Mini-Review Feed

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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Mini-Review: Super Monkey Ball Adventure

Super Monkey Ball AdventureThis article was originally published at Kombo.com on September 25, 2006. It is repubished here as part of Review A Bad Game Day.

Video game franchises have been crossing over from one genre to the next for years. Often times a platformer hero will jump behind the wheel of a go-kart or pick up a tennis racket, but sometimes characters move into genres in which they aren’t really expected. Ever seen a puzzle game spawn a platformer adventure spin-off? Consider Super Monkey Ball Adventure from Sega and Traveller’s Tails for the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable which attempts to take puzzle game heroes Aiai, MeeMee, GonGon, and Baby and give them a whole world and storyline in which to play.   

The story of Super Monkey Ball Adventure (told in flashback, incidentally) involves the forbidden love of a prince and a princess from neighboring kingdoms. Without happiness throughout the land, the proposed marriage can never be. Enter AiAi and the other monkeys of Monkey Ball fame who must travel around the islands of Monearth to perform little odd jobs and tasks for the monkey inhabitants. Accomplishing these tasks raises the total happiness level of the world.  For instance, early in the game a monkey sitting on a top hat has lost her little monkey baby. The player is tasked with finding the lost monkling, but the catch is that the baby likes to hide in top hats, and - what a coincidence! - there just happen to be five other monkeys nearby who are all wearing top hats. It's up to AiAi (or whichever of the monkeys the player chooses at the start of the game) to roll around the area, find these monkeys, and roll into them in order to knock the hats off of their heads. The lost baby is in one of the hats, and knocking off the correct hat will reveal the child and bring happiness to the fretting mother. The catch, however, is that hat- wearing monkeys do not like to be bumped by other monkeys inside of small transparent balls. The behatted monkeys will step out of the way of an impending rolling, causing players to have to aim carefully and make last-minute course adjustments. Beyond that, rolling into a hat- wearing monkey at full speed just flattens the monkey into a pancake, hat and all. Eventually the flattened simian will right itself, leaving it open for another collision (but just not so fast this time).   

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Mini-Review: DuckTales: Remastered

Scrooge McDuckHigh definition remakes of popular games of yesterday are popular right now, but of all the games out of the past that I expected to return, I never reasonably considered we'd see Capcom's 1989 release DuckTales for the Nintendo Entertainment System reappear.  After all, the licenses and property rights are tied up between Capcom and Disney and the property itself is dead and buried.  When is the last time you saw anything new with the DuckTales brand on it?  Still, miracles do happen as Disney, Capcom, and WayForward have teamed up to give the classic title a revival for the Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC as DuckTales: Remastered.  Featuring hand-drawn animation, backgrounds created by legacy Disney artists, and the voicework of the surviving cast of the original cartoon, DuckTales: Remastered brings the nostalgia along with a few new elements that require veteran treasure hunters to learn a few new tricks.

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Mini-Review: Pinball Heroes: Complete

Pinball Heroes: CompleteSony's PlayStation Vita has become the home of a large library of indie darlings and fighting brawlers, but it's also starting to build up quite the collection of pinball titles.  Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball Arcade are a natural fit for the platform, and now Sony itself is getting into the action with a repackaged collection of its Pinball Heroes tables.  Originally released for the PlayStation Portable in 2009 as a series of standalone downloadable tables, Pinball Heroes showcases a series of tables based on familiar PlayStation brands from that time period including Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Fat Princess, Pain, High Velocity Bowling, Hot Shots Golf, Wipeout HD, Motorstorm, and ModNation Racers.  Eight tables were released for the PSP as downloadable offerings, but now they're back and bundled together for the Vita as Pinball Heroes: Complete.  This is no mere port though; the Vita version includes new social features such as leaderboards, tournaments, and Facebook/Twitter integration; optional touch controls; PSN trophies; and a friendly $5.99 price tag.  While Pinball Heroes doesn't run as deep as Zen Pinball or Pinball Arcade, it's an enjoyable title loaded with personality in places as well as plenty of objectives and missions that'll keep you pursuing high scores if your expectations are grounded.

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Mini-Review: Star Wars Pinball

Star Wars PinballZen Studios has shown that it can take a popular license and turn it into a fantastic series of pinball tables.  Consider the company's past work on familiar properties like Plants vs Zombies, Street Fighter, and Marvel heroes like Iron Man, Wolverine, and Spider-Man.  After working on so many heavy-hitters, where do the creative folks at Zen go from here?  To a galaxy far, far away, naturally.  Zen has released the first in a series of pinball tables based on the Star Wars universe for its suite of platforms Zen Pinball 2, Pinball FX 2, and as a standalone package for various arrangements of the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, iOS, Android, and PC.  The Empire Strikes Back, Clone Wars, and the bounty hunter Boba Fett provide the source material for these tables and show that when it comes to adapting one of the most beloved fictions of our time, the Force is with... aw, you know the rest.

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Mini-Review: Crosswords Plus

Crosswords PlusWhile I spend most of my gaming time stomping monster and shooting enemy soldiers, I also enjoy more traditional challenges.  Give me a solid word game any day.  Nintendo has done just that with Crosswords Plus for the Nintendo 3DS which packs a wide variety of crossword puzzles, word searches, and anagram challenges of varying difficulty levels.  Perfect for the more low-key moments in our lives, there's something here for everyone who enjoys fun with letters.

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