Tag Archives: GameCube

SG88 Sonic Adventure 2 Header

Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast)

Developer(s) – Sonic Team USA

Publisher(s) – Sega

Director(s) – Takashi Lizuka

Producer(s) – Yuji Naka

PEGI – 7

 

Released to a generally favorable response from critics at the time, Sonic Adventure 2 delivered a much different Gameplay experience from the original Sonic Adventure with a more linear play progression, a side quest beloved by many Sonic fans, and the introduction of new characters such as Shadow the Hedgehog and Rouge the Bat. Although I did spend a great deal of time playing through this game multiple times when I was a kid, going back into it with an entirely new perspective, I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the original game for a number of reasons. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

The main thing Sonic Adventure 2 improves on its predecessor, however, is the quality of the visuals on the technical level. Some cutscenes are even presented at 60 frames per second unlike the first, which was presented entirely at 30 frames per second throughout. From a conceptual standpoint, it’s just as wonderfully varied as the first game was taking place in vibrant cities, deep jungles, space stations, and even pyramids. As far as graphics go, it was most definitely one of the best-looking games on the Dreamcast. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The gameplay is structured much differently than the original too. As opposed to having six different overlapping scenarios, there are two scenarios to play between the heroes of the game and the villains, with Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles making up the heroes, and Dr. Robotnik, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Rouge the Bat making up the villains. The gameplay structure is far less open-ended than the original with merely two predetermined paths with the added side quest of Chao raising, which is like raising a farm of Tamagotchis; some players even think that the Chao raising is the best aspect of the game. But to me, in comparison to the first, it falls below par; the gameplay concept of the original game needed to be expanded upon the right way, and the developers didn’t do that, making for a more than decent gameplay experience, but just not the experience it could’ve been. 

 

Controls – 7.5/10

The control scheme is as varied as in the original game, with both Tails and Robotnik in mobile robots this time round, differing from how Tails handled in the first game. But the problem. Being is that Sonic’s control scheme, along with Shadow’s, is the same as what in the first Sonic Adventure, and as such, it still presents the same problems. If anything, they actually seem more prevalent as there are fewer open locations than there were in the first game. So although there are positives in regards to the controls, there are enough negatives to keep it seems as lacking in fluency as the first game. 

 

Lifespan – 4/10

The biggest downgrade compared to the first game, however, is in regards to the Lifespan. The first game lasted an underwhelmingly short amount of time anyway at 8 hours, but the second game can only be made to last about half that time, which for a game in a series as popular as Sonic is unacceptable. The point of a sequel is to build on the ideas perpetuated by the first in an attempt to create a better game, and having the second last less time than the first is not building on the first in a positive way. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

One aspect in which there have been improvements made, however, is in the story and the dialogue. The six characters involved are in the search for the seven chaos emeralds again, but this time, Dr. Robotnik enlists the help of Shadow The Hedgehog and Rouge the Bat to find the emeralds to activate a weapon capable of destroying planets to ensure his dominance over the world. Although there are serious Star Wars vibes, almost to the point of self-parody in fact, the element that makes this game’s story much more interesting than the last is Shadow; on the surface, he seems no better than the likes of Robotnik, but after slowly learning his back story, the player can come to empathize, or maybe even sympathize with him like I ended up doing. 

 

Originality – 5/10

The game stands out from the original but in many of the wrong ways. Although the overall experience isn’t bad by any means, it’s just not the game it could’ve been developed into in my opinion, and it left me wanting so much more than what is offered. It’s an exceptional example of how not to build on a successful game, giving players a somewhat watered-down experience. In the end, I found myself asking a lot of what-if questions about this game, and to me, it’s always a bad sign when I find myself doing so because it’s a clear indication of the game falling short in comparison to what it could’ve been given a little more development time. 

 

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However, for as much as I have criticized this game, Sonic Adventure 2 is still an enjoyable gaming experience with a fair bit to offer for the short time it lasts. Although it’s nowhere near the quality of the game it had the potential to be, it just about does enough to be considered a worthwhile sequel. 

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Scouse Gamer 88 Enter The Matrix Header

Enter the Matrix (PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube & Xbox)

Developer(s) – Shiny Entertainment 

Publisher(s) – Infogrames

Director(s) – The Wachowski Brothers

Designer(s) – David Perry

ELSPA – 15+

 

Set during the event of the second film The Matrix Reloaded and directed by the film’s original directors, Enter The Matrix was released to mixed critical reception but performed very well commercially at the time. Personally, this is one of those games that to me is extremely enjoyable to play, yet gamers and critics seem to hate it for unjustified reasons. A lot of critics at the time commented that both the game and the film were devalued as a result of the release of the game, but I disagree; I enjoyed the film and the game in equal measure and I still do.

 

Graphics – 9/10

On a technical level, the visuals were cutting the edge at the time, and they more than adequately hold up this day in comparison with any other sixth-generation titles. There is the odd graphical glitch here and there to prevent it from receiving a perfect score for visuals, but they are few and far between; the best port in terms of this would be the Xbox version. In terms of conceptual design, it’s exactly what people who have watched the films can expect. It’s dark, gritty, and takes place in many locations that are in the film itself, as well as a few new locations added for good measure. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

Enter The Matrix is a third-person action-adventure that’s heavy on hand-to-hand combat as well as gunplay. If I would have to compare it to any other game, it would most like be Max Payne, as it plays out quite similar to the former. Again, it’s exactly the kind of game that people familiar with the films can come to expect in terms of gameplay as well. Players can instigate slow motion to their advantage similar to show the film is shot and they have a variety of different weapons and combat abilities at their disposal throughout. There are also car chasing sequences whereby players either have to control the car or shoot from the window to fend off enemies, depending on which character they are playing as. There are two-story arcs to experience within the game, which gives it a fair amount of replay value in addition. 

 

Controls – 8/10

The biggest issue with the Controls in terms of the targeting system. It’s supposed to work in a similar fashion to Ocarina of Time, but as it’s meant to be instigated automatically, it can cause issues with things like hit detection. But otherwise, the control scheme is handled as well as what was needed. I certainly didn’t have as much of a hard time as many other gamers and critics seemed to have. 

 

Lifespan – 5.5/10

Enter The Matrix can be made to last about 6 and a half hours, which for a linear action game isn’t too bad. If comparing to Max Payne in this respect, it falls short, as the former could be made to last around 20 hours, but for those looking to experience this game in full, there is plenty to do to keep things entertaining throughout. It didn’t perpetuate the standards that were met at the time in terms of Lifespan compared to many other games released back then, but it’s not as painfully short as many other games would in years to come either. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story takes place during the events of The Matrix Reloaded but told from the perspective of the member of the ship The Logos, led by Captain Niobe. She, along with her partner Ghost and their operator Sparks, are tasked with various missions in order to help Neo fulfill his destiny and bring about the end of the war between man and machine. The story is well written to the point that it feels almost like one massive deleted scene from the Matrix Reloaded. Jada Pinkett-Smith gives a solid performance as Niobe and the plot fits in nicely with the events of the second film. It all ties in to make for what is a very cinematic experience without it feeling too cinematic, like in many other games. 

 

Originality – 8/10

In terms of uniqueness, it’s exactly what fans of the film and come to expect in every respect, but the gameplay, despite the gripes that people may have with it, was enjoyable to a great enough extent and still remains so in my opinion. The combat system, though somewhat flawed, was unlike anything I’d seen prior to playing it. It stands out as a licensed game that was of a decent standard before the general standard of licensed games would be elevated with the release of Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009, and in my opinion, very unfairly overlooked. 

 

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Overall, Enter The Matrix is a far better game than what people have given it credit for since its release. Though it has its problems, it’s an enjoyable game that ties in with the films flawlessly. 

Score

45.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Resident Evil 2 (PC, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast & GameCube)

Developer(s) – Capcom

Publisher(s) – Capcom

Director(s) – Hideki Kamiya

Producer(s) – Shinji Mikami

PEGI – 18

Released in 1998 has generated more revenue than most Hollywood movies at the time, Resident Evil 2 is a continuation of the story of the original with new characters, new setting, and new dangers to overcome besides the zombies littering the mansion on the borders of Raccoon City. For various different reasons, I found the second game, whilst suffering from a few of the same problems as the first, to be a decisive improvement on its predecessor in a number of respects. 

 

Graphics – 9/10

The most notable improvement of which, in my opinion, is in terms of its visual quality, with the player no longer being confined to a single mansion on the outskirts of Raccoon City, but rather in the heart of Raccoon City itself. Locations range from the ruins of Raccoon City streets to the Raccoon Police Department to research facilities and it was a welcome change of scenery at the time that made the franchise a lot more diverse. The quality of the zombie sprites was also a lot more varied than in the original game with different outfits for zombies, zombie policemen, and even female zombies too. There were visible improvements in both the technical and conceptual aspects of the game, which were pleasant to see. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

In terms of gameplay, it plays out pretty much like an extension to the first game with a couple of added mechanics thrown in for good measure. Like in the first game, there are two scenarios to play through with two different characters, so it almost felt like two different games at the time, especially as it came on two discs.  It also presents more of a challenge in the respect that it has new kinds of puzzles and new enemies to fight that require different strategies to take down, as well as a greater number of boss fights, which would later become a staple of the series. 

 

Controls – 7/10

The game’s control scheme, as such, is also the same as it was in the first game, and therefore, it suffers from very much the same issues as it did in the first game, with movement feeling very stiff and clunky, seemingly needlessly when compared to other games on the system. There had been some minor adjustments made, but enough for the game to deviate away further enough from the problems that came with the first game. The whole formula would go on to be improved with games like Onimusha, but overall, it didn’t make the game unplayable. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last the same amount of time as the first game; 15 hours give or take. That’s to play through both scenarios on both discs. There are a few more side quests in comparison to the original game, but overall, it lasts as long as Resident Evil. As a fan of the Onimusha series, I can’t help but think what the game would’ve been like if Capcom had implemented the same kind of ideas they with Onimusha 2 in comparison with the original Onimusha; how even more varied gameplay would’ve been and what different kinds of events could have been made to happen as a result. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story takes place around 2 months after the events of the original Resident Evil. It follows the journeys of Leon Kennedy, a STARS officer on his day with the department, and Claire Redfield, the brother of the previous games’ main protagonist Chris Redfield, whom she has come to Raccoon City to try and track down. The two soon become embroiled in a zombie outbreak across Raccoon City and they set out on a journey to discover the source of the outbreak. The quality of the story is much better than in the original game, with a better script and even better voice acting to a certain extent. It still comes across as somewhat corny and cliche at times, but it was certainly an improvement on the quality of writing that the first game had to offer. I’ve yet to come across many bigger memes in gaming than the whole Jill Sandwich thing; thankfully there’s nothing quite as laughable in this game as that. 

 

Originality – 7/10

A common problem I encounter with survival horror sequels is that when the same threat is included as in the original game, it seems far less scary when the player knows what they’re up against. But in Resident Evil 2, there is a new threat added to keep things diverse, which has become another staple within the series. The second game introduces players to the Lickers and other eldritch abominations that spawn from the new G-virus that acts as the main threat of the game, which at the time did relatively well to keep things fresh in comparison to the first game. The zombies didn’t seem as scary anymore, even at the time, but encountering a Licker for the first time most definitely instilled fear in me back in the day. 

 

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Overall, Resident Evil 2 made some very definitive improvements over the original game in almost every respect. I recommend it far more than I do than the first game as even taking the recent remaster into account, the original experience still holds up to this day. 

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

SG88 The Simpsons: Road Rage Header

The Simpsons: Road Rage (PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube & Game Boy Advance)

Developer(s) – Radical Entertainment & Altron

Publisher(s) – EA &THQ

PEGI – 3

 

Developed by Radical Entertainment and released for a number of sixth-generation consoles, The Simpsons: Road Rage is a driving game similar to Crazy Taxi; so similar in the fact that Sega ended up bringing a lawsuit to Fox Entertainment, which was settled before it went to court. The home console version received mixed reviews upon release, which the Game Boy Advance port was universally panned. I would put it in the category of it being a mixed bag as opposed to it being an overall negative experience; the game, while flawed, does have some redeeming quality to it and is a relatively enjoyable title to play. 

 

Graphics – 7/10

The game is set across various locations throughout the town of Springfield, the Downtown district, and the Nuclear Power Plant to name but a few. The visuals were one aspect at the time that was heavily criticized upon release of this game, but I’ve never understood why other reviewers had such a gripe with them. They’re technically sound as they look just as well as any other early sixth generation game, and it’s among the first games to have cel-shaded visuals, which helped to make it stand out at the time. The graphics are also conceptually sound, as it has exactly what a player would expect playing a game based on The Simpsons; cartoonish graphics that aren’t necessarily cutting-edge. What’s more is that all the original voice actors are present, which again, only adds to the feel of what was to be expected. 

 

Gameplay – 7/10

A driving game by genre, whilst it does borrow heavily from Crazy Taxi, there are also a number of distinct gameplay features as well, such as bonuses given for either careful or reckless driving, a cast of familiar Simpsons characters, and vehicles to unlock and a story mode. The similarities to Crazy Taxi never bothered me as much as it bothered other players. The way I see it, It’s a lot like comparing Mario Kart 64 to Diddy Kong Racing; Diddy Kong Racing had more distinct features to it that provided a lot more entertainment than Mario Kart 64 in my opinion, making it the better game. Likewise, I actually prefer The Simpsons: Road Rage to Crazy Taxi. 

 

Controls – 8/10

The controls were another aspect that critics had problems with as well, and in this respect, I can empathize with their concerns to a certain extent. It can be very easy to unintentionally crash into things due to very sensitive collision mechanics and it can cause some issues that can’t necessarily be put down to how reckless players are driving at the time. There are shortcuts around each track to make for smoother driving, but I think the game would’ve benefitted from there being more of them to add to the game’s fluidity. That being said, cars are a lot easier to handle than what they are in many other racing games, so there are issues that other critics had with this game that I still disagree with in terms of controls. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

Thanks to the inclusion of a story mode and a high score system, the game can take an unprecedented amount of time to finish, which impressed me greatly. 20 hours is the average lifespan of this game; this is the time it takes to unlock every course, unlock every character, surpass all the high scores, and get through the story mode. I can’t help but think that if there were more of an incentive to collect as much money as possible as opposed to simply the high score, then there would be a little bit more to play for, but still, I was taken aback by just how long it took to beat this game when I beat it at the time it came out. 

 

Storyline – 5/10

The story of the game involves the Simpsons, as well as several other familiar characters in the series, setting up their own taxi services in order to compete with, and eventually drive out, a dangerous radioactive bus service set up by Mr. Burns. There are a couple of jokes thrown into cutscenes that are somewhat reminiscent of the golden age of the Simpsons throughout the 90s, but depending on which character the player selects, there’s not the level of comedy you would expect from a Simpsons game. The best characters to pick for that are simply the funnier characters that exist within the show, like Homer, Moe, and Krusty the Clown. 

 

Originality – 6/10

There’s no denying that Crazy Taxi was a major influence behind this game. However, as I stated earlier, this game was one of the first to make use of cel-shaded visuals, which would go on to be used in games of major franchises, such as The Legend of Zelda and Borderlands. Jet Set Radio was the very first, but it’s because of elements like that, as well as what gameplay differences there are compared to Crazy Taxi, which makes this game stand out more than what people may realize. 

 

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Overall, The Simpsons: Road Rage, whilst not being the game had the potential to be, is by no means a completely disappointing experience. It has plenty to do, great visuals, the quirky cast of Simpsons fan favorites, and all the best things about Crazy Taxi intact, which makes for the better game out of the two in my opinion. 

Score

41/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

SG88 XIII Header

XIII (PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Mac & PC)

Developer(s) – Ubisoft Paris, Southend Interactive (Xbox) & Feral Interactive (Mac)

Publisher(s) – Ubisoft, Marvelous Entertainment & Feral Interactive

Director – Elisabeth Pellen

Producer – Julien Barés

PEGI – 16

 

XIII was a game based on the comic book of the same name written by Belgian novelist Jean Van Hamme. According to then Ubisoft president Laurent Detoc, the game would create “a world so unique and enthralling that gamers will become instantly engaged”. Even with a very new form of visual presentation in video games, I wouldn’t entirely agree with this.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The graphics were fairly well done for the time. This was, after all, the first-ever comic book style first-person shooter. Its visual style is indeed the best thing about the game not only that, but it is also very well polished. I couldn’t see any glitches or anything like that whilst I was playing through it. I think the weak point about the game’s style is that the settings are extremely similar to that of games like Perfect Dark and Goldeneye 007, which would suggest that influences were somewhat too obvious. For example, the level whereby rooftops have to be traversed in order to elude police recapture was very similar to the opening level of Perfect Dark in conceptual design.

 

Gameplay – 5/10

Although this game was revolutionary for its time in terms of visuals, it wasn’t in terms of gameplay. Even for the time, this is a first-person shooter, which plays out pretty typically for most games in the genre. Any element of challenge in the game is presented through the stealth mechanics, which again, are not as elaborated on as those found in games like Metal Gear Solid, or the first Sly Cooper. The game also has a small amount of incentive and variety, as the more the player progresses, the more the main character’s memory is regained, thus yielding more skills as the game progresses. But even so, this game can become very boring very quickly, in my opinion.

 

Controls – 7/10

The movement in this game is also particularly stiff. It can become an unnecessary chore to aim at times, and the auto-aim system can be particularly confusing, as the crosshair doesn’t fix itself onto targets properly. Also, the grapple hook used to traverse buildings or mountains can be difficult to get to grips with at first. But other than that, the game plays out fine in terms of controls.

 

Lifespan – 5.5/10

Typical of any standard first-person shooter, XIII can be finished within 6 hours. Visuals alone are never enough to keep people playing a video game. At the end of the day, it’s all about the gameplay, and there wasn’t enough of it in XIII to make it last as long as it may have been able to. The problem with developing linear first-person shooters, or even linear games in general, is that very few of them have side quests and therefore contain next to no replay value apart from playing through it on a harder difficulty.

 

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story is about a man named XIII, who wakes up on a beach with amnesia to find out he is the prime suspect of the president’s recent assassination, and he must fight his way through the FBI, the CIA, and the criminal underworld in order to uncover his identity and clear his name in the process. The game’s story is actually not bad, to be fair. There are a few decent twists and turns to it but the voice acting is a bit off. The standout performances, in my opinion, are that of both David Duchovny and Adam West, who play XIII and General Carrington respectively. This was based on a fairly popular comic book series, so it was always bound to have some depth in the story, at least. But overall, I think the developers chose to concentrate more on that and visual style than on gameplay.

 

Originality – 7/10

Obviously, the most significant features of this game are the stylized visuals, which would become a stable part of game franchises in the future, and the pretty compelling story. But as I keep pointing out, it’s all about gameplay ultimately, and there wasn’t enough innovation in that department to keep it enthralling in my opinion.

 

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Overall, I think first-person shooting fans should play through this game at least once, but I think it should probably be left at that. It’s terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but I think the novelty wears off after a while, as there doesn’t seem to be enough substance in gameplay to keep it entertaining throughout.

Score

38.5/60

6/10 (Average)

SG99 Wario World Header

Wario World (Nintendo GameCube)

Developer(s) – Treasure

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Kouichi Kimura & Hitoshi Yamagami

Producer(s) – Takahiro Izushi & Masato Maegawa

PEGI – 3

 

Release somewhat late into the GameCube’s shelf life, Wario World provided a different take on what players had seen on that particular console, but not so different from what they had already seen on past systems. I have played much worse games, but this is the first and last Nintendo game that Treasure ever developed, and understandably so.

 

Graphics – 7/10

One aspect I don’t think I should criticize too much is the visuals. There is some diversity present in both level and boss designs, and the enemies and characters that can be found throughout the game are not as generic as they seem at first glance. To list a few examples, the five Spritelings to be found in each level (in itself a reference to the Jinjos in the Banjo-Kazooie series) closely resemble Pikmin, the fact that the purple flying dinosaur enemies can be seen as a homage to Ridley from the Metroid series, and the Magon enemies found from the very first level closely resemble Bowser from the Super Mario series; the fact that there is a skeletal variation of the Magon would seem to clarify this even further.

 

Gameplay – 6.5/10

The game is a 3D platformer, but not made in the same vein as what was popular at the time; but rather made to be much more linear, and as a result, I think it suffered. It is enjoyable for a time, but it could be argued that it is far too easy; even for a Mario game, and even to complete it to 100%. Its level of difficulty made obvious to me by the fact that there are even the Magons in the first few levels that don’t attack the player. However, it is interesting to be able to identify different influences the developers took to create the game’s play; not just from Nintendo games. For example, the level and world layout are very similar to the first three Crash Bandicoot games, and the ability to spin enemies around and throw them hearkens back to the strategy of defeating Bowser in Super Mario 64.

 

Controls – 10/10

Another thing I shouldn’t complain about is the game’s control scheme. Although it is an easy game regardless, it could have done with no complications in terms of controls, and thankfully, there are none.

 

Lifespan – 4.5/10

As a 3D platformer made in the same vein as classic Crash Bandicoot, the linearity of it, unfortunately, made for a particularly and disappointingly short experience of about 5 hours. Particularly from Nintendo’s point of view, I imagine that it would have seemed like a particularly underwhelming experience, since many other games released on that system, including 3D platformers, were made to last considerably longer, and provide much more entertainment.

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story of the game follows Super Mario antagonist Wario, who is on a quest to reclaim his riches after they are turned into monsters by the evil anthropomorphic black jewel, which Wario had recently acquired. The only good thing I would say for it is that it is slightly different from most other plots across the Super Mario franchise since it tells a story from the point of view of evil as opposed to that of good, but it still can be seen as nothing overly special and pretty mundane.

 

Originality – 4/10

Although the game does have its charms here and there, in lieu of Nintendo tradition, it’s still bland enough and far too packed with recycled elements for me to be able to legitimately call it original; especially in terms of gameplay. After pioneering the 3D platforming genre with Super Mario 64, and then going on to make a ton of successful games in the same genre, it seems to me that with this game, Nintendo was actually going back on themselves; something that they rarely do. Nintendo had always pioneered themselves as innovators, but it’s evident to me that innovation wasn’t a watchword at Treasure during development.

 

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In summation, Wario World isn’t the worst game ever developed, but it’s certainly not one of the best either. It was below par by any level of standards ever set by Nintendo and gives testament to the fact that not all developer collaborations can work out well.

Score

38/60

6/10 (Average)

SG88 Vexx Header

Vexx (GameCube, PlayStation 2 & Xbox)

Developer(s) – Acclaim Studios Austin

Publisher(s) – Acclaim Entertainment

ELSPA – 11+

 

Being the last original IP published by Acclaim Studios before filing for bankruptcy in late 2004, Vexx was a 3D platformer released to mixed critical success, and low sales figures leading to the cancellation of a planned port to the Game Boy Advance. Personally, I did find that the game had more than it’s fair of issues, but It’s certainly not the worst 3D platformer I’ve played, and not one of the worst 3D platformers released throughout the sixth generation. The game also has it’s finer points that are certainly worth highlighting.

 

Graphics – 6.5/10

One of these finer points is that the game’s visuals are about as wonderfully varied as many other more successful 3D platformers featuring a wide variety of different locations ranging from forests to volcanoes to dream worlds. The boss and enemy designs were also fairly well-executed, for the most part, suiting the tableau of each of their respective levels. My biggest concerns about the graphics were focused on the technical side of things. The game looks somewhat outdated for the time compared to a lot of games released prior, such as Luigi’s Mansion and Metroid Prime, and the lighting is also pretty inconsistent which will leave players struggling to navigate through levels when the night comes. It can be an especially annoying problem when players need to climb certain wall surfaces to reach higher ground, as the poor lighting can make it difficult for players to differentiate between walls that are traversable and walls that are not.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

The object of the game is largely reminiscent of that of some of the best 3D platformers ever developed, such as Super Mario 64 and the original Jak & Daxter; completing specific objectives to collect items needed to advance. In this case, it’s the hearts of dead wraiths, which gives Vexx a much darker undertone than either one of the aforementioned games. There is also an emphasis on combat and stringing combos together, which for the most part keeps things interesting. I did enjoy how tasks to complete in order to collect the hearts were surprisingly varied, and how there are a fair few hearts to collect in each level, giving players plenty to do. Interestingly, some of the hidden locations in the game that can be found relatively early on involve warping into and traversing through wall paintings, which are mechanics extremely reminiscent of the game Contrast, which involves players having to traverse shadow in order to get around. I can’t help but wonder if this game influenced Contrast.

 

Controls – 8/10

For the most part, the controls are fairly simple to cope with, like most other 3D platformers that require the use of an analog stick for movement, but I did find a couple of flaws. For example, the swimming mechanics weren’t handled particularly well, handled in a manner reminiscent of the swimming mechanics in Majora’s Mask. I also wished that combat could have been handled a little bit better. I think that having a targeting system reminiscent of Ocarina of Time or Dark Cloud would have helped to significantly improve the experience and add a lot more fluency to it.

 

Lifespan – 6.5/10

Vexx can be made to last around 7 to 8 hours, which whilst may be much lower than the average lifespan of a 3D platformer, is still a length of time in which gamers will be kept busy by a lack of cutscenes and a fair abundance in gameplay. There are around ten wraith hearts to collect at each level, and a lot of the objectives required to get some of them are fairly demanding in terms of both time investment and challenge, making it longer than many other games released on the system. Although Luigi’s Mansion is ultimately the superior of the two games, Vexx can be made to seem much longer in comparison.

 

Storyline – 7.5/10

The story of the game follows a young villager named Vexx, who after being forced into slavery along with his grandfather Vargas by the evil wraith lord Yabu, escapes captivity, and vows revenge against him and his army after Yabu kills Vargas following an attempt by the latter to save Vexx from being killed by Yabu himself. I was surprised by everything about the game’s story, from how the tone is set to how the lot unfolds, and then right up to how it ends. Compared to many of the other games that this game was undoubtedly influenced by, there is a surprisingly dark and gritty aspect to it.

 

Originality – 7/10

Undoubtedly, the most unique aspect of the game is how mature and sinister the story is compared to many other games in the genre, and how the supposed hero isn’t always triumphant. For how innocent the game looks on the surface, players will inevitably be very surprised when and if they come to pick it up and play it. Better and more unique gameplay mechanics were pioneered in the sixth generation than what was seen within this title, and there are mistakes present that makes it stand out for the wrong reasons, but for the most part, I found that it did the things it needed to do fairly well, making it worthy of at least one playthrough.

 

Happii

Happii

In summation, Vexx is a pretty enjoyable and wonderfully dark gaming experience. The gameplay is pretty well executed, the story is shockingly well told, albeit with a few examples of bad voice acting, and even though the visuals were somewhat outdated for the time, the world of Astara is immersing and varied enough to be enjoyable for the most part.

Score

42.5/60

7/10 (Fair)

Scouse Gamer 88 The Hobbit Header

The Hobbit (Xbox, PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube & Game Boy Advance)

Developer(s) – Inevitable Entertainment, The Fizz Factor & Saffire

Publisher(s) – Sierra Entertainment

Designer – Chuck Lupher

Producer(s) – Jaime Grieves

PEGI – 7

 

Amidst the newfound popularity of the Tolkien mythos surrounding the Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, and amidst an ongoing dispute regarding the rights to the Tolkien license, with multiple games based on the books and films being developed at the time, The Hobbit was released to mixed reviews from critics, who cited the gameplay as being uninspiring, and it’s failure to appeal to younger gamers. In the industry, licensed games have for the most part been generally frowned upon, and seen as simply being a modern form of shovelware, with the owners of their respective licenses simply releasing games to coincide with films for the most part. However, there are a select few license games, which go above and beyond what is expected of them, and end up offering some legitimately enjoyable gaming experiences. In my opinion, whilst The Hobbit may not be among the best, it’s certainly not among the worst, I find.

 

Graphics – 6.5/10

One aspect that the game falls short on somewhat, is the visuals. Whilst they may have looked fairly impressive at the time, they don’t hold up nearly as well on a technical level as many other games of its kind do, such as Final Fantasy X and Metal Gear Solid 2 to name but a few. Like the game based on the first volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy developed by WPX Games & Surreal Software, it largely conforms to the same conceptual design as in the films, but there are a couple of standout elements that did fairly well to separate it from both the initial Peter Jackson film trilogy and the aforementioned game at the time of its release at least (before the Hobbit film trilogy came out years later as well as Lego The Hobbit), such as locations like Lake Town, Mirkwood, and Erebor.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

For the most playing out like a traditional 3D platformer, the game also has a few little side quests thrown in for good measure during the first half of it; like the previously mentioned Lord of the Rings game. Most notably involving completing the tasks for the dwarves before the party departs for The Lonely Mountain. There is also a small stealth aspect, which fits in fairly well with the tableau of the story of Bilbo Baggins being hired as a thief, and which I moderately enjoyed. Stealth can be quite a tricky aspect to pull off in games, as it can eliminate fluency if it requires players to play through the same area a certain amount of times, but for the most part, it’s done fairly well in this title in my opinion.

 

Controls – 10/10

As far as 3D platforming in this game goes, I had no gripes with it whatsoever; which in all fairness was to be expected I think, as the genre had well and truly took prominence at this time following the release of games such as Super Mario 64 and Jak & Daxter. Combat and stealth are also both handled adequately well, and there are no unnecessary complications with the game’s control scheme present to add any kind of unwarranted level of frustration.

 

Lifespan – 6/10

The game can be made to last an average of 8 hours even taking in the completion of side quests throughout the course of the game, which whilst isn’t great by any means, is still fractionally longer than the game based on The Lord of the Rings license, which can be made to last around 6 to 7 hours. As the game conforms to a very linear progression, it wasn’t expected to have a great lifespan in any case, but I can’t help but think that with a little bit more imagination on the developer’s part, it could have been made to last at least a little while longer; certainly the first part of the game set in the Shire.

 

Storyline – 8/10

Depicting the events of the classic children’s novel written by JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit follows the exploits of Bilbo Baggins of the Shire, who is persuaded by the wizard Gandalf and his band of 13 dwarves to accompany them on an adventure to retake the dwarven city of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. The story itself isn’t an issue at all since It’s enjoyable in any form that it’s told; be that through a game, a film, or most notably, of course, the classic book. The biggest problem I had with it, however, is the voice acting is quite lackluster, even by video game standards at that time, and thus, it’s much more difficult to take seriously than in other forms of media the story has or would be told in.

 

Originality – 6/10

The game does retain a slight element of uniqueness, as it incorporates the aforementioned stealth element, which at this point was only really seen in the Sly Cooper games. However, for the most part, it plays out like most other 3D platformers that were released before its time, and consequentially, I don’t think it can be considered either evolutionary or revolutionary. The stealth mechanics in the Sly Cooper games were much more sophisticated than in this title, and in terms of normal 3D platforming mechanics, it fails to stand out amidst many of the classics in the genre that had been released prior.

 

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Happii

In summation, despite its lack of originality and less than satisfactory voice acting, The Hobbit is nevertheless a fairly enjoyable gaming experience, and shouldn’t be entirely overlooked. Whilst the visuals may not hold up to this day on a technical level, and whilst more could have been added to increase the game’s longevity, the developers did a good job for the most part, and it’s certainly worth at least one playthrough; for both fans of the Tolkien mythos and the 3D platforming genre.

Score

43.5/60

7/10 (Fair)

Super Smash Bros Wii U Header

Super Smash Bros Wii U

Developer(s) – Sora Inc. & Namco Bandai Games

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Masahiro Sakurai

Producer – Shinya Saito & Masaya Kobayashi

PEGI -12

 

Super Smash Bros Wii U game is a new variation of one of Nintendo’s most brilliant ideas for a series (one of which many gamers dreamed of before it was finally invented), with new characters, new game modes, new unlockables, and new features in the form of compatibility with Nintendo’s Skylanders-esque Amiibo toy line. In my opinion, though it doesn’t match up to the quality of many other Nintendo games, and is not the best in its series, it’s certainly a worthy sequel, and one of the best video games on the Wii U so far.

 

Graphics – 8/10

Many people have argued the case that the newest game in the series either looks the same as Super Smash Bros Brawl, or even that Brawl actually looks better. Although I think there is some basis in the opinion that Brawl looks better, with more textural detail, there is also just as much diversity in stage design; if not, more so. So I happen to think that both games look as good as each other, since the visuals in both games have their own strengths, and they are played extremely effectively.

 

Gameplay – 7/10

With most of my preferred features of the series kept intact, such as the trophy hoarding, variety in game modes, and a plethora of characters, I’ve found the latest game in the series to be particularly enjoyable, and definitely one of the standout titles of the 2014 holiday season following the disappointment I felt after playing Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. That being said, I was very sorry to see the departure of the story mode, since I believe that alone made Brawl the best game in the series in my opinion. The story mode was handled exceptionally well for one within a fighting game, and I see no reason why the same could be repeated and kept fresh at the same time with the inclusion of so many new characters, such as Pac-Man, Mega Man, and Palutena from Kid Icarus.

 

Controls – 10/10

With so many different kinds of peripheral compatible with the Wii U, including the GamePad, the Wii remotes, a third-party controller, and even a compatible GameCube controller, there’s no reason why either fans of the series or newcomers shouldn’t find a style of play to suit them; especially fans of the series, since virtually every previous control scheme is available, bar the one from the original game. However, I would impose the same precaution as I did in my review of Hyrule Warriors if playing with the GamePad; regarding not to tense your hands around it too much, which can result in prolonged cramping in the hands and/or fingers.

 

Originality – 7/10

Though there isn’t much present to differentiate this game from other fighting games, especially since the basic premise of Super Smash Bros itself has been around since 1999, the series’ general formula has been kept relatively fresh with the inclusion of new characters, stages, game modes, and incentive. There have certainly been many fighting games throughout the years that have come and gone trying to be the next Street Fighter II, and failing profusely; especially during the fourth generation of gaming. The difference with many of them compared to Super Smash Bros is that elements such as character design are much, much weaker.

 

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Happii

Overall, Super Smash Bros Wii U, whilst not living up to overwhelming hype spanning over 3 years, is regardless, an enjoyable game, and it comes highly recommended by me. I’ve been a fan of Super Smash Bros since the GameCube era, and this game does an excellent job of bringing one of my favorite Nintendo franchises into the generation of gaming.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 Super Smash Bros Melee

Super Smash Bros Melee (GameCube)

Developer(s) – HAL Laboratory

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Masahiro Sakurai

Producer(s) – Masayoshi Tanimura, Hiroaki Suga, Shigeru Miyamoto & Kenji Miki

PEGI -12

 

Developed as a launch title for the Nintendo GameCube back in 2001, along with Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin and Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Super Smash Bros Melee made a multitude of significant improvements on the original game in every imaginable way, and it made for what was ultimately one of the greatest games on the system. Although the likes of Wind Waker and Metroid Prime were yet to have come along by that time, this game was more than just a suitable placeholder in anticipation of greater titles.

 

Graphics – 7.5/10

I don’t think that this game did as good a job showing off what the GameCube was capable of on a graphical as Luigi’s Mansion did with its very effective use of lighting and textural detail, Melee certainly makes up what would have potentially been lost points by including a level of variety in stage design comparable to any other great fighting game, featuring many different universes from Nintendo’s vast repertoire of game series’. In particular, they did a particularly decent job of presenting the Metroid universe, when by that time; they had considerably less source material go from than many other Nintendo franchises.

 

Gameplay8/10

The most significant improvements made in the original game were undoubtedly in the gameplay. There was increased variety, more unlockable characters, the advent of unlockable trophies, and additional game modes on top of that. It can be argued that Nintendo had to introduce variety on this kind of scale to continue to perpetuate the series in the long term, but the variety introduced in Melee was unlike anything I’d ever seen in a fighting game prior and would have been a major factor in turning the series from a casual interest into a major system-seller for Nintendo.

 

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme employed in Melee was also a massive improvement on that of the original game, since more characters, in turn, meant more move sets for each of the characters, and therefore made for more to do on a smaller controller than the preceding system; the Nintendo 64. Aside from that, however, despite the lack of the immensely popular combo system synonymous with the fighting genre, I find there to be no issues with the control scheme.

 

Originality – 8/10

At the time, the Super Smash Bros formula was fairly new anyway, but with significant improvements made after the first installment, it felt like an entirely new game at this point, and in my opinion, surpasses the quality of many other great fighting games to have come before it as a result.

 

Happii

Happii

In summation, Super Smash Bros Melee is one of the best games of the sixth generation of gaming, and a must-have for anyone with either a GameCube or a Wii. The series may have gotten even better after this once Brawl came out, but for me, this was the installment that said to me that Masahiro Sakurai meant business with this series.

Score

33.5/40

8/10 (Very Good)