Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is a wondrously weird game. The character that first appeared in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has been divisive since his introduction. He was designed to be weird for weirdness sake and I’ve always been on the side of Zelda fandom that enjoyed his company. Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland never made it to American shores, but it was released in Europe, which means playing it isn’t hard. This version is in English and the DS is region-free so there’s no additional work needed outside of purchasing a copy.
The game begins when Uncle Rupee, a magical character in the shape of the universe’s currency appears before Tingle, a single, 35 year old man with little direction in life. Uncle Rupee promises Tingle entrance to a world unlike his own, a theme park of sorts, if Tingle can scrounge up the necessary money. And so Tingle dons his familiar green onesie and sets out to quench his thirst for excitement.
One thing I really like about this game is how it adheres to the concept of money. Everything requires coinage. Tingle’s stack of Rupees represents his health so if they ever deplete, its game over. Reason enough to always have a good amount handy. The characters that occupy Tingle’s world, all want dough too. If you visit a vendor, you have to pay them before they’ll open shop. Even having a conversation with them requires Tingle to cough up Rupees.
I found this annoying at first because nobody told you how much they wanted; you had to make an offer and hope you didn’t overspend. Once I got accustomed to this mechanic and the going-rate for things in the world though, I began to “know” how much something would cost. Lowballing characters could result in lost Rupees if they rejected my offer but still took my money. However, when I successfully came in under a suggested amount, I felt like a wheeler and/or a dealer.
This concept of cash rules everything around me was also a large hang-up of mine because of its correlation to the combat. It seemed to me the major source of income early on was fighting enemies to harvest the recipe ingredients they’d drop, make soups, and sell the end product. Enemies weren’t too prevalent and I spent a lot of time entering areas, fighting and harvesting ingredients, exiting to allow the enemies to respawn and repeating over and over. I didn’t find this gameplay loop enjoyable, especially when the combat was nonexistent.
Brushing up against an enemy created a cartoonish dust cloud fight which lasted until one of us croaked. I could tap to speed up the process, but I honestly didn’t notice much impact. Wrangling multiple enemies into the fight multiplied the amount and quality of items that would drop so I always tried to fight groups rather than individual enemies. Finding groups was hard though; I typically found a close-knit group of enemies and returned to them over and over again when harvesting ingredients. Mercenaries could be bought for extra oomph in combat, but many times, they ruined my attempts at gathering enemies together. They’d either trigger battles when I was trying to set something larger up, or wipe out an enemy before I could get another into the fight.
Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland was a humorous game, but in my opinion its primary gameplay mechanic was both its reason for being and its Achilles heel. The game’s devotion to the concept cash is king was distinguishing, but I didn’t enjoy the repetitive gameplay loop I had to go through early on to get ahead. The art design was fantastic and the characterization was top-notch so there are solid reasons to import the game. Heck, being able to say I own/played a game from another country is cool in itself.
The collector’s edition of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is pretty lame. Luckily it’s easy to find and inexpensive.
It comes with a paltry artbook, snug inside the nice SteelBook game case alongside the manual. The art booklet contains renderings of characters in various stages of completion, plus some background information, but it isn’t very large.
Another bonus to the collector’s edition is the media CD it comes with. Besides containing the soundtrack, it has various media such as videos and wallpapers for a PC. The soundtrack was composed by Jamie Christopherson, an unknown name to me although he has been making the rounds in the video game industry for a while now. That said, the soundtrack wasn’t my cup of tea – it chimed in at the right moments during the game, but the orchestral arrangement sounded generic to me outside of the game.
Lastly the collector’s edition comes with a code for an exclusive downloadable multiplayer map that probably isn’t in any used copies of the game. Plus, the map is available for free on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Plus plus, it doesn’t seem like there’s a large multiplayer community anymore so that bonus is so whatevs.
This all comes inside an awfully nice SteelBook case too. It’s easily my favorite aspect of the collector’s edition. I really like the heft and solidness of the case when it’s chock full of its multiple discs and booklets. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it… if it wasn’t so cheap and readily available. Still, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is just okay.
April 5, 2012
Following Wayne Holden as he attempts to remember his past and avenge his father’s death, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition features a deep science fiction background, impressive enemies, outlandish character designs, and some okay action. Developed by Capcom, spearheaded by Keiji Inafune (Mega Man, Dead Rising), and produced by Jun Takeuchi (Resident Evil, Onimusha), Lost Planet is a third-person shooter originally released for the Xbox 360 on January 12, 2007. It was later ported to the PlayStation 3 and PC.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition takes place on the frigid world of E.D.N. III. The planet is inhospitable, not only because of the unforgiving weather, but also due to a prevalent species of insects. The akrid are aggressive insects that come in many forms, most towering over the invading humans. The human race stumbled upon the frozen, insect-infected wasteland of E.D.N. III in their search for a planet to relocate to before completely destroying Earth. However, a climate change and the removal of the akrid must precede a mass exodus of Earth.
Attempts at solving these problems have been occurring over the past fifty years and solutions are in sight. The corporation NEVEC has been at the front of pioneering solutions to these problems although the rebellious snow pirates have acted as roadblocks.
As Wayne and his father hunt down a massive akrid, they get ambushed by NEVEC who kills Wayne’s father and leaves him for dead. Later rescued by a small gang of snow pirates, Wayne learns of NEVEC’s honorable plans of saving the human race through dastardly means and decides to put a stop to them. Along the way drama ensues amongst the ridiculously outfitted cast of characters.
At every turn, questions are rising over everyone’s true intentions and their mysterious pasts. As such, each and every cutscenes relays not only developments about NEVEC and their plans concerning the climate and the akrid, but also each character’s misgivings about someone else, to the point where the internal strife among the snow pirates resembled a soap opera. The drama also gets amplified by mysterious characters outside of the group who aid and hinder the snow pirates.
Besides the ongoing drama, I had another beef with the characters: their ridiculous outfits. For example one of Wayne’s accomplices, Rick, wore a set of glasses that were opaque and protruded from his face about six inches. Presumably they were some sort of technology but they looked dumb, like he was a Cyclops (X-Men) reject. His goofy haircut was in no way appealing either. The other half dozen or so characters weren’t as bad, but they still wore cluttered outfits. I will say the enemy designs of the akrid were cool, but then again, video games have featured gross looking insects from day one.
Killing the akrid, NEVEC troops, and snow pirates was done with some impressive weaponry. I usually think singling out the weapon selection of a first-person/third-person shooter as a positive aspect is unnecessary in most cases, but I really like Lost Planet’s weapons. There was a plentiful variety and my friend and I always enjoyed trying out a new weapon, but what I liked most about the weapons was their feel. I liked the feedback I got from shooting things, the overpowered shotgun especially.
A second positive aspect regarding the weaponry was the dozen or so mechs. Being that E.D.N. III is a risky place to live, mechs have become all but necessary on the planet. Most of them are in a bipedal form although multiple can transform into speedier forms. Weapons are similarly plentiful for the mechs and they’re able to be installed on nearly every one.
The mechs, as well as the controls in general, were clunky. Wayne moved around awfully slowly and panning the camera around was a chore; so much so that the bumpers on the controller were used to swing the camera around ninety degrees. This was beneficial, but speeding up the camera would’ve meant they wouldn’t have had to even offer a remedy. The stages were too long in most cases too. Averaging about a half hour, they consisted of a slow, boring slog through a usually expansive stage, battling many, many enemies until a confrontation with a usually enormous boss. The game only took my friend and me three or four hours to complete, but I don’t think that’s factoring in the oodles of cutscenes.
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is a mediocre third-person shooter. The story unfolded through many good looking cutscenes, but was eventually bogged down by the drama. The gameplay was solid, although a little too clunky for me to fully enjoy, and the weaponry was fantastic, but completing stages was a real slog. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition was an enjoyable game but not entirely recommendable.
December 13, 2011
Figuring I might have a little bit of free time on a trip to visit my girlfriend’s family, I decided to bring along my PSP and a few games. Of the games I brought, Hot Pixel received the most attention. It was developed in France by zSLide and published by Atari on October 2, 2007.
Hot Pixel is really nothing more than a WarioWare clone with an urban theme. It sticks with the idea of microgames and coasts on that idea for about an hour, the time it took me to beat the game and finish with 67% completion. The core mode is broken up into ten episodes consisting of about ten microgames as well as a boss battle. Whereas the microgames lasted a few seconds at most, the boss battles were slightly longer, like a remixed round of Breakout. This isn’t the only remixed Atari classic in the game but there aren’t that many; I wish there was there was more of an emphasis on utilizing Atari’s catalog of old games.
One feature that I thought was inventive was the addition of playlists. Hot Pixel comes preloaded with many playlists, usually with clever parameters; they can be customized too. I can’t follow up the previous paragraph with one composed of two sentences and I still want to talk about unlockables, so I will! They were lame. There doesn’t seem to be a lot and the ones I unlocked weren’t compelling enough to keep me playing to see what else there was. I was rewarded with pixels for completing games, but they weren’t used for anything. I would’ve liked to see an abundance of unlockables and a shop where pixels were spent, but that wasn’t the case.
Like Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits, Hot Pixel was satisfying for a short period of time. I didn’t dig every microgame I played, many were too similar, and I wish the game played up Atari’s past more but the game was enjoyable nonetheless. There isn’t enough of a reason for it to be a primary focus, but it’s great for a trip.
July 9, 2011
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am isn’t a good video game. Owning every DVD release of the show, I’d definitely consider myself a fan of the show’s vulgar and very odd humor. And that humor is present in Zombie Ninja Pro-Am, but practically every aspect of the gameplay is pitiful.
Developed by Creat Studios and published by Midway in 2007 for the PlayStation 2, Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am blends golfing, beat ‘em up gameplay, and kart racing for a madcap combination of genres.
Of the twelve stages in the game, nine of them were centered on golfing. As Master Shake I’d play a hole of golf, beginning by teeing off and then fighting my way to the ball’s location. When it was time to tee off, a meter appeared on the bottom of the screen. After hitting the X button, a bar would move to the left in the meter, representing the strength I was putting into my swing; after pressing X again, the bar would return to the right of the meter. At this point I had to press the X button a third time, timing it just right to try and get a straight flying shot.
This method for golfing is commonly used in other golfing video games, but it didn’t seem totally accurate in Zombie Ninja Pro-Am. When I maxed out the power portion of the meter, even if I had near-perfect accuracy, my ball would fly to the left or right far more than it should have. I did have to take wind into account, but I never thought it was bad enough to affect my ball too much.
The holes I played through represented the dystopian atmosphere present in the TV show. They were run down and contained all sorts of death traps and odd backdrops. From the nuclear waste filled courses of New Jersey, to the Moon and even Hell. And they were all populated by enemies to fight off.
After striking the golf ball, I had to walk to it, fighting my way through hordes of enemies and finding pickups along the way. During this portion of the game I controlled either Master Shake or Frylock from the third-person perspective. I could switch between them on the fly and utilized both of their fighting abilities based on my enemies.
Playing as Master Shake I swung his golf clubs, guitar, or whatever eclectic pickup I found. Playing as him I mashed the attack button, hacking and slashing my way through enemies. I never felt like I really connected with the enemies, and the hit detection wasn’t that great.
If I played as Frylock, I instead dealt with enemies at a distance, shooting fireballs, lightning, or missiles out of Frylock’s eyes. Playing as Frylock, a lock-on box would appear on the enemies, letting me know that my attacks would connect. But Frylock’s attacks were slow, and sometimes after an enemy had died, his attacks would still target the nonexistent enemy.
Fighting to the golf ball was a chore. There were a lot of enemies that spawned between me and the ball, and the combat wasn’t fun. Most of the enemies took more than one hit to die, and it was easy to get surrounded if I didn’t deal with them right away. There were many pickups to find on my trek to the ball. Many were Enchiladitos, restoring my health, with many being more weapon pickups, and less often mulligans and pickups aiding in my golfing.
The final genre Zombie Ninja Pro-Am tackled was kart racing. At three points in the game, the frat aliens D.P. (his dad owns a dealership) and Skeeter would challenge Master Shake to a race. Boarding their run down golf cart, the gang raced the frat aliens around a few holes in the game. During these sections we did three laps around the hole, hitting checkpoints along the way, and trying to get speed boosts and bazooka pickups. The golf cart’s handling was a little floaty, but I was able to conquer these sections on my first attempt. In fact they’re probably the best gameplay portions of the game.
The game’s twelve stages went by at a fast clip; I completed the game in two or three sessions. The golfing portion of the game was competent enough to get by, but I always questioned why my ball landed where it did. And full disclosure, I never made par, at best I made bogey with the assistance of mulligans. The combat was easily the worst part of the game. I only died a few times during these sections, but they weren’t fun. And finally the kart racing; I looked forward to these sections because I knew they’d be short and get me to the end of the game a little quicker.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am was a very poor game that just so happened to be based around one of my favorite TV shows. The game played out like an episode of the show and was just as funny. In each stage there was a popular character from the TV show, putting a smile on my face with the ridiculous cutscenes, but the gameplay wasn’t fun. It’s recommendable only for those who are ate up with the TV show, and it’s pretty cheap anymore; I picked up a new copy for fewer than ten dollars.
January 24, 2011
Mass Effect is a game developed by BioWare, noted for the work on many previous, and very popular, role-playing games. It’s set in space and follows Commander Shepard as he improves the perception of humans and ultimately attempts to save the universe. I’ve been aware of Mass Effect for a long time now. I’ve been told that I need to play it more than a few times. Starting out I didn’t quite know what to expect. I know it’s a role-playing game of some sort, but I also know it’s a third-person shooter, so how does that work? The dialogue system has been heralded as something truly cool, if not groundbreaking, adding to the replay value and the sense that your Shepard is somewhat different from your friend’s Shepard.
I don’t know where to start with Mass Effect, it’s a culmination of so many things that I enjoy in video games. I felt like I was out there in space, exploring these barely-known planets, mapping the unknown and making discoveries along the way. I communicated with hundreds of humans and aliens and had conversations with them; I wasn’t just reading text pop-ups but poking and prodding them for answers. The conversations usually led to a linear outcome, but I had different options on how to get there; perhaps I could negotiate with two parties that are having a dispute and work it out peacefully, or I could kill one of them and be done with it, saving myself time. I took care of some of the galaxies worst criminals, fighting alongside a squad of unique teammates, both personality-wise and ability-wise. And I did this all while gaining experience and attributing points to skills in an RPG fashion.
There is an open nature to the progression of Mass Effect. I could proceed through the primary story at my own pace while completing the considerable amount of missions. The universe was quite large, made a little bit smaller once I realized I couldn’t land on every planet but baffling anyway. There was maybe too much similarity between the planets however; they’d differ geographically and climate-wise, but usually contain the same sorts of findings. Traversing the more mountainous planets became tiresome as well; I’d have to travel around the impassible parts attempting to find a way to get where I needed to go, which sometimes took a while.
One aspect I particularly enjoyed about Mass Effect was the way it distributed experience. For every enemy killed, I’d get a popup telling me I received so much experience. Whenever I completed a mission or made progress in one, experience; even when I’d resolve something through a conversation, which was usually associated with a mission, experience. I like that BioWare incentivized talking as a means to resolve situations, and rewarded you for it. And like many games currently, you can position your Shepard as being “good” or “bad”.
Mass Effect is a third-person, cover-based shooter, kind of. You have your choice between a few weapons and abilities, and you gun down all sorts of enemies like a similar action game. However, games that include cover usually structure themselves so getting into cover is required to survive, in Mass Effect I rarely used cover and was able to blow through most everyone without difficulty. Unlike the cover, loot played a relatively large role in the game. Practically everywhere there were containers that Shepard could hack into and receive their bounty. The weapons and equipment received, of which there was copious amounts, all differed slightly, just enough to warrant the decision to equip or trash. There were numerous add-ons that boosted stats as well, and the loot aspect added to my interpretation of Mass Effect as an RPG, as I was able to customize and make my Shepard different from someone else’s.
Considering that Mass Effect is now three years old, I think it’s still strong visually. Mass Effect has a film grain camera filter, which can be turned off, but I liked it. It’s not overbearing, but it’s noticeable and it gave the game a unique look, which at first I thought might not mesh with the general concept of sci-fi, but it turns out I was wrong and liked it a lot. I enjoyed the design of most everything in the game. It all looked familiar, but it was its own at the same time. I’m not the biggest Star Wars or Star Trek fan, but it’s apparent that anything following in the vein of those juggernauts will crib something; but I’m not the person to tell you about the similarities between Mass Effect and those universes.
On a technical note, it’s easy to tell that Mass Effect was developed a few years ago. It seemed that every time I got out of a load screen, there was massive texture pop-in. Characters and objects were visible, but their outer layers, the textures, weren’t. This isn’t a massive fault but after each load I waited a few seconds for it to finish, and it did distract, especially once I got into the groove where I’d play for a few hours at a time, and that’s easy to do with Mass Effect.
Mass Effect has pulled me in and grabbed me like no other game in a very long time. Throughout my adventure I’d go on hours-long benders, not noticing the time go by. It always seemed like I had something to do, I was always busy. As soon as I’d complete a quest, I’d have a dozen more in my backlog. I’d explore the bountiful amount of planets, exploring the terrain and finding minerals, random junk, and occasionally an enemy base or another mission. This all kept me busy, and while at first it was a lot to cope with, I soon got my spacelegs and was able to let myself get sucked in.
I spent thirty-odd hours playing as much as I could of Mass Effect. I enjoyed so much about it, the universe, the story, the conversations, the exploration, the RPG aspects and even the combat to a lesser degree. There were minor annoyances like small mechanics not being explained well or random technical issues, but I can ultimately overlook these as Mass Effect brought me many more positive thoughts than negative. It has become one of my favorite games and has made me a fan of the series for a long time to come.
April 7, 2010
At first Super Stardust HD seems like just another dual stick shooter, and it is, but it is also a very, very solid game that is as addicting as Geometry Wars. The game has multiple modes and I started off playing the arcade mode, which has you playing through the game’s five planets. At first only one is unlocked but the rest will come as you complete them. The planets are populated with asteroids and enemies will appear in waves. There are a few types of asteroids and these different varieties add a strength/weakness element to you weapons. As you destroy the asteroids, some will drop power ups that can upgrade your weapons, add shields, ships or just points. The longer you survive, the higher your multiplier.
Endless mode and survival mode are similar in that they have you competing until you’re out of lives; the only difference is that survival mode takes place on a planet with indestructible space probes. Bomber mode takes away your weapons and leaves you with only your bombs and time attack has you completing a single planet as fast as you can. There are also a few multiplayer modes, both competitive and cooperative, and these change the formula a great deal. They are limited to local only and while I definitely prefer couch co-op to online co-op, having the competitive mode be online would’ve been nice.
It took me a few hours to play through everything and if it wasn’t for trophies and having a friend’s score to shoot for on the leader boards, I would probably be done with it, not to say the game isn’t good. But I know that as soon as my high score is toppled I will enjoy coming back and trying to retake it. This review was written with both of the game’s DLC packs, without them the game loses nearly all modes, but you can get the game and both DLC packs for fifteen dollars.
April 2, 2010
Belonging to the list of games I was interested in when I first heard about them but never managed to play is Riviera: The Promised Land. I was interested in it when it originally came out on the Game Boy Advance solely for the fact it was an RPG. I finally got my hands on a copy, albeit the PSP version, which is probably the superior version but was not impressed by the game. I applaud the fact that the game is different than other RPGs, but I found it repetitive and boring.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; a thousand years ago there was a war between the gods and demons. The gods weren’t able to hold their own and in desperation created Grim Angels to assist them. They were able to seal the demons away and bring peace about for a thousand years; but of course demons are beginning to come back. The main character of the game is Ein, a Grim Angel who throughout the game will learn about himself, betrayal and friendship. I found the characters to be predictable and ultimately ones I’ve played as before. Likewise the story was predictable and didn’t offer any surprises I couldn’t see coming.
Adding to the lack of surprise was the way the game progresses outside of battles. Early on you visit a town, Elendia, and for the rest of the game this becomes your home base. You travel here after each dungeon and work out the next plan of action. The dungeons are influenced by adventure games it would seem. Rather than controlling Ein directly, you enter a room and are given the option to look around, interact with objects by spending Trigger Points which are earned by performing well in battle, or move onto the next room. A set of rooms make up an area and in between each are you are given the chance to save. Looking around was vital in the sense it often netted you new items but it wasn’t always necessary to progress.
The battles are never random; the way the dungeons are laid out there will always be a group of enemies in “that” room and to progress you must fight them. Rather than equip characters with a weapon and armor, you are allowed to bring four items into battle. Not all characters can use all items so you have to plan ahead, for instance Ein is good with swords and direct attacks but if Cierra, a witch, were to use the same sword, she’d do a magic attack. Before the battle you can look at the enemies and pick your characters and items. The items have a limited number of uses, so you must also plan around this fact, however, early on you run into more items than you can hold.
Like the battles, leveling up is also unlike most RPGs. Rather than a character getting experience from enemies and leveling up, they earn experience for the item they’re using. Each time Ein uses a certain item, it gains a point of experience and once it’s maxed out, he’ll learn a special ability with that item and boost his stats. However each character has unique levels with each item, so after maxing out something with Ein, you’ll still need to max it out with another character for them to learn a special ability and get their stats boosted. Since the items have limited uses, gaining experience could be troublesome, but there is a practice mode which allows you to level up without breaking items.
The game is completely voice acted and with the exception of one minor character I found it to be very good. My only major gripe with the VO is that a lot of the characters sound familiar, not simply their voices, but the way they act; if you’ve played a handful of RPGs, you’ve seen them before. I liked the soundtrack as well but didn’t find it particularly mind-blowing; I would recommend playing with headphones though to get the nuances in the music.
After the first few hours of getting used to the way the game is different, it became a very linear experience, completely lacking the sense of exploration and wonder I turn to in RPGs. While they tried to innovate in a few ways outside of the storytelling, it shined a spotlight on the generic tale the game wove.