Beyblade: Metal Fusion Battle Fortress Review

It’s been a long time since I let a game play me instead of the other way around. It may sound impossible, but this is one of those games where you are encouraged to put down the Wii remote once the battle starts. There is even a bonus you get for winning rounds without using the controller at all. It’s really a unique way to play the game, but not in a positive way. If I wanted to watch the game I’d check out a Let’s Play or watch the TV show adaption. Fortunately the fun story and solid soundtrack help save the game, but this ended up being a real missed opportunity.

The main characters of the Beyblade Metal Fusion series have been kidnapped and brought to an alien spaceship. The aliens want to absorb their Beyblading abilities through matches so they can then destroy the planet. A lot of humans are also helping them in exchange for “Molecular Powers” which will apparently help them exceed the skill levels of the normal humans. Gingka doesn’t like this since he says that all a Beyblader needs is a determined spirit and prepares to stop them all.

Lets dive right into the gameplay. Through the years the Beyblade games have experimented with a bunch of different gameplay styles. From Turn Based to Monkey Ball to the classic Gamecube Beyblade where you rotate your tops on a field and try to knock the others off, the series has been places. This one tries to be like the Gamecube one. Your Beyblades (Which are effectively tops) are placed on a field and you try to knock the other one off. When you have enough meter you can use a super attack which covers a fixed range which either comes from your Beyblade or from the center. Knocking your opponent out of the ring gives you two points while destroying it or outlasting the spin just gives you one point. Getting to 3 is the goal for most levels.

That’s no problem. This gameplay is what Beyblade is supposed to be. There’s just one big problem….You Can’t Move. That’s the only problem, but it is a massive one. Who thought it would be a good idea to make it so that you can’t move at all in the game? It’s like playing a DBZ game where you can choose when to use the special abilities, but otherwise the characters do whatever they like. It would get irritating very quickly since they keep getting hit by basic bread and butter combos that you know you would dodge. That is definitely the worst part about the situation. The fact that you know you could do a better job. As a result, you’ll find that your Beyblade is knocked out of the ring many times. I customized my Beyblade beautifully so that it could wreck all of the others quite easily. I basically never lost a head to head fight. The problem is that they would just knock me out of bounds instead and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. You can use a mini boost but it always just sends you off the stage as well.

One stage took me close to an hour at one point. I was able to get some good reading done in the meantime, but it’s not exactly the most entertaining experience. The game actually took quite a while because while most levels were quick and easy, the ones that were tough took many, many tries. The story could also get a little repetitive at times as they make the same speeches over and over again as you meet new bladers. It was a little funny just how often Gingka would start talking about a Blader’s spirit. He would mention it before and after virtually every fight. At the very least, you can’t say that Gingka isn’t serious about the subject. He will never hesitate to let everyone know what’s up.

The story will get you interested in the show since it seems to have quite a lot of “hype” characters. You’ve got Gingka’s first rival Kyoya who was tempted by the power but got knocked out of it. Hikaru who may have defeated Gingka in the past (Story was vague on that) but fights with honor. Hyoma, Tsubasa, Ryuga, etc. The cast is very solid and I’m sure they all get quite a lot of intense fights in the anime. Unfortunately, the story’s original characters weren’t all that great. I liked the designs for the robot killers and their various super forms, but there’s not too much to say about them besides that. Once you’ve fought one robot blader you’ve fought them all. The old man scientist wasn’t a very interesting villain either and it was hard to buy his character arc of turning good again so quickly. Mariko was okay as at least she had a character arc that was a lot more developed than the others. She was pretty shady from the start, but at least she fooled the heroes for a while. She’s also pretty powerful so she can hold her own in a fight.

The graphics are pretty good. It’s the kind of game where all of the cutscenes are just recycled pictures of everyone as they yell and point fingers, but the actual images look pretty sharp. The gameplay shots are also fairly decent although the quality certainly does end up taking a hit. As far as the music goes, that is even better. We really only have a small handful of tunes, but one of them is quite excellent. That really helps to seal the deal here since I got to hear it a bunch of times during the story. One good tune can always go a long way.

There is a pretty good amount of content here to keep you busy. The actual story has around 5 worlds and each world has 5-6 battles. I doubt you’ll beat them all in one go but even if you do that should last a few hours. I’d imagine that this game should last you 6-10 hours. There’s no real replay value after finishing the game but odds are that you’ll have had enough of the gameplay style by then. You’ll be ready for something new and fresh. At least there is multiplayer mode so with the luck system in place it should make for some pretty entertaining matches.

Overall, This is a good Beyblade game, but one that could have been so much better. You’ll mainly just want to play it to hype yourself up for the show. I’ve never been a big fan of luck based gameplay so a title where it is almost 100% luck is just not going to be up my ally. Especially as there is one event where you have to win 3 matches in a row or get sent back to the first and various 1 vs 3 rounds where you just need luck to save you. With enough time you will beat them all as a result, but I don’t really want to wait to get to the end. Skill should be the only thing to have to worry about. I’d definitely recommend the Gamecube game instead of this one as that is the definitive Beyblade game. That being said, if you really prefer the Metal Fusion cast to the old characters then it isn’t a bad one to get. Just focus on the story instead of the gameplay.

Overall 6/10

Academy of Champions Review

Academy of Champions is one of the more enjoyable Soccer games that I’ve played. For whatever reason, I was never too impressed with the FIFA titles so Mario Strikers and Pure Futbol have been my go to titles for the sport. Granted I haven’t actually played the FIFA games as much as I could have. I can acknowledge that those games have a lot more depth to them, but this title is easy to just plug and play. Adding in popular characters like Ezio and Rayman is just a nice bonus.

Lo and behold there is actually a story mode in this game. It starts off with our young hero receiving an invitation to the world’s most prestigious soccer academy. The person who invited the hero doesn’t remember doing so but decides to roll with it anyway. It turns out that this is all going according to a corrupt teacher’s master plan. The main character is going to need to stay sharp since no one can be trusted.

There may not be much to the plot but at least the game has a story. That’s more than you can say for a lot of its rivals. How the story works is that you go through his various school semesters. Each semester is 20 days with a critical event occurring every 5 days. You can’t afford to lose those days so they are mandatory but the other days are low stakes. Winning will get you more exp so that’s the main incentive for the average day. The other incentive is just your pride.

The activities in a day vary according to different categories. A match event is self explanatory as you’ll play a hand against an opponent for practice. The gossip task will have you chat with your friends about how tough the villains are. Training tasks will have you doing basic drills and then you also get tasks to head to the shop and to upgrade your characters. That was a bit of an annoying addition since it meant that you could not upgrade at will, you had to wait for that day to arrive.

The matches were pretty fun because the gameplay was actually very on point. It’s pretty simple to pick up and play but very challenging to score goals until you learn the tricks. Passing to your teammates is highly recommended along with running side to side as the goalie will take the bait. Each player has a super attack with you can buy to take your game to the next level. They actually didn’t help me much as the A.I. would just block it every time, but it will be good against human opponents. Just stay aggressive and knock the opponents down.

I have to give the game some credit for having full cutscenes. I wasn’t really expecting that. They may not have had any dialogue as that was all done via text box but it was still neat. The character models are a little off. Graphically, the game isn’t bad. The designer just went a little too wild with the character proportions which is what made everything a little dicey. The game was still very clear and you could always tell what was happening. It was good enough for me to enjoy the rest of the game. I’m afraid that the soundtrack was significantly less impressive. There weren’t any tunes that really stood out to me. It was all fairly generic and lifeless. I don’t think the developers put much time into this part of the game.

There really isn’t any replay value aside from multiplayer mode. This is the kind of game where you can’t go back and hire everyone to form the ultimate team. You can replay the last few days I believe so you can grind out some extra stats for your characters but there’s nothing you can do with them anyway. Since the gameplay is good the multiplayer can go a long way. I suppose it will just have to suffice in this case. If you have a friend over, this is as good a pick as any.

One quality of life issue that I had with the game was that you couldn’t see your individual stats for each player when switching up your lineup. You’d have to write them all down or memorize the stats if you wanted to make some changes. It just ended up being a longer process than I would have liked. Finally, the difficulty level of the game is pretty good. You can definitely expect to meet a real challenge towards the end of the game. The tournaments are maybe just a little too long, but at least the game always feels fair. Replaying the level never becomes a chore.

Overall, Academy of Champions was definitely worth the couple of dollars that I bought it for. This may not exactly be a triple A game, but they put some nice effort into it. Incorporating the guest characters into the story would have been awesome but I guess we can’t have it all. Some mechanics weren’t thought out well like not being able to upgrade at will, but the gameplay was on point. I usually don’t care for the “day” system where a day will pass each time you do something but the game pulled it off pretty well. I’d recommend getting this title. You’ll be surprised at just how good it is.

Overall 7/10

Family Party 30 Great Games Outdoor Fun Review

It’s been a while, but it looks like it’s time to try out another Wii party game. I really went on a rampage buying a ton of these a while back, but they’re finally almost at an end. I have to admit that I’m going to miss these Wii games ever so slightly, but at the same time it will be fun to have them all gone for good. This one is certainly of a higher quality than some of the others like Deca Sports and the 30 games are actually mostly unique. I have to give the game some credit there and the A.I. is tough although not always very balanced.

See, some games are very easy because the A.I. can’t play for beans and then they’re overpowered in others. It’s always hard to know one way or the other at first if you’re going to be in for a really close fight or if you won’t even have to try that hard. It is good that it’s not a cake walk though and you should be able to win pretty much all of the games by the end. Some of them just take 2 tries tor eally understand how to play since the controls and instructions aren’t always clear. They’re certainly not quite as on point as the Mario Party controls, but few games are.

The main campaign mode divides the 30 mini games into groups of 5. You start with only 4 unlocked for the first three worlds so you have to beat them to unlock the 5th minigame for each world. Beat all of them again to unlock the 4th world. There are 6 worlds and since you have to beat them all twice, it’s about 12 worlds of content. Of course, it can be a little tedious to have to win twice each time and if your score isn’t high enough, then your win isn’t even counted. Luckily that only happened to be once. It would be a bigger issue if it was something that happened more often for sure. I wouldn’t call this a very long game, but considering that you can get it for 3-4 dollars from Gamestop, it’s not a bad deal.

As I mentioned, this game has a decent level of quality to it so the games don’t start to copy each other with different colors like certain other sport games. There is really a nice variety here. I won’t mention all of the 30 games here, but I figure that it may be nice to list some of the good ones. This game has a Football minigame where you have to try and gain yards/score. The other three players try to stop you. It seems a little hard to do anything when the deck is stacked against you like that, but it is certainly fun. Another solid game has you control a spaceship and you have to blast your way to the finish. The side-scroller is handled well and it could easily be a real level in a game like that. It was certainly handled well. Track and Field/Marathon was fun as it tests your reflexes. There’s a memory game where you have to remember 10 really quick objects that pass through the screen and the tough part is that all 4 of you get turns at it. UFO is another similar one as you have to beam up people who have a certain description ahead of the other 3.

There are some other active competition type games like a platformer where you have to jump to the finish line. That one’s pretty fun and what adds to the tension is that you can push an opponent into the water. Another game has you hold on to the ground for dear life as it shakes, but an opponent might shove you away while you’re bracing yourself. Honestly, I’d say that at least half of the mini games, if not more than that are actually quite good. It was surprising to see. I don’t want to get crazy, but from a pure minigame perspective, I dare say that these may be better than Mario & Sonic, at least the first game. Naturally, this game lacks other things like the presentation and AAA value that the other title has, but when it comes to the pure mini games, it’s hard to get better than Family Party.

For replay value, you can try to beat your high scores or get more medals. It’s certainly not the most thrilling form of replay value, but it’s something and naturally there is also multiplayer that you can give a whirl. There’s certainly enough content for your dollar here so I don’t think that should be an issue for you. The graphics are all right. I am glad that the characters all got actual design and aren’t just the same kid with a different T shirt each time. Yes, I noticed that even if the game tried to hide the fact. The mini games all look pretty good and everything is on point. It’s not breathtaking or at the level of a AAA game, but it’s good enough. The music is also pretty fine. I like the main menu theme and the music that plays throughout is fairly calming. There’s nothing really wrong with it and I’ll take it over nothing. It’s probably free domain music.

Overall, This game was maybe a little better than I expected. The fact that the developers actually put some thought into this game definitely gets a thumbs up from me. I’m sure it was still reasonably cheap to make, but at least the games were actually fun. I definitely have to give them some well deserved praise there and this game got quite a few sequels and spinoffs/prequels so those may warrant a look as well. Realistically, I don’t see myself getting any of the other games in this series anytime soon, but you never know. You never want to count out anything since you just don’t know what the future will have in store. I’d recommend this game if you’re looking for a party title to check out, but for that you may as well get one of the Mario and Sonic Olympic titles right? That, or you could get Mario Party 4, the definitive party experience. (Yes, I’m not counting Super Smash Bros here!)

Overall 6/10

Anubis II Review

It’s time to finally play the third big game in the Ninjabread Man family. Conspiracy Games came up with other titles of course and I will be playing one of them soon, but Trixie, Ninjabread Man, and Anubis are the ones that I consider to be the big 3. Unfortunately, this might be the worst game in the trilogy. It all begins and ends with the final boss that is excruciatingly bad. It’s quite telling that this is the first game in ages where I had to go to Gamefaqs in the end. I try to make it a hard and fast rule that I will never use online resources to help me out in a game because I need the full 100% bragging rights. No matter how tough it makes it for games like FF VII. Still, I didn’t think that I needed to give Anubis the same level of respect and attention. The game basically cheats by not even telling you what the controls are.

There isn’t really a plot, but based on the back of the cover, you have been sent out to stop the villains! That’s not a bad premise I suppose although it certainly could be better. You are thrown into the first level without any other context. There are 4 main levels and four-5 mini ones as well. They all play out the same way aside from the final boss fight, where things get a little more intense, but not in a good way. You have to find 8-10 sacred pieces of something to unlock the time gate that will let you clear the level.

The levels are a little more linear than Ninjabread Man and I am also pretty experienced at playing this game by now. The levels are very similar to the other titles after all and you get used to reading the compass after a while. The game certainly isn’t very difficult so you will clear each level on your first or second try. The actual length of the game is quite short after the unreasonably long first level and you’ll have it beat in a few hours at best. There is absolutely no replay value to be found here, which hurts the game even more. The price is very low so that’s a start, but at this point you may as well buy a slice of pizza.

Now, I don’t mean to knock the game too much, but it has some pretty big weaknesses. For starters, the gameplay is your classic 3D platformer. You can swing your cane around to whack people on the head and you can shoot energy blasts as well. The latter is always your best option so use that to defeat enemies and beef up your health bar and lives. You can also jump of course and I recommend using the Z button over the motion controls. The latter is simply too unreliable and it is what hurts the gameplay. The level designs aren’t great as it is, but it’s even worse when you keep falling in the same spot. Luckily, there aren’t too many places where you can fall to your doom, but it can still be sad. I didn’t find out that you could jump with the Z button until I was at the final boss. If I had known about this earlier…things would have been very different!

Either way, the sword swinging is still rough though and a nice little Z button feature isn’t going to save this flawed game. The music consists of the same recycled theme that we’ve heard over and over again in the other two titles. It even plays for the final boss since the developers clearly couldn’t grab a second theme to put into the game. It’s pretty lazy if you ask me. The graphics are rather sub par although I wouldn’t call them terrible or anything. You can still see what is happening so that is definitely a plus. Games like Hidden Invasion have a lot to learn about proper brightness settings.

The final boss is what destroys the game though. If you thought that you had seen a poorly developed game before…think again! The final boss isn’t really a fight as you have to keep climbing these blocks that will disappear from time to time as you grab grenades. The game never tells you how to fire them by the way. To do this, you have to hold the A button and make a swinging motion. The problem is that it won’t work very often and the boss is on full spam mode so the energy shots never stop coming. If your grenade doesn’t come out in time, prepare to take some heavy damage. It gets old quickly and this boss took me way too long to complete. It quickly brought the game down to size. Otherwise, it may have stood a good chance of being the best in the trilogy. The Z button allowing you to do proper jumps is a huge improvement, although I suppose that there is the chance that the other two games had such a feature as well. All of the levels are suddenly a lot more manageable with this feature. If only there was a button for attacking and throwing bombs as well.

There’s also a weird glitch in the game where the Nunchuk will stop working sometimes. The game will keep telling you that it is not connected anymore of the game will suddenly have you running in a direction and you are unable to stop without unplugging the Nunchuk and plugging it back in again. I had to do that a great many times during the game so I feel like there is something wrong with the code. Granted, there are probably so many things that went wrong in the code that you could get lost there.

Overall, There’s not much reason to play this game so I can safely say that Anubis II lived up to its reputation. The Motion Controls on the Wii weren’t very good even with the AAA games. It’s not really a surprise that they tanked miserably with this title. The developers probably just checked to see if it could at least be slightly playable and then ran off with what little money they got from this game. I doubt it had a whole lot of quality control and it may not have had any at all. I can’t really picture myself buying an Anubis III, but if I ever see it in the 2 dollar bin, then maybe I’d take the plunge. If you’re looking for a bad game to play for fun, then I recommend Ninjabread Man. That game certainly had more heart….just a little more, but that’s good enough.

Overall 4/10

We Ski Stats and Records

There’s not much, but just enough!

26/60 Stars

Course Stats

Rabbit Road B Rank
Fox Way S Rank
Deer Step B Rank
Eaglesight B Rank
Owl’s Next C Rank
Elephant Stage B Rank
Snake Pass A Rank
Wolf Hill S Rank
Lion Peak D Rank
Sharkskin C Rank
Bear Claw A Rank
Camelhump D Rank
Dolphin Park C Rank

Excitebots Trick Racing Review

excitebots trick racing box art
All right, let’s check out another game from the legendary 5 dollar bin! It’s games like this that make the bin so worth it for me because this is a hidden gem that I likely would have never played otherwise. It’s certainly not going to be the next Mario Kart of F-Zero, but Excitebots ended up being pretty fun and certainly worth the 5 bucks.

There is no plot so you are free to jump into the grand prixes. There are 5 different cups and each one has 4-5 different races in it. This title is a little different than most racing games as getting to 1st place is heavily encouraged, but there are other aspects in place. See, this game is also a bit of a stunt racing game as the amount of stars that you have in the end is what ultimately matters. Coming in first gives you an extra 55 as opposed to the 15 in second so that’s a good reason to get to 1st place, but you also want to do a lot of tricks along the way. No worries, they come rather naturally.

You get stars for drifting and bumping into other cars. If you decide to drive into a forest, you get a star for every tree that you dodge. The stars add up quickly there, but it is typically much more dangerous than the normal path so you have to decide if your driving skills are up to par. If you hit something, then you’ll quickly be taken back a little bit, which can eat up your time although it’s not all that bad. You’ll still be okay even if you crash a few times. Just make sure that you get the stars first. Naturally, you also have a nitro boost that you can activate quite often. You just can’t use too much of it at once or you will overheat so make sure to use it gradually and in bursts.

All of what I just mentioned was already in Excite Truck so let’s get into the new features for this title. This game placed a lot more emphasis on the Motion Controls than the older game. For starters, you’ll see various poles throughout the race. You will then have to make a motion with your Wii Remote depending on what color the pole is. Typically it will require you to make a sudden push forward or to act as if you are making a circular motion. To be honest, this is an addition that I definitely would have preferred to not have made the cut. Getting the motions can be as tough as you think considering the Wii Remote’s dicey reputation and it doesn’t add anything to the game. I can guarantee that the game would be even better without this gimmick although it certainly doesn’t hurt the game all that much. It was just a little unnecessary.

One of the new additions that I did like was the item boxes and tools that would appear. You can get items like some teeth to throw at enemies or a fishing rod to get some fish/stars. The items are typically fun and if you get a wrench, then you can turn into your true robot form. This was a good addition to the game and I’m glad that they added it. I certainly would like to play without any nitro or items as an option as well, but if you’re going to have some gimmicks, then you may as well add them all in right? You can play a lot of the individual minigames in minigame mode in case you really like one. There’s also a Poker Mode, but I decided not to try it out. It didn’t really pique my interest.

There are many other ways to search for stars during the race, but I’ll allow you to find those on your own. The actual gameplay is very smooth, which helps to negate the Wii Remote’s handling. The Wii Remote actually works well enough here. I would still prefer almost any other remote, but it’s passable as you have to hold it sideways to play this game, which has always been the best way to use the Wii Remote for a racing game. Each race is only about 2-5 minutes so they’re short, which helps to make them very exciting. Nothing’s worse than playing a really long race only to discover that you’ve lost and have to play it all over again.

The graphics are sound and the robots all look good. This is certainly no Mario Galaxy, but it’s still a big step above titles like Casper and Rudolph. The graphics are not bad, nor are they very good. They’re simply caught in the middle, but that’s not a bad thing. The designs still compliment the races rather well, which is all that I could ask of the title. The soundtrack is great, but I would expect no less from such a solid racing title. All of the themes are fast and intense, which lets you really feel like you’re in the race. Racing games have had a superb track record when it comes to the music included in them and this game does not disappoint here.

Completing the cups won’t take you very long. There are 24 courses and all of them are short, but you have to consider that you will be getting this game for a bargain price. Also, there is a good amount of replay value. If you get S ranks on all levels, then you can unlock the Super Excite difficulty so that you can play the stages yet again. Moreover, there are many things to buy with your stars. That’s where it gets to be a bit much though.

For starters, you have to actually buy the alternate colors for your vehicles. You have to buy the vehicles and then you also buy avatars for your profile and statues of your cars. This gives you a lot to buy, but earning stars isn’t so simple. For example, you will earn around 200-300 per race, but most of the cars are 2500-5000. I ended up with around 5000 stars when I beat the game so I bought one car. Imagine how long it would take to buy the 20+ profiles, 20 statues, colors, and cars. Certainly longer than I’d really be willing to play this game. I actually did bother to do the S ranks for Excite Truck, which shows how much fun these games are, but it’s not the kind of thing that I’d probably do now. Nowadays, Super Smash Bros is probably one of the only games where I’d actually go that far. Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay here is still a lot of fun, but I’ve got a lot of games to play so it’s best that I move on while I can.

Overall, Excitebots is a fun racing title. It’s certainly a lot better than you would expect upon looking seeing the cover and you should certainly give it a chance. It’s a short, but fun experience and the actual gameplay is quite good. It’s fairly unique for a racing game and you’ll have fun earning those stars as you beat the levels. The soundtrack is really good and the graphics are sound so this game really has no weak points. There’s also a multiplayer mode to boost the replay value a little higher. Yes, this is one of those 5 dollar bargain bin titles that is really tough to top.

Overall 7/10

Grill Off with Ultra Hand Review

This game was world exclusive to the members of Club Nintendo. That was pretty awesome and while it probably meant that the game was rather cheap to produce, it was pretty thoughtful on their part. As Club Nintendo closed its doors for the last time, I had exactly enough points to buy this title. After seeing the “epic” live action trailer on the site, how could I not be intrigued? Let’s just say that motion controls get in the way here.

Essentially, you’re grilling in this game. There’s no story mode as there is just an infinite arcade mode like in Pac Man as well as a Vs Mode option. You use the wii remote and nunchuk to reach out to the grill by tilting your remotes towards each other and then press A to grab the piece of meat. Next, you tilt your remotes away from each other and release to let it go. You have to rinse and repeat as you try to grab all of the meat at just the right time for bonus points. If you drop one too close to the grill or burn a piece, then you automatically lose.

In theory, this game had the potential to be the next Flappy Bird or Pac Man. At least, that seems to be what the game developers were gunning for here. The problem is not the actual gameplay, but the controls. The Wii Remotes simply aren’t good for this kind of thing as they will constantly make you let the meat go or not move when you want too. It makes playing the game a bit of a struggle and it’s hard to have fun when your remote keeps sabotaging your efforts to win.

Otherwise, it’s a great concept that works flawlessly. The gameplay is addicting and it’s easy to get into the game since it just starts up right away. It’s the kind of game where you can have fun competing with a friend for the high score. Even if it didn’t have a local Vs. Mode, you could just take turns or post your scores online. The scores get higher and higher as you go on so you really want to increase your combos. Each piece of meat will then be worth up to 9 meats from the beginning part of the game.

The graphics are decent I suppose. There’s not much to look at as you are always on the same stage with a very limited selection of meats at the ready. This must have made animating the game rather easy for the developers. It’s still not going to be one of the greatest games that you have ever seen as far as graphics go, but it looks good enough.

The soundtrack is also limited of course, but the main theme when you pick the title from the startup menu is catchy. There’s not much more to say about that. This is the kind of game that you may have felt bad about if you paid 20-30 dollars for it, but it’s a free game. There’s literally no way to buy it from stores unless you decide to purchase a copy from a friend or on Ebay. Because of that, you can’t say that it’s a rip-off. How can something that’s free be a rip-off right? More effort probably could have been put into the game, but it’s simply as advanced as your average phone or mobile app game. In that sense, this title succeeds.

Overall, Grill Off With Ultra Hand is slightly worse than I expected and you can totally blame that on the controls. If you could play this with Gamecube controls, I can guarantee at least a 2 point boost and it could maybe try for 3 depending on how much I felt like replaying the game. The replay value is really the main incentive of this game and it should be rather high, but the controls negate that. I recommend grabbing this from Club Nintendo while you can since it will be out of print soon. It may not be much, but it’s free and it’ll be a good way to say goodbye to Club Nintendo once and for all. If you would rather play something that’s a little more fun, check out Wii Sports!

Overall 3/10

Epic Mickey Review

Epic Mickey certainly got a lot of press when it first came out. He was finally getting a big game and it was going to be very dark. With the Phantom Blot as the main enemy and the graphical abilities of the Wii behind it…how could Epic Mickey lose? Well, this just goes to show that platforming isn’t always as safe as it seems. Mario pulls it off easily enough, but he basically invented the genre.

The plot involves Mickey the mouse as he decides to head to the magician’s lair. After the old man leaves, Mickey quickly rushes to the painting, but he spills a jar of paint and oil on it. He then gets sucked in by the Phantom Blot and some pretty trippy dreams commence on his trip down. Mickey finally lands and he’s in a troubled world. Everyone basically lives in despair after the pain disaster. Can Mickey save the planet from the repercussions of his actions? It will be tough, but Mickey Mouse is the only one who stands a chance against the Phantom Blot. It’s up to him!

The plot is simple enough. It’s mostly a non factor though since the plot briefly appears in the beginning and then it progresses at a snails pace. There are over 70 missions in the game and that’s barely counting side quests. Most of the story missions basically are side quests. Examples include: Finding some ice cream, Finding a burgler, Finding Power Sparks, Finding flowers, etc. More on this later though. Let’s look at our cast of characters.

Mickey Mouse is the main protagonist and he’s always ready for danger. Unfortunately, he’s not a very good character. I can’t really say that I found myself rooting for him. His dilemma was pretty sad, but Mickey was just so bland that you couldn’t really sympathize with him. It helps that he only talks in text bubbles, but they weren’t very good text bubbles. Mickey is typically surprised at what’s happening and he doesn’t mind showing his friends how scared he is of the Phantom Blot. I dunno…this isn’t the Mickey that I remember from Kingdom Hearts. I guess Mickey’s still got to wait a while before he gets that hardcore. Still, scaring an old man for the lolz? Definitely not what I would expect from him.

The Phantom Blot is as intense as ever, but he’s really a mindless monster in this version. I remember him having a little more personality in the comic where he was just a guy dressed as a dark ghost. He does bear a striking resemblence to Venom in the way that he roars and he’s basically a really large symbiote. He may not have any character at the moment, but he’s still a tough creature to deal with. Let it be said that he also has a degree of intelligence since he makes plans and figures out what Mickey is about to do with the fireworks. He makes for a good villain in the game…I just wish that he could have appeared more.

Gus is Mickey’s ally in adventure and his courage is matched only by his ability to state the obvious. He started out as a pretty hardcore character when he was taunting the villains. Unfortunately, he lost most of his gusto after that and he was really just around to give Mickey moral support. He can fly and Gus seems to be pretty smart, but he never really developed into a character of his own. He could have been replaced with Donald or even Goofy and the game’s dialogue could have been a little more interesting. Gus wasn’t bad, but he was basically nonexistent.

Oswald is the mean rival for Mickey. He’s mad that Mickey stole all of his glory and also had a hand in the death of his best friend. Those are decent reasons to be mad at Mickey I suppose, but what’s Oswald going to do about it? He spends most of the game running away from Mickey until he finally decides to help take down the Phantom Blot. After that, Oswald thinks up the plans while Mickey does the hard work. It’s a decently fair deal I suppose. Oswald gets his big moments, but I couldn’t take him seriously. He talks so tough, but he never actually wins the battles that counts. Actually…he doesn’t win any battles.

The graphics for Epic Mickey are passable. They aren’t very good, but they are decent enough where I wouldn’t consider them to be bad. They aren’t at the level of Brawl or Skyward Sword, but they are slightly better than Balls of Fury. No photo shop appearances are to be found here! The fact that Mickey is constantly melting can be a little intriguing, but it’s intentional at least.

Epic Mickey’s soundtrack is definitely one of its weak points. None of the tunes are exciting and you’d think that you were walking through the park instead of fighting some pretty serious threats. Even the big battle with Phantom Blot is pretty generic. The composers could take a few pages out of the classic Mickey games like KH2 and BBS to see some true boss tunes.

All right, it’s time to really talk about the game. The main problem that it had was the pacing for the story. If you thought that Skyward Sword had too many sub quests (I personally found them to be pretty enjoyable) then you’re definitely not going to like the campaign. From the 70+ missions to reach the final level, I’d say that over half of them are basically side quests. You need to find so many things that it’s scary and nobody will help you unless you complete a task.

The formula for Epic Mickey is quite simple. Enter a world and try to get to the next one. The exit is always blocked off and then you have to ask for help from the general populace. They will ask you to do something quick and easy or tedious and easy. After you finish, then it is off to the races! Imagine doing this over and over and over again. Travelling between worlds isn’t exactly a cake walk.

Going between worlds requires going inside of a painting. This transforms the game into a classic 2D sidescroller and you have to complete a brief level. This can make things a little dicey when you have to go back and forth between worlds. It will always be the same level as long as you keep going into the same painting. I don’t know why they even added the painting gimmick for the 2D levels. Allowing Mickey to go from one world to another instantly is what should have happened like a classic Sonic or Mario game. The paintings just drag things out. I actually did like the 2D levels, but they are immensely easy and there really isn’t a point to them in the end.

The game also suffered from a lack of action. The gameplay is essentially Mario Sunshine style. You can jump and move around, but most of the enemies can only be defeated by using your acid or transformed into heroes by the water. This goes into the morality system, but I’ll go into that later on. The enemies do appear quite a lot, but blasting them with the water/acid can get a little old. You must also remember that this is the Wii remote so it’s not very responsive. I mostly just skipped the enemies whenever I could to save some money. There are around 3-4 bosses in the game and…there is no final boss. The last boss fight involves going through a few towers and lighting up the fireworks. Yes…you don’t actually fight the boss in this boss battle.

The actual 3D gameplay should have been a lot of fun, but it really wasn’t. This is partially due to the camera, but also due to the fact that Mickey isn’t very fast. It takes time to get anywhere and the levels aren’t nearly as fun as the Mario ones. They’re pretty enclosed and there isn’t a whole lot of room to run. This is because most levels have a few side quests at the ready so it only takes a while to leave the level because of them. Otherwise, you’d finish a world in a matter of minutes.

The morality system doesn’t really do all that much in the game. You have the option to finish a mission the nice way or the mean way. For example, I fed Captain Hook to the sharks instead of breaking the device that was mind controlling him. The game makes the choices a little intriguing in that the good choices are always much harder to accomplish than the mean ones. Unfortunately, nothing really becomes of this. My acid meter leveled up instead of my water one, but that’s really the only change that happens. The story goes on as it would have regardless of your choices and the townsfolk will just be a little meaner to you. No significant changes arise due to your decisions.

Not a huge negative on the game’s part because I suspect that it is mostly just my TV, but it can be really hard to see some of the levels. They are extremely dark and my TV just can’t handle it. It works very well if it’s a light cutscene game like Final Fantasy XIII or Street Fighter X Tekken. Other games tend to be a little dicey. Oddly enough, this is probably the first Wii game that it has happened too unless it had some troubles with Lost in Shadow. Typically, it is just PS2 or Gamecube games.

One thing that Epic Mickey succeeded in was making sure that the game was long. It definitely took a while and it’s much longer than its rivals in Mario and Ratchet and Clank. It’s no Kingdom Hearts, but for a platformer Epic Mickey’s duration is impressive. Unfortunately, I would argue that this wasn’t very good for the game. It definitely dragged on during many parts and cutting out a few hours may have helped.

The story for the game could have been a lot better if another big element had been changed. I’m talking about the cutscenes. All of the big cutscenes are animated, but they are silent and you have to read the text at the bottom of the screen. This just didn’t work out so well. I’m sure that they were trying to make it retro and to feel like the old cartoons, but it didn’t work. At least go in a Legend of Zelda direction and have everyone but Link being able to talk. What made it worse was the animation for the cutscenes. It was purposely done in a way that made them look pretty terrible. It was just unappealing to the eyes and one could picture the N64 doing a better job of it.

We’re getting to the end of this review, but another thing that can be sad is the fact that there is no replay value. None. The game starts you back at the first level and you can try to make better decisions and complete more quests. I’ve always preferred for a level select to be included and most platformers allow you to just have fun in free play once you have beaten the game. Being taken back to the first level is something that just isn’t done very often anymore and it’s always a little sad to see.

Well, if you do bother to beat the game again, there are collectibles to obtain. Pins are awarded to Mickey through various quests and they can also be found in hidden areas by melting a certain patch of the wall or maybe underground. You can try to get all of them, but you have to be very careful since the game auto saves, which makes it very hard to go back for something. More often than not, you would just need to start over again with a new game.

Ultimately, the biggest problem that Epic Mickey faced was the fact that it wasn’t very fun. There were times were I felt a little drowzy. The gameplay is constantly broken apart by the endless cutscenes, which stops you from really getting into it. The 2D levels are too easy since it’s basically impossible not to defeat them in a few minutes and the game just stalled for time too much. The last part of the game just keeps on going and going way past the point where they should have called it a day. If only I could have at least gotten a final boss fight to end things with a bang. If only….

Overall, Epic Mickey had a lot of potential, but I can’t say that it fulfilled it. This is one of those times where I can safely say that the console had a part in keeping it down. Getting rid of the motion controls and allowing for better animation on another console could have easily pushed it up a point. As it is, the game just isn’t as fun as it could be and it really dragged on. All of the negatives for the game keep it from really entering the positive territory and the story didn’t help matters. Technically, the game had a lot of good ideas in terms of the 3D meets 2D gameplay part and the overall story, but it just wasn’t able to execute these ideas. I’m confident that the sequel will be better, but Epic Mickey is not going to be the next Kingdom Hearts of Mario Galaxy. If the sequel can refine the gameplay and work on the other issues, then it has a real chance. (I have hear that the sequel works on the “game dragging on” issue so that’s good) I can’t really say that I recommend the game, but if you really like platformers and don’t need a story to go along with it, then you may enjoy it. Just be warned that the game is loaded with mandatory side quests.

Overall 5/10