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Friday, October 19, 2007

Snack Bar Review: Race Driver, Juiced 2, Zelda and Bleach

It is a problem that occurs often – you would have to wait for me to fully complete a game before the full review is written. Well, I hereby present to you this new feature that you will be seeing more of in the future. In Snack Bar Review, I will give you quick impressions on games that I am going to finish soon or have not completed so you will know earlier whether the games you are wanting to buy are up to mark or not.

:::::: Race Driver: Create and Race ::::::
For more than a year, there is only a single DS racing game that I can truly recommend to you – that is, Mario Kart DS. But now, things are different with Codemasters’ offering, Race Driver. Unlike Mario Kart DS, which has a more arcade-like style of racing, Race Driver is more of a driving simulator. And it turned out pretty good too. Race Driver will be to DS owners like what Forza Motorsport 2 is to Xbox 360 owners. Graphics are surprisingly crisp, the career mode, or World Tour, as it is known in Race Driver, will offer enjoyment for hours on end. Players can also create their own tracks using the provided track editor. Gameplay-wise, the controls are responsive, but since it is a driving simulator, the gameplay may need some getting used to if you have been playing Mario Kart DS all along. Race Driver pulls no punches when it comes to difficulty – opponents are one of the most aggressive ever known in a racer (they will knock you hard) and the lack of a racing line hurts, but hey, the game’s challenging. On the flipside, the sounds of the car engines are questionable and I received a rude shock when the game doesn’t allow me to select cars in its career mode. Otherwise, Race Driver is one solid game.

:::::: Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights ::::::
Another racing game, but Juiced 2 is the obverse of Race Driver. So far, I aren’t very impressed with this game. If you have played Asphalt: Urban GT 2 before, you would understand. And when I say that, it means that Juiced 2 is an awful game. Driving doesn’t feel like driving at all. It feels as if the road is moving, and not my car. Even by arcade-style racing standards, Juiced 2 is horribly unrealistic. Oh, and the tracks keep repeating themselves over and over again that the game became quite a drag. Thank goodness the graphics are great.

:::::: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass ::::::
Okay, believe it or not, Phantom Hourglass is my debut Zelda game. Really. And boy was I blown away by it! The visuals are smooth, the musical score catchy and memorable, and the gameplay fun, refreshing and interactive. Fun and refreshing because each area actually requires you to change strategies slightly and each boss fight is never the same. Sure, Phantom Hourglass is a puzzle-heavy game, but instead of the puzzles interfering with the gameplay, they are actually intregrated beautifully into it such that solving puzzles doesn’t feel like a chore; in fact, the puzzles are ingenious! Interactive because the game makes full use of the DS’s unique functions – well, it is entirely touch-based and I must applaud Nintendo for the intuitive and responsive controls. The microphone is utilized as well. The single-player adventure will keep you occupied for a long time and plus, there are many side quests and mini-games scattered throughout the many islands in the game. Multiplayer further extends the replayability value. This is by far the best DS game I have played this year and I highly recommend it to everyone, Zelda fan or no Zelda fan, hardcore or casual gamer.

:::::: Bleach: The Blade of Fate ::::::
Where should I start? I know nothing about Bleach prior to this, but I do love fighting games. The DS fighters that came out before Bleach were all half-baked efforts. But finally, we have a good fighter for the DS! Phew! Bleach has abandoned the multi-platform formula crap that plagued Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers and Naruto: Ninja Council 3. Good thing there are many characters to choose from and moves are huge in variety. If complicated combined button presses aren’t your thing, rest assured that there are single-touch touch screen buttons for special moves and combos in the game. Talk about simplicity! The game itself is also incredibly addictive. I have yet to go through all the modes, though. But if you love fighters and you own a DS, this is a must-buy.


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