Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games Review

If there was ever such a thing as a low budget Mario and Sonic game then this is it. We no longer have the intense campaign mode from the first game and we don’t even get to keep the tournaments. With all of the characters and games already unlocked as well you just have to wonder what the developers were thinking. It’s not a bad game but it doesn’t do anything to help the Olympics legacy. It would have gone over better if this had been the first title in the series.

We do have a new mode though and that is essentially Mario Party mode. Here you run around a board trying to get items and bump into one of the characters who is running around. This will trigger a mini game. You want to win the mini games to get cards that you can put in your sticker album. Once you’ve obtained 16 stickers (or more depending on the length you choose) you will have won the game. Inside your sticker board you have two random items as well which may steal stickers from other players or just give you extras. They’re pretty handy so use them wisely. If you want to blast through the party then simply seek out the NPCs as soon as possible. I’m not sure if there is even a point to delaying it to be honest since grabbing the items didn’t actually seem to be doing anything. There’s probably something that I’m missing though.

I also have to point out that the mini games are starting to randomly get convoluted here. You should always be able to get a basic understanding of the game from the rules section before it starts. That wasn’t the case for the Dream Bike mini game. This one is a team game of 4 vs 4. You have to try and stay in a perfect line and shake your way to the goal. The problem is that you have to switch places during the race and the controls for being in the back were not clear. I struggled as best as I could but I just couldn’t form a line and I ended up losing the mini game and nearly the whole party map. I actually did lose the first time I played the mode, but I got them the second time.

Even the really solid games suffer from dicey instructions. Take the Nintendo/Sega trivia. The questions were solid and with prep time I could probably even get them right. However the game tells you to hold the Wii Remote horizontally when in fact you are supposed to hold it vertically. This cost me the very first question which I knew I would have gotten right. So the main point here is to read the rules carefully and be warned that you may not be able to win some of these games on the first try because you will have to figure out how it works.

One of the new games that is pretty solid is the throwing darts one. You essentially have to hit the bullseye as quickly as possible and try to get others. Essentially I don’t know if you go for all of the bullseyes but that would make sense. I hit 2 and won the mini game so just aim for the center and you will be all set.

We’ve also got some games that I believe are old like Table Tennis and Soccer. Table Tennis is the same old same old so I wouldn’t expect too much more out of that one. It’s a fun game as always but it didn’t take much effort to port it over. I forgot if soccer already existed or not but it doesn’t look good for this game either way since the soccer gameplay is probably the weakest I’ve ever seen in the genre. I know low budget Wii games with better soccer gameplay. Your passes always go too high so it is usually safest to take the bell through the whole field yourself before shooting. That’s just not good gameplay and teamwork is supposed to be the name of the game here. I just don’t know how you can possibly mess up a game like soccer this way.

100mm Swinming is another mini game that doesn’t even try to hide how recycled it is. It’s the exact same controls as always in what appears to be the same background. It’s a good mini game so I’m fine with it coming back of course, but we just should have had more games. Reusing minigames is like bringing back old fighters in a classic fighting game. It’s a great move and one that I stand by 100%. However, if the cast is unchanged then there is no point in upgrading as in the case of Godzilla Save The Earth to Godzilla Unleashed on the PS2.

What this Olympics should have done was have close to 40-50 events. They could easily have brought back events from the previous games in addition to a bunch of new ones. The only reason why I could see this being a bad thing is if they are trying to perfectly emulate the games that will be at each Olympics. If that is the case then I suppose they will need to find another solution (have the old mini games be unlockable) but either way we definitely needed more games than the rather limited amount that we got.

The graphics look nice as always at least. It’s about the same as the last game only without the cinematic cutscenes so maybe it is actually a downgrade. Those cutscenes strike me as being the hard part after all but maybe the gameplay is just as difficult. Either way the last game did manage to do both so I’d give it the edge. When it comes to the soundtrack there is no contest that the last one was better. It blended together a bunch of brilliant themes from both Mario and Sonic which made the games even more fun. While this game has a lot of those songs in the music player, don’t expect to hear them very often.

As far as the replay value goes I suppose that there is a lot to buy here. You can use your money to buy clothes which boost your stats and you can try to earn medals for all of the various mini games. That could take a little while and then you also have a lot of challenges to complete for the bragging rights. Complete all of the challenges and you will really be an Olympics champ. Considering that the game is pretty cheap I’d say that this is already enough value to justify the cost.

Overall, This is one of those games that may have been more acceptable if it had been the first in the series. However it is the third and after seeing what this series could really do with the second game it feels like a total downgrade. The game just lost all of its heart and it felt like the developers just cashed it in this time. There wasn’t much effort put behind this game as far as I could see and even though this is a decent game I would recommend going back to buy the Winter Olympics instead.

Overall 6/10


Donkey Kong Barrel Blast Review

It’s time to look at Nintendo’s biggest mistake when it comes to the racing genre. A DK racer practically writes itself and just has a ton of potential. It’s a shame that the game squandered this so readily. Motion controls are what hold this game back and while it was an attempt by Nintendo it completely backfired. Sometimes just because an idea makes sense in concept doesn’t mean that it should be implemented. This is most certainly one of those times.

There is no story mode of course but we do have a few different tournaments at the ready. There are 4 main tournaments and 2 bonus ones. The bonus tournaments allow you to pick your own stages to have a tournament with friends and another one allows you to randomize the stages. Both are handy when playing with friends but you don’t get a trophy for clearing them so there is no single player incentive. The main tournaments start out at 3 races and eventually go to 5. There are multiple difficulty levels but you are forced to start with Rookie so I just stayed at that level. Even then the game is surprisingly difficult. You have to stay at top speed and use a lot of boosts if you want to come out on top here. Of course, the Mario Party luck factor is around here so sometimes you’ll just get blasted by other racers behind you which is out of your control. Not much can be done about that.

Each racer is using a pair of drums instead of a car. It is for this reason that instead of accelerating like normal you must beat the drums to keep going fast. You have to make the motion of hitting the drums constantly to stay at peak levels and just hit one drum to turn. Hit both at the same time to jump and hold down on the Nunchuk to activate your boost. Your boost is the most important skill that you have here. It can change a whole race and just know that you can extend your boost by hitting enemies or normal barrels. If you time the boost right you can keep it going for a very long time. Just focus on the combo and don’t use your boost unless you see something to bump into.

There are a lot of games that can be called painful while you are playing them, but there aren’t many which you can say that in a literal sense. Your wrists will be absolutely exhausted after playing this game and I am convinced that it wouldn’t be healthy if you played this game long term. You can even expect some neck and back pain if you were straining a lot and too rigid while playing. Naturally the trick is to simply not play too hard but that’s easy to say until one of the computers passes you. Then it’s back to hitting the drums as quickly as you can.

When it comes to the graphics then this game finally gets to shine. The character models are definitely on point and are appropriately high quality. The levels all look great and there is a lot of variety to be found here. Whether it be Jungles, Volcanoes, or even Space DK has you covered. The final level in the game is the hype space one and it is as cool as you may expect. I was pleasantly surprised at how much effort Nintendo put into some parts of this game, but maybe I shouldn’t be. In theory this was supposed to be their next big racer. The stage themes are pretty solid as well even if they aren’t all that memorable. I suppose you can’t have every game be quite as legendary as Mario right?

Aside from the tournaments which won’t keep you busy for very long, the game has other modes at its disposal as well. One of those is the challenge mode where you attack various missions and see if you can accomplish them. The missions are actually reasonably difficult as you can easily lose a stage if you’re not entirely sure how to approach it. Take one wrong shortcut and it’s time to retry. Between the various unlockables and the main tournaments, I think you’ll find that the game has a reasonable amount of content to back the pricing.

All of this is only if you can get past the gameplay though. None of the other stuff will ultimately matter if you wrists simply can’t take the pressure. The items are fun though and if you use them right they will help you take a break. Build up some good boosts and just use it when you know that you’ll be able to keep it going for a while. During this time you don’t need to beat the drums. You have other items like armor and missiles but you have to keep shaking the controllers during this. Interestingly enough, the descriptions in the game say that you can stop shaking once you’re at max speed, but they must have meant that you could stop shaking for a moment because after that the car will immediately start slowing down again. So much for that I suppose.

Overall, Barrel Blast really could have been a good game. It had a lot of the right pieces in place like the animation, soundtrack, and array of content to keep you busy. The one area where it went wrong was with the controls and you’d think that this wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s just so drastic that it ends up bringing the whole game down with it and that’s the unfortunate part. You actually feel like the game isn’t healthy to play. If you want some exercise for your wrist and don’t think that it will end up having a detrimental effect instead, then I suppose you may want to give this game a chance. However, if you’re playing this game in the first place because you want to relax while cruising through the levels then this isn’t the right game to add to your collection. There is nothing relaxing about constantly beating the drums.

Overall 5/10


Secret of Mana Review

The Secret of Mana is an RPG that I had heard of in passing but never focused on too much. It just got lost in the shuffle next to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Well thanks to the HD PS4 remake I have finally gotten to play it. It’s definitely a great RPG as you would expect and the real time/turn based mix will remind you of the .hack series.

I renamed the main characters so bear with me here. Terry is the chosen hero who is finally able to wield the Mana Sword. Everyone is shocked and dismayed because once the sword is lifted the world is supposed to fall into ruin. Terry meets a girl named Terret who needs help in stopping a witch to rescue the hero named Dyluck. Unfortunately this is a dead end but she must continue on her quest and since Terry has nothing more pressing to do at the moment he agrees to join her. Finally, they run into a sprite known as Terry Jr. who was scamming people for money. We show her the error of her ways and add one more member to the party. Now we must attack the enemy fortress and save the planet!

The gameplay is a blend as I mentioned earlier. You have a number under your character. Once it rises to 100 you are free to attack again and deal some damage. While you can attack sooner than that, it will almost definitely miss and even if the attack lands it will be weaker. Furthermore, the count will go back to 0 so waiting it out is just the better option. Also, you should start leveling up your magic early on as it is incredibly useful. Level them all up if you can, but you should focus on 1 in particular to get it to a high level early on. The Gnome magic was really useful for me, but each boss is typically a different element which is why you want a lot of them.

Equipment is extremely handy in this game as well and is basically mandatory to clear the game. You want the top of the line stuff and if you think you can beat an area without purchasing some armor then wait til the next village. Each village gradually adds better equipment options so you save a lot of money by just waiting. Of course, earning money is actually pretty easy in this game so it’s not something that you have to worry about that much. It will come naturally. Likewise, the EXP grind here isn’t bad either. It will go very quickly. That’s why you just want to stay at the top of your game since the A.I. won’t help much. They tend to just get crushed very quickly throughout the game.

Terry is a reasonably solid main character. He does actually talk and everything so he has a real personality. His personality is that he’s a hero and while that may not be all that deep or anything, the character means well. We do get a random plot twist involving his Mom which was kind of out of left field, but Terry took it in stride. Terret is a solid heroine. Her whole adventure is about saving the legendary Dyluck which is a nice twist of events. You rarely see the heroine have to go and save the famous hero and I can definitely get behind this. Shockingly they don’t even try to get you into a contrived romance with her as Terret only has eyes for Dyluck the whole game. I can applaud the title’s restraint here. Terry Jr probably has the least time to get really good, but she’s not a bad character. I still don’t get why she is referred to in the plural sense, but I don’t want to assume that it’s a translation error. Either way, she helped to raise everyone’s spirits.

As far as the villains are concerned, I would have liked them to have had more screen time. The villain group shows up out of nowhere and half of them are defeated quite quickly and without a chance to really show off their personalities. The King who makes a deal with the main villain wasn’t very smart, but made for a decent antagonist. Thanatos is the main villain to watch out for and he is definitely pretty strong. I like the design and he made for a cool antagonist. Then we have the Team Rocket trio who felt really out of place. They weren’t quite as hype as the others.

One major plot point is that you have to choose a side. Destroy the Mana Beast or destroy the Fortress. I felt like the game couldn’t really decide which the right option was as the Fortress is evil from the start, but by the end of the game we decide to destroy the Beast instead to balance things. This was part of the main plot and it made no sense. Now, I know a lot of behind the scenes stuff happened with this game and that is probably what made the plot feel rather off at times. It’s unfortunate but that’s also part of why I consider this RPG’s plot to be one of the weakest RPG plots in a while. It takes a little bit to get going and then once it does it’s like we’re playing an abridged game. Not to the same extent as Sonic Forces fortunately, but enough that parts of the plot feel weird like with the Beast. Personally I would have helped the guy, but apparently he was going to destroy the planet in the process so I suppose that wasn’t a viable option. Then we have a guy named Genma who talks tough throughout the game, but never actually got to do anything. Ah well, at least he looks rally tough.

The graphics were switched from sprites to 3D character models which usually works pretty well, but perhaps not in this case. The boss designs looked a little more intimidating in the original version and the colors were nice and sharp. As far as the cutscenes go, the characters don’t actually move their mouths while talking half of the time. Not a big deal I suppose, but basically it had the art style of World of Final Fantasy without the detail. I guess if this allowed the game to come out a few years early then it was probably worth it. As far as the soundtrack goes we have quite a few tunes. Each area has a different theme and they all work pretty well. They are classic rpg style themes so they should remind you of the good ole days.

The length of the main campaign is roughly 20 hours give or take so it’s definitely a solid amount of time for the rpg. You will almost certainly need to grind by the end so I’ll give you a pro tip here. Max out your Dryad skill since you cannot defeat is he final boss without it. I made it to the final boss without leveling it up at all which meant I had to go back and grind it out. If you level it naturally then it won’t actually feel like a grind. You’ll probably end up shaving an hour or two off as well. For replay value you can probably nab most of the trophies to end up with the Platinum. Out of the 38 in the game, I think around 26 are obtained just for completing the game. That’s a pretty solid number if you ask me. If you want to get the Platinum then you need to make a backup save before you beat the Blue Dragon as there are some rare item drops that you can’t go back for. It’s probably a good idea to defeat every new enemy you see as well to register them. Getting the Platinum here isn’t hard at all but it does take a little time and nobody wants to replay a 20 hour game just to get one missed trophy.

Overall, Secret of Mana was a pretty fun game. As far as RPG stories go the plot was rather weak, but the gameplay was still enjoyable. I just love RPGs in general as leveling up and grinding can be a blast. I can see why they got so big back in the day. Many RPGs will end up being quite solid by the end since you get used to the characters as you shared so much time together. This one is no exception and there is certainly a lot to do. Even without replay value, the story length justifies the price that you paid for it. Maybe I’ll get to play some more Mana games in the future. Until then, I recommend checking out this game and seeing what the Secret of Mana has to offer you. It’ll test your mettle one way or the other.

Overall 8/10


Tekken Review

Tekken has always been a fun franchise. The gameplay is a lot more simplistic than Street Fighter at a glance and every blow you land is satisfying because of the loud sound as well as the splash of color. While I probably remember Tekken 5 the most and played it quite a big back in the day, the whole franchise is pretty hype. I knew that I had to dive into the mobile game once it came out.

Unlike most mobile games, Tekken has a real story mode with an actual ending as opposed to most mobile titles that keep on going forever. It was a nice change of pace and I think it’s a good thing that the game came out with the full story right from the start. Granted, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if some kind of dlc expansion came up at some point. So the plot of the game is that a mysterious foe known as Remnant has surfaced. He has begun mind controlling some of our friends in his quest to possibly destroy the world. Kazuya decides to take this guy down but he realizes that just having himself and Nina likely would not be enough to do much of anything. As such he must start recruiting more fighters to his cause and along the way they will beat Remnant’s mind controlled lackeys to free them. It will be a tough fight, but Kazuya is always ready.

The story mode will take you a couple of days at most so it’s not very long. There are 3 main chapters and each one has 5 acts. Each act has around 5-12 fights in them and each fight can end in about a minute or so. The difficulty rises slightly as you go through but not by much since if you want a challenge you can just try fighting the story on a higher level. A couple of days is actually generous since this is about 2 hours, but you may not be playing the game that much at home when you have home console games to play instead.

The gameplay is a classic tap title like the various Marvel and DC fighting games. As far as I know it may be that all of the fighting games use this as the default control scheme. Perhaps it just makes the most sense when it comes to how the phone is set up. Regardless, tap to attack, hold your finger on your character to block, and tap on your cards for super attacks. You can string together combos with your cards and deal a whole lot of damage. You’ll have the gameplay basically mastered before very long.

Aside from the story there are quite a few other modes. This is one of those mobile games that does have a lot of post story content to keep you going at least. There are daily events which happen….every day and they give you a chance to get tokens and characters. The game has around 70 characters I believe although many of them are clones. There are also a bunch of made up characters, but that’s still preferable to clones I guess. Do we need 3-4 different Nina Williams? They all have the same attire and fighting skills, the only difference is their star rank. I believe I got around 12-15 of the characters which isn’t too shabby.

You can also fight other players of course. Not really in real time though, but you fight their Dojo and try to get points that way. The rewards seem pretty reasonable to be honest. Then there is the shop where you spend your coins and tokens. Bandai has a lot of experience with creating apps so it makes sense that they were able to set up so much for this game. In a world without Pokemon Go perhaps I would play this game more, but seeing as how it does exist I won’t really be playing this one now that the story is over. It’ll join the ranks of Sonic Forces, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Ingress as I just log in every day to get the daily bonus. If they add in a story update then I’ll check that out of course. I wouldn’t be surprised as the Marvel Contest of Champions game that I mentioned earlier is very similar, but it had hundreds of levels. That amount is pretty daunting to be honest and I didn’t bother even going through a quarter of it. It’s not like the plot ever seemed to move. That’s an issue here as well, but since the story is so short it’s okay that it only has a short cutscene at the beginning and ending.

As far as the graphics go, the game does a good job of looking like the mainstream titles. The character models are on point and the attack animations are good. I couldn’t really ask for much more than that and the simple fact that you could mistake this for a home console game shows how solid it is. The soundtrack is rather limited, but the tune has a lot of replay value. You won’t mind hearing it over and over again which is certainly a very good thing.

The only real negative to the game is that the servers are still wonky at the moment. Sometimes you’ll beat an opponent but then the game won’t count it and you have to keep beating them until it does. The best thing to do in this case is typically to log out and then go back in. The game does have an interesting health mechanic though as when your fighter loses you must heal them with an item. If you are out of items then you must use another one. I guess Pokemon Go has a feature like this, but getting health items here can be a little trickier. It’s a problem you may have down the road, but at the very least you’ll definitely have enough to get through the main campaign.

Overall, Tekken doesn’t do anything new in the mobile genre, but it still manages to be a solid game. Naturally if you’re a big Tekken fan then this game already has many reasons for you to play this. It will depend on how many fighting game apps of this type you’ve played before and if you want to go with this one or not. There are some server issues but as the game gets older and people leave that shouldn’t be much of a problem. I’d recommend the game, it’s a solid title that will have a continuous stream of content for at least a year and likely longer. Running out of things to do won’t be an issue.

Overall 7/10


Mario Tennis Open Review

It’s time to take a look at a Mario Tennis game that was pretty much overshadowed the instant it came out. That’s because it’s basically the same as playing the Gamecube game except with no cutscenes and less games. As a result, there is little reason to buy this game unless you desperately want to play it on the go. Nonetheless, it was only 10 dollars so I figured..why not? It was basically free thanks to a coupon and I’m glad I got it. The game doesn’t do anything unique, but it still has good tennis fundamentals.

There is no story mode of course and so the closest thing is the traditional Tournaments. There are 8 tournaments and each tournament has 3 rounds. Complete the first 4 to unlock the star version of the character you are playing. The battles never actually get too tough. One thing I noticed about the AI is that if you let them get to the ball then you are unlikely to win a rally against them. Fortunately they can’t seem to handle your serve on any level so you can easily score with your return. If you don’t then you will most likely have lost the point. That adds a little extra tension to the rounds I would say.

You can complete all of the tournaments in a little under 2 hours. To help with the replay value, you can do that with every character in order to get all of their Star Forms and some more items for the shop. Every time you win a match a random item is unlocked for purchase. The annoying thing is that the tournaments don’t get you any money though. To earn money you have to play the minigames. They are surprisingly difficult though so clearing all of them could take some time. This way at least you are earning money and accomplishing at the same time. That’s a plus right? Before talking about the minigames, I suppose I should mention that we also have Doubles tournaments. I was never the biggest fan of doubles and didn’t really go into that mode, but it’s sure to add more length to the game. As per always with sport games, the true replay value occurs if you have someone to play with. Otherwise you likely won’t end up sticking with the game for very long. I find it telling that the game is only 10 dollars when Nintendo games rarely go down in price until a very long time has passed.

There are 4 minigames. One has you relive some of the old 2D Mario levels as you try to keep a rally going while going through the level. It’s a fun concept, but a little too slow for my liking. The level goes by incredibly slowly so it’s more tedious than difficult. Ideally you want to have a good mix of both. It’s probably my least favorite minigame. Then we have Coin Mode. You have to shoot through the rings and gain as many coins as possible. This one is probably the most rigged as it will largely depend on your opponent. As a result I actually lost the Silver version of this game. It’s a decent concept, but I don’t care for the execution.

Time for the 2 best minigames. One is a Rally where you have to keep returning the ball without letting the computer touch it. This one’s actually pretty fun and it’ll definitely test your reaction times as the plants fire the ball at you. You won’t know which one is shooting until the very end. Finally, the best minigame is the rally one. You have to keep hitting a ball back and forth as parts of the stage vanish. This game is taken directly from the Gamecube one and so you can probably see why it is the best. It was just thought through very well and is the right blend of challenging and length. The time goes by slowly at first, but by the end you’ll barely notice. These minigames may not be much, but at least they give the game a little more content.

I haven’t talked much about the actual gameplay, but that’s mainly because there isn’t a lot to be said. It’s a very standard tennis game. You feel the power behind each hit and have different options on how to strike the ball. You fire off a high one, a low one, or a standard shot. You do seem to have special attacks, but I couldn’t figure out how to use them and didn’t even need them in the end so that’s why I didn’t try very hard. Perhaps I would have needed it against Ace level opponents at some point. The game has a dynamic camera view option, but I recommend turning it off. It’s distracting to suddenly have the game zoom in when you head to the net. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea, but it was probably the same person who doesn’t give the game the option to remember your choice. As such, you have to turn it off again after each match. It seemed really random though so at least you don’t have to worry about it happening after every match. Otherwise, I have no qualms with the actual gameplay, it’s what you would expect from a Tennis title.

The graphics look really good. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the effort went here although perhaps the character models were just grabbed from somewhere. As there aren’t any real cutscenes it probably wasn’t too hard to just focus on the models. Every character looks to be on point and the stages look sharp as well. The game delivers on this front. When it comes to the soundtrack, it’s fairly decent but forgettable as far as Mario games go. You likely won’t remember it all that well by the time you finish the game.

Overall, Mario Tennis Open is a good game. The Tennis gameplay is solid and that’s really what counts. There just isn’t any extra content to keep you busy. Your attention will only stay on this game for as long as you enjoy playing tennis. I suppose collecting all of the items could help if you’re really a serious collector, but there isn’t a whole lot of point to getting it all otherwise. If you see it in stores for a fair price then I recommend checking it out. I can’t imagine grabbing it at full price though. No matter how fun Tennis is, it just wouldn’t have been worth it.

Overall 7/10


Captain America: Super Soldier Review

It’s time to take a look at one of the final Superhero titles that I had yet to play in the modern era. A character like Captain America certainly comes with a unique fighting style and one that the game handled well. I didn’t expect to find it for around 5 dollars at Gamestop, but it just goes to show that you never know what kind of gem you’ll find there. As a loyal Gamestop supporter I must urge you to go there, but don’t get conned into going for Elite Reward Status unless you seriously shop there a lot or desperately want the Buy 2 Get 1 Free coupon.

The plot of the game is that Captain America has infiltrated another Hydra base. At this location, Zola is experimenting to create his own version of the super soldier serum and if he succeeds then it could turn the tide of the whole war. Cap has to stop this weapon at all costs, but he can’t do it alone. That’s where the Invaders come in. They’ve got heavy artillery backing then up so maybe, just maybe the heroes have a chance.

At its core this game is a classic 3D brawler like most of the other superheroes. You will do some platforming as you jump from place to place but most of the time you will be beating up on Hydra agents. The platforming is also pretty easy because your jumps automatically link to where you will want to go and an arrow will show if you can make it or not. If you fall anyway then you simply were not paying attention. If you’ve played pretty much any 3D game like this then you should also be prepared to break some switches and handle miscellaneous tasks.

Now the combat is where the game gets a little more creative. This is Captain America after all, you will be going in expecting to use his shield quite a bit right? Well the game doesn’t disappoint. You can throw the shield around to stun multiple enemies. The more you upgrade the shield skill, the more enemies you can target at once. It’s really handy for when you’re surrounded. Of course, sometimes you want to test your mettle in close range combat and that is always a viable option. When fighting off enemies with your fists you can feel the satisfying sound effect behind each blow. Furthermore, your reaction times are important here as you will have to press the Z button when you are about to be attacked to parry the hit and keep on beating them down. The timing isn’t quite as strict as in some other games and it is hard to miss the visual cue. As a result, you can basically fight off armies by the end of the game and it feels awesome. You can be surrounded and then begin delivering your haymakers until the fight is over. The fight style the game uses is very cinematic which lines up well with the films. You won’t even notice the Wii Remote much since you are focusing on just hitting everything. The motion controls only come into play when you start throwing your shield around, but time slows to a crawl at this point so that compensates for the extra time it takes to move the shield around. You will likely still get tagged once or twice in Cap Mode since when you’re surrounded even slowing down time isn’t always enough. To prevent the game from getting too easy, berserk enemies don’t trigger your Cap Sense so you can’t parry them and the same goes for all of the villains with guns.

Unfortunately the graphics aren’t great. It’s not so much the effects or the backgrounds, but it is the character models that just don’t seem right. Captain America’s proportions just don’t seem right. His top half is just too huge and the rest of him looks too small. I guess maybe he just skipped leg day. One good thing about this style though is that it lets the game go all out with giving us mini cutscenes here and there. The scene where a minion shows up and grabs the shield was pretty hype. He quickly learned that I was still more than a match for him though. The music wasn’t especially memorable or anything like that but I did like the main menu theme. It was a nice rock theme that got you hyped for what the game was about to bring in.

There are 9 levels in the game with the average length being about 20 minutes per level. The game isn’t all that long as a result, but it didn’t feel too short either. It’s a fairly standard length for a movie tie-in which admittedly isn’t saying much. You can get the game for a few dollars though so the price helps to counter this. There is a little replay value to be found here as you can go back to the levels and try to grab the collectibles to unlock some more costumes. Not a great incentive for me, but it’s definitely better than nothing. At the end of the day, this is a very basic game with no extra frills. The main campaign has to be enough to sell you on the product and it worked well enough for me.

Overall, Captain America is a pretty fun superhero title. It may not be as high budget as you’d like, but does a good job of depicting what you would expect from Cap’s fighting style into a great gameplay experience. Throwing around the shield just feels right and can really be used to extend combos. Naturally, bouncing it off walls and such won’t work quite like in the movies, but Sega did a good job all things considered. This is a considerable step up from the recent Batman game that I played and I can certainly recommend checking it out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Overall 7/10


Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis Review

It’s been a little while since I played the original Mario vs Donkey Kong so it was finally time to check out the sequel. Unlike the first game which used a mix of Mario and Mini levels, this one double down on the Minis. They’re definitely fun to play around with so while you will probably miss the standard levels, the Minis can hold their own game. It’s a fun sequel that gives you what you expect from this series.

The plot is that Mario dolls are selling really well while nobody wants the Donkey Kong ones. Pauline even grabs the Mario one while DK watches to rub it in. In return DK kidnaps Pauline and Mario was so busy antagonizing him that he didn’t have enough time to save her. Instead Mario sends in the Minis, but can they really hope to stop the legendary Donkey Kong? This guy packs a punch so they will have to use their sheer numbers and skill to put a stop to him.

This time around the gameplay uses the stylus the whole time as this is what allows you to control the Minis and to set off stage hazards. You must guide the 2-4 Mini Marios to the door which signals the end of the level. You win as long as one Mario survives, but naturally you get bonus points if you can get multiple Marios to the end. There will also be vines which you have to lure other enemies to destroy, springs to jump on, and many enemies that you can ride. The levels will usually allow you to get used to the hazards before they throw you in. The game never gets all that difficult though so you should have no problem getting through.

There are 8 worlds with each world having 9 normal levels in addition to a Mini level if you found all of the cards and a boss level as well. Then there are 2 final levels if you have gotten enough collectibles. Interestingly enough all of the boss fights except for the final one are the same fight, but with some added twists. You’re always trying to launch the Marios high up in order to either hit DK or cause something to fall on him. It may have been a stylistic choice to have the bosses be the same or a budget one, but it’s a pretty fun boss concept either way. Bouncing the Marios off the walls while trying to avoid the critters is just as tricky as it sounds.

The graphics look nice and colorful as you’d expect from Mario. The levels are all fairly compact and so the game doesn’t really need to go all out. Most of the objects and enemies are fairly similar so it likely wasn’t too hard to get all of the character models polished. As a result I would definitely expect everything to look good and it does so there’s definitely no issue. Nintendo always tends to deliver here. The soundtrack is fairly bland for a Mario game though. There aren’t really any memorable themes to be found here. You’ll likely be too focused on controlling the Marios to really notice this though.

After beating the game you do have some replay value when it comes to unlocking all of the bonus levels. You’ll want to get gold ranks on all of the stages and collect all of the cards for bonus Mini levels. Grabbing the cards is a fairly easy task, but good luck going for the golds. The game really expects you to earn them as nabbing the gold basically means that you have to play the stages perfectly. I actually think that this is the reason why beating the game was surprisingly very easy. Nintendo decided to make it so that you could breeze through the story and see the ending, but getting the gold medals would be the challenge. A lot of the levels start you off with at least one Mario right by the goal so you would be guaranteed to win, but if you wanted the rest of the Marios to survive then you would have to actually play the level and use teamwork to get through. Moving one Mario is easy enough, but coordinating all of them will likely take some practice.

I do have to quickly say that Mario looks rather iffy in this game. I still say that he was really antagonizing DK in the opening cutscene as he grins while Pauline holds his doll. That’s fine since of course he’d be thrilled, but he’s grinning directly at DK as the ape’s doll is completely ignored. He seems fine at the end and Pauline probably goes a little overboard when trying to make DK feel better, but I just can’t forget the opening. Something tells me that Mario is still holding a grudge with DK over some of the things that happened to them back in the day. I wish I didn’t have to put Mario on blast like this, but I can’t come to any other conclusion.

Overall, Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 March of the Minis is a fun sequel to the original. The original game will still take the win due to not having to rely on touch screen controls and having some normal Mario levels as well, but this one does a good job of operating well with the stylus. You will rarely if ever die because the game couldn’t read your swipe and you’ll probably end up grabbing a lot of cards along the way to beating the game normally. By then you may find yourself wanting to grab the final cards just so you will have truly completed the game. If you’re a Mario fan or just like brain teasers then this is the game for you. It’ll force you to always be thinking 3 steps ahead.

Overall 7/10


RWBY Grimm Eclipse Review

As a big RWBY fan I knew that it was about time that I finally got to play the official game. Granted, it’s fairly low budget and a first test of sorts rather than being the next big game, but I still shelled out the quick $15. It’s a fun game and definitely one that is a lot more fun if you play with multiplayer so you can actually grab most of the trophies. You need to go online for the rest as well, but more on that later.

The basic plot of the game is that an evil scientist is using Grimm for some very nefarious experiments. Even the shady Ozpin states that this guy is too dangerous and we should avoid him. Unfortunately, team RWBY ends up getting trapped on the island with the guy and they must now stop his plans and survive for as long as they can. Does the team have what it takes to stop this guy?

The plot is fairly basic and you’re only told what is happening via voice over from various characters during the chapters. It’s cool that we got some voice over even if there aren’t any actual cutscenes. You’ll really be focusing on the gameplay here above all else. It’s a classic beat em up where you have to defeat all of the enemies in order to move on. You have 3 main forms of attacking. There are the standard attacks, the power attacks, and the ranged attack. Your projectiles are fairly weak, but can be used to stun enemies which is handy for getting a specific trophy or just for buying yourself some time. The standard attacks are nice and fast which you will find yourself using for most of the time. The power attacks deal a lot of damage and are your best bet. You can mix and match both of them for some really good combos which will really make getting through the levels a breeze.

While the graphics aren’t amazing, they’re fairly good. The visuals on the game’s cover and main menu are off model, but inside the actual gameplay the characters are on point and the Grimm look menacing. The levels are bright and look really solid. I’d also have to give the soundtrack a thumbs up for the impressive collection of osts from the show. It is an odd decision to have all of the tunes be instrumental, but I guess they thought the vocals would be distracting? I don’t agree with the decision, but the tunes are still good whether they have lyrics or not.

One point against the game is how short it is. You can beat the whole game in around 2 hours. There are only 10 levels and you get infinite lives to help you out. You also keep whatever exp you earned so eventually you are sure to be able to complete the game. There are trophies which help to serve as replay value, but you can forget about getting most of them if you don’t have PS+. It broke my streak of nonstop A ranks in the recent games as I’ve got a D rank on PSN for this game now. Still, maxing everyone out and going for the trophies that you can will make this game last quite a while. It’ll help justify the 15 dollar price, but it’ll only work if you have PS+.

The difficulty level here is definitely intense since it doesn’t seem like the game scales down when you’re playing on your own. As a result some of the final levels are rather brutal with the minions because they can drain your aura away with ease and deal massive damage. I had to rely on one of Yang’s excellent combos to get the job done against these guys. They definitely were not easy, I can tell you that. The final boss is also crazy strong as you essentially just have to keep running as you dodge all of the attacks from the many minions and strike back when you get a chance. There’s technically no RNG to worry about here, but with attacks coming from all sides you have to be pretty fortunate not to get hit by anything. Otherwise you will be taken down very quickly.

There is one mechanic that helps against this though. Instead of a traditional health bar system you have a aura level like in the show. As long as you have aura you can’t really get hurt and the only way to die is to let the enemies get your aura all the way down and then taking a hit. If you notice your aura going down then you should run away very quickly so as not to risk getting hit again. Be careful not to underestimate the Grimm attacks since their claws reach a little longer than you’d think. Being cautious is the best strategy here.

Overall, RWBY Grimm Eclipse is a good game, but one that isn’t quite polished yet. It’s definitely not quite as good as it could be, but I did have fun running through the levels with my button mashing skills. I’ve always been a big fan of beat em ups and at the end of the day you have to forget about everything except the gameplay. The gameplay is good so that’s enough to float the game by. Just take my negatives as warnings so you know what you’re getting into when you get the game. If you’re not a particularly huge fan of the series then this game may offer even less for you as another beat em up would give you the superior experience. It’s just a lot of fun being able to actually play as the title characters from the show. You could also buy the JNPR DLC pack, but considering all of this I think I will be passing on that for the time being. Now I just need to wait for Cross Tag Battle to see the characters again.

Overall 7/10


Power Drome Review

Power Drome is one of those PS2 games that you likely have not heard of before now. If you do know it, then that’s pretty impressive. I got the game because of how the gameplay looked and I definitely am a sucker for futuristic racers. They tend to be a lot of fun and this one is certainly no exception. The single player mode is unrelenting but at least this helps add to the length of the game. The multiplayer is where you will spend the majority of your time though.

There are 3 main modes for you to have fun in. Single Race is just like how it sounds. You pick a track and then test your mettle on it. You have multiplayer mode where you use the racers you have unlocked to have fun on all the tracks. Finally, there is the championship. There’s no real plot unless you count the quick level descriptions. You are trying to rise up the ranks as an up and coming racer so you enter many tournaments and even some 1 on 1 showdowns. Surprisingly the showdowns are the easiest ones and since you unlock racers that way, it definitely works for me. You can earn a gold, silver, or bronze medal based on how well you do.

The difficulty continues to accelerate more and more as you play through the championship. I beat around half of it with the main character before I had to switch to one of my unlocked fighters. Even then the final tournaments proved to be a little too much when it came down to speed. My opponents were just so much faster than me that it was scary. They would leave me in the dust as soon as the race began. The final stages also had a lot of turns so it was difficult to actually gain any ground on the opponents. You can drift in the game, but I found it hard to do reliably and without crashing so I ended up bumping into the walls either way. If I could turn better then defeating these later levels would be considerably easier.

Aside from accelerating and braking, you have two more gameplay additions. You can boost your way through the race by using up some meter. You do get a nice burst of speed, but it’s rather minimal and usually isn’t quite enough to let you get past the opponent. Alternately, you can use your meter to heal your car to prevent yourself from blowing up. This is extremely handy although your speed will take a nosedive temporarily.

The graphics look reasonably sharp. The level designs are good and the cars look high tech as they should be. I wouldn’t say that the graphics are anything to write home about, but they are bright and fairly colorful. You can always tell where you are on the track which is crucial. You do move at really high speeds which can make it tough to start turning on time, but they do have constant signs to let you know where you have to stop so it really comes down to your reaction times.

I’d say that the soundtrack was reasonably solid. Again, you probably won’t write home about it as there’s nothing amazing about it, but the music selection works well as background noise to the races. It’s certainly not slow music so it won’t force you to slam on the brakes.

This game does have some voice acting but it’s mostly just to show off how edgy all of the characters are. Perhaps they aren’t all edgy as I only played as two characters, but as part of their taunts they give the birdy. One guy slams his head on his car repeatedly and the girl shakes her fist at the other racers. I suppose this does seem to take place on more of an underground racing circuit so of course they don’t get along, but it’s almost funny to be doing this during a race. I guess they can drive these incredibly fast machines with one hand. That’s got to take a lot of talent.

There is a good amount of replay value to be found here. Unlocking all of the racers of course, but also clearing Career mode. Both should take a considerable amount of time unless you are a master at this genre. Even then you will still have to get used to this game’s gameplay in particular. Then multiplayer also unlocks a huge amount of replay value. Racing with A.I can be fun but it isn’t quite the same as racing against an actual person.

Playing this game reminds me of why we need more F Zero titles. GX still ranks as one of the greatest racers out there and the futuristic racing genre is just a lot of fun. I’d say that Wipeout does a better job of capturing F Zero’s essence than Power Drome, but as Drome only features a boost and no items, the actual gameplay is a little more similar. You can even boost ram into other cars to try and take them down for the count. Unfortunately it isn’t permanent though. I prefer when you are only given one life in a race. It increases the stakes and really reminds you not to get hit. It’s why F Zero is one of the only racers where I would actively target the other racers as I tried to take them out of commission.

Overall, Power Drome is a fun game. It does have a little more personality than other racing games with the characters being distinct and at least having some kind of career mode. The difficulty is a lot higher than you might expect, but with enough practice I’m sure you will be able to clear the game. At the very least, you will want to do it to unlock the extremely fast racer. If this game got a sequel with more of an actual plot behind it, then I’d be all for it. That would definitely have potential.

Overall 7/10


Batman Dark Tomorrow Review

Batman Dark Tomorrow
Batman has had quite a few video games over the years. I’ve yet to play one that was truly spectacular though. The other games were fairly solid but I’m waiting for a game that will be the next big thing. I got Dark Tomorrow in the hopes that this would be it as the comic driven plot and early 2000s aesthetic would be just what the series needed. Unfortunately a truly dreadful opening ends up severely limiting the game’s potential even though the ending is fantastic.

The game starts off by spoiling the final twist as we see very obvious silhouettes of Ra’s Al Ghoul and Talia. They plan to cleanse the world of humanity. To proceed with this goal they free all of the villains in Arkham to distract Batman. Batman also has to deal with a turf war going on in Gotham and the fact that Commissioner Gordon has also gone missing. Robin and Oracle are ready as backup but Batman decides to handle this alone, that’s how dangerous these villains are.

There’s always a debate about which is more important, gameplay or story. Well, gameplay will always be the most important part of a game and it is certainly what holds this game back. The game just doesn’t tell you anything about the controls and puts in so many red herrings that you aren’t sure what to do. You have extra gadgets that are basically pointless like the flashlight. You can barely move while that thing is one and the light it emits is comically small. You’ve got night vision goggles which are good for a small handful of segments when trying to dodge the trip lasers but you don’t even need to bother with them. I ran through all of the lasers for fun and honestly I didn’t notice a big difference in the amount of enemies that popped up. Then you’ve got the bat grapple 2 different times as one lets you swing and the other lets you shoot up. They are also used quite sparingly. This really feels like the game was meant for pure hand to hand combat and the gadgets were only added since someone in development thought Batman should have them. The Batarangs never get useful and the same goes for the smoke bombs which really don’t fool the villains for a second. The health packs are great though.

The game uses an interesting auto save feature. Basically, you have an unlimited amount of lives and typically wake up in the area that you died instead of going all the way back to when you last saved. However, while the game keeps a local record of your progress, you do still have to save on your own if you want to turn the game off. So just don’t make the mistake of thinking that the game is auto saving even if it does seem that way.

So, why is the gameplay so broken? Well for starters, the game has some really bad puzzle sections that just don’t make sense. The first level has most of these. In one section of the burning street you will try going forward but are quickly riddled with bullets. It doesn’t matter what tactic you try, you will never be able to get through there. You have to instead go through a side road and walk through some burning cars. There’s a small gap there that just seems cheesy. In another level, you are stuck next to a fence and your lock pick inexplicably does not work on the door. The lock pick is another negative as it’s called an ultimate something instead and the game doesn’t even tell you what it does. You will just find out that it’s a lock pick once you use it towards the end of the game. Here’s the problem, the game makes a big deal about it during this gate section as if you are supposed to use it, but you never do in this level. Instead you have to jump on a car and then jump on the roof with perfect precision. If you are slightly off or the game glitches again then you will miss the jump. Due to this, you will likely believe that the jump isn’t possible unless you know beforehand that it is.

Even the combat system is hidden from you. You have two attack options, punches and kicks. You use them to knock the enemies down and then you handcuff them. If you don’t handcuff them, then they will simply keep getting up forever. It’s an odd mechanic especially since you can’t skip the long handcuffing cutscene. What the game doesn’t tell you is that if you hold onto the L button you will unleash a series of rapid kicks and punches which deal a considerably higher damage output and make the bosses child’s play in comparison. You can certainly beat the game without this knowledge and sometimes it’s actually better not to go for a combo since it leaves you vulnerable if the opponent blocks it. I do think that information should be somewhere in the game though.

These are the reasons why the game got off to a rough start. The design of the opening levels where you are stuck in a death loop and the jump over the gate mixed in with the rather choppy combat controls if you don’t know how to combo the hits. However, once you get past the level and master the combat system, then things get fun. The second half of the hand feels like a whole different game. The Arkham level in particular is a lot of fun as you go through a marathon of bosses including Mr Freeze, Killer Croc, Szaz , and Poison Ivy. The bosses are a lot of fun. This is one time where the poor camera angles and the overused cutscenes can be quite fun. It’s pretty satisfying to knock the boss down since you get the full cutscene. Of course, it’s also fun when he knocks you over as well. Once you learn the combos the combat system becomes genuinely fun as well. It’s like an old school arcade game.

Some aspects of the game also shined from the start like the graphics. They are way ahead of their time and look considerably better than any of the other GameCube Batman games. It has a certain comic aesthetic that just works really well with the character models. The first cutscene sets the game on a positive note as it just feels very theatrical. You would not be blamed for thinking that it was a clip from a film. I can’t say as much for the soundtrack unfortunately. I suppose they didn’t put in quite as much effort into this section of the game compared to the others.

The level designs are really large and well thought out. You can be wandering for quite a long time from room to room. Fortunately the game remembers who you have handcuffed until you turn the game off so you don’t have to worry about beating them every time. Unfortunately you aren’t always able to appreciate the levels because of the really bad camera angles. It just keeps on turning whenever you move which really causes you to stop in your tracks or take more hits than you would have liked. It’s pretty distracting and I died a few times thanks to that, but at least there are constant checkpoints.

Then there is the plot which is probably the best plot from any Batman game. We get to see an onslaught of Batman villains throughout and Ra’s can make for a good villain. As par for the course Batman certainly does give him a whole lot of credit but I don’t consider him to be quite as impressive as many of Batman’s other rogues. Oracle did doubt Batman quite a bit in the cutscenes and it was too bad Robin couldn’t help out more, but I suppose the developers really wanted to keep this as a Batman solo game.

There isn’t any real replay value to be had in this game. It’s the kind of title that locks you in next to the final boss so you couldn’t go back and get collectibles even if you wanted too. You could play the whole game again for that, but that’s a little drastic. The value in this game will be in the main story which is really a 50/50 gamble. It’s tough because the climax is so amazing, but I just can’t forget the opening.

I should also mention that the game has around 4-5 endings. I actually ended up with one of the bad endings as I ran into the villains and knocked them all out, but I didn’t deactivate the apocalyptic machine. Apparently that was in the next door over. I also lost to Ra’s once so I actually got to see both endings. Getting to the good ending wouldn’t take very long but I was rather satisfied with the ending I got so I stuck with this one. It’s actually a fairly realistic look at how the situation usually goes if your opponent has a deadman‘s switch.

Overall, Dark Tomorrow is going to have to stay squarely in the middle. The two parts of the game neatly cancel each other out. Dark Tomorrow certainly seems to have divided its team up into various sections and some worked harder than others. If you’re a big Batman fan then I’d recommend checking this game out. Just watch out for the burning level and try to find the truck right away. It’s the best chance you’ve got!

Overall 5/10