Saturday, August 8, 2009

Planet Puzzle League (DS) Review

I mentioned this game in the overlooked DS games article, so why not scrounge up the classic review of it and share? That's exactly what I did. Here's my review of Planet Puzzle League for the Nintendo DS.

Leagues above other puzzle games.

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Tetris Attack bursts onto the DS with a new name in the form of Planet Puzzle League. For those new to this type of puzzler, the standard playing style is that you hold the DS in book form so the screens are tall and skinny as opposed to short and wide. This is to allow you to move blocks without having your hand in the way while you play. This can be tweaked so you're able to play normally as if you were playing any other DS game. Left-handers are also accounted for as you can select to play left-handed under the options menu.

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Don't have a lot of time to play? Try the Daily Play mode.

The main aim of Planet Puzzle League is to line up three or more blocks of the same color and shape to score points. Meanwhile a line of blocks will continue to stack up from the bottom of the screen. If the blocks reach the top of the screen, it's game over. The catch is that you can only slide blocks left or right with either the stylus (which is much more intuitive and simple to use) or using the traditional button controls. Create chains by setting up the blocks to clear and then have another line blocks fall on top and clear as well. Chains and combos are the greatest means to score big points.

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Multiple skins further enhance the PPL experience.

There's a variety of modes to be played in Planet Puzzle League as well. Single player modes include Endless mode which is an endurance game where you play until you receive a game over, Clear mode which has you clearing all the blocks below the clear line to advance to the next stage, Garage Challenge is where you have to clear adjacent blocks to giant garbage blocks to score points, Vs. COM which is a mode that pits you against a CPU opponent, Time Attack is a mode where you face a clock to score as many points as possible during the time limit, and finally, Puzzle mode will sharpen your brain as you try to clear all the blocks in a puzzle in a set number of moves. Additionally, there's a Daily Play mode perfect for casual gamers to pick up, play a 2 minute game, and try to beat their high scores.

The most notable feature of Planet Puzzle League besides the trance like presentation is the online mode where you can face other players to increase your overall rank, battle against players sharing your birthday, your skill level, or folks on your friends list. When playing friends on your list, you can even use voice chat to speak with them adding even more to the online experience.

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Dump garbage blocks on your unsuspecting opponent!

The main problem with Planet Puzzle League is that it seems to really appeal to casuals-- that is, there isn't anything to unlock. The only satisfaction players will obtain is either by beating their own high scores, clearing the various modes, or playing online with friends. Furthermore, there really isn't any personality to this game. It just seems "bleh". It obviously borrowed the techno-ish presentation from Q Entertainment's Lumines. However, these problems notwithstanding, Planet Puzzle League is still a terrific puzzler, and for fans of the old Tetris Attack and Pokemon Puzzle League games, there's a lot of modes and variety for anyone to easily pick up and play.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10] - Not a perfect puzzler but still fun in its own right.

Friday, August 7, 2009

inFamous (PS3) Review

I think this a record on SuperPhillip Central, four new reviews in the span of one week. Phew! I think I've deserved a break from reviews for a little bit. Here's my review of the Playstation 3 game, inFamous.

A Game That Will Live in inFamy

Since Grand Theft Auto III, the open-world sandbox game has become increasingly popular with everything from rip-offs like Saints Row, True Crime, and Godfather to superhero games like Spider-man 2 and The Incredible Hulk. Going along with the theme of superheroes, Sucker Punch, developers of the magnificent Sly Cooper trilogy from the Playstation 2 era have put aside the cel-shading, thieving raccoons, and cartoon visuals and traded them in for the gritty expanses of Empire City. Will inFamous charge its way into your heart, or will it shock you with its mediocrity?

You take on the role of Cole MacGrath, a delivery man of sorts whose last package delivered was unknowingly and actually a bomb that destroyed a six block radius in the heart of Empire City. Now the entire city is under strict quarantine, mad men have taken over the city, and Cole now has the power to wield and harness electricity. All in a day's work as a delivery man for sure. There's a supporting cast of friends and foes from the ever-annoying and in-the-way best friend of Cole, Zeke, to a former girlfriend who is infuriated with Cole for causing the explosion that killed her sister, to a secret agent who is seemingly Cole's only way out of Empire City, that is, if he does what he's told. Everything sounds like something out of a comic book along with Cole's origin, and it makes sense that the in-game cinematics are told in a graphic novel-like approach.

Still-frame comic book cut-scenes tell the story.

Empire City is split up among three islands that gradually open up for Cole to explore as the game progresses. There's the Neon District where the Reaper gang calls home, the harbor-filled and maximum security prison-housing Warren full of the Dust Men gang, and the old, dilapidated confines of the Historic District where the First Sons reign. The developers did a great job of giving each island its own flavor and ambiance.

After the explosion, Empire City fell to pieces. Gangs rule with an iron fist and firepower to match, and the power grid is all f'ed up. There's thirty-nine story missions in all to complete, and several of them task Cole with going deep into the subterranean depths to turn the power back on. These sewer levels feel very much like Sucker Punch's previous franchise, Sly Cooper. You're shimmying from pipes, leaping from pole to pole, balancing off pipes, and other acrobatic feats in a linear level. As Cole supplies the energy to power an area's substation, part of Empire City regains their electricity, and Cole learns a new move to boot!

Cole enters the sewers to turn on the power.

Cole's arsenal of electrical powers is small at first, but as he ventures down into the deep dark depths of the sewers he learns new moves. Cole can push enemies off of buildings with his shockwave power, toss explosive electrical grenades at foes, grind on rails like Tony Hawk, call forth lightning bolts from the heavens, hover slowly to the ground with his shock thrusters, and zap baddies with a fury of electrical shocks. If Cole takes damage or runs out of juice, he can siphon energy off numerous objects in the city from traffic lights to transformers on rooftops. The game feels like a third-person shooter at times with you holding down the L1 button aim while using the face and shoulder buttons to utilize Cole's various powers.

From downtown! Score!

In order to get around, the game feels very much like the Xbox 360's Crackdown except for the fact that Cole can't drive cars-- he'd short circuit them and blow himself to Hell. Instead, Cole is equipped with heightened mobility. He can traverse across power lines, scale tall buildings, and climb almost everything in the city. Sucker Punch did an admirable job of making sure a player could ascend any building or structure without too many headaches. There's something to grab ahold of and scale seemingly everywhere and on everything.

The structure of the game has you running, climbing, grinding, etc. to a mission point, you listen to the objective of the mission, run to the point or points to complete it, and unlock the next mission to start the process all over again. One of the problems with inFamous is that sometimes it becomes time-consuming to go from point A to point B, especially if the objectives are spread out across multiple islands. As stated, there's thirty-nine individual missions that advance the story, and they range from your typical escort missions to taking down a swarm of enemies to protecting a vehicle or base from damage to blowing jet fighters out of the skies. There's also a bounty of side missions that open up for Cole to accomplish. Once completed, sections of the city will lose gang activity and be free to explore without getting a cap blown in Cole's butt. There's a wide variety of varying side missions to complete, and these can put Cole in charge of saving hostages, taking down an enemy, tracking down a hidden package, protecting a police station, destroying signal jammers, racing across rooftops, and you get the idea of the amount of different missions Cole can take up. inFamous thankfully uses frequent in-mission checkpoints, so dying rarely has you redoing a large section of a mission all over again unlike some games. *Ahem* Grand Theft Auto IV. *Ahem*

Cole can even attack while perched on a pole.

inFamous gives the player a choice of morality. Multiple missions give Cole the choice between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing. One of the earliest missions tasks Cole with hoarding a shipment of air dropped food to himself and his friends by scaring everyone else away or to give everyone their fair share. These morality moments alter Cole's appearance as well as several cut-scenes throughout the game. Cole can act as a hero, a savior to Empire City, or he can become a villain with cold, gravestone gray skin and the fear of the people. It's worth it just to play through the game twice just to see the subtle differences between being good and being infamous. In addition to that, completing all of the side missions, collecting all audio diaries (dead drops), and tracking down all 350 hidden blast shards-- ammo-increasing items-- will stretch the longevity of the game in spades.

inFamous looks very good running on the Playstation 3. There's some graphical glitches here and there such as texture pop-in as well as pop-in in general, but that's to be expected from a game the scope of Empire City. Character models are adequate, and buildings and their architecture are wonderful. The music is quite good though not very memorable, and the voice acting does an adequate job of advancing the story without coming across as corny.

Empire City: Will you save it or forsake it?

inFamous borrows some concepts from Sucker Punch's previous Sly Cooper games and puts them into an open-world sandbox game. There's plenty to do, plenty to see, and plenty to explore. Wandering around Empire City aimlessly is a joy to just zap random pedestrians or scale the tallest buildings just to glide off of them. With numerous story and side missions, a decent story with plenty of twists, and the ability to play through the game twice with two different karma ratings, inFamous is a terrific new franchise from a studio that shows it knows what it's doing.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.0/10]

New Milestone - 50,000 Views

We've hit a new milestone on SuperPhillip Central: 50,000 views. My thanks to everyone who has been with the blog since the beginning as well as newcomers for making this possible. Let's see how long it takes up to 100,000 (if the counter even goes up to that!). Thanks again, everyone, and look forward to yet another brand-new review this week!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled (360, PS3) Review

Yesterday, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled hit Xbox Live Arcade after huge anticipation. Let's see how it holds up since 1991 with this review.

All's Shell That Ends Shell

Back in 1991, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all the rage. Comic books, TV shows, clothing, apparel, movies, party favors, Halloween costumes, cereal, trading cards, and yes, video games. No Turtles game is looked back upon more fondly than Turtles in Time for the Super Nintendo and arcades. Eighteen years later, Ubisoft has decided to gussy the game up with brand new high-definition graphics for Xbox 360 gamers. The outcome is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled for Xbox Live Arcade. Will this remake make you want to party like it's 1991?

Turtles in Time is your standard beat-em-up. You move along a side-scrolling path, beating up anything and everything that stands in your way from the level's boss. Apart from some foreground projectiles, there's nothing really in the levels that's wholly interactive. The focus is put strictly on beating enemies up. Re-Shelled is a remake of the arcade version of Turtles in Time, so there's differences between this and the SNES version. For one, the technodrome level is absent, and some of the bosses are exchanged for others or absent altogether. As for bosses, it's a mixed bag. Some like Baxter the Fly and Mechaturtle are easy to exploit once the pattern is recognized while others like Shredder and Krang are overpowered to the point of being cheap.

This time around you can attack in eight directions.

There's three modes to Re-Shelled: Story, Survival, and Quick Play. The latter allows you to enter any completed level at your leisure. Survival gives you one life to live with the goal to get as far through the game's nine levels as possible. Story follows the turtles as they track down their nemesis Shredder and the nefarious Krang as they've stolen the Statue of Liberty. And it was just reopened for people to enter the crown, you jerks! Shredder somehow gets the power to transport the turtles back in time, and it's up to the turtles to find their way back home. With only three modes, nine levels, a quick half hour of playing, a couple of times through the game, and no unlockables, there's really little for most players to keep coming back to. Thankfully, there's online play for up to four friends or complete strangers. You can't join an already in progress game like you could in the arcades, but then again you don't have to spend an endless supply of quarters to continue.

The old wrecking ball returns to "throom" turtles.

Battling baddies, foot soldiers, rock monsters, killer sewer creatures, and rambunctious robots is simplicity as its finest. One button attacks and one jumps. Sometimes you'll hurl a foe at the screen and not even know how you did it. Sure, there's the ability for a turtle's special attack, but in most cases the best course of action is a repetitive one-- mashing the attack button until your thumb falls asleep. That isn't to say the game gets old quickly, however. There's enough variety in levels-- traps, enemy types, etc-- to keep things interesting-- especially with friends locally or online.

Re-Shelled isn't exactly a faithful retelling of Turtles in Time. In this version, players can attack not only on X and Y axes but now on the z-axis as well. This means the turtles in addition to enemies can attack in eight directions. The crux of this is that strategies that worked in the 2-D versions won't necessarily work in the HD remake. Additionally, playing the game alone can be an effort in frustration as being ganged up on is all the more dangerous since you can be attacked from all sides instead of just to the left or right. Fans of the classic soundtrack of Turtles in Time will be shell-shocked as it has been replaced with some awfully poor music. Let's just say you'll be thankful your Xbox has a custom soundtrack feature.

With four players, the action gets very hectic.

Presentation-wise is where Re-Shelled got the biggest upgrade. This version of the game borrows heavily on the recent CG movie than the old comic books and 1990s television series. The game runs at a smooth clip, features some impressive locales, and it's pretty much a pleasure to look at. The turtles are voiced by their 2000 cartoon series brethren, and all of the dialogue from the original Turtles in Time is present and re-dubbed. Those of you who known the game verbatim will feel right at home with this remake in that regard.

It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's Super Krang.

All in all, TMNT Turtles in Time Re-Shelled isn't the classic Turtles in Time that many of us have been clamoring for. It's made of changes to the formula that not all players will be able to appreciate. The ability to attack from eight sides changes the game considerably, the addition of a different soundtrack is an odd design decision at best, and the lack of real unlockables hurts the game's longevity. That notwithstanding, for 800 points, Re-Shelled is definitely a cheaper alternative than inserting quarter after quarter into an arcade machine. Despite its quirks, this remake gets a recommendation. Just make sure you utilize online for best results.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Most Overlooked DS Games - Part Two

It's been a couple of months since we last looked at the DS's wide collection of overlooked games. It's time to induct a new class into the most overlooked DS games, so let's hop on to it! Perhaps this list will get you interested in a game you didn't even know you wanted!

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is a platformer with a twist. As you defeat enemies and play the game normally, the bottom screen fills up with puzzle pieces. If the puzzle blocks rise up to the top screen, they'll start attacking poor old Henry. There's a way to combat this, however. By clearing the blocks, Henry will gain more energy to take out foes and baddies alike as well as solve the occasional platforming puzzle with aid of his blocks. It's also quite a difficult game, and did I mention it was made by one of EA's studios? Yeah. I was surprised, too. These blocks definitely rocked my socks.

Crosswords DS

Sure, you can buy one of those pulp books for $1, but Crosswords DS (or is it CrossworDS) is the perfect game for pick and play antics. Included with the already exhaustive amount of puzzles are novice, intermediate, and expert puzzles as well as word search and anagram word play games. All this for twenty bucks, and this is a game that everyone in the family can enjoy, a statement that goes for a lot of the game mentioned.

Planet Puzzle League

The goal of this puzzle game is the same as Tetris Attack: match up three same-colored blocks in a row, vertically or horizontally, by switching the location of two side-by-side blocks. Unlike past versions of Tetris Attack, Planet Puzzle League did not have a well-recognized IP attached to it like Yoshi's Island or Pokemon from past games. Perhaps that's a reason this game went under the radar, but no matter what the game's called, Planet Puzzle League is addicting as all get out, and that hasn't changed with this DS version.

Magician's Quest: Mysterious Times

This title takes obvious inspiration from Animal Crossing: Wild World, but that's all right. Wild World didn't let you dress up in a magician robe and learn spells. Each week a new downloadable quest is added for players to enjoy. That's 52 weekly quests to participate in! Add in some entertaining writing, and you have a Wild World clone that shouldn't be missed.

Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero

The Wii version of Elebits was another overlooked game, so it's no question that the DS version would also be overlooked. No marketing, niche concept, whatever you want to explain it as. The goal of Elebits is similar to Katamari. The more you suck up, the more energy your "vaccuum" will have. The more power it has, the more areas you can reach. The DS version was much more adventure-like with exploration as key and big bad bosses to beat down.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3) Review

I'm slowly defeating my backlog one game at a time. I finished Uncharted: Drake's Fortune this past week, and I wanted to write a review in anticipation for Uncharted 2. Here's the scoop.

Charting A Course For Adventure

Naughty Dog is best known for giving birth to Sony's earliest mascot, Crash Bandicoot. They later went on during the Playstation 2 era to create another phenomenal platforming series, Jak & Daxter. Now with the Playstation 3, Naughty Dog is once again coming out with a brand new intellectual property to capitalize on Sony's new hardware with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune featuring girls, guns, thrills, chills, treasure, and adrenaline-inducing moments. Is this action/adventure game buried treasure or a red herring?

Players take the role of charming Nathan Drake, ancestor of famed explorer, Sir Francis Drake. The story of Uncharted starts off with Nathan uncovering the coffin of his ancestor, but there's one catch. There's no body inside-- just Drake's journal that leads Nathan and friends on adventure to find the fabled El Dorado treasure. Unfortunately, Nathan and crew are not alone on this quest. A group of pirates is also after the gold, and they'll stop at nothing to get Nathan Drake out of the way. Voice acting is phenomenal, especially the quick-witted Drake who is just a likable character. There's enough twists and turns to keep the player engaged, but there is a quirky plot twist near the end of the game that may put some players off.

One extraordinary man, one extraordinary game.

There's three different main gameplay elements to Uncharted. The first that is introduced is Nathan's exceptional ability to scale mountains and traverse cliffs and ledges alike. Nathan can grab a hold of ledges, shimmy across them as well as swing on vines and ropes, climbing up them as well. The game does an excellent job of streamlining the climbing and making the act very enjoyable to do. Oftentimes you'll have to scan your surroundings in order to see what can be climbed on in order to progress. It's sort of like a puzzle element all on its own. Several times throughout the game's twenty-two chapters, you'll come across puzzles of the mind-busting variety. Thankfully, you're given hints via Sir Francis Drake's journal in how to solve them, so they don't become too cumbersome to pass.

If you can reach it, you can climb it.

Borrowing a chapter from games like Gears of War except without the steroids, Uncharted features gunplay. When you're not climbing or solving puzzles, you'll be taking cover behind crates, barrels, and natural objects, picking off hordes of enemies who have their eyes set on eliminating Nathan for good. Nathan can roll from cover to cover, fire blindly behind cover, peak out and shoot, and even change which side of the body he shoots from. Enemies aren't pushovers, however. They'll happily flank Nathan, gang up on him, toss grenades to smoke him out, and wait for him to come out before shooting. They're very good shots, too, even on the easiest of difficulties. Be prepared to die a lot in later modes, but thankfully there's more than enough checkpoints so repeating long stretches of the game never happen. As the game evolves, so do the enemies' weaponry. They start with meager pistols, but by the end of the game, they're using grenade launchers, sniper rifles, and magnums.

I'm kinda liking these odds.

Speaking of weaponry, Nathan can hold three weapons at a time. The first is always some type of pistol or handgun, the second is a larger automatic like a shotgun, machine gun, or rifle, and the third are grenades. When an enemy falls, Nathan can pick up his gun and start blasting away. When dealing with enemies, it's best to take them down from faraway with a one-hit kill headshot, but there are times when Nathan will have to get up close and personal taking foes out with powerful fists of fury and other melee attacks. Other than those times, cover is key because your health will quickly deteriorate shortly if you don't utilize it. The health system in Uncharted regenerates and is indicated by the screen greying up and Drake's heart beating faster and louder.

Sometimes getting touchy-feely helps.

Drake always won't be alone in the game, thankfully. There's several times where he'll be teamed up with a helping hand. The AI is surprisingly good. They'll seldom get in your way, they'll help clear a path for you, and they won't stay in harm's way. Nathan's good friend "Sullie" or Sullivan even leapt to help out with a puzzle before I was even ready to. That's efficiency!

The final type of gameplay in Uncharted are vehicle-based. One chapter has you riding on the back of a vehicle with the aim to fire at and destroy all persuers. It's easier said than done because you don't have any cover to hide behind, and your vehicle doesn't exactly have the plating of an armored van. You also take control of a jet ski in two chapters where once again, not having cover available to you makes the point of the game more frustrating than fun. Regardless, only three of the twenty-two chapters utilize vehicles, and the parts are relatively short and full of checkpoints.

Uncharted will take anywhere from 7-10 hours to complete on the easier difficulty levels, and a few hours more on the hardest challenge setting. That's just going through the game normally. Nate's a treasure hunter, so why not scour the land for booty? There's sixty-one treasures hidden throughout the game, some hidden in dastardly locations. Trophies have been enabled on top of the already in-place reward system. Completing in-game challenges like defeating five enemies with brutal combos give you points. The more points you earn, the more bonus material gets unlocked such as new skins for Nate and enemies, as well as visual touches like a sepia tone on the screen.

Who'd want to play this game in black and white though as the game is just gorgeous, and it truly is one of the best looking games graphically and design-wise. Vegetation is vibrant and lush, mountainsides are rough and rugged, and character models are exceedingly impressive. I think it's an awesome touch how entering water will make Nathan's clothes completely drenched, and it will slowly dry back to normal after awhile. These kinds of small touches make the entire graphical package a joy to look at, so those who are put off by Gears of War's grim graphics may just find a friend in Uncharted. The lack of apparent loading screens between chapters is also terrific, too.

Nathan Drake will travel the continent
over in search of fame and fortune.

Naughty Dog's latest magnum opus is a terrific game. It's part exploration, part third-person shooter, part Jet Moto, all fantastic. The climbing is a blast, the shooting is adrenaline-inducing, the pacing is magnificent, and the vehicular action is fine in short bursts. There's enough content to last the player well beyond the asking price. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is a wonderful game for any Playstation 3 owner's collection, and it's the type of game that players will want to keep coming back to, at least until Uncharted 2 hits.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GCN) Review

When the Wii launched, I started a data of Twilight Princess. I finished the second dungeon, and then I just stopped. Other games came out, I got sidetracked, etc. This July, I started the game again, and I completed it to perfection. I finally have a belated review to share!

A Legend in Its Time

The Legend of Zelda is one of most universally-revered franchises in gaming, and for good reason. It's been around for twenty years, and the series consistently brings an A-game experience through each of its dozen or so installments. It's time for another Zelda with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, a game that feels like a beefed up Ocarina of Time, and considering Ocarina of Time is one of the best games in the history of gaming, that's high-praise. Does The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess live up to that feeling, or is this game a legendary disappointment?

The land of Hyrule is once again in trouble. The twilight is slowly taking over the lands, causing the citizens to be enveloped in a nightmarish dark world where evil twilight monsters roam. You start out a Link, an innocent farmhand with a big destiny as the hero of legend. Link's main nemesis this time is the twilit king Zant, who wishes to engulf the world in twilight. Link's not alone though this time-- he has a strange creature named Midna to assist him much like Navi did in Ocarina of Time. Midna offers hints when needed, helps Link across huge gaps, and helps move along the story. As with past Zelda games, there's no voice acting, but at the same time the story's dialogue and cinematics are so moving that you'll forget it's even a problem. There seems to be more story and cinematics in Twilight Princess than any other Zelda title.

Link and Midna sittin' in a tree~

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a mammoth-sized game, taking anywhere from 30-50 hours to complete depending on the player. Hyrule Field is much larger this time around than Ocarina of Time with multiple pathways leading to various plateaus to explore, but thanks to Epona the horse and the ability to warp, traveling seldom feels tedious.

The formula of the Zelda franchise remains the same. Link begins with a modest arsenal of items. As he visits dungeons, solves puzzles, obtains new equipment, defeats large bosses, and collects special piece to advance the story, he'll grow stronger and earn fame all around Hyrule. It's a simple formula that's been around since the beginning of the franchise, and with Twilight Princess it still feels fresh after all of these years. With new weapons like the devastating stone-destroying ball and chain, wall-riding spinner, and clawshot along with old favorites with new twists like bombs, the bow and arrow, twister-producing gale boomerang, there's plenty of firepower in Link's arsenal this time around, and unlike previous Zelda games, most items you acquire have multiple uses throughout the game instead of "collect dungeon weapon and only use it in this dungeon and one other time outside the dungeon".

Not only do the Iron Boots help you sink in water,
they also allow you to walk on magnetized surfaces.

In dungeons, which there are more than seven of, the goal is to solve puzzles to gain keys to unlock doors to find the dungeon's special item to find the boss key to unlock the door to face the boss to defeat the boss to proceed the story. Dungeon progression is marked by how many doors are unlocked in a given dungeon. Usually the dungeon's special item such as the bow and arrow is guarded by the dungeon's mid-boss. Puzzles are much more difficult to solve than in past Zelda titles and especially from 2D Zeldas. You'll need to think three-dimensionally, scan entire rooms, walls and ceilings, and test out your inventory in order to get through them.

There's a larger gap between dungeons in Twilight Princess due to story elements such as taking on a group of ogres via horseback and fetch quests. In fact the first three hours of the game Link will not have even entered the first dungeon due to all the extended tutorials in the early part of the game that may put off some players. There's also some times where you won't know where to go via the game not being clear of what Link needs to do next. This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it becomes quite vexing.

Link's trusty steed, Epona, returns.

When Link enters the twilight realm, he turns into a wolf, so Twilight Princess feels like two games. One is with normal Link in the normal world, while the other is the wolf in the twilight relam. Both worlds use the same land, except the people of Hyrule are spirits in the twilight realm. As wolf form, a lot of times you'll be collecting several tears in order to take away the twilight covering an area of Hyrule. This gets tedious after the second time you're forced to do so, and sort of ruins any pacing there is. Regardless, collecting tears is just a three time deal which is relieving. By the halfway point of the game, Link is able to freely change between wolf-form and human-form at will which really opens up some cleverness in the level design where certain dungeons require the player to have a handle on switching between both forms.

These twilight creatures pack a serious punch.

There's plenty to do in Twilight Princess. Mini-games are abound such as Goron sumo wrestling, an extensive fishing game, a full-fledged flight and snowboard mini-game, and much more. The amount of side quests are exhausting including bug-collecting, poe soul-snatching, and the Zelda staple, the quest for hidden heart containers. This time, collecting five will add another heart to Link's life. There's a massive forty-five to collect this time around. A lot of times in dungeons, chests will reward rupees, the Zelda franchise's currency. There's so many of these chests that oftentimes you won't have room in your wallet for them which makes finding rupees less of a bonus and more of a chore.

Fishing is just one of the many
mini-games in Twilight Princess.

The differences between the Wii and Gamecube versions is that: 1) the worlds are mirrored so that Link remains left-handed in both games, and 2) the controls. It doesn't matter which way you move the Wii remote, Link will slice in a canned animation. It can get annoying waggling the Wii remote constantly to attack, but your arm won't get tired unless you REALLY get into it. A way the Wii remote benefits the game comes when using the slingshot, bow and arrow, clawshot, and ball and chain. You use the Wii remote's pointer functionality to point at the screen where you want to shoot. This feels so much better and more precise than just using an analog stick, and it was difficult going back to the Gamecube controller after being spoiled. Combat uses the z-targeting which locks onto a foe, allowing Link to circle around and attack with ease.

There's no graphical difference between the Gamecube and Wii versions, but that really doesn't matter. Despite a barf-inducing texture here and there, the game is technically impressive. The art design is just gorgeous and a lot of the locales and character models are beautiful to look at. Sound-wise the MIDI music isn't that bad of an attraction this time around, but here's hoping that the next Zelda for Wii uses an orchestral score much like Mario Galaxy has.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess takes everything players love about the Zelda franchise, and adds some new content to the mix. While some of the wolf gameplay falls short of excellence, the traditional Zelda gameplay remains intact and is superb. There's an overwhelming amount of things to do, areas to explore, and bad guys to beat, and it all feels fun and seldom frustrating. What your brawn won't feel challenged to, your brain definitely will by all the game's devious puzzles. Good luck getting through the game without a guide as this Zelda's brain busters are certainly challenging this installment. No matter if you prefer full camera control (Gamecube) or full projectile control (Wii), Twilight Princess is an epic masterpiece no matter what system you play it on.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Kicking Off August Edition

If you're new to the site, SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs are simply my personal favorite video game tracks or video game music (VGM). Settle down, kick off your shoes, and get ready to listen to five fantastic tracks.

v366. Tales of Symphonia - The Kingdom City of Meltokio

Meltokio is a vast and historic city fitting for royalty.This majestic theme resembles such a medieval metropolis with its heavy use of the harpsichord and feudal flair.

v367. Super Smash Bros. Melee -
Multi Man Melee 1

Remember that time in Super Smash Bros. Melee when you fought one-hundred members of the Fighting Polygon team in order to unlock Falco? Well, this is the theme that plays as you try to accomplish such a daring, tumultuous task. Full of hard rock and taking bits from the Melee main melody.

v368. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz - Credits Theme

The credits theme of the Super Monkey Ball series is always interactive. In Banana Blitz you used the pointer of the Wii remote to maneuver your monkey (as dirty as that may sound) through a maze of staff names. This song itself is a medley of the themes of each of the game's ten worlds.

v369. Diddy Kong Racing - Wizpig's Races

All right, you little worms. The mysterious Wizpig has challenged you to a race, and it's a matter of life and retrying the race all over again. From Diddy Kong Racing, one of my favorite kart racers period, it's the haunting theme of Wizpig's Races. Rev up, and rock out.

v370. Banjo-Tooie - Glitter Gulch Mine

Banjo-Tooie recently hit the Xbox Live Arcade, and while I prefer Banjo-Kazooie since its worlds weren't as expansive to the point of being tedious and confusing, Tooie was still a great game. This theme plays during the second world, the underground gold mine, Glitter Gulch Mine.

Adieu until next week!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Central City Census - August

July is over and done with, so now we move on to August's Central City Census!

It was close between Rock Band and none, but Rock Band squeaked out the win. Guitar Hero got 22% of the vote while Other got 13%. As for me, I prefer music games like Singstar, Samba de Amigo, and Donkey Konga personally. Let's check out this month's poll.

SuperPhillip Central has been around for over a year now. Are you a new reader, or have you been around for a while? This is what the August Central City Census wants to know.