Archive for October, 2011

Bustin’ makes me feel good!

October 17, 2011

With Halloween approaching, I turn once again to my usual binging of watching both the incredibly awesome Ghostbusters movie, as well as the animated series. Of course, a couple of years ago gamers were treated to a new Ghostbusters adventure, with Ghostbusters: The Video Game, which served as a third movie of sorts, taking place shortly after the events of Ghostbusters 2.

“Generally you don’t see that kind of behavior from a household appliance.”
There were essentially two different versions of the game, an HD version for the PS3/360 consoles featuring realistic graphics and a version for the Wii, which adapted to the smaller horsepower by giving the characters a more stylized look, which was, rather appealing actually. Kind of looked like what we’d get if Pixar was tasked with creating a Ghostbusters sequel. I compared notes with a friend of mine who owns the PS3 version (I, naturally, got the Wii version), and we discovered that each version followed the same basic plot, but they also had exclusive levels and bosses unique to each version, which is actually kind of cool. The plot, by the way, takes place two years after the second movie. Instead of playing as one of the main Ghostbusters, you play as a new rookie Ghostbuster, and join the others on various missions, which range from the fancy hotel from the first movie to the weird and errie “ghost world”. The dialouge in the game is outstanding, and easily the highlight of the game. The writing is witty and clever, and there is no shortage of amusing riffs between the Ghostbusters as you bust ghosts. There are also nods to the movies to be found in the game, such as the painting of Vigo the Carpathian hanging out in the basement of the firehouse, who talks to you on occassion (usually with amusing results). The game also uses the score from the movies as background music, though sadly the familiar Ghostbusters theme can only be heard during the end credits sequence (which turns out to be a target shooting minigame featuring a certain green ghost).

“What we have here is what we call a non-repeating phantasm, or a class-5 free roaming vapor, real nasty one too.”
Of course, the biggest difference between the two versions is play control. While the HD version went with traditional controls, the Wii version essentially turns the Wiimote into your own personal proton blaster. You wrangle ghosts by zapping them with your beam, then following the prompts to swing your Wiimote and smash the ghosts into objects, weakening them. Once they’re weak enough to be captured, you swing out the nunchuck to toss out a ghost trap and send the ghost packing! It’s actually pretty immersive, and it can get physically tiring as well! But like they say, being a Ghostbuster isn’t easy. The other Ghostbusters will also help you out, reviving you when you run out of energy, giving you general advice, or helping you wrangle a pesky spirit. Fortunately, it appears Egon has worked out the kinks with the whole total protonic reversal thing, so you don’t have to worry about crossing the streams. The PKE meter also comes into play, taking after Metroid Prime by allowing you to scan and obtain records of ghosts you encounter.

“Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.”
Of course, the game isn’t perfect. There will be a few occasions when a Wiimote swing doesn’t register, and you lose the grip on your ghost. I’ve also encountered a few glitches that forced me to restart a level, including one where the boss I was fighting actually fell through the floor, leaving me no way to complete the stage. There are also a few frustrating segments. One in particular, in the sewer stage in the later half of the game, involves a puzzle where you must cross a river of slime while pulling levers with your proton pack with perfect timing, otherwise you take a dunk in the river. It took me about twenty tries to get it right. Fortunately, checkpoints are frequent and your lives are unlimited, so that does help alleviate some frustration.

“Venkman, shorten your stream! I don’t want my face burned off! “
So, should you check out Ghostbusters: The Video Game this halloween? Absolutely. It’s a fun romp, no matter which version you pick up. Some of the technical flaws can be annoying, but it more than makes up for it with some entertaining gameplay and excellent writing. Plus, it can be found for under twenty smackers, which makes it a total no-brainer.

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The Return of the fall… and further fallening of Sonic the Hedgehog (Part 2)

October 5, 2011

Previously, I said that after many months of waiting for a price drop, I finally picked up Sonic Colors for the Wii. This came after many disappointments from the blue rodent, and even after many glowing reviews I was hesitant, but after it dropped to just over $19, I decided to risk it. After several days, it arrived on my doorstep. I tore open the package and popped the disc in. This was it. Sonic’s last chance.

Oh boy… another 4Kids worthy intro video… horrible singing… though the music itself ain’t that bad. Aw, dammit, the song’s in my head now.

Hey, the orchestrated version on the title screen is actually pretty damn good. And you can actually control the camera… nice.

What? No long winded cinema scene about evil clones, ancient gods or werehogs? Right into the action? That’s… damn, thanks Sega! And the music is pretty damn good here, no talentless hack singing about racing through a theme park? Control’s a little squirrely, but nothing I can’t quickly get used to. The 2D segments are full of platforming goodness, the level designs are interesting, the 3D segments are quick and to the point, there are occasional cut scenes, but they’re actually kind of amusing and well acted, and…

Oh my God…

I…. LIKE THIS.

They did it. They finally did it.

A Sonic game that doesn’t suck, isn’t merely mediocre, but is actually GOOD!

I spent the whole game waiting for the other shoe to drop… thankfully, I can say that it never did. The whole game (well, maybe not the 2 player mode, more on that later), has a certain polish to it, it actually feels like, well, EFFORT was put into it. Little touches, such as the fact you can jump and break through the results score at the end of a stage to find random 1ups, stand out to me. The camera, probably Sonic’s biggest enemy, has finally been fixed; the only issue I ever had was when it drew back from the action too far, to a point where I had a hard time seeing Sonic, but those instances were few and far between. The music is outstanding, enshewing the Pearl Jam from previous entries for a more orchestrated/electropop feel. Also worth noting is the voice acting, which is vastly improved by recasting Sonic and Tails. Robotnik, however, nearly steals the show, as he is constantly speaking over the park’s P.A. system, and each smartass comment is more hilarious than the last.

The plot is also fairly lighthearted this time around… no ancient gods or evil clones here, just Robotnik acting like a dick, creating an interstellar amusement park as a cover for kidnapping aliens to use as a power source to, you guessed it, take over the world.
Of course, none of this would matter if the gameplay wasn’t any good. Fortunately, the gameplay (finally) delivers, with (mostly) 2D platforming action, interspersed with 3D speed segments, and it all controls rather well. The aliens Sonic rescues also give him the “Color” powers of the game, allowing him to burrow through the ground or hover in the air, which gives you plenty of opportunites to explore the levels and find hidden areas, and you’ll have to explore them all to unlock hidden levels within the 8-bit themed “Sonic Simulator”, which is basically a 2 player mode that works much better in theory than in practice. Fortunately, you can play through it in single player mode.

They even found a way to make the water levels in a Sonic game not only tolerable, but actually FUN. The only negative thing I can say about the game is that the difficulty spikes pretty high in the last few stages, mainly due to poorly placed (or in one case, lack of) checkpoints. That, and the credits song is an auto-tuned piece of garbage. But hey, those are all minor notes in what is Sonic’s best game since his 16-bit days. If you enjoy platformers, then by all means, check out Sonic’s latest adventure. It’s a Sonic game that finally makes him a contender against that pesky plumber again.

I think it was in the game’s fourth world, Planet Wisp, when it finally clicked… I was jumping around, smashing through blocks and zipping through tight spots, when I realized… hey, I’m actually ENJOYING this. THIS… this is what Sonic should’ve been all along. No tag teaming with his shitty friends. No manditory fishing games. No epic final battle with a demon god. And no making out with a human. Just Sonic bouncing along a bunch of grassy hills, gaining enough speed to leap up and grab some rings. That’s all we need, Sega. Just keep that in mind and Sonic will be just fine.

The fall… and further fallening of Sonic the Hedgehog

October 1, 2011


My Wavebird skidded across the floor… why, you might ask? Well, I had thrown it out of frustration while playing Sonic Heroes. It was 2004, after the whole “Sega Goes Third Party” dealie, and this was Sonic’s first brand new multi-platform game. This was the one, they promised, the one that would return to the fun of the Genesis titles (oh, how many times they would re-use THAT line over the years). I somewhat enjoyed the two Sonic Adventure games, in spite of the horrid level designs that would plague the latter halves of both of the titles, not to mention that gawd-awful camera.

And here it was, years later, and I was still having the same issues, only moreso. I was in some stupid haunted house stage, trying to get Sonic and his loser friends through to the end. The level design was insipid, and the camera had somehow gotten worse, deciding right in the middle of a jump that it should cut to a different angle, causing me to plummet to my death. But it was one segment that caused me to just turn the game off forever… to get across a bottomless pit, I had to homing attack a series of enemies. Only one problem… half the time Sonic would not auto target an enemy, and plummet to his death. I could NOT get past that segment due to the stupid camera and awful controls. Finally, I said those three magic words I’m sure anyone probably said while playing a modern Sonic game.

“Fuck this SHIT.”

I pressed the power switch on my Gamecube, took out the disc and put it back in its case, never to be played again. Fifty bucks down the drain, that I could’ve spent on a GOOD game. Or some decent entrees at a good restaurant. Or fifty 20oz bottles of Pepsi.

The next several years were not kind at all to Sonic… not in the least. Things only went downhill after Heroes, with some terrible spin-offs like Sonic Riders and Sonic and the Secret Rings, culminating with the universally reviled “Sonic 2006“, which most assumed would be the death-kneel for the series. The only bright spot was Sonic Rush on the DS, which was decent, if only because it was a 2-D platformer that kept the spirit of the Genesis games alive. And in all honesty, I was disappointed. I was a Nintendo kid growing up, but I still enjoyed playing the Sonic games on my friend’s Genesis. I wasn’t a console snob; I’d play anything if it was fun. So it was kind of sad to see Sonic go out like this, with the best memory gamers would have of modern day Sonic was his appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

When Sonic Unleashed was revealed, it showed a lot of promise, with a comprimise of both 2-D and 3-D gameplay, and many people believed it could finally be the game that redeemed Sonic. Even I started to believe that Sega learned from their mistakes and stopped shoving in more stupid friends and pointless gimmicks…

Until that damn werehog showed up.

At that point, I gave up hope. Sega had learned nothing, and Sonic was doomed to suck. Not that it mattered much to me, as Nintendo was providing plenty of platforming love in the shape of Super Mario Galaxy and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Even when a new, Wii exclusive Sonic game was announced, I dismissed it, expecting some other stupid gimmick to be involved.

Then the reviews and player feedback started to come out. And it was almost all POSITIVE. Sega had actually pulled off the impossible, brought out an enjoyable Sonic game that wasn’t filled with gimmicks, horrible controls, or an insipid story involving clones or ancient gods. But still, I resisted. I’d been burned too many times already, and I wasn’t going to be fooled by that blue bastard again. I told myself that if I ever saw the game for under twenty bucks, I would pick it up, since I could probably recoup my purchase by reselling it if it sucked. And for nearly a year, it stayed in the $40-50 range.

Then, one day, while browsing Amazon.com, I saw it marked down to $19.16.

“Oh, fine. What the hell.”

I placed it into my shopping cart and clicked ‘Check Out’.

to be continued