November 14, 2009

Video Game Review: Scribblenauts

Filed under: Reviews,Video Game Reviews,Video Games — Tags: — Screenhog @ 9:02 pm

Scribblenauts is the game of my dreams. I mean that literally… it’s the type of game that an 8-year-old version of myself would have dreamt about, without believing that such a game could be possible, and yet here it is on my Nintendo DS.

The concept is simple, yet profound; you are an odd-looking boy with a rooster hat named Maxwell, and there are a series of minor tasks for you to complete. The reward for solving these tasks is a starite. However, instead of taking the usual video game route where you have very few items to work with and must rely on your skill, in this game, you can summon into existence ANY OBJECT YOU CAN THINK OF to help you on your way. (There are restrictions to the “anything you can think of” rule, like not including vulgar terms, shapes, Latin names, or copyrighted things, but those restrictions do make a lot of sense, and don’t ruin the overall game.)

For example; on the far side of a lake, there is a flower that you have to pick, but between you and the flower is an angry bee that won’t let you go past it. How do you get rid of it? That is entirely up to you. Flyswatter? Sure, it works. Bug spray? That works too. Boomerang? Yep. Sword? Absolutely. Venus’ flytrap? Um… actually, I’m not sure about that one, let me check…

*a few seconds later*

OK, Venus flytrap doesn’t actually try to eat the bee. However, dropping the plant on the bee’s head seems to kill it. This illustrates one of the downsides about Scribblenauts. Just because you can summon nearly anything doesn’t mean that it will always act the way you may expect. An ostrich will not bury its head in sand. Playing the flute will not make rats follow you. A ceiling fan will not automatically attach to most ceilings.
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August 5, 2009

Video Game Review – Super Mario Galaxy

Filed under: Video Game Reviews,Video Games — Tags: , — Screenhog @ 8:33 pm

By now, most everyone who knows video games knows Mario, and those that own a Wii are probably already aware of Super Mario Galaxy, a game that burst onto the scene in late 2007. As of this writing, it has already sold over 8 million copies, and my reviewing the game is not likely to cause much of a bump in sales. However, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to review it anyway, because it is one of the few video games ever made that I could call perfect.

Two years ago, when I heard that Mario Galaxy was coming, I decided that it might be wise for me to get used to playing Mario games in 3D, as I’d never played classics like Mario 64. So, I picked up a copy of the Gamecube game Super Mario Sunshine – which, of course, plays on the Wii – and started playing. I soon discovered that I was not particularly good at the game… I had a difficult time mastering the controls, and there were too many precision jumps for me to master. Less than a tenth of the way through the game, I put the game away, hoping that Super Mario Galaxy would not be as difficult for me.

Fortunately, it is not. The controls are perfect, and the spin ability while jumping means that, if I’m about to land somewhere that I wasn’t intending to, I have a second chance before landing to correct my jump and land properly, which was much easier to master than Mario Sunshine’s F.L.U.D.D. system.
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April 17, 2009

Video Game Review – Boom Blox

Filed under: Reviews,Video Game Reviews,Video Games — Screenhog @ 6:48 am

Imagine, if you will, video footage from a building demolition. A huge skyscraper has been loaded with carefully placed explosives, so that the building will properly implode when a red button is pressed. Now, imagine that the explosives in the huge skyscraper were actually not placed very carefully at all, and when the building explodes, many buildings around it will also be toppled to the ground.

Now, imagine that you and your friends are the ones that get to press the big red button, without any fear of being charged with a criminal offense for destroying public property. That’s Boom Blox. If you have ever delighted in watching a wobbly building made of dominoes get destroyed and wished that it didn’t take so long setting up the dominoes in the first place, this game is for you. Boom Blox comes only on the Nintendo Wii, which is good, because I don’t know what other console could support a game like it.

At first, when I had heard of the concept for Boom Blox, I thought it would be fun for a few minutes, but without much potential for long-term play. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of different options for gameplay that the creators of Boom Blox – one of whom is none other than Steven Spielberg – came up with. There are modes where you hit things for points, others where you hit things to make them explode, and others where you delicately pull pieces out of towers, attempting to leave the rest of the tower standing. There’s a wide variety of weapons, from bouncy balls to six-shooters to, I kid you not, a fire hose that shoots bowling balls. As for variety in targets, there are Chemical Blox, which only explode when two come in contact with each other; Vanishing Blox, which immediately disappear when hit, and Gem Blox, which are frequent objects of desire for different modes of play.
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March 28, 2009

Video Game Review – World of Goo

Filed under: Reviews,Video Game Reviews,Video Games — Screenhog @ 9:58 am

There are some video games that awe me with their artistry. There are other video games that amaze me with their simplicity, coming up with a new type of video game experience that I’ve never played before. World of Goo is both.

The concept is simple. Drag and drop balls of goo. That’s all you have to do. The goo, depending where you place it, can construct towers, bridges, fences and ladders. The goal is to create a structure that will transport other, free-moving goo, to a mysterious pipe somewhere in the level. Get enough goo to that pipe, and you’ve completed that level’s puzzle.

The art design is simultaneously beautiful and dirty, in a Tim Burton sort of way. The music is well orchestrated, perfectly complimenting the art style, and the sound effects are also appropriate, with the goo happily proclaiming “Woohoo!” when they get added to the tower, and angrily grumbling when they are placed somewhere that can’t connect to the rest of the goo.

World of Goo is downloadable on the Wii from Wiiware. It costs 1500 Wii points, and was well worth it. It’s games like this that really show the strength of the Wii controller, being able to intuitively act like a mouse pointer. This game would be much more frustrating if you were trying to place the goo with a joystick or a D-pad.

This game is also available, at the time of this review, for PC, Mac, and Linux. The free demo of this game can be found at 2Dboy.com. Even if you have no intention of buying this game, I highly recommend downloading the demo and trying the game yourself.

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