Archive for the ‘Wii’ Category

Pokémon Battle Revolution

Friday, July 25th, 2008

With every generation of the portable pokémon games, we get treated to a 3D version that lets us battle out little beasties in three of the best dimensions that I’ve ever been a part of. But they also add a little extra, like a tutorial mode, or enhanced management utilities, or even a whole, separate RPG mode.

So, when I saw that the companion game for the DS versions of the portable series was coming out for the Wii, I pretty well disregarded the reviews that I saw. All of the companion games score pretty low as a rule, mostly because they’re reviewed as standalone products instead of the companion products that they really are. Which is to say, if you don’t have the portable game that goes along with each console title, your fun is going to be extremely limited, and that’s fair.

But I do have Pokémon Diamond, so it was pretty well a no-brainer that I’d pick up the companion game for it.

Pokémon Battle Revolution is a whole lot like the Stadium and Colosseum games that came before it. You take your team of monsters that you raised up in your portable adventure and make them fight each other in a ridiculous amount of preprepared situations. After three games, that’s not really much to write home about any more.

But, like the other games that preceded it, the most fun you’re going to have is when you get a friend wrangled into playing the game with you, so you can see who’s the better Pokétrainer. But, that can actually get kind of tough, so this game actually takes advantage of the Wii’s newfangled ability to connect to the Internet to allow you to play battles against folks all over the world… who are mostly far, far better than you are.

But other than the battles, what kind of other features do you get with this game?

Nothing, really.

The only real thing you can do, other than the battles, is look at a few static pages of text that offer up some battle strategy, most of which is so basic that it’s essentially worthless. There are no mini-games, no tutorial battles, no extra RPG mode, and no Pokémanagement utilities.

What you get is a kind-of okay, sort-of flashy 3D interface to your battles, which is nice, but it just doesn’t seem like you get a lot to do for the $50 entrance fee.

My Pokémon Ranch

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

The games in the main Pokémon series are usually pretty good. The spinoff games, though, are pretty much hit or miss. But I feel this odd compulsion to try them out anyway.

With the introduction of WiiWare, Nintendo created a conduit where they could funnel games directly to me at a cheaper price, and since one of them had Pokémons on it, I guess they’d figure that they could make lots of sales on the thing, so long as it was passably mediocre, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the portable Pokémon adventures you capture and train little creatures to fight battles for you with the ultimate goal of being the best in the land. Problem is, though, that there is an ever-growing menagerie of creatures for you to capture, but the problem is that if you want to “catch ‘em all” you’re going to quickly run out of the kind-of limited storage space that you’re afforded in the games. The solution, then, is to buy some kind of add-on game that lets you satiate the desires of your inner pack rat.

Which is essentially what My Pokémon Ranch is. It’s just a massive storage utility in the guise of a ranch that you can send your pokémon to so that they can rest, relax and have fun. You can also send your Miis into the ranch to interact with your little critters. But you don’t really do much of the interaction. You just kind of watch them as they mill around and do their thing, which is every bit as exciting as it sounds.

So the ‘game’ kind of goes like this: you catch a whole bunch of beasties in your game, you transfer them to the ranch, then you just kind of sit there and watch them. Occasionally some ‘toy’ will fall into the ranch and you can bust it open to let the wandering pokémon play with it. And that’s pretty much the extent of your interaction with the game. Occasionally your monsters will do something spontaneous like creating a totem pole or something like that, but that’s not really interactive. Mostly you’re sitting around watching what amounts to a virtual terrarium.

But there’s a hook. A nefarious hook. The ranch-master, Hayley, will bring different pokémon to the ranch depending on a number of factors. As it happens, one of the conditions is that you deposit 1,000 pokémon into the ranch, and she’ll bring to you one of the super-rare and highly sought after creatures, Mew. Which really seems like a whole lot of work for the payoff, but I guess I’m going to end up doing it anyway.

Gotta get some kind of reward for my ten dollars.

Wii Sports

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Wii Sports is the game that is packaged in with the Wii, and the impression that I get is that it’s just kind of there to teach you how to use the remote. You just kind of take your Miis and thrust them into a few different sporting events, simplified so much that pretty much anyone can play them and do reasonably OK at them.

Like Baseball. One person tosses the ball by swinging the remote, and the other swings the bat by… swinging… the remote. The goal is to swing for the fences and get a home run, a home run = one point, otherwise it’s an out. After so many outs, you and your opponent switch sides, and the person with the most points wins.

Or Bowling. You kind of swing your remote like you would a bowling ball and then your ball gets tossed down the alley and knocks down the pins. Whoever knocks down the most is the winner. Easy.

Or Golf. You just kind of swing your remote like a golf club while trying to to thwack a tiny ball in such a way that it goes into a slightly less tiny hole that’s several hundred feet away. I didn’t really play this one that much.

And then there’s Boxing. You hold your Remote and the Nunchuk in your hands and swing them kind of like you’re actually trying to punch the guy on the screen.

And that’s it! Four mini games made to familiarize yourself with the crazy new-fangled controls that the Wii brings to the table.

This is the game that most people think about when they think of the Wii, and it’s the game that I always see when I see some kind of news story or other where they talk about some retirement home or something using the Wii as a rehabilitation tool. And that’s not too surprising, really. The games are extremely simplified, but need you to perform a range of motions to pull them off successfully, which kind of makes it a no-brainer for that kind of environment.

But I think that a lot of places that get this game get it with the Wii, and then use it for its rehabilitation powers, and then don’t get any other games for it. Which is good in a way, but kind of not good in others. There’s more than one game for the system, and some of them are actually passably good.


Thursday, June 5th, 2008

So, Puyo Pop was a pretty good game, so when I was at my local Best Buy and saw a game that featured multi-colored… somethings on a screen that you had to match up and eliminate. And that said game was made by the same people that made the Puyo games, well, I just kind of was obligated to get the thing.

Octomania is kind of the same as Puyo Pop Fever, sort of. Each follows some cutesy heroine on some quest or other. She runs into random people along her way and has to challenge them to the titular puzzle game to proceed, somehow. I don’t really understand how that’s supposed to work, but I’ve played games with flimsier premises before, so I just kind of go with it.

The game has you and your opponent taking control of a square field that fills up with random colors of octopi and grills that have different numbers on them. You control a two by two reticle that can rotate the four octos in it either clockwise or counter-clockwise, and the goal is to take the number on each of the grills and put that many of the same color of octopus on it. Then they turn into smoke that you can add more of the same color of octopus to create chains. Create long enough chains and you give your opponent some garbage.

I found the game kind of hard at first. This is mostly because I have a real hard time keeping track of what’s going where when I’m rotating them around. And that leads me to losing real quick. But that’s OK.

In single-player mode if you lose you can continue, yeah, nothing special, I know. But when you continue you get a powerup. A powerup that changes everything on your screen to the same color. So all you have to do is lose once, continue, let your screen fill most of the way up, use your powerup, clear the whole screen all at once, and then bury your opponent in unclearable garbage.

That might not work on hard mode, but on normal it was real effective, and made the game a whole lot shorter.

Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

A lot of shows on the Adult Swim programming block are pretty terrible, but they do somehow manage to air a decent show occasionally, like the reimagining of the Birdman character as some kind of attorney for other characters in the Hanna-Barbera universe. The show ended its run not too long ago, but a game of sorts was made based on it. I somehow missed that it came out on the Wii until this past weekend when my local Best Buy had the thing on sale for $20. So, I decided that there were far worse things in the store that I could spend $20 on and grabbed it.

The game is a whole lot like the show, and in fact, without the ‘gameplay’ moments, could actually pass for a few episodes. You have to take Birdman through several cases each with ever-decreasing levels of sense. You have to interview witnesses, collect evidence, go to court, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and try to win cases. It’s kind of like Matlock-lite.

The thing is, though, the game is presented in (almost) nothing but movie clips and static backgrounds. You watch a clip, answer a question, watch another clip, search for ‘evidence’, watch another clip, present evidence that proves or disproves some testimony, and then watch the end clip. Some cases are longer than others, but that’s the gist of it. And, with the exception of the cross-examination part, it’s impossible to lose at this game. Answering the questions correctly (guessing works just fine) when they’re presented is a no-brainer. Finding evidence is also pretty much a gimme. You have this static background and a magnifying glass which ’snaps’ to anything you can pick up. Which you do, and it’s off to trigger the next cutscene.

But that’s not to say that the game isn’t fun. It just depends on your definition of ‘fun’. This ‘game’ is pretty obviously targeted to 1. fans of the show and 2. people who don’t play a lot of games. What you’re really buying here is a collection of a five slightly expanded episodes of the show wrapped around an interface that barely qualifies as a game. Which makes this thing a very niche title.

I have to note, though, that the game is very short. I was able to make it through the game in about 4 and a half hours. Had I paid the full $40 for it, I’d have been a little disappointed. But at $20, I got roughly the equivalent of a 4 hour DVD (with interactive features!). And that’s far more palatable.

Link’s Crossbow Training

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

The Wii Zapper doesn’t look much like the NES Zapper. It’s a dual-gripped thing that your Wii remote slides in, and the nunchuk goes in the back. So it kind of looks like you’re holding a crossbow, I guess. So why would you buy such a thing? Probably to play shooting games, and good thing for us, Nintendo has decided to throw one in free with the accessory (or does the accessory come with the game?).

Link’s Crossbow Training stars Link… with his crossbow… running around shooting targets. That sounds kind of obvious, I know, but that’s why I make the big bucks. The game takes place in various locations around Twilight Princess and has a few different goals, depending on the area you’re in. But it basically boils down to either just shooting at targets or running around and shooting at enemies.

The game is really simple and really short. It’s more of a demo to familiarize yourself with the Zapper, but for what it is, it’s actually a pretty solid experience. I’ve only played it one time thus far, and in that time I just played a little of the two-player head-to-head action, which lets you and a friend take turns in a scenario and compete for points. And even though the Zapper looks a little unnatural to hold, it’s actually not too bad, but is it better than using just a Wii remote and a nunchuk without the plastic shell? That I haven’t decided yet.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Monday, April 14th, 2008

This past weekend I finally sat down and played a marathon session of Twilight Princess. I still haven’t actually finished it off, but I’m in the final dungeon right before the final encounter, so unless my prize for winning is a grey screen that just says ‘The Day Is Save!’, I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the experience.

Not the real ending

I bought the game shortly after it came out, and was pretty excited about it. It was supposed to be the game that really showed off what the Wii could do. You got to run around swinging your arm around in real life which equated to swinging the sword around in the game. And while that sounded pretty awesome it didn’t quite work out how I had envisioned somehow, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

I was told that this game took place between the Ocarina of Time and the Wind Waker games, but I didn’t really see very many references to either of those games in here. But, it’s a Zelda game, they’ve always been pretty loose with chronology, so it’s not that big of a deal. But the game stars you, as Link, on a mission to figure out what’s going on with this mysterious ‘twilight’ that’s taking over the land.

What all that means is that you’re going to be doing a lot of collecting things.

I guess that the Zelda games have always been about collecting things, so this shouldn’t have come as too big a surprise to me, but the collection was just starting to feel tedious. For instance, the first set of three things you have to collect sends you to to these odd parallel versions of certain areas. In those areas you have to collect something like 20 bugs before you can even get to the dungeon where your real quest item is located. Sorry if that sounds a bit vague, but I’m trying to not spoil it for the three or four people that have yet to play this game.

As much time as you spend collecting items, you’re going to spend about as much time doing puzzling fetch quests. For example, I just finished some dungeon or other and went back to the Castle Town to see where the next plot point was. They told me to go to the village (which is a good several minutes away). I go there, have a small cutscene and am told to go back to the Castle Town to talk to the same person that told me to go to the village. A few minutes later I’m on a scavenger hunt for a statue in the town that I have to take back to the village. I was able to warp around at that point, but even that has some pretty obnoxious restrictions. Chiefly that I couldn’t do it when people were watching me, and in populated towns, that’s kind of difficult.

I really had some troubles in this game with the controls. Swinging the sword doesn’t really work like I thought it might. The actions on the screen don’t match your motions with the Wii remote, but that’s actually probably a good thing. Instead you just kind of waggle the controller around a bit and Link swings away. You can also waggle the nunchuck around to do the classic ’spinning attack’, but I couldn’t get it to work more than about 20% of the time. You also unlock this ability to smack people around with your shield by thrusting the nunchuck forward, but I could only get that to work about 20% of the time, too. In fact, trying to do the shield bash triggered the spin move more often than anything. I didn’t figure out until about 30 hours in (!) what the problem was: I was being too vigorous with the nunchuck. It turns out that while you’re in the heat of a battle that wildly flailing the nunchuck around is not the way to actually do moves. You have to kind of lazily bob it forward or lethargically swish it from side to side. Doing things lazily is not something that I really excel at when I’m trying to make an elf-guy kill off three armored lizardmen all at once.

I also had a real problem picking things up in this game, for some reason. When you get near enough to something that you can interact with, a little yellow arrow will appear over it as your cue that you can press the ‘action button’ and something will happen, usually that you’ll pick it up. Unfortunately, that little arrow doesn’t mean that you actually will do anything once you press the button until you’re in some kind of ridiculously short ‘range’ of the item. This is a little maddening since there’s a puzzle kind of early in the game that has you killing monsters that turn into lit bombs. You have to run up to them, pick them up, and then place or throw them into the right spot to continue. I would walk up to and it looked like I should be able to pick it up, but I couldn’t. I’d either roll forward at it or not do anything at all until it was too late and the bomb exploded in my face. After I died a few times because of that I went ahead and finished the dungeon but didn’t come back to the game for a few months.

There’s also this whole thing where Link turns into a wolf for parts of the game, and later you can (and must) do it at will to make progress. It’s kind of a cool idea, but I just found it to be tedious to have to switch back and forth all the time to move on. What’s really weird, though, is that you use the wolf form pretty extensively in the beginning of the game, and by the end it’s almost an afterthought.

But once I let a few months go by and picked the game back up I still wasn’t smitten with the game like I had been with past incarnations of the series. The dungeons were way too long, the overworld, while absolutely huge, had precious little to do, unless you like running a few miles through mostly empty fields on foot.

Beyond all that, though, there is a solid game in here, even if it is a little bit on the long side. And for all the hullabaloo that GameSpot raised when they gave the game what amounts to a B+ in their review, I’m going to have to agree with them, though for slightly differing reasons.

Furu Furu Park

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

I really like games that are compilations of other, smaller games. I also like lots of games made by Taito. So when I found a title that promised your ‘favorite Taito games, bite-sized!’ I had to take a look.

And now I kind of wish I hadn’t.

The box was telling the truth. There are tiny, sub-one-minute versions of some… erm… beloved Taito classics. But they’re all just kind of there. There’s nothing to tie them together. You just start one, play it for a few seconds, then start another one. But you don’t have any real reason to do so.

Briefly, this is how your experience with this game will go:

  1. Start disc
  2. Choose game
  3. Load
  4. Learn how to play game during loading screen (you’ll be here for a bit)
  5. Play game for about a minute
  6. Enter your initials (if you set a high score)
  7. Load the menu
  8. Go back to step 2

The game does its fair share of loading, which is pretty annoying. What’s also annoying is that you have to enter in your initials every time you get a high score, even during the same play session. This might not be an issue for most people, but my initials are, in order, at the end of the alphabet, at the beginning, and in the middle. So when I have to do that over and over again, it gets pretty tedious in a hurry.

When I said that there was nothing tieing the games together, that’s not entirely accurate. There is a mode where you pick any five games you want and then you play them back to back. Then the cartoon pig in the game will give you an animal ranking, the lowest being a water flea, of all things. I assume that the ‘noble pig’ would be the highest ranking, since the pig trash-talks so much. I honestly don’t care to find out. I played this mode exactly one time and didn’t manage to make it out of the Insect Kingdom.

So yeah, the game’s a dud. And it’s laughably bad. But playing a game that’s just bad enough to be good is kind of what I do. They’re kind of like my personal version of Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Wario Ware: Smooth Moves

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

All of the Wario Ware games manage to be largely the same and yet wildly different at the same time. Their difference really lies in their control schemes. And with the Wii using a motion-sensing wireless controller, the possibilities opened quite wide for control options.

Yeah, you could hold it like a remote control, or like an umbrella, or a pen, or a steering wheel, or like a boxer, or numerous other things. And you have to change up these ‘forms’ as they’re called to make progress in the game. It really plays just like every other game in the series, you get a game, a vague goal, and about 5 seconds to figure out what to do and then do it. Nothing groundbreaking, but it really works here.

But! As fun as this game is (and it is a certain amount of fun) the real fun in this game is getting some folks together to play it. Watching someone play this game is easily as fun (if not more so) as playing. You can check out this video of some guy (not me) playing. Look for the money shot around 3:27, that’s when we get to see the best game on the title: Hula

So,yes, the real value of this game is making your friends look like fools playing it, while joining in, of course. Easily one of the best games to introduce the unfamiliar to the Wii and its unique controls.

World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions is one of the three games that I actually worked on during my brief stint in the video game industry. So, it almost goes without saying that I spent a lot of time with it. A LOT of time.

This game is a video version of poker’s poster child: Texas Hold ‘Em. It’s got other modes, too: Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud, and HORSE. Don’t know how to play poker? No problem! There are several tutorial videos that will take you through the basics, hosted by Chris Ferguson (and encoded by yours truly).

Since I did some work on this game, I won’t comment on whether or not I thought the game was good or not, but I will point out a few things that I thought were pretty neat:

  1. Not only can you play the XBox 360 version on Live, but it’s compatible with the Vision Camera, enabling you to actually see what your opponents are doing, and most interestingly, put your own face on your avatar. With a little creativity and patience, you can end up with results like this:

    WSOP Poker Face

    One of my jobs was to try and break the face creator. This face, however, I made in the completed version of the game. There are a few more ways to make… nonstandard faces in this game, but I can’t divulge all the secrets, can I?

  2. The PS2 and PSP versions of this game are interoperable. You can unlock pros in one game and then transfer them to the other game. Almost like Activision’s version of Pokémon, we’ll call it PokérMon. Heck, you can even play online with your PSP against folks on their PS2s. Swank.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to go into any kind of scandals that went down while we were making this game, mostly because there weren’t any. It was a fairly typical as far as development goes, so far as I know.

If you like your poker to be in video game form and fully licensed, then this might be the game for you. Or if you feel the need to purchase something with my name on it, then this also might be the game for you. But then again, I might be a bit biased.