Pokemon HeartGold – Review

US Box Art
I originally played Gold so I stuck with Ho-Oh for the remakes.

New Pokemon games are out! Kind of; Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver released not too long ago and having played HeartGold a good deal, I feel experienced enough to talk about it. The games are remakes of Pokemon Gold and Silver, which happen to be my favorites in the series. I’d probably say Pokemon Red and Blue are the best since they laid the foundation, but Gold and Silver introduced a lot of things that I thought added to the formula and it was really my first chance to get sucked into the games as soon as everyone else.

You are given the choice of picking one of three Pokemon, which are creatures, like pets, that people fight with in the hopes of becoming the best and/or catching them all. Wait… if you’re reading this I’m going to assume that you know the basic story and mechanics of Pokemon games; these two areas haven’t evolved too much in the main games, and they’re still addictive. If you have tried a Pokemon game and it didn’t click with you, these games won’t convert you and if you’ve been waiting for the next hit, chances are you’ve already picked one of these up.

What I liked a lot about Gold and Silver were them bringing elements of the “real world” into the experience. They ran on a seven day schedule that allowed for special events on certain days and since it also had a 24 hour system, they could happen at specific times. Searching for Pokemon got a little trickier as the ones that seemed like a “night” Pokemon, would appear at night. I remember thinking about the games before they came out originally and was amazed that I’d have to stay up late to play them. Many elements that have been introduced since Gold and Silver have been adapted into HeartGold and SoulSilver like the online battling and online trading, as well as pretty much everything else. I’ve forgotten how the battling and trading worked out in Pokemon Diamond but so far I’ve found it to be halfway simple considering it’s a Nintendo game. I’ll finally be able to catch them all!

US Box Art
Not that Lugia is bad or anything.

Unlike in Diamond, I find that I’m using the touch screen way more, in fact, I’m using it nearly exclusively. Most of the menus seem easier to use, though there are some exceptions like the PC system which I find is not quick to navigate. I love the pop-up book effect that the 3D in the game has but at this point I’m beginning to look less fondly on them not being totally 3D, or at least having the Pokemon be 3D. I could understand that they’d want to save that for the next set of games or, more likely, that having nearly five hundred Pokemon, and hundreds of moves animated and in 3D is too space consuming.

Easily the biggest addition is the Pokewalker. It’s essentially a pedometer that allows you to walk with a Pokemon to level it up and play two minigames that net you items and Pokemon. I’ve been using it ever since I got it and find it to be a fun diversion at work. You can also communicate with other players with it, but overall, it’s too simple to spend more than five or ten minutes with.

You already know if you interested in HeartGold and SoulSilver and I was on the fence since the games were announced but, deep down I knew I was going to get them simply because they’re new Pokemon games and thus far I’ve enjoyed all twenty plus hours I’ve sunk into HeartGold.

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Blur Beta – First Impressions

A still from the Blur website.

Blur is a racing game being developed by Bizarre Creations; it will be published by Activision this spring. They gave away beta codes so they could test the multiplayer and see if there are any balancing issues. I received a code and have played through to the level cap in the beta. For an easy summary, the game can be described as Mario Kart plus Project Gotham Racing with Call of Duty influences in the online play.

From the start there are only two modes and a handful of cars to choose from. As you progress, you’ll unlock two additional modes, more cars and modifiers which act like perks from the Call of Duty games. I found little differentiating three of the modes; they were normal races with one for 2-10 players, one for 4-20 players and the third one limited to the fastest class of car. The fourth mode was a battle royale which played like a game of Twisted Metal or a battle in Mario Kart.

The races were fun and there was always a lot going on. I rarely finished in the top three, but even when coming in a lower position the game was exciting just battling it out with the different power ups. The power-ups are creative and not as derivative of Mario Kart as I initially expected. There are around six power ups and most can be used in offensive and defensive ways. You can hold three power ups at a time and cycle through them which allows for unique strategies; I tried to always have a shield on hand just in case. There were a few tracks in the beta and they all had alternate paths which helped in splitting up the sometimes twenty car group. The battle royale mode was nuts; throwing you into an arena left carnage as the only objective. You are ranked according to your points which are received from attacking foes; you are also assigned a rival which will net you bonus points if you attack them.

There were a handful of modifiers available in the beta and there appears to be three sets. One set seemed to net you more fans for your actions, one seemed to affect your defense and the third set seemed offensive. Similar to leveling up weapons in Modern Warfare 2, as you use your power ups in different ways; they’ll level up and unlock rewards. Say you have a shunt which is essentially a homing missile. You could shoot that in front of you and attack someone, or you could save it and when someone shoots one at you, fire it backwards and destroy them both. You also gain fans for using power ups effectively, drifting and finishing. Fans represent your overall level which allows you access to different modes and more. Regardless there will be plenty of unlockables to keep playing the game a long time after you’ve reached the level cap.

People looking to Blur for a straight up racing game might be disappointed. There are a few good ways to progress in the game and strictly trying to finish in top positions looks to be the hardest and least fun. There will be modes that don’t have power ups in the retail game but those won’t be the draw I presume. The element of luck in the game is heavy and will provide for a fun online racing experience. Frankly, I could see getting this game and never touching the single player.

The Thing – Review

I originally wrote this February 2, and intended for it to go on a blog but couldn’t decide if I just wanted to post it to Giant Bomb or create my own blog. Since I’ve created this blog, I’ll go ahead and post it now since I never did. It’s short and little on details, but it’ll fit.

The theatrical poster for The Thing.

So I just beat The Thing and I’d like to talk about it; I don’t want to review it as it is very outdated by today’s standards. I began playing the PS2 version and started on medium. However, about a third of the way into it, I had no health packs and found it too frustrating to continue. I decided to restart and to buy the Xbox version considering it would look nicer (I don’t have a PS3) and in the hopes I’d prefer the position of the analog sticks. I decided to start on easy instead of medium and it was still a toughie but I managed to beat it. I should also note the reason I decided to play it was to play along with Rebel FM’s Game Club of it; now onto the actual game.

The game is a third-person squad based shooter, but a large portion of the game is spent alone. There is a trust/fear mechanic between you and your teammates and I really liked it but found it to be pretty binary in most cases and ultimately not as cool as it could’ve been. Your teammates are useful and in some cases necessary but man, they sure are flaky. They are however very lethal. The enemies can be a hassle, especially the little things (think head crabs), but taking a concept from the movie to destroy the larger things with fire was cool and varied the combat. I found the game to be very frustrating and contemplated quitting it more than once.

Just going back to a game like this after “adapting” to the game’s of recent memory was hard. Much of the game, you need to die to figure out how to progress and then execute whatever must be done near perfectly. Pretty much every one of the bosses was cheap and required multiple attempts just to figure out if what I was doing was working. Finally much of the game I spent with less than half health, just struggling to get by. The story takes place a little bit after the movie; which had an ending perfect for the spirit of the movie, and not necessarily implying any need for continuation. The story in the game was pretty vague and low on details but there were many references to the movie and I really enjoyed them. Overall I found the game to be very frustrating and lost my cool a lot, but found a few things to like in the game.

Earth Defense Force – Review

Set in the future with a generic plot, Earth Defense Force is a quality shooter for the Super Nintendo. Lacking a thrilling story is not a knock for games of this vein as the story is each person’s experience encountering the hundreds of enemies and bosses you’ll surely take out. From the beginning, the game is fast paced and early on, requires quick reflexes as well as memorization.

EDF was developed and published by Jaleco; it was released originally into the arcades and later ported to the SNES. Having never played the arcade version I’m unaware of the differences between the two. The story of EDF is told in the manual with a lack of cutscenes or any background in-game. I would’ve liked seeing some sort of progression between levels but the story in the manual was sufficient for the genre. Full disclosure: I wasn’t able to beat the final boss and see if there was an ending sequence. That being said the manual was detailed and even referenced The Beatles!

At the beginning and between each level you are given the option to pick a weapon type. There are eight different types but a few seem redundant. My favorites were the homing and the search laser although anyone who has played a

The homing weapon in action.

similar game will find something familiar. As you defeat enemies you will fill a bar at the top of the screen. This will level up from 1-5, each time increasing the power of your weapons. This turned out to be a good barometer of success and a way to differentiate itself while retaining elements of the genre. Flying with you are two satellites ships that provide extra firepower. As you level up, they’ll be able to take on different formations and like your weapons, become more powerful. These smaller ships are indestructible and can absorb some enemy fire.

The game is comprised of six levels that take you from Earth to space and get increasingly more difficult. I spent much time getting to a new part and dying, but making progress with each death until I was able to get to the final boss. Though all this dying was frustrating at first, it came to be a part if the game. I found the game to be tough, but fair in most parts and towards the end of my playing I was able to reach the final boss without losing a life. The final boss however seems very cheap, nigh impossible. This experience is made worse when you lose all of your continues and must trek through the whole game just to have another stab at him, all a part of the game I suppose. I felt the soundtrack was great; its up-tempo beat matched the nature of the game and in particular I found the weapon select track superb.

I found the final boss just too tough to continue after a while and have given up on the game. I will still try every now and then and I won’t let this bad ending impact my view of an otherwise solid game. I found EDF to be fast paced and when considering the effort it took to be able to get to the final boss undefeated, rewarding.