Jul
28
2007
Posted by Chris McKone at 07:22


he Metroid series has been around for decades but it wasn’t until I played Metroid Fusion that I was introduced to this great series. Zero Mission is a remake of the original NES classic (which is included on the cart for all you retro fans). The graphics are akin to those of Fusion as is the gameplay so if Fusion did nothing for you then neither will this probably.

This time however you aren’t being led by the hand by the game telling you exactly where you should head next, you are simply given a general objective to follow, how you do achieve this objective is up to you.

The Metroid series has always been about exploration, upgrades and fantastic action, thankfully this game does not disappoint. The exploration is in place, as are the obligatory upgrades such as morph ball, missiles etc. It is amazing how often Samus manages to lose these abilities, at least once per game seems to be the tradition.

The GBA has mostly been associated with gaming for kids. The games are normally fairly simplistic and nothing too challenging. Metroid doesn’t fit into this category; while it isn’t particularly difficult, certain sections require some measure of skill and timing. Other sections are completely frantic and tense which will have you cursing weird purple, half Guyver, half lobster space pirate things to Hell and beyond.

Metroid games all use the same sound style. Whether they’ve been re-recorded for the particular game in question they always have the same effect for certain achievements such as opening a new section that was previously closed or the atmospheric music, it all contributes to that unique Metroid feel. In this case the sounds are nigh on identical to those of Fusion and this is no bad thing. The sounds aren’t the greatest thing on earth but considering the GBA cart is limited they do the job excellently.

The level design is great. Huge sections remain closed while you try and figure out a route to either that section, or to where the necessary upgrade you require is located. You may get stumped for a while as you try to fathom out what to do next but it is an entertaining challenge as opposed to an irritating and frustrating one as many games seem to slip up on this point.

The major problem with this game is the length of it; it is far too short. The game can be clocked in 4 hours on a first play through. This will mean that all the items have not been discovered like energy tanks, missile expansions and the like. But if you’re mainly playing for plot and enjoyment then there is little desire to go back and play the game through soon after completing it the first time.

However playing the game is a joy (even the frantic ‘ARRRRRRRRRGH!’Ô sections), with the fun inventive gameplay that is the hallmark of the Metroid series and the excellent level design this is definitely a great way to be introduced to the series. Just make sure you get it for a decent price.


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Jul
28
2007
Posted by Ben at 07:20


espite being responsible for more terrible rap music than John Barnes, the Ninja Turtles are fondly remembered amongst the ‘kidult’ generation. The campness of the old cartoons and films is now a thing of the past, with the new cartoon and film giving a more mature retelling of the turtle’s story.

Ask any gamer about the turtles and their thoughts will no doubt turn to the classic side-scrolling brawlers of the 90’s. The arcade game ate too much pocket money to count, and Turtles in Time on the Snes ranks among many peoples favourite games from that era. Clearly this was in Ubisofts thinking when they were designing the GBA version of the new TMNT game, as there is definitely a retro feel to the game.

Graphically the game more than looks the part. The darker style of the film is recreated well, but with everything having a cartoon shade more reminiscent of the recent series. Characters are impressively chunky, and backgrounds nicely detailed, even if both are a little overused. The game runs at a decent pace, never trying to throw too many enemies at you so it affects the frame rate.

The turtles have a decent sized moveset involving punches, kicks, flying attacks, picked up weapons, a special team-up move etc, again suitably retro. They even differ in attributes, with a strong one (Raph), as fast one (Mickey), one with good stamina (Donny), and the obligatory all-rounder (Leo). The problem is that aside from the differing stats of each turtle, something that can be negated by buying items and levelling up, the turtles all handle in much the same way, with no unique moves or combo’s.

The level design doesn’t do much to add to the variety either. While each level looks unique (bar those sections that revisit previous stages), only the first level offers any worthwhile interaction. You are always walking in the same direction, think back to the likes of Streets of Rage, there were points where you would have to walk downwards because a building blocked your way, or even, maverickly, from right to left!

Another criticism is that while it’s commendable to stay true to the films plot, you are restricted accordingly. Only Raph can attempt the first level and the restaurant level, fair enough first play-through, but repeated plays would be far more appealing if you could use your preferred turtle.

Thanks to the medals and mini-games repeated play-throughs are very much worthwhile. While the game itself is traditionally short, the higher difficulty settings will require a fair amount of time and effort to best. An easier way of playing multiplayer would have been much appreciated, as finding a 2nd person with a copy of the game is not going to be easy.

While the games flaws may appear to be numerous, there’s nothing that’s really game breaking, and for a quick handheld blast of brawling there is plenty to recommend. If you approach TMNT expecting nothing more than a retro brawler then you’ll find a solid game. With a bit more effort we could have been talking about a classic, instead it’s probably worth waiting for it to inevitably be reduced, good, but just shy of greatness.
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Jan
30
2007
Posted by Duane at 09:14


ideo Kojima, famed genius behind the Metal Gear Solid series, the games that, upon mention of Kojima-sans name, anybody even remotely in the know about Video Games will immediately mention. But what they're not aware of is that he has also been heavily involved in some other classic titles, Zone of the Enders being one of them. A Mecha action combat game that had a anime style futuristic plot, it gained many fans, but a lot of them probably wouldn't of even tried it if it weren't for the inclusion of a demo of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, myself included.

Zone of the Enders: Fist of Mars then, is a spin-off to the game that started the series, its on a different platform to the PS2 original, and it has a completely different gameplay mechanic. In fact, even in story its not a direct relation to Zone of the Enders, set a year after the events of Leo Stenbuck and Jehuty, and this time on Mars, you play a young man by the name of Cage. Cage is merely a work on a ship called the Bonaparte 3, until it is attacked, he is led to a mysterious LEV by a mysterious girl and they escape, only to be attacked by a Black Orbital Frame, the main bulk of the story however takes place after Cage and the girl crash land on Mars and are rescued by a resistance group fighting against Earth's bullying dominance over the Mars settlers.

Unlike the original Zone of the Enders, Fist of Mars plays as a strategy game, similar to the likes of Advance Wars, which it no doubt has competition in, although unlike Nintendo's top notch strategy title, Fist of Mars has a deep, well scripted plot that can easily fill an entire journey, in this sense its not the most ideal of games for traveling, especially short journeys. Although once your are actually playing each scene, giving out commands and attacking other units, you are able to save at any point, so long as its not the opposing teams turn to give out their orders.

The battle's take place on a grid, and Konami have introduced a neat feature into attacking and defending during battle, called IFA, rather than being like Advance Wars where you sit there and hope for the best, you are able to make a difference. The game enters into sort of mini-game where you are able to target your opponent and press A to attack, or if you are being attacked, you can move around and try to avoid the enemies fire. Although you can choose to turn this feature off, but by doing so you will receive more hits than you might trying to avoid the enemy fire yourself.

Graphically, the menu's are nice to look at and the character art fits in nicely with the anime series that also accompanies the games. The designs on the LEV's and Orbital Frames are extremely detailed, although they are just moving stills in the battles the animations make the IFA sections a little more fun as they can be quite tiresom and repetetive at times.

Overall, Zone of the Enders: Fist of Mars is a worthy addition to the series, it features a rich and detailed story that will have you wanting to know more right up until the very end, there is a certain level of replayability in the fact that there is a good and bad ending. Fist of Mars main problem is that it can be a little easy at times, with some Scenario's just needing an all out attack strategy to win.


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Jan
30
2007
Posted by Duane at 09:13


intey-Nine percent of the British population have read a Harry Potter book, seen a Harry Potter film or played a Harry Potter game. Like Star Wars, the franchise is literally a license to print money. And similarly to Star Wars, the games to the franchise tend to disappoint in some way.

The Goblet of Fire, while not brilliant, does go some way to giving you an enjoyable experience. The game lets you choose from playing as Ron, Hermione or "The Boy Who Lived" himself, Harry as they quest through the plot of the book/film.

Theres very little difference between the DS and the GBA versions of the game, aside from the DS version having a few touch screen additions. Both are played via a top down action adventure engine in a similar style to games such as Smash TV on he Super NES, but in a less manically fun way. As you'd expect you get to explore locations based on the sets that appear in the film. With each area being a a large maze that you have to navigate the characters through and solve puzzles using your various spells. But don't worry you don't have to remember which ones do each action, as the game automatically selects the correct jinx or spell depending on the situation that you need to get through. By making spell casting this simple, EA have created a fun little title that is accessible to everyone.

However, as with most movie tin-ins, goblet of Fire has some flaws. To make the game as authentic to the movie as possible, EA have inserted character art for when somebody is talking , but due to the systems pixel created graphics, and the level of detail they've tried to put into the pictures, they tend to look a bit of a mess and some are difficult to tell who they are. This isn't the only problem with the graphics either, as if it is played on a normal GBA rather than a SP you cannot see whats going on on most levels due to how dark they have set the contrast, although the games so dark I can see this also being a problem on the SP.

But Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fires biggest problem lies in its repetitiveness. You are constantly wandering around levels that look the samewherever you go. Puzzles are as simple as knocking a barrel out of the way or setting fire to a holly bush and in order to get everywhere you have to backtrack through every level to find new routes.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a fairly decent title that is only challenging to a 6 year old. Its a shame its good points are dulled by them leading to the games bad points, but its definitely a stepping stone towards a better game next time round.

Duane Weatherall
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Jan
30
2007
Posted by Duane at 09:12


ery rarely do we see a Flash based game put onto a solid piece of media and released for you to purchase off of store shelves to play on your console. This alone makes Alien Hominid something special, as it saw a release no the PS2 and the Gamecube in NTSC-US regions and sold rather well to boot, but for some odd reason, despite the Gamecube version receiving hugely better sales figures than that of the PS2's, we have seen a release of this beloved title of those into Internet flash games and scrolling shooters on Sony's console and Microsoft's Xbox, completely ignoring fans of Nintendo, until now that is.

Development team The Behemoth along with publisher ZOO Digital have now seen fit to release Alien Hominid on the beloved Gameboy Advance, along with the help from Tuna Technologies to scale the game down to fit on a GBA cart, without losing too much of the original games intense action.

It's Alien Hominid's unique visual style that sets it out from the rest of the 2D side scrolling shooters, everything visual was designed by Dan Paladin, and leaves you with the feeling that your witnessing one of the most attractive 2D gaming experiences aside from the likes of the newer Street Fighters and some of the Japanese shooters. The only way in which the GBA version falters visually, is that the lines aren't quite as crisp and have a slight blockyness to them, but to expect anything more would be expecting a wonder job from the GBA's innards. Even so, the animation is extremely smooth and the sheer amount of on screen action happening at once can leave you baffled as to how Nintendo's handheld is managing all of this.

Unsurprisingly, Alien Hominid will draw similarities to SNK's Metal Slug series, purely for the way in which you play the game, moving across a landscape from left to right, running jumping and shooting your way from one side of the screen to the other until a little “Go!” arrow appears to point you onto the next block of game. Most of the action in the game is on-foot, but you can also take control of various vehicles that lay around each level, these allow you to easily deal with the ever increasing number of agents that you need to deal with or to deflect some of their shots back in their direction.

Contrary to what it may first seem, Alien Hominid isn't just blasting away, instead your forced to hold back on some parts and patiently bring an opponent down, in the first level alone your faced with a foe that has a small target area that can only be shot from directly above or below him, meaning you have to be constantly with him in order to shoot him and reduce his health bar. Other sections see you piloting the space ship that you rescue at the end of each level, allowing you to move freely around the skies, picking up parts to make your craft more deadly and more maneuverable. Other parts including the spaceship see you above your enemy and yo have to use your tractor beam to bring up the shells fired by an anti-aircraft cannon, but you also have to drop them on the cannon itself before they reach your ship. These two gameplay sections break up the side scrolling action nicely and give the game the slightest bit of variation in style that it needs to prevent it from becoming even slightly boring.

The control set up is incredibly simple, and early on in the game you probably wont even touch the shoulder buttons (L allows you to dash/roll and R throws grenades) while you just hammer away at the A button to fire and occasionally use B to jump obstacles. Theres also a great array of weapons for you use, these are activated by little globes that enemies drop, or kids on the side of the street that are seemingly willing to help you out in your quest against “The Man” (How punk rock!) who will attack you from all directions, some scenes even see you trying to defend yourself against an Agent behind a shield throwing grenades while others swarm at you, all while your trying to destroy his shield and land a shot on him. Its certainly frantic and fun, and depending on the difficulty level it can be extremely hard, but for those thinking your clever and choosing the easiest setting to claim “you've beaten Alien Hominid” think again as the “Thumbsucker” difficulty only gives you access to the first levels 4 scenes.

Overall, Alien Hominid is an incredibly fun and action packed game and is perfect for portable play, upon completing each scene you are able to access the next one without having to save, meaning that you don't have to start the whole game from scratch every time you complete a bus journey. Alien Hominid comes highly reccomended to any shoot-'em up fans, and being released on a budget pricing, its something that really needs to be snapped up by anyone with a GBA.



Duane Weatherall
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