Friday, May 7, 2010

Picross 3D (DS) Review

Ah, it's the month of May. Have you stopped and smelled the flowers yet? Go on. I'll wait. While we're waiting, why don't the rest of you check out my newest review. It's for a budget-priced puzzler called Picross 3D. I'm addicted to it!

Chisel Your Way to Victory

Picross is a pretty foreign game property to most gamers, and for good reason. It seldom crossed over the ocean from its homeland of Japan. However, it first appeared in North America with the Game Boy's Mario Picross featuring a Super Mario Bros. aesthetic to it. It would be over a decade until a new version of Picross would cross over with the 2D-focused Picross DS for Nintendo's dual-screened delight. But what is Picross to the unaware gamer? Think of it as a box that has blocks needing to be eliminated from it. You get clues to which boxes stay and which go via numbers located along the sides of the grids. Now in 2010, Nintendo is once again bringing Picross to North American gamers with Picross 3D. With a new dimension adds new challenge, but is it worth picking up even with a super-low budget price?

Picross 3D is played with with a three-dimensional box. The box has all sorts of numbers on it detailing how many blocks are in a given row or column. Your job is to chisel away the unnecessary blocks by using the numbers as clues. The end result of your chiseling is a shape whether it be a shape, letter, object, or animal. Be careful though, because you can't just chisel away blocks all willy-nilly. If you chisel away a block that is meant to stay in that puzzle, you'll get a strike on your record. Unlike baseball, it's five strikes and you're out.

Thank goodness this isn't baseball,
or this player would be out!

The very first step in solving a picross puzzle is finding all columns and rows that either be dismantled or saved. If a column or row has the number zero attached to it, then all blocks in that column or row can be destroyed. If there's a number five on a given row, and there's only five blocks in that row, you know for a fact that you can highlight all of the blocks in that row. The purpose of highlighting blocks is so you don't accidentally destroy them from the puzzle, thus costing you a strike.

There's three types of numbers in Picross 3D. A normal number by itself indicates that all blocks in that row or column are all place together consecutively. A circle around a number shows that the blocks needing to be saved are split up into two parts. So if you have a circled number six, then you'd want to narrow down the row to two separate groups of three blocks. Finally, a square around a number tells you that the blocks needing to be rescued are split up into three parts. All of these clues generate the solution to the puzzle, but don't feel bad if you're occasionally stumped. Later puzzles are true tests of your mental mettle.

Picross 3D begins with a very extensive and helpful tutorial that allows you to play the game while you learn new tricks and rules of the game. As you progress through the difficulties, you play more challenging puzzles with special stipulations. For instance, several puzzles give you a strict time limit and give you only one strike to work with, so it's one and done basically. Each level of puzzles rewards you with stars for performing certain actions during them such as beating a set time limit, completing the puzzle, and not getting any strikes. These stars are used to open up even more difficult puzzles within the game.

Almost there, just a few blocks to go!

Each time you solve a puzzle, you'll be rewarded with that object or item performing a type of cool animation. The item will also be saved to your collection for you to browse at any time. Pretty cool indeed. And with over 300 unique items in all, you'll be playing Picross 3D for months. But if that's not enough, you can download and design your own puzzles from either Nintendo or from other friends. This brings the total amount of different puzzles up dramatically. You have an infinite amount of puzzles to play around with.

Controlling Picross 3D is almost completely done with the stylus. You use the stylus to rotate the camera around as well as using sliders to cut the puzzles in half so you can see inside the labyrinth of blocks. Sometimes it can get frustrating wanting to move the camera only to slide the sliders instead. However, that's just a small amount of agitation. Meanwhile, the d-pad (or face buttons for left-handed players) are used to switch between highlighting blocks and destroying them. Overall, the controls work remarkably well and is perfect for casual players and the more game savvy.

As the puzzle is solved, your gray mass
of blocks will colorize and animate.

Picross 3D's presentation is pretty simple. As I stated before, your solved puzzles will dance around and animate quite nicely (these can be viewed at any time via the collections menu). The box-shaped objects are rather crude, but they fit the style of the game nicely. The music is passable with plenty of tunes you'll be humming to as you try to figure out which boxes stay and which go. There's been better efforts from HAL Laboratory in this department, but all in all it works well.

Overall, Picross 3D is a steal at $19.99 USD. It offers a robust amount of puzzles-- over 350-- plus the ability to download and create puzzles of your own to solve. If you have trouble thinking in three-dimensions, Picross 3D might feel more frustrating than fun, but for everyone else, Picross 3D is an excellent addition to any DS-owning puzzle-loving fan.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

SPC Quickies - Volume Eight - ApocalyPS3 Now

We've taken a look at my Wii, DS, 360, and PSP collections, so now let's look at our final specimen, the PlayStation 3. This collection features a lot of excellent titles as shown by the quickie review scores. There are twenty-three PS3 games currently in my collection, and it is my aim to score them all out of five. Let's get to it. The ApocalyPS3 begins now!

007: Quantum of Solace - Bond is back, and this time he means business. Quantum of Solace takes place during the titular movie as well as with flashbacks from Casino Royale. The gunplay is fast and fun, the cover system helps add in a needed amount of strategy, and the story mode is engaging from beginning to end. This is a terrific Bond game made better by a comprehensive multiplayer component with modes such as Golden Gun, operative combat, and good old fashioned deathmatch. 4/5

Batman: Arkham Asylum - Speaking of popular characters being back, the bat is also back, and he's in one of the best superhero games of all time. Part Metal Gear Solid, part Metroid, Batman: Arkham Asylum has the dark knight infiltrating Arkham in pursuit of the Joker. Along the way he'll be taking down baddies from the shadows, beating up villains such as Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, and the Scarecrow, and obtaining new gadgets to reach new areas of Arkham. If there's one superhero game you need to play, Batman: Arkham Asylum is it. 4/5

Darksiders - If God of War and the Legend of Zelda had an illegitimate child, Darksiders would be that baby. With the combat of God of War and the puzzle-solving, dungeon-exploring, boss-bashing gameplay of Zelda, Darksiders feels very familiar. However, it also has a lot going for it to differentiate it from either franchise. The combat is brutal and easy to get into, the story is intriguing the whole way through, and the homages to the two aforementioned series will make most players love this game as I certainly have. 4/5

Dead Space - In space, no one can hear you kiss your ass goodbye. The hope for survival aboard the Ishimura spaceship grows increasingly hopeless as new problems arise. The air system becomes infected, elevators stop working, and the evil necromorphs grow heavily in numbers, ready to carve your character like a jack-o-lantern. The third-person over the shoulder viewpoint works well as do the upgrading of powerful weaponry. The sound design is some of this generation's best with design that will have you constantly scared for your life, looking behind corners with the greatest hint of trepidation. Dead Space is one frightening game. 4/5

God of War: Collection - Two upscaled in HD games for a budget price? Sign me up! Oh, wait, I already did sign up. Whether you seek vengeance on either Ares of Zeus, God of War: Collection has a game for you, plus several cool bonus extras making for a complete and affordable package. The games look absolutely phenomenal in high-definition, and you'll constantly be opening your mouth in awe at the sheer beauty of both upscaled games. God of War and God of War II were already excellent titles, and this collection-- one heck of a deal-- only sweetens the metaphorical pot. 5/5

God of War III - In the end, there will only be chaos... and one great game! Take all you know about the God of War franchise and triple it in pure, unadulterated scope. The areas are larger and more expansive-- staggering even, the boss battles are much more numerous and engaging, and story caps off the trilogy in a good way. There's still beating up hordes of mythological beasts, opening treasure chests for items and orbs to upgrade weapons and abilities, and enough quick-time-events to make Heavy Rain jealous. Perhaps the only problem with God of War III is that it all feels like we've been there and done that before. 4/5

Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds - One infuriating game design philosophy when transferring over to the HD consoles is to take everything away from what made past installments spectacular and staring over. This is the case of Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds. It's a sad statement when a portable game of the same series has more characters, courses, and options than a full-fledged sequel. Well, that is exactly what happened. Fortunately, the game is still as rewarding as ever now with two different swing types. There's also a robust online system for players to compete with one another all around the world. 3/5

inFAMOUS - Taking elements from their previous franchise, Sly Cooper, Sucker Punch combined the wire-riding, pipe-climbing, platforming fun of that series with the open-world sandbox of inFAMOUS. There's a lot to be said about a game where you can use the powers of electricity to shock your foes into submission. Depending on which side you choose, either hero or villain will determine the outcome of the game. For a shocking good time, inFAMOUS is the game for you. 4/5

LittleBigPlanet - Play, create, and share is the mantra of the LittleBigPlanet line of games. The original LittleBigPlanet is still full of creative levels and designs made by the hustling and bustling community. If you lack the creative touch, you can always play the single-player story levels or hop online with up to three friends and play one of a million community levels. Might I recommend SuperPhillip: The Game? If you can get past the floaty jumping and the complexity of the level creator, you'll have a surefire game that you'll keep on coming back to. 5/5

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - You have the entertaining gameplay of past Metal Gear Solid games, so what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, Hideo Kojima never learned what good pacing in a video game is. If you can get past the nonsensical story, the constant interruption of the game for stupid, long, drawn-out cutscenes, and more cinematics than actual gameplay, you might enjoy, hell, even love Metal Gear Solid 4. For everyone else, there's much better games to be had. 3/5

Motorstorm: Pacific Rift - Burn rubber, just don't overheat your vehicle! Motorstorm: Pacific Rift moves the racing excitement from the desert to a tropical island filled with sunny shores, volatile volcanoes, and chaotic cliffs. As you complete races, you unlock more difficult races and tracks. The racing is fast, crazy, and energetic. It's the perfect adrenaline rush. My only gripe with this game is that in later ranks, it can be extremely unforgiving. 4/5

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time - Ratchet & Clank reunite after having been separated by the Zoni. For a good half of the game, however, the two are apart and have their own play styles. Ratchet has the traditional run, gun, and jump gameplay whereas Clank uses a time scepter to participate in mind-boggling time puzzles. The story is captivating, the worlds are lush and vibrant, and the trademark humor is definitely there. Check this game out-- even if it's your first Ratchet & Clank game. 4/5

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction - A new threat has arrived, and his name is Emperor Tachyon. His mission? To wipe out the last remaining lombax-- Ratchet! This new story arc introduces several new weapons and gadgets such as ones that require the use of the Sixaxis controller. If you've played a previous Ratchet & Clank game, you'll feel right at home with the duo's first delving into HD! 4/5

Resident Evil 5 - Resident Evil 4 is one of my favorite games of all time. Resident Evil 5 takes the formula of said game, and pretty much stays true to it. This time around, there's forced cooperative gameplay featuring new character Sheva. While the game is much less scary in this installment, there's a lot more in the way of high-impact action. Playing cooperatively with a friend locally or online is a blast, and the return of the Mercenaries mode adds even more longevity to this rather long thrill ride. 4/5

Resistance 2 - I love this game. As they say, haters gonna hate. I thought the single-player campaign was terrific with plenty of intriguing set pieces, a story that was compelling, and characters that weren't entirely one-dimensional. Well, maybe they were 1-1/2 dimensional instead! Combine that with an awesome cooperative campaign with six maps, and an intense competitive battle mode supporting up to sixty some-odd players and you have one of my favorite FPS games of all time. 5/5

Saints Row 2 - The game that managed to out-Grand Theft Auto Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row 2 gives you an entire playground to mess around in either alone or with a friend. Customize your character as you see fit, outfit him in the latest fashions or keep him... or her... looking like a scrub. The mission variety is great with plenty of checkpoints to make repeated attempts less infuriating. Taking over Stilwater one block at a time is very cool, and the side missions are nothing short of terrific. Who doesn't love base-jumping, insurance fraud, and escorting ladies to their pimps? 4/5

SingStar - Sure, many of us feel bashful or stupid singing to a television, but isn't that the point of karaoke-- to let all of our inhibitions run wild? You can do just that with Sony's SingStar. Whether you buy volume one or volume two, SingStar has a good amount and variety of songs. If that isn't enough, you can hop online onto the SingStar store where you can purchase new tracks to sing along with for a relatively low price. Sing on, SingStars. Sing on! 4/5

Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing - Sonic and friends have returned from the tennis court and onto the racetrack with Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing. Speed through more than twenty, expertly-crafted racetracks, races as one of twenty SEGA all-stars from Aiai, Ulala, and Amy Rose to Billy Hatcher, B.D. Joe, and Dr. Eggman. The game is much more fair than Mario Kart Wii offering much more balanced items and weapons. You'll need skill and tight maneuvering to stay ahead of the pack in this high-octane kart racer! 4/5

Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection - Take a fair majority of the Genesis' greatest titles, put them inside a budget priced package, and you get Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection. You get so many excellent titles for such a low price. There's the original Sonic the Hedgehog games, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage, plus lesser known classics such as Ristar, Decap Attack, and many more. If you consider yourself any type of SEGA fan of old school gamer, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection is the game for you. 4/5

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune - Meet Nathan Drake. He's the type of everyman that can leap over chasms, jump from cliff to cliff with ease, and perform all types of aerial acrobatics. Okay, so he's not much of an everyman, but he's got one twisted sense of humor. Find out the mystery of the lost city of El Dorado with Drake and friends as he fends off pirates looking to achieve the same goal of grabbing El Dorado for themselves. The cover system is reminiscent of Gears of War, but there's much less in the way of steroids this time around. The platforming is fantastic, the visuals are phenomenal, and this game is just spectacular. 4/5

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - Now I'm not one to say that every game needs to have some kind of multiplayer component shoehorned in, but with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the multiplayer really works and works well. It's fun, it's engaging, it's entertaining, and it'll give you countless hours of replayability long after you finish the much better balanced single-player campaign. The set pieces here are orgasmic, and the game really is better than the already wonderful original. 5/5

Valkyrie Chronicles - From part of the team that made the excellent Dreamcast (and then Gamecube) RPG, Skies of Arcadia, comes this strategy RPG featuring soldiers, tanks, and endless possibilities. Recruit new soldiers to do your armada's dirty work, battle head-to-head, and ogle the gorgeous pencil-drawn filter visuals. Those looking for their JRPG fix and were disappointed with Final Fantasy XIII, Star Ocean 4, among others, should check out Valkyrie Chronicles, exclusive to the PS3. 4/5

White Knight Chronicles: International Edition - The turn-based RPG that plays like an MMO, White Knight Chronicles is an entertaining game full of unique locales and intense action whether on foot or inside a giant knight armor suit. If the single-player campaign doesn't do anything for you, you can always hop online and play one of twenty-five plus quests with up to three other players. Whether you like turn-based combat without random encounters or online play that is full of fun, White Knight Chronicles has something for everybody. 4/5

There you have it. Do you agree/disagree with any of my scores? Let me, as well as everyone else, know inside the comments section!

SuperPhillip Infiltrates 3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3)

A very kind and talented user over at CheapAssGamer created a SuperPhillip player avatar for the upcoming video game 3D Dot Game Heroes. Now SuperPhillip can once again save the day in yet another awesome adventure! Stay tuned for some screens featuring the capped crusader when 3D Dot Game Heroes releases May 11th.

And here's a mobile, spinning version-- perfect for avatar use.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Most Overlooked DS Games - Part Four

Join me for another installment of Most Overlooked. The DS library is one of this generation's best-- if not the best. If there's a genre you like, it probably has some representation on Nintendo's dual-screened dominator. This is part four of our continuing series of overlooked DS games, so if you've missed a previous episode, feel free to catch up.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

What is to blame for the lackluster sales of GTA: Chinatown Wars? Is it the DS fanbase? Perhaps it's the portable fanbase as the game bombed even worse on the PSP. Maybe people don't enjoy top-down Grand Theft Auto games anymore. They certainly aren't as popular as the fully 3D ones. Regardless, this game is very enjoyable with plenty to do and see. The stylus-driven mini-games are a fun distraction, the missions are varied, and there's little in the way of frustration to worry about.

Phantasy Star Zero

Phantasy Star Universe was an unfortunate misstep in the Phantasy Star series. The game was clunky and the story was piss-poor. Phantasy Star Zero, on the other hand, fixes all of these problems and then some. Creating your own character is a breeze, and you can send your same character through either local or online multiplier or through the interesting enough story mode. Grinding levels, grinding for new weapons, and taking down massive creatures is a blast in Phantasy Star Zero. This is without a doubt the best Phantasy Star since the original Online.

Retro Game Challenge

Nostalgia can be a pretty powerful thing. It can make otherwise bad games seem good just for the sake of playing them when one was a child. Retro Game Challenge touches upon this with several retro themed games. These aren't ports or remakes of old games-- these are entirely brand-new titles made specifically for Retro Game Challenge. There's your standard Final Fantasy-styled game, a Mega Man homage, plus game cheats and articles from a made-up video game magazine. It's a great deal for a cheap price!

Bangai-O Spirits

Bangai-O Spirits gives gamers crazy cool shooter fun combining devastating supermoves with enough eye candy, explosions, and fireworks to make your eyes orgasm with delight. This game was made by the great Treasure development team who have worked in the past on games such as Sin and Punishment, Gunstar Heroes, and Mischief Makers. There's cooperative as well as competitive multiplayer, a level editor/creator tool, and much, much more. Those looking for a fun shmup to blast their way through should not hesitate to pick up Bangai-O Spirits.

Picross DS

Picross originally came out on the Game Boy under the moniker of Mario's Picross. I never was able to try that game out, so I was very interested in looking into the original DS installment (I just recently picked up Picross 3D). The game plays on a grid. Let's say 10x10 for example. There's a series of numbers one each side showing how many boxes need to be filled to solve the puzzle. There's never any guesswork to be done. All of the puzzles are solved with logical thinking. Picross DS is a terrific and cheap puzzler for anyone who is a fan of the genre.

Have I missed one of your favorite overlooked DS games? Don't just sit there-- let everyone-- including myself-- know what game or games I'm missing. You'll hate yourself if you don't!

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) Transmission 8

Luigi makes his fabulous return to Super Mario Galaxy as a playable character. Watch as he transforms into both rock and bee Luigi, rides Yoshi, and darts down a thorn-filled tube. It is unknown whether Luigi is available directly from the beginning of the game to play, or if he's a character that can replace Mario in-game. I imagine we'll find out the answers sooner rather than later when Mario Galaxy 2 soars onto the Wii May 23rd.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) Four New Videos

Beware as there are some rather spoiling spoilers in these videos. One shows off new boss battles, another focuses on Mario's rock, bee, and cloud suits, and the last reunites Yoshi and Mario all over again. Super Mario Galaxy 2 cannot come any sooner. I'm genuinely excited for this game. Here's hoping it turns out even better than the already masterful Super Mario Galaxy original. Enjoy!

Direct Links Here

Picross 3D (DS) Launch Trailer

Picross 3D is already out in Europe, and it has been for a while now-- perhaps a month or two. Today Picross 3D conquers North America with blockbusting puzzles. You can even create your own puzzles, share them online, and compete against friends. Picross 3D releases with a $19.99 price point. Expect a review later this month.

Monday, May 3, 2010

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Final Knight Man of War Edition

I'm pretty busy these days, but I always have time for SPC and especially my favorite VGMs! What's in the lineup this week? How about God of War? White Knight Chronicles? Final Fantasy? Or how would you like some 8-bit Mega Man music? We've got it all here this week save for the things we're missing. Tune in, turn up the speaker volume, and get ready for some epic music!

v546. God of War - The Great Sword Bridge of Athena

The Great Sword Bridge is literally what it sounds like-- it's a giant sword as the bridge. This theme plays showing off an impressive field of view as you cross the bridge. The sense of wonder and depth would be trumped by the sequel which I STILL have yet to play all the way through. Hopefully, I'll finally get around to it, but darn all these new games to review!

v547. White Knight Chronicles - Prelude to Battle

Of all the themes played and heard during White Knight Chronicles, this is the one you'll quickly become familiar with. It's the theme of battle. WKC didn't have that memorable of a soundtrack, and perhaps I chose this song because I heard it the most. Regardless, the soundtrack did a great job of capturing the mood and provided great ambiance to the many towns and dungeons the game possessed.

v548. Mega Man 10 - Solar Man's Stage

Mega Man 10 was a game that I deeply enjoyed no matter the difficulty I played on. It was much more approachable than the balls-to-the-wall difficult Mega Man 9. It had less cheap death traps and "how the hell was I supposed to know to avoid that" moments. This theme plays during Solar Man's stage, and I must say it's one of the few tracks I enjoyed.

v549. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles - When the Northern Sky Clears

We go from 8-bit to 128-bit with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for the Gamecube. I enjoyed this game as it was a fun dungeon-crawler to play by myself, or if I luckily had all of the pieces of hardware needed, with friends. When the Northern Sky Clears is a dreary dirge that plays in one of the last dungeons of the game. It's infectious, no?

v550. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance - Undefeated Heart (Regular Version)

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance gives me warm memories. It was much more whimsical than the deathly serious original, but it was a lot of fun in its own right. It wasn't as good as Final Fantasy Tactics, but what tactical RPG is? The soundtrack was composed by both Hitoshi Sakimoto and Nobuo Uematsu, a great team if there ever was one.

That's all we have time for this week, but next week we'll do it all over again only with different VGMs! If you're interested in catching up with past episodes of SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs, just type what you see in bold in the search box at the top left corner of this page.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) Transmission 7

I haven't been posting all of the transmission viral videos of Super Mario Galaxy 2. The reason for this is that some are just simply not that interesting. What makes Transmission 7 appealing to me is that it shows off Starship Mario, the vessel that takes you to each galaxy. Watch as Mario grabs a 1up from a dice block-- Mario Party-style-- encounters Yoshi as well as the Toad Brigade, and has a ball running around his own head.