Thursday, April 24, 2008

Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Platform: DS

I have beat this game, although not 100% completed every single faction of it. And, quite frankly, I don't see how this can be done unless there is a LOT of secret stuff out there I managed to avoid. Also I have to admit this naughty-gamer-secret: this is the first Zelda I've ever finished. And by "finished" I mean "actually played for more than 10 mintues or since I was 7 years old". Because I played the original NES Zelda, but I didn't have intentions of beating it, ever.

So back to the review.

Story 8/10: The concept is that you have to rescue Zelda. I know - shocking, right? Who would have thought that Link would have to go out and rescue the princess? For being a strong-independent-woman type, she certainly knows how to get herself into trouble. There are also alternate universes in this story line, and pirates. Therefore an 8/10. It would get a 10/10 but, well, every story is basically the same in the Zelda series, so they can't get the 10 on everything. Maybe if they mix it up. Make Zelda have to rescue Link? (Umm..Super Princess Peach?)

Graphics 9/10: Ok, so as I previously mentioned, I have not been an avid Zelda player. Buuutt, I believe the graphics for Hourglass are born out of the Wind Waker style. I thought it was pretty impressive, and fairly adorable. I like the look of the game on the play screen and thought it moved smoothly. I liked the movies. The best part is that there isn't a significant difference between the movie quality and the game quality, so the overall effect is a higher-quality graphic feel.

Sound 9/10: When doesn't Zelda have a great soundtrack? You're wondering how I know? Well my husband is a Zelda fanatic, so I have listened to many a game being played. And they are marvelous because the music doesn't get annoying. It becomes more of a background soundtrack to what you're just doing. This game has that same musical finesse.

Gameplay 8/10: Being fairly new to the genre of Zelda and the idea of having to return time and time again to the same locations to move forward with the story, that was initially annoying. I got (mostly) over it, and actually started to have fun with it. Although some factors never got less annoying. Like having to replay the Ocean King's Temple over and over... They finally give you ONE portal where you can skip floors, and I fully expected another for skipping to a different floor. This did not occur.

I love playing with the stylus and think that it is so smooth and natural compared to the d-pad/a & b button method. I also REALLY appreciated the drawing on the map function in this game. Many a time have I had to stop playing and not been able to figure out what the heck I was trying to accomplish when I come back to the game. On this you can simply write a quick reminder and problem solved! I also loved this feature because it made it easy to mark where you knew you'd have to come back when you had bombs or your grappling hook, for example, and made the Zelda concept of revisiting locations over and over slightly less tedious.

Zelda is good about offering mini-game features, and Hourglass continued that trend. I enjoyed sailing the ship, guiding the treasure arm, playing the cannon/arrow mini-games. They are nice breaks from the story and the same dungeon after dungeon playing scheme.

Overall 9/10: This is a keeper. I would suggest this for anyone to play. It's not too RPG or confusing. I think that it was a great introduction for me into the Zelda games. Next maybe I'll tackle Twilight Princess? Although I feel that it will definitely be harder. In my limited DS experience I feel that the games have been...dumbed down? Or that they are just very small. My one complaint on Hourglass was that I finished it in maybe 15 hours? I don't know, it only took a week. I completely expected more game time. (And yes, I still can play to 100% the game, but you know what I mean.)

Buy/Rent: As always, I'm a buyer. I don't know how much 're-play' factor this game has, since once playing it you know the secrets...but it does have continued play in that I think it will take FOREVER to 100% it, and it does keep a time record, so you could always play to try and better your own records. Also - oh I forgot - there is online capability. I didn't find it that stimulating, but if you like the gameplay then obviously this game would have a lot more of a replayability factor for you.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chibi Robo

And another old review. Enjoy.

March 13, 2007

I'm about 10 1/2 hours into this game...My assumption is that I'm at least halfway, if not almost done. I'm thinking that it's a 15-20 hour game..that is if I can figure out the puzzles. More on that in a moment.

Story: 7/10
The story leaves something to be desired. I'm really pushing it even giving it a 7, probably. The premise is that you are a robot (pretty much the cutest little robot that was ever created, FYI) and you have been purchased by this family to make them happy. But the problem is that they are really broke, the dad bought you without permission, and you were very expensive. So the family is in trouble. The mom is seriously doing some hating. Spoiler: she threatens divorce! (I'm yet to see how this pans out, but based on your goal in the game, if they divorce it's so so stupid. You're job is to make them happy for heaven's sake!)

Graphics: 9/10
Granted this is a Gamecube game, so I know most people don't appreciate the simple cuteness of the graphics, but since I do, Chibi gets 9 out of 10. There isn't a lot of graphic tearing, which is always nice in a game where you control your own camera. Also there's just a lot going on with the chores coming and going (dirty footprints fading as you wash them, reappearing a day later, etc).

Sound: 7/10
I originally gave it a 6/10, but upped it because the soundtrack really is's just really repetitive. It's the same music, the same noises, over..and over.. And the problem with it is that sometimes you're playing along and the music just stops! So for the rest of the game-day, you are in silence except for your sound effects. I don't know why this happens.

Gameplay: 8/10
This game is so, SO ridiculously addictive. I play it for like, 4 hours and I don't even know why. That's why I'm writing this now, because last night I played until 2:30 in the morning. I couldn't stop! It is really fun...but, like the music, it's so repetitive. You just want to keep going because around every turn there's something new happening - whether you find out a new piece of the story or a new puzzle opens up.. Whatever it is, you play because you want to know. And, since Chibi is so incredibly tiny:

you are left with a landscape that, although it's only a single house to play in, is HUGE. I mean, the day is 30 minutes long and it probably takes 10 of those 30 minutes to get where you're going. I find this is semi-annoying and really leads to the repetitive problem in the game. For example, if you want to go up to the parents room to solve a puzzle you have to get all the way up the stairs (you get a teleporter which helps), get into their room, and then get to your puzzle which you usually have to do over and over to figure it out. (The camera angles aren't always working with you 100%.) I feel like I spend so much time doing the same thing over and over... and yet, I keep doing it. And the puzzles are getting harder. Seriously, up until about 9 hours into the game I was disappointed with how easy it I don't want to put the game down. I want to beat it. I want to become a Super-Chibi-Robo!! (The ultimate goal of your chibi, besides making the family happy.)

Overall: 8/10
It's a fun game, definitely a good way to pass the time. It's family friendly, as there is no real violence (you shoot some robot spiders, but that's all in good fun). There are just the 'adult themes' of divorce, etc. I would suggest this game for winter, when you don't know what else to do with yourself.

You could easily rent this game. Like I said, it doesn't seem like it'll warrant a ton of playtime...but I could be wrong. And, also previously mentioned, when you play you tend to lose track of time and play for a long if you rented you'd pry only have it out a couple weeks. This would be a good one if you subscribe to a Netflix type thing for games. But me? I'm a buyer. I want to know that I can pick it up again at any time.

Pikmin 2

I wrote this review on Pikmin 2 on December 21, 2005. I will repost it here, as I plan to use this blog as a forum for my thoughts on video games. Video games are one thing that I can chat up like crazy.

December 21, 2005

I think I'll review Pikmin 2 for you today. I have just finished my first real chunk of time playing it, and I am really feeling satisfied with my choice for a Christmas gift this year.

Pikmin 2

I want to say, first of all, that I realize it is grossly inappropriate to review a game when you've only put in a few hours, but I am bored and it's on my mind. If my opinions are strongly changed, I'll let you know.

What is Pikmin?
Pikmin is a game released soly for the Gamecube. The first Pikmin game was released in 2001. In the first Pikmin, Captain Olimar crash landed on a mysterious planet (Earth) and had to fix his ship in 30 days in order to live and return to his home planet, Hocotate (which in Pikmin 2 we realize is probably Saturn). In his search on Earth he meets small, flower-headed creatures that he names Pikmin after PikPik carrots on his home planet. They assist him in repairing his ship, the Dolphin.

What are Pikmin?
Pikmin are, as previously stated, small, flower-headed creatures. In Pikmin 1 you had 3 varieties, Red, Yellow, and Blue.

Now, in Pikmin 2, Captain Olimar meets 2 new species, Purple and White.

As you play you realize that Pikmin have special abilities, according to their color. Pikmin are bred through their home, the Onion, which they bring fallen enemies and numbered pellets to. The Onion then spits out seeds which grow into more Pikmin. White and Purple Pikmin do not have an Onion, and must be found during gameplay.

What is Pikmin 2 about?
Pikmin 1 was all about saving Captain Olimar's life by repairing his ship. In Pikmin 2, Olimar has returned home to find that the business he works for is hopelessly bankrupt. He drops an item he has brought back as a souvenier (a metal pop bottle lid) and finds out that on Hocotate it is priceless treasure. Pikmin 2 is the story of Captain Olimar, and his sidekick Louie, returning to Earth to gather treasures to get the business out of it's financial trouble.

I am not that far into the game, but I think the story is not going to consist of more than the bankrupt business and the trip back to Earth. I think that this was an extremely creative way for the creators to get us back into the Pikmin world, and I am interested to see how the story will continue to unfold in maybe upcoming installments. Pikmin 3 - The Sim version - build a farm, a Pikmin World Life...

Pikmin 1 vets will feel right at home with the controls. They haven't changed a bit! But they have been improved upon by the addition of Louie. Now Pikmin can be split into groups and led by Olimar and Louie separately, allowing the player to have control over two groups simulataneously and to get more done in the short days. As time progresses and you find more treasures, the player is allowed to do more and more to ease the game. I recently unlocked an item that allows the Pikmin to carry the player back to base, so you don't have to leave him out in the world alone. The Olimar & Louie situation didn't seem very advantageous to me in the beginning, but as I progress I find it to be a stimulating and interesting development.

The new Pikmin also add an interesting element. I can't say that I am very happy about the lack of the White and Purple Onions. It is a pain in the butt to go down into the caves and search for the flowers that allow you to change one colored Pikmin into another color. And each flower can only convert 5 Pikmin at a time before wilting until the next time you reload that level. I do enjoy the powers they were given, as they are strikingly different than the Red, Yellow and Blue -- whose powers were basically the same, with a couple minor differences. Purple and White add a lot to gameplay.

The levels are vast. Almost unmanageably so. I've only unlocked 3, and I have read that there are only 4 maps to get total -- but they are so large that it is hard to explore the whole thing in even a few days, so I don't think they'll get boring. Also, Pikmin 2 has introduced caves into gameplay. You enter the underground worlds, which there may be 2, 3, or even more holes on a map, and time no longer passes - but you are also stuck with only the amount of Pikmin you brought along. And you must continue passing through the cave in order to get to the geyser which will bring you back up to the top. I like the addition of the caves, although I am not happy that the enemies do not become seeds for Pikmin, but rather money for the debt. It makes the Pikmin deaths in the caves seem really pointless.

I have always thoroughly enjoyed Gamecube graphics. I think that they are sophisticated and realistic, but with a cuter edge than, say, XBox. The graphics of Pikmin 2 are even better than what I thought were amazing graphics in Pikmin 1. The plant life is depicted extremely realistically. There are dandelions that seed when you walk by them. Plants that rustle. Grasses move. It's really amazing looking. And the water looks totally real. (It also looks real when your poor Pikmin are drowning in it!!) The animated characters sometimes leave something to the imagination as far as the detail of the standard scenic items give. But I belive this is to be expected from all games that I've seen. I think that the Gamecube handles the moving pieces really well, Olimar and Louie are adorable and realistic (or as realistic as a 1" space pilot can be), and the enemies are shaded and mottled and textured, etc, to the point of extreme realism. My only beef is the Pikmin! They're really boring looking. They're plain colored, little to no detail, and scary fish eyes. You'd think the title character would bring a little more to the table. But they are adorable nonetheless.

Pikmin 1 players beware -- the Pikmin of 2 now sing or something as they walk around! It's really bizarre coming from someone who hasn't heard that...but I sort of like it. It's really pretty cute, because they sing little ditties like "na na na nana" (like little kids). Olimar and Louie also say their names. And the ship has a mechanized noise it makes when it's "speaking". The addition of these sound devices is ok. It wasn't something that was lacking in the 1st, and it doesn't make the 2nd phenomenal, but it doesn't detract from it either.
The music is as repetitive as always. It's quiet enough that it really doesn't bother me, but I wish there was some more variety. Maybe a Harvest Moon-esque situation where Olimar could collect records/tapes/CDs and change the background song? At any rate, it doesn't suck, it just isn't as awesome as it could be. Many of the short songs (like the end of the day song) are the same as Pikmin 1 which is comforting to an old player like myself.

I've never had issues with the Gamecube controller, and I have none with the set-up for Pikmin 2. I do think it's interesting that they've chosen to assign sprays to the little arrow controller at the bottom left, which is seldom, if ever, used. I haven't found myself using the sprays because I'm just not accustomed to reaching down that way with the ole left thumb. Sometimes the camera angling can be tricky, and I would prefer a control system like Mario Sunshine, where the camera is controlled by the yellow joystick and can be moved freely, not necessarily aimed only at the direction Olimar/Louie is facing when you hit R. At any rate, once you're used to it it is not a big deal at all.

Replay Value
I have had a great time replaying Pikmin 1, and I believe 2 will do the same for me. Although there may not be any need for a Replay since you have an unlimited number of days to explore. I don't know what happens when you earn the 10,000 pokos -- maybe you're immediately sent back to Hocotate, maybe not? I will let you know replay when I get done with the first run.

To Buy or Not To Buy?
I would say if you have a Gamecube, pick up Pikmin 1 somewhere for like, $10 and give that a shot before blowing your $50 wad on Pikmin 2. They are so strikingly similar that you can know if you'll enjoy the gameplay, but 2 adds enough that I am happy with owning both.