Speed Racer Review

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I saw this film a long time ago so it was time for a revisit. I remember watching some of the old Speed Racer cartoon back in the day. It was definitely pretty fun as the show balanced out the races and the anime stakes pretty well. I can’t think of another racing anime where the main character had to take on armed assailants off the track. This film does a pretty reasonable job of adapting the show, but relies a lot on exposition rather than showing us what’s happening. The races are hype, but end up carrying the film.

Speed Racer is determined to be the best racer of all time. That is actually his name by the way so he has a lot to live up too. His brother died in an unfortunate accident a while back after he had slowly been turning to the underworld. His reputation is tainted and Speed Racer’s family has been trying to pick up the pieces ever since. Speed decides to let his brother keep the local racing record, but he still wants the championship. The problem is that corporate business is making a lot of money off of this and they plan to rig the championships. Speed is either in with them on the deal or they’ll destroy him. Can he prove that races are about heart and effort or will greed and money save the day?

First I want to give the film some credit for the world they built around the characters. It really looks like something out of a cartoon with how bright and colorful it is. The backgrounds are obviously fake of course, but whether it’s a set or CGI, it works really well. It doesn’t clash or anything and I’d like to see more films go with this approach. Imagine Dragon Ball Evolution actually having a Capsule City background? I can imagine this approach may not be too popular with critics if it’s over done, but embracing the cartoon route is always a good move if you ask me. Especially since this film dials the effects up to 11 when it comes to the racing and action.

As mentioned earlier the races are quite good. It’s like watching a live action F-Zero as they race down the neon tracks and dodge all manor of attacks. Missiles and other crazy gadgets are attached to the cars. (Quick shoutout to the video game. It perfectly captured every aspect of the movie’s races) You’re at the edge of your seat here and I’ll take this kind of fantastic car battle over the more realistic Fast and the Furious shots any day. The Mach 5 really feels like an ultimate car and gets the respect it deserves. If the whole film was packed with races it would have been really cool.

Unfortunately there are many times where you feel like there aren’t enough race scenes in the movie. The whole first half of the film is essentially speech after speech after speech. The characters just never stop talking and at times this can get old really fast. The film’s writing is certainly not its strongest suit and I think the movie worried too much about trying to paint a picture for the audience. The plot isn’t exactly complex so it should be explained rather quickly. Dragging it out like this just makes me wonder if the writers were confused.

The humor also wasn’t that good here. Spritle and the chimp really didn’t need to be in the film. It’s not as if they added anything to the story and that is unfortunately the problem with most comic relief characters. They just aren’t funny. The more the film tries to make them funny by adding joke after joke, the more forced it all becomes and that makes it backfire.

As far as the cast is concerned, it isn’t bad. Speed makes for a decent lead as he stands up for what’s right and adapts to the cheating competition. I don’t agree with him holding back on the first race though. If anything, Rex would be proud of Speed surpassing him without having to resort to the dark side. I suppose it’s a nice thing to do though so I won’t fault him for that. Speed should probably suspect Racer X’s true identity, but since it was plastic surgery, that makes it all a lot more convincing than it would have been otherwise. (Although to be honest, he looked the same to me and I wouldn’t have guessed there was any plastic surgery) Speed can also fight when necessary even if he isn’t quite strong enough to handle the ninja.

As expected, Racer X is a great character and the best by a longshot. At first you do have to wonder how they can possibly justify Racer X mowing everyone down during the races, but since they were all paid off by the main villain, it makes sense. It’s not as if he’s destroying them either since defeated racers float away in a jello bar. His fight scene with the ninja is one of the stand out moments of the film since the fight scene is actually impressive and played straight. That’s definitely the kind of battle you’d like to see here since the cartoon did have some action as I mentioned earlier.

Trixie is a good main heroine. It’s always nice to see someone standing up to the bullies right from the start. The romance between her and Speed isn’t handled well as expected, but it could certainly be worse. At least she is a likable character so that puts her ahead of some of the others. I thought Sparky got the shaft here since his role was incredibly small and he wasn’t likable at all. I don’t remember what his personality was in the TV show, but I’m inclined to think that he was a lot better there. Here…he just didn’t serve much of a purpose.

The main villain, we may as well call him Mr. Corporate, was okay. He basically checked off all the boxes on how an evil CEO should act. It was interesting to see him try to rig the races, but you can see why it’s such a dangerous game. If even one racer goes too fast or too slow, all of the money he invested is pointless now. Once Speed was in the game, I would have tried to get a refund instantly. He’s just too much of a wild card. The other antagonists like the Chinese CEO and his racer didn’t really serve much of a point. I do think the heroes didn’t do a good job with the plan since it was so easy for them to be portrayed as well. I suppose they’ll be better prepared for the next time though and the villains were inspired by Speed’s race so it all worked out in the end. I’d be game for a sequel if it could work out the negatives.

Overall, Speed Racer succeeds at the main thing it was trying to do, having good races. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on that to carry the whole film forward if the dialogue and story get just as much of a focus. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but it just could have been a lot better. It’s a striking contrast between the dynamic racing scenes and the talking moments. It can be goofy in a fun way at times like the corporate villain coming in for pancakes or just in an obnoxious way like with the monkey. The film couldn’t find that perfect balance which drops it down a star, but is still an entertaining film if you want to watch Speed Racer on the big screen. A sequel or at this point reboot since that’s more likely, just needs to keep up with the races. They don’t need to change anything about that. For the human scenes, they either need to cut down on the exposition since it really hurt the film’s pacing at times, or they just need to get some all star writers on board. Take out the extra humor as well and you’ve got a quality movie. Nintendo should take the plunge and make an F-Zero movie to show these guys how it’s done.

Overall 6/10

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Kawasaki Quad Bikes Review

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It’s time for a racing game that has really fallen to the side of the road. Nobody really knows about this game and that includes me. I just happened to run across it at Gamestop one day and thought that I should pick it up. It was only two dollars after all so that sounded like a steal to me. It plays out as you’d expect with really choppy Wii sensor controls but I can live with that. It’s pretty basic but you’ll quickly find that it has some replay value.

There as really two main modes, Tournament, and Free Play. Fortunately the game is multiplayer enabled so you can ride the tracks with a friend. It’s not 4 player so you can already feel the budget limitations. There are also a very limited amount of stages. There are 3 Cups with 8 races each but instead of 24 levels, a bunch of them are reused. I didn’t count them all since the screencaps are deceptively similar to each other to prevent you from even trying to undertake this task. Once you complete all of the tournament cups, you can try to do so again under a different difficulty setting. I didn’t bother with that since you can easily earn enough money to unlock the extra characters from the first three, but if you really like the game then that’s a good option.

You won’t be playing this game for very long, but the content is fairly reasonable. Multiplayer already adds replay value and the different difficulties should last you a while. The computers are fairly good even on default, but they tend to crash into the obstacles. Assuming that they don’t in the other levels, it’ll be extremely hard to beat them. This is partially due to their skill and partially due to the level designs and controls.

As I mentioned, the controls are rough. In the game you are constantly shaking since the ground is riddled with holes and bumps. You will barely be able to keep going straight during this time and turns are really tough without slowing down. If you go too fast or too slow during a hill then you’re probably going to lose valuable seconds from crashing. If the game doesn’t want you to crash just yet, you’ll simply get stuck. That happened to me a few times and it certainly gets pretty intense. I didn’t ask for this….but it’s how it goes. I like the concept of the game and bikes always make for a very dynamic gameplay style. This title just didn’t really make use of that.

However, while the gameplay is pretty bad, it’s bad in a fun way. I never had a problem replaying the levels because they are all pretty short. You can also restart a level as many times as it takes to win it so if you’re worried about having to restart a tournament from the beginning if you lose the last level, don’t be worried. Just replay the level (Before you cross the goal line though or the trick won’t work) and you’re all set. It’s a nice little trick that makes the game a whole lot better. Without this trick the game could have certainly gotten very dicey.

The graphics are all right. They’re certainly nothing special of course, but they’re not as bad as you may have expected. The soundtrack is also pretty bland but what else is new right? You’ll definitely need to be playing this game for the gameplay or just to laugh at it. Regardless of what your plan is, the game should be reasonably enjoyable for a weekend. You won’t be playing it long-term but what could you get that will last you for hours on a 2 dollar budget? It’s a pretty good deal for the price.

One addition that would have been fun for the game would be more bikes. There are only 6 bikes if I can recall them correctly and you unlock the extra ones almost instantly. That leaves nothing else to use your stars on so they quickly become pointless. Even if they were just color swaps, I would have liked to have gotten a bunch of other bikes to spice up the gameplay.

Overall, The name of this game is hard to recall and people may not really remember it, but I think the game’s about as good as you could expect. It’s certainly not going to worry the Need for Speed developers anytime soon, but I like to think that this game will inspire other companies to give the bike genre a shot. The main thing to learn from this is to have an even ground. The game would probably get a 7 if the path was smooth since that is really the main obstacle that hurts the game. So many things would be fixed if they just did this. I’d recommend picking the game up if you see it although odds are that you’ll be in the same room as a better racing game.

Overall 6/10

Split Second Stats and Records

Stats time!

PS3 Trophies 20/47
Total Credits 2910
Power Plays 465
Crashes 165
Route Changes 3
Distance Driven 495 miles
Close Calls 181
Longest Drift 235 Yards
Rivals Wrecked 421
Local Play Number 18
Online Play Number 99

Level Stats: Level Placements

Episode 1 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd
Episode 2 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 1st
Episode 3 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st
Episode 4 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 1st, 3rd, 3rd
Episode 5 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd
Episode 6 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd
Episode 7 2nd, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd
Episode 8 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 4th, 3rd
Episode 9 2nd, 2nd, 5th, 2nd, 1st, 1st
Episode 10 2nd, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd
Episode 11 1st, 1st, 3rd, 1st, 1st, 3rd
Episode 12 1st, 3rd, 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd

Split Second Review

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It’s time to check out a car game that I recently got. This may come as a surprise to some, but I’m actually a huge fan of the racing genre. There are few things more satisfying than nailing a crisp turn and sailing into first place. It’s why I used to play a car game on my PC for so long. Anyway, this is the first racing game that I’ve played in a while, not counting spinoff titles like Farmyard racing. This is probably the first pure racing game I’ve played since Asphalt 3D. (I think that was the title) This is definitely a really fun game and one of the best core driving games out there. It does have a gimmick and while I sometimes prefer my racing games not to have any (F-Zero) I don’t mind them if they’re handled well. Look at Mario Kart after all.

There are a few modes to play when you start the game. Online mode is around of course, but you’ll likely be heading straight to Season mode. (Honestly, I haven’t gone online at all) The season has 12 episodes in it and the general plot is that you’re starring in the show. Think of it as one of those reality programs on TV. You have to dodge all of the landmines and disasters to claim first and prove that you’re the best. Each episode has 5 events, with the final one being unlocked if you’ve earned enough points. Rinse and repeat until you’ve reached the end and you can replay old levels to increase your standing and earn more points if you’re short. For the most part I was able to make it to the end naturally but I did need to replay a few. Once you unlock a certain car at the end of the game, you’ll be breezing through it with no problem.

There are different kinds of events. The main one is a race. You go through the stage and try to come in first. The gimmick that this game rolls with is that you can use your energy meter to set off traps. You can energy by turning and driving behind another car. The best way is to dodge an opponent’s trap, but they rarely spring any. You can activate traps as soon as one energy bar is filled or you can wait til they’re all filled and activate a massive one. I don’t recommend the latter since you’ll typically destroy yourself as well. If there’s going to be a gimmick, I typically prefer a quick booster, but I can live with this. It’s a pretty unique concept after all and I like the strategy behind it. You always have to decide if it’s worth using your energy now or later.

Another event is Elimination. You start with 60 seconds and have to ensure that you’re not in last. After that, another car is eliminated every 20 seconds. You must stay at the head of the pack or you’ll risk being eliminated. This is another pretty fun event and as it’s quite a bit shorter than a race, it’s a lot easier to keep on replaying. Another event is the Airplane boss. You have to attack it by shooting missiles using your action meter. In this case, I recommend waiting until the red one is ready to go since you can then deal massive damage. Next is Survival which is probably the weakest by default. It’s just you by yourself as you try to complete the stage while the A.I. activates all of the traps. It’s essentially a time trial so it’s not all that exciting.

Finally, there’s the Oil tanker battles. This is the best one by far. A truck ahead of you will be spilling barrels and you have to dodge them as you overtake it. The more trucks that you pass in a row without being hit, the more points that you get. It really tests your reaction times and takes you down if you dare to go too fast. It’s just a lot of fun and I would have loved to have seen more of it. The variety of events in the game helps keep the gameplay fresh throughout.

With 72 levels in the game, it’s certainly one that has an ample amount of content. If anything, I’m glad the game didn’t overdo it and throw in over 150 levels just because it can. As it is, most of the levels are the same. I think there may be 12 tracks total, with a few more if you count night versions. It’s not a lot although I suppose it’s a decent amount. You’ll memorize the layouts after a while which is certainly useful. There’s a lot of replay value here as well. If you decide to aim for the Platinum, you’ll need to get 1st place on every level which will be quite difficult. It’s certainly not impossible, but I’d expect you to be replaying the levels many times before you can finally ace them all. Multiplayer also guarantees that the replay value is basically unlimited.

The graphics for the game are quite good. All of the cars look shiny and new. I could have sworn that one of the cars almost looked as good as the Ford Focus. The levels are nice and bright and the rare night time versions are also quite crisp. The game has aged very well there. Furthermore, the soundtrack is also pretty nice. There are some really good action themes. The music fit in pretty well even if I didn’t notice it in some episodes. It would sort of pop in and pop out if that makes any sense. I suppose not every theme can be an instant winner.

The game’s difficulty level feels pretty fair. There was a very brief time where I felt the computers were a little too fast and strong, but once I got the super car it was all good. I never really mastered the drifting mechanic, but I’d say that it felt fair. The overall gameplay was nice and smooth. Towards the end there weren’t many opportunities to drive as fast as the title would suggest, but driving as fast as possible was always very satisfying.

I also have to give a shoutout to the ending of the game. The voice acting was spot on and the way the game ends just begs for a sequel. Whether we get one or not, it works really well as a stinger. I was practically shaking by the end of the cutscene. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it, but I can safely say that I would be super hyped if they announce a sequel.

Overall, Split Second is definitely a great game. It’s one of those titles that you just don’t want to put down once you start it. You’ll find yourself wanting to play it constantly and you’ll be sad once it’s over. Once again, I do think the length was just right though. Extending it further might have felt artificial and they also got the right balance with the points needed to unlock the final levels. You had to do pretty well in the events (1-3rd place for the most part) but it wasn’t anything too crazy. You don’t want it to have to be a grind to beat the game, that should be left for the people who want the Platinum. The game was just solid on all accounts and I’d highly advise buying this title. It’s one of the best car games on the market.

Overall 8/10

Spongebob Boating Bash Stats and Records

Stats time!

Play Time 1h 15m
Total Drive Points 12130
Grades: 18 As 8 Bs 3 Cs
Events Started 45
Events Finished 35
Events Won 22
Parts Collected 100
Knock Outs 65
Ring Outs 26
High Combo 548
Drivers 9/9
Boats 18/27
Levels 22/22
Classrooms 6/6
Game Options 2/3
Videos 18/18
Total 75/85

Spongebob Boating Bash Review

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It’s time to finally delve into the world of Spongebob! I must admit that I actually haven’t played a great deal of Spongebob games before. This is one of the first ones for me, but it’s a pretty good way to get back into the franchise. This title is a racing game mixed in with a little vehicular warfare. It makes for a good dynamic and the game even has a plot which is an added bonus. Especially considering that this game goes for only a few dollars, you do not want to miss it!

The game starts off with Spongebob failing to get his license once again. It’s a pretty emotional moment since he had been doing so well in the training, but he randomly decided to accelerate and hit every obstacle. I feel like his short term memory had just ended when the exam started so he forgot everything that he learned. He feels bad about it, but then a shark comes along and offers Spongebob a chance to get a license through…other channels. He simply has to complete the Shark’s D.R.I.V.E. school which teaches you how to be a bad driver, that way you know what not to do on the real exam. Spongebob figures that this is easy enough and decides to pay the high entry fee to join. The rest of the characters get in on the action as well.

After you finish singing the Spongebob theme song to yourself and get back into the game, you’ll see that the DRIVE chapters have now opened. There are 5 chapters in the game along with a final chapter where you must use everything that you have learned. It’s graded report card style, but fortunately you don’t need all As. The levels are mostly pretty easy. A few of them may have taken me 2-3 tries, but ultimately you’ll have it down pat. The controls are easy enough as you just accelerate, turn, and brake. That’s it. You get to choose which vehicle you want as the game goes on and once you unlock the big boat, there’s no turning back. One good hit from that car can total just about any other. It’s only drawback is that it’s slow, but that’s not a problem in bumper cars. Just don’t pick it for the races.

The different game modes are: “Smash The Cars” “Race The Cars” “Smash The Cars and pick up the pieces.” My favorite is certainly the first mode, but they’re all reasonably solid in their own right. I haven’t played a great deal of car games with this gimmick so that was definitely a lot of fun. The gameplay is actually pretty smooth and I’d say that the game got a pretty decent budget for a title based on a TV show. There are even a lot of sound effects as you’re driving where the characters hurl some pretty personal insults at each other. Lets just say that their friendships will be a little strained after this event is all over. It’s the price that they have to pay for victory!

Graphically, Spongebob delivers. It may not look great, but the levels are very clear. If anything, the only part that bothered me was the loading screen as Spongebob would get a very weird facial expression. They also added too much color to his cheeks which was odd as well. So when you ignore the loading screen, then the whole thing comes together quite nicely. I should also mention that the game has fully animated cutscenes with voice acting which was a really good bonus to have along. The music is also pretty good. The main theme is very catchy and I still remember it which is a very good thing.

There is a little replay value to be found here. Once you obtain all A ranks in the game, you’ll unlock the final vehicles and game options. It probably wouldn’t take long to get the rest of them. I got a bunch of A ranks without even trying so it’s not like you’d have to redo all of the lessons. Still, I can’t say that I’m too tempted to get the rest of the cars since the ones that I already have are pretty good. I suppose it still does help to make the overall game longer and more worth your dollar though.

You definitely do need to enjoy the gameplay though since the game is very formulaic and can be seen as a little repetitive. There are roughly 35 levels sprinkled into the game and since there are only 3 game modes, you’ll be seeing them quite a lot. I guess you could say that it’s set up like Mario Kart, but with far fewer levels so you’re usually just on the same roads. The game did its best to shift things up a bit, but the level designs was certainly its weakness. There are no colorful levels as they all look the same.

Overall, I’d recommend checking out Spongebob’s Boating Bash. It’s a surprisingly fun adventure and one of the only underwater racing games that I can think of. What really gives it an extra boost is the story mode since it’s pretty engaging. Spongebob is definitely a little more naive than I remember, but at least he’s portrayed as a good kid. He’s always acting pretty modest and addresses everyone as Sir. His friends all seem a little more mean spirited though as they all join just to beat up Spongebob. I forgot how much the whole village resents his success. I look forward to trying out one of the Gamecube games at some point, but it’ll likely be a long while before then.

Overall 7/10

Rayman Arena Review

Rayman Arena
It’s finally happened. I’ve finally gotten around to playing one of the Rayman games! Honestly speaking, I can’t say that he’s probably going to become one of the more likable main characters. I just can’t get behind this guy in the same way as the hardcore platformer leads like Sonic, Pac-Man, Mega Man, Mario, and Roy(?). That being said, I do like fighting games and I really like 4 player ones. That was a huge advantage that the Gamecube always had over the other consoles. It’s the one thing that the Playstation consoles have lacked. If they ever got this feature for most of their games, it would be Game Over for the competition. This game is great when playing with friends and just good if you’re by yourself. You need to have others around to make the most of this adventure.

There are two main forms of gameplay here, Racing and Fighting. Each of these two options have two more options so lets get right to it. The normal way of fighting is a time limit is set to around 2 minutes and you have to blast each other. The player who scores the most points takes the win. You can use your normal blaster to take away life points from the other player or you can use the power ups which are scattered across the stage. I highly recommend going for these super weapons since they are incredibly overpowered. Grabbing the Green Multi Rifle basically guarantees a full 5 life wipeout for the opponent. There is no way to escape once you have been hit which is why the next 4 shots are confirmed. You can also grab bombs, (Which are terrible) self guided missiles, (Also terrible. They should have grabbed a page from Star Fox Assault’s playbook) and Barriers. (Which are awesome) There are a few more weapons, but those are the main ones. A nice defensive option is a magnet, which lets you steal the opponent’s weapon. Use these tactics to win the fight! You can jump and hide to cheese out the opponent if necessary. It may not always feel fun, but if it works then it’s time to use it.

The other form of combat has both opponents try to grab as many objects as possible. Both players get a freeze gun to start the match and shiny objects are placed around the field. They switch positions each time someone grabs one. The matches are all right I suppose, but these are definitely very luck based and once you have a large lead, you can just stand in place and wait out the clock. I definitely prefer the standard combat. The main racing game has you try to dash to the goal. There are many obstacles around the stages and you have a purple energy blast which you can use to activate traps and grab aerial rings to give yourself a boost. Activating traps may not sound like it’s in your best interests, but you can really trip up an opponent that way. This was definitely the toughest mode as the A.I. is quite good. Just remember to pace yourself and look for the shortcuts. They will certainly come in handy.

The alternate racing style is a one on one fight. You have to get ahead of your opponent by 6 seconds in order to win. This results in a lot of incredibly short 1 lap fights in one player mode, but I don’t see how it’ll work in multiplayer mode when you’re facing someone of similar skill. Maybe you just lose if you’re behind when a certain amount of laps end or something like that. Both players get freeze guns once again so you can try to freeze your opponent at a tricky spot so they lose a lot of time I suppose.

Graphically, the game holds up pretty well. The character designs have that solid Gamecube feel about them. They have depth and everything looks pretty sharp. The color scheme is a bit dark if you ask me, but it’s solid otherwise. The soundtrack is very forgettable though and it doesn’t help that the game doesn’t really have any cutscenes. World of Final Fantasy puts this game to shame in that aspect among others. It doesn’t hold the game back, but having some more up beat tunes would certainly make the game a lot more fun.

There isn’t a whole lot of replay value to be found here. There are 4 tournaments for each event and you can play each event in two difficulties. That makes 32 tournaments or 96 actual matches since each tournament has 3 rounds. You can beat each tournament in around 10 minutes and possible less depending on the event. It’s not a terribly long game, but there’s not much point to beating the hard mode versions aside from a few extra shirts for the characters. It wasn’t enough of an incentive for me honestly and that’s the only post game content available.

Of course, there is one form of replay value that does save the game. I’m talking about multiplayer mode of course. The fact that it is compatible with 4 players opens up a lot of doors that had been slammed. The game would still get a solid 7 if it was just single player, but it would be lacking quite a bit in content. Fighting games get around this through the multiplayer and that’s exactly what Rayman does. This kind of gameplay would work really well with 4 players. It has less depth than others, but the core gameplay is solid. The racing works really well and I can only imagine how chaotic it gets with 4 people around. Likewise for the shooting events. That ultimately helps bump it up an extra star as it’s a game I can definitely see myself picking around Christmas time for everyone to have fun with.

Overall, Rayman Arena is definitely a solid game. Adding in both racing and fighting was definitely a good idea as it adds some variety and also adds more content to the title. A little more of a story would have been appreciated though. It would possibly help me like Rayman more as a character and it would make Story Mode more interesting. Just look at Pokken, they were able to squeeze in a nice story during the normal campaign. Trust me when I say that it makes quite the difference. Of course, Pokken was just a complete masterpiece in every sense of the word so that’s another story. Rayman’s great, but Pokken is amazing. It’s scary how large the jumps are between scores. Look at Super Smash Bros, Pokken isn’t even in the same league because Smash is the ultimate game. It’s like the saying goes, there’s always something better. I digress. I definitely recommend picking Rayman Arena up if you want a new fighting game to play or just something fun and chaotic for a session with friends and family. This game won’t let you down and it’s very easy to simply plug and play. The controls are intuitive.

Overall 8/10