Monday, June 30, 2008

Metroid Ideas

Samus Aran, where will she venture next?

With the Metroid Prime series coming to an end, you may wonder where Nintendo will take Samus next. Will they bring her back to her side-scrolling roots? Or perhaps another Metriod Pinball? Or maybe even something entirely new. Tonight I have thought of two ideas for the next Metroid game. One of them I made up. And a friend of mine thought of the concept for the second, and I added onto it. Enjoy!

My first idea is to bring Metroid back to the classic gameplay: side-scrolling. With just some updated graphics, it'd work great. But I was also thinking of a new control scheme. First off, all Samus' movemement would be controlled via the analog stick on the nunchuk. The biggest and most unique change I had in mind was the shooting. Instead of aiming with the analog sick and L/R buttons like in Super Metroid, you'd have a cursor controlled by the Wii remote IR and whenever you pushed A (or B) it'd shoot there. If you don't get what I'm talking about take a look at the flash game ALIAS (or it's sequals). The aiming in that is pretty much what I'm getting at, just with the Wii remote instead of your mouse. The rest of the controls would be pretty simple, the same as in Metroid Prime 3: A to shoot, B to jump, C for Morph Ball, D-pad for rockets, etc.

Super Metroid

It could either have 3-D graphics and 2-D environments (like New Super Mario Bros.), or like the recently announced Mega Man 9 (for WiiWare) it could rewind time and go back to it's 8- or 16-bit past. This is an extremely cool idea I thought of a while ago, and it would be pretty cool to see it made into a game.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

My second (well really my friend's) idea is more along the lines of the Prime series. But instead of the "first-person adventure" that the Primes have been, I was thinking more of the FPSs you see on the 360 and PS3. Especially those more built around multiplayer. Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 has already proved how fun 32 player online multiplayer can be on the Wii. And why not that with the Metroid series? But since it'd be online and such, I was thinking of the player not controlling Samus. There could be multiple factions such as the Galactic Federation and the Space Pirates, and the player would control a soldier/pirate from either of the two. There could be several campaigns focusing on the different factions. But overall the main part of the game would be the online. While main characters, such as Samus, would not be playable, maybe they'd have appear for a cut scene/mission or two. Since the Metroid Prime engine worked very well and the visuals were excellent, I don't see why they couldn't just use the same engine again. And I really hope with a game like this, Nintendo would make the online amazing. No friends codes, some form of communication, and zero lag (I'm looking at you Smash Bros.). With all this, it could be the Wii's Halo... maybe.

That rounds up my somewhat short article tonight. What'd you think of my ideas? Leave me a comment.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mario: A Man of Many Genres

Mario is an iconic figure. I read that more kids can identify him than Mickey Mouse. He is practically the face of video gaming. And for a good reason: most of his games revolutionize the industry. But only some (such as the hardcore crowd) knows just how many games he's in. Today I'll be covering the different series of Mario, from platforming to puzzles. Enjoy!

I'll be rating each of the series, rather than the games individually. I'll have three different ratings. Here they are and what they mean:
Star: Truly the best of both Mario games and video games themselves.

Flower: Not extraordinary, decent fun nonetheless.

Mushroom: Not good at all, unworthy of having Mario in it's name. Nothing good here... move along.

Super Mario series
The obvious place to start, where Mario started: Platforming! The true gem of Mario games, rarely do you find a game in this series that is bad or even average. From the originals of Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3 to the newly, critically aclaimed, Super Mario Galaxy this series is ridden with great games. Almost every title in this series has changed the industry. Super Mario Bros. started the NES world out with platformers. Super Mario Bros. 3 stunned the world with one of the most advanced and addicting platformers of that time. Super Mario 64 set the bar for 3D platformers to come. And recently Super Mario Galaxy brought back the genre of platformers to an industry which practically has none right now. These games are all must haves, every one of them.

1. Donkey Kong (Arcade/NES)
2. Mario Bros. (Arcade/NES)
3. Super Mario Bros. (NES)
4. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (NES)
5. Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)
6. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
7. Super Mario Land (GB)
8. Super Mario World (SNES)
9. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (GB)
10. Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (GB)
11. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES)
12. Super Mario 64 (N64)
13. Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)
14. New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
15. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)


Mario Kart series
The racing genre of Mario is filled with fast (but not super speedy) races and crazy, yet strategic items. Another of the great series of Mario, but it is lacking. There are especially annoying items that are actually really cheap, such as the POW block and the blue shell. Another gripe of mine is the speed. Though Nintendo put in different speeds (50 cc, 100 cc. etc.) the overall speed of the game is slow, even the fastest speed (150 cc) feels slow. But so what? The games are still great multiplayer and really can keep a group of kids, or even college students, huddled around a TV, firing red shells and cleverly laying bananas and bombs to obtain the lead.

1. Super Mario Kart (SNES)
2. Mario Kart 64 (N64)
3. Mario Kart Super Circuit (GBA)
4. Mario Kart Double Dash (GC)
5. Mario Kart DS (DS)
6. Mario Kart Wii (Wii)


Paper Mario/Mario & Luigi Series
These series cover the RPG genre of video games for Mario. The Paper Mario series are 3D games with 2D characters, items, and NPCs. The first two Paper Marios used the classic turn-based stratagy combat while the newest (Super Paper Mario) combined RPG elements with platforming. In the Mario & Luigi games, Nintendo emphasizes timing and reflexes versus the more classical turn based strategy of early RPG's. The games are fun and have quite a bit of depth to them.

1. Paper Mario (N64)
2. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GCN)
3. Super Paper Mario (Wii)

1. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA)
2. Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (DS)


Mario Party series

The Mario Party games are pretty much the fun and fast minigame side of Mario.
A party game at heart, the games are best played with friends. The single player options are very limited and are almost the same as playing multiplayer just with AI instead of your friends. While the some of series shine as remarkably fun games, the overall feel the of franchise lately isn't appealing to me. With more dependence on luck than skill, I have skipped several of the latest games entirely. But I will admit all of them still possess a party quality to them.

1. Mario Party (N64)
2. Mario Party 2 (N64)
3. Maroi Party 3 (N64)
4. Mario Party 4 (GCN)
5. Mario Party 5 (GCN)
6. Mario Party 6 (GCN)
7. Mario Party-e (GBA/e-reader)
8. Mario Party Advance (GBA)
9. Mario Party 7 (GCN)
10. Mario Party 8 (Wii)
11. Mario Party DS (DS)


Dr. Mario series
The puzzle side of Nintendo's overals wearing mascot is basically the same game with some updated graphics and several minor modes slapped on with each version. Yet every game still seems to keep me hooked for a long periods of time. The games feature unique, gravity-based puzzles, in which the objective is to clear away the viruses in the jar by lining up lines of four or more colors. Simple and very fun, these are pretty good games overall.

1. Dr. Mario (NES/GB)
2. Dr. Mario 64 (N64)
3. Dr. Mario Online Rx. (Wii, available through WiiWare)
Note: There have been a half-dozen or so remakes and ports of Dr. Mario, but listed above are those considered the main entries in the series.


Other Mario Titles
While I couldn't include all of Mario's games, I hope I included all the main series. I know I didn't talk about the Mario sports titles. But I believe that they're so varied to be considered in one series and to few of each of the sports to be multiple series. I will say most of the Mario sports games are entertaining. Another game I didn't mention because I didn't consider it in a series is Super Mario RPG. Developed by Square, SMRPG is a very unique role-playing game that combines aspects of RPGs and platformers. Plus it has an interesting, useful mechanic in battles that allows you a second hit.

That rounds up my article and my week dedicated to Mario. I don't know if you noticed, but every post this week had to do with Mario. A classic Mario game reviewed, the newest Super Mario game reviewed, and a Mario article. Hope you enjoyed them. I'm thinking about doing something like this again, maybe along the lines of Metroid or Zelda.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) mini-review

Another short review, only because it came out a while ago. By the way, noticing any pattern with the articles lately? Keep your eyes open for something...

Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher: Nintendo
Date Released: November 12, 2007 (USA)
MSRP: $49.99
Players: 1-2
Genre: Platformer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

The Good
  • Pure, addicting fun. It's a Mario platformer, why haven't you bought it yet?
  • Some of the best visuals on the Wii. Galaxy shows what can be done graphically on the Wii.
  • Over 120 levels that will keep you coming back for more.
  • Original, orchestrated music.
  • A unique, yet fun multiplayer system.
  • Slick, easily accessible hub world.
  • New power-ups: Boo Mushroom, Ice Flower, Bee Mushroom.
You sure did.

The Bad
  • The auto-camera works most of the time, but it has it's moments here an there where you wish you could rotate it and can't.
  • The overall difficulty isn't really that hard until the very last stages (such as the purple coin ones). You'll easily fly to that 60 star mark.
Other than that, Super Mario Galaxy is a spectacular experience that shouldn't be missed.

Gameplay: 9.5/10 Other than the occasional camera problem, Mario Galaxy shines in this area.

Story: 8/10 Besides the overused save the princess storyline, you have an additional, optional story that comes in unlockable chapters located in the Library.

Multiplayer: 8/10 The new multiplayer is actually kind of cool. The other player gathers star bits and knocks over enemies, while you control Mario. Cool, but not necessary to play the game.

Graphics: 9.5/10 Very awesome graphics. Looking a lot better than some 360 and PS3 games, Super Mario Galaxy is probably the best looking game on the system to date.

Sound: 10/10 Some utterly fantastic ochestrated music. Playing on mute or even low volume is a crime.

Lasting Value: 9.5/10 Over 120 stars to collect, and with some nice unlockables that I won't mention. Super Mario Galaxy will keep you playing for a long time.

Overall: 10/10
Up there with Super Mario Bros. 3 in terms of innovation and plain fun. The graphics and music show what can be done on the Wii. Own a Wii? Great, get this game. I'd recommend it to anyone with a Wii. It's that good.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) retro-review

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Date Released: NES: February 12, 1990 (USA), VC: November 5, 2007 (USA)
MSRP: VC: $5 (500 Wii Points)
Players: 1-2
Genre: Platformer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Super Mario Bros. 3 has been commonly praised, by critics and Nintendo-fans alike, as the greatest Mario game of all time. I bought it a couple days before Super Mario Galaxy (I know, it's a while ago). And boy, it is fun. But is it as fun as people say?

To put it simple, Super Mario Bros. 3 took everything that made the first game great and improved on it. Graphics, gameplay, power-ups, and music. All of it's there and even better than before. To start on it, the graphics have been improved and actually aren't really that bad to look at today. Now as for the game itself, man it's fun. It's a fairly difficult adventure. With 8 worlds filled to the brim with levels, mini-game rooms, secret passageways, and warp-pipes, the game will suck you in. One of the highest points of the game for me are the power-ups. Besides the basic Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Invincibility Star from the first, you have wacky and useful items such as Frog suit, Super Leaf, and Hammer suit. Plus there's now items to use on the map, creating shortcuts. The game does not lack in the difficulty area either. As it will frustrate many a player, yet keep them hooked to the end.

Now, for the low points of the game. To tell the truth, I have almost none. The main one I can think of is that you can't go back a replay levels. That feature was added in future games like Super Mario World. The only other gripe I have with the game is the length. It will last you some time, but it's not a super-long game.

To me, this is the best of the best for Mario. This game clearly defines why Nintendo is the greatest company in the video game industry.

Gameplay: 10/10 One of the greatest platformers of all time. The power-ups add to the fun to be had with this one.

Story: 7/10 The basic, save the princess from Bowser one. But hey, what the heck? It's a Mario platformer, does it really need a story?

Graphics: 9.5/10 The best of the 8-bit era and a fine style overall.

Sound: 9/10 Classic Mario tunes, need I say more?

Lasting Value: 8/10 Lasts for a while, but not much to do besides speed run or beat it again once it's over.

Overall: 10/10
The game is my favorite classic Mario game and one of my favorite games of all time.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Best and Worst Levels of: Mario Kart Wii

Some games have memorable levels or stages that defines the game. They're the ones you really remember when you look back on the game or series of games. Then there's the levels that make you want to slap the developer in the face. Utterly repulsive, these stages need to be approached with extreme caution, for they wield an unusual amount of displeasure.

Today I'll be discussing the good and bad Mario Kart Wii racetracks. The game boast's an unusual amount of fun tracks (the most in any Mario Kart for me). For a full review of the game, the link is here. There are more good than bad, so I've posted 7 of my favorite tracks and 4 of my least favorites. Enjoy!

The Good - These raceways are what made the game enjoyable and memorable...

Coconut Mall
This track was one of the few of them that Wii owners first heard of. It was praised for it's originality and it's charm. And boy does it live up to it. Everything about it is cool, from the escalators that give you an advantage/disadvantage, Mii's on various posters and vehicles throughout the course, and the different shortcuts through stores and balconies.

DK Summit
A cool and unique track that focuses on the newest aspect to the game: tricks. It had various points in the level where you had to go up a ramp and pull a trick to get around some sort of obstacles. Just like the Shy Guys on snowboards that populate the track, this slope screams the word "Awesome".

DS Delfino Square
Probably my favorite track on the DS, and it returns on the Wii. Really not to much to say about this one other than it's a pretty sweet track. The weaving in and out of buildings and various shortcuts added onto the fact that it's short but not too short, you then have a stellar level named Delfino Square.

Koopa Cape
This track was one of my favorites from the start and stands true now. I just like the style of the track and the calming waters and sand. And at the end there's a cool pipe that you enter classic Super Mario style and winds you up in a tunnel made of glass. Nice level? Definitely. Short and boring? Definitely not.

Maple Treeway
I'm pretty sure this is based on a galaxy from Super Mario Galaxy, but I could be wrong. Nonetheless, it is a very fun ride. As the name suggests, you are pretty much traveling along the branches and tops of maple trees, driving through piles of leaves and avoiding giant caterpillar enemies.

Moonview Highway
Every Mario Kart to date (excluding the SNES and GBA versions) has had a track that takes place on a busy highway/public road. The one I remember most is the N64 one, but alas that is not in MKWii, and so my second favorite is Moonview Highway. Taking place during the night, this one seemed to have upped the difficulty from previous versions. It had suicidal Bom-ombs on wheels that made it even more dangerous to travel the streets.

N64 Bowser's Castle
As with Moonview Highway and it's predessors, a Bowser Castle has appeared in every Mario Kart. They are notorious for sharp, 90° turns, Thwomps, and the danger of falling in lava. Probably the best of these tracks is the one from the N64, and it has been brought back in Mario Kart Wii.

The Bad - ...While these left a sour taste in my mouth.

Mushroom Gorge
This too was praised by gaming journalists from the start as being unique and fun. I may be with the minority in this, but this track sucked! While the whole bouncing mushrooms seems cool at first, the course was short and it's easy to miscalculate you're angle and fall into the darkness at the bottom.

GBA Shy Guy Beach
I don't even know why Nintendo included this one, it's not fun. A bland style, annoying mortar shells, and water that slows you are all features of this horrible racecourse. And what particularly bugs me is when people choose this in online matches. You can tell they only choose it to piss other people off (I think...).

GCN Waluigi Stadium
Probably the best of these four worst, Waluigi Stadium still bores me. While it has jumps around every corner, the basic feel of it really doesn't keep me playing.

SNES Mario Circuit 3
Another one that has a bleak style. You could argue that it's because it was from the Super Nintendo but it's still that way. Plus, the overall shortness of the track diminishes the fun too.

Worthy of Mention - Just that: worth being mentioned.

The Luigi/Mario/Daisy Circuits
Wario's Gold Mine
Dry Dry Ruins
Bowser's Castle
Rainbow Road

So what did you think? Did I miss any good tracks? Remind me in the comments.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Future of First-Person Shooters

Ah, first-person shooters. One of the most common of video game genres currently. On the 360 and PS3 you can find hundreds of them. From Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to Doom and GoldenEye 007, there have been many FPS's through the years.

On the Wii, very few first-person shooters have graced the system. The ones that have (with the exception of Red Steel) work super well and fluidly. The two that fit this description most are Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Medal of Honor: Heroes 2. Metroid has a deep and lengthy adventure to back it up, while MoH:H2 has some of the best online on the Wii. The DS has even fewer FPS's, with Metroid Prime Hunters as one of the few. It seems surprising there are not more on the two systems, for they would work very well (especially on the Wii).

Recently more news has come of the game The Conduit. A futuristic first-person shooter for the Wii that is believed to have as good of a control scheme as Metroid Prime 3 and Medal of Honor. Online multiplayer of some sort has been also confirmed. This news has really got some people across the web excited, me included.

So I got to thinking about the genre. I realized that many FPS's are very similar. Well over half of first-person shooters are wartime shooters, particularly World War II (e.g. the Medal of Honor series, Call of Duty series, etc.), . The other common first-person shooter is sci-fi/alien themed (e.g. Halo, Half Life, etc.) I've decided to come up with some various settings that FPS's haven't ventured before and the possible results.

The first thing that comes to mind is other wars besides WWII. Rarely do you see a shooter based on World War I. And I don't see why not? Sure there's less advanced guns but still, developers could make it work. And what about this? Civil War or Revolutionary War set games. Two more wars that haven't been used much, if at all, in video games. Imagine using muskets, fighting against the British or the South, and duking it out in historical locations.

Sort of similar to the last one, I thought of wars in the not to distant future (World War III anyone?) It was kind of done in Call of Duty 4. But I'm thinking of more along the lines of what could happen. This country invading that country; this other country coming to it's rescue. With slightly modified and updated weapons to use, set in the year 2020 or so, I don't see how this couldn't work.

A third idea of mine is a secret agent/superhero FPS. Sure there's been both spies and super-people in video games before. But never really in the first-person shooter genre. In such a game, I'm thinking that guns would be a lot less used; players would have to rely on their gadgets/superpowers to overcome obstacles and enemies. I wouldn't rule out guns but keep them limited.

To round off this somewhat short article is two more smaller, less thought out ideas. The first is some sort of Wild West FPS. (Hey that kind of rhymes!) This is one setting that would be unique to set a first-person shooter of some kind in. Maybe you're the pony express, or maybe you're one of Jesse James' bandits? The second would be a more medieval game. Bows and crossbows would be the weapons of choice for it. Not much more was thought out of this one but it was an idea...

So there you have it. What'd you think of the article? Lame? Extraordinary? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Wii Menu and Why

Someone's Wii menu (not mine though)

Its approaching the second year of Wii in a couple of months (for the US). 229 Virtual Console games, 13 WiiWare games, and 5 downloadable channels are available on the Wii Shop Channel. So there's pretty much limitless combinations for your Wii Menu. Tonight I'll be discussing my Wii Menu (not the one pictured above) and the different channels and games in it. Enjoy!

The Disc Channel
We'll start of with my most used: the Disc Channel. I play all my Wii games here. Lately I've been playing some Guitar Hero III and Mario Kart Wii. So there'd probably be the disc channel pic of one of those right now.

Mii Channel
Don't really use this one that much any more. Made a reasonably large amount of Miis when the system was new. Some of my favorites are Stormtrooper, E.T., Smokey the Bear, and Kyle (FYI: that's my Mii). Currently I have around 20 to 30 Miis.

Photo Channel
Another channel I haven't used in a while. The only pictures on it are ones from Pokemon Snap, screenshots from Metroid Prime 3, and congratulating photos from Mario Kart and Mario Galaxy.

Wii Shop Channel
Need this one! It's where I buy all my stuff.

Forecast Channel
Never used it. #1 They don't update it as often as they should. #2 Could access the info a lot faster just on my nearby computer. #3 It only shows major towns. The closest to where I live is 200 or so miles. Yeah, that's going to be accurate!

News Channel
Use this every once in a while. Once again, it's almost quicker just to get on Google News or something of the like on my computer.

Great game, one of my favorites. It's really calming and peaceful to play and utilizes the Wii remote well. Check out the full review here.

Dr. Mario Online Rx
Definitely my most used WiiWare game. Both online and off keep me hooked. Full review here.

Defend Your Castle
A fun, original title. It's cheap too, so it was an easy decision for me. Full review here.

Super Mario Bros.
The day I got my Wii hooked up to my Wi-Fi network, I downloaded this game. One of the best games of all time. Love it, definitely a must buy for anyone.

Super Mario Bros. 3
Another of the best of the Mario platformers. With this game, Nintendo leaped forward the platforming scene, adding maps, a dozen or so powerups, and a lengthy adventure.

Super Mario World
Got this game a couple days after a purchased my Classic Controller. Finished the game within a week, that's how fun it is.

Super Metroid
Truly one of the best games of all time. I recently purchased it and was pretty glad of it.

The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past
Personally my favorite Zelda game of all time. It set the basics for pretty much every Zelda game to come. I'll need to start playing this one again and finish it.

Pokemon Snap
One of few good Pokemon spin offs, Snap occupied many of my hours back in the day (at friends houses). And recently when I purchased it, my entire day was occupied by it. We need a sequel of some sort, maybe using the Wii remote sensor?

Sonic the Hedgehog
This along with Super Mario Bros. were the two VC games I purchased when first hooking my Nintendo Wii up to the internet. Bought it because it was somewhat cheap and had that classic Sonic gameplay (it is the first after all).

And that rounds up what's on my Wii menu. Now for why some things aren't on my Wii menu! As for the Check Mii Out Channel, I used that crap of a channel for around two weeks. Quickly grew bored with it and took it off my system. When WiiWare came out I had to take off the Everybody Votes and Internet Channels. A tough decision for the Internet Channel, and not so tough for the Everybody Votes. I once had the Mario Kart Channel but because of the limited space took it off because after all, it is available in game. The Nintendo Channel was on my system for a week or so but was taken off due to space, crappy loading times on videos, and boring DS Demos (except for Ninja Gaiden, that was a good one.) Once upon a time, I had the Metroid Prime 3 Preview Channel. It was cool and I'm surprised there hasn't been more of these. It took it off once I had bought the game.

Well, now you know about my Wii menu. What'd you think of it? Think I should have My Pokemon Ranch? Think Super Metroid's overrated? Tell me in the comments.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dr. Mario Online Rx (WiiWare) review

Sorry about the late review guys. By the way, I've decided to shorten my review a bit. You may not notice but compared to my first review (Mario Kart Wii), this one is quite a bit shorter. Don't know if I'll continue the short reviews, but I just couldn't think of much for this game. Enjoy!

Publisher: Nintendo
Date Released: May 26, 2008 (USA)
Players: 1-4 (up to 2 players online)
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB: E (Everyone)

Dr. Mario is a classic puzzler that has gained many fans over the years. Originally released on the NES and remade on the SNES (packaged with Tetris), the games have been around for a while. The newest versions updates the gameplay with minor additions such as Mii-support, online multiplayer, and Virus Buster.

Dr. Mario Online Rx is really two games in one. It's both classic Dr. Mario from the NES age and a variation of the original called Virus Buster, which originated as a minigame in Brain Age 2 for the Nintendo DS. Both are pretty fun, but I feel the Dr. Mario game is the better of the two.

The Dr. Mario part of the game isn't anything new. But it's good that way. It's still the classic, line up four of the same colors and get rid of all the viruses. It offers both Classic and Flash modes. The real gem here is online multiplayer. Both Classic and Flash are available there, and it's a blast. The online incorporates Mario Kart Wii's ranking system. You start out with 5000 points and lose/gain them according to who you beat. It works fine, and I really hope Nintendo keep this system for later games down the road. As a bonus there's text chat online! No, not actual chatting. There are several predetermined phrases such as "Good game," "Go easy on me," and "Think you can beat me?!". Cheesy? Definitely. Get the job done? Yes. The online is really the greatest part of the game and keeps me coming back for more.

Now as for Virus Buster, it's an interesting variation of the original Dr. Mario gameplay. Instead of using the D-Pad to move the descending pill, you move the pills around via Wii Remote cursor. While it may seem a minor addition, there's more! Besides the 4-player co-op, there's a new gameplay mechanic too: any falling blocks that result from a previous line you can actually grab onto and move. If you haven't played the original you may not know what I'm talking about, but it's a radical change that can be used with a lot of strategy. That being said, Virus Buster is best played in multiplayer. Where as one of the players can line up the colors and the other move the falling pieces into place. You may not understand what I'm saying but you'll know what I'm talking about once to play it. Up to four players can join in, but I found two works the best.

Virus Buster in action.

As for the graphics, let's just say they're mediocre. Everything is 2-D, but it's pleasing to the eyes. No jaw dropping achievements but nothing noticeably wrong such as frame rate issues. Another cool little addition to the game are Miis. Now not only Mario throws your pills out for you, but your cute (or maybe ugly) avatars can do it too! Unnecessary but nice!

The audio in the WiiWare game is pretty much all the classic tunes. Favorites such as Fever and Chill return. The music goes along with the frenzy of the game well. They're enjoyable but some are on the verge of annoying. But most likely, you'll hum along in some parts.

Dr. Mario Online Rx will keep you coming back for more. Of all the WiiWare games out currently, I believe this is the most you can get for $10. With no campaign or story mode to speak of, you may think it will grow old. But both Classic and Flash modes, online and off will keep you hooked like a drug. And like that very same drug you'll keep coming back for more. (Junkie!)

Overall, Dr. Mario is fun, energetic, and just a little bit brain stimulating. Don't believe me? Maybe your friend will get it, and they can send you the demo (it's possible!)

Gameplay: 8.5/10 Still that same old Dr. Mario: fun and addicting.

8/10 2-player only for Dr. Mario and no online for Virus Buster is strange. But what multiplayer there is really works. And the online modes are quick and polished.

7/10 Two dimensional but nothing unpleasant to speak of.

Sound: 7/10 The same old classic, lovable Dr. Mario tunes.

Lasting Value: 8.5/10 With the online mode, it'll last you a long time.


Comments or questions? Drop an email to or leave a comment below...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Defend Your Castle (WiiWare) review

XGen Studios
Publisher: XGen Studios
Date Released: May 12, 2008 (USA)
MSRP: $5.00 (500 Wii Points)
Genre: Arcade/Simulation
ESRB: E (Everyone)

Defend Your Castle started it's fame in the flash games industry (if there even is one). It was a fun, stick figure game that included blood. Well, Defend Your Castle is here on WiiWare; it does away with the gore and blood and adds a unique and loveable style to the game. At only $5, the game seems a bargain, but is it?

To start if off, Defend Your Castle is a unique game experience. Period. The premise is picking up little stick figures who run at your castle and fling them away. They'll fly in the air and land with a "Ahhh!" If they get to your castle, they'll start pounding on the castle walls with their bare fists (or stick figure arm stubs). Simple and addicting, that really seems all there is too it.

At least that's pretty much all there is to it in the first levels. Then more and more enemies start bombarding your castle. Different enemy types appear, such as giants and kamikaze style bomb men. With the points you earn you can buy upgrades such as other defense to your castle. Soon there'll be all kinds of explosions and noise across the screen. It's mad, and it's very fun!

The enemies are somewhat complex, but basic enough. The main guys you'll have to worry about, at least for the first 15 or so levels, are the basic, run of the mill stick figures. They'll run towards the castle, you'll pick them up, and you'll fling them away. Then, there's the battering ram guys, who are actually holding Popsicle sticks. They'll do a little bit more damage to your castle but move slower, making them easier targets. Later on into the game giants will appear. Their heads are made of bottle caps, and they sure are a pain in the ass. If they get to your castle they do some reasonable damage. They're heavy enough (I'm guessing) that you can't pick them up. The only way to defeat them is to click on them several times, which gets a little frustrating but presents a challenge. The last enemy I should mention is probably the easiest to deal with. They're little bomb men, rolling a pop cap gun thing (sorry for the loss of words). All you do is click on them and they explode. The real trick here is to let them get near some of the other enemies (e.g. the giants) and blow them up, killing the other guys too.

An example of the craziness of Defend Your Castle.

Besides just picking up and flinging, you'll be able to buy other forms of defense for your castle. First and foremost you need to purchase the Pit of Conversion (basically a bucket of paint), which will convert bad guys that you place in it onto your side. What do you do with these guys? You can use them as archers, wizards, bomb men, and repair men. The archers are pretty self explainatory and really get helpful the further you get into the game. It's the bomb men that you'll really notice their help. They run out towards the oncoming hordes and when you click on them, they explode. It's suicide, but it's an easy way to take out those pesky giants. The magic users of the castle can cast several spells, such as erasing an enemy or converting them without the Pit. And rounding it off are the castle builders. You won't really notice them being there. They kind of work behind the scenes; the more you have of them, the faster your castle health restores itself. While you have certain defenses, it will mostly come down to your reflexes and boy is it addicting.

The multiplayer in Defend Your Castle is nicely integrated into the game. With simple 4-player drop-in/drop-out mechanics, you'll have your friends joining with ease. And let me tell you, it definitely is helpful to have another hand when you get around level 30 or so. Plus if you want to try Heroic mode, you'll be facing tons upon tons of enemies from the very start. Another great addition for people who need a little more challenge (but trust me, it's very hard,).

While some may argue the graphics are intentionally bad, they're still bad. Nonetheless, they still have a lot of charm. Everything in the game looks like it was made in a kindergarten art class. The stick figures are rudely drawn, your castle's made of construction paper, and the clouds are hung up with classroom yarn. It's not the greatest graphics, but they're definitely cool.

The upgrade system.

Just as the graphics were very "homemade", so is the sound. Every sound from the cries of the dying enemies to the explosions are done by some guy. You and me could probably make the same sounds, and similar to the graphics there is some charm to Defend Your Castles' audio.

If you're good enough at it, the game will last you forever. But number one, you may falter and somehow lose the game. Number two, you will get bored after a while. Sure, having a couple friends over can definitely make it more fun, but it will grow old. Plus, you could try heroic mode and see how far you get in it.

Overall, it's quite a deal for $5. It's really a great and original game that I'd recommend to almost anyone. But if it doesn't appeal to you, I'd try out the flash game one first, and who know? Maybe you'll be satisfied with just that.

Gameplay: 8/10 Simple, brilliant, and addicting. While it does get repetitive, it will keep you entertained for some time.

Multiplayer: 7.5/10 The drop-in/drop-out mechanic is great and accessible.

Graphics: 5.5/10 You could tell they made them bad on purpose, but still they're kind of funny.

Sound: 7/10 Though music is pretty much nonexistent, the effects are charmingly hilarious.

Lasting Value: 7.5/10 It will grow old, but the multiplayer definitely livens it up.

Defend Your Castle goes way beyond what happened in the original. Aspects such as the style and the 4-player multiplayer vastly improve what was in the flash game. As a bonus it's only $5 and that really is perfect for this game. A great launch title and a great game in general, if you have the Wii Points (and not to mention the room in your "fridge"), pick this one up.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

LostWinds (WiiWare) review

Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments
Date Released: May 12, 2008 (USA)
MSRP: $10.00 (1000 Wii Points)
Players: 1-2
Genre: Adventure/Platformer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

If you follow the internet a lot, like me, you'll find that whenever there's something about WiiWare you'll usually find LostWinds mentioned. When WiiWare was just a month or so away, and someone would ask me what I thought of the service, I'd say something like, "Eh, looks pretty cool, especially that LostWinds game." I was really hyped for this game and being a launch title, I downloaded it the first day. Does it live up to the hype?

First off, LostWinds is a platformer but not a traditional one. The main character you control is named Toku and is actually really weak and useless. All he can do is walk left or right and climb small ledges. And strange enough, he cannot jump... in a platformer. Instead the Wii's cursor controls a little symbol called Enril, a wind spirit. Simply holding A or B and drawing a line in a direction near Toku, summons a gust of wind sending him in the air. It is a brilliant mechanic and works seamlessly with the Wii Remote. This mechanic is used for almost everything in the game. From moving Toku to a higher ledge to solving the various wind-based puzzles in the game.

Later on in the game you get more powerful wind powers, such as the ability to have three gusts of winds before Toku falls down to earth or being able to draw specific paths for Toku to be carried along on. The puzzles in LostWinds may seem easy at first but they do get harder later on. Not the Zelda or Zack & Wiki difficulty, but they'll have you sit there for a few minutes scratching your noggin. While they may lack in difficulty they make up in creativity, such as drawing a path for fire to burn through a wooden barrier or carrying water via wind to grow an essential plant. Since this is an adventure game, you will find puzzles around every corner, and it's pretty rewarding.

The controls work very well, and the game feels like it was meant for the Wii. There's very little you'd have to learn once you get in the game. You control Toku with the Nunchuk. The Z button pulls up plants or has other various purposes. The Wii Remote is only used for controlling the wind. The A and B buttons each have different wind powers. And that is pretty much it. Simple but gets the job done.

While LostWinds excels in gameplay, it also has a surprisingly deep and mythological story to back it up. I won't go into much detail, but it's about some ancient spirits that actually reminds me a bit of Native American lore. The boy in it (Toku) stubbles across a stone that the Wind Spirit, Enril, is trapped in and they begin their journey to defeat the evil spirit, Balasar. It's a cool little part of the game that definitely doesn't detract from it.

The graphics in LostWinds are very nice. Frontier achieves what a lot of developers can't do a regular disc, while they do it on a small 40 megabytes. Everything in the game is vibrant and living. When you move your wind cursor over a tree, it's leaves blow in that direction. Create a gust through a crowd of people? They stumble and grunt. From the texture detail to the lighting, it's just plain impressive. For me, LostWinds is up there with Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption as being the best visually for the Wii.

An example of LostWinds' excellent visuals.

To compliment the exceptional graphics, is the beautiful soundtrack. The music fits the game perfectly with ancient Native American flutes and literally flowing music. Right from the moment of clicking on the games channel you get sucked in with such great music. Definitely one of the highest points of the game.

One of my problems with the game is the length. LostWinds will last you anywhere from around two and a half hours to four. The developer's excuse is that a lot of the $50 games out only have a five to ten hours of gameplay. While this may be true, you still want a lot more from it once you've completed the story. Sure, you can go through it and collect all 24 statues which offers some replay value. I beat the game and I had around 13 or 14 statues, so I'll probably be playing it more for those. But still, once you've finished, there's very little that calls you back.

Another issue I had with the game was the difficulty. I think I died maybe a grand total of once during the entire game. Very little of the enemies or dangers present a big enough challenge that you lose a chunk of your life. You have only four segments of life and it stays that way the entire game. If you fall a long ways and gain speed, you'll lose a portion of your life when you hit. But if you slow down Toku's decent by pointing at him and moving back and forth you'll keep yourself from having that problem. The puzzles present a fair amount of challenge, but they're still not that hard. Many of the puzzles are repeated (such as the fire one), and you'll quickly learn how to come around a lot of them. It is easy, but I don't think an expert difficulty is especially needed for a game like LostWinds. It could use some upping in the difficulty area, but it's fine the way it is.

Overall, I think LostWinds is the best you can get from Nintendo's WiiWare service. It's entertaining and keep you hooked until the credits. It's short, but the graphics and audio really keep the game moving.

Gameplay: 9.5/10 Very fun and the wind mechanics are rewarding. The controls are simple and keep the game going.

Story: 9/10 Original and keeps the game moving.

Graphics: 9.5/10 Very nice and some of the best one the Wii, you won't be dissatisfied.

Sound: 9/10 A compelling soundtrack flows through the game like the wind you control.

Lasting Value: 3.5/10 Four hours at most and that's still very short. I really wish there was more to this game.

If you're only buying one downloadable game this year, LostWinds should be the one. If you don't believe me then look at the graphics, entertainment, and awesome soundtrack. You won't be disappointed in your decision.