Friday, May 1, 2009
Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (360)
While a good 95% of games based on movies (and vice versa) are terrible, 2004's Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay turned out to be a great exception to the rule. This was made even more surprising considering that the Riddick movies aren't exactly great cinema. Source material aside, the prison environment, stealth aspects, and visceral melee combat made it a blast to play through. 2009's Assault on Dark Athena features the entire Butcher Bay game, along with a new chapter. It looks sharper than ever, and Butcher Bay is still a unique experience, but the new addition doesn't offer up the same thrills. It strays too far from the stealth-and-melee roots of the original, and at times resembles a generic shooter. Athena Bay may be a disappointment, but the new multiplayer modes offer a few thrills. The best is certainly Pitch Black, which features one player as Riddick and the rest as guards with flashlights. You'll have a distinct advantage playing as Riddick thanks to his ability to see in the dark, and it's genuinely scary to play as the guards. It may be nice to go back to Butcher Bay and try out the new multiplayer, but the full package doesn't offer up enough intriguing new material.
New Play Control - Mario Power Tennis and Pikmin (Wii)
When I first played Wii Sports Tennis, I couldn't help but think about the possibilities for a new installment of Mario Tennis. I assumed the ability to control your player's movements would make it more intriguing, but New Play Control Mario Power Tennis wasn't exactly what I had in mind. Rather than a new game built from the ground up for the Wii, they simply mapped some motion controls onto the Gamecube game. Power shots are dumbed-down and the overall experience doesn't even match the simplistic Wii Sports Tennis. The New Play Control version of Pikmin works a little better, as ordering your plant creatures around actually feels pretty natural with the Wii remote, and the game still has an undeniable charm. These were both solid games back on the Gamecube, which makes me hope for true sequels rather than re-releases with motion controls shoehorned in.
Overall: 6.5 (Mario Power Tennis) and 7.5 (Pikmin)
Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 (360, PS2)
While every gamer I've ever talked to seems to despise the Dynasty Warriors franchise, there's obviously a market somewhere for it. Otherwise, we wouldn't have 90 installments of Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, their Xtreme and Orochi installments, and now Dynasty Warriors Gundam. Shockingly, this latest installment is exactly like the others, only a little worse. The space and mech aspects do absolutely nothing to differentiate the gameplay from previous games in the series, and it's actually less interesting than the plains of the core series. If you're a hardcore Dynasty Warriors or Gundam fan, go ahead and give this one a try. Anyone else should steer clear unless they like mashing the X button for hours on end.
Ninja Blade (360)
Ninja Blade is one of those titles that wears its influences on its sleeve. The most obvious is Ninja Gaiden, as all of the core gameplay directly resembles the Tecmo series. However, you'll quickly realize that Ninja Blade has more of a quicktime event obsession than virtually any game ever released. This means you'll have plenty of God of War moments where you're methodically taking a boss apart in a semi-interactive, cinematic fashion. It's also full of absolutely absurd cutscenes featuring your character surfing on a rocket, riding a wrecking ball, and destroying a giant crab while you're on a motorcycle. It takes great joy in how ridiculous it all is, and some of it is actually pretty entertaining. However, the framerate drops severely at points and the frequency of the quicktime events gets old very quick. Despite its unoriginality and repetitive nature, there's enough entertaining moments to warrant a rental for action fans.