Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Holiday Wrap-Up

I consider myself very lucky. I'm openly geeky and I have wonderful friends and family that embrace this fact about me. Thus, once a year on Christmas, I wake up to a bonaza of video games. Going through them and testing each one is always a blast. This year I decided to keep notes on every one as I played them so that I could share this experience with you. So, let's launch right in and see what I unwrapped this year!

JUST DANCE 2 (Wii) - 4.5/5 STARS.
    "Just Dance 2" caught me by surprise. After playing its predecessor to glitchy, broken results; I had a predictably poor outlook on the series. In fact, I recall myself laughing at their attempt to promote themselves at E3, expecting just another flop.

    This. Game. Is. Amazing.

    Out of all the games I got for Christmas, this is the one I keep coming back to. The music is wonderfully varied - even dipping into different time periods - and the routines are well-choreographed. The game is also incredibly intuitive - I had a handle on it halfway through my first song and others who've tried it have had similar success.

That's not to say it doesn't have its flaws. It doesn't have a create-a-character, a career mode, or a very large DLC category yet. Hopefully they'll add more songs soon because I can't wait to keep dancing!

    If you have thirty hours to kill and aren't a Fallout person, this game is for you. "Harvest Moon: Animal Parade" is a title that will satisfy those familiar with the series and thrill newcomers. With more things to do than I can even begin to list - including farming, cooking, and mining - that game specializes in giving the player an open-world experience where it feels like they can do almost anything.

    The game feels surprisingly fast-paced, considering its content. When you begin, you actually feel as if you have the faculties to do some things instead of feeling crippled like in other games. The major flaws of "Harvest Moon: Animal Parade" are merely its lack of innovation and clunky control scheme.

    This isn't my type of game, usually. However, if there are no other games out to catch my fancy, I have been known to tear up "Viva Pinata" or "Animal Crossing", so I do see myself playing this one - just not for a while. It comes down to what type of gamer you are.

    I have a confession to make. You may not like me after it; but it's been a long time coming ...

    I hated "Red Dead Redemption."

    Yes, the very same game the topped many 'Game of the Year' lists is one that I can barely stand to have in my console. Why? Because everytime I play it, I hunt a bunch of animals, gather my booty from skinning them, and then get killed by a puma out of nowhere and lose it all. When I'm not doing that, I'm engaging in some boring story mission I could care less about. And, no, this doesn't stem from a hatred of westerns - I love westerns and Clint Eastwood and the lore of the old West - but the story was just about as generic as you could get for me.

    What I did like about "RDR" was John Marston. Even during those parts where I wanted to crack the game over my knee, he'd make some wise remark and it'd be all better. "Undead Nightmare" uses Marston's personality to its full advantage, never passing up a moment to have him comment on the insane situation going on around him. This alone should sell this game -- or, rather, 'expansion pack.' But I found so much more to enjoy about "Undead Nightmare" than Marston's take on the zombie apocalypse -- which surprised me!

The sparse ammo given to the player and the headshots ( or more creative means ) needed to take down zombies amp up the difficulty of the combat. I like feeling like I'm in peril of more than just a random cougar attack. Not to mention, seeing a street full of wriggling, hogtied zombies was one of the highpoints of my life.

    If you like "RDR", getting "Undead Nightmare" should be a no-brainer. However, even if you're a fan of zombies, I'd suggest just investing in the singular game-pack they're now selling at retail stores. The dark humor, great voice acting, cinematic music, and Marston's one-liners will keep you coming back.

007: GOLDENEYE (Wii) - 2.5/5 STARS.
    "Goldeneye" was the creme'de'le'creme of multiplayer games back in the day. You'll be hardpressed to find a gamer over twenty who hasn't, at one point, capped someone in the knees as Oddjob. Thus, when a remake was announced, the gaming community collectively cheered.

Then collectively groaned when finding out it was exclusively for the Wii.

Now, I'm open-minded. I'm the first to admit that I'd take my 360 over the Wii any day, but I was just happy to hear of a "Goldeneye" remake and to see if it'd turn out to be even a slither as addicting as the first.

    Well ... it's not.

    Don't get me wrong, the game it beautiful and hardwork has clearly gone into it. However, the first thing I noticed when I turned it on were the controls. Using the Wiimote as your sightline in a FPS feels unnatural and clunky. Not only that, but it has a tendency to automatically make your person look at the ceiling so you can't even see the person coming at you - making it even easier for Oddjob to wail on your knees.

At first, I thought this was a result of my Wii's system settings. However, I've conferred with other people who have received the game and they've had similar issues when playing with the Wiimote and nunchuck. So, unable to assess the game properly that way, I went out and bought a Gamecube controller.

    This made a HUGE difference - in that I could now play it.

    Yet, even as I played, I couldn't help but feel that this was simply a title that was wasted on the Wii. I don't see myself playing it very much because playing without being able to connect with my friends like I could in an XBOX Party feels a bit hollow. It takes away from a lot of the experience of a FPS -- the camaraderie and competitiveness. My advice? If you only have a Wii and need a FPS, then get it. If not, you can find better ones on other consoles.

    "Epic Mickey" is one of those games that I have a love-hate relationship with. I love to look at it; but I hate to play it.

    Why would I make such a statement? Well, it's simple. The camera in this game is ridiculously broken. It's so bad that they included a button that supposed to allow you to snap the camera behind Mickey again; but even that doesn't work half the time. Because of this, I mess up jumps and miss seeing items and doors that would otherwise be obvious if the camera weren't in East Bumblefrick.

    Still, this game has a lot of love behind it and it shows. Every level is well-designed and the artwork is interesting. Not only that; but the morality choices presented are extremely interesting and keep you engaged. The cutscenes are also a pleasure to watch -- I love the animation style they chose for them.

    My favorite part, however, has to be the little platformer parts when transferring between levels. The first one I encountered,"Mickey and the Beanstalk," was an immediate dose of nostalgia, reminding me of "World of Illusion Starring Mickey and Donald" for Sega -- a fond childhood memory! If the entire game were like these little inbetween snippets, I would have been engaged for hours. But, c'est la vie!

DJ HERO 2 (XBOX 360) - 4/5 STARS.
    Anyone who knows me knows that I love dance music. There isn't a time of day where I'm not pumping some remix or dancing around my room to some corny hit of the week. Thus, the original DJ Hero game catered to my tastes perfectly.

    "DJ Hero 2" is a worthy sequel, though it does little in innovation. It feels more like a port of the first with more songs and just a few new DJ tricks added in. Still, for what it is, I'm happy. I really can't complain too much when a game has deadmau5 in it!

    Still, there is one thing I can nitpick on -- the singing. It's horrendous. The point of DJ'ing is to mix two tracks together. This creates a nice sound; but not neccessarily the smoothest of vocal flows, nor one you can predict. Having your friend try to sing along borders on cruel and the game mode becomes more of a practical joke or torture device than a new way of playing.

    There's also still a lack of a create-a-character and a career mode in this game. What's up with music games leaving out this basic essentials this year? Get on it, guys!

    I'm a "Fallout" fangirl through and through; but that definitely wasn't going to make me judge this lightly. In fact, if anything, it caused me to look at it with a more critical eye. As the first expansion pack for "New Vegas," "Dead Money" had something to prove ... and it delivered.

    The presentation and mechanics on "Dead Money" are unlike anything we've seen in "Fallout 3." This departure from the predecessor is precisely the shot in the arm that the series needs. It's no secret that "New Vegas" came to feel a bit too much like "Fallout 3," but through my adventures at the Sierra Madre, that trend was broken.

    However, there are a few flaws. There are some long-standing glitches that are yet to be addressed - such a quest items remaining in the cluttered inventory even after a quest has been completed and the Pip Boy being brought up too high so that half the screen is cut off.

There was also one other glaring issue I had with this expansion and that was with the character Christine. I won't spoil anything about her; but I would have liked to see more animation behind her. The lack thereof reeks of laziness and took away from some of the experience. But, really, it's a small complaint.

    Overall, I'd highly reccommend picking up a copy of "Fallout: Dead Money." I certainly left my heart at the Sierra Madre.

Vault Boy ornament by Natasha Stuhl ---
Happy New Years! Happy Gaming in 2011! 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Top 5 Things About 'Monday Night Combat'

There are few games to hit the scene quite like Uber Entertainment's Monday Night Combat. The class-based shooter is affordable, has spawned an amazing fanbase, and is highly addictive. It's been during many nights of playing long into the wee hours that I've grown to love a few little quirks of the game. There were many to choose from, but I've managed to narrow them down into my top 5 things about Monday Night Combat!

5. ProTags - As if obsessing over achievements weren't enough, Uber Entertainment has now added a new host of badges for every OCD gamer to collect. As with other players of the game, after every match I find myself going to see if I've earned a new tag. When I have, the feeling can only be described as utter elation as I display it. Not only that, but there's nothing that can really compare to the fear a certain tag can inspire in your opponents prior to a match. Thus, ProTags are on the list for being both a trophy and a battle cry.

4. The Ring Out - Whether it's by a grapple, a charge, or an ejector, there's few things quite as satisfying as watching your rival pro fly off the map. The money you earn from it is also incredibly rewarding and a key to upgrades -- thus allowing you to beat them down further while ON the map. 

3. Taunting - If I had one criticism about Monday Night Combat, it'd be the lack of teabagging. However, there's something almost as good in the game: the taunt. For every pro, there's at least two taunts depending on which weapon you have equipped at the time. The taunts take several seconds to perform and reward you extra coins if performed directly after killing another pro. It's risky to do this in the middle of the battleground, but ... it sends a message. The message being that you're the bomb.

2. The Assassin's Slap Grapple - You bend over your opponent and slap them to death. Has there ever been a better, more humiliating way to kill someone in a game? I've been on the receiving end of this many a time and have raged heartily, but I've also screamed in unbridled ecstacy as I've dealt it out. There's something wholy satisfying and insulting about these devious slaps.

1. Bacon - Yummy, delicious, and mouthwatering. Do I really need to explain this one?


Art provided by Natasha Stuhl -
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