Friday, March 27, 2009
With the arrival of Grand Theft Auto on DS and MadWorld on the Wii, it would seem that the days of replacing blood with "sweat" are in Nintendo's past. MadWorld is a downright brutal, unapologetically ultraviolent romp that is sure to please fans of arcade-style gameplay and beat-em-ups in general. It rewards you for creativity, so instead of just pummelling an enemy to death with your boring old fists, it's best to place a tire over his head, chop his arms off, stick a roadsign through his temple, put a flaming barrel over his head, and then throw him into the path of a spike-armored train. The sheer amount of awful things you can do to your enemies is truly impressive, and the violence is even more striking when you see the red blood spraying all over the black-and-white environment. Unlike many Wii games, the motion controls feel natural rather than tacked-on, so swinging the nunchuk forward to headbutt someone until their cranium explodes helps immerse you into the experience rather than annoy you. Games like these are where the Wii can shine, and third-party developers should take note of all the things MadWorld does right.
Halo Wars (360)
If it didn't have the Halo names and trademark characters, this title might as well be called "RTS for Dummies". More than simplifying the control scheme to bring it to the consoles, it entirely dumbs down the entire concept of a real-time strategy game. You're limited in terms of how you organize and coordinate your troops and attacks, and it can't hold a candle to how Red Alert 3 handled this on a 360 controller. Whereas better games in the genre can present you with large-scale, epic battles, Halo Wars is more about taking a smaller group of units to take out small objectives. You won't be seeing C&C-style; battles with dozens of Kirovs and Apocalypse tanks here. There's plenty of fan service for the Halo faithful, as the story, sound effects, units, and even the menus follow the exact same style as the FPS games. However, this isn't enough for strategy fans that were looking for something deeper than Halo Wars.
Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop (Wii)
This one looked like a bad idea from the very first screenshots. On the 360, the entire appeal of Dead Rising was the prospect of navigating through a mall filled with scores of the undead, in waves so thick it helped to carve through them with a lawnmower. When the first screens were released for this Wii version, the previously crammed walkways of the mall were populated by a handful of lonely zombies. In the final retail version, the number of onscreen enemies has gone up slightly, but it's still a downright ugly game. In no way does the Wii hardware make this a better experience, and no amount of goofy motion minigames can fix that.
Chrono Trigger (DS)
It took me far too long to come around to RPGs, as my first was Final Fantasy X (I know, I know). Despite my early avoidance of the genre, I've come to enjoy them quite a bit. I've known for a while that Chrono Trigger was one of the go-to classics in the history of the genre, so I was excited to hear it was coming to the DS. Sure enough, I can now say that I've been missing out on a classic for all these years. Chrono Trigger is a fantastic title, featuring likable characters, an intriguing story, and a battle system that breaks the mold of RPGs of the era. The DS hardware lends itself well to the experience, with the option to place all text and indicators on the bottom of the screen. This way, the top is nothing but the colorful and visually appealing sprites and backgrounds while you pull all the strings on the bottom screen. Everything about this game is top-notch, and if you haven't played it by now, this DS version is the perfect way to get acquainted with it.