Rhythm Heaven (NDS) – Review

cover Rhythm Heaven, a DS game that is a sequel to Rhythm Tengoku, a Japanese-only release on the GBA, has come to the states and provides a nice alternative to standard rhythm games while still providing that quirkiness factor that such games often bring with them. While the core game is pretty easy to get through, it is difficult to master, and backed by a great presentation to make it worth struggling to master it all.

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Guitar Hero: Metallica (360) – Review

cover Guitar Hero: Metallica is the second band-specific game in the series, and given how woefully flat that Guitar Hero: Aerosmith came across, it’s very reasonable to have certain cautions about how well this game will be.  Fortunately, Neversoft did a lot of extra work to spit and polish this game up, paying a much better tribute to the band Metallica while also learning some of their lessons from past Guitar Hero games, making this game their best effort yet on the series and shows about as much skill towards music games as Harmonix has already.  It’s still got a few problem, mostly that if you’re not a fan of Metallica’s songs, you’re not going to find anything here, and that you’re going to spending the same price as a full game for a reduced soundtrack and fewer songs. However, the added features and touches really do make this game a great example to follow if they do attempt any more band-specific titles.

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Flower (PS3) – Review

Flower-cover Flower, a downloadable title for the PS3 from thatgamecompany follows up on their previous flOw game, making it less a game with objectives and more an experience to relax with. It’s a very simple game to learn, and won’t take much time to complete, but it’s a game to take in its beauty, visual and audio experience, and relaxing demeanor.  It is a tad costly for the brief experience, and certainly not going to be a hard core game, but it is still a excellent product.

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Rock Band 2 (360) – Review

Harmonix’s and MTV Games’ Rock Band was a stunning success last year, beating the Guitar Hero to the punch at incorporating several more instruments besides just guitar into the music game set.  Now, less than a year later, we’ve got Rock Band 2 (at least, those of us on Xbox 360s), and while it’s denoted as a sequel, it’s better to think of it as a version upgrade; there’s no major changes to gameplay (unless you never had the opportunity to play in Band World Tour mode before), and the set list is full of 84 new songs, so it may seem like simply a quick way to chug out a new title.  But Rock Band 2 is very very polished, and a few new features and some tweaks to gameplay really make up for all the small failings that were in Rock Band.  But more importantly, add in the fact that while there may only be 84 songs on disk, you have your DLC library as well as most of the original game’s songs available to play, making this title one that will continue to expand week after week.


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Guitar Hero: Aerosmith (360) – Review

cover Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is the second expansion/spin-off of the Guitar Hero, the first being the rather dismal Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.  This time around, RedOctane and Neversoft have focused the game on the career of one of rock’s more influential bands, Aerosmith, providing a song list with more than half the titles from the band, the rest from groups that Aerosmith based their style on or similar genre-wise.  While the game shows a lot more effort by the developers than Rocks the 80s, the fact that the game is short is a major problem, and likely puts this in the rent column for all but die-hard Aerosmith fans.

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Boogie (Wii) – Initial Impressions

This is definitely a weird game.  A first blush, it’s a combination of Karaoke Revolution and something like a free-form DDR – fortunately you don’t do both at the same time.  The KR part is pretty much as you expect, though the game feels quite generous in what it counts as correct.  You do get a nice free USB-based hand mic with the game, I don’t know how it works on a PC yet.   The DDR part is the most interesting side and feels almost like an SSX game.

And I expect you’re wondering how I can connect a dancing game to a snowboarding game?  First, most of the interface (game menus) feel like it’s borrowed heavily from SSX Blur (the last non-sports title EA put out for the Wii), not only in animations and bg music choice but how it’s very…non-rectangular and retro feeling.   More closely, while you dance, which is done by swing the Wii mote to the sides in time with the music, you score more by avoiding repeating a series of moves  much like you don’t score as many points for repeating tricks in SSX.  Also, as you get a lot of points in a row, you can attempt to active special moves by holding down a button and swinging the remote as indicated — not quite the same approach to starting Ubertricks in SSX, but the same idea.  Of course, you’re not trying to avoid obstacles or other skiers at the same time – – this is more a party game, but the same SSX approach is there.

Song list is ok — there’s a special place for any game that uses “Groove is the Heart” among other songs that have both good beats and lyrics (“Virtual Insanity”, “Celebration”, “Karma Chameleon” , etc..  It’s not EBA or Guitar Hero, but I can see how this game is probably better suited to a party environment than as a single player game.

Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s (PS2) – Review

Rocks the 80s - CoverOnce Guitar Hero II came out, Activision suggested that they would continue to develop the series, not only into Guitar Hero III, but also as genre-specific expansions. Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s is the first of these expansions, and while it delivers the strong gameplay that the series still has, it feels like a quick modification of the existing Guitar Hero II engine with the addition of several tracks from the 1980s, doing minimal work to improve the appearance, and yet still end up charging a new game price for it. Additionally, the shorter set list, while containing some notable 80s entries, is lacking in punch and really doesn’t help to make the game a must-have at the moment.

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Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (NDS, Import) – Review

Ouendan 2 - CoverWith the success of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!  in both the Japanese market as well as an import title to English parts of the world, iNIS, the developer of the game, worked with Nintendo to bring Elite Beat Agents to the Western world based on the same gameplay and approach.  It comes as no surprise then that iNIS expanded upon the improvements made in Elite Beat Agents and applied those to the sequel to Ouendan, called Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 (henceforth referred to as Ouendan 2).  The game is just as fun as both predecessors, a notch more difficult, and definitely shows the the series still has good legs despite the rather simple concept.

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Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! 2 (DS, Import) – Initial Impressions

A followup up to Ouendan 1 from a storyline perspective while taking most of the improvements that Elite Beat Agents had to offer is what makes up Ouendan 2.  The gameplay is the same as both these games: tap the screen as colored markers come up in time with the music to cheer on the various characters you’re helping.  The biggest change for the best is that there seems to be a much sharper learning curve with this game.  I finished through the Normal difficulty and while the first 6 levels were easy, the last few had just enough tough tracks that played on musical off-beats to throw me off and require a few reruns at it.  Notably, there’s a couple songs that are equivalent to “Canned Heat” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” from EBA in terms of their syncopation that threw me off.   However, I like that – the improved challenge earlier in the game feels much better than making Normal “too” easy.

It’s still all presented in Japanese, but, as with the first game, I think only one scenario seems a little odd and requires just a bit of Japanese culture knowledge; the rest are self-explanatory by pictures.  It is region free, so no need to mod your DS or anything like that.  Fans of the first game will see some of their favorite characters (crazy old pottery guy!) in some of the stories, so there’s nice continuity with the game.

Guitar Hero 2 (PS2) – Review

Guitar Hero 2 CoverThere’s very little to say about Guitar Hero 2, produced and distributed by Harmonix and Red Octane, beyond that it a truly outstanding sequel, exceeding the original title by having a better selection of guitar-ripping tracks, tightening up gameplay in favor of the player, and adding more multiplayer modes. Continue reading