Purchasing Three or More: Monster Match on the iPhone is a lot like eating a favorite piece of candy. You know exactly what you’re in for, but the sweet familiarity doesn’t dampen your pleasure at all.
Anyone who has ever played a round of Bejeweled will feel right at home as soon as Three or More: Monster Match starts up. Rows of tiles cascade onto the screen, and it’s up to you to find places where you can make a three-in-a-row line of the same tile by switching two of them around on the grid. Scanning the screen for these potential match ups proves to be loads of addictive fun no matter which of the two modes you choose to play – Classic or Timed. In Classic, you have to make as many matches as you can without draining the board of all possible opportunities. If that happens, an owl at the bottom of the screen disappears and you’re given a new set of tiles to work with. After all the owls have been eliminated, you get to see how your score compares to previous attempts.
Timed mode is what I found myself playing most of the time, since it doesn’t have the potential to go on for over the length of a bus ride like Classic. You’re given five minutes and tasked with getting as many points as possible.
All of this is wrapped in a cute monster-themed package. It’s a simple style, but it’s consistent throughout. The music (one song being looped over and over) can be described in a similar way – reminiscent of Halloween themes but lighthearted and fun.
The one real complaint I have with the game is the fact that you can only see the leaderboards after finishing a round. What if I want to check my top score before starting up a game so I know what to shoot for? I’m out of luck. Of course, this isn’t very big of an issue at all. Besides that, there really aren’t any issues with the game, for that matter. The folks at Mighty Fun Apps had a very clear purpose in mind when they were creating Three or More: Monster Match – make a family-friendly, Halloween monster-themed Bejeweled clone and sell it for cheaper than the real Bejeweled. In that respect, it’s a complete success. It’s nothing new, but then again, neither is the second pack of candy that I’m happily gobbling up.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
(Reviewed with version 1.01)
Josh60502, JustMattPwn3r, and LostAddict1993 meet up again to record a new episode of Frayed Wire X. Do they have an idea of what they are going to talk about? No. Does that matter? Def no.
Listen in for discussions about the lack of new posts on the site, the general suckiness of Sonic the Hedgehog, upcoming gaming consoles, and the public’s inability to accept change in games like Metroid: Other M and Final Fantasy XIII.
Due to some issues retrieving the snazzy intro I introduced last episode, this one starts off right away. U mad about that?
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Everything is in place. The bases are built. The units are trained. Your opponent is in sight. You know you can take them down. It’s time to enact the plan you’ve had sitting in your head for twenty minutes now. The button is pushed; hell is about to break loose. And all of a sudden – nothing. The supplies that were coming in at an alarming rate a second ago are now halted. The units traveling across the war-torn land are frozen in place. Not again, you think. Your wish is not granted. You are disconnected.
Lagging out of a game is no new issue, but it’s surprisingly still an issue. The reliability of consoles are a large part of why I haven’t ever been much of a fan of the ever-finicky field of PC gaming, but some of the PC’s problems still occasionally find their way over to the consoles. Just when I thought I was safe from awful connections and sub-par online servers, I get disconnected from a game on my Xbox 360.
And what a game I get disconnected from. Anyone who has played Halo Wars or any real-time strategy game like it knows how that genre works. You are tasked with building an army to take down your opponents. At the onset of the game, you are given a small number of supplies, which acts as currency to build and upgrade units for your military. The first part of any match in Halo Wars involves building up your forces. Once everything is sufficient, you lead your army into battle.
A game of Halo Wars is a serious time investment. When you play against an evenly matched opponent (or group of opponents), it’s not unrealistic to expect a single match to last over an hour. But what a satisfying hour it can be – by trading blows with your enemy, you learn what strategies they are using and you alter your own approach to counter theirs. You look at the ways you can spend your supplies, make what seems to be the best purchase,s and smile as your units become more and more powerful right before your eyes. Finally the armies meet in a glorious display of explosions, lasers, and utter destruction.
But what happens when you spend half of your match building up for the big fight, but the big fight never comes? What do you do when you anticipate the payoff of the better part of your hour, but that satisfaction never comes? When all the movement onscreen freezes and you freeze in fear along with it, do you feel like you’ve been using your precious free time wisely?
It’s a true shame that a game as fun as Halo Wars can be absolutely ruined by something like bad servers disconnecting players. After all the time and money they spent making the game, the folks over at Ensemble Studios are left with a broken product simply because they couldn’t build a more reliable way to play online. Of course there’s always the line of thought, “Maybe it’s me that’s the problem! Maybe I’m the one with the bad connection!” And then you think back to the other games you were playing online for hours the other day, and you realize that’s not the case at all.
Curiously, I still want to return to Halo Wars after every slap in the face it gives me. I think, “Oh, this time it’ll work. It doesn’t disconnect every time, so maybe now it will run perfectly!” Twenty minutes later, the same thought returns to me. Eighteen minutes later, I’m thinking the same thing yet again. Half an hour later, I shut the game off.
It’s rare that a game with the amount of style and fan service as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game comes along. It’s all the more exciting when that game is good enough to be enjoyed on its own merits, regardless of the player’s knowledge of the source material. Incredible music, graphical style, and homages to the Scott Pilgrim comic aside, this game is a very enjoyable River City Ransom-esque brawler.
Now I’m not normally one to praise games in this genre. I found Streets of Rage to be repetitive and boring, and never really cared too much about Castle Crashers. Maybe it’s the personality and pixelated charm of Scott Pilgrim that drew me in and kept me interested, but after two playthroughs of the surprisingly lengthy demo, I still wanted more. Sure, there aren’t a ton of different attacks, and the enemies you encounter are very similar (identical in many cases), but the action is fun nonetheless. Variation comes in the form of new combos that you acquire as you beat XP out of the random attackers you face in the streets of Toronto, Canada, as well as the unique movesets of the four different playable characters.
As with most beat ’em up games, it’s obvious that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is meant to be played with others. Four people total can partake in the madness onscreen, although in order for that to happen you’ll have to crowd those four people all around the same TV. Bafflingly, there is no online multiplayer, and in a game like this, that’s a very unfortunate omission.
The graphics mimic the comic book’s art style, but with a detailed pixelated flair. It harkens back to older days of gaming, but the environments and characters are far too detailed and their animations far too smooth to be considered 8-bit or even 16-bit. However many bits they actually are, they are great fun to look at, and they definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the demo.
The music is similarly nostalgic, although it too is too complex to be technically called 16-bit. The chiptune rock band Anamaguchi provided the soundtrack, and I can’t think of a better way they could have handled it. The songs fit the style and mood of the game perfectly.
PSN users can download this game right now, but those who only own Xbox 360’s will have to wait until August 25th before they can get that same opportunity. Being someone in the latter group, I absolutely can’t wait for Scott Pilgrim to make its way over to XBLA. When you can, give the trial a shot and I’m sure you’ll see why.
The classic Pokemon games for the Game Boy were fantastic foundations for what became one of Nintendo’s most lucrative and beloved franchises, but they weren’t without their fair share of issues, both in the gameplay and in the fictional universe. I will list a few below, although I probably haven’t “caught ’em all.”
1. Bad Parenting
In the universe of these games, children can leave their homes at the age of 10 to embark on a journey to degrade and enslave little creatures known as pokemon. With no parental assistance, these kids go out into the world teeming with these sometimes hostile animals with no money in their pocket except for what they can beat out of other “trainers.” They have no place to sleep, protected from danger only as long as that danger is at a lower level than whatever they have. Do the parents hate their children so much that they can’t wait to kick them out, or is the world really that safe that they have nothing to worry about?
2. Team Rocket is Too Nice
Well, the world isn’t completely safe, because the sinister, militant cult known as Team Rocket prides itself on stealing these already kidnapped creatures from helpless children, with the ultimate goal of ruling the world or something similarly stereotypical. So when your character takes it upon himself (not herself – gender equality didn’t come around until later in the series) to invade a Team Rocket base and put an end to all their tomfoolery, how is he resisted? A pokemon battle, of course!
Apparently these people have never heard of guns, swords, or even plain brute force before, because if a measly 10-year-old beats them in a pokemon fight, they respectfully step aside and let the kid continue invading their base. In fact, these villains have such good manners that they even offer to pay their pre-pubescent assailant money for their victory. Or maybe the kids mug them…. whatever the case, these villains are doomed from the start because they just can’t bring themselves to be villains. Where’s the evil in this organization? Why should I take them seriously?
3. Random Encounters
This is a typical walk through a cave in Pokemon Red/Blue: Take a step inside. A wild Zubat appears! Run away. Take a few steps to the left. A wild Zubat appears! Run away. A fork in the road – will I turn up or down? I’ll try up… and a wild Zubat appears! Run away. Oops, looks like this wasn’t the right way to go. Turn around and… a wild Zubat appears! Run away. So obviously I have to go down. Hey, there’s an item sitting over there, too! Almost to it when… a wild Zubat appears! Run away. Okay, I’ve got the item and it’s a… pokeball. Yeah, like I didn’t already have 50 of those. But wait… am I at a dead end? Is this really the right way? The wild Zubat that appears tells me nothing. Run away. Apparently I missed something earlier, because there’s nowhere to go.
There’s a vast stretch of ground where I came from. Maybe if I’m lucky I can avoid… another wild Zubat appearing! Run away. Oh, there’s the right path. It looks like I’ll have to use Strength. Crap, I don’t have that yet. I guess I’ll just have to exit the place and come back later when I have it. But when I turn around I find that a wild Zubat has appeared! Run away. I’m one step from the door when… a wild Geodude appears!? Can’t run away. Well, I guess I’ll have to fight it. All my Charmander knows is scratch. Well, that and Flash, since I had to teach that sorry excuse for an attack to somebody to navigate through this cave. Geodude lands a critical hit, and it’s super effective!? Charmander faints? I’m out of usable pokemon? I hand this wild animal some cash? What is going on here? Screw this. I turn off the game and reload my last save… which puts me back at the end of the cave. A wild Zubat ap – FUUUUU!!!!
4. Realism Only When It Is Inconvenient
The pokemon world is not realistic… most of the time. You can fit a bicycle inside of a backpack, digitize living creatures so that you can store them on a PC hard drive (WTF?) and go years without ever visiting a single restroom. But if you just threw your only Master Ball to catch some sweet legendary pokemon, you had better hope that you remembered to leave a space in your party or PC box. If not you’ll get some message that says, essentially: “Oh no, your box is full! Normally we (the disembodied text boxes talking to you while you sit alone in a cave) could wirelessly transfer your newly enslaved physical creature into our computer system, but we have yet to discover the technology that allows us to switch boxes when necessary. As a result, you, sir, are screwed.” And just like that, you’re forced to release good ol’ Articuno back into the wild, never to be seen again. Better call those schoolyard kids up, because there’s some trading to force them into.
5. It’s a lie!
Much like the cake, the games released in America as Pokemon Red and Blue are flat-out lies. It’s similar to America’s Super Mario Bros 2 – gamers weren’t actually playing Super Mario Bros 2; they were playing a completely unrelated Japanese platformer. What we were being told was Red was really a modified version of Japan’s Blue, and what we assumed was Blue was really an upgraded version of Green.
Green!? That’s right, kiddies. The first two pokemon games that ever came out in the Land of the Rising Sun were Pocket Monsters Red and Pocket Monsters Green. The color blue never entered the scene until Pocket Monsters Blue appeared as a special mail-in offer to readers of the Japanese magazine CoroCoro. Blue featured new tweaks to the engine, graphics, script, and cave layouts of the previous games. When the time came to bring the cash cow known as Pocket Monsters (or Pokemon, for short) over to America, the translators used Blue as the base, but divided it into two different versions that each included exclusive pokemon (to encourage trading amongst owners of separate versions), as had been done before with Red and Green.
Ever wonder why we in America saw the Game Boy Advance remakes of Red and Blue as FireRed and LeafGreen? Because Nintendo of America knew they had lied to us. They were saying, “Here’s what actually came out in Japan, and instead of changing the colors like we did before, we’ll treat you with respect this time around and give your cartridges the correct pigmentation. Aren’t we cool?” No, Nintendo. The damage has already been done.
Whenever a list of the greatest Dreamcast, Gamecube, or space shooter games is created, there’s always one title that pops up: Ikaruga. Still, it’s a game that has lived in obscurity, and undeservedly so. When it was released a few years back on the Xbox Live Arcade, the veil of mystery surrounding this legendary game lifted just a bit, as many more people were given a chance to experience it. I was one of those people who hopped on to the Ikaruga fan train after playing this XBLA port, and I’m here now to tell you why.
The space shooter genre is now popular mostly among hardcore players who aren’t afraid of a serious challenge. I missed the Super Nintendo/Genesis/Arcade heyday of these games, and have never found them all too appealing. However, I was willing to give Ikaruga a look because of the fact that it was developed by Treasure, who I consider to be my favorite game developer. Sure enough, after playing the trial version of the game the week it came out, I knew I had to buy it.
Believe it or not, this is one of the easier parts
Ikaruga is unique from other space shooters in that there is a polarity system in the gameplay. Basically, your ship’s polarity can switch between black and white at the push of a button. The enemies are all a specific color, as are their bullets. Your ship is immune to bullets of the same color, and if you shoot an enemy of the opposite color, you do double the damage you would if you were shooting them with the same color. There is a lot onscreen to juggle when you play Ikaruga: first, you have to make sure you aren’t running into anybody or any obstacles. Second, you have to keep in mind what color your ship is and know when best to switch. It actually doesn’t take all that long to grasp the polarity concept, allowing new players to have an enjoyable time even when they are getting destroyed by the relentless onslaught.
As is the case with most of Treasure’s games, Ikaruga is not very long. It’s entirely possible to experience the whole thing in one session, although getting all the way to the end without seeing at least one Game Over takes no small amount of practice. Luckily, the game can be tweaked to accommodate players who haven’t yet mastered the art of a full-combo, flawless Ikaruga run. In the options menu you can choose from three difficulty levels, lower the amount of points necessary to gain a new life, and turn on continues (trust me, you’ll want to do that). Additionally, the more you play the game, the more continue credits you unlock. So while none of these things changes the fact that Ikaruga is a brutally difficult game, they keep it from becoming frustrating and unfair.
This is a game that begs to be played more than once. There’s almost always a better way to complete a level due to the combo system, which awards extra points for players who destroy ships of a single color three times in a row. Also, a hidden mode known as “Dot Eater” challenges players to make it through the levels without firing a single bullet, completely changing the way you approach each stage. The game can be played cooperatively as well if you plug in a second controller, where you and your friend will benefit from each other’s shared firepower while drawing from the same supply of continues. If none of your friends are up to the challenge, you can always look for a partner over Xbox Live, although it is very rare that I ever find anybody online to play with.
There is a reason Ikaruga is such a legendary game. Few space shooters are this challenging and yet so accessible, allowing players of all sorts of skill levels to enjoy the masterfully crafted levels. If you still haven’t given this game a look, try the trial version on Xbox Live or hunt it down for the Gamecube or Dreamcast and get ready for a crazy but satisfying ride.
Pros: Accessible yet challenging, well designed levels, unique polarity system, tight controls, great soundtrack, multiplayer
Cons: Short length, nonsensical story, requires more patience than some casual players may be willing to give
Final Score: 9.2 out of 10
There is a reason that there are more die-hard fans for Nintendo than any other video game company, and that is because of the revolutionary, generation-defining, and magical games they put out every so often. When the first Super Mario Galaxy was released, it was met with unanimous praise. However, even when Super Mario Galaxy 2 was announced, fans couldn’t help but wonder if the sequel would just feel like a half-baked level pack that got cut out of the first game. I’ll admit that I can’t compare the two games because I never played the original, but I can most definitely assure you that Super Mario Galaxy 2 does not feel like a collection of rejected ideas. Far from it.
The Mario games have never put storytelling forward, and even though Galaxy 2 is the same in this regard, it doesn’t stand out as a fault. The game opens up with a picture book explaining the setup. It seems typical enough until all of a sudden you’re given control over what you thought would be a still image and the impromptu gameplay that results acts as your tutorial. Unexpected polish like this can be found in almost every aspect of the game, and as a result the quality of the presentation takes a firm spot at the very top of the Wii’s library of titles. The graphics are fantastic and the numerous environments that you experience during the adventure all offer their own unique way of dropping your jaw in awe. Considering the non-high definition hardware Galaxy 2 is running on, this is all the more impressive.
Something else whose high quality threw me off was the music. Not everything is orchestrated, but the songs that are give the game an epic feel. The melodies of the new songs written for this game are memorable and the rearranged versions of old tunes are a pleasure to listen to. Some songs are light and playful while others are grand and powerful. The music always fits what’s going on, but the compositions go the extra mile and provide not just background noise, but fantastic music that could be easily listened to outside of the game. (Now only if Nintendo would release the soundtrack over in North America…)
The controls take advantage of the Wii remote in the best way they can. Mario is controlled with the analog stick on the nunchuck while an onscreen cursor (moved by the Wii remote) can be used to collect star bits (innumerable little objects similar to the coins seen in every other Mario game) as well as shoot them at enemies. All of the other maneuvers Mario has picked up in both his 3D and 2D games throughout the years such as the ground pound and wall jump (among other things) make an appearance, and they have never controlled better. The 3D Mario games have not always had the tight controls of the 2D ones, but with Galaxy 2 that trend has ended. Whenever I died in the game, it was because of a wrong move or a tough enemy – never because of a finicky camera or unresponsive controller. Simply navigating the environments is a joy, which goes a long way toward making the game fun.
The true genius of Super Mario Galaxy 2 lies in the level designs, which are some of the most well-thought-out and creative I have ever seen. Almost every one has its own unique gameplay hook, which keeps the game engaging throughout the entire adventure. The levels throw out the laws of physics, gravity, and conventional video game platforming to create experiences that are both fun and highly original. Just when you think you have seen it all, a new crazy environment pops up to blow your mind yet again.
Added to these levels are a variety of new power-up suits, which give Mario all sorts of unique abilities. One turns him into a ghost, one lets him fly around like a bee, another changes Mario into a rolling boulder, and another gives the plumber the ability to create cloud platforms right below him, just to name a few. Yoshi makes an appearance as well and with him comes a whole new set of challenges and power-ups. Mario games have always set the standard for the platforming genre, and with Galaxy 2, you wonder how much higher that bar can be raised.
If there are any problems with the game, it would be in the pacing. The levels you play are chosen from a world map, and many times the way forward is blocked until you collect a set number of stars. Most levels offer a handful of attainable stars, so you’ll find yourself forced to revisit many levels you had previously beaten in order to collect as many as you can. Luckily, many times the levels’ layouts will completely change if you choose to go for a different star, providing a good balance between familiar elements and completely new trials when you end up playing through that level again. However, my problem was that I would have to find so many extra stars to advance through the game that I felt like it was grinding to a halt. I wanted to see a completely new environment – not revisit an old one. Even though I would essentially be playing a different level when I went for a new star in an old level, I still felt a slight bit of annoyance at this.
That’s a minor gripe, though. In the end, I walked away from Super Mario Galaxy 2 with a renewed faith in Nintendo and the Wii. This game may not yet have the nostalgia attached to it that makes some of the older Mario‘s so much more dear to me, but this is certainly the best Mario platformer I have ever played. I can easily imagine that 15 years from now a whole new generation of gamers will collectively list Super Mario Galaxy 2 at the top of their most-loved childhood games. This experience is absolutely not to be missed by anyone who owns a Wii. I’d even go so far as to say that Galaxy 2 is worth buying a Wii for. And I’d add that in the future, people will have a hard time wanting to get rid of their Wii because of how great this is. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is truly a game that will be cherished for years and years to come.
Pros: Incredible level desgin, great controls, fantastic soundtrack, finely tuned level of difficulty, top-notch visuals, polished in every aspect
Cons: Pacing slows down when you’re forced to backtrack through levels
Final Score: 9.7 out of 10