Category Archive: Reviews

Dec 29 2012

Wii U Nintendo Land, Great Casual Gaming Fun

Nintendo Land Logo Blue background

Nintendo Land is a launch title for Wii U which is available in stores now as a stand alone game and is also included in the deluxe package. Generally a bundled game needs to have a few particular attributes  It should have a broad appeal, be very approachable to even new or casual gamers and have replay-ability.

So how does Nintendo Land score on these 3 criteria? Lets break it down:

 

1) Broad appeal:

You can’t please everybody but a game like this will appeal to the largest number of people. The 12 Mini-games in Nintendo Land are theme based, and the themes include previous Nintendo Hits like Pikmin, Metroid, Mario and even Donkey Kong. You can see that Nintendo fans new and old will be pleased. Family friendly game play means parents and small kids can cooperate or compete. Young children (4+) and lower skill levels are accommodated with easy to learn games and great tutorials.

2) Approachable:

Absolutely. With the touch screen controller Nintendo has introduced us to a new way of playing games. Nintendo Land is being used to showcase the new gaming possibilities with a set of simple mini-games and being able to walk around in a plaza which acts as a game lobby and way to connect to the Miiverse. Easy to understand game mechanics like chase games and target shooters is sure to attract most video game players at any skill level. Where Nintendo Land excels is in its wide appeal, attracting even some non-gamers who might have been intimidated by more complicated games.

3) Replay-ability:

There is some variety here in the selection of mini-games and collecting and high score challenges will hold interest for the obsessive or competitive, but overall this set of games lacks the addictive quality that compels us to keep coming back. Most games are too simple for long term play and can become repetitive. I can see this as the perfect party game for up to 5 players and it could serve well as the go-to game for family nights or entertaining guests.

 

So the strengths of Nintendo Land are mostly in the social aspect of some of its mini-games. There are some chase games in which up to 4 players using standard wii controllers need to navigate a maze to tackle the player with the touchscreen controller. The frantic communication that arises as the hunters try to corner the chased is a source of great fun. The asymmetrical nature of game-play that the new Wii U touch screen controller can provide adds a new wrinkle to otherwise familiar territory. (think in terms of the hunted being the only one with access to the level map showing the location of the hunters).

For those who have the previous Wii system I can summarize this way:

Nintend Land is to Wii U as Wii Play was to Wii. With Nintendo Land, we are being shown a glimpse of what is possible with their new game system and unique controller interface. With it, there is a lot of fun here as players experience new ways to play old games.

 

Lets hope developers are taking notes too – the new controller, and what it can do to make games better should not be ignored!

 

Nintendo Game System Bundles

Remember; Nintendo has a history of bundling some of the greatest games with the launch of a new system, eg: (SuperMario/Duckhunt with NES, Tetris with Gameboy and the more recent Wii Sports with the Wii).

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Aug 19 2012

New Super Mario Bros. 2 – Review – Part 2

EDIT: I just noticed ZombieNinjaBot actually published the “review” I emailed him after playing approximately 2 levels. I typically don’t write in all caps but this was a special occasion.  Fangirl squee!

So far I am loving NSMB2.  This is because I am a complete sucker for nostalgia and Nintendo.  They keep finding little ways to add new nostalgia to their games.  It’s exciting and NEW!  Because it’s OLD!  Yes!!!  I am a sucker and I love it.

There are a lot of great little surprises in this game which I won’t ruin for you, but there are plenty of things that are out in the open which really add to the “same but different” feel.  For instance, you can see the Koopalings all piled into Bowser’s clown copter on the ads and packaging.  Each one is the boss of a world!  Yay!  New nostalgia!  The question mark blocks are even more reminiscent of the ones from Super Mario World, as are the little flames which jump out of the lava at you (they have eyes again!).  You get the Fire Flower and the Super Leaf, of course. The music is, again, the same but different.  Basically it’s everything you are looking for if you want to play a new Super Mario World / Super Mario Bros.

That’s all I will say about the “Mario Factors” because really, it’s more fun to discover them yourself.

Please, kid. I’ve been collecting these since before you were… Oooo… so shiny…

The other thing this game has going for it is the fuss about coins.  I didn’t think I would buy in.  Nintendo has been throwing ads in my face telling me I will want to collect a million coins, that the Mushroom Kingdom is bursting with them and collecting coins has never been so fun etc. etc.  Yeah.  Ok.  That’s great for the kids who are just learning the ways of Mario, but I have been doing this for a while.

I won’t fall for it, I told myself.  First level.  They’re counting… they’re watching me… waiting to see how many I can get per level.  There’s a little counter.  Every time I get another thousand, it congratulates me.  Heh, I got a thousand in like 1 level.  Bet they didn’t expect that.  It’s a sign of how AWESOME I am.

Err… it was just coincidence.

The only bad thing I have to say about the game is the length.  There are three not-so-secret worlds to complete as well as six regular worlds.  I played through the first 8 worlds and some “A” or “B” levels on my way to rescue Peach, but still finished the game in less than 24 hours.  I then spent 2-3 days playing the last secret world, collecting the missing star coins and seeking out the remaining secret exits.  In the previous two I found star coin collecting far more challenging – if I remember correctly, I was satisfied with the game before I ran out of star coins to collect.  Nintendo has a great deal to say about how they did not hold back game content for later DLC…  I hope that’s true.

I want to address the worst thing I’ve heard about the game so far: “I already have New Super Mario Bros. Wii and New Super Mario Bros. DS, why would I buy the same thing I already have again?  Nice try, Nintendo.”  But I’ve had to scour the internet to find a total of three non-critics who actually bought the game and still feel that way.  In a sense, they’re right – it is the exact same formula with a new coat of paint.  That’s what this game is, and always has been.  Are these people for real?

There’s something about a Mario side scroller that every Nintendo lover has stashed away in their thumbs.  It’s muscle memory and pattern recognition.  It’s a sense of confidence that you might feel while walking around a dark room in a home that you’ve lived in forever.  The first time you pick up a NSMB game you know what you have to do.  You have a 6th sense for invisible blocks or which tunnel you can use.  A pattern will cue you to triple jump – a set of walls aligned a certain way triggers a wall-kick.  You can run through a brand new level full speed and dodge every falling twomp and ball’n'chain with perfect timing.  It’s in your blood!

Yes, Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 and 3 all have a slightly separate identity, but NIntendo was working on the pattern.  They seemed to hit it bang on with Super Mario World.  I was old enough to play when it was released, but not yet a critical mind – I am unaware of the reception, only the current fanbase… which is to say, there is STILL a current fanbase.  They catered to those people with the first two NSMBs and again with this one.  All we are buying is more levels and a couple new moves for the same game.  Why do people expect a new formula for a game that’s named for a series of side scrolling levels which have been going on for 27 years?

This comment on Nintendo’s Facebook page tickled me: “I don’t want to buy this same game again, I just want to buy the OTHER same game again!”

Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 were both released for the Wii.  None of the New Super Mario Bros side scrollers have appeared on the same system as another.  There will be yet another NSMB this winter with the Wii U – both in the same year, but on completely different systems.  I don’t see why this is unreasonable.  They used to produce new Mario sidescrollers all the time until Mario 64 was created in 1996.  Now we complain about getting one per system?  I never thought I’d see the day when people started complaining about having too many choices!

Fortunately these complaints are being strongly repudiated, so we should be seeing plenty of Mario content to choose from in the future.

Edit #2:  I am hearing a lot of criticism about the number of coins providing too many lives, which makes the risk/reward far less gratifying, since the risk of seeing a game over screen is nearly null.  Is that the only thing people are really afraid of?  Is the irritation of not completing a level on the first try (or so) really not a factor for old Mario fans?

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Aug 19 2012

Super Mario Bros 2 – Review – Part 1, Initial Impressions

nsmb2 3ds Numismatics

MAXIMUM NOSTALGIA. PURCHASE NOW. THANK YOU.

…Now that she has finally put down the game and taken a moment to write it, Part 2 is available HERE.

 

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Jun 29 2012

Mass Effect 3 – Extended Cut

 

It has been months since Mass Effect 3 was released. For many of the hard-core fans, this was a highly anticipated release. The final installment in the widely praised and highly successful Sci-fi trilogy was supposed to bring closure to an epic storyline. Expectations were elevated to the extreme.

And then on March 6, 2012 the waiting was over.

All that was left was the playing; the consuming of this Space opera. And for the first while all was good. The changes to the game mechanics were well received. For example, “planet scanning” from the previous installment was tweaked to be far less of a chore. The writing was outstanding as usual including the dynamic branching storyline. The characters and their motivations varying wildly with the players choices, not just within the game, but taking into account the actions and outcomes of the previous two outings (an option to those with a saved game carried over from Mass Effect 1 and 2).

Even a multi-player element was added. For the first time, players could take the battle online and play cooperatively with up to 3 others and the progress made would bolster your efforts in the single player campaign.

Yes, things were good for that brief period before players got themselves past the climax of the story. Then came reports of the disappointing ending. At first it would have been bad form to “Spoil” the ending as so many were yet to achieve their own final victory. But then the criticisms got louder, and we had to consider, with so many branching story arcs, so many possible roads had to converge – how different could one experience be from another? Could it be that all the choices made through all the conflicts, friendships made and broken, relationships taken to intimate levels, sacrifices bringing death and loss of main characters. All that was done and all that could be done brought us to a final choice of 3 possible endings? (or less depending on preceding actions).

>mild spoiler alert!<

This would not have been so bad if it were not for the conclusions themselves. The complaints were numerous. Players felt cheated that the protagonist, their protagonist could not survive beyond that final choice of how to save the inhabitants of an entire galaxy. That this final choice was an existentialist dilemma, possibly bringing the extinction of an entire race was somehow unimaginable to the players who spent so much care in their every move throughout the trilogy, unfair at least, or hack writing at worst. I don’t fault the writing but what I can agree with is that the ending felt out of place against the drama that brought us to it. It left a lingering feeling of confusion and unanswered questions. I do not require a happy ending, riding off into some sunset with everyone living happily ever after. What I do require is that my labor is not all in vain. It seemed that with the destruction of the threat also came the destruction of the galactic civilization that we tried so hard to protect.

Mass-Effect-3-Extended-CutThe dissatisfaction was palpable. The murmur of disenchantment grew to an organized rebellion. A “Retake Mass Effect” movement was vocal. Then the discontent crowd was acknowledged. Bioware co-founder, Dr. Ray Muzyka answered the feedback and showed that they were listening. It was an incredible move by Bioware to concede some criticisms as valid, and a credit to their professionalism and commitment to their fans. We were promised that the endings would be reworked to address some of the concerns. And that content recently became available as the Mass Effect 3 – Extended Cut. What the fans get is access to DLC which features extended versions of the 3 possible endings and a new, fourth – “refusal” possibility. The extra content is enough to answer some of the unanswered questions of what happens to the relays and the crew of the Normandy. It is actually amazing how such small details can have a huge impact. It would have been nice to have these tweaks in the original release. I’m sure it would have been enough to prevent the backlash. The new content is perhaps “too little, too late” and is being met with a subdued response. As they say: “there is no pleasing some people.” However, such an event – having a game producer recreate content in response to the dissatisfaction of fans – is unprecedented. This in itself makes it a significant event.

I have the utmost respect for Bioware and the Mass Effect team, for not only creating a great trilogy, but for rightfully treating the gaming community as an integral part of their success.

Mass Effect 3 – Extended cut available for PC now, XBOX360, PS3 DLC available July 4.

Look for Mass Effect 3 with the extended material on the WiiU this holiday season.

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