Mini-Review Feed

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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Mini-Review: The Simpsons Game (Wii)

The Simpsons Game

This article was originally published at Kombo.com on November 14, 2007.

When the instruction manual for The Simpsons Game lands at Bart Simpson's feet he discovers that his entire world is actually a video game. Using his new amazing video game powers, Bart runs amok through Springfield and eventually shares the manual with his family. Just a everything seems to be winding down, aliens Kang and Kodos invade the planet. It's up to the Simpsons to use their awesome new powers to save the world, and in the process they'll meet famous gaming heroes, explore other video games, and even encounter creator Matt Groening himself.

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Mini-Review: SPRay

SPRayThis article was originally published at Kombo.com on December 22, 2008. It is repubished here as part of Review A Bad Game Day.

When an evil queen invades the land and smashes the sunshine away, it's up to Spirited Prince Ray (giving us the title SPRay for all of the acronym lovers out there) to don the magic crown that summons little spirits that spit and spray various fluids such as water and vomit in order to recover the crystals that make up the sun and defeat the queen. Players guide Ray and his spewing companions across several worlds within the kingdom to solve puzzles, rescue citizens, gather new abilities, and collect items.

Ray's companions begin the game with the ability to spray water and vomit. Water washes away enemy goo and nourishes flowers that are planted almost everywhere (make a flower bloom and it'll erupt with what appears to be snot for some reason), while vomit sticks to floors and makes things such as invisible bridges visible when fully coated. Fluids are also used to trigger switches, bathe enemies, and draw symbols with the Wii remote among other things. Swing the Wii remote to whack nearby objects and enemies with Ray's staff. New tricks are added to Ray's arsenal as the game progresses.

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Mini-Review: Mario And Sonic At The Olympic Games

Mario And Sonic At The Olympic GamesThis article was originally published at Kombo.com on November 20, 2007.

Gamers who grew up during the 16-bit console wars always wondered if Nintendo's Super Mario and Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog would ever appear together in the same game, and while everyone at the lunch table had his or her own idea about how the two titans may someday clash, very few people would have predicted the setting of the battle to be Beijing. Nevertheless, here we have it, Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games in which heroes and villains from both franchises come together to compete in the Games of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Characters such as Mario, Sonic, Princess Peach, Tails, and "the rest" mix in up in such thrilling events such as the hammer throw, javelin toss, 100m dash, hurdles, trampoline gymnastics, skeet shooting, and many more. Dig deep enough into the mini-game experience to unlock the Dream Events in which traditional Olympic rules are set aside in favor of Mushroom Kingdom madness with power-ups and super moves that one would expect in a Mario sporting game.

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Mini-Review: Tomba

TombaSony PlayStation enthusiasts love to speak of a little side-scrolling platformer game developed by now-defunct studio Whoopee Camp called Tomba for the original PS1 console.  It's one of those games that developed a niche following, but never set the world on fire.  It faded into memory, but the Internet has elevated it into legendary status, and used copies of the game frequently sell for high prices based on the online mystique.  Nevertheless, the game has remained an obscure title outside of the ardent gaming community.  MonkeyPaw Games has brought the game back for the mainstream to take another crack at it via the PlayStation Network, bringing Tomba into the world of PS1 Classics playable on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable (and, one would eventually hope, the PlayStation Vita).  Tomba comes home now for $9.99, but that can be a steep price for an obscure adventure from yesterday.  It's not unexpected to ask what Tomba is all about and if it's a worthwhile investment.  Thanks to a review copy courtesy of MonkeyPaw, I've had the opportunity to look into the matter and am happy to say that Tomba does live up to its reputation.

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Mini-Review: Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The LineIt's not a good time to live in the city of Dubai.  A massive sandstorm has devastated the region, turning the opulent desert haven into a dwelling of death.  The United States Army's "The Damned" 33rd Battalion volunteered to enter the city and spearhead the evacuation of its citizens, but instead the unit's commander, Colonel John Konrad, went metaphorically up river and set himself up as the local ruler.  Now the 33rd patrols the city, plundering its remaining riches and resources for itself.  Enter the Delta Force team of Walker, Adams, and Lugo.  They've come to find out just what went wrong and then call for extraction.  Along the way, however, Walker and his men will discover just how damned the 33rd really are.  Welcome to Dubai, gentlemen.  This is Spec Ops: The Line.

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