I spent hours and hours of my life as a child holed up in my parents’ basement playing games like Sid Meier’s Pirates! and The Secret Monkey Island on my Tandy computer that I was very excited to stumble across Cursed Winds the other day. The game takes one of my favorite parts of Pirates!, the ship to ship combat, and adds lots of fun twists, like an upgrade system that adds crew members, more cannons, and artillery support (where was the artillery when I kept dying trying to take on Black Beard back in 1988?). Cursed Winds uses the arrow keys to control your movement in the water as a fleet of ship descends from the top of the screen, much like a maritime Space Invaders. Your job is to maneuver around, jamming on the spacebar as your cannons slowly reload. After you weaken your enemy’s defenses, move in close for a little hand-to-hand combat, and, if victorious, loot and sink the ship. You'll get the chance to move on to more difficult levels and upgrade your ship if you can take on the stage's flagship. Be forewarned, the games moves at nearly the same pace as a real ship, so set aside some time if you want to play. You can find Cursed Winds here.
Remember Rampage, easily one of the most awesome arcade and Nintendo Entertainment System games ever made? In case you've forgotten, Rampage let you take on the role of gigantic monsters whose sole mission is to destroy buildings, eat people, and swat planes and helicopters out of the sky. It was great fun as a kid and an even better stress reliever as an adult, but the problem with that game is all the resistance. It was no fun when the army finally brought you down and you slunk away as tiny naked person. That's where City Smasher steps in: all of the smashing fun without the pain of being shot at. If you've ever wanted to knock down buildings as 40-foot-tall punk rocker with a green mohawk, now you can. The game is goal-based, and you'll be given a limited amount of time to knock down a certain number of types of building or an alloted number of stick people to stomp on, toss up in the air, or set on fire. The controls are super simple (the arrow keys move left and right, a kicks, and s smashes), so you can fire up the game and get revenge on your boss or the jerk that cut you off this morning in no time. City Smasher also has a "sandbox mode," in which there's no time limit and you can stomp around smashing as much as you'd like. Make sure you turn up the volume or wear headphones, this game has some hilarious sound effects. Go play it here.
Given their penchant for violence and controversy with games like the Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt series, Rockstar Games’ Table Tennis seems a little out of place for the developer’s San Diego office. Nevertheless, the wildly successful Xbox 360 title has made its debut on the Wii, where it makes perfect sense given the system’s nifty motion controls. However, like most game developers not named Nintendo that are making games for the Wii, the game comes close but still misses the mark, namely for not taking full advantage of the Wii remote.
Rockstar should get points for making a stripped-down, sweaty presentation of ping pong that has fun at its core, but no 1:1 ratio with the remote (which is what made Wii Sports so much fun) makes the game feel clunky. Instead of your character mimicking your movements, it just follows preprogrammed motions. That’s the problem with games that are originally designed for traditional controller-based systems like PS3 and Xbox that make their way to the Wii (see EA’s Tiger Woods 07 and 08 as examples). While in hand, the simple Wii Remote feels like paddle that should be swung accordingly, but Table Tennis leaves the player with an unintuitive control scheme that leads to mistimed and errant shots.
Gameplay is simple. You enter tournament after tournament, progressing through and unlocking new characters and uniforms as you go. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses (spin and service ability, defensive prowess, etc.), but it starts to feel the same after a while. While the single-player mode loses a little after playing for a bit, the games shines when it comes to playing against a human opponent. Like many two-player Wii games, you’ll risk life and limb as you and a pal swing furiously at the screen. For those schooled in Wii Sports tennis, the point of view can get a little confusing, seeing as how there’s no split-screen mode, but after a while I found myself preferring this view.
Don’t get me wrong here, Table Tennis is a fun game, and the sound, especially, is great – it actually sounds like real ping pong, and people will call encouragement for your character from the stands. Like a lot of other Wii owners, I just feel a little shortchanged.
|Screenshot from 1up.com, obviously|
Within the first two minutes of Manhunt 2 I wake up in a mental institution where i am spit at, pissed at and have shit thrown at me (it's all kinda funny). The place looks Reznorriffic and Byberrylicious. I pick up a syringe.
OK, right now Drew Lazor is sneaking up on people and waiting for just the right moment to swing a huge hammer at their heads. He does so and it's sick, the sounds are juicy and crunchy, and the people are dead really quick. But Drew's not happy. He knows there a really gruesome way to kill and he's trying to figure it out. Still he kinda laughs when a guy falls down; he keeps hammering, adjusting his swing to a downward motion. Dude is not getting up.
Marc Steel is facing off on some dude in a black hat and some sort of breathing apparatus. After beating the shit out of him, he vomits on the corpse. Which is weird, because our character — the Moby-looking Daniel Lamb — has already murdered his way out of the mental institution, so killing should be no big thing. Except. This game — this violent, bloodthirsty, amusingly disgusting game — would like us to believe that it's wrestling with a moral question. Famously, Rockstar games was forced to tone down the game's violentest moments. Most complainers agree they didn't tone it down very much. (Target won't carry it.) ...
Daniel's guide, Leo, is constantly reminding him (us): You have to murder people to survive, it's kill or be killed, sometimes you just gotta pick up a shard of glass and slice into a mentally ill person. It's like dude, I know. I don't think i'm a bad person for killing someone in a video game, or for enjoying it. More to the point, Leo, proxy for the game makers, you shouldn't feel so bad about creating a game where killing is enjoyable.
Of course the killing isn't like super-super-fun 24-7. Sometimes it's so gross. you feel kinda woozy. Sometimes you wander around dingy, plain-looking places and you can't find any pills or people to kill or anything to do. Other times you have to pick up the body you just beat the life out of and hide it in the shadows. VG noobs like us have no instinct for this shit. And it's Wii, so we're all just kinda waving our arms around. Ooh, Marc just found a circular saw. I wanna see somebody kill with a plastic bag. Now Marc has a sickle.
|Screenshot from game-reviews.ca|
Also: Manhunt 2 as a happy YTMND.
Remember that scene in Dances with Wolves where Kevin Costner is walking around the field hospital and the Union surgeons are getting ready to lop off a fellow soldier's limb? All that talk about sawing with no ether was pretty gruesome stuff, and it’s no wonder it led him to trot off on his horse in front of what seemed like the entire Confederate army where, inexplicably, volley after volley completely misses him. In Armor Games’ Dark Cut 2, you get to step into the role of a Civil War surgeon and drive your own Lieutenant Dunbar to the brink of suicide.
Using 11 different tools, you face quite a variety of battlefield problems: gunshot wounds, shrapnel, and infections. If you’ve ever wanted to get your patient drunk on whiskey and then saw off limbs, staunch bloody wounds, and even put skull fragments back where they belong, you’re in luck. I’m not sure how accurate this game is from a medical perspective, but it’s one of the best uses of Flash I’ve seen. Armor Games has the gruesome factor down pat, so make sure you don’t eat anything before playing, as it’s extremely violent. So, fair warning.
Dark Cut 2 is definitely a step above its predecessor, the original Dark Cut - which was all about medieval surgery (think of the old man in Braveheart and his many ailments) – but it’s worth a play-through, too.
I admit I'm by no means an expert skater. Terms like “ollie” (some type of jump), “goofy foot” (a way to stand on the skateboard) and “axel” (beats me) are not in my vernacular. Therefore I approached Skate by EA Sports (who else) with some skepticism. After 10 minutes, I had to admit I may have made a mistake not olliying on the skateboarding bandwagon. Skate is flat out fun.
Whether you’re going through the tutorial (which I suggest) or freestyling through the city, this game’s a good ride. Frankly, nothing is more fun then shooting in and out of traffic only to be hit by a taxi head on. Though the graphics are not spectacular the sound effects are pretty realistic. I particularly liked the music (N.W.A. and Cheap Trick) during practice but wished there was more music during actual play. (During the freestyle sessions you know you are in a superior skateboarding area when you hear music but I found these to be too few and far between).
My biggest complaint would be the Live option, which was basically a few guys skating around, oblivious to each other. I imagined a more competitive environment.
All and all I highly recommend this game for both shredders and posers.
Madden 08 (EA Sports, various platforms), the latest installment of the most profitable football video game franchise in the history of the modern gaming era (post-Atari 2600), is a substantial upgrade from its predecessors with the addition of a few nuanced features (Player Weapons, enhanced "Hit Stick" tackling) and better player movement.
Critics who feared EA Game’s exclusivity deal with the NFL would deter creativity can relax. Madden 08 continues to add bells and whistles to what has always been a very complex and intricate game. With each subsequent edition, Madden beefs up the defense, and the computer’s artificial intelligence gets smarter and more adept at recognizing (and crushing) your offensive tendencies.
To counter the super D, Madden 08 introduces the Player Weapons feature, which elevates superstar players to the levels of gods among mortals. Elite QBs are gifted with telepathy and can know an opponent’s defense before the play, weapon receivers have Spider-man fingers that allow them to pull in passes 8 feet beyond their reach (a slight exaggeration).
Lead blocking control, a carry-over from 2007, permits players on offense to control the lead blocker during run plays. Being able to control lead blockers only helps if you're preternaturally gifted at working 8 controls at once (nearly impossible for someone who grew up in the uni-button era and never mastered the QB bat radar mode in Madden 2006, which is thankfully optional in 2008).
From the franchise mode with imaginary rookies and reasonably-priced stadium food to the possibility that the Kansas City Chiefs might win the Super Bowl, Madden’s all about fantasy. After seeing San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson throw a touchdown pass in the Chargers’ first game of the season against Chicago, I swapped him for the whole of KC’s quarterback corps (adios, Damon Huard). With LT behind center and Larry Johnson in the backfield, I am able to run the most devastating HB option ever! And LT’s passing accuracy will only improve with the training camp and drills options.
Beyond the slick and realistic gameplay, Madden’s visuals are dazzling. The game looks amazing on a traditional television set, but the blue-and-gold Eagles jerseys and customizable Jostens rings really gleam in HD.
Devotees may disagree, but this year’s Madden game seriously contends with Tecmo Bowl as the best football game ever (Tecmo's returned for Wii and there are plenty of non-Wii Tecmo hacks on the internet).
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