Call of Duty 3 (360) – Review

Call of Duty 3 - Cover Continuing the popular series of World War II-themed first person shooter, Call of Duty 3, developed by Treyarch and published by Activision, pretty much stays the course from it’s prequels, adding a few small items to gameplay and story that generally make the game a bit better. Unfortunately, the game ultimately lacks anything really new or exciting to add to the current gaming market; I wouldn’t call it stale, but pretty much lackluster despite being a good challenge. Continue reading

Viva Pinata (360) – Initial Impressions

Well, not really initial impressions as I’ve played the game a bit before, but this time I really sunk a few focused hours into the game to get a better feel for it, as it’s suddenly been getting a lot of hype around.

Viva Pinata is basically a sim game, almost along the lines of Zoo Tycoon but much better done and enjoyable (the game is developed by Rare, who has done several hits of the past including Donkey Kong Country, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Kameo).  Basically, the goal is to try to build a garden using the pinata-based creatures to attract rarer pinata-based lifeforms and improve the overall appearence of your garden and your gardening abilities.  You first need to attract creatues to the garden by meeting certain requirements, and then after getting two of them together, you need to make sure their needs are met to encourage romance and the birth of more of their type within the garden.  The most basic form of pinata-based life requires minimal to get going, but higher life forms will not mate until they have devoured some of the lower forms.  This may require making sure you get the lower forms mating enough to get enough creatures to mate as to provide the requirements for the higher level ones.   You also need to consider the environment in your garden and the plants you keep.  As you get more high level species in the garden, your gardening rank increases and you gain access to tools to simplify the low-level duties so you can focus on the harder stuff.  Stores help to provide monetary shortcuts for the hard work you typically have to do to maintain the low level stuff going in the game.

Of course, as the game is targetted to younger players, the ‘violence’ in the game is minimal – it’s made sure that all the creatures are pinatas and thus are meant to be broken to get at the candy goodness inside.  And while you have to mate, there’s only fully interludes of the creatures doing a mating dance ritual, so it’s definitely a fine game for kids to play.

The game looks beautiful on the 360.

Yoshi’s Island DS – ~5hr

So far most of the game is good, classic nod back to the original Yoshi’s.

However, I just hit a level mid-4th  world that features ice floors (so you slip easily), narrow ledges over bottomless pits, and worse, bouncing balls that can hit and knock you back that bounce uncontrollably about the stage.

I lost 35 lives on this level.  How incredibly insane.  Two of three of these at a time is ok, but all 3 together really make this part really poorly designed for a Ninento platformer.   Everything else about this game is great, but this one level ticks me off.

Sam and Max Episode 2 (PC) – Impressions

Was able to download the next episode of Sam and Max off of Gametap, and, unfortunately, was able to finish it in one sitting today.  While most of the technical and creative factors of the game are just as good as the first game, the biggest problem I found was that it was too easy.  Normally Sam and Max has worked off some lateral thinking problems (like taking a word for it’s literal meaning, or using a tool in an unexpected, but somehow logical fashion), but none of the puzzles in Ep2 had that – they were all straight forward, and relatively simple to solve.  It only took me about 1.5hr to complete, which is unfortunate.

I’m hoping for a more challenging puzle in the remaining episodes.

Magical Starsign (NDS) – Initial Impressions

I’m only about 2hrs into this, but it’s an interesting JRPG.  The key feature is the magic system – there are 7 types of magic, 5 that form a type of rock-papers-scissors relationship in that one magic is always strong against another type, while weak against a different type, and 2 others that counter each other directly.  Each of your party’s characters (6 total, but where I am there’s only 2) have strengths in one type of magic.  Add to this that as time progresses in the game, 5 planets that power the first 5 magic types move about; when the corresponding planet is a specific zone, that magic becomes very powerful.  There’s also night and day which affects the last two magic types in the same way.  Mind you, no magic seems to be ineffective when it’s not in it’s zone or against a foe that it’s weak against – it’s just not as strong a damaging blow compared to when the magic’s in phase and against an opponent it’s strong against  So you have to actually think about the timing of your battles and who’s best at delivering the right blows, compared to most JRPGs that you can mostly just do melee attacks with the occassional spell to bring down the foes.   Plus, tapping a character at exactly the right time when attacking or defending can help boost the spell or reduce damage (respectively), so a bit of the Mario & Luigi RPG elements are there.

The game seems to have a good sense of humor and doesn’t seem to be written to that low of a common denominator, and the characters seem a bit more than just stereotypes.

Elebits (Wii) – ~8hr

Well, initially the game is fun, but there is definitely a point where it becomes tedious, even though the venues and challenges change, which is something that never happened really with Katamari Damacy.   It could be the fact that the venues become much larger (where I’m at, I’m looking about town for the Elebits, which remain the same size, but now exist in a much larger world), or that I just got through the somewhat annoying zero gravity levels that include a breakage limit – again, initially cool, you quickly realize how gentle you have to be when manipulating objects which sometimes is not the easiest to do with the Wiimote.  (The remote in this game does work in three dimensions – you can push the object by moving the wiimote in any direction including into/out of the screen for forward/backwards movement, and twist the object along the axis from the TV by turning the remote in your hand.  This only gives you 3 directions of movement despite having 1 direction for rotation, so if you need to rotate the object in a different direction, you have to move yourself to do that.)    I’ve also hit several points where the game speed takes a huge hit due to either or both the level size and number of objects on the level; it could also be the physics engine taking up too much time with the game.  While the objects are not high 3D models, they aren’t as simple as KD’s models, and given that the Wii is not a powerhouse, it definitely shows up as lost FPS and doggy controls.

It’s still a fun, unique game, but quickly running into this issue feeling like I’m doing the same stuff over and over and in some cases working just a bit too much for a game.

Kirby: Squeak Squad (NDS) – Initial Impressions

Squeak Squad is not a followup to Canvas Curse (in terms of gameplay), but is very much closer to the standard Kirby platformer games, updated to use some DS tricks compariable to New Super Mario Bros or Super Princess Peach.  The standard controls are normal (sucking up enemies to gain power, etc.), but you can collect up 5 items, which include treasures and special bubbles that store health or powers that can be released by touching their icons on the bottom screen, or can in some cases be combined with other stored items to make more powerful ones.  Treasure chests (which can be stolen by the foe Squeak Squad) contain the numerous unlockables for the game.

So far, so good.