Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The Simpsons Game (360)
Like the majority of hardcore Simpsons fans, I've been tremendously disappointed with the last 8 or 9 years of the show. Homer got too stupid, the jokes weren't nearly as clever, and the overall quality couldn't even come close to the show I grew up watching. Obviously, I went into the Simpsons game expecting the worst. Licensed games in general are terrible, and this license in particular passed its prime almost a decade ago. Surprisingly, I laughed more during this game than any other in the last few years. It's one of the few times I can say the humor and dialogue almost makes up for a few shoddy gameplay elements (poor targeting system and camera). There are countless excellent references for longtime fans of the show (Mr. Sparkle, the Spirograph factory, the Hellfish treasure) as well as nods at other videogames (Sonic, Mario, Wolfenstein 3D, GTA, Shadow of the Colossus). There's the occasional unfunny line, but most of the humor and parodies are spot-on. Worth playing for the humor alone.
Final Fantasy Tactics: War of Lions (PSP)
Fans of the Playstation Final Fantasy Tactics game were somewhat torn over the Game Boy Advance incarnation that was released a few years back. It was essentially the same chess-like strategy game, but with a controversial new "Judge" system that sent your warriors to jail if they violated certain rules. Thankfully, FFT: WOL brings back everything that was great about the PSX original, and even adds a few more classes. The translation from PSX to portable is great, as the sprites are sharp and the widescreen conversion is a nice change. It's worth giving a try even if you don't like RPGs, as it's actually more of a strategic experience. It still offers dozens upon dozens of hours of gameplay, and I know I'll be playing this game for a very long time.
Mega Man ZX Advent (DS)
I'm not sure exactly when the Mega Man series became the most confusing story in videogaming, but I know I don't like it. I feel old saying it, but Mega Man needs to be a robot guy in a blue helmet shooting guys with scissors and snakes on their heads. I have no idea who these new characters are or how they fit into the Mega Man lore, but this narrative definitely shouldn't get in the way of the gameplay. ZX Advent is certainly better than the first ZX thanks to a much better map system, but it still pales in comparison to the NES games and those in the MMX series.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii)
Once Sega started putting games out on Nintendo systems, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before everyone's favorite blue hedgehog finally went toe-to-toe with everyone's favorite Italian plumber. However, I didn't expect the first meeting between the two to be at the Olympic games. Yes, a couple of months before you can have them beat the crap out of each other in Smash Bros. Brawl, you can have them compete in fencing, swimming, hurdling, and archery against each other. I wasn't too impressed with the gameplay for the first couple of hours, but as I unlocked more and played some four-player, I started seeing its potential as a party game. It's casual enough to play with your non-gamer friends, but a few of the events might be a little tougher for those not familiar with the button layout (Rowing, Trampoline). Winning some of the events seems to be based more on your character's stats than your skill level, but some make excellent use of the Wii Remote (Archery is probably the best). It has its share of sub-par events, but the good ones ensure it'll be a nice title to pull out when there's company over.
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations (DS)
The only series in the "portable criminal defense simulator" genre is back, and well, it's pretty much the same experience as it's always been. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. The fantastic characters, interesting cases, and catchy music are as good as they've ever been. It's just that the game feels more like an expansion pack than full-fledged sequel. If it wasn't your thing before, this one won't change your mind. If you can't get enough of screaming "Objection!" at your DS, pick up Trials and Tribulations.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men (360)
Kane & Lynch is a tremendously frustrating experience. Not just because facets of the gameplay are so half-baked, but because this had so much potential to be excellent. The presentation, voice acting, characters, and story are absolutely excellent. Kane & Lynch themselves are far from your prototypical action game hero. They're terrible people who just broke out of jail, and you can expect to kill a lot of cops and innocent people as them. The dialogue between the two is realistic and gritty, and the plot itself is well-written and consistently entertaining. It's too bad that when the game shifts from cutscenes to gameplay, it suffers tremendously. Certain areas of the game function as they should and are genuinely entertaining (most of the beginning of the game), but others are infuriatingly broken. A boss fight involving a semi truck is near-impossible even on the easiest difficulty setting, and ordering your cohorts around is a chore. Despite the gameplay issues, I'd love to see a sequel that takes the excellent story and characters and just adds a functional game engine.