Singing is something that’s often best left to the talented and yet up and down the country right now, there are people in karaoke bars singing their little hearts out. There are people in front of their TVs, with microphones plugged into their consoles, singing equally as passionately as the karaoke goers and often considerably more drunk. Yes, We Sing Pop, the latest iteration of the We Sing franchise has been let loose on an unsuspecting British public.
Yet, We Sing Pop is far from different from its predecessors. In many ways, it’s the same game just rehashed with new songs and this is clearly one of the reasons that there’s so little to actually say about the game that hasn’t already been said. We Sing Pop allows for various different modes of play, but most of the time will be spent in the main Solo and Party modes.
As with SingStar of old, the singers prowess isn’t really a deciding factor of points, it’s all about pitch. So long as you’ve roughly done the right pitch of the song, you’ll get points. In fact, if winning is really vital, simply hum the song loudly in your throat and put the microphone up to your neck and you’ll get points. Easy. This applies across all singing portions of the game and whilst it’s something that’s annoying for those who notice it, overall, it’s nothing groundbreaking or a real inhibitor of enjoyment as people playing We Sing aren’t training to be professional singers – they’re having fun.
Fun is exactly what We Sing Pop is, with thirty songs and the vast majority of them being “current” it’s very easy to pick up a microphone and sing along. Even if your taste in music is classic videogame remixes from OverClocked Remix, or if you’re a pop music aficionado the music’s played enough in TV shows, on the radio and just around the place that nothing feels alien or forced. For those who remember the 1980s, there’s the odd clanger thrown in to, with the likes of Cyndi Lauper trying to tell you what girls want.
The actual interface and menu control has been pulled straight from previous games, with a little flair thrown in to show that this is actually a “new” game, rather than just a cheap upgrade. Which technically it is. If We Sing were on any other platform, a foul wind would be blowing across the console, rendering it unplayable as the cold shoulder would stop all singing. After all, technically this is just downloadable content. But as we all know, the Wii, whilst technically can do downloadable content, isn’t really configured for it and most people who’d buy We Sing Pop will be the casual owners who don’t care for such complications.
For a first time We Sing buyer, the bundle is certainly worth it as the microphones included are great quality and the entire system works as it should do. Smoothly and easily. An important footnote is that for Wii owners who already have microphones, but plugin with a Gamecube port, they won’t work. The bundled microphones are USB ports and will work fine and can transfer to any console as they are console “neutral”.
We Sing Pop is a good addition to the We Sing family, not straying from the formula at all, it’s a game that plays to its strengths and you know exactly what you’re buying. This is also the downside as there’s been no real progression in the series at all and aside from inserting new songs, it will soon grow tired.
The full tracklist is as follows:
- Adele – Rolling in the Deep
- Bruno Mars – Just The Way You Are
- Coldplay – Clocks
- Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun
- Enrique Iglesias – Hero
- Fergie – Big Girls Don’t Cry
- Flo Rida ft. David Guetta – Club Can’t Handle Me
- Florence + The Machine – Dog Days Are Over
- Hanson – MMMBop
- Jason Mraz – I’m Yours
- Jessie J – Nobody’s Perfect
- Kelis – Milkshake
- Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
- Lady Gaga – Born This Way
- The Killers – When You Were Young
- Nelly Furtado – I’m Like A Bird
- Nicole Scherzinger – Don’t Hold Your Breath
- Peter Andre ft. Bubbler Ranx – Mysterious Girl
- Pussycat Dolls – When I Grow Up
- Outkast – Hey Ya!
- Owl City – Fireflies
- Rihanna – Don’t Stop the Music
- Scissor Sisters – I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’
- Sonny & Cher – I Got You Babe
- Tinie Tempah ft. Eric Turner – Written in the Stars
- Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby
- Village People – Y.M.C.A.
- Wet Wet Wet – Love Is All Around
- Wham! – I’m Your Man
- Wretch 32 ft Example – Unorthodox
Jungle Kartz is the latest game to come from the folks over at Nordic games, the people behind the party titles such as We Dance & We Sing. They have tried their hands, this time, at cartoon racing for the Nintendo Wii. Moving into such a territory may seem ludicrous, some may even say suicidal, but Jungle Kartz is a game that is up for the challenge of gaining some of the pie Mario and company have been hogging for quite some time. As the name implies, the aim is to race karts through the jungle or indeed a number of other environments in order to be crowned king or queen of, well, the jungle and other such environments.
To do so, there are eight animals to choose from, ranging from gorillas, tigers and some kind of weird furry creature that was flirting in a provocative fashion when selected. A strange experience to say the least, but no judgement will be made as it must have been an attempt to pull unsuspecting fathers away from other duties. As with most driving games there are a variety of vehicles to choose from and depending on the racing style of the players, they range from light with a great acceleration to heavy with a better top speed.
Thirty-six courses to navigate means that there is again enough to keep the children entertained. Covering deep forests, to desert tracks all of the courses are straight forward and unfortunately lack imaginative design. Each course is roughly the same a circuit that sometimes go left, sometimes go right and may have a few bumps along the way. There is no real character or charm that is applied to any of the courses, they are instantly forgettable.
Graphically the courses and the animal racers that inhabit the world look like an old 1990′s PlayStation racer, except with less colour and was crafted in the dark. In this day and age there is no excuse for laziness and even a small amount of detail could have been added to spruce things up. Instead what could only be assumed to be a mountain cliff is a formation of chunky grey blocks that look hideous to the eye.
Sadly the AI experience isn’t much better. One of two things happen during a race: either the AI gang up on any of the human racers and they streak a head or the humans win by miles. There is no middle ground. Jungle Kartz is not very well balanced and may seem to the player that 4 or 5 places could be lost in one lap. It feels like in one moment racing against a granny in a motorised scooter and in the next, her having a rocket attached to it and sticking two fingers up as she flies by.
One major redeeming feature of Jungle Kartz does come from the utterly amazing and quality blow up racing kart that is included. Blowing this bad boy up and sitting in it makes anyone look so cool and stupid all at the same time. Obviously this is meant for kids but even the age limit on the packaging means anyone from the ages of 3-70 can play in it!
However the wheel stand that is plugged into the kart can be forgotten when playing this game. Jungle Kartz has two control systems either the Wii Wheel set up or more traditional Wii Remote and Nunchuck style. It does not matter which style is chosen as both either don’t turn the kart enough or violently throw the player into the wall.
As Jungle Kartz is aimed at the children and family side of racing games, but with such a huge brand that Nintendo have created this game has nothing that has ever been done before. Even the inflatable car, although it is really something. Using the letter Z for a replacement for S is something that peaked in popularity in the mid nineties if ever at all. Even in the Nineties this game would have struggled. Sadly, Jungle Kartz will be confined to the nothingness of video game clones. However it should leave the blow up car. Seriously.
Waking up after a traumatic accident, with just the vaguest memory of what has just happened is something out of a nightmare. The most many people will ever get to this is the morning after the night before, where you roll over and just dread seeing the photos appear on the social networks during the day. Even in the magical world “bizarre accidents and injuries; they were unavoidable if you attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” and in the sports world they are equally unavoidable.
Winter Stars is the latest sports title to come out on all of the “moving” platforms. As can be gleaned from the name, Winter Stars is entirely reliant on the winter and an overriding image of winter is snow. This is something that Winter Stars has in abundance, in fact, without snow; there is no game to play at all. Unlike Wii Sports, or even Virtual Tennis, Winter Stars attempts to string together some rationale for playing the game. The lead character is a sports star who had a disastrous accident and lost not only all of his sponsors, but the vast majority of his team as well.
In an attempt to try and show the world that the team is not a failure, the failed sports star and a handful of team mates try to take on the world in a poorly acted attempt at solidarity. Unfortunately, the wooden acting isn’t the only disappointing area of Winter Stars, the graphics are simply terrible. Whilst no one expects to see your reflection, or the cat, replicated in follicle detail on the Wii, there’s still enough graphical power in the system to present a decent level, with detailed textures. Considering that the game is built around the premise of winter sports on snow and ice, textures are hardly demanding and unfortunately it would appear that snow, characters and trees are too challenging for this developer.
Of course, less than satisfactory graphics can be disregarded so long as they are not detrimental to the entire gameplay experience. After all, so long as you can see what is what, the graphics have achieved what they need to do. Yet, these sorts of graphics can usually only be disregarded if something else about the game is so amazing that it ends up pushing everything else into the background. Where Winter Stars had the potential to do this was with the controls.
Using Motion Controls is nothing new on the Nintendo Wii and with Skyward Sword showing how the Wii Motion Plus should be used; it’s set the standard impossibly high, as Nintendo tends to do. Yet, Winter Stars doesn’t require the use of the Wii Motion Plus, which immediately opens the title up to the widest audience in the gaming world; but equally limits the capabilities of the controls. With the option of using traditional Wii Waggle or the Wii Balance Board, the former isn’t particularly receptive and it’s accuracy is very inconsistent when it really needs to be perfect all of the time – especially when it comes to the shooting elements.
Whilst it’s great fun to stand in the middle of the room squatting and leaning in random directions, in an imitation of skiing, a bobsleigh and various other winter sports, the actual implementation of the Balance Board is questionable. In line with the hit and miss accuracy of the standard controller, the Balance Board is just as inaccurate and this can lead to failing the course or even worse, getting a shameful bronze.
There’s plenty to do though. The game is full of features with time attack modes, multiplayer modes and even online competition modes ala Mario Kart Wii. However, whilst there might be tons of playable modes and several dozen levels to complete it’s going to take a lot of mastering and patience to get through them due to the dodgy controls.
Ultimately, Winter Stars is a missed opportunity. There’s plenty that it’s got nearly right, but where it’s gone wrong, it’s seriously wrong. If you’re meant to be leaving from Stansted Airport and turn up at Gatwick, you’re still technically in the London region – but you’re going to miss the flight and this is the sort of “wrong” where Winter Stars sits. If you’re a huge fan of winter games and have the time to learn and guess at dodgy controls, Winter Stars is for you. For the majority of people, this game will be given a wide berth.
Flying, it’s something that almost everyone in the world will try at least once and it’s something that many people love to do. Sitting in the front of the plane, with air people plying you with alcohol, it’s nearly perfect; however, few people would want to be standing on the roof of a prop plane flown by a mutant fox with two tails. Yet, this seems to be a recurring theme with the blue hedgehog. Towards the end of Sonic 2 there was lots of this insane behaviour and Sonic 3 opens in much the same way.
The basic plot of the former two titles in this franchise is made slightly more complicated in Sonic 3 as Sonic now has an arch nemesis who he needs to beat and get past – Knuckles the Echidna. Knuckles makes his presence known right from the start of the game and whilst his remit in Sonic 3 is limited, he’s still there and he’s still causing our poor blue hero a lot of trouble. Aside from this occasional nuisance, Sonic 3 doesn’t try and teach and old dog a new trick. Sonic’s prime goal is to speed his way through a variety of different levels and try and destroy Robotnik in under 10 minutes and try and save the innocent creatures in the world from Robotnik’s badnik creations.
What makes Sonic 3 different to it’s predecessors is the sheer size of the Zones, they are estimated to be around three times longer than Sonic 2 and contain multiple paths to the end. It’s no longer just a case of pressing right and jumping at the right time, it’s now possible to get very lost, go back and then start again. Yet, although the size of the Zones has increased substantially, the 10 minute time limit per act remains and therefore makes Sonic 3 a very challenging game. With 6 Zones with each normally containing 2 Acts, Sonic 3 is not the longest game in the Sonic history; nor is it the shortest.
Sonic 3 is also harder than older Sonic games, with far more enemies to destroy and even some basics, such as spikes, being reworked just to confuse the comfortable gamer. Once upon a time, spikes killed you, or made your loose your rings. In Sonic 3 they still do this, but sometimes they move, sometimes they shoot things and others’ spikes are soft and can be bounced on. This, coupled alongside the new types of shield, makes Sonic 3 a very different experience than Sonic 1 or Sonic 2.
When playing in two-player mode, Tails makes an appearance and whilst he is still somewhat useless overall, the ability to carry Sonic in the air around the level is very useful. Naturally, with Tails being the side-kick in every element, he gets tired fairly quickly so his usefulness is short lived.
The Chaos Emeralds are back in Sonic 3 and that’s one of the primary reasons for Knuckles hatred for Sonic. Yet, these Special Stages are very different to anything that’s been experience before. They aren’t at the end of the level after collecting 50 Rings, or when running through a checkpoint – they are simply found. Find a Giant Ring and jump into them. That’s when a 3D world emerges where Sonic has to run around the globe only collecting Blue Spheres. It’s easily one of the most addictive special stages in any Sonic game, ever. Collection of all of the Chaos Emeralds will result in the ability to use Super Sonic to destroy badniks across the level with ease and speed.
Sonic 3 is also unique as it’s the first Sonic game to allow the gamer to save. Whereas with Sonic 1 and 2 you’ve got to finish the game in one sitting otherwise, all the progress will be lost, Sonic 3 has a basic save mode that remembers what levels have been completed and allows the gamer to replay levels if they wish. This is a real step forward in Sonic games and the Mega Drive in general.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is a great step forward in Sonic games and has introduced many of the classic elements, such as multiple shield types and various paths to the end of the zone, that still exist in Sonic games today. Whilst it is a little short, it’s gameplay can be inexplicitly lengthened with it’s sequel – Sonic and Knuckles and is therefore not only a great experience but also versatile.
The United Kingdom, it’s got a long and rich history of producing musicians that are heralded around the world. Well, the term musician could be a little strong for people like the Spice Girls or David Grey but even so, it’s managed to create a fair few popular artists in the 100 or so years that music has been widespread. For the past 40-50 years there’s been people like David Bowie, Jarvis Cocker and Queen to name but a few of the good ones, there’s also been a fair few duds who managed to get popular like Rick Astley and Wham . Even so, these people represent the UK music industry and this random combination of artists have been pulled together to create We Sing UK Hits.
In We Sing UK Hits, the aim of the game is to sing your little heart out and score as many points as possible with the familiar songs from the past few decades in UK music history. To make this as easy as possible, We Sing UK Hits is essentially the same offering as previous We Sing games; however, it’s been jazzed up with a Union Jack and a few people singing around a UK background. A basic navigation screen is offered and offers 5 different modes of play, Charts, Jukebox, Solo, Party and Karaoke.
Charts isn’t really an option at all, it just shows the highscores from many a drunken night, Jukebox offers the full music videos to be played in any order and Karaoke allows the player to actually sing along to the music pure and simply. There’s no grading of how well the gamer is playing, but equally it only plays the backing track of the song, no lyrics are heard so unless the song is known very well, Karaoke isn’t really something many people will be spending a lot of time in.
The main bulk of the game is made up of Solo and Party modes. They both have very easy to navigate screens, there’s a simple no-nonsese approach when it comes to navigation on the “We” franchise and whilst this is great when you want to get moving with a game, it does make the entire process feel a little uninspired and “cheap”. Select from a range of 40 songs across all different types of genre, from easy to listen to pop-rock in the likes of Coldplay to the cheese of the 1980 from Wham. Each song is assigned a 5 star value on difficulty which is fairly accurate and after belting out a 5 star song, it’s very easy to need to sit back and have a drink to recover.
Unlike real singers, We Sing UK Hits doesn’t judge based on the words sung or how good it sounds, it’s all about pitch. So long as the pitch is roughly right, the words are unimportant. Easy to read and in time subtitles are running along the bottom of the screen, with bars in the middle indicating how long each word needs to be sung for, in fact putting the microphone against your neck can even gain points. This is the same problem that has plagued all karaoke style games since the PlayStation 2 era and SingStar and many of it’s contemporaries have the exact same issue.
Like with We Dance, We Sing UK Hits has managed to license the actual musician and music videos to sing along too. This very important addition gives the title extra credibility and makes the entire process even more enjoyable as thoughts of “cheap” and “this doesn’t sound right” aren’t appearing every few minutes. It also allows the Jukebox mode to exist, so it does have some extra functionality as well.
Unfortunately, there’s no ability to download extra tracks at the moment, songs can’t be imported from the SD Card Reader and there’s also no way of posting scores online for bragging rights. Luckily, there are in game achievements that pop up every now and again when you’ve completed something, like the highest high score, or the easiest one to get – finishing a song for the first time.
The Logitech microphones that are bundled with the game are of a high quality and pick up your singing, or humming, very easily. The microphones have a little weight, but are not heavy. This makes them feel like they are of a decent quality and importantly the lead is of a good length, around 10’, which means there’s plenty of room to stand back from the Wii and sing your heart out. The pair plug into the USB ports at the back of the Nintendo Wii and any other Wii compatible microphone will work with this game.
Whilst We Sing UK Hits is a bit of a “cookie-cutter” title, it will keep many people entertained for many an evening with a decent variety of hits from the past few decades and an easy to use menu system.
Dancing, it’s something that many people claim that they can’t do. It’s also something even more of us prove we can’t do after a few drinks in the clubs up and down the country every week. Yet, dancing seems to be getting more and more popular, it seems to have started with Dance Dance Revolution many years ago and it’s now managed to push its way through onto the consoles and this has now culminated in We Dance, on the Nintendo Wii.
We Dance is literally a mix of Just Dance’s upper body movements and the over complex, impossibilities of some of the hardest DDR that you’ve ever played. At the same time. Depending on the mode of play, will depend upon which part of your body you’re moving. There are seven modes of play, Charts, Dance TV, Dance School, Warm Up, Dance Shop, We Dance and Party; however, the most time will be spent in We Dance.
We Dance is really the heart and soul of the game and features three difficulty settings. These are Easy, Medium and Hard, or in physical terms translates to Hands, Feet and Both. It’s a challenging concept, let alone a challenging act of co-ordination. Unlike many other dance and singing games, there’s a very large variety of music to choose from and what sets We Dance apart from many of its competitors is that the music is more often than not the actual singer, with the original music video playing as well. This is something to be heralded, as even some of the best karaoke bars in Brighton use “pretend” music, and it can really detract from the overall enjoyment of the event.
Each of the tracks have their own difficulty setting based on a five star scale; this scale isn’t always that indicative of what you would expect difficulty to be. After all, you would expect a techno, rock or dance track to be fairly challenging, but in many cases it’s actually easier than things like Saturday Night. Whilst playing with the “Hands” mode, you are presented with a person who looks like a clothed iPod advert from 2004, dancing away. Your goal is to follow their basic movements whilst holding the Wii Remote. Aside from practice and memorisation, there’s no directional arrows ala Samba de Amigo, the hands mode is not only very challenging – it also makes you feel daft as there’s no lead on what you’re meant to be doing.
Feet Mode is, as to be expected, the bread and butter of the game. With the same tracks as with Hands Mode, the five star difficulties has been changed to reflect the different dance moves. The sides of your body are divided into colours and when played properly, it really increases the difficulty of the game.
The “Both” mode is easily the most challenging aspect of the entire game. The moves that have been perfected in the Easy and Medium modes are combined and you’re scored on both your ability to move your arms in the right movements, and the co-ordination of your feet tapping away. It’s something that requires not only a lot of practise, but a lot of energy as well.
We Dance is a combination of two styles of games, Just Dance and any DDR in an arcade up and down the country, both games are very good as stand alone titles. In fact, DDR has been around for so long that it’s almost a staple of the bowling alley. The combination of the two in We Dance is unfortunately a little lacking and this is due to the very steep learning curve with the arm movements. The DDR element of We Dance is first class, and not only challenging but the dance mat that comes with We Dance is robust, responsive and doesn’t move all around the floor like many mats of yesteryear.
There are many other modes, such as the Party Mode, which features three further modes of play, Step, Jump and Pose. As you can guess, it’s all about stepping, jumping and posing in time to the music. Step needs you to step in time to the music and in the right direction, but is harder than you think as there’s a lot of steps and it’s pretty fast. Jump requires you to jump as high as you can in time to the music to knock over a cube on the screen and Pose has you running around your dance mat and jumping into the pose before the song stops.
Warm Up mode is a step to the left for most games, it encourages you to stretch your muscles to ensure that you’re not straining yourself. Dance School is, as the name suggests, a practise area that allows you to perfect your dancing without impacting your scores in-game. There’s also some downloadable content available as well, in the shape of additional songs for only a couple of hundred Wii Points.
Overall We Dance is a strange combination of upper body and lower body movement. The upper body mode needs an investment of your time before it’s playable and the lower body mode is near perfect.
Mario, he’s a man of few words, and a name of even fewer. It’s been a long time since Mario Mario hit the arcades and managed to take the world by storm. He’s now easily one of the most recognisable characters in the world with few other mascots reaching such fame. However, it’s not always been a good thing to fall in the Nintendo camp and towards the end of the 90’s, early 2000’s this was one of those times. The Nintendo 64 was being destroyed in terms of sales and third party support by PlayStation and people just stopped caring for the powerhouse of a system.
It was towards the end of these doomed days that a little game hit the market, one that many fans managed to miss due to trading in their N64’s long ago – Paper Mario. Paper Mario took the Mario franchise in the UK in an entirely new direction, by not only squashing a 3D world into a 2D stylised one, but also by introducing role-playing-game elements into Mario. This was brand new in the UK, as Mario RPG at the time had not made its way across to our shores.
Paper Mario uses the classic tale of all Mario games – Peach gets kidnapped by Bowser, after all, it wouldn’t be a Mario game if that didn’t happen. However, unlike most Mario games, Mario is actually the weaker of the two and has to battle his way through a number of trials and tribulations that means he has to travel the length and breadth of Mushroom Kingdom in order to save his princess.
There’s also a heavy emphasis on story in Paper Mario. Unlike most Mario games where it’s pretty much jump from painting to painting, pipe to pipe or world to world, Paper Mario has a somewhat complex backstory. Mario also has to enlist the support of a wide number of partners who will battle alongside Mario in the quest to save Princess Peach and Mushroom Kingdom from the evil King Bowser.
It’s clear from the off that Paper Mario often has a worrying lack of faith in the characters, with plenty of hints and tips given by various people in the towns and villages. This lack of faith makes Paper Mario a great quest for first time players, but for more seasoned players it can take away the elements of mystery and surprise. With the majority of the NPCs giving tips and actual wizards and fortunetellers at various stops, battling your way through the game isn’t a particularly challenging experience.
Yet, what really makes Paper Mario stand out from the crowd is it’s easy and enjoyable battle system. Unlike many JRPGs, there are no random battles, so there’s no worry about walking along a path and suddenly being attacked by an enemy, which is a problem so prevalent in the Final Fantasy series, they are clearly visible and avoidable if that’s what you want to do. However, if and when a battle arises, rather than there being a complex series of menus with statistics flying around the screen and being attacked whilst waiting to choose which move you want to use, it’s a simplistic and easy to read navigation menu with a complete “turn based” element of gameplay. There’s also ways and means of defending yourself from attacks mid attack and increasing your power by simply hitting A at a certain time.
With additional options such as Flower Points, this is the equivalent of magic in a fantasy styled game. Badge points, which allow Mario to wear “badges” that give him special abilities, from being able to see the health of his opponents to special abilities to collect more coins at the end of the battle. Finally, there are Stars, who are a key and one of the most important elements of the game. They are almost like the extra magic attack that everyone wants and have limited usage.
This mixed with the animation is what really makes Paper Mario and memorable game. Although Mario is paper, the world is 3D and there’s a clear depth in the levels, characters and rooms. This 2D action in a 3D world is only made better by the clear animation, visibly high framerate and excellent character models. The game is anything but dull, with vibrant bosses, enemies and towns, all of which are recognisable and distinct. At no point are you looking at the game wondering what sort of enemy it is, it’s clear who and what they are. Further, by using the classic enemies and characters from older Mario games, it feels like Mario could always have been in this RPG style.
Paper Mario is easily one of the best games released on the Nintendo 64 and should be ranked up there with the likes of Ocarina of Time, Mario 64 and Super Smash Bros; however, due to the strange nature of the game and the time it came out it’s become a lost classic with sequels overshadowing it’s achievements.
Captain America has not seen a video game console release since the early 90′s when he teamed up with the rest of the Avengers in a 2-D side scrolling action/adventure. With the imminent cinema release of The First Avenger, it is with convenient timing that Marvel and SEGA have decided to rejuvenate the franchise and bring the 1940′s war hero to the 21st century. Much like Thor: God of Thunder, Captain America is not a movie – game tie in as such, instead opting for a separate storyline as an alternative take on the big screen release. As with Thor, SEGA have employed Chrsitos Gage – one of the writers of the comic to pen the story for the game. Also Chris Evans lends his voicing talents reprising his role as the Captain.
The game starts with the Captain being dropped behind enemy lines in the 1940s on a mission to stop the terrorist organisation HYDRA and Nazi Germany from destroying the world. Headed by the evil Red Skull, HYDRA set off on a mission to create the ultimate Super Soldier in an attempt to defeat Captain America and win the second world war. It is a race against time for Captain America and the Allied Forces to find and destroy HYDRA. With little help from any kind of weapon, it is up to the Captain to use strength and his most useful item – his shield to achieve his goals. The shield can be thrown to stun enemies, used as an aid to climb walls and deflect bullets of the bad guys.
Controlling Captain America with the analogue stick is simple enough however on occasions, the camera will either get stuck or be facing the opposite way to the action. All actions are performed with “A” button but take slightly too long to action. This results in a fit of infuriating button bashing just to jump up two or three ledges. The combat system is much the same as the rest of the controls. Bashing the “B” button in a group of enemies will dispatch them without too much trouble. This is a stark contrast to Thor: God of Thunder where combos where used to spice up the battles. Just pressing B and occasionally Z for the odd defensive manoeuvre, does get very stale very quickly.
For the times where a more long range approach is needed the shield comes into it’s own. Firstly if a hand gun is fired at the Captain, bullets are pinged back at such a rate it does quickly stop the enemy onslaught. This brings an element of fun to the game and slightly redeems the lack-lustre melee combat. Using the shield as a trigger, is a clever idea, throwing it like like a Frisbee to make bombs explode or open doors. However using the Wii remote to aim is not as responsive as one would hope and once zoomed in, the camera becomes static so there is no 360 degree aiming.
While Captain America may not move as easily as he could do, at least he and all the character models look good. They are scaled back versions of the high definition counter-parts which means they look above average for what the Wii can produce. The same cannot be said about the environments in which the characters roam. Level design in the game is for the large part plane and unimaginative, such as the trenches in the first level look exactly like the castle in the next. There are a staggering number of items to collect in each level – American P.O.Ws, war dossiers, treasures & HYDRA planted bombs to disarm. This may seem like a tough call as each level is surprisingly large. Items to obtain are so frequent there isn’t many places that they could be hidden so the game becomes more of a chore to find everything and everyone rather than an exciting search for treasure.
Captain America: Super Soldier is another example of having all the key elements in place, the writer of the comics, the actor who is Captain America, even a well established publisher/developer in SEGA. Yet, the game itself falls short in almost every way. The combat system is clunky and requires no skill, neither does finding every item in the game. In a typical good vs evil story, Captain America had to pull something out of the bag that sets it apart from the crowd. Unfortunately, it does the opposite as the dull levels and uninspired camera controls makes the game quite content to be quickly forgotten – it does not embody the American type cast of being loud and in-your-face. There are a few glimmers of hope with the game, the levels although mundane, are big. Each one in fact lasts around 20-25 minutes. Also making enemies shoot themselves does bring a comical value to the game. These two reasons alone do not provide a good enough reason to bring Captain America: Super Soldier from the ranks of mediocrity.
Mario is one of the world’s most recognisable characters in the video game history if not the entertainment industry as a whole. This is some achievement for a fat Italian plumber who first appeared trying to save his girlfriend from a giant monkey. The man can turn his hand to anything, painting, playing sports, driving go-karts, and still finding time to save the princess. Just about the only thing he hasn’t done is fix that leaky pipe that’s been flooding the Mushroom Kingdom for the last 25 years or so.
Proven in the 4 fully fledged 3D titles he has appeared in since the N64 launched, Mario has accomplished something his rival – the little blue hedgehog Sonic has yet to reach – a successful transition from 2D to next generation. From the moment Mario’s interactive face popped up on the screen in Super Mario 64 players and critics alike agreed that Nintendo had brought something special to the table. Yet Shigeru Miyamoto was keen to bring the Mushroom Kingdom back to its roots.
The Nintendo DS was used as a test subject and introduced fans and players to New Super Mario Bros. This was the game that brought back the side scrolling adventure with elements and graphics of the 3D games. What resulted was a return to form and one of the fastest selling games on the Nintendo DS only to be eclipsed by the Pokémon series.
Following on from this success, Miyamoto was quick to bring the title to the Wii. In just 12 short months New Super Mario Bros: Wii was released to the world. The story focuses on Peach being kidnapped by the Bowser clan in an elaborate plan involving a birthday cake. It is up to Mario and Luigi with the help of Blue and Yellow Toads to once again give chase and rescue the princess.
The familiar Mario format is used, a world map presented with an assortment of playable levels. Mushroom houses, once entered have little mini-games to earn extra lives. Enemies can now appear on the map and if encountered prompts Mario to battle a giant version of that enemy – usually to rescue a captured Toad. In true Mario style there is a mini castle at the half way point in the world and a larger one at the end. The bosses in the castles take the form of the Koopalings – the rough, tough offspring of Bowser that haven’t been seen since the SNES era and Bowser Jr who has been a regular bad guy since Mario Sunshine.
A wealth of new features are included such as the Propeller Mushroom, which makes players take off and fly once they shake the Wii Remote. The Ice Flower power-up is also new, which when used freezes enemies who are then able to be picked up and carried. These appear along side old classics such as the Fire Flower and Power Star. Along with the power ups is a great new feature for those who are struggling is the introduction of a help system. If a player dies more than 8 times in a level, a video featuring Luigi will play showing how to complete the level. He won’t however show you how to get any of the large coins or secret pipes. It is optional though, so stubborn players don’t have to view it if they do not want to.
The game is presented in the same 2.5 dimensional style of the DS version. With the added processing power that the Wii brings the characters look smoother and seem to flow better compared to the handheld version. The environments that are created are more colourful than the Nintendo DS and stand out really well on a large TV screen considering that we aren’t looking at HD visuals.
The music in the game is again a pleasant Mario throw back. All the familiar songs for the castles, underground sections, water levels etcetera are all back and have been updated to bring them into the 21st Century. Nice little in game features such as the Goomba’s and Koopa’s on screen stopping and do a little jig when the music reaches a certain point make the experience that little bit more enjoyable.
Nintendo sees everyone playing together with the Wii and New Super Mario Bros is no different. Up to 4 players can either compete or help each other through the story mode, taking on the forms of Mario, Luigi or the two Toads. To further help the journey Mario and Co can recruit the famous Dinosaur Yoshi to gobble up enemies and players!
Coupled with the idea of playing together, Nintendo have also made the control system very simple: the Wii remote is turned to the side, the D-pad is used to move the character, the 2 button is used to jump and 1 is used to run. The plus button brings up the pause menu. If Mario is sporting a fire/ice flower shaking the remote will send fire balls or ice cubes in multiple directions.
The levels are well designed and flow very well and has a steady learning curve with each world being harder than the last. There are frustrating moments but it all adds to the charm and thankfully are few and far between. The balance between making the game too easy or too hard is perfect. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the boss battles. They are built on the same structure, avoiding the boss attacks until you can jump on it’s head.
New Super Mario Bros is a must for anyone who enjoys the old SNES games, and also newcomers to the Mario world. Yes the story is the same as always and the bosses are a bit too easy but that taken aside this game ticks all the boxes and is hard to fault. With the extras that Nintendo have introduced, they feel well thought through and not just tagged on in a gimicky way. One suggestion to Nintendo is that they could have changed from two Toads to another character from the Mushroom Kingdom, even Toadette would have been nice.
Nintendo have made a game that is close to the Mario games of old but brought the 2D platformer to the hands of the 3D generation with the flourish and panache that only Shigeru Miyamoto and his team can pull off. If you are new to the Mario games – play this. If you are a veteran of Mario and his escapades – play this. This game is a must. Players will not be disappointed!
Today has been renamed Sonic-2s-Day and we’re also casting our minds back some 19 years to 1992 when the sequel to SEGA’s Sonic Team’s flagship title was released. Sonic 2 was released to much fanfare, with SEGA renaming Tuesday to a Sonic-2s-Day and heavily advertising Sonic 2 in the national press and the gaming press. This all made sense as Sonic 1 was a huge success for SEGA and with Sonic 2 the framework was already in place to create another great game.
There are two characters in Sonic 2. Yes, two. Sonic the Hedgehog, who all are familiar with from Sonic 1, and Miles “Tails” Prowers, otherwise known as Tails. This twin tailed fox is Sonic’s friend who he meets in West Island and together they become aware that the evil Dr Robotnik has managed to acquire all of the Chaos Emeralds again. With the Chaos Emeralds under his command, he is able to get his warship the Death Egg, back into the sky. He also transforms all of the little creatures from their happy animal selves into Badniks – evil, mechanical androids who attempt to kill Sonic and Tails during their quest. Naturally Sonic and Tails take it upon themselves to return West Island and Mobius back into a free world.
With essentially the same plot as the first title, barring a few significant differences, it’s still press right and jump game. Sonic has also had a speed boost, running through the levels at a much quicker pace than before and with a new move up his sneakers. In Sonic 1 to make Sonic roll, he had to be in motion and then would only spin for a short distance, whereas in Sonic 2 there’s a new move called the spin-dash. This move can only be done whilst Sonic is stationary and it will destroy pretty much all enemies in his path and will also allow Sonic to get back up steep ascents. This makes Sonic 2 significantly easier than Sonic 1 when it comes to battling enemies; yet, overall Sonic 2’s level design is far more complex and challenging than the first.
Tails is an important addition to the series as it’s the first time that a new character has been introduced into a Sonic game, a tradition that unfortunately doesn’t just stop with Sonic 2. However, for the most part Tail’s introduction into the game is pointless. Whilst being able to play as 2 players throughout the majority of the main adventure is a novelty, Tails is unable to die permanently and is significantly slower than Sonic. Rather than allowing Tails to have the speed to catch up, he simply falls away from the screen and then appears a little while later flying down to meet up with Sonic. This makes his inclusion in the game pointless; as although he can run along beside Sonic ultimately his input is limited. He does have a fair few cameo roles though and is control of the aeroplane that he flies Sonic to certain levels on.
There’s also a change in the level structure as well. There are still a number of Zones, however, rather than having three Acts per Zone, there is now only two Acts per Zone and some Zones only have one Act. Levels with only one Act appear towards the end of the game and are primarily for travelling purposes.
As with Sonic 1, speed is the name of the game and there’s no slow down in Sonic 2. Even though the game is arguably faster and has far more effects for the most part. The only area where this statement is far, far from the truth is in the newly formed multiplayer mode. With the option of having a true two player experience where Sonic and Tails battle one another in a series of Time Attack style games. Play through the regular levels, but faster than your opponent. The major problem with this is that it’s a split screen – understandable as there is no online functionality; however, there’s significant and noticeable slow down when anything else happens other than running. Back in the day this was noticeable, but not half as much as it is now due to the advancement of technology.
The special stages have changed as well, they are now part of the check-points and the levels themselves are a weird sort of 3D. Sonic must run through a maze collecting rings and if he collects enough rings, then the Chaos Emerald will become available. Collect all of the emeralds and then Super Sonic will become available. It’s a welcome addition to the game.
The port to the Virtual Console has been seamless as well, with nothing that feels different or odd against the old games either. The ability to stop in the middle of the game and return to the Wii Menu remains as well, which further helps the replayability of the game. Especially as there’s no save function.
Sonic 2 is a brilliant addition to the Sonic franchise, with lots of little extras that make the game more enjoyable than ever and a few cosmetic changes the game is better than ever. Unfortunately it’s the start of where SEGA bring in a lot of characters, but that can be ignored due to the brilliance of the game overall.s