battling with Bowser on chandeliers held up by chomps.  After a quick battle with Bowser, Mario jumps up to reach the Princess.  His victory is short lived as a badass sword crashed into Bowser’s castle launching all three in different directions.  Mario just happens to wind up at his home (lucky shot) – and from there sets out on his initial adventure of saving our damsel in distress.  Mario is joined by a puffy humanoid with a frog complex named Mallow in the mushroom kingdom.  Their adventure leads them all over the three dimensional world through a roadway of bandits, a sewer full of baddies, a forest with some pissed off caterpillars, a sunken ship and much more!  Mario assembles a chain gang of cronies consisting of some familar faces (Princess Peach and Bowser join his forces) – along with Mallow and Geno (a guardian of the star road)  Mario and company must recover the star pieces to reassemble the Star Road (as seen in Super Mario World [SNES]) so people’s wishes can come true again and also defeat the big sword suck in Bower’s keep named Smithy.
Graphically and in my opinion, Super Mario RPG is one of the strongest shows of the SNES’ capabilities.  It integrated animated turn style combat systems, a plethora of interesting levels, and unique characters all rendered in impressive 3D for that time in video gaming.

Like all Mario games, catchy tunes are omnipresent throughout the entire game.  A quick youtube search for Super Mario RPG turns up tons of song parodies to the game’s main theme.  One of the many reasons the SNES was better than the Sega Genesis was the sound capability – it is clearly demonstrated in Super Mario RPG.

There are several hours of game play involved, and even after you beat the game it is still fun to pop into it occasionally and look for hidden chests or just fight some bad guys just for fun.  Super Mario RPG is game that has excellent replay value; the entire journey through is equally as fun the second and third time.

All in all – the 800 wii points ($8.00) is most definitely worth it to play this classic game.  Whether it is the first time playing, or a nostalgic return to a great game – Super Mario RPG will not disappoint!

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9.5
Fun Level: 9.5

Overall Rating: 9.5

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