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9:04 PM on 02.26.2012

Review: Rhythm Heaven Fever is quirky, entertaining and frustrating



Rhythm Heaven Fever is absolutely bizarre.

One of the last major Wii releases, itís the kind of game that only appeals to a very specific audience. Itís quirky, interesting, and at times also amazingly unforgiving and frustrating.

The game features over 50 rhythm related mini games. For the most part, these games are all relatively ridiculous and feature extremely cute characterized animals, occasionally catchy retro video game music and impossibly difficult rhythm tasks. Some of these mini games are entertaining but there are many that feel like they are almost impossible to complete. I personally commend anyone thatís able to get past the game that forces you to high five cute monkeys on a clock to an impossible beat.

Rhythm Heaven Fever also just might be one of the simplest games Iíve ever played. Every single mini game is controlled by pressing either the Wiimoteís A or B button to the beat of animation and music. Occasionally to spice things up, youíll have to press both buttons at the same time. Some harder mini games feature alternating beats that seem to require having some sort of formal musical knowledge (otherwise I have no idea how anyone could possible complete them).

At times, having the ability to feel the gameís music is extremely important and some games are impossible to complete if you donít have this ability. Following auditory and visual cues is also essential to being successful in Rhythm Heaven Feverís later extremely difficult levels. When a mini game is completed (sometimes this isnít an easy task) and a required score is achieved, a new game is unlocked.

In many ways, these mini games seem ridiculous, but thatís also part of the gameís charm. For example, one game has you pressing A in time with two monkeys who are continually throwing golf balls at your character. You need to make your character swing his golf club in time with the golf balls. This might sound easy, but it isnít. In another mini game, your character is sitting on a park bench on a date. All of a sudden soccer balls, footballs and basketballs start bouncing past and you are informed that you need to press A every time a ball zooms past your foot. If you fail, your date leaves the park bench unsatisfied. Neither of these mini games makes sense. Theyíre crazy, but thatís also why they are so fun.

Figuring out each mini-gameís cadence and beat is Rhythm Heaven Feverís greatest challenge and at times it becomes ridiculously frustrating. The short tutorial before each mini game starts, often isnít enough to understand that particular gameís rhythm. When you finally do figure out a gameís beat, Rhythm Heaven Fever becomes a lot of fun.

The titleís art style is colourful and clean, making it stand out from darker grittier music and rhythm based titles like Guitar Hero or Rockband. Graphically, Rhythm Heaven Fever is very simple, but its distinct art direction works in the titleís favour. It adds to the gameís overall quirky feel.

The game also features a multiplayer mode that allows two people to play through the gameís various titlesí mini games. In this mode, bonus points are awarded for how in sync the two players are over the course of the game.

The big problem is that itís not really much of a comprehensive video game in the traditional sense. Itís more of a collection of various rhythm fueled strange mini-games and the kind of title you might find in the Android or iPhone appstore. This makes justifying the titleís $29.99 budget price a little difficult. In the end, Rhythm Heaven Fever offers a unique experience and Iíve never played a game quite like it.

Overall Score: 7/10

Judgment: Buy it! But only if youíre into music/rhythm games

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Follow me on Twitter @Patrick_ORourke   read


4:16 PM on 02.17.2012

Dumpster Diving: Cold Stone Creamery Scoop It Up



Welcome to my new video show Dumpster Diving. Every episode Iíll be profiling a new terrible video game and explaining exactly why it sucks so excruciatingly bad.

This episode focuses on Cold Stone Creamery Scoop It Up and like I say in the video, it truly is quite possibly one of the worst game I have every played in my entire life.

Check out the video at this http://youtu.be/nnzYzoiUGR8

If you have any suggestions for Dumpster Diving or if youíd like me to cover a specific game let me know in the comments section.   read


4:09 PM on 02.17.2012

Preview: Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D remakes a classic



The only Metal Gear game Iíve ever played is Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance on the Xbox. I enjoyed the title, but Iíve never completely understood the draw of the Metal Gear franchise. I enjoy the games, theyíre solid and fun, Iím just not a huge fan of the series. After spending a short amount of time with Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D at a recent Nintendo press event in Toronto, the Metal Gear series might just have a new fan.

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D is a faithful remake of the original PlayStation 2 classic. This means little to me (I never had the opportunity to play the original title), but fans of the franchise will love how faithful Konamiís remake is to the original title. Snake Eater is a stealth action title, so if plotting calculated attacks on enemies isnít your idea of a fun time, then the entire Metal Gear franchise probably wonít appeal to you. For those who love carefully laid assaults, this is your bread and butter.

Snake Eater is renowned for its wide open levels and wildlife filled environments, a major change of pace for the usually claustrophobic franchise. When the title was first released, this was an innovative first for the Metal Gear franchise. The title also features an interesting close quarters combat system and allows you to choose how to get past your enemies, either by sneaking around them, using them as a human shield, or preforming a devistating choke hold.

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D also features a health system that monitors specific injuries on Snakeís body. If you break your arm, youíll need to find a way to patch it up. The gameís stamina system also forces you to be constantly on the lookout for food to keep Snake alive.

Graphically, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D is a little disappointing. A few months ago a number of gaming publications complained that the gameís environments and characters looked blurry and that the colour pallet made the entire experience too dark.


To me, the graphics look muddy and dreary.

Not much has changed. While the environments look beautiful, the entire game seems to be under some sort of haze (itís almost like Iím playing without glasses on at times). It would have been nice to see more of a graphical update on the newer hardware.

The titleís new 3D effect works well, but doesnít exactly add to the game. Iíd need to spend more time with it before deciding if it actually affects gameplay. The only other big change to this remake is the ability to change weapons and items with the 3DSís touch screen.

My main complaint during my short play-through was with the gameís controls. The Circle Pad Pro set up wasnít available at the event, so an awkward control scheme that uses the 3DSís A, B, X and Y buttons as a means of controlling the gameís camera was featured instead. This method of controlling the game is adequate, but isnít ideal and I couldnít help but wish for another joystick.

This latest iteration of the Metal Gear franchise seems like itís shaping up nicely. Metal Gear Solid: 3D Snake Eater is coming out in North America on February 21, 2012.   read


4:03 PM on 02.17.2012

Preview: Kid Icarus Uprising features awkwardly unique controls



I never played the original Kid Icarus, but Kid Icarus Uprising, a 20-years-later re-imagining of the franchise, seems solid so far.

DS or 3DS titles that feature touch screen based controls have never appealed to me (I hate Kirby Mass Attackís control scheme), but Kid Icarus Uprising controls rather smoothly. That doesnít, however, mean the controls arenít somewhat annoying. During my short time with the game at a recent Nintendo press event in Toronto, I quickly realized that holding the 3DS and using the stylus to aim your characterís reticule doesnít feel natural. The title adopts a similar control scheme to Metroid Prime Huntersí for the Nintendo DS (another touchscreen based shooter).

Itís strange to wrap your hand around the 3DSís joystick and still hold the handheld on an angle that allows you to constantly maintain contact with the its touch screen. Apparently there are alternative control schemes that allow you to use the recently released Circle pad Pro, but this method of control wasnít available at the event I attended.

This is probably why the game comes with a visually amusing stand that is supposed to help hold the console and make playing the game easier. Playing Kid Icarus Uprising on a crowded bus Ė or anywhere you donít have access to a table Ė wonít be comfortable. The camera also seemed wonky at times, but this was probably due to the titleís relatively awkward control scheme. At times itís quite difficult to pinpoint exactly which direction you want Pit (the gameís main character) to face.


Awkward and strange, but useful for controlling Kid Icarus.

Graphically, Kid Icarus is stunning and rivals Resident Evil Revelations as the 3DSí best looking game. Itís colourful, vibrant, flashy and eye catching. At times, itís hard to believe that Kid Icarus Uprising is on a handheld console.

Kid Icarus Uprisingís gameplay is unique and Iíve never played a title quite like it. Itís part on-rails shooter (like Star Fox), part third person shooter, and somehow manages to mix the two genres seamlessly. During my short time with the game, I played through an on-rails shooting level and a on-foot ground level.

It also features a variety of unique weapons and the ability to perform melee or ranged attacks on the gameís various colourful enemies. At times, the number of on screen assailants in the game becomes overwhelming and it takes a while to get used to the breakneck pace. It also allows you to bet hearts (the gameís currency) by altering the titleís difficulty. If you manage to complete a level at a higher difficulty level, youíre rewarded with more hearts, if you fail, you lose the hearts youíve bet. This is an interesting gameplay mechanic and heightens the stakes for every level you play.

There are also deeper strategic elements to the game. In certain situations melee attacks are the best way to take down enemies, but under other circumstances ranged attacks are the best option. Different weapons are also more effective against select enemies. This gives Kid Icarus Uprising more depth than the average third person shooter and adds a number of RPG-like elements. The game also features local and online multiplayer and utilizes augmented reality cards, but none of these features were available during my short preview with the game.

The controls might be a little awkward, but the game seems solid and unique so far. Kid Icarus Uprising comes out in North America on March 23, 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS.   read


12:24 AM on 02.13.2012

Review: Kirby Mass Attack



Kirbyís Mass Attack for DS features ingredients common to great video games, but it just doesnít manage to get them together. The title offers vibrant graphics and a classic Nintendo character (Kirby), but thatís where the appeal ends.

Iím a big fan of Nintendoís long-running Kirby franchise and Iíve played a number of titles in the series. I even recently reviewed Kirbyís Return To Dreamland, a solid homage to the pink puffballís platforming roots. I wish I could say that Kirbyís Mass Attack was a solid game, but I canít.

Itís the control scheme that really holds the title back. Kirbyís Mass Attack is controlled by taping the DSís touch screen (with a stylus) to move Kirby around. Using your fingers to touch the screen is an option, but it really isnít accurate enough to pull off some of the gameís more precise moves.

Stylus controlled titles have never matched the precise control capability of traditional buttons, the very same reason I had difficulties with the platformsí two Zelda titles; Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass. The stylus is simply an awkward way to control a video game and causes my hands to cramp. This isnít the last time weíll see this control scheme either. The upcoming 3DS title, Kid Icarus: Uprising, also heavily utilizes the handheldís stylus.

In Kirby Mass Attack, you move a horde of Kirbys through five different worlds. If you click on an enemy, the pink fluff balls engulf it in a flurry of attacks. If one of your many Kirbyís gets hit by an enemy, they turn blue. When they get hit again, they turn into a ghost and you must click on the phantom Kirby to bring him back into your mob. Holding the stylus down on your mob of Kirbys you can float them through the air to a specific location. If you manage to lose all of your Kirbys Ė this is extremely hard as the game is relatively easy Ė then you have to restart the level. In order to multiply your Kirbys, you need to collect fruit by destroying the titleís various enemies and obstacle. The more fruit you obtain, the more Kirbys you will have at your disposal.

The controls may sound simple Ė because they are Ė but that doesnít make them fun or effective. I found it surprisingly difficult to move my Kirbys through the gameís puzzles. Many of the later levels require you to separate your gang of Kirbys and control them on an individual basis. Doing this is nearly impossible with a stylus. Controlling a game like this with a stylus feels awkward and I constantly found myself wishing I could just use the DSís buttons to direct my army of little pink balls.


The graphics may be impressive for a DS title, but the controls certainly aren't.

The gameís graphics are also impressive, especially for a DS title. Theyíre vibrant, colourful and inviting, although, after playing 3DS games for the last few months, they do seem a little blurry and low resolution. The titleís sound is standard Kirby fair, child-like music and cute high pitched voices and noises, but this is to be expected; Mass Attack is a Kirby title afterall.

I find it hard to get past Mass Attackís awkward control scheme. Controls are the backbone of every video game and playing a DS game exclusively with a stylus just isnít enjoyable, especially when featured in a title that requires precision and careful timing. As the DSís swan song title, Kirby Mass Attack just doesnít deliver. The graphics are great and itís good to see Kirby back in another portable adventure, but I find it really hard to recommend this title to anyone, even hardcore Kirby fans.

More than anything, a games visuals, audio and controls need to create an experience that is fun. Kirby Mass Attack isnít fun.

Overall Score: 5/10

Follow me on Twitter at Patrick_ORourke   read


10:11 PM on 01.28.2012

Why Iím not interested in Final Fantasy XIII-2



Final Fantasy XIII is the only video game I have ever returned to a store. Yes, it was that bad, and I absolutely hated it. Square Enix, why are you releasing a sequel to a game that was generally resented by even Final Fantasyís most hardcore fans? It just doesnít make sense.

When I was younger, the release of a Final Fantasy game always seemed like a special occasion. New entries in the franchise came out every few years and gamers everywhere were certain each Final Fantasy title would offer quality, narrative driven gaming. Now it feels like a new Final Fantasy title comes out every few months and, most of the time, these new games arenít even good.

In my mind, there always seemed to be a rivalry between the Final Fantasy and Zelda series. Iím not sure if this was a reality in the larger gaming community, but it was the case in my circle of friends. Zelda fans would scoff at Final Fantasyís tactical turn based battles using the term Ďoutdated.í Final Fantasy fans, on the other hand, would view Zeldaís action-oriented gameplay as overly simple and state that the story line was sparse on details.

The Super Nintendoís under-appreciated Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy III in the U.S.) remains my favourite in the franchise. Itís engrossing story, stylish graphics, and general atmosphere set the stage for Final Fantasy VII, a title many people feel is the pinacle of the series.

Although I havenít played every game in the series (I have played most), I know that the franchise has certain elements that draw me into its colourful world. Exploration, character development, compelling story telling (although contrived and stereotypical) and beautiful graphics are what make Final Fantasy appeal to me. When it comes to more recent Final Fantasy titles, itís sometimes hard to look past characterís androgynous designs, carefully constructed bangs, and strange clothing. But deep down, most Final Fantasy titles are genuinely enjoyable games, chock full of great experiences and entertainment. This was not the case with Final Fantasy XIII.


Sometimes it's hard to look past the beautifully crafed hair and see the video game underneath.

Final Fantasy XIII is one of the worst RPGís Iíve ever played. The plot makes little sense and is non-existant for the majority of the game (I gave up after approximately 24 hours of playing). Also, the Paradigm battle system is ridiculous and basically fights the gameís battles for you. Half of why I enjoy Final Fantasyís turnbased battle system is because they allow me to be extremely tactical and the Paradigm system ruined this. There are also no non-player characters (NPCís) to interact with, no towns to explore and there is generally nothing exciting to do at all.

Final Fantasy XIII amounts to nothing more than a beautiful looking, terribly designed on-rails RPG. The game basically plays like this: you walk down a long graphically stunning coridor, fighting enemy after enemy. I know that the gameís world opened up considerably approximately 25 hours in, but there was no incentive to stick with Final Fantasy XIII for that long. Anyone I know that purchased the game gave up long before the 20 hour mark.

What Final Fantasy XIII did, was destroy everything that made the Final Fantasy franchise so appealing.

Then Square Enix released another Final Fantasy title, this time it was an MMORPG for the PC, Final Fantasy XIV. Iíve never played the game, but from what Iíve read, I gather that itís unfinished, absolutely terrible and filled with glitches. I have heard that the game has drastically improved since its initial release, but why put out an unfinished video game in the first place?

My point is this; why should I care about a sequel to a terrible video game? Why not start over and create Final Fantasy XV? Maybe then Iíd pay attention to Squareís barrage of press releases. Itís not like Final Fantasy XIIIís characters are compelling or interesting, and I donít think there are many fans out there actually asking for a sequel.

Apparently XIII-2 features a plot that revolves around time travel and a lot of exploration, but it also brings back an overly simple battle system and unimaginitive characters. This isnít enough to win me back. I used to be a loyal fan of the franchise, but after Final Fantasy XIII? I donít think I can ever trust Square Enix again.

Iíll wait to see review scores.   read


10:00 PM on 01.28.2012

Preview: Resident Evil Revelations is a return to the seriesí roots



Itís been a awhile since Iíve played a Resident Evil title. In fact, I havenít followed Resident Evil Revelationsí development much at all. I did, however, end up downloading the 3DS demo from the eShop on a whim. I admit that I didnít expect much, figuring it would play similarly to last yearís Resident Evil Mercenaries.

To my surprise, Revelations is a much better game.

I should also mention how glad I am that Nintendo has finally started releasing demos (although the fact that they can only be played 30 times is a little ridiculous). Iíve always believed that game demos are the best way to convince consumers that your title is worth their cash and itís great that Nintendo is taking note.

Back to Resident Evil Revelations, the game is similar to classic Resident Evil titles. You canít shoot or use melee attacks while moving (a mainstay of the series) and your character still controls like an awkward tank. Despite the slow movement, the game does manage an-action oriented experience and adopts a first person perspective when shooting weapons. Aiming is rather difficult and feels a tad too sensitive, often resulting in me wasting ammo while trying to take down enemies. This isnít actually a bad thing, however, because such challenges are what creates the level of tension thatís been absent from more recent titles in the franchise.

I have a feeling that the upcoming circle pad pro attachment might remedy the gameís somewhat awkward control scheme. It feels a little strange to control your characterís movement with only one joystick (The Circle Pad Pro comes out February 7, so weíll find out soon enough). The title makes interesting use of the 3DSís touch screen, allowing you to unscrew a control panel with a screw driver and then solve a relatively simple in-game puzzle. The touch screen based gameplay isnít exactly innovative, but itís nice to see that Capcom is taking advantage of the systemís unique features.

Resident Evil Revelationsí graphics are impressive for a 3DS title and might be the best Iíve seen on the handheld. Even though the 3D effects donít add much to the titleís gameplay, they still looks great and draw you deeper into the experience.


It really is the best looking 3DS title yet.

Most of the demo takes place on a derelect cruise ship called the Shinobia. Disappointingly, the title doesnít feature true zombies, but rather, zombie-like creatures covered in strange spikes.

You control Jill Valentine in the demo, but Chris Redfield is also a playable character in the game. Ammo is in short supply and enemies are abundent, so itís nice to see the series return to its roots in some ways, even though itís adopted a more action-oriented style of gameplay. I should point out that the demo only features three weapons; a shotgun, a pistol and a knife.

From this relatively short demo, I get a strong sense that Resident Evil Revelations will be a solid game. Iím hoping the entire game echoes the demoís atmosphere and action/survival horror mix. I really enjoyed Resident Evil 4 and I like the short time I spent with Resident Evil 5, but both titles didnít really feel like they were true Resident Evil games. To me, they seemed more like awkward third person shooters and less like the tension-filled survival horror that made the franchise famous. Hereís hoping Resident Evil Revelations actually is a true return to the seriesí roots.[img]   read


2:39 PM on 01.23.2012

Halo isn't as good as I remember



Iíve always had a strange attachment to the Halo franchise. For me, Halo: Combat Evolved was the game of high school. Everyone was playing it and cafeteria conversations always somehow ended up being Halo related. But lately, I canít stand the franchise. I tried getting back into Halo: Reachís multiplayer last night and got absolutely destroyed. But that wasnít the only reason I wasnít having fun.

It doesnít matter if itís the multiplayer or the single player, I think I just have what I like to call Halo fatigue.

Iíve played a lot of Halo: CE in my life and have spent countless hours with friends messing around in local co-op and multiplayer (this was before Xbox Live and we used a tunneling service called XBC to play online). On one occasion, a friend and actually spent an afternoon trying to launch a ghost into the watch towers of sidewinder. We then proceeded to take photos of our accomplishment with a terrible Polaroid camera and proudly upload them to Halo.bungie.org, Haloís main community fan site.

Then there was Halo 2 and my first experience with online gaming. Iíd never seriously sat down and played an online multiplayer until Halo 2 because Iím primarily a console gamer, so Xbox Live was my chance to experience a whole new world. I just had to convince my parents to upgrade their dial-up internet to cable (not an easy task).

I wasnít a consistent Xbox Live subscriber for a long time. To get around this hurdle a friend and I would Ďaquireí 2 month trials from empty Blockbuster Video game cases. I think I probably went through five or six before purchasing my own account. Every two months, we would play team doubles matchmaking, starting with a rank of zero, and go on ridiculous 20 to 25 game winning streaks. In hindsight, this was a ridiculously cheap move on my part, but hey, I was 16.

Halo 2 quickly became a social experience and everyday after school, there was always someone I knew playing online. At times, instead of calling each other, my friends and I would create custom lobbies and discuss what we were going to do Friday night. Is this a crazy way to communicate? Maybe, but at the time it was awesome.

Then came Halo 3, probably the first Halo I was truly decent at (that was probably because I played it so much), Halo: ODST (the glorified map pack with a solid single player campaign) and finally, Halo: Reach (Bungieís last effort at revitalizing the franchise).

Iíve praised all of these titleís originality, depth and fun factor. But looking back? After Halo 3, I wasnít having as much fun with the franchise as I had before. Maybe it was because many of my friends no longer played Halo titles on a consistent basis. They had jobs, better things to do, and Call Of Duty to play. As Iíve gotten older I also have less time to play Halo and the time I do have, I usually want to spend it playing other video games.

I think it was the social experience Halo fostered that originally drew me to the franchise. Now that that aspect of the game has gone away for me, my desire to play has also diminished. Or maybe I was just caught up in the hype and felt like I had to play every Halo title that hit store shelves? (thatís exactly why I purchased Halo Anniversary). I donít really know.

Iím not saying that Halo titles post-Halo 3 arenít great games, because I have certainly had some fun times with them (especially Halo: Reach). Iím just wondering, were they really as great as I originally thought? I gave Halo: Reach a glowing review here on GameJudgment and even stated that, ďAs someone whoís been playing Halo since the franchise began, I can safely say that this is by far the best game in the series. It even surpasses Halo: Combat evolved.Ē I feel like Halo: Reach was Bungieís attempt to appease hardcore fans but still make the game accessible. In some ways, Halo: Reach succeeded, but in others, it totally failed. Bloom and a non existant ranking system are two of my biggest gripes with the game.


This is what 10 years of Halo looks like

Killing the same forms of covenent and blasting away in the same rigid formulaic multiplayer mode just isnít as fun for me as it was 10 years ago. I want to see change.

Iím now eagerly anticipating the release of Halo 4, hoping that 343 Studios doesnít just breath new life into the franchise, but totally revamps it. Long time fans of the series and hardcore MLG gamers may disagree, but I think itís time. Halo needs to change. I know Iíll be at Halo 4′s midnight launch and I know that like always, Iíll get caught up in the hype storm that always surrounds Halo releases.

But this time, I actually want to enjoy a brand new experience. The Halo franchise means a lot to me and I want to have fun with it again.

What do you think? Looking back, is Halo still as fun today as it was for you way back when? Let us know in the comments section.   read


11:29 AM on 01.16.2012

Club Nintendo finally doesnít suck



Okay, maybe Ďsuckí is a strong word Ė because Club Nintendo does have some cool rewards Ė but the items are highly subjective. Unless youíre twelve or otherwise into stickers, posters, and other Nintendo related swag, there havenít been many actual games to spend your hard earned Nintendo coins on, aside from a few expensive Game & Watch DS titles.

But that all changed in December. Nintendo is now offering Majoraís Mask (Wii) 150 coins, Dr. Mario Rx (Wii) 100 coins, Kirbyís Dreamland (3DS) 100 coins and Dr. Mario Express (3DS) 150 coins. Iíve never been interested in Nintendoís points club before, but as soon as it started offering free games, I knew it was finally time to create an account and collect my spoils. There are other cool (depending on your definition of Ďcoolí) Nintendo items available through the club as well.

One of the issues that traditionally makes the club Ďsuckí, is price. Items such as Mario themed screen savers, tote bags, folders, shoe laces and bags are all there, but cost a fortune in coins. Case in point, the messenger bag costs 550 coins. That means youíd have to purchase about 18 first party Nintendo titles to get it, based on the average value of 30 coins per game. Back in December, Nintendo offered Super Mario Kart (3DS) 100 coins, Fluidity (3DS) 150 coins, 3D Classics: Xevious (3DS) 100 coins and Mario vs Donkey Kong Minis March Again (3DS) 150 coins on the Nintendo club. Now, those are prices I can accept.



For the uninitiated, the Club Nintendo is basically a PR move on Nintendoís part in an attempt to better itís somewhat tainted image in the eyes of itís hardcore fans and casual consumers. Every first party Nintendo title you purchase (consoles too) comes with a Club Nintendo card insert that has a pin number on it. This pin needs to be entered on club.nintendo.com in exchange for virtual Ďcoinsí that can be cashed in for real world items. All you need to do is complete a rather annoying customer survey and you are rewarded with the coins.

Different games have different coin values. For instance, more recent titles like Skyward Sword are worth 50 coins, Mario Kart 7 is worth 30 coins and downloadable titles like Pushmo are worth about 30 coins. (I downloaded Pushmo before creating my Club Nintendo account and canít seem to find a way to collect my coins. Youíve been warned.)

If Club Nintendo wants to continue not sucking, it needs to keep releasing downloadable games. Itís a valid public relations move and improves the companyís image in the eyes of their dedicated fans, especially in light of a terrible 2011 year for both the Wii and the 3DS. (Things might be improving for the 3DS, but 2012 seems like the year of ďabsolutely nothingĒ for Wii, a console with practically zero worthwhile new releases scheduled.)

Giving away free downloadable games isnít a new thing for Nintendo. Remember the reasonably awesome ambassador program that gave away 10 free NES and 10 free Game Boy Advance games? The company created this initiative in an effort to appease early 3DS adopters that were angry about the 3DSí price drop from $269 to $149.

I managed to sneak my way into the program by purchasing a 3DS this summer for $169 just before the August 11th cut off date (some retailers dropped the price early). In part, the ambassador program was one of the main reasons I purchased a 3DS. This was another great PR move on Nintendoís part and garnered them a lot of positive press in the gaming media as well as softening the blow of the price drop for hardcore Nintendo fans.

So if youíre looking for a few free games, you should probably take advantage of this opportunity as soon as you can (rumor is, the gamesí offer is going away soon). Club Nintendo might not be for everyone, but for the first time you can get some free games out of it. In other words, it finally doesnít suck.   read


8:47 AM on 01.10.2012

Skyward Sword is motion control perfection



The Zelda series is a franchise that hasnít changed much over the years. Thereís an over world, dungeons, a princess in distress and an angry, magical, evil enemy. During every Zelda adventure you traverse various elementally themed dungeons and meet strange and colourful characters Ė this is Zelda as we know it.

For the last ten years or so any changes have been incremental. New features have been added, but the core game stays relatively the same. This is due to the fact that the seriesí rabid fan base seems content with the franchise remaining relatively similar game after game. Many fans still even believe that Link and the seriesí other characters shouldnít be voiced by actors (which is an insane idea), but Iíll get to that later.

Skyward Sword seems to be an attempt by producer Eiji Aonuma to break the Zelda mould and return to the series once innovative roots via a revolutionary control scheme. If the words Ďinnovativeí and ĎZeldaí donít mix in your mind, try to remember Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link for the original NES, a game unlike any other title in the franchise. Looking back, it almost doesnít seem like a Zelda title and is more akin to Final Fantasy or Mario from a gameplay perspective. The only other extremely innovative Zelda title comes later in the seriesí timeline. Iím talking about Ocarina Of Time, of course, a title that completely revolutionized gaming in three dimensions. Itís renowned as one of the only video games to seamlessly move a critically acclaimed 2D franchise into 3D.

When it comes to the latest epic Zelda tale, Skyward Sword, the feature that has impressed me the most is itís flawless motion controls. They are the epitome of controlling a video game in an intuitive way and showcase the untapped potential motion controls have for advancing gaming accessibility and immersion. Motion based gaming can be more than silly waggle actions and dancing around in front of your television.

At times, figuring out how to control Link felt so natural that it regrettably reminds me of how Apple products often feel (I say that because Iím not a big Apple fan). Every motion, gesture and menu movement makes perfect sense, just like gestures on the iPhone or iPad are easy to pick up and understand. Selecting items and secondary weapons is an absolute breeze and has been substantially from the control scheme that was featured in Twilight Princess. Gone are the days of randomly fiddling the WiiMote around to make your sword move, now your movements must be precise and calculated.

There isnít much figuring out to do and after a quick tutorial the motions and actions required to move Link around feel fluid and natural. Some reviewers have criticized the gameís motion controls, stating that at times they are unresponsive and awkward. So far Iíve experienced the complete opposite; I slash left, Link slashes his sword instantly left, I do a diagonal strike, Link wings his sword diagonally across the screen. I havenít experienced any delay and the Motion Plus seems to be working flawlessly giving the WiiMote the extra ability to pinpoint the exact direction I am holding the controller.

Syward Sword does something few other motion based titles actually do, that being the union of motion and traditional button-based directional control. In other words, you control Linkís direction movement with the Nunchuckís joystick, meaning only Linkís sword is controlled through motion (as well as item selection). Having precise physical control over the direction of your sword also ads to the gameís immersion factor. For the first time ever itís actually me swinging that sword around in the game, a feat that has been a dream of mine since childhood. I havenít experienced a title in recent memory (not even Skyrim) that fully engrossed me in itís world as much as Skyward Sword does. At times, I actually feel like Iím inside the game slicing up plants and various enemies.

Even the way Skyward Swordís enemies attack you from various angles, forcing you to strike at selected parts of the enemyís body, feels fresh because of the gameís motion capabilities. You can, however, play the game randomly flailing your arm around and still manage to take down most enemies, but that isnít how Skyward Sword is supposed to be played. Itís much more satisfying to carefully place your strikes and attack the gameís colourful enemies with calculated precision.

Of course, Skyward Sword isnít perfect. Certain motion controlled actions are far to finicky to pull off reliably. Rolling bombs across the ground is an example of this. Iíve been blown up countless times while trying to precision bowl a bomb through a ridiculously small hole in a wall. Also, the main plot is less than stellar and, as usual itís just another basic tale of good vs. evil. Link and Zeldaís blossoming relationship is rather intriguing though.

Iím also still a firm believer that, at the very least, characters other than Link should be voiced by actors. This may seem blasphemous to hardcore Nintendo fans, but I feel like this is long overdue. The fact that the Zelda franchiseís characters donít speak is making the series feel dated and antiquated and not in the nostalgic good way. Skyward Swordís characters are quircky, extremely animated individuals and giving them the ablilty to speak would only add to their appeal.

Now, I understand the Link argument, hearing him speak might be rather strange, but Iíve never been able to grasp the argument concerning NPCís. Itís 2012, Skyward Sword had a multimillion dollar budget, and a simple change like this wouldnít have made Skyward Sword feel un-Zelda-like. Iím not arguing that the seriesí characters arenít charming, they certainly are, but as I play through Skyward Sword I canít help but feel that the absence of voice acting makes the entire game feel dated.

Everytime I think about Link talking in a Zelda title I imagine the terrible Phillips CD-I games. Just listen to this awesome quote, ďGreat, I canít wait to bomb some dodongos.Ē

Check out the amazingly sad video Here

But back to the motion controls, the feature that makes Skyward Sword appeal so much to me. As I played Skyward Sword for the first time, I thought to myself, ďThis is what motion controls should have been like for the last last five years.Ē

Skyward Sword is the first game that finally gets it.   read


3:09 PM on 01.04.2012

Review Ė Kirbyís Return To Dreamland



Kirbyís Return To Dreamland is possibly the easiest game Iíve played in my entire life. Usually this is a bad thing, but in this titleís case, itís simplicity and ease actually works in its favour.

The gameís levels are varied and extremely long. Early stages are very easy, but towards the end of the game, the difficulty ramps up significantly (I found the final boss insanely difficult). You donít have to really try very hard to make it to the end of every level and surprisingly I actually enjoyed this. Kirbyís Return To Dreamland is the kind of game thatís a ton of fun after a rough day at the office or school because in Dream Land, Kirby is is almost invincible.

Thereís not much of a plot this time around, but story has never been the main draw of Kirby titles. Essentially it boils down to this: an alien has crash landed in Dreamland and needs to find parts for his spaceship in order to make his way home. Since youíre a lovable pink fluff ball, you and your equally cute friends decide to aide this alien in his quest to return home.

In general, Kirbyís Return To Dreamland acts as a great introduction to classic platforming gameplay and is a complete return to the franchiseís roots, throwing in a number of nostalgic touches like familiar enemies and bosses (remember the tree that shoots apples?). This makes the title perfectly suited for young children.

Its colourful art design and generally forgiving nature is beyond child friendly. If youíre running along and miscalculate a jump, donít worry, just suck in some air and float to safety. Itís also next to impossible to empty your health bar and die in the game, at least not until the later levels. Graphically, it is extremely impressive and at times the art direction looks almost hand painted. This isnít an easy feat, especially not on the relatively underpowered Wii.


That tree is in for a world of hurt.

It also features a great co-op mode. The second player can either play as a Kirby clone or one of a selection of four other secondary characters. The strangest of these co-op characters is King Deedeedee. Heís usually the main enemy in the Kirby franchise and now suddenly heís your best friend. How on earth did that happen? The best part of Return To Kirbyís Dreamlandís co-op mode is the fact that you can move through your partnerís character. This was a huge issue in New Super Mario Bros, I could not stand playing the game with my girlfriend. She constantly caused me to fall to my death.

However, experienced players may become bored with Kirbyís latest adventure. Floating through almost every level with relative ease is a definitive possibility for anyone with experience with the Kirby franchise, even just generic platforming games in general. If youíre playing cooperatively with a friend, Kirbyís Return To Dreamland becomes insanely easy.


With four players, you're essentially invincible. That doesn't mean it isn't fun though.

For the challenge seeking gamer, there are much more difficult special zones located in each level and collectable gears. Some of the gears are insanely difficult to retrieve, requiring specific powerup types and a fair amount of ingenuity. Unlike collectables in some games, these gears actually have a purpose. They allow you to unlock various mini-games and timed stages. My favourite mini-game was the Ninja Dojo star throwing challenge; itís simple yet addictive and is a welcome change of pace.

The Kirby formula is still fun, sucking up enemies and stealing their abilities is a blast. The inclusion of new super attacks is a little over the top though; they pretty much destroy everything on the screen in one attack. But, itís pretty satisfying to obliterate every single enemy in the area. To me, Kirby has always been a b-list Nintendo character. Iím not sure why I feel like this, but I think it probably has something to do with the seriesí strange enemies. Many of them seem like generic knock offs of Mario characters. A mummified floating monster that stops moving when you look at it? I thought that was called a Boo.

Kirbyís Return To Dreamland is a great game and thereís a whole lot of fun to be had in it, especially if youíre playing with a few friends. The problem is, most gamers will find it far to simple and easy. Of course, thereís ways to make the game more challenging, like collecting the gears strewn throughout the relatively short gameís levels, but that doesnít adequately make up for how easy it is.

Overall Score: 7/10

Recommendation: Buy it! (but only if youíre a fan of the Kirby franchise)

Pros

-Itís a classic Kirby sidescroller

-It doesnít bring a lot of new features to the series

-Great introduction to platformers and great for children

-The graphics are eye catching, colourful and downright beautiful

Cons

-Itís too easy for most gamers out there

-Itís a relatively short game and can be finished in a few hours   read


12:04 PM on 12.15.2011

Review Ė Mario Kart 7 ďThe First Nintendo Game With Great Online FeaturesĒ



Mario Kart 7 introduces a number of new features to Nintendoís fan favourite kart racing franchise, but it still ends up playing almost identically to its predecessors. Thatís not necessarily a bad thing though, because Mario Kart is the kind of franchise where too much tweaking of the core mechanics mean it just isnít Mario Kart anymore. Mario Kart 7 attempts to maintain this delicate balance, keeping enough of the game the same, but also introducing new original features to keep things fresh.

The ability to customize your kart with various different wheels, body types, and hang glider attachments adds a welcome dose of customization to the relatively simple franchise. Unfortunately, these parts do little more than alter your Kartís appearance and donít have much to do with actual performance. These items are unlocked by collecting points over the course of the gameís various circuits.

Mario Kart 7′s other original features, such as driving under water and hang gliding through the air, also spice up races a fair amount. At times, driving under water may seem a little over the top, but this is Mario Kart after all, the same game that lets you shoot shells at your opponents. Wacky power-ups are part of Mario Kart 7′s appeal, and these new features add a strategic element when selecting parts for your car and under different racing conditions you may want to choose specific parts.

Mario Kart 7, for the first time in the history of the series, offers the chance to race in the first person perspective. Although interesting, it doesnít really work all that well with the usual Mario Kart mechanics. It also makes power sliding around corners rather difficult. This view is the best way to enjoy the gameís subtle 3D effect though. Other racers, shells and Donkey Kongís giant head, all pop out at you in glorious 3D. Of course, the effect is still there in the traditional Mario Kart 7 third person mode, itís just not as visible.


Racing in first person is fun, just not very practical.

One of my main gripes with the game is the fact that it only features 17 racers; Mario Kart for the Wii had over 25 playable racers. All of the franchise mainstays are there, Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach, but some of the Wii titleís notable characters are absent (Funky Kong and Waluigi are gone).

On the positive side, Mario Kart 7 features a robust online multiplayer mode; possibly the most elaborate of any Nintendo title ever made. Unfortunately, it still utilizes the awkward friend code system that all online 3DS games use (very few 3DS titles actually have any kind of online features).

The game has a standard race and battle matchmaking mode that pits up to eight players, with similar in-game rankings, against other gamers from around the world. It would have been great to see the gameís coin runners (a battle mode where players collect coins) and time trial mode available through matchmaking, but unfortunately neither mode is included. A friend, recent opponents and local play option is available. The recent opponents screen is great if youíve played a few races with some awesome people; it makes it easy to find them again and set up a new race.

The gameís community mode is where things start to get interesting and unique. It gives players the option to create their own Ďcommunityí, give it a unique name, icon, mode and allows you to select specific items and tracks, all identified by an extremely long community number. The idea is that you distribute this number to people you want to be in your community, forming a group. Also, the players in your community donít have to be on your 3DSís friends list. This gives you tons of people to play with, without having to clutter your friends list . Itís also very convenient.

Apparently, Mario Kart 7ís community mode was supposed to be standard in all 3DS games at launch, but was delayed in order to rush the system to release. Hopefully, it is included in other 3DS titles as itís a great way to navigate around the systemís complicated friend code system.

Any Miis collected through the 3DSís Streetpass feature who have also played Mario Kart 7, will be added to the gameís Mario Kart Channel. However, communicating with these new friends is difficult as the game lacks any kind of voice chat. I found this very disappointing; voice chat should be standard even in online portable games. Without this feature, communicating with other players is next to impossible. Sending short pre-set one or two word messages doesnít exactly work in todayís modern online gaming era.


Customizing your Kart makes it look pretty awkward sometimes.

I didnít encounter any lag while gaming online and the title plays surprisingly smoothly. The Mario Kart formula is still as fun (and frustrating) as it was back on the Super Nintendo and the franchiseís new community feature recreates the feeling of racing karts in your best friendís basement (without being able to talk to them of course). The blue spiked shell power-up is still amazingly frustrating. Imagine this; youíre about to cross the finish line in first place, when all of a sudden a spiked blue object appears out of nowhere, blasting your kart into the air and resulting in a last place finish. But this is Mario Kart, it isnít a very balanced game and itís full of wacky power-ups. So issues like this are to be expected and they are part of what make Mario Kart 7 the accessible party title many people adore so much.

Mario Kart 7 is a step in the right direction for Nintendo in the online department and I can see the gameís community feature fostering a fantastic online group of players. Hopefully, its superb community system is included in future Nintendo 3DS titles. It makes playing against other players online with specific settings an absolute breeze.

Overall Score: 9/10

Recommendation: Buy It!

Pros

-Itís the same frantic Mario Kart gameplay youíve been playing for years

-It features a great collection of new and old tracks

-The graphics are superb

-Online features are very robust

Cons

-It features less characters than the Wii version

-The 3D effect doesnít Ďpopí as much as in other games.   read


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