Latest Game and Movie Reviews (Live Update)

* Game Ratings (/10), Movie Ratings (/5)

DS Tokyo Beat Down 7.1
Xbox 360 Fracture 8.0
MOVIE The Unborn 0
PC Left 4 Dead 8.7
Xbox 360 Mirror's Edge 8.5
MOVIE Dead Space Downfall 3.5
MOVIE The Day the Earth Stood Still 0.5
PSP Super Stardust Portable 9.7  CHOICE PICK
PSP Need for Speed Undercover 2.8
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Friday, July 27, 2007

SUPER Rant: Do Wii Think Alike?

^ When publishers treat the Wii as a dumping ground for PS2 ports

It has been 8 months since the release of the Nintendo Wii console in the US and in that short time span, it has been for me, as a supporter of the Wii (and Xbox 360) in this generation of home console, a roller-coaster ride. I am a hardcore gamer and I have to admit that Nintendo’s strategy to push its revolutionary console into both the homes of the hardcore and casual/non-gamers has left me less than impressed with the Wii. A few months leading up to the launch of the Wii, gameplay videos of Ubisoft’s FPS Red Steel were flashed across the Internet and for once, Nintendo satisfied me with their special control scheme for the Wii – the Wii-mote and the nunchuck attachment. But then again, Nintendo’s signal to attract casual/non-gamers also gave some publishers the wrong idea. My heart sank when THQ announced some absolutely useless Wii games ranging from SpongeBob Squarepants: Creature from the Krusty Krab to Barnyard to Disney’s/Pixar’s Cars. Vivendi Games offered Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, a long overdue game. Midway introduced Rampage: Total Destruction and The Ant Bully. Some of these haphazard works led some people to believe that the Wii was just ‘2 GameCubes stuck together by duct tape’, to quote a ‘famous’ phrase from many critics. I found myself wondering: Would the Wii be just another GameCube? Afterall, it is the weakest among all the current-gen consoles – technically. I found myself growing less confident about the success of the Wii. Again, is the Wii going to repeat history all over again?

Fortunately, Ubisoft lent some great support to the Wii and allowed it to pull off a very successful launch. Of course, there were the first-party games to thank as well, including The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wii Sports, which was packed in with the console and Excite Truck. Within the next few months, a few more publishers jumped onto the Wii bandwagon after seeing the sales of the console soar. Games started to pop out for the Wii like running tap water. I was starting to get joyful for Nintendo. Then … … another problem struck. Good thing Nintendo continued producing the goods: WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Wii Play and Super Paper Mario. Okay, what was the problem, you may question. A couple of publishers thought that it was a good idea to test new grounds by releasing PS2 games on the Wii – PS2 ports (or ports of last-gen games) are what these games are known as. From Heatseeker to Mortal Kombat Armageddon to Scarface: The World is Yours, Codemasters, Midway and Vivendi Games were all guilty of treating the Wii as a dumping ground for last-gen games so that they can benefit from the brisk sales of the console. During the same period, Medal of Honor Vanguard, another PS2 port, and The Sims 2: Pets, a game released for last-gen consoles, also appeared on the Wii. All of a sudden, I wasn’t very confident of the Wii anymore and couple those games with Namco Bandai’s kiddy Tamagotchi: Party On!, and you can say that I was starting to get apprehensive about the Wii’s future. But just moments later, I was assured of the Wii’s good days ahead.

^ An offspring of the increased third-party support for the Wii

A slew of sizzling announcements hit the Wii soon after. THQ’s WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2008 and Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed (What? Another PS2 port, but still more interesting than SpongeBob Squarepants, nonetheless), EA’s NBA Live 08, FIFA 08, Madden NFL 08, EA Playground, Boogie, My Sims and Need for Speed Pro Street, Rock Band, Activision’s Guitar Hero 3 (guitar controller is shown in image above) and Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, Rockstar’s Manhunt 2 (yet another PS2 port, but adds more variety to the Wii games library), Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, Bully: Scholarship Edition, Vivendi Games’ Geometry Wars: Galaxies and The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night, Atari’s Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3, Godzilla Unleashed and Jenga are all set to hit the Wii. Ubisoft continues to push more support for the Wii in the form of the (as of now) console-exclusive Rayman Raving Rabbids 2, Cosmic Family and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Hard Evidence. LucasArts’ Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga also made headlines. Needless to say, there are more new games en route to Wii (like the new and second Trauma Center game for the Wii by Atlus and Capcom’s Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure), and I can only watch in delight as the Wii gradually arms itself with such essential third-party games that were lacking from the GameCube and together with popular first-party ones like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, I believe that the Wii will become a more efficient ‘money printer’. Perhaps that was the zenith of the Wii’s success in those short 8 months. Has Nintendo achieved its target? That question brings us to the present day.

Both May and June sales figures demonstrated that Nintendo dominated the US market with the DS and Wii in first and second place respectively. For the uninitiated, Wii moved 338, 278 units in the month of May, while it managed a more impressive 381, 000 sale number in June. What is more astounding is the fact that Nintendo not only dominated the US with the Wii, but also Japan, with 3 million consoles sold. Software sales were largely made up of Wii and DS games as well. In the light of these figures, the Wii has been dubbed the ‘money printer’ – unsurprisingly. Nintendo’s unique plan to get hardcore, casual and non-gamers to experience gaming with the Wii has paid off handsomely. No more jostling with the technologically-superior Xbox 360 and PS3 – that may well be what Nintendo was thinking when it first conjured up the idea for the Wii. Nintendo has achieved its target. Yes, it has and I am happy for them.

^ Nintendo has became so obsessed with chasing casual/non-gamers that it made such a dumb 'non-game'

At the recently-concluded E3 2007, Nintendo’s press conference brought up a new announcement: the highly-speculated Wii Health Pack was renamed Wii Fit and the ‘game’ would be released next year. Okay, for a refresher, Wii Fit is basically an exercise game where you are required to have the Wii balance board (a pressure sensitive board) in order for you to be able to play it. In the game, there are several activities that can be done, including push-ups, yoga, aerobics, soccer ball-heading and so on and so forth. Actually, that was the main highlight of Nintendo’s conference. Yes, you heard it right – a game that is in fact a game? Alright, I do not deny that releasing Wii Fit will allow Nintendo to reap more profits from the Wii because the people who will actually go out and buy Wii Fit will be those casual and non-gamers – and this category of people overwhelmingly outnumbers actual gamers. BUT as a hardcore gamer myself, Wii Fit looks in every way -- just plain stupid. Wii Fit is just a very casual game, a game made for people who have not played a single game in their life before. Has Nintendo gone so obsessed with chasing the minds, hearts and money of casual/non-gamers that it is possible that it is going to make such a dumb non-game (I prefer to call it that way)? It is certain that I do not favor Wii Fit, but be sure to expect more of such games dotting the Wii games library in the future.

Yes, it has been a roller-coaster ride with the Wii, which has been in existence for 9 months, including the launch month. From the pre-launch period where I grew more confident of the Wii’s success after the new control scheme was showed off via Red Steel and the tremendous support of the console by Ubisoft, to the announcement of the several kiddy, totally-unnecessary games due for launch day, which caused my heart to sink, to the influx of PS2 ports and ports of last-gen games, to the sudden slew of hot announcements, to the release of Nintendo’s amazing sales figures and to the major announcement of Wii Fit at E3 2007, Nintendo has, at times, put a smile on my face, and at times, made me frown. But, at the end of the day, I just want to know: Do Nintendo and I actually think alike?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hardware Guide:Nyko Ultimate Kit Lite

Accessory maker Nyko has announced a new carrying pouch for DS Lite owners. Donned in army camouflage, the pouch can protect your DS Lite from any dust or dirt on that camping trip in the jungle, as well as hold up to 8 game cards and 2 styli, which the package also provides. Also included in the Ultimate Kit Lite are the car charger, useful for those long trips, and the carabineer. The package will retail for US$19.99, but a release date has yet to be confirmed.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

SUPER Rant: Un-Apple-d

For years, the iPod phenomenon has gripped most of the Earth’s population and it has refused to let go amid the fierce competition from other media player makers like Creative and Samsung. At every turn you make, on every train you travel on, on every bus you take, the sight of iPods greets you. The iPod’s distinctive click wheel appears as the man sitting beside you in the train takes out his iPod and with a single rounded-swipe of the click wheel, he slips his iPod back into his pocket elegantly. I have tried my hands on both the iPod Nano and iPod Video through my friends before and I have to admit that the navigation is intuitive. In fact, I like the navigation system more than my Creative Zen Neeon player’s, which I use to painstakingly scroll through my huge song list frequently. There is no denying that iPods are simple to use and that is one of the several reasons why so many people around the world worship iPods. But why, and why hasn’t the iPod caught me yet? I do not feel tempted to buy any iPod device. I stay away from them when I want to consider buying a better media player with more storage space. Yes, the masses have their iPods to cement their status as ‘cool’ people, but I could not care less.

^ Too simple, too plain?

Perhaps iPods are not my cup of tea. Wait, of course they are not. The iPod shuffle is the least costly of all the iPods and its redesign has made it look even more aesthetically appealing, but no, I would definitely not buy it. A MP3 player without a screen or whatsoever is just as useless as a piece of burnt paper. And that’s not forgetting that I can get the Creative Zen Stone (screen-less) or Zen Stone Plus for so much cheaper – with more features packed-in as well. Then you may ask: Why wouldn’t you get the iPod Nano? Similarly, I think that the iPod Nano just got more beautiful with that redesign, but probably not enough. If I wanted more features, wouldn’t the iPod Video come into my mind? No again. IPods were lavished with endless praises from numerous reports, hardware reviews and people that its design is one-of-its-kind, out-of-this-world, exceptionally chic, but my thinking points out otherwise. Instead, I feel that iPods have one of the simplest, most plain and boring designs. Okay, it would have been better if Apple provided different designs for its media players like what Creative, Samsung, Sony are constantly doing, but Apple did not. There is no design variety in iPods – every ipod model looks the same; there are no varying models that have different designs. That being said, it is a love or hate affair with the iPods. If you love the simple, straight-forward design with the focus on the click wheel of the iPods, then you will love iPods and would rush right to the stores to buy almost anything that Apple releases. But I admit: There is no way I can like the design of iPods. It is too simple, plain and boring for my taste and sometimes, I just wish Apple can give me more choices by adding in a new iPod model with a new design. Perhaps one that is a little more sophiscated-looking, but still as intuitive to use? Give me a Samsung K3 MP3 player any day and I will say it looks better and ‘cooler’ than the current generation of iPods.

^ Handsome with impressive touch-screen, but no MMS and costs an arm and a leg

The design factor is one thing, but when you are a student on a budget like me, another thing comes into play: price. I can certainly tell you that iPods fare badly on this one, and I am sure many others would also agree with me. The price is steep, yes, even overpriced do I feel. Somehow, other manufacturers just do not charge as much as Apple does. And please, I love built-in radio in my media player. IPods do not offer me that built-in option? Yeah, no. Another example in which Apple products are overpriced lies in the iPhone – Apple makes a profit margin of greater than 50% on every iPhone sold. Well, at least I like the iPhone better – it’s much more handsome than the iPods and it has that cool touch-screen technology. For example, to enlarge a picture, I can make a pinching motion with my fingers on the screen and the image will be zoomed in. BUT for my generation of people who are weaned on feature-packed phones which also have nice designs, iPhone just isn’t it. No MMS!?! This is total crap. I cannot record a video with the iPhone as well. Sure it has e-mail, but I prefer MMS, nevertheless. I will not be buying iPhone – it lacks some basic functions that are present in today’s phones (though some impressive technologies are present in the phone) and (especially) it is too expensive.

^ Where are my games?
Did I just say Mac? Oh yes, I did. The last major business that Apple is involved in – the PC market. Although Microsoft is still the market leader with Windows powering most of the world’s computers, Apple’s Mac platform is gradually gaining popularity and software support from developers. However, there still seems to be a barrier between me and the Mac. Most of the PC games that are already out or are coming out can’t be played on a Mac OS – and that hurts. Typical of an Apple product, Macs cost a bomb. Take those MacBook notebooks for example – their prices soar above those of other notebook producers’. I had some brief moments with Macs before, and as it goes, these short experiences with the machines and the Apple software did little to allow me to fully understand what the Mac is all about. The computers have a clean-cut design, but again, I would like to see Apple provide more design variety for the consumers. Currently, I have 2 PCs running Windows XP and 1 running Windows Vista.

Of all the Apple products, you can say I like the iPods the least, while I am sitting on the fence when it comes to the iPhone and the Mac. I don’t quite favor them, but neither do I dislike them. In the future, I would like to see Apple lowering the prices of their products, so that they will be more affordable and provide more design options for consumers. I don’t want to have only a single design for the iPods or for the Macs or even for the iPhone. Give consumers more variety. For now, I will just retreat into my un-apple-d world of gadgets and software.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Rockstar Cooks Up 2 Surprises

^ Screenshot of Bully on PS2

Rockstar has announced 2 new games for the Wii and 1 for the Xbox 360. Coming to Wii are Bully, the game originally released for PS2, and Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, which first appeared on the Xbox 360. Bully is landing on the Xbox 360 platform as well. Both games are believed to be arriving before next year.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Game Review:Ratatouille

The movie smells good, but the game smells bad.

The wait is long. The wait for the Big Daddies of Rapture from BioShock to land on my console is very long. That is the time when I need a time-filler, but this is unfortunately, also the time where the gaming river runs dry. I checked out some of the recently-released games – none of them seems very appealing to me. Ratatouille is my best bet for the DS platform when it is put up with other new games like Cookie and Cream, Hoshigami Remix, Touchmaster and Nervous Brickdown. Being a movie tie-in, I was not having high hopes for it; I just wanted to have some enjoyment and that is it, but even then, my wish was hardly fulfilled … …

Ratatouille, for a start, follows the film faithfully and that’s great. I, seriously, do not want to play another game like Spider-Man 3 or Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer that is supposed to be based on the movie, but apparently, when you start playing these games, you realize that they aren’t based on it. To complement the movie’s storyline, Ratatouille even supplies you with direct images from the film in between chapters, so even if you, like me, haven’t watched the movie yet, you can still understand what is happening.

The graphics are acceptable for a movie-based game. Overall, the game has some good 2D-3D visuals, but like Brothers in Arms DS, the visuals are not consistent. There is one particular chapter where the rat is on the roof of a building. I cannot help but notice that the other buildings in the background are just represented by blur masses of pixels. It does not affect the overall experience that much, though, because most of the chapters take place in internal environments. However, from that point onwards, the game slides downhill.

I must say that the developers really need to work on the volume of the audio. Sure, the game cranks up some nice tunes both during gameplay and the intervals between chapters, but I was surprised when I could barely hear the game when I was playing it on the train (for the record, the train was quite quiet at that time with only the sound of it moving audible). And I try playing it at home as well. The game was audible, yes, but I felt it was still kind of soft – even at the volume’s zenith, it was really, really soft. That being said, I fully recommend that you put on a pair of earphones when playing Ratatouille so that you can get the full audio experience – that’s the way I have been playing the game all the time.

There is a more severe flaw at hand than the soft audio. Yes, there is – the gameplay. For once, I thought that I had bought a good game when I started playing it. Yes, a good game it was – but only for the first 30 minutes or so. Basically, Ratatouille is a 3D platforming game where you just proceed from level to level assaying to find food items (most of the time), hidden documents or a key, or just trying to escape a place. There are stars, coins and cheese to collect, all of which are used to increase your life. There are so many of them around that it makes the game relatively easy. Okay, it’s a kid game, afterall, right? All these fresh Ratatouille content would only last you 30 minutes, as I mentioned before. Why? Because after that 30 minutes is over, the environments will repeat themselves over and over and over again for the next - believe it or not! – 4 hours. Well, I just revealed that the game lasts 4.5 hours. It is short, but I take that as an advantage because the game becomes one repetitive mess after half an hour. You can be forgiven for thinking that you are playing the same level all over again even if you are not. And if you thought the objectives could save you from all the repetition, forget it, it is (be warned) just as repetitive. For ALMOST the entire game, you are finding food items! The game does close to nothing to introduce something fresh. The reason I say it’s close to nothing is because a few chapters have cooking challenges, but I will leave that to the next paragraph.

Eh, cooking challenges, huh? Like Cooking Mama, you ask? No, it is in fact not like Cooking Mama. I own Cooking Mama too, which my younger sister occasionally toys with, and I can tell you confidently that the cooking challenges in Ratatouille are so much worse, worse than Cooking Mama. A limited amount of dishes is one thing, but I do not blame the game for it, because those cooking challenges are not supposed to be the focus of the game, but for a gameplay element that is put in by the developers just to make the game feel fresh, I must say they have failed to refresh me – terribly. Instead, the cooking challenges just bore me even more. Unresponsive touch-screen controls, anyone? The cooking challenges aren’t any exciting, either. All you need to do is to slice the food items (unresponsive touch-screen controls kill – remember it), stir, stir and stir them in boiling pots and lastly, garnish them (again, unresponsive touch-screen controls kill). Yes, the activities are boring and are worse than the platforming levels.

After all have been said and done and the single-player game has ended, you browse through the game to see what’s more in store. A stand-alone cooking game challenge with difficulties of easy, normal and hard? Pass it. Wait, I just realized that you cannot replay chapters that you have already completed before. No extra content? There is nothing to unlock - you are right about that. Ah, after 4.5 hours is gone, the game treats you to an audio-less credits run. Way to go! And what a game Ratatouille is!

Final Comments
Get over the faith shown to the film by the game and the mostly good visuals and you will find a game worthy of the bin. Repetitive gameplay with recycled-way-too-much environments and objectives, boring cooking challenges with unresponsive controls and super soft audio that cannot make it without earphones plugged in. You cannot replay chapters you have already done. No bonus materials to unlock. It is a short and very easy game and an audio-less credits run at the end of the game. This game is small on minor positives and big on serious flaws. The game is decent at best. It is playable, sure, but will you be able to play through the whole thing? Enough said.


Good points:
- Game follows movie faithfully and supplies direct images from film
- Mostly good graphics
- Nice tunes playing in the background

Bad points:
- Repetitive, unenjoyable platforming levels with recycled environments and objectives
- Game is way too easy (it’s a kid game; if you are above 12, skip it)
- Game is short at 4.5 hours
- Cooking challenges are boring and feature unresponsive touch-screen controls
- Very soft audio (Earphones are a must)
- No extra content to unlock
- Inability to replay chapters you have already done
- Audio-less credits run at the end

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wii Want to be Fit

Nintendo has finally made the announcement at this year's recently-concluded E3 that a new Wii exercise game is indeed in the pipeline. Wii Fit is what it will be titled and activities that can be done in the game include aerobics, yoga, push-ups and headings of soccer balls among others. Players will need to have the pressure-sensitive Wii balance board (name has not been finalized yet) to be able to play Wii Fit. The game will hit Japan's stores this year-end, but the English version of the game would only be available in the first quarter of 2008.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Price Drop for 60GB PS3 and New 80GB Model Announced

Sony has finally confirmed that the price of the 60GB PS3 model will indeed drop US$100 to US$499. However, a new 80GB version of the PS3 was also announced and it will retail in the US and Canada soon for US$599. The new 80GB package will come packed in with racing game MotorStorm, which was released not long ago. The 80GB PS3 will have no technological differences from the 60GB model.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Newly-Announced DS Delights

In the weeks leading up to this year’s drastically-changed E3, a handful of cool new DS games were announced. We round up the games in this article. What an exciting year for the DS!

::: Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword :::

Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo
Release date: October 2007

Ninja Gaiden makes its debut on the handheld with one of the earliest announcement of the pack. The game is played by holding the DS vertically, much like the way it is held when you play Brain Age or Hotel Dusk: Room 215 on the handheld. The stylus is your best friend here – most of the gameplay action will be controlled by it, be it navigating the main character, Ryu Hayabusa, or to attack enemies in a variety of ways. The only time where you need to press a button is when you want to initiate a defensive block and that’s it. As far as graphics are concerned, the game has some impressive visuals there. Hopefully, it lives up to its expectations. Watch out for it soon.

::: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare :::

Developer: n-Space
Publisher: Activision
Release date: October 2007

Barely a few months into the release of Brothers in Arms DS, another war game is set to grace the handheld soon. The game is question is Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which is also coming to PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Unlike Brothers in Arms DS, which is a third-person shooter, CoD 4 for the DS will be a first-person shooter experience. The DS game’s storyline will run parallel to its console counterparts, but you will get to play as different characters. Missions will have some variety, like one which you and other soldiers get caught up in an ambush or the other situation where you are required to infiltrate a building under enemy control. Defusing or placing charges will be done by using the stylus. For weapons, they range from sniper rifles, SMGs to RPGs, including 2 types of grenades. Controls will be very mouse-like, with you using the bottom screen for aiming and to fire, you can hit either the L or R button on the DS. It’s all going to be very intuitive. Judging from the screenshots, the game looks great, and it supports online multiplayer as well, for which there will be a number of maps and game types.

::: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 :::

Developer: Other Ocean Interactive (former name Backbone Entertainment)
Publisher: Midway Games
Release date: November 2007

Arriving in the month after Ninja Gaiden is Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, another first for the DS. Although the game is also available on Xbox Live Arcade, the DS package will have additional content that you can look forward to. These include the puzzle action component of Mortal Kombat: Deception, Puzzle Kombat and online play via Wi-Fi. Touch screen functionality has not been finalized yet, though, but players can be sure of its usage in some creative ways. More details will be available on the game as it approaches its release date.

::: Geometry Wars: Galaxies :::

Developer: Kuju Entertainment/ Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Release date: November 2007

Anyone who owns an Xbox 360 console will recall the Xbox Live Arcade hit Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. Well, the game is now coming to the DS and Wii as well, with extra content to boot. Geometry Wars: Galaxies will offer more levels (or in other words, planets) with varying sizes of grids, and not forgetting new enemies and gravity pools that will thwart your plan to earn a gold medal. The controls for the DS game are simple: d-pad for movement and the stylus for aiming. It will also feature online multiplayer play and leaderboards.

::: Bleach: Blade of Fate :::
Developer: Treasure
Publisher: Sega
Release date: TBA (Year-end 2007)

It seems that there will be another 2D fighter hitting the DS this year besides Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Gamers who did not import the Japanese version of the game, which was released in January 2006, can finally get a taste of what this game has to offer – in English. The game features 28 characters and players will have the ability to move between the lower and upper planes in the fighting arena to dodge opponents. There are a couple of different modes of play, including story, arcade, Vs., training, time attack, survival and challenge. There is a ton of variety there, if you ask me. The game also supports 4-player multiplayer over Wi-Fi.

Other newly-announced games:

Contra 4
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Publisher: Konami
Release date: TBA 2007

Developer: NoWay Studio
Publisher: TBA
Release date: TBA

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