REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda – Skyward Sword
January 22, 2013, 8:47 pm
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Screw you, Amazon reviewers. I mean, really, I hope you are all happy tucked up in bed clutching your precious Skyward Sword whispering how much you love it, and how your Wii remote has never been moved like that before.

I thought I had taken precaution. I checked each review carefully, weighed out the pros and cons, assessed whether these people were people like me. But they weren’t. Which leaves me with three conclusions. Behind these shining reviews lurks either 1) teenage girls satisfying their need to control a tiny Justin Bieber 2) reverse-trolls 3) masochists with a penchant for being patronized to the point of humiliation.

It might seem a little late to be reviewing a Wii game. After all, a new Nintendo console has taken to the stage and eBay has assumed responsibility for the burial of the old one. But this game has taken so long to complete, not in a value-for-money way… in an only-gin-numbs-the-pain way. My relationship with Skyward Sword can be summarized like so:

1) Oh neat, a new Zelda game! It has been so long and I have waited so patiently.
2) Here you go, Amazon, here are my hard saved pennies. I am so excited about receiving happiness in 3-5 working days.
3) inserts disc
4) Wh… why is Justin Bieber on my screen wearing a green hat. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH LINK, TINY JUSTIN BIEBER??
5) It’s fine. I’ll feel a lot better when I’ve got my horse.
6) What the fuck is this.
7) Ok, but roaming around talking to charming characters will still be fun.
8) Hello, quirky-looking gentleman!
9) Really? You work here with your wife? Aw, That’s nice.
10) Yes, you told me about your wife.
11) Yes, I know, you already told me that.
12) Yes I know. Are you having a stroke?
13) Right. Trying not to panic. The gameplay must still be superb.
14) Switches wii off and shouts at nearby cat.
15) Waits two months. Repeats from step 3.

I do have a detailed list of what I do and don’t like about this game, but actually there is little point in going into the specifics, because, for therapeutic reasons, this is more rant than review. There may be a few groups of people that will enjoy this game…. Probably those that haven’t played previous Zelda titles before. And I think that’s my problem – my expectations were just too high. I can’t admit to experiencing Zelda as far back as the NES, but jumped straight in at Ocarina of Time. And from that moment onwards, my standards would never go lower. But there is so little in Skyward Sword that resembles OOT; the format is not recognizable to me. Link is less ‘hero of the people’ and more ‘frustrated teenage boy chasing the girl’. It treats the player like a child (which is insulting to children) giving patronizing information over and over again as if the player lacks any basic ability to figure things out for themselves.

And the design, whilst is not terrible, falls way short of what I had expected. This may be a fatal symptom of spending so long on the Xbox, particularly having spent a self-destructive amount of time playing Skyrim.

Wii Motion Plus was the final straw. Forking out another £30 just for the privilege of being able to… erm…

Well, that’s what I’m not sure about. I purposefully didn’t read up on what it does to see if I would notice anything different, and guess what. I faithfully followed the tutorials, determined to give it every chance, knowing full well that the SECOND it did something different to what I instructed it to, I would descend in to an angry, flailing, thrusting mess. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s packed full of cutting edge, fine tuned, space age technology, but the designers seem to have forgotten to do their customer research. For every Wii player I know flails and waves and thrusts in the vague direction of the TV, usually having a lot of fun doing so, and doesn’t really want anything more to deal with. To whoever designed Wii Motion Plus: your talents are wasted. Go and work for Microsoft.

And whilst this game has so, so many flaws, I can handle all of them but one. A game can throw bad design at me, dodgy mechanics, poor gameplay, and even a questionable storyline. But the one thing that I absolutely am unable to forgive this game for? I was bored. BORED. The biggest sin in the gaming world: The anti-game.

Why finish it then? Well, I was determined to give it a chance, right to the bitter, boring end. And if another Zelda game were to be released, well, I’d probably give that a chance too. In the meantime, I’m going to read more books.

Review: Just Cause 2 (Xbox 360)

A few weeks ago I found myself in desperate need of fresh video game distraction. I am currently in a situation that can only be described as ‘surviving’, whilst I endure the painful wait for either Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, or Nintendo’s Skyward Sword to be released. There is only so much Plants vs. Zombies I can play before my long-suffering boyfriend ditches me, and the intense disappointment that is Fable 3 resurfaces and sets me back even further. Yes, I am a melodramatic gamer.

However, like angels from heaven a missile from a Havoc helicopter, Just Cause 2 landed on my lap. The game is set on the fictional island of Panau, in southeast Asia. You play Rico Rodriguez, whose mission is to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak “Baby” Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

I can tell you that I have spent over 100 hours on this game and I am still not sure whether I am bored of – forgive my language – blowing shit up. You see, whilst this game is loosely based on a storyline, it is an easy thing to forget whilst you are grappling onto a passing jet whilst remotely triggering explosives that you just planted on twelve fuel depots, four antennas, seven turbines and a military Colonel’s face, before taking command of the jet flying it to the nearest oil rig, aiming it straight for the middle and leaping out shortly before impact, parachuting down to the nearest speed boat and powering off to safety. Wait, I’ve forgotten what my point was.

Yes the story line is fun too if you are that way inclined, but there is plenty of time for that. The game covers a whopping 400 square miles of desert, mountain, forest, grassland and sea. It is truly open-world, and I adore a proper open-world, free roaming game.

The characters that you encounter are charming (if not sometimes bordering on the ridiculous), the vehicles are numerous and fun, and I came across surprisingly few bugs or glitches whilst playing.

There isn’t much more to say about it really – it’s not the sort of game that asks to be picked apart and analysed. It is just pure, simple fun. Whether playing a marathon session or dropping in when you’ve had a stressful day for some rocket launcher relief, it’s easy to pick up and very, very difficult to achieve 100% completion. How long you find it enjoyable for is down to the individual, as it can get a little ‘samey’ after a while. For normal people, this may happen after 20 or 30 hours. If you suffer from mild OCD, like myself, you may not get that feeling until 120 hours in.

So, should the UK fall into the hands of a crazed dictator, rest assured I have the situation fully under control. I will be adding this skill to my CV right under ‘zombie take-over expert’ and ‘nuclear apolalypse consultant’.

Gamers shall inherit the Earth.

REVIEW: New Super Mario Bros Wii
January 2, 2010, 6:45 pm
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Ah, Mario. We’ve had a bitter-sweet love affair. There’s been laughter, there’s been tears, there’s been controllers thrown out of the window. We’ve been on and off over the last 20 years, and my, what a two decades it has been. Super Mario Bros on the NES  in 1990 was our first encounter. We were young and care-free – you taught my thumbs a thing or two. Super Mario Bros II came and went, and then, perhaps the love of my life, Super Mario Bros III. We flew. It was amazing.

Then things fizzled out a bit. Lands had been conquered, big dinosaurs slain, mushrooms and princesses rescued, and there was nothing more you could offer me. Until the N64 landed, and with it, Mario 64. To say I was swept off my feet is an understatement. I was hooked, I literally gamed entire nights away. Had to find all the red coins. Had to unlock every level. Had to find every star. Had to find EVERY STAR. I revisit this particular Mario episode every few years and it still fascinates me. Not quite as much as it did when it was first released in 1996, however when you compare it against modern console games, it still fares pretty bloody well.

Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii was really as close to a sequel (in terms of game design) as you can get. It was fun, but really didn’t offer much I hadn’t seen 14 years ago. The so-called ‘mutiplayer’ functionality was a joke, and I can’t forgive it for that.

So after that downer, I sprang hopefully onto Nintendo’s latest offering – “New Super Mario Bros Wii”. Back to 2D for Mario and friends, using a similar, yet modernised map layout to navigate through. The level time-limit also returns, thankfully, as do many of the vintage bad guys we know and love (hello, Boss Bass! Hello, Rocky Wrench!), which, as a result, re-lights some of the spark I felt all those years ago. The Wii remote is held sideways, making it feel similar to the tiny NES remotes. Battling Bowser is insanely tricky at the end of the game – I couldn’t help but wonder if the 7 year-old me would have been able to handle it easily, and my thumbs and reflexes have deteriorated with age, or if it was in fact just very, very difficult.

Nintendo have marketed this game heavily on it’s multiplayer functionality, which seems to be a bit of a shame as it is perfectly playable as a single player game in it’s own right. That said, I probably enjoy this game more in the multiplayer mode than single player. It is something Mario has longed for for many years, and has been executed brilliantly on this episode. I do have the following warnings when embarking on multiplayer, however:

1) Avoid playing with your partner unless you have a rock-solid relationship.

2) Do not attempt to use multiplayer to process through the game unless all players are at the same skill-level. Resent is an ugly emotion.

3) Do not play whilst in a bad mood. Some levels are extremely frustrating and it will only aggravate the situation.

Aside from the multiplayer enhancement (plus a few power-ups and secret end level), it really offers nothing new – whether this is a good thing or not depends on your expectations of the game. When you hand over your hard-earned cash for this game, you have to remember you are buying into two main things – the new multiplayer function, and the nostalgia factor.

So the overall verdict? It’s an extremely playable game, and as addictive as some of Nintendo’s most successful titles. The inclusion of retro landscapes and characters keep the Mario-fans happy, whilst it is modern enough for players of all ages and experience levels to enjoy it. Now I wait patiently to see if the Nintendo team can come up with an installment to top that of Mario III and Mario 64. Well, maybe not that patiently…