Thursday, April 17, 2008
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds (PS3)
The Tiger Woods franchise may be seen as the "simulation" golf series, but beyond the kiddy exterior of Hot Shots Golf lies physics and gameplay mechanics just as deep. The quirky characters and dialogue add some welcome personality to the game, but it's the solid gameplay that keeps fans coming back. The main upgrade to Out of Bounds is the new Advanced Shot system for your shots. Rather than looking at the "three-click" bar of titles past, you watch the actual swing motion of your golfer. Press X at the top of the swing and you'll blast it as far as you can, while you can hit the button mid-swing to ease back a bit. After the first button input, you watch a circle close in on your ball. The smaller the circle is when you press X, the more accurate your shot will be. In essence, it's still a three-click system, but looking at the swing motion is more involving than staring at a bar (although you can still play with the old system if you'd like). Out of Bounds also adds a robust multiplayer element by bringing online play to the series. 50-person tournaments are a blast, and fans of the series will find more to love with this newest entry in the series.
Viking: Battle for Asgard (360)
After a couple hours of playing Viking: Battle for Asgard, I started thinking that it bears a resemblance to that other recent God of War wannabe, THQ's Conan. Like Conan, this title has you hacking and slashing your way through hordes of baddies in grotesque, elaborate fashion while occasionally stopping to quickly tap a button to untie a rope or open a treasure chest. While Conan was somewhat entertaining for a bit thanks to its no-holds-barred action, Viking is a bit more tedious thanks to the inclusion of some adventuring and exploration. Don't get me wrong, these traits can be fantastic in the right context (Zelda, Okami, RPGs, etc), but not in a sub-par God of War clone. There simply isn't enough in Viking's world that warrants exploration. Sure, you can run around and acquire mead and gold, but there's no feeling of discovery or real reward to it all. As a hack-and-slash action game, it fails because of the tedious environments and exploration sections. As an adventure game, it fails on even more levels. However, nothing is truly broken in terms of control or execution...there's just nothing new to be seen here.
The Wii is certainly short on RPGs, so Opoona arrives with little competition in the genre. It's more of an "RPG-lite", really, and almost seems targeted at younger gamers. Your protagonist is a young boy that is constantly followed around by a floating magical ball, and the art style and narrative is decidedly Japanese. While there are battle sequences, you'll also engage in other activities like making new friends and getting jobs. When skirmishes do pop up, however, they're presented in the rapidly-aging "random battle" fashion. This gets slightly annoying considering that you'll spend a lot of time searching for items, and you're constantly bombarded with battles. It also has issues with spotty translation and there's no option to speed through text you've already read. Despite its flaws, there are probably many young Wii owners that could use a not-too-difficult RPG to get them into the genre. For them, Opoona might be worth checking out.
Singstar 90s (PS2)
Sony aims for the casual market with Singstar 90s, a party/karaoke title that features all tracks unlocked from the very beginning. This is a smart idea considering the target demographic probably isn't comprised of gamers who want to spend hours unlocking content. The tracklisting, however, could have used a little bit of work. Many of the songs come from one-hit wonders like Sir Mix-A-Lot, Len, and the Spin Doctors, and the song choices are fairly obvious. Grunge is somewhat represented with Nirvana's "Lithium", Stone Temple Pilots' "Plush", and Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun". I was crossing my fingers for some November Rain, but no such luck. Granted, the 90s weren't exactly a hotbed of classic music, but Singstar 90s only takes the most obvious radio hits of the era. Regardless, casual gamers that just want a fun game for parties will probably enjoy it for a while.
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