Mini-Review Feed

Mini-Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

This article was originally published at Kombo.com on November 24, 2009.

When Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings spring a booby-trapped birthday cake on Princess Peach, Mario, Luigi, and two mushroom retainer Toads chase their escaping airship across the Mushroom Kingdom through a healthy dose of traditional side-scrolling platforming action for up to four players in New Super Mario Bros. Wii for the Nintendo Wii. Expect to make full use of Mario's signature power-ups such as the Super Mushroom and Fire Flower along with new aids like the Ice Flower that freezes enemies in throwable ice blocks, the Penguin Suit that combines the power of the Ice Flower with enhanced mobility in the water and on frozen ground, and the Propeller Suit that allows for a quick on-demand flight through an adventure suited for mushroom power pros and cautious casual gamers alike.

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Mini-Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum

This article was originally published at Kombo.com on September 9, 2009.

When the Joker goes on a rampage in Gotham City, Batman intervenes and apprehends him. After delivering him back to Arkham Asylum, the clown prince of crime escapes custody and flees, forcing Batman to intervene yet again. This is no escape attempt, however. The Joker is putting his latest mad plan into action this night, and the other residents of Arkham - Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, and a few others lurking in the shadows - are eager to take a swing at the Dark Knight. As Batman, players must not only use his formidable combat skills to bring down Joker and his henchgoons, but also his sleuthing skills to save the Arkham staff from Joker's mad plot.

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Mini-Review: Sonic Gems Collection

Sonic Gems Collection

This review was originally published at Kombo.com on September 5, 2005.

Several years ago Sega stuffed the best that Sonic the Hedgehog has to offer into the compilation title Sonic Mega Collection. The title sold well enough on the Nintendo GameCube to prompt the release of a Plus version for other platforms, but one highly demanded title of days-gone-by eluded both iterations: Sonic the Hedgehog CD. Fans clamored long enough and loud enough that Sega has finally brought Sonic CD back to the store shelves along with several other seldom-seen Sonic titles with Sonic Gems Collection.  Considering that Sonic Gems Collection is a compilation disc, it would be inappropriate (and unfair) to review the collection taken as a whole. Instead the parts that make up the sum must be showcased separately, highlighting the bright spots and briefly dwelling on the disappointments.

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Mini-Review: Sonic Unleashed

Sonic UnleashedThis review of the Wii version of the game was originally published at Kombo.com on December 2, 2008. 

Sonic Unleashed begins where most Sonic games end. Dr. Robotnik has put his latest plan at conquering the world in order to build his own Eggmanland into motion, but Sonic had found the seven Chaos Emeralds and is rapidly racing through the doctor's latest badniks. Sonic turns Super and smashes his way through a robotic blockade, but the doctor's fallback plan captures Sonic, drains the Chaos Emeralds of their power, and transforms Sonic into a monstrous feral beast. Oh, and the planet below splits open and releases an evil force destined to doom mankind. Sonic is ejected into space where he falls back to the planet and apparently lands on a mysterious little critter that has no memories of himself or his place in the world. Sonic and his new friend (named Chip after the little guy's craving for all things chocolate) have to travel the globe to revive the Chaos Emeralds and put the planet back together before Robotnik can completely take over.

Unleashed is basically divided into three types of gameplay. The game's primary levels are locked at the start of the adventure. Players will have to talk to villagers around the world to learn the location of the actual gameplay. Sometimes Sonic will encounter a daylight stage which is what we've come to expect from Sonic the Hedgehog game: blue skies, branching paths through which to run, enemies to smash, rings to collect, and everything else that makes the really good parts of the Sonic experience so joyful. The idea is to race to the goal ring as quickly as possible. Each daylight level alternates between 3D camera-behind-Sonic segments and, in a nice twist that reminds me of Sonic games of the 16-bit era, 2D sidescrolling levels with the camera turned perpendicular to our hero. However, at night Sonic transforms into the beast and must punch and slam his way through contained environments full of creatures made of dark energy. The objective is still to reach the goal ring, but now Sonic moves very slowly and is built more for savage beatdowns than raw speed.

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Mini-Review: Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Ghostbusters

This review was originally published at Kombo.com on June 23, 2009.  Many of the technical issues described below were later fixed with a software update.

Two years after the Ghostbusters dealt with Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II, a new exhibit on Sumerian god Gozer the Gozerian is about to open in New York City's history museum. When a sudden increase in paranormal activity leads to the reappearance of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man rampaging through downtown, the Ghostbusters become involved in a renewed attempt to summon Gozer to destroy the world. The boys in gray (along with you, the player cast a the fifth member of the team charged with testing the latest in experimental ghostbusting equipment) have to solve the mystery of who is trying to summon Gozer and how they can save the world one more time. Meanwhile, nemesis Walter Peck, who was last seen working for the Environmental Protection Agency, is back to cause trouble for the team, and just who is the alluring woman that seems to constantly be in the wrong place at the wrong time?   

It's taken twenty-five years, but this is the Ghostbusters video game for which fans of the franchise have been waiting. With a story written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis and voice acting by Aykroyd, Ramis, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, William Atherton back as Walter Peck, Alyssa Milano joining the team as new character Ilyssa Selwyn, and Brian Doyle-Murray as Jock Mulligan the mayor of New York City, this game provides a detailed story that ties up loose ends from the two films and answers lingering questions you most likely didn't know that you had. Fan service abounds as players are sent to search the hallways of the Sedgewick Hotel in pursuit of the escaped Slimer, run through Times Square as a revived Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attempts to stomp the heroes into paste, consult with Vigo the Carpathian's painting on important matters, learn the backstory of the ghostly librarian that scared the Ghostbusters away at the start of the first film, fight a giant sloar, discover the source of the psychoreactive mood slime from the second film, and — it has to be said — slide down the firehouse's iconic pole.

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Mini-Review: A Boy And His Blob

A Boy and His Blob

This review was originally published at Kombo.com on November 11, 2009.

Relaunching the original Nintendo Entertainment System adventure of the same name, WayForward Technologies and Majesco have come together to put A Boy and His Blob back on the right path in a new for Nintendo Wii title that overhauls the original clunky gameplay while elevating the sweet tone. When a friendly alien from a distant planet - the blob - crashes on Earth, he befriends a local human - the boy - to aid him in saving his homeworld from the evil emperor. Armed only with a bag of jellybeans that enable the blob to transform into various helpful forms such as ladders, trampolines, cannons, parachutes, and even a rocket, they will progress through forty stages of puzzle platforming action that takes them across the planet and deep into space.  

A Boy and His Blob's most impressive attribute is its heartwarmingly adorable art direction. Everything in the boy's world is smoothly animated, inviting, and charming. Some levels even make endearing use of shadows and silhouettes to help paint an emotional picture of the bond between the two heroes. Considering that the boy and the blog are silent protagonists (well, the boy does occasionally call out to the blob to hurry), all of the characterization comes from the various visual elements. The game even goes out of its way to avoid distracting the player with on-screen meters and indicators which lends a cinematic vibe to the action. Fans of the original NES game will spot the tribute to the 1989 adventure in Stage 11 immediately, too.

As far as the action itself goes, each level tasks the duo with reaching the golden jellybean at the end of each stage. Along the way are enemies and hazards that must be dispatched or avoided with the blob's transformations. Be prepared to crush foes with a blob-anvil, float by enemies with a blob-parachute, drop them to lower levels with a blob-hole, and other such activities. Along the way are three treasure chests that can be collected, which unlock a grand total of forty challenge levels. This is not a game that one will want to play for consecutive hours, as the concept began to grow a little tedious after playing five or six stages in a row. Dividing the game's eighty levels into little groups results in impressive longevity.

There's not much to complain about with A Boy and His Blob. The boss battles that cap each world take some trial and error to complete, but what's a video game without the need to repeat sections from time to time?  Sadly, I fear that A Boy and His Blob will be overlooked by the market in favor of games with flashier boxes and larger marketing budgets. WayForward and Majesco have produced a top notch title that carries the spirit of the original game and brings in plenty of new material. This is an entertaining, semi-challenging, adorable adventure for the ages that you must not miss.

A Boy and His Blob is also available on the Sony PlayStation 3, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, and Linux as of 2016.


Mini-Review: New Super Mario Bros.

New Super Mario Bros.This article was originally published at Kombo.com on May 10, 2006.

Mario’s come a long way since his 1981 inception as Jumpman in Donkey Kong. After setting the side-scrolling platformer world on fire in classic games such as Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario World, our plumber hero moved on to other genres as he sped around in a go-kart, kicked a mean soccer ball, wandered around with a bucket on his head, danced like a madman, became thin as paper, and even taught us how to type. Now years after Super Mario World, the world’s most famous gaming mascot has returned to his roots in New Super Mario Bros.  When the Mushroom Kingdom is attacked yet again, Mario races to the rescue. Caught in a moment of distraction, Mario drops his guard and watches as Bowser Jr. snatches Princess Peach. The twisted turtle prince races off with her to the nearest fortress, leading our hero into a classic chase across grass lands, deserts, water worlds, icy wastelands, and the eventual Koopa-esque dark land.

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Mini-Review: Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix

Dance Dance Revolution: Mario MixThis article was originally published at Kombo.com on October 30, 2005. It is republished here as part of Review A Great Game Day.

The Dance Dance Revolution arcade and home console games have been around for a while now, but the Nintendo GameCube never quite factored into Konami’s plans for the franchise. That is, until now. Teaming with Nintendo, the two companies have combined their creative energies to mix familiar dance action with the craziness of the Mushroom Kingdom to create Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix. Packed in the same box with the Nintendo GameCube Action Pad, Mario Mix includes a vast library of familiar and favorite tunes spanning twenty years of Nintendo history, providing an auditory feast for dancing feet.

When Waluigi breaks into Truffle Towers and absconds with the magical Music Keys, the power of music rains chaos down on the land. Toad rushes to everyone’s favorite plumbers for help and our heroes quickly discover that if they’re going to recover the keys and bring order to the Mushroom Kingdom, they’ll have to dance, dance, and dance some more to make special things happen, such as crossing a flooded river in a boat or thawing a frozen blockade. Other favorite characters (both friend and foe) make appearances throughout the game’s five worlds, some of which Mario will help in return for clues and some of which Mario will try to out-dance for possession of one of the four keys. Mario Mix pokes plenty of fun at itself, pointing out on several occasions the bizarre aspects the game’s storyline. Even Wario gets into the act when he explains his plans to steal the keys from Waluigi in order to create Dance Dance Revolution: Wario Mix, the story of greed and stench as told through interpretive dance.

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Secret Origins/Mini-Review: Wii Fit U

Wii Fit UI never thought I'd get involved with the Wii Fit program, but here I am about three weeks into wearing the Fit Meter, playing the balance board games, and working on a training regimen in Wii Fit U.  Most surprisingly to me, I'm really enjoying it.  How did I end up here?  Exercise has never been a priority for me because of my traditionally poor health and my love of being stationary, but following my medical drama this year I've found myself in a unique position.  I lost over 140 lbs in 2013 and the start of 2014 due to serious illness and ended up having to gain weight back over the summer to reach a healthy size.  I'm a point now where I don't need to lose weight, but I don't need to gain any either.  I need a light exercise program that encourages toning up and rebuilding lost muscle.  Since I'm still healing from surgeries, I also need a program that doesn't end with me sweating or doing too much vigorous movement.  Wii Fit U seemed like the answer, so I bought the whole starter kit: game, balance board, and Fit Meter pedometer on sale at a Best Buy four days before my July surgery, then put it aside until I was healthy enough to start on it. 

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Mini-Review: Plok: The Exploding Man - Volume 1

PlokAs I've discussed in the past, I'm a fan of Ste and John Pickford's 1993 Super NES action platformer title Plok.  I've hoped for years that the character would return in a sequel or high definition remake of that original 16-bit game, and while the Pickford brothers are interested in bringing him back in a video game, it hasn't happened yet.  I like to believe that a revival is in the cards though, and the recently released print and ebook volume of new, original Plok comics is a step in the right direction of reviving the franchise.  Consisting of the first twenty-six strips of the Plok comic published at Zee-3.com, Volume 1 follows Plok as he awakens from a very long sleep and discovers that the video game world has passed him by.  There's no sequel waiting for him after his nap and his amazing exploding limb powers aren't exactly needed anymore.  Instead he must learn how the gaming world has changed and prime himself for new adventures alongside other of the Pickfords' gaming creations such as Plok's former nemesis Rockyfella and his new sidekick Wubba Ducky from Wetrix.  As he quickly learns, Plok has a lot of catching up to do.

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