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Arcade shooters vary in quality, and one of the best in recent times is definitely Geometry Wars, so it was bound to get other companies copying the format sooner or later. Whilst XG Blast! (clearly a Geometry Wars imitation) isn't exactly the same though, it still manages to excel in it's own ways.
At it's core, XG Blast! is played in the same way as Geometry Wars Galaxies on the DS, using the d-pad to control movement, and the touch screen (or ABXY) to choose your direction of fire. Your aim in each level is to blast through as many enemies are possible in order to stay alive through waves of different projectiles and foes. When you've completed a level, you can play through it in an endless style mode where you try and gain the top rankings on the offline leaderboard.
There are a few things that set this game apart from Geometry Wars. First of all, the single player mode is very different, and gives you the choice of which levels you want to play and in which order, as you pass through a maze of interlinking missions. The system used means that if you ever get stuck on a level, you're able to choose another mission and work your way around levels that you may find more difficult than others. If you don't complete a level in single player mode though, you have to go back to that world at a later time and make your way through unfinished levels before you can play them with the endless option.
Another main feature is the replacement of the bombs used in Geometry Wars. Instead of the instant death hits, you are equipped with a more powerful item that is activated as long as one of the shoulder buttons is held. Whilst being used, you can kill enemies more quickly and efficiently than with a normal weapon, but only whilst your meter still has some juice left (which is topped up with more and more kills). Instead of lives, you are also given a life meter as well, and once you've died several times (which is not a hard thing to do in many occasions), you return to the start of the current world.
One unique feature from Geometry Wars Galaxies was that you could collect Geoms after enemies were killed. These would multiply your scores and allow you to upgrade your skills, but in XG Blast!, a similar feature only incorporates the multiplier feature. This is what really sets both of the DS shooters apart though, and if Rising Star would have chosen to include the upgradable drome feature from Galaxies, it would have been a bit too close to call XG their own game.
When it comes to comparing this to Geometry Wars, the omission of downloadable multiplayer (several co-op and versus levels are available for friends with the game) and online tables are the big things that let this game down. The cel-shaded graphics are often superior though (if a little too busy at times), with the background ripple from console versions of Geometry Wars making the odd appearance, boss battles adding a new layer of technique and skill and the new power up's found scattered across different parts of each arena help you to personalize the experience and choose from a selection of different weapons depending on which you feel best with.
XG Blast! is a pretty fun variant on the arcade shooter theme, and even though many of the basics are borrowed from Geometry Wars, the new features are enough to set it apart from the fan favourite. Whilst Geometry Wars offers a pretty solid experience, the addition of the "powerful zappy gun" will often make this seem a tad more enjoyable to play. If you're looking for a classic shooting game, this is certainly worth a look, but if you're no good at evading and blasting your way through steep difficulty levels, you might want to pass for n
The House Of The Dead: Overkill
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Many people have been giving Nintendo the finger recently over the lack of "hardcore" titles on the Wii, so it's great to see third parties stepping in to help out and make those complainers happy. Not only will this game satisfy the hardcore needs of gamers, but the gore, profanities, incest and disgusting animations will keep your average maniac happy as well.
This Wii exclusive is an on the rails shooter like no other, as you participate in the hunt for the evil Papa Caesar. Playing as "Agent G", your objective is to find the man due to possible links with mysterious disappearances, but your fellow detective Isaac Washington is there beside you to get revenge for his fathers death. The story features many twists, turns and hilarious quotes all the way through the game, and without them, Overkill wouldn't be half as enjoyable.
Not that the gameplay isn't any fun of course, because it most certainly is. The on-rails style gameplay may seem simple, and it doesn't require half as much skill as it would do in the form of an FPS, but it gives the game a great dynamic as your character moves around for you, turning, dodging and walking around each of the levels. In each level, there are loads of zombies for you to plough through either on your own or with a friend in drop-in drop-out co-op. With a friend, the experience is even more fun as you shoot your way to victory on the same screen.
There is a bit more depth to the game though, with "hidden" golden skulls to be found (which aren't really well hidden, just hard to shoot) and extra health and grenades to be found. One particularly fun feature is the slow motion camera, which can be both useful and humorous at the same time, and makes for a great way to slow down the action when it gets too much. Also, throughout each level you'll have to shoot zombies in order to rescue civilians, shake the controllers to force certain enemies away from you and encounter a rather large boss fight, which are easy enough on your brain, if sometimes a little tricky to get the hang of.
Throughout each level, you'll also earn money depending on your score, which will allow you to purchase new weapons in the in-game store. These are more powerful, offer a larger amount of shots between reloads and also improve your ability drastically. There are no choices for how big your magazine is here, since your ammo supply is unlimited, and so instead, you just get to choose how many shots you have left before you're forced to reload (performed with a press of the fire button or a slightly too responsive flick of the remote).
There are several different types of weapon available, from shotguns to automatics, but if you'd rather stick with the original handgun, the option is there for you to upgrade different features of your weapons at a lower cost, a feature not uncommon with many shooting games these days.
In addition to the B-movie style adventure mode (which should last you three hours or so) there are a couple of extra modes as well. There's the directors cut version of the game (which includes longer levels and many more zombies) and a few quick party games where you have to shoot targets at a carnival stand, protect civilians from oncoming zombies or see how many enemies you can defeat in a certain time. These can all be played with friends, and make for some enjoyable, if short lived, fun.
House of the Dead Overkill is simply some top notch shooting fun. Sure, it's not perfect. The animations are sometimes jittery, you'll no doubt encounter the odd bit of slowdown and some enemies pop straight back up after being shot due to the ocassionnal bug, but you'll be laughing and enjoying yourself too much to notice.
Bomberman is one of those games that offer a truly remarkable multiplayer mode that's easy to understand, difficult to master, and wonderfully addictive. The battling, where your aim is to defeat your enemies by dropping bombs and avoiding the blasts that result, is easily the most memorable and fun part of the series, but when it comes to single player experiences, the pyromaniac's games tend to be a lot less enticing, so will this game finally give us the single player experience we've been looking for?
In short: yes. This game offers the best Bomberman single player mode I've ever played. It's far from perfect, but it is the best attempt yet. In the single player mode, you travel through levels bombing enemies and glass balls to open doors to further stages. Each level has around three stages, and if you die, you'll start the level from the beginning again. Unlike in the battle stages, you won't die from bomb blasts, but instead your life bar will reduce, and so you'll find it harder to die at first. As more and more different enemies appear though and the levels start to get more complex, with tighter completion times and more obstacles, you'll still find yourself playing through the odd level repeatedly as you die from the difficulty.
A nice addition to the single player mode, which features some platforming elements such as spring boards and secret areas, is the RPG style customizing screen, where you can upgrade and change different features such as strength and speed. You unlock better parts as you go through the game, but due to the limited experience points, you won't be able to select all the best parts at once all the time, adding to the skill required for playing. At first, it may seem like an unnecessary complication, but you'll soon come to use this feature as if it was there from the beginning of Bomberman.
Of course, the battle mode is where you'll often end up playing, with eight player gaming across one or both screens, depending on how frantic you want the gameplay to be. As always, you can add CPU to the game and play by yourself, with your opponents available in difficulties from super easy to very hard. We often only opted for the super easy choice, since it's so easy to slip up, but great fun nonetheless. As with previous Bomberman DS games, this also includes online support, although sadly we couldn't get many opponents.
Of course, despite being as addictive and fun as it is, the battle mode does occasionally tend to feel a bit old, so Hudson have chucked in a few extra modes on their own stages. There's one game where you have to reach the top of the top screen before your opponents, destroying all the blocks that lie in your way, and in another, you need to try and find the hidden key in a level in order to open a secret door, both of which have to be found in the usual way. These modes (which also include a fun paint bomb game) add to the fun, and give a little variety to the usual bombing frenzy - despite the varying stages in the usual mode that allow you to create maximum power bomb blasts from the start, walk across holes, hide in pipes, scoot across conveyor belts or kick bombs around the level as much as you wish. There are also some special unlockable stages available via multi-card play in the single player mode if you've got some friends with the game as well.
All in all, this is one of the better Bomberman games. The single player is the best of it's kind, and the fun of the multiplayer mode has no end, so it's just a shame that many people won't buy this game, especially when there's the (Bomberman Blast-style ranked) online mode. But hey - that's what DS download play is for, right?
Guitar Hero: On Tour - Decades (with Guitar Grip)
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Guitar Hero On Tour wasn't the most successful game in the franchise; in fact, it was far from it. Despite being a pretty good experience to say it's on your DS, there were so many little tweaks that could have been improved that it didn't feel like a proper Guitar Hero title. This game is very similar in terms of gameplay, but thankfully, many of the tweaks from the previous game have been ironed out.
The game is played by selecting colours on the fret controller, and then sliding or tapping on the touch screen to play that colour note, in time with the beats as they arrive at their designated position at the bottom of the screen. This all works the same as the last game, with only presentational differences (the star power bar is now shaped like a microphone and the rock meter is more attractive) changing in this sequel.
There are a few more improvements as well. The controls in the guitar duel mode are more functional than before (they always register this time, rather than only registering on a certain part of the screen), there are a couple more unlockable tracks, your progress in harder difficulties is also reflected in the lower difficulty modes, and most importantly, the song list (which includes songs from the 70's, 80's, 90's, 00's and "modern" genres) is much better.
Sadly, if you've got Guitar Hero World Tour, several of the songs will be familiar, but nonetheless, it seems a lot less like Activision is only trying to appeal to the casual, child and female audience. This is reinforced with the harder difficulty level which requires more skill than before, with super fast streams of ever changing notes.
In another new addition to the sequel, this game can also be connected to the original On Tour if you have a friend with that version, and you can seamlessly stream songs between either version to play, meaning that you can have up to 54 songs at the ready, giving players the chance to choose a song if they do (for some reason) prefer the first track list, which is a very nice (and well done) touch.
This has been improved on in loads of different ways, and feels more as though it is being aimed at core rockers, rather than pop wannabes. Because of this, this is the game you should look out for out of the two, but watch out for the grip controller, which is exactly the same as before and won't be to everyones comfort.
Guitar Hero: World Tour (Game Only)
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In Guitar Hero, the object of the game is to play one of five coloured notes that scroll down the screen. When a coloured icon reaches the bottom of the screen, you "play" it by holding down the same coloured button, and then strumming the bar with your other hand. It is a really simple concept that works really well, and it's the same story for the drums (you hit the correct colour when the icon reaches the bottom of the screen, and push down on the awkward foot pedal when a purple bar appears). When using the microphone however, you instead have to sing along to the words that appear on the screen. A graphic will show you the approximate pitch you have to be at and the game works out what pitch you are singing, scoring you on how well you compare.In this version of the game, there are a helluva lot of songs. These are all unlocked by playing through the career mode,where you play gigs in a specific location from around the world. As you progress, the songs get harder and you'll end up playing several songs in each gig. In the previous game, you could also "purchase" bonus songs using an in-game currency, but this time you'll have to unlock them all through the career experience.Career mode can be completed in a group of four as well, which is where the game really shines. With one player on lead, one on bass, one on drums and one on the microphone a great social experience appears, and ensures that you can have a lot of fun when not on your own. You play through career as you normally would here, with the only difference being the order of the track listing. If you've not got enough friends or instruments though, there is the option to team up with others online, and play through songs in co-op mode that way. Another notable addition to quick play mode this time is that when you change difficulty, you keep the set list you'd already unlocked, and you only have to start from the beginning again if you're playing a different instrument, which is handy, because the next time you're stuck on a particular song that you just can't do, you can recede to easy mode to give it another shot.There are some new features too this time around, with the custom features being one of the most notable ones. Using a new music studio, you are able to create your own songs, by either playing notes on the guitar "live", or recording them step by step. There are lots of options here, and those who know what they're doing when it comes to music will get some enjoyment out of this, though many will find it tasking and awkward to navigate. There are some simple freestyle options available, but people may be put off by the difficulty of making a good tune. If you're no good at creating, there is the option to download other peoples songs for free, which is a great addition that you should use often. In addition to this, you can also create your own character and band logo.One more thing to note is the online features. If you are not online, you will miss a lot of the overall game by not playing online. There are several online multiplayer modes available (face-off, pro face-off and battle), but finding a game can often be a pain, and the face-off mode feels a bit pointless. Rather than this mode, an in-game leaderboard would have sufficed much better, but when you add in GHTunes, the music store and the variety of co-op modes available the game just wouldn't be the same without these beneficial features.Overall, this game is damned excellent. It almost feels as though they haven't left a single thing out, and despite minor niggles, this could very well be the definitive music experience on Wii. Just about everyone will enjoy it and there's plenty to keep you busy, especially if you're online.
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In this sequel to the long running franchise, Sonic must retrieve the Chaos Emeralds to piece back his home planet after his nemesis Eggman blows it apart, unleashing a Dark Gaia force. This force turns Sonic into a Werehog at night, completely changing both Sonic's appearance (not his personality, mind) and the gameplay. The story should keep kids entertained, which is a good thing since there are plenty of un-skippable cutscenes which have been well rendered and annoyingly voiced with the usual American accents that everyone (who isn't American) has come to hate.
The main problem is that most of the game feels like it's been designed for kids. That's fair enough, but what's left for the veteran Sonic fans? Well, Sega seems to think that adding in the odd 2D side scrolling sections in the daytime sections will keep us all happy. Sadly though, these sections involve little skill, and are much less challenging than the proper 2D versions. This isn't to say that the daytime stages are all that bad though, since they are pretty good fun to play through. The fast speed, excellent controls and several "hidden" paths all add layers of depth which will then add to the core gamer's delight, but the problem is that these stages don't offer that much challenge, and still feel like a kids game in terms of difficulty.
The other half of the game (by which we mean the night-time stages) aren't quite as good as their daytime counterparts, since they offer absolutely no classic Sonic moments whatsoever. In fact, you could trick the player into thinking they are playing a new Jak and Daxter game by replacing the rings with Precursor Orbs and replacing Sonic with Jak. These night time sections involve you walking around (or running by tapping the joystick in the appropriate direction twice - although this is very awkward to handle) stages, stopping every now and then to do the odd bit of pole swinging and jumping.
One of the main parts of the night stages are that you'll often encounter enemies that you must defeat before you are allowed to continue. Several of these will spawn at once, and with a few taps of the attack buttons or a few swings of the remote and nunchuck (depending on which control scheme you are using - we strongly recommend either controlling these sections with a traditional control style, or not playing at all) they'll all die fairly quickly. For beat-em-up fans, these sections may be fairly appealing, but they weren't for us.
The sad thing is that the night-time stages occur a lot more than the daytime levels, with three of them (each lasting around seven or eight minutes) to play through at once, compared to the measly five minute play through on a daytime level, followed by a quick mission or two (where you play back through a section of the level you just completed, with an objective such as "don't hit the jars"). There are the odd extra missions to complete when you wish, but these aren't entirely necessary to complete the game.
In addition to all this there's also an awkward menu interface thrown in to keep you "entertained" where you talk to villagers to find out where to go next, but otherwise there's little else to do other than find all the collectables, which have supposedly been hidden (for an example of how well most of them are to find, imagine a fat man hiding behind a candlestick).
It's all a real shame, since there has clearly been a lot of effort go into the graphics and soundtrack. Basically, this is a game for the kids. They'll (probably) love it, and it shouldn't be too hard for them (levels with glitches not included). For hardcore Sonic fans though, you're going to have to keep waiting a little while longer...
TV Show King Party (Play Zone)
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TV Show King was one of my favourite WiiWare titles out of the selection of early games. It had some simple laughs, a "fun" style and a multiplayer mode that was brilliant for when I had friends over, which is why I was one of the few that was actually excited when a retail sequel was announced.
The basic gameplay is the same as the original - you answer seven multiple-choice questions, then get a chance to spin the wheel, resulting in either a win or loss of your current cash total. After three, six, or nine rounds (playable on either easy, genius or "king" difficulties), the top two players of the four go head to head, as you see who can get five correct answers first. It's all fairly simple, but it works really well. Every round, there's a "special event", where each correct answer for the subsequent question will receive an extra load of cash, and there's also a tactical element to the whole game as well, since you can also see what all the other players have chosen as well, giving you the chance to copy them and change your current answer (although slower answers do win lesser amounts of money), or even bluff, changing your answer at the very last second.
It's all very fun, and hardly an element of it has been altered from the original. The really dumb answers are still floating around, and you still get host Jerry's nice little memorable inputs every now and then. The wheel has also been left unchanged, there are still the "fun" flash light and scratch card rounds and you still get fifteen seconds to answer a question (although the timer speeds up when everyone has selected an answer). There is one new feature added to the "classic" mode though, which gives the losing player the chance to select a category every other round. These categories are the same ones used in normal play, and range from sport, to science and environment and entertainment. These questions are often easier than you may first think though, with a large amount of the questions being tailored to the region you are playing in.
There is the same single player mode from the original included as well. "Quiz Attack" is the mode that throws one question after another at you, until you get one of them wrong and lose the game. As with the original though, the game is still lacking in single player, and could definitely do with something exciting for those gamers out there who are friend-less. In addition to this, there are also three more modes, including multiplayer-only "Last One Standing", a slightly pointless team version of the original
It's not just the extra modes that have been given a revamping though, and you'll find that almost everything from the menus to the "set" design have been tweaked here and there, with updated animation sequences, (which can jitter slightly during transition) quotes from Jerry, and animated menu icons also improving the experience here over the original. There is also the removal of Mii's in this game, as you'll find yourself playing against more detailed avatars instead, which are chosen randomly before play. As if all this weren't enough, even choosing a Mii for yourself is easier now, with a bigger scrolling icon at the side of the menu. Plus, there is also a clearer and more precise high score menu, detailing everyone's top scores in each mode, on each difficulty.
Otherwise, the experience feels the same as the original. The backgrounds are the same, the music is the same, even the Wii Menu screen is the same, but those who never played the original (or those who really enjoyed it) should look no further than this remake, which more than ticks the boxes for a recommendable update - especially for a less than a tenner.
Donkey Kong (NES Classic)
Game Boy Advance
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Everyone's heard of Donkey Kong. The great big monkey that throws barrels has been featured in many games, and the mammal's even had his own computer animated TV series. The original game, however, hasn't aged very well at all.
The game consists of three levels in total. You play as a small man (whom was later to be known as Mario) as you must avoid falling barrels and enemies in order to reach the top of each stage, saving the princess from the monster that was captured by.
The levels are all fairly simple, but once you've been through them, there is little want or need to play through them again. Plus, it's very easy to die in the game since if you fall from any height, that's above your own height - you're finished. Combined with the fact that you can't jump very far over gaps and whatnot in the first place means that whilst this game will always remain a classic, it just isn't entertaining anymore - even with the so-called "multiplayer" (simply alternating play).
NiGHTS: Journey Of Dreams
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ome gamers have always treasured their collection of games, never wishing to part with it. In each of these collections, there will always be one which has had a cult following. A game that will always have its fans, however bad it may have been. The original NiGHTS game was one such game, which means that it's a shame for me to say that the Wii version is... bad.
Playing as either a young boy or girl, you enter their dream where you meet the mysterious NiGHTS. By "touching" NiGHTS, you will be able to combine with him, and fly through levels, ensuring that the evil Wizeman gets whats coming to him.
Although it's clear that this game is aimed at kids, it will also be far too difficult for them. The levels often consist of flying around, gaining speed boosts and catching up with flying creatures before defeating them with a swift press of the attack button, although some also include a bit of platform-y style exploring. Once you've completed the main part of each level, you'll move on to the boss battle of that stage. These bosses can take a bit of practising before you can defeat them, and since you have to return to the very beginning of each level if you lose to them, they can also provide a source of frustration.
Controlling NiGHTS makes the game a lot harder as well. You can use the Wii remote pointer to aim on the screen the direction you can fly, but the responsive-ness is all over the place, and you'll end up going to one of the other methods (of which, none of them still aren't that great).
In addition to the very short story mode, there are a few extras to keep you occupied. There's the tedious My Dream, where you can roam free in a bland custom land, a very bad multiplayer battle option where you shoot big balls around, hoping they bash into the other player, and a so-so multiplayer race option. Despite the fact that the race mode isn't too bad (and is also ready for online play, as is the battle mode), you'll need to be up against a player of similar skills, or otherwise this section will also get boring quickly.
The game does have its moments, and when you get the hang of flying, the whole thing can seem quite magical, but this is taken away by the disappointing graphics throughout the game, which are often blocky and look achievable on a PlayStation 2. Also contributing to the "bad" side of the scale are the long loading times, and limited replay-ability for the whole game.
Overall, fans of the original should still get a kick out of this version, but other gamers may find it too childish (whilst the kids themselves will be finding it too unfairly difficult), bland and badly designed.
Super Mario Galaxy
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There come several times in a console's life where a everybody-must-get-this-game comes along. On the DS so far, there have been New Super Mario Bros, Animal Crossing and Zelda Phantom Hourglass, wheras on the Wii, we've seen our way through Twilight Princess and Resident Evil 4. That's where Super Mario Galaxy comes in...
Quite simply, this is by far one of the best games ever made. It advances way beyond Super Mario 64 did in it's time, but still plays quite similarly to the classic. The story this time is that you must travel through many different galaxies to rescue princess Peach from Bowsers new lair (set in space). When you get into the beyond, a strange woman named Rosalina decides to help you out on her own space ship, which you use as your main hub. From here, you can travel to nearby galaxies and attempt to complete several missions in each. These missions can vary from about five to twenty minutes, but most of them offer something new and innovative that'll make you want to go back and play it again.
You control the game using the nunchuck to run, using A to jump and Z to crouch. By using combinations of these moves, you can perform all the usual array of tricks (such as backflips and long jumps), with no real alterations on Super Mario 64. There is an extra feature that does play a big part though, and that is the addition of star bits.
Scattered throughout each level, there will be an array of "star bits" which you collect by aiming the Wii remote pointer at them. Then, by using B, you can fire these star bits at enimies to briefly distract them ir stop them in their tracks. The aiming for this isn't always that good, but you'll find that you rarely need them anyway, and instead just use them for purchasing new planets offering mini games and secret levels. In this game, coins play a much smaller part than the others, and they are much less common than in Mario's 2D adventures.
The levels themselves though, are excellent fun, and offer levels of enjoyment I haven't seen in a game before. This is all helped out by the colourful palette and brilliantly performed orchestral soundtrack. The graphics in this game appear to stretch the Wii's technical limitaions to their highest point, and although this is a Mario game, it sports some of the best presentation you'll ever see on the console.
The only bad point I can think of is that the game's difficulty is often varied, and so is sometimes a bit easy for those really hardcore gamers out there. There is still a fair share of difficult challenges in there though as well, with the odd one being frustratingly hard for a while. It can still be semi-completed by youngsters though, since only 60 of the 120 missions must be completed to go against Bowser, and with a huge stash of extra lives available at ease around the hub, you'll rarely get a Game Over screen.
As a little extra, there is a two player mode as well, where an extra player can use their pointer to make Mario jump or collect star bits for you. This works fairly well, and is useful for helping less able gamers through those "ARGH" moments, but we think that it would have been cooler to let the other player control Luigi, or even go head to head on certain stages (such as the one where you race the penguin down the track).
Overall though, this is a fantastic single player experience, with a massive variety of things to do with little boredom or frustration whatsoever. There's loads to do for those that really can't put the game down, with many extra levels, secrets and stars hidden across the game. This game is a must buy for anyone who has a love of video games. Or even fun at all, for that matter.