Friday, August 31, 2007

Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz

System: Wii
Type: Puzzle/Adventure
Graphics: 7.5/10
Sound: 7.5/10
Story: N/A
Multiplayer: 8/10

Overall: 7.5/10

Super Monkey Ball was the surprise success for the GC which involved a fun single player a 3 simple multiplayer games that had equal appeal to both veterans and novices alike. This premise makes it an excellent title for the Wii, but how does it hold up?

The single player is a shinning point for this game. The games main campaign feels as if originally intended for the Wiimote. For those who are unaware of the series, the single player involves steering a monkey in a ball (!) along a perilous path by tilting the ground which the ball resides. The game adds a jump button and this fits seamlessly in to the game, allowing for much more imaginative puzzles restricted by nothing. The puzzles are well developed and the difficulty increases steadily throughout the game. It takes about 1 minute to get used to the controls and I have never had any Wiimote malfunctions which would have no doubt ruin the delicate control scheme. The length of the game is, although not breathtaking, will probably keep you going for quite a long time. The game features 7 worlds, each featuring 8 maps. At the the end of each world, you must fight a boss. These, although feel less polished than the rest of the game, are simple and fun. The bosses are amusing in designed and work well. They serve as a very nice ending to the world and offer an extra challenge to the best as collecting the bananas on the boss levels is particularly challenging. There appears to be some bug that inhibits the replaying of certain levels, but this is more of an annoyance than anything else.

The multiplayer is less consistent. The game boasts 50 multiplayer modes This figure is somewhat misleading as there are only 11 you would ever come back to. On the other hand, one must remember that having 11 MP games is very good. Still, it is a shame they wasted time and resources making 'Simon Says' instead of an extra map for 'Monkey Wars' . Highlights in the multiplayer include the aforementioned Monkey Wars, where you shoot other monkeys, the classic monkey race and series favourite that has you parachuting on to a target. Monkey Wars is a fantastic example that even in the individual multiplayer games, the Wiimote has been used well. Aiming is naturally done by pointing at the screen, however, what really makes you feel inside the game is to chuck a grenade you hold c and flick the 'Mote. As simple and insignificant this may seem, it works supremely well. Another good point about the MP is that the classic SSMB games have been adapted almost perfectly to suit the Wiimote. You barely notice that instead of a joystick you are tilting your hand. The maps however, is a problem, the MP lacks any serious re playability, particularly in the map department. For example, 'Monkey Race' has only 5 tracks, and that is one of the most. Creating maps is, compared to creating full blown games, probably quite easy. Why they didn't bundle some extra maps is beyond me. Monkey Wars, as great as it is, loses a lot of value when you realise it only has 3 quite small maps. Simon says in one of the 39 weak titles in the MP line up. The rest range from poor to absolutly rubbish. Some of the games are rubbish because of poor execution, as is the case in Monkey Bowling where you have no determinable effect on the outcome of the game, others are just stupid ideas, like Simon Says. Overall, you have to just ignore the rubbish titles and just pretend there are only good ones.

The game has a very nice graphical feel. The game will not win any awards for it, but with its bright block colours, it comes across as a fun happy game. There are no points where the graphics are ugly. Some of the multiplayer games, particularly 'Monkey Asteroids' look very nice. Compared with the first two titles, the step up is not always noticeable, but the maps feel much bigger as opposed to the enclosed feel of SMB1+2.

The sound in the game is as mixed as the multiplayer. In some cases it fits the world (a group of levels in a particular theme) perfectly. Where as other times you will end up muting it, it is that bad. The noises the monkeys make and the American commentary adds nothing to the game. The game does not feature huge amounts of SFXs, the ones it does feature do not impact on the game a lot, but certainly do not subtract from it. The sound is something that could definitely be improved upon, but does not cripple the game.

In conclusion Super Monkey Ball is a strong entry for the Wii. The single player is well worth the investment if you have enjoyed other SMB titles. If you have not tried the single player in previous titles, I recommend renting this title first, as the fiddly nature of it means that if it isn't your sort of game, you will just find it frustrating. The MP should keep you and your friends amused for a couple of hours. The presentation is good, not outstanding, but solid as one comes to expect from SMB. The game is by no means perfect and any sequels will surly improve upon the hit and miss style in the MP element. I do however, despite my slight qualms, recommend this game to all Wii owners.

Gravitronix Interview Preview

The creators of Gravitronix, Medaverse Studios, have agreed to do a Q and A with this blog (thanks!) I will be sending off the questions this Sunday so if you have any questions you would like asked, please post a comment. The only details to have been released thus far are :

-Gravitronix is an action/battle game for 1-4 players (possibly 8).
-The game takes place in a single-screen arena.
-The objects seen in the logo are the projectiles used as weapons.
-These projectiles will have different physics, making them behave differently depending on how you use them.
-There will be a great deal of depth in the control scheme.
-Veteran players will master manoeuvre's which make rookie players cry "HAX!!!"
-These details are intentionally vague, but we will have screenshots and movies closer to release which will explain everything.

All questions submitted will be considered but I can't promise that Medaverse will want to give away the relevant piece of information . The interview should be out before next Wednesday.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blog Update

Well we are now entering possibly the greatest autumn/winter in gaming history (for America at least) So what are you looking forward to most. It actually started with the release of BioShock and Metroid, both getting very positive reactions. Unfortunately, GTA IV and MGS launch dates have slipped, but there is still Super Smash Bros Brawl, Halo3, BWii, LittleBig Planet, PGR 4 and Assassins Creed to make this the best (and most expensive) next few months for gamers. On top of that, I will be working my back off to produce the new Veteran Gamer website in time for its launch January 1st. That's right, a release date. So what title are you looking forward to most? Leave a comment below...

Metroid Prime 3 reviews are in following its release in NA last Tuesday. IGN gave it a massive 9.5, 1up and 9 and Gamespot an 8.5 There were some mixed opinions but they all said the game felt epic and the controls were very good. GameSpot criticized some of the motion actions of the Wiimote, whereas IGN said they worked very well. They said the game was overall easier and the boss fights were a lot of fun, if also slightly easier. Another plus is the game will feature lot of cool unlockables including the ability to take and send (through Wii Connect 24) scren grabs of the game, extra clothing for your Miis, bumper stickers for your spaceship and and Super Hard difficulty level. I can't wait to get my hands on this game, but I have to wait till October 26th.
Release: October 26th 2007

On the Halo front. Two very cool developments have come to light. Firstly, Halo 3 will feature a map editor, but not just and old map editor, you can play in this one multiplayer, shooting people as well as changing the map. Aside from the obvious things, like making and saving maps, the thing will actually feature death matches where you can fly around and drop scorpions on your enemy. It is quite difficulty too explain, but trust me, the possibilities are endless. The second thing is Halo Wars, the up and coming RTS for the 360. First off, the graphics look amazing. Literally jaw breaking, although I didn't get to see the actual control scheme, they were clearly well mapped as the guy could move around the map effortlessly, whilst controlling his men with ease. Another great thing, is that the vehicles drive like how they would on Halo. Warhogs will slide about, for example. Overall, this game is shaping up to look amazing. What I want to know, is whether you can play as the Covenant or not. It will be a huge disappointment for me if you can't, as driving armies of Ghosts sounds like fun. Regardless, I am looking forward to this title with eager anticipation.
Halo 3 Launch Date: September 26th 2007
Halo Wars Launch Date: TBA

A slight disappointment for me was when I discovered that PGA Tour 08 for the Wii would not be featuring online play. This has made me decide to just simply hold on until they do(I was planning on getting PGA Tour '07 if it didn't) This is probably a good thing as looking at Metroid 3 reviews has made me realise just how highly regarded the other Metroid Primes were. As a result, so that I know the story and I am not missing out, I am thinking of getting them and a GC controller for my Wii.
PGA Release Date: 31st August
Metroid 1&2 Already Released

Upcoming Posts:
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz Review - I have already written it, so this is very realistic
[Hopefully] An interview with Wiiware developer called Medaverse, I am waiting for an email back from there
Nintendo Press Conference - Also written

I am going back to school next Tuesday so expect a temporary lapse in posts.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Metroid Prime Preview Channel

A couple of posts ago I said that Nintendo have released a new channel in the US, but not the UK. For everyone who is on the wrong side of the pond, here are all the videos that have been released on it. Enjoy. Thanks Troy for the comment, by the way!

Wii overtakes 360 Worlwide

Well, we all knew it was going to happen, and now it has. The Wii has shipped 10.57 million consoles, overtaking the 360s 10.51 in just half the launch time. So what does this mean? Well firstly, it means Nintendo is that bit richer which it can put to making new games, and when it comes to the next generation, can have a console that makes a loss on each sale (Like Sony and Microsoft) allowing them to put more stuff in their consoles. Also, it means that game developers will see that Wii is where the money is because it has the biggest market so will put more energy in to developing games for it. For anyone who cares, the PS3 is on 4.32 million. All figures come from vgchartz

If anyone knows about the Apple vs. PCs ads, there is an amusing collection of spoofs ones advertising the PC here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nintendos First Mistake

So far Sony has been the only company to make major mistakes when it comes to PR. Both Nintendo and Microsoft have steered clear of upsetting me. However, Nintendo has slipped up. I am talking primarily about ignoring the UK. This is almost a cardinal sin as far as I am concerned. Not just because I live in the UK, but because hundreds of thousands of avid gamers do too. What have we done to deserve this second rate service that we always get. PS3 launching at almost twice the price in the UK, not receiving a price drop, getting a downgraded console, much later launches and now this.

So what have Nintendo done. Well, I was on GS in a union (a mini-foum for a particular group of people) and I saw a post by YearoftheSnake detailing of a new Wii channel. If that wasn't exciting enough it was a Metroid Prime preview channel with streamable videos featuring the game. I nearly broke my TV remote in my eagerness to get this channel. I dived for the Wii Shop Channel to go look for it. The shop loaded up. I clicked on Wii Software, wondering when they were going to change it to Wiiware, and it wasn't there. After a brief amount of digging, I found this was a US channel. When I searched Google for it, displaying only UK pages, it found nothing. Through my digging, I also discovered that SSBB wasn't even coming out this year in the UK. However, I can understand that, they know there is going to be a huge amount of demand for it and they do need to physically produce it. However, something which is downloadable, there is no reason. They don't need to make copies of the files for each user. The only reason I can think of is streaming issues. However, I would prefer to have to watch it at an off-peak time than not at all. Seriously Nintendo, sort it out.

Also, I forgot one thing off my list, printed instruction manuals. They are really good as it gives you something to do once you have turned off your PC. Finally, I am going on holiday early tomorrow morning, will be back Thursday week.

Friday, August 10, 2007

7 Most Import Things in a Game

Following a post by Juuso on on the 7 most important things to include a game, (although I heard it from Troy Goodfellows post on the 8 most important things) I decided to create a list for there is nothing man likes more than creating lists.

1. Online Multiplayer

This is true for every type of game (except maybe puzzle games) A good online mode can triple a games value. A good multiplayer can make up for an average single player (in the case of Delta Force 2), good muiltplayer can keep players playing a game and thus more interested in sequels and most importantly, multiplayer can extend the games longevity and thus value ad infinitum. Wii Sports is a game that is missing in online multiplayer.

2. Map Editor

Where Troy put random maps in his list, which are undoubtedly important, I think an editor can replace random maps, and improve on their ability. No matter how clever a designer is, the world as a whole is cleverer and will thus make better maps than them. Map editors can keep people tied to a game like multiplayer, on top of the fact it adds to value with out any extra effort on the developer. Map editors need to be well made and easy to use, but with lots of depth, unlike the Civ 4 World Builder. Also in this point is the ability to Mod stuff, this ironically, has been done excellently on Civ 4.

3. Customisation

Customisation should be added wherever it can. I may be alone in this, but I love customisation. From painting cars in Forza, to spending hours creating a character in Oblivion to just changing colour schemes in Dawn of War. Everyone wants to be unique and where online is present, customisation becomes even more important. I get frustrated when customisation is limited when it dosen't need to be(as with Miis) EA is currently leading the way with character development although Forza and Oblivion both need a nod of the hat.

4. Brink of Death

In any action game, you must always be on the brink of death. You must always be checking your health and finding it on one, reloading you gun to find it is the final magazine. At no point should you be comfortable in your position. RE4 does this excellently. Terror can incorporate you in a game like nothing else. This way you are breathing heavily and thank the heavens when you find a pause. Zelda always feels a little safe. You have loads of life and lose it rarely, you always have your trusty sword and enemies never seem to pose much more than a nuisance. Fortunately, Zelda isn't about combat.

5. No locked content

I don't know why developers do this. Why force you to unlock content? You have paid for the game, surely that should give you the right to play with all of it. Ok, I accept that some things should be kept as a reward, such as peripherals and costumes, but completing whatever the goal is should be a reward in its self in a well designed game. It frustrates me when entire modes are locked. For people like me, who often don't complete games, it means that when we review them we can only mark half the content, which will effect the score.

6. Save whenever

Something which is often over looked in anything except long strategy games for PC is the ability to save anywhere. Now I appreciate that developers don't want people saving every 5 minutes so they don't have to go back far, but what if you need to go out. Once again, it comes back to the point that you have bought the game. Yes the game will be more fun if you limit your saving, but that option should reside with the player, who can choose to only save when they quite, rather than the developer who clearly don't have the tasks of real life or know about the individual habits. What does it matter to them if you get less enjoyment from the game because you just want to beat it.

7. Custom Music

A feature often overlooked for people developing for the Orginal Xbox was the ability to use a custom soundtrack. This issue has been fixed with the 360 as music is operated separately from the game. I thought this feature was great. Obviously some games need the tense music to create an atmosphere, but there are some games when their is no reason to have it. Civ 4 does have it, but is quite unique in this. It can't be hard to implement in a game for computers and makes a lot of sense as, thanks to the rise of MP3 players, most people have their music collection on their computer. Not being able to listen to music can often put me off playing a game because I want to listen to some music.

Most of these are small gripes but they really do irritate me when they aren't there. The majority of them their is no excuse not to include them. You can post y0ur 7 in the comments section if you wish.

On a side note, a went on Stealth at Thorpe Park a couple of days, ago, it was terrifying. Go to youtube and type in "Stealth Thorpe Park" and watch the second and third videos for some idea of what it is like. It is absolutely mental, I can tell you that for nothing.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Blog Update

I need to get through the E3 conferences then I will return to normal posting. There have been a couple of interesting news items on the Dojo website(site for Super Smash Bros Brawl) that I want to write about. Also, I have got both Civ 4 Beyond the Sword and Resident Evil 4 (which ended up with me missing paintball to go to London to get a new passport, suffice to say that it wasn't fun) for the Wii. Both are very good if a little too addictive. Here are my early impressions:

Civ 4: Beyond the Sword

An excellent expansion pack, the changes have both a dramatic and level effect to the game and the Mods are truly inspiring.

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition

A much needed graphical feast for the Wii, the game is truly disturbing, the control scheme is a little difficult to get used to at first, but feels natural after a few tense minutes.

Full reviews of both of those titles coming soon. It was my birthday last Tuesday. I got a TV for my room so will now be playing a lot more Wii, so will hopefully complete Zelda (which just keeps getting better and better as you get further in)

The Smash Update I was talking about earlier is the single player mode. It will the first Smash Bros proper single player mode (as opposed to the previous versions which just had consecutive battles with all the different characters) There have been two modes announced so far. The first mode announced was quite similar to the previous entities except characters, as I understand it, level up. The second and far more interesting mode, named the Subspace Emissary is a side scrolling game with some story. The website gave the impression that this mode was sort of one stage as it were. You can pause/save as usual, but it would lead into the next level. This all looks very exciting. I do recommend staying up to date with the updates as this game is looking very cool. I can't wait. You can follow it here.

For my birthday I went to an outdoor swimming pool with some friends and then 3 came round for a gaming night. Although we only played a select number of games, compared to the plan to play hundreds, it was still a lot of fun. Halo dominated the early play with Smash Bros taking over later. Two of my friends, who are pretty much equal at Smash Bros played a 99 Stock (live) game. They started at 4am and lost one life each. I went to sleep but apparently they finished at 8am. They played without pauses. It was pretty hardcore.

Upcoming Posts:

  • Nintendo and Sony Press Conference Details
  • E3 Roundup
  • Civ 4 Warlords review

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