Saturday, November 1, 2008

Central City Census - November

As I stated in New Reviews, it's a brand spanking new month. Time to check out the results of October's Central City Census. I'm floored by the amount of votes received this time. The majority of it came from users at GoNintendo, and I thank them as well as the man who made it possible, Kevin Cassidy (RMC), the blog's headmaster. Without your support this would not have been possible.

As you can see, an overwhelming majority chose the Wii as the system they own the most games for. I cannot wait to see questions like "Wii has games to buy?" or ignorant drivel like that. You can tell the results are lopsided when the winning choice beats all three of the other choices put together. As for myself, I voted DS which I own more games than I should legally be allowed to possess.

That was October's census, so let's hop straight into November's!

A lot more folks are viewing my blog than imagined, but not everyone has the same viewing pattern. Some people are regular readers who come daily or every other day whereas others may browse once a month or never return. November's Central City Census deals with this issue. Which camp are you in? How regularly do you follow SuperPhillip Central?

November's New Reviews

Ah, yes. The time of the year that will test my skills as a new blogger. For the first time, I'll be blogging during the busy holiday months. So many new games I want to try, so little time to write up reviews for them as I've already shown signs of weakness with my still empty Castlevania review. Let's first take a look at how performed during October.

LEGEND:
Completed
Italicized w/reason for my failure

Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii)
Samba de Amigo (Wii)
de Blob (Wii)
Kirby Super Star Ultra (DS)
Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (DS) - I didn't even plan on playing this, but I found it at Blockbuster.
LittleBigPlanet (PS3) - was delayed to the end of October
Mega Man 9 (PSN, XBL, WW) - Didn't happen.
WipEout HD (PSN) - I'm going to try the PSP version that I got for $14.99 first.

All righty. Basically, I did one review a week for the month of October. Not too terribly bad.
Without any further ado, here's what I have planned for November's newest reviews!

November Reviews
LittleBigPlanet (PS3)
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift (PS3)
Saints Row 2 (PS3, X360)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (X360)
Wii Music (Wii)
Mega Man 9 (PSN, XBL, WiiWare)

That's just for starters. Who knows-- there may be a surprise or two thrown in for fun!
What do you guys and gals think? Are these games good enough to cover?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Castlevania: Order of Ecclessia (DS) Review

This will be posted as Friday's review, and it should be ready by the end of Saturday along with the Saturday updates. Hope everyone else is having a great Halloween! :)

- SuperPhillip

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (X360) Demo Impressions

Hello there. I don't usually do previews for the reason that I don't get to play many preview copies. Most demos are released after the game is out. What's the point of doing impressions when it's already out and everyone else has the game? This past week, however, Microsoft placed a demo of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts onto the Xbox Marketplace, and I had the chance to take it for a spin. I say spin because this game focuses more on vehicles than actual platforming. A Rare representative stated that Nuts & Bolts would be 80% vehicles and 20% good old fashioned platforming. Well, for hour or two of time I played, the demo version was more like 95% vehicles and 5% good old fashioned platforming-- if that.

There's still platforming to be had.
Just not so much in the demo.

By the time the demo started, Banjo and Kazooie were already in Showdown Town, the hub world of Nuts & Bolts, and they were having a conversation with the Lord of Games, or L.O.G. for short. He had grown tired of Banjo/Grunty feud, and he wanted to settle it once and for all. The goal of the game is this: if bear and bird make it back to Spiral Mountain, they win. It's up to Gruntilda, the witchy nemesis of the series, to stop them from doing so. To reach Spiral Mountain, Banjo must collect Jiggies-- puzzle pieces that open various doors to various new worlds for exploration. The humor of the series is retained, so no worries about that. However, I do have a problem with the text size. It's way too small! It's bigger than Dead Rising's at least, but what the heck is that all about? I shouldn't have to sit near my TV just to read the dialogue especially when it sometimes advances automatically!

Besides that glaring issue, the aesthetics of the demo blew me away. They were colorful, crisp, and full of charm. There was nary a bit of framerate issues save for heading underwater. The score is absolutely sensational featuring numerous tunes from past Banjo titles including a medley for the first main world, Banjo Land, featuring Gobi's Desert, Freezeey Peak, and Mad Monster Mansion, for starters. These songs are fully orchestrated which brought a huge smile to my face.

Poor Grunty's "a head" of herself.
In the next game, will she just be a brain in a tube?

As stated before, the majority of the gameplay in the demo was spent inside vehicles. I found the handling of the vehicles to be a bit unforgiving and somewhat clumsy. A simple small rock in the road could send Banjo severely off-course. Hopefully this is just a result of having a starting vehicle, and later unlocked vehicles will handle much better.

So after a little exploring in Showdown Town after acquiring my first vehicle, some kind of four-wheeler with a tray to haul things around in, I drove up the spiral road leading up to L.O.G.'s manor. He gave me a game world to be placed inside this machine that would open up the first of many worlds, Banjo Land. But before entering new territory, I decided to zoom around town gathering musical notes-- the currency of the game-- meeting old friends like Mumbo Jumbo who traded in his voodoo magic for some mechanic magic, Bottles the mole, and Humba Wumba who acts as a merchant this time around, and bowling over innocent rhino pedestrians with my vehicle. That will teach you to exercise your right to walk on a public city street, you bastard!

Scattered around the first and only part of Showdown Town available are little boxes. These contain parts which can be used to customize and/or build your dream vehicle. You have a lot of freedom to create whatever vehicle however you want. Make it as top-heavy and undrivable as possible, or just follow a blueprint like I opted to. Why bother creating an awesome vehicle when I wouldn't be able to save it much less remember it?

Thus, I entered into the first world of Nuts & Bolts, Banjo Land, an essential museum of Banjo-Kazooie history full of set pieces from past levels in past B-K games. Such items include Boggy's igloo from Hailfire Peaks, the giant snowman from Freezeey Peak, the strength game from Witchyworld, a cemetery from Mad Monster Mansion, and much more. Included are little Banjo statues that will relay some information about each set piece for those unaware or wanting some fond memories.

Old friends like Mr. Fit return. Ah, memories...

Jiggies aren't just hanging around the levels like in past games-- at least not in this demo. Instead, there were three characters to talk to and accept their missions. One mission had me defending Clanker's eyes from attacking pursuers. Another had me racing against three other opponents to see whose ride would reign supreme. Lastly, I was told to push five soccer balls into a goal. This one was a toughy. Completing a goal is only half of the equation. Building the appropriate vehicle to take on the challenge is the other. At first I was struggling to push the balls into the net with my basic tray vehicle. Then I thought of using Kazooie's wand to place the soccer balls onto the tray of the vehicle and then driving each one into the goal. I passed the challenge after that attempt, but I wanted to see if I could do better. So I ditched the current vehicle and used another blueprint. With this new vehicle, it had a V-shape indentation which meant I could push a ball with the vehicle into the net without much worry of it slipping away from me. My score improved. Finally, I figured out that I could utilize some springs to the front which catapulted each ball across the goal line and into the net without even going near the net on my own. I think this game will involve a lot of trial and error to decide the best vehicle for each situation.

Banjo's reaction after finding out that
Kazooie's pregnant and he's the father.
"Abandon ship!"

Overall, I left the demo of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts with a good feeling. Unlike Capcom, Rare is the type of company that actually listens to their fans on fixing technical problems with patches. If you wanted pure platforming action on your 360, stick with the upcoming Banjo-Kazooie XBLA game. I'm still positive about the game, I didn't cancel my preorder or anything, and I'm anxiously waiting to play the real thing. Of course, having a small, unheard-of title named LittleBigPlanet to play doesn't make the wait seem so long, but that's another story.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

de Blob (Wii) Review

This new review examines a very intriguing Wii game from THQ, de Blob. Was it as promising as it seemed?

===

Color My World


What does a presently devoid-of-color city, a ruthless regime bent on backwards rationale, and an amorphous blob have in common with one another? If you guessed Rush Limbaugh, you are incorrect. No, I'm talking about de Blob for the Nintendo Wii. Created by Aussie developer, Blue Tongue, and published by THQ, de Blob is a Western game that displays brilliant charm and shows that there's still some creativity in game design out West. Could greatness be a part of de Blob's true colors?

Chroma City was once the most happening, colorful, and eye-catching place in all of Raydia. That was until a sinister force, the INKT Corporation led by the nefarious Comrade Black, set out to take the color out of the city and then the entire world. Possessing an armada of foot soldiers, tanks, cannons, and leechbots, INKT has captured the once peaceful inhabitants of Chroma City, the Raydians, and turned them into the drab, colorless Graydians. Awakened by the commotion from his nearby forest home, our hero Blob, leaps into the city to right the achromatic wrongs caused by INKT, and joins the local color revolutionaries who will assist Blob by giving him tips, strategies, and challenges to complete.


Meet Blob. Blob just discovered Enzyte.

de Blob's story spans ten levels each with two bonus missions after the completion of the mainline story mission. As Blob enters into a level, it's almost completely devoid of color-- everything's a cold shade of gray. Each level is divided up into several large areas which Blob can seamlessly travel to and from as long as the entrance gate has been unlocked. Gates will remain closed until the button in front of them is stepped on, but a button won't be operational until Blob's accumulated enough points. Points are gathered by defeating enemies, painting individual buildings and blocks of buildings, collecting point icons, completing challenges, and performing other odds and ends around town.

Paint points are Blob's lifeline. If Blob gets "inked" by being attacked by an enemy or falling into the inky pollution filling various levels while his paint points are at or reach zero, Blob loses a life. Thankfully, whatever his current progress is will be saved at the exact spot at which Blob lost a life. However, if Blob perished during a challenge, he'll have to begin it all over again. Speaking of which, challenges are the main point-earners of de Blob. Once a challenge is completed, more will pop up in other locations. These are given to Blob by his fellow team of color revolutionaries. Viva la revolucion! These challenges come in four different types indicated by the color of the challenge marker-- an easy to see arrow. Green arrows indicate the mission will have Blob coloring a specific row or block of objects or buildings a certain color or colors. Orange arrows have Blob being asked to neutralize a series of enemies. Blue arrows will have Blob jetting from checkpoint to checkpoint in an attempt to reach the goal before time runs out. Finally, brown arrows gives Blob a challenge straight from the revolution leader, the Professor. These have Blob needing to load up on color, leap into a landmark, and grant pigmentation back to a given landmark or landmarks. What was once an INKT police station will transform into a Raydian record store in a brilliant flash of light.

That ink sludge will infect Blob if it touches him.
Find some water to wash it off before his paint points drop to zero.

Paintbots roam the streets and blocks of Chroma City, awaiting Blob to crash into them to gain color. There's seven colors that Blob can change into like a chameleon, but like the chameleon, he can't do so on the fly. Only by attacking a Paintbot can Blob change color. Paintbots only come in three colors: red, blue, and yellow, so Blob will need to combine colors to transform into a orange, green, purple, or brown Blob. For example, if Blob is currently sporting a fiery shade of red, he'd need to crash into a blue Paintbot to become purple. If Blob comes into contact with water, his color will disappear. Also, this is how to get rid of any ink trying to infect his happy-go-lucky ways. Color plays a big part in the various platforming, puzzles, and action of de Blob, so those that have trouble viewing colors or are color blind will quickly become frustrated playing this game. Being able to identify colors and hues is of the essence in playing de Blob.

Time is also of the essence. Each challenge has a time limit to it, but thankfully Blob can retry a mission at any time, and for the most part, he can pick up right where he left off when he attempts the challenge again. Additionally, each level has a timer counting down. This can be extended from completed challenges, discovering hidden time icons sprinkled throughout the levels, and awarded to thankful Raydian residents who Blob can save from their sickly sentence of no color by painting an entire block of buildings. Now, Blob can scurry through levels, earning enough points to pass through gates and otherwise just get by, but aspiring revolutionaries can try to earn the ten awards in each level. These don't all need to be completed in one run, but the majority of them can be acquired in one go. These range from rescuing all Raydians, coloring all of the trees, billboards, and landmarks in a level, and so on. There's 100 awards in all to collect, and finding everything in a level can take an hour minimum to do. Heck, even completing a level at a fast pace can take 15-30 minutes, and that's without a checkpoint at any time.

Let's just say he's not going to give him a hug.

This was made mention of earlier but to go into more detail, there's two side-missions for each level that open up after the story mission is completed. These missions are much shorter timed excursions lasting 1-2 minutes. Some are as simple as racing up an obstacle-infested tower to reach the goal while others have Blob painting as many buildings a possible before diving into the exit pool which ends essentially every level in the game. Based on Blob's performance, he'll score a bronze, silver, or gold medal for his efforts. In addition to the single-player mode of missions and challenges, there's also local multiplayer for up to three other friends. Blob and his buddies can partake in free paint sessions, tag where everyone is trying to tag the colored blob as he is the only one who can paint and rack up points, and several race modes. It's good fun sober or not. Then again, almost everything's fun when you're drunk... at least that's the word on the street.

This extra mission requires Blob to take out as many
INKT Troopers as possible within the time limit.

de Blob controls rather well. The analog stick moves Blob around, and the Z trigger locks onto enemies. A decision that's baffling is Blue Tongue's decision to map the jump action to the Wii remote. A flick of the Wii remote sends Blob leaping into the air. The problem with this is that when the player is required to make multiple, frequent jumps, the Wii remote isn't capable of responding as fast as it should. This means a jump here and there won't be registered if Blob needs to jump at a frenetic pace. It would only be a large problem if the game had very impossible sections. However, this is not the case as the game is rather easy-- but entertaining nearly all the way-- to play and complete. Another hindrance is that of the camera-- a thorn in many a platformer's paw. In tight spaces it's erratic at best. The player is forced to babysit it by using the Wii remote's d-pad. Many times a missed jump would be the result of the camera moving at the last-- most inopportune-- second. Likewise, when the controls and camera work, they work well. Walljumping from building to building to rack up an insane combo is really fulfilling and fun to pull off. There have been times though when Blob would get caught between two objects, and the only course of action would be to retry the level. And as said before, when the player is in the middle of an hour-long level, restarting is a great way of pissing someone off.

Nonetheless, de Blob is a very stylistic game. The colors become bright and visually appealing as each level progresses. Characters speak gibberish out loud which is preferred to badly-voiced cartoon-y dialects. It's rather endearing this way like Banjo-Kazooie. The music is mostly funk which will have the player bopping his head up and down occasionally. It starts out weak and pitiful with a flourish here and there as Blob paints buildings, but as more of a level is painted, the music kicks up to a funky melody and moving beat. The player can even choose Blob's mood at the start of each level so he or she can choose the song they want to get "This Old House" to. Maybe that was too old of a reference for this generation. Would "Extreme Makeover: City Edition" work better?

These blue pads allow Blob to leap off each one in succession.

de Blob is a very welcomed addition to the Wii's library. Sure, there will be a lot of Wii owners who will ignore this game like so many other third party efforts just so they can continue to say that the Wii has no games. That's their loss-- both for fun and for the $250 that they spent on the Wii. However, everyone else will get a great kick out of de Blob. It's charming, fresh, a joy to play, has loads of personality and character, a great amount of effort put into it, and here's the kicker-- it's published by THQ! de Blob is another promising title from Western third parties for Wii that shows that maybe not all is lost on the West.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Story: There's some funny movies in between each story mission, and Blob gets a briefing of each mission during loading.

Graphics: Heavily-stylized and colorful. There's really nothing that disgusted me.

Gameplay: Fluid at times, but there should have been a choice between analog or motion to jump.

Sound: A funky soundtrack performed by real-live instruments. The only actual voice work in the game that isn't gibberish is a PSA for INKT.

Replay Value: Levels can take anywhere from 10-70 minutes depending on how you play them. It's annoying to play through a level again just because you missed one thing.

Overall: 8.5/10

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SuperPhillip Has Infiltrated LittleBigPlanet!

I don't even have the game yet, but SuperPhillip is already inside the world of LittleBigPlanet thanks to reader and good friend, MARI0. This was news to me because: 1) I didn't know you could edit Sackboy to that detail or at all, and 2) I wasn't even expecting such a cool surprise. I hope to be able to play and share levels with you, MARI0, as well as anyone else who'd love to partner with a real-life superhero. Stay tuned for a detailed review of LittleBigPlanet sometime next month.

Monday, October 27, 2008

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Don't Pee Your Pants Edition

Halloween is this Friday. I didn't plan this, but this week we have two tracks from one gothic and one creepy game. If that doesn't put you into the haunting spirit, then perhaps an appearance by Wario will! To round out the week we have Perfect Dark and No More Heroes being represented.
===

This song is one of the many boss themes of the Rondo of Blood remake, Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, for the Sony PSP. I'm a sucker for choir/chanting music, so I had to include it for sure.



"Bitores Mendez"... the village chief of the unsettling European village in Resident Evil 4. This scary, atmospheric tune plays during your one and only encounter with the chief and his repulsive monster form.



This track comes from Perfect Dark-- my favorite FPS period. Best options, best maps, best weapons, best missions-- all in my opinion, of course. This is from the third full-blown mission in Chicago.



With the recent enough release of the very fun and entertaining 2D platforming romp, Wario Land: Shake It! for the Wii, I've decided to devote this edition to Wario. No, not from the Wii game, but from an underrated (at least to me) Gamecube title, Wario World. This jazzy theme is home to Greenhorn Forest, the very first level in the game.



This song plays during the opening cutscene of No More Heroes from the twisted but creative mind of Suda 51. You'll hear this melody during every mission in some form or another, but I think this is the best version. Now step into the garden of madness and listen.



Direct Linkage:

Direct Link - Tues Deus Meus

Direct Link - Bitores Mendez
Direct Link - Chicago: Stealth - Chicago X
Direct Link - Greenhorn Forest
Direct Link - Beam Katana Chronicles

Does the idea of waiting until next week for more volumes of my favorite VGMs scare the living daylights out of you? Have no fear, faithful follower!
Feel free to check out my Youtube channel as it's there that you can find all of my past and future volumes. Of course, I have heard that future entries are.... haunted.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The SPC Review Scale (0-10)

Perhaps you've been wondering what each number at the end of a review means. Different sites use different scales, and different numbers mean different things on different sites. Well, let me explain my rating scale for games in a simple fashion.

3/19/09 EDIT: Even simpler!

10 - Masterful

9 - Excellent

8 - Great

7 - Good

6 - Fair

5. Average

4. Flawed

3. Poor

2. Horrible

1. Repulsive

or use the long version...

10 - Virtually perfect with incredibly minor or no discernible flaws.

9 - A must-buy for any gamer. Almost but not quite perfect.

8 - A great game only barred by some minor flaws.

7 - An above average game worth a look to any gamer.

6 - Slightly above average but has many flaws holding it back.

5 - An average game that doesn't do too much for gaming as a whole.

4 - A below average game with bothersome flaws. Would only recommend to fans.

3 - A game filled with too many flaws to recommend to anyone.

2 - A horrible game which no gamer should play unless curious.

1 - An abomination to gaming. Will use to make spies talk.

Essentially, anything from 5-10 has more positives than negatives even if the game may not have been that incredible for me to play. From 0-4.75, there's more negatives than positives-- that is, if there are any positives at all.

Most of my reviews range from the 6-9.75 range, and that's for a good reason. I usually do enough research to know if I'm going to like a game before purchasing it. For those that I'm unsure of or just want to play something god-awful for once, I rent. The majority of the games I review are ones I've done research on and purchased, though I have been burned multiple times before. Hope that clears up why I don't have too many overly negative reviews. Why waste time playing crappy games? I'm not paid to play them like "gaming journalists".

Currently, my lowest-scored game is Ninjabread Man for the Wii which received a 2.5. I rented that out of morbid curiosity, rest assured. Hope this clears things up to those who weren't aware.

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