Friday, March 27, 2015

Mario Party 10 (Wii U) Review

The work week ends and the weekend begins with celebratory fashion. Party hard with Mario and friends in the tenth installment of the Mario Party franchise, Mario Party 10. Is this party worthy of RSVPing to? Find out with my in-depth review!

Bowser's crashed this party. It's recommended
that you go ahead and crash it, too.

Mario Party games used to be like Maroon 5. It was everywhere, and you couldn't get away from it no matter how much you'd want to and how many times you'd smash your head against a brick wall to suffer enough brain damage to forget it forever. However, over the years and with a change of development team (Hudson to ND Cube, which to be fair is made up of former Hudson employees), Mario Party has dialed it back a bit. For instance, the Wii only had two Mario Party games released for it when the Nintendo 64 and GameCube had three and four respectively. Now, over 15 years later since his very first party, Mario is back with friends (and a ticked off Bowser) in Mario Party 10, the first entry to hit the Wii U. Does this party deliver a fiesta of fun?

Mario Party 10's main mode, the aptly titled Mario Party, is structured similarly to Mario Party 9's. It has all four players riding along a fairly linear board, occasionally offering a duo of paths to venture down, in the same vehicle. The player whose turn it is controls the vehicle by rolling a die, and whatever spaces they land on or events they pass through happen solely to them. The goal of the Mario Party mode is to possess the most Mini Stars by the end of the board. This is performed through playing mini-games which happen sporadically through landing on special spaces, collecting coins from special event spaces, and a myriad of other means.

Mushroom Park, the first of only five boards.
Captain events from Mario Party 9 are absent, but this is seen by me as a good thing. Captain events had the player who controlled the vehicle upon reaching the event the choice of trying to influence the game with some strategy. However, these events generally took so long that they became annoying on repeated play-throughs. With Mario Party 10 removing these, play is much faster.

The player in control of the vehicle is about to get
that bundle of Mini Stars laying there.
In fact, play in general in Mario Party 10 is much faster and streamlined. Gone is the waiting for a CPU player to choose a special dice block in their possession and slowly rolling it. Instead, the block is chosen without any scene showing them selecting it, and they roll. Mini-games load faster, offering simple explanations via a quick video and short, scrolling description. There's little "now what button do I press again?" in this Mario Party.

The Mushroom Kingdoms crew will do just
about anything for their daily dose of Vitamin C.
In the Mario Party mode, there are five boards to play on, a departure from past games that usually have six full boards at the very least. These boards feature plenty of chances for the tides to turn, allowing some players to make a daring comeback-- perhaps TOO many. It can seem sometimes that the first 75% of a board has little bearing on the outcome of a game when the last 25% has a heavy influence on who is deemed the winner and who goes home a last-second loser... and an understandably bitter one at that. When one board has it where if you end up in the path of a fireball near the end and you lose half of your Mini Stars-- which is very easy to do-- games can be decided a bit unfairly at times. What's the point of playing the first three quarters of a board, you might ask? That would be a good question, in all honesty.

Halfway through and at the end of each Mario Party mode board is a fortress that serves as a place in a game for one of two boss mini-games. These pit four players against one boss with the goal of earning the most hits against the boss to earn the most points. There are mini-games where you try to memorize and avoid the locations of Boos to traverse a series of tiles leading to one of many spotlights to shine in King Boo's naught face, and games where you try to stumble your way through a maze to reach one of four cannons first to blast a colossal Monty Mole.

A barrage of bombs are blasted in Petey
Piranha's unattractive mug.
Meanwhile, Bowser Party pits four players against Bowser, once again highlighting the Wii U's ability to use asymmetrical gameplay in a beneficial way. The four players use Wii Remotes while the Bowser player utilizes the Wii U GamePad for rolling die and controlling one of ten specially made mini-games for this mode.

Each player on the competing side begins in the same vehicle with a set amount of hearts. Each player rolls a die, earning a special and quite helpful dice block when they land on a blue space. These can be used strategically to gain create some distance between the players and Bowser. Once the players roll, Bowser gets several dice blocks to roll at once. Depending on how well or poorly the Bowser player does, the always loyal Bowser Jr. either assists his father with the addition of more dice blocks or to cause havoc for the other players.

Faced with the other option of being destroyed
by Bowser, I think it's understandable to run away.
When Bowser catches up with the other players, a mini-game begins with the goal of Bowser to defeat the other players (or at least rough them up real good) and for the other side to just survive. The mini-games have Bowser employing a varied amount of means to damage the other players, costing them hearts in the process. All the while the players need to evade Bowser's assaults. One mini-game has the players needing to quickly alternate between the A and 2 buttons to climb up a tower to avoid Bowser's advances, who pursues and shuffles up behind them. The majority of the mini-games are all about dodges Bowser's attacks with just one of them being based on luck for both sides. The mini-games seen in Bowser Party are fun to play, much like the other mini-games in general, but I can't help but wish there were at least five or ten more. With only ten mini-games total in Bowser Party, one can fly through all of them within one or two games.

Careful, Mario and friends, or Bowser
is going to hand it to you-- literally!
The most controversial mode in Mario Party 10 is Amiibo Party, controversial due to the fact that it's hidden behind a paywall, the price of an amiibo figurine. This is closest to the traditional Mario Party rules of old. There are ten turns, and four players roll the die to move around a square board. The goal is to earn coins either through the mini-games that play after each round of turns is over or through landing on special spaces and areas to afford Power Stars. The player with the most Power Stars at the conclusion of ten turns is deemed the winner.

Depending on the Amiibo used, the board in
Amiibo Party will have different properties to it.
While it definitely stinks that you have to possess a $12-$13 figurine to play this mode, it sort of is offset by Mario Party 10 costing $50 MSRP instead of the full $60. Buying a figure makes it so you're basically paying the price of a full game anyway. Those mental and financial gymnastics by me aside, this isn't optimal for most people, especially those on a budget. It definitely is geared towards those who collect amiibo like myself. It's sort of underhanded by Nintendo and ND Cube to have a mode locked behind requiring a $12 toy.

Mario Party 10's mini-games are one of the best batches in series history. There are a lot of things you can slight developer ND Cube for with their installments of the Mario Party series (9, 10, and the Nintendo 3DS's Island Tour), but the mini-game selection is not one of them. Games are played in a free-for-all setting, 2 vs. 2 team setting, or 1 vs. 3 setting. Thankfully, the majority of these are skill-based with maybe just one relying a little on luck.

I don't want your honey-- honest! Leave me "bee"!
The games presented here in Mario Party 10 are generally really fun. Bob-Omb Bogey, for instance, has players trying to be the first to hit a golf ball that appears onto a tee to earn the most points. However, occasionally a Bob-Omb appears, which takes away points if it's hit by a player. Beeline Shrine features a challenge of avoiding bees that appear in various patterns. Meanwhile, Snake Block Party is a bit of platforming peril, having players scurry along in the sky on moving snake blocks, trying to reach the goal first.

Mario fans finally get that paintball game
that they have been wanting.
Outside of the three main modes, there are multiple miniature modes in the mix as well, such as Coin Challenge that pits four players to compete in a series of seven randomly selected mini-game to determine the winner by coin amount at the very end. There are also two more complicated mini-games in the form of Badminton Bash and Jewel Drop.

This mini-game looks simple enough,
but then you get tilt controls to worry about.
In addition to the modes presented in Mario Party 10, you can spend Mario Party Points earned from playing the game on various in-shop items in Toad's Room. From two secret characters to different vehicles for Mario Party mode, backgrounds and character models for the Photo Mode (which you can share your pics with folks on Miiverse), and music, there's a lot to spend your hard-earned points on. There are also challenges that unlock when specific conditions are met, earning players hundreds of Mario Party Points and adding some longevity to Mario Party 10 in the process.

Ground pounds are a hazard to your butts, kiddies.
Make note of this.
Many of the modes in Mario Party 10 offer a more streamlined approach, and it seems that has bled over into the presentation of the game, too. Basic and minimalist menus are what Mario Party 10 delivers, and while they look serviceable enough, I do miss the personality that was apparent in the presentation of past Mario Party games. What is present in Mario Party 10 is much more sterile in comparison. The visuals are quite pleasant on the other hand, possessing tremendous amounts of character and polish. This is best displayed in the mini-games, which are bursting with personality. The music features competent melodic tunes with a suitably amount of cheeriness to them, though nothing that I could currently hum back to you. They just aren't that memorable this time around.

Mario Party 10 might not be the great game that fans were hoping for the milestone tenth installment, but it's a fun game in small doses and solely if you have other friends to play with. A lack of online play of any kind-- even if just for mini-games, is pretty much inexcusable in 2015, once again showing Nintendo's archaic stance on online play, and hiding Amiibo Party behind a $12 paywall is sort of slimy. However, with some of the best mini-games ever seen in a Mario Party game, great boards, and a wide selection of playing choices, Mario Party 10 manages to make for a hearty party.

[SPC Says: C+]

Announcing the Release of Super Push Adventure, My First Official Game!

As someone who has been reviewing games for the better part of seven years now, you might be asking yourself occasionally, "Well, if you know what makes a good game, then why don't you put your money where your mouth is?" For the past two years I've been doing just that, working on my own video game.

Today I am very excited to announce that that game in question, Super Push Adventure, is now complete and is ready for download! Here's a description from the game page on!
Super Push Adventure stars Trevor McMannis, a bird aficionado, who gets a tip that a rare, elusive species of bird is holed up in a secret cavern. Trevor enters a finds more than he bargained for! Can you help Trevor solve the trials of this mysterious cavernous complex and nab each bird on each floor of the game?

Over 80 levels of pushing fun! - Every ten floors is a new themed area, and each floor gradually introduces new gameplay mechanics and gimmicks to keep the experience fresh and fun!

Charming cast of characters! - See the beginning of a beautiful friendship when Trevor meets up with a talking bipedal wolf in a fedora, Rolf! The two have humorous conversations and witty dialogue abound!

Original sprites and music! - Look at the well designed and simplistic art style while you listen to the catchy and melodic tunes made specifically for Super Push Adventure!

Over 25 challenges to complete! - Meet certain requirements to complete in-game challenges that keep the longevity of the game going! Perhaps after completing a certain amount of challenges you will unlock something good!

Challenge yourself to beat the target times! - Try to beat all 80+ levels in quick fashion to beat Rolf the Wolf's target times for each level. Can you beat them all?

Here are some screenshots of the game in action:

If you'd like to listen to the soundtrack in anticipation for playing Super Push Adventure, you can check it out at this link

As for the game, download it here for FREE and let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Super Smash Flash 2: When Fans Create Something Special

While SuperPhillip Central covers retail, digital, AAA, independent, and pretty much every other type of video game release, one that I don't really cover is that of fan-made games. Many times you have folks who make a fan game based on an established video game property, and it falls victim to poor planning; it's trying to make money off of someone else's work, which is a no-no; it reeks of amateurism, or it's just not that fun to play. 

However, you can really tell when someone's heart is in the right place when they make a fan-made game that is truly something special. A site that I recently found that houses several very well put together fan games is the newly rechristened Poki. While the selection of games isn't wholly fantastic-- there are plenty of stinkers, as to be expected with any collection of games-- it does offer a lot of content that you can tell was derived by fans enamored with the source material used.

Super Smash Flash 2 is a game in the Mario category of fan games that is the one that I'd like to talk about. If the name didn't already give it away, Super Smash Flash 2 is a party fighter akin to Nintendo's super popular Super Smash Bros. series, one that dates back to the Nintendo 64. 

One of the great things about making a fan game is that you aren't tied to reality. You can throw in Dragon Ball Z's Goku vs. Nintendo's Mario because you don't have to worry about licensing fees or any of the legal mumbo jumbo. Of course, again, that's only if your game isn't infringing on copyrights or you're trying to make money off of it.

Super Smash Flash 2 brings with it a myriad of characters in up to four player brawls. Characters in the game include Super Smash Bros. standbys and Nintendo all-stars like Mario, Link, Pikachu, Fox McCloud, Samus Aran, Donkey Kong, and more. Meanwhile, you have third-party characters like Lloyd Irving from Tales of Symphonia, Black Mage from the Final Fantasy series, Naruto from the anime and manga of the same name, among many others. 

Then you have stages that like the 2D spritework are masterfully done. There's Mega Man X's Central Highway, Sonic the Hedgehog's Sky Sanctuary, and The Legend of Zelda's Hyrule with the world map from A Link to the Past in the background while fighters duke it out on a platform in the foreground. The creativity displayed is quite impressive.

The combat itself is also worth mentioning with positive regard. Character movement is performed with the WASD keys while attacks both physical and special are done with the O and P keys. Grabs are performed with the U key. It takes some getting used to, but once you get accustomed to them, things quickly begin to feel more natural during play.

Super Smash Flash 2 is an example of some folks with a lot of passion for video games and the source materials of their favorite series creating something that not only plays well, but looks great and thankfully does not infringe legally on anything-- all great hallmarks of a great fan-made game. It's incredibly exciting to see pet projects like this get a chance to shine on sites like Poki, and if you're looking for other games like it with as much passion and heart poured into it, thankfully there's a lot more on the 'net where Super Smash Flash 2 came from.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gone But Not Forgotten 3: More Game Cancellations That Still Sting

Time to open up some old wounds, ladies and gentlemen! When a game you're hyping is suddenly cancelled, whether it's with an official announcement or worse, quietly never talked about again, it's an emotional blow that takes something out of your soul. Perhaps I'm waxing poetic here, so I'll just say that a game cancellation for something you're hyped about takes its toll on you. That's what this series of articles is all about, games that were cancelled, either ceremoniously or not, that still hurt to this day. If you'd like to check out the first and second installments of this series, check them out with part one and part two. Now, let's open up those wounds!

Maverick Hunter X (PS3, 360)

We kick this third look at cancelled games with some Mega Man X action. Developed by several folks who had worked on Metroid Prime, Maverick Hunter X was pumped and primed to be Capcom's attempt to create a similar game. Played in a first-person perspective with the ability to scale walls, Mega Man X was in an all-new form for this perceived reboot. However, as Mega Man lead director Keiji Infaune left the company, this project was scrapped. Thankfully, all of us can view this footage of what could have been a fantastic entry in the series and a new era of Mega Man games.

True Fantasy Live Online (XBX)

A collaboration with Level-5 and Microsoft, True Fantasy Live Online was met with feverish anticipation from the moment it was unveiled. Offering an expansive fantasy world allowing for thousands of players to inhabit it simultaneously, the promises made by both companies involved sounded too good to be true. Unfortunately, they very much were too good to be true. A combination of Level-5's inexperience with online gaming and Microsoft's continued demands made for a partnership that quickly unraveled at the seams. The project was officially cancelled, and the two sides left with a bit of equal bitterness.

Star Fox 2 (SNES)

Nintendo and Argonaut Games worked together on this direct sequel to 1993's Super Nintendo classic Star Fox. It was to feature new vehicle types, two new Star Fox team members, and an upgraded use of the Super FX chip, allowing for unparalleled 3D on the Super Nintendo hardware. The latter was the reason this basically complete game was shelved, never to be released in official capacity. Star Fox 2 was set to release in the summer of '95. However, it seemed this projected date was too close to that of the launch of the Nintendo 64. Thus, Nintendo decided to not release the game, wanting the next Star Fox to use highest caliber graphics possible that only the N64 could provide.

Crash Team Racing 2010 (PS3, 360, Wii)

Planned for development in 2010, a prototype for an all-new Crash Team Racing was being devised by High Impact Games, most notably the makers of various PSP spin-offs of acclaimed PlayStation series like Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, Secret Agent Clank, and Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, to name a few. Before the prototype could be completely 100% finished, the publisher Activision cancelled the project. However, there is footage of the prototype and game in motion. The cancellation of this 2010 incarnation of Crash Team Racing was a rolling snowball in the number of cancellations surrounding the Crash Bandicoot IP, including a Nintendo DS racer by Renegade Kid and a new 3D platformer in the series. Nowadays, Crash Bandicoot sits at home reliving his best days and old adventures on his busted PS1 and watching commercials starring himself. He now weighs 408 lbs.

Toe Jam & Earl 3 (DC)

While the funky duo of Toe Jam and Earl did arrive for a third installment on the Xbox, that finished product and the original vision of the game on the Dreamcast are two entirely different beasts. While the Xbox game is more of a traditional 3D adventure, the Dreamcast game was much more in line with how its Genesis predecessors behaved and played. The so-called "rough cut" is available to play, and you can do so and find more information about the project at this link, courtesy of Eurogamer. Do you think in a parallel universe the finished Dreamcast would have been more intriguing than the released Xbox game?

Mega Man Mania (GBA)

Bookending this edition of Gone But Not Forgotten is a double dose of Mega Man. Around the time that Mega Man Anniversary Collection, which contained all eight mainline classic Mega Man games, was announced and later released for the PS2, GameCube, and later the Xbox, Capcom also had plans to release a companion collection for the Game Boy Advance. This would have been a compendium of Mega Man's handheld adventures from the original Game Boy. Months upon months turned into years with little information regarding Mega Man Mania (here's footage in the form of a trailer), the compilation in question, until it was sadly and silently killed off, much like the Blue Bomber is with Capcom today.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4, XONE, PC) Gameplay Video – “Officer Down”

"As the citizens of Gotham flee and criminal gangs take control of the city, Batman uses his own special methods to discover the true purpose behind Scarecrow's plans."


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