A Boy and His Blob

Date Completed: 7/9/2012

I purchased A Boy and his Blob a few years ago because I thought that it would make a good title to play with my son.  When the original game came out back in 1989 Nintendo Power had a big article about the game and I had always wanted to try the original but I never got around to it.  I happened to pick this game up from the discount basket at Best Buy and it was one of the best purchases ever

The game is played by feeding blob various jelly beans which cause him to transform into different objects such as a parachute, ladder or rocket.  There are 40 different main levels to puzzle through and each level has three treasure chests that will unlock a challenge level if collected.  Each level by itself is pretty short and early on they are mostly easy.  The game never gets hard but some of the later levels do get quite challenging, especially if you want all three treasure chests.

I found the game to be absolutely charming.  The hand drawn animation look amazing and it feels like you’re playing a cartoon.  The game doesn’t have any dialog but it still manages to pack in quite a bit of emotion with Pixar like quality.  The game even gives you a few emotive controls and you can choose to hug the blob at any point.  I played most of the game with my three year old son and I’m pretty sure he wants a blob friend of his own so he can give him big hugs.  The developers even have a Send a Hug website so you can send blob hugs to your closest friends (or worst enemies). 

Free Hugs!

The best part of the game is saved for last.  The blob’s ultimate jelly bean is only available in the last few levels but it is well worth the wait.  He turns into – wait for it – A MECH WARRIOR.  My son kept running in circles screaming ‘Super Blob!’.  After finessing through 37 levels some wanton destruction was not only welcome – it was awesome. 

I loved playing the game with my boys.  It was a great way to share my gaming hobby with them, and this is a great game.  My only regret is that I didn’t pay full price for it.  The game is definitely worth the money and I’d really like to support the developer.

Pros

  • Beautiful hand drawn animation.
  • Dialog free story telling.

Cons

  • A few scary parts (If you’re 3 years old).
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ~8 hours
System: Nintendo Wii
Genre: Platform
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The Legend of Zelda : Skyward Sword *Revised*

Date Completed: May 24th, 2012

I decided to have a do-over with my post completion review of Skyward Sword.  I wasn’t happy with my previous review but it was late and I was tired so I posted it anyway.

It’s hard to say what I liked about Skyward Sword.  I suppose the most accurate thing I can say is that I liked the fact that it said ‘Zelda’ on the cover and featured characters that I’ve been familiar with for my entire life.  It’s the same fully realized 3D environment that has been a staple of the series since Ocarina of Time with a few new items and mechanics thrown in for good measure.  The biggest change with this game is that instead of traveling between locales on Horseback you do so on a giant bird called a Loftwing.  I personally would have liked to see Link’s trusty horse Epona appear as a Pegasus but I guess birds are good too.

The big innovation – Birds!!!

Flying around was a lot of fun but it turns out that the sky is a pretty dull place.  There are a few floating islands here and there but if you’re really looking for some action the surface world is the place to party.  The surface world is separated into three distinct areas – a Volcano, a Desert and a Forest.  The areas are completely separated so the only way to travel between them is to return to the Sky and land somewhere else.  Zelda used to be known for open exploration but this game ends up playing fairly linearly.  You have to explore and conquer all of the surface areas in order.

Combat in the game heavily relies on the Wii Motion+ peripheral.  Many enemies require that you attack them from a particular direction or to stab them by moving the remote directly forward.  This was fun when it worked but even with the Wii Motion+ Link can’t quite track what you’re doing.  I found that I had to be a lot more careful and precise with the remote on the more complicated battles.  None of them were overly difficult but I was frequently irritated Link wasn’t doing what I thought I was telling him to do.

Only a Horizontal slash will work here…

More so than any previous Zelda game this one is driven by the story.  Unfortunately I found the story to be mostly un-fulfilling.  I guess I was hoping for more believable villains, a more purposeful Hero or for the back story to make more sense.  Without giving too much away I guess the most I can say is that the story is merely adequate.

Irritations are frequent in this game.  Every time you start up the game you need to go through the same controller calibrations, watch the same unskippable explanations every time you pick up an item, and listen to your sidekick chime in and tell you the same irrelevant and uninteresting things.  Motion control calibrations get messed up frequently and you have to recenter your view.  I found it impossible to play the game sitting down due to the needs of the motion controller.  25 years ago I didn’t have to put up with any of this.  It seems like Nintendo should have a “I’ve been playing Zelda for 25 years so shut up and just let me play the darn game” option somewhere but sadly such a setting does not exist. 

I played the game mostly with my 3 year old son watching.  It may have been a little too violent for him but he didn’t try to beat up his little brother any more than normal so I just went with it.  He really enjoyed watching the game and often asked to play ‘Princess Zelda’.  I would give him a remote he could hold while we played together and he’d happily swing it around and play along.  I think my favorite memory of the game was ‘playing’ it with my boy.

Princess Zelda!!!

Overall the game is good, but not great.  It is a Zelda game though, so if you’re a fan of the series it’s definitely worth playing through at least once.

Pros

  • Zelda in the Sky!
  • Motion+ optimized game play

Cons

  • Frequent Irritations
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  ~50 hours
System: Nintendo Wii
Genre: Action / Adventure

Mario Sports Mix

Date Completed: Unknown

I was pretty sure that I had already wrote down my experience about this game but apparently I completely forgot about it.  I could probably check on the Wii Console when I finished playing the game but I just don’t have the energy at this moment.

My son and I really enjoyed playing this game together.  He had watched me play through Donkey Kong Country Returns and required that I choose Donkey Kong for all of the sports teams I was on.  In a weird twist several Final Fantasy characters are also present in the game.  Our standard team consisted of Donkey Kong and a Moogle

There are three difficulty modes – Normal, Hard and Very Hard.  Very Hard is only unlocked after beating everything on Hard.  The ONLY difficulty that is remotely difficult is Very Hard.  The Normal difficulty is so easy that the other team only managed to score points when I got bored and stopped paying attention.

Out of the four sports available but there are really only minor differences between them.  You’ll have your choice of Volleball, Dodgeball, Hockey and Basketball.  After mastering the tournaments in all of these you’ll unlock a surprise boss battle and Sports Mix mode.

In all the sports you can pick up coins during the match which add points to your total when you score.  There are also the normal Mario game items that you can use to mess with the other team. Shells, Bananas and Mushrooms can be used to smite your foes into oblivion.  You also have a powered up shot that is specific to the character you’re playing that will generally guarantee you will score.

Each of the sports is fun but way too easy.  I didn’t start losing matches until Very Hard difficulty and even then it was rarely.  There are a lot of unlockable characters and interesting levels but they have to be unlocked on EACH SPORT.  If you unlock Moogle on Volleyball you will not be able to use Moogle on Dodgeball.  SUPER LAME.  Luckily there is a code that can be entered that unlocks EVERYTHING.  After beating the game legitimately I immediately entered the code because there was no way I was going through the work to unlock everything myself.

The single player is pretty fun, and Final Fantasy characters are a great gimmick but this game is best as a party game.  Four player action and the normal out-of-control Mario action make it a great option to occupy you and your three closest friends next time they’re over for Nachos.

Pros

  • Four playable sports
  • Unlockable Final Fantasy characters

Cons

  • Not very challenging
  • Unlocking everything is a pain ( without using the code )
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  ~8 hours
System: Nintendo Wii
Genre: Sports

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Date Completed: November 27th, 2011

17 years after the release of the original I have finally completed my very first Donkey Kong Country game.  I’d played the original at my next-door neighbors house but never enjoyed it enough to dedicate any time to.  The only reason I purchased this title was that it was released during a time when the Wii was beginning to suffer a drought of quality titles and I was buying up all halfway decent Wii titles I could afford to show support for the platform.

It took me awhile to beat this game.  I had to balance playing the game out with not letting the kids watch television but I finally got close enough to the end of the game that I did it all in a two day marathon session of gaming, with the kids cheering me on.  My two year old started to pick up my creative language whenever I died in the game so I had to switch to shouting something other than what naturally came to mind.  By the end of the game my son was shouting “OH COME ON” every time Donkey Kong fell into a pool of lava.  Awesome.

I can recognize the work of genius when I see it.  The level design of Donkey Kong Country Returns is the work of genius.  Even with low quality Wii graphics this game manages to look beautiful.  The platforming sections in the game are unique and innovative.  You never get the feeling in this game that you get with some game that sections are being reused.  Every level feels fresh and new.  I absolutely loved playing the game because I was excited to see what the next level would be like.  This level of quality in level design is something that I’ve only seen from Nintendo.

Several levels are played in silhouette

The level design is amazing, but the controls for this game are a bit frustrating.  I think there are other control schemes available but I used the Wiimote + Nun-chuck control scheme.  You can make Donkey Kong duck and blow (which is required to blow out some flaming enemies, or uncover secret items) by pressing down on the analog stick and shaking the Wiimote and nun-chuck alternately.  I found this control scheme to be too similar to the action that makes Donkey Kong roll forward and I often found myself rolling into a pit.  Some of the collision detection seemed a bit off and I would often find myself surviving when I thought I should be dead, or more frustratingly I found myself dead when I thought I should be alive!!  The controls are what they are and after getting used to them I found that I could enjoy the game without too much frustration.

Donkey Kong Country Returns is the most fun I’ve had playing a Wii game since playing through Super Mario Galaxy 2.  If you have the opportunity to play through this game I suggest you do so.

My Wife’s Take : “If you talk about how great the level design is one more time I’m going to kill you!”

Pros

  • Excellent level design.

Cons

  • Collision detection and play control seem a little ‘loose’.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ~8 hours
System: Nintendo Wii
Genre: Platform

Punch-Out

Date Completed: August 28th, 2011

Like many other Wii owners I have constantly had to justify the continued existence of my console.  I’m a bit of a Nintendo fanboy and I want to love the console and I want to feel justified in my purchase of 37 different peripherals, but more often than not the console sits in the dark,  un-powered and alone, gathering dust.  I normally wouldn’t have purchased Punch-Out but my Wii guilt was kicking in so I put it on my birthday list.

One of the reasons that Punch-Out appealed as a game to fill the Wii shaped void in my gaming life was that it featured full motion controls and balance board support.  I stubbornly refused to give traditional controls a try and insisted on using the motion controls and balance board.  For this reason I did not beat the game for a year and a half after I first started it.

The motion controls are a big improvement over the crummy motion controls included with the Wii Sports tech demos.  Instead of angling your controllers you use the analog stick to choose between a head shot and a body shot.  It may not feel quite as natural but you get a decent workout and your character actually does what you want him to.  That seems like a decent trade-off to me.  The balance board control works pretty well, except it appears that the game was designed without the balance board in mind and that it was tacked on later as an option.  The opponents get faster and faster until eventually there is no way you’ll be able to shift your balance fast enough to dodge incoming punches.  I was stuck on the first fight of the world cup for months before I finally gave up hope and ditched the balance board.  Two days later I’d finished the game.

It took me about 30 minutes to learn the tells and train myself to react to each opponent.  After beating everyone in the main tournament you can start in on title defense mode.  All of your opponents have a second coming with a few slight modifications.  In addition to the tournament mode there is also an exhibition mode with achievements as well as a multiplayer mode so there is plenty of extra content to enjoy.

Using the motion controls I got a decent workout.  I will keep this game around as a fitness title but I don’t think I’ll ever want to play through the main tournament again.  I’ll probably just stick to the exhibition mode when it’s too cold to go outside and get real exercise.

Pros
* Punch-out with motion controls!
* Tournament Defense, Exhibition and Multiplayer modes add extra content.
Cons
* Balance board control is crap.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length: 8 hours
System:Wii
Genre: Sports

ExciteBots: Trick Racing

Date Completed: July 11th, 2011

I was lucky enough to purchase a Wii on launch day but I was not lucky enough to be able to pick up Twilight Princess with it.  There weren’t many games available at the time so I had to plug the Zelda shaped hole in my heart with a game that I probably wouldn’t have considered in other circumstances – ExciteTruck.

Surprisingly I really got into ExciteTruck.  When playing I would usually start in a seated position but I always wound up hopping up to my feet and jumping all over the room.  ExciteTruck stands out to me as one of the best examples of how motion-based gaming can actually work well.  ExciteBots is the sequel to ExciteTruck, and it includes Wi-Fi so I naturally had to pick it up.

My first impression of this game is that ExciteBots is silly.  While ExciteTruck was over-the-top fun motion based action racing ExciteBots adds on several layers of buffoonery that at first I wasn’t sure what to think of.  In addition to the jumping, spinning, drifting and crashing action of ExciteTruck, in ExciteBots you’ll also find yourself bowling, throwing darts, playing the tambourine, fishing, putting together a sandwich, saving butterflies and kicking field goals.  No longer will you be driving something so mundane as a ‘truck’.  Now you’ll be driving an insect or lizard based robot that can transform into a bipedal running machine.

Fishing?  In the middle of a race?

Simply put, this game is nuts.  In a very fun way.  After getting into the game I couldn’t stop playing it.  Races take under 5 minutes so it’s a pretty easy game to pick up and put a few minutes into at a time.  You win by collecting stars, not by finishing first so your first goal is to pick up as many stars as possible.  Most courses have several routes through them which may yield different amounts of stars, depending on your Bot.  Some bots are better at jumping, some are better at drifting and some are faster.  You have to pick the right route through a course to maximize your star collecting potential.  There is actually a surprising amount of strategy involved.

 
ExiteBots has additional modes such a Poker Run, unlockable trophies, unlockable paint jobs, unlockable Bots, and extra play modes such as Super Excite and Mirror mode.  The game itself may not take long to play but it’s not hurting for content.  I’d say that this game is a great value and a worth choice for any Wii game library. (it’s pretty cheap now, under 20$ new)
I was never able to use the Wi-Fi mode of this game.  I tried talking some of my friends into buying this game but no one else was interested.  Sadness.
Pros
*Short fun levels.
*Lots of unlockable content.
Cons
* My friends wouldn’t buy it and play me on Wi-Fi!!!
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  ~5 hours
System: Wii
Genre: Racing

James Bond 007: GoldenEye

If you owned a Nintendo 64 in the late 1990’s, chances are you owned Goldeneye.  The four player simultaneous gameplay made it a staple in dormitories across the world.  Hearing the name Goldeneye automatically summons memories of dorm rooms, crappy cafeteria food and many long nights spent avoiding study and playing video games.

Unfortunately there was no way this game could live up to the nostalgia.  Fortunately for the sake of this review I went back and played the original.  I was astounded to see how absolutely horrible the original actually was.  The graphics were horribly dated and the control scheme was almost unusable.  I can’t fathom how I found the original to be enjoyable.

The remake was packaged with a Golden classic controller.  I believe other control schemes are available but I made a point of using only the controller the game came with.  After experiencing other FPS games on the Wii I found that using dual analogs was a welcome change.  Sometimes you just want to sit and relax while playing a game.  Motion control can make that kind of tricky.

The game starts of in the same place as the original but quickly becomes unrecognizable.  It is apparent that this is a whole new game.  Characters and locales are the same but circumstances have been updated.  Some of the levels share similar landmarks but the layouts share few similarities.  The original game featured around 30 small levels.  This game features 12 much larger levels.  I found that each level would take an average of 30 minutes to complete with no ability to save mid-level.   I have two small children and I find it very difficult to play games that do not allow frequent saving.

The game has very high production values.  After beating the opening of the game you’re treated to the standard James Bond intro song complete with credits.  Several of the levels had the fine little touches that add personality to a game.  Unfortunately it was hard to ignore that all of this came from a standard definition console.  I found it impossible not to think ‘This would have looked so cool on my PS3!!’.

The game overall was good and I enjoyed playing it.  I wasn’t able to sample the multiplayer as much because I no longer live in a dormitory.   Unlike the original all of the multiplayer cheats appeared to be unlocked from the get-go so you won’t have to play single player any more than you want to.

This part looks familiar, the rest of the game not so much.

Pros

* A decent FPS multiplayer experience on the Wii!
Cons
* No mid-level saving.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  8 hours
System: Wii
Genre: First Person Shooter