Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wii U U.S. Advertising Campaign Launch Trailer

It has begun... The Wii U's advertising campaign in the States is officially off and running. Browse this one minute ad which showcases games like New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land, and Lego City Undercover. This isn't just how you will play, it's how u will play next. Wii U launches in North America on November 18th.

Spot It! Mean Machines (DSiWare) Review

Our first review of November is a downloadable title for the DSiWare service. It also works on the Nintendo 3DS. If you are a fan of finding objects within a picture, then this first game I am reviewing this month will no doubt suit your fancy. It's Spot It! Mean Machines by Big John Games.

Seek and ye shall find.

As a kid in the early 90s I loved running to the mailbox and hoping that the latest issue of Highlights magazine came in the mail. It wasn't because I found enjoyment from reading the articles, seeing what new crafts I could create, or taking a look at what Goofus and Gallant were up to. No, I was most interested in finding that black and white hidden picture puzzle placed within the contents of every issue where objects were cleverly hidden within a picture and the reader had to find them all.

Along those lines, here comes Spot It! Mean Machines. It's very similar in concept to those old Highlights puzzles except it's more of a game. You get a puzzle full of objects and ambiance that can be scrolled through via the d-pad, stylus, or a combination of the two. The game starts by asking you to find a specific item. The catch is that you have a limited time to find it and tap it with the stylus before it is locked out and no longer available (A clock is shown next to each item on the top screen to indicate how long you have). As more objects are found and in a quick fashion to boot, the more points you earn.

The game ends when twenty objects have been found or locked, or when a certain number of items have been locked. This number depends entirely on which of the three difficulties you are playing on. Not only does the difficulty affect how many items can be locked total without getting a game over, but it also determines how much time you have to find a given object or item. Locked objects can be blown up by finding an object that has a bomb next to it on the top screen. Discovering the hiding place of that object will destroy one locked object on your list. It's very handy, especially in more arduous difficulties.

In the multiplayer mode (which offers play for up to four people) the number of objects that can be found is cut in half to ten. Players take turns finding ten items as fast as possible before passing the DS or 3DS onto the next person who then has to find the same ten items. The player with the most points at the conclusion of every player's turn wins.

There are ten puzzles total in Spot It! Mean Machines, and you have to unlock each one. This generally just forces you to play through a puzzle and complete it to unlock the next. There are a plethora of objects to seek out and find -- bats, bears, bunnies, batteries, saws, scissors, sheep, letters of the alphabet, wagons, wheels, crickets, frogs, toilets, eyes, tarantulas, cookies, carrots, moon rovers, among many others. Even though the order of objects and which ones you have to find are random each time you play a puzzle, the placement of the objects always remains the same. You can get to the point within the game where you can simply memorize the general area of where an object is and find it swiftly to get the most points. To an extent, it almost feels like cheating. This lowers the replay value of the game, as does the lack of any kind of online leaderboards to compare point scores with fellow Mean Machines players.

This title has a relatively simple presentation to it. Puzzles look like real life photos only with many more jaggies than expected. Sometimes objects can blend in or blur easily with the background, causing some confusion and frustration in trying to find them. The menus themselves are also relatively simple, but they're easy to navigate which is much more important than making someone drool at their sophistication. Every puzzle possesses the same musical theme. This can become tedious to the ears, but the piece of music is actually rather catchy.

Spot It! Mean Machines is a good buy considering the amount of content and options available to it. It won't be a game that players will invest dozens of hours into, but it will be one that is superb for those with pick-up-and-play sensibilities. That's because a given puzzle only lasts about five minutes, if even that. If you're looking for a game to make use of that eagle eye of yours, then it makes sense to try Spot It! Mean Machines.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PS3, PSV) Costumes Trailer

Not one to be outdone in the Halloween spirit department, Sly Cooper has a brand new trailer to show off for his new game, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, featuring costumes giving Sly new abilities to master. The title will be YOPO: you only pay once to get both the PS3 and Vita versions. Thieves in Time will hit store shelves on February 5, 2013.

LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3) Halloween Trailer

From Dracula's castle to Craftworld, we take a look at LittleBigPlanet Karting's special Halloween trailer based on a themed track. The possibilities for creating stellar tracks seems endless. Here's hoping the kart racing matches the depth and fun of the track creator. LittleBigPlanet Karting drives onto the PlayStation 3 racing scene on November 6.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS) New Trailer

It only makes perfect sense for a new trailer of the Gothic glory of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate to arrive on Halloween, no? Explore this new trailer with voice acting, some platforming, and demon-slaying action. Though the trailer promises a 20 hour campaign, you can bet it is probably a bit shorter.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone (3DS) Review

Just in time for Halloween is a terrifying game for you to read about. It's spectacularly spooky! I shiver in my shoes just thinking about it. I'm just glad I didn't drink too much water or things might have gotten messy! It's none other than... Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone! Jeepers creepers!

Art for All

Colors! 3D released on the Nintendo eShop earlier this year. You might be wondering to yourself what the point of purchasing a much more costlier art game is if you already have Colors! 3D in your digital 3DS collection. While that program is terrific for those who already know how to draw and do art, the subject of this review, Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone, contains more options and a greater focus on teaching even the most inept artiste among us how to create fantastic works of art.

Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone has a pretty decent amount of content for its budget price. If you're feeling bold, you can right away start painting or drawing your own creative concoctions via the Free Paint mode. There you can choose your own canvas, what tools you wish to use (paints, pencils, or pastels), and whether or not you intend to use a picture for reference. If you're like me, however, you may want to get a refresher course on how to create competent art through the game's many lessons.

From colored pencils to pastels, you can
create with a variety of useful tools.
There are two types of lessons within Art Academy, the Introductory Course and the Advanced Course. The Introductory lessons teach you how to do the absolute basic essentials of creating art, learning how to use paints, pencils, and pastels, and knowing a bit about shading techniques, highlights, and more; while the Advanced lessons go into more detail and talk about such concepts like perspective and how to do portraits.

Each lesson is taught by the in-game teacher, Vince, and the lessons are divided up into multiple stages, some with multiple steps. For instance, the first stage could be about simply creating the horizon line, while the next could be about sketching out the most basic elements of the picture. Final steps generally include adding in highlights and details to bring the most pizazz to your picture.

The lessons not only help you with creating work within the game itself, but they assist in giving you real-world practice. Every lesson introduces a new concept to work with and try. Of course, there are obvious new concepts like using paint, pencils, colored pencils, and pastels, but there also concepts like hatching, blending, mixing paints, among many others. Your teacher Vince even throws in some art history to make Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone not just sharpen your artistic skill but your knowledge of art as well. The lessons perfectly throw in these little useful tidbits when the most opportune situation presents itself.

Optional techniques and art history 
are brought up by Vince constantly.
When you begin Art Academy your available amount of lessons you can attempt is small. However, through completing lessons you unlock new ones. You also unlock mini-lessons, which the game gives you a quick rundown on how the finished piece was completed, and then gives you free reign to try the picture as you see fit. These mini-lessons basically put the skills you acquired in a main lesson to try out for yourself to create a picture with minimum help and just a teensy bit of guidance (i.e. what steps Vince went through to complete his painting or picture).

Outside of the 20+ lessons available to players initially on the game card, you can download DLC lessons for $1.99 each. I sort of see that as too much for one lesson and not worth it when there are already enough lessons to go through on the game as is. And if you do decide to try out new lessons and still don't get that itch scratched for something new, you can download mini-lessons created by your 3DS friends, or even create your own. The user interface takes a little getting used to at first, but you can go on to share your own works of art while teaching your friends how you went about doing so.

Speaking of sharing, finished works or works in progress can be saved to your SD card or passed along to your friends via SpotPass (perhaps share your work in Swapnote!). You can even marvel at your own creations by hanging them up along a virtual 3D gallery with numerous rooms to place your pictures, portraits, and paintings in. You can actually go so far as to hang them horizontally or vertically, as well as choose any frame you wish.

See other works of mine here.
Creating a work of art in Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone is not as difficult as you might think. That is thanks in one part to the wonderful and helpful instructions and another part to the easy controls and tools given to you. For one, the grid tool puts a grid on both the upper screen where Vince's project is and the bottom screen which is where you do your work on. You can zoom in and out with ease to help create all the finer details necessary. Perhaps the only problems with the controls of Art Academy on 3DS are that there can be issues with the calibrating of the system's stylus as well as there being no quick undo option. I have had to redo whole sections of projects because my I unintentionally hit the touch screen with my pinky while drawing and thus a giant streak was created across my work. Very annoying.

There's no better feeling than finishing a lesson
with a completed piece you can feel proud of.
Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone is an incredibly rewarding title that might just shock you in giving you the revelation that you're not as bad an artist as you might have thought you were. And if you already are an expert, this 3DS version of Art Academy gives you an abundance of tools to create extraordinary works. It is not without its problems such as the constant need to have to calibrate the touch screen to make accurate marks, but the overall package is superb. Whether you're a tyro at art or a professional with years of experience, Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone is a worthwhile piece of software for, well, everyone!

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

Monday, October 29, 2012

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - Second Story Edition

Quite possibly my favorite soundtrack that Motoi Sakuraba worked on, Star Ocean: The Second Story (known as Star Ocean: Second Evolution on the PlayStation Portable port) possesses a significant amount of memorable and marvelous tunes. I don't think five tracks will do the soundtrack justice, but alas, that is what we are limited to this week. From Arlia's Sacred Forest to the kingdom of Krosse, the music has as much variety as Sakuraba's works themselves. Sit back, unwind, and open your ears for some wondrous sounds.

v226. Star Ocean: The Second Story (PS1) - The Venerable Forest

Enter the forest behind Arlia, the first village of the game and heroine Rena's hometown. It is the place where Claude crash-lands and finds himself on the planet of Expel. This theme has a lovely warm feeling to it. The melody should be familiar to those of you who frequent my favorite VGMs. It is the Theme of RENA, the 69th VGM listed.

v227. Star Ocean: The Second Story (PS1) - Rescue Operation

The Salva Mine is the home to this uptempo theme. It is the first main dungeon of Star Ocean: The Second Story. Rena has been abducted and it is up to Claude to rescue her. Hence the title of this theme, Rescue Operation. The song is incredibly tense, fitting for the hallowed halls that Claude must traverse to rescue his new friend.

v228. Star Ocean: The Second Story (PS1) - Shower of Blossoms

This is the theme of the kingdom of Krosse, a much larger and expansive city than what Claude and Rena previously have ventured into. It is a very early city in the game; players arrive in it shortly after completing the events in Salva. The theme is quite majestic, fitting for a city overlooked by royalty. Bonus: The characters shown above? This cast consists of my go-to party in the game.

v229. Star Ocean: The Second Story (PS1) - Walk Over

Speaking of majestic themes, we have Walk Over, a theme for several towns within Star Ocean: The Second Story/Second Evolution. The trumpet synth call forth a stupendous sound and melody. You cannot help but sway to and fro as you purchase goods from shops and converse with the locals.

v230. Star Ocean: The Second Story (PS1) - Let's Walk in a Parade

We're entering a new disc (at least for the PS1 original version) and a new planet with this theme from Star Ocean 2, Let's Walk in a Parade. In fact, between Walk Over and this theme, we've skipped a significant chunk of the game. This peppy, jaunty, and electronic theme plays during the amusement destination known as Fun City, where Claude, Rena, and friends can participate in bunny races, cooking competitions, and the fabled arena.


We're not done dipping our toes into the Star Ocean. No, no. Next week we will be visiting the third installment of the series, Till the End of Time. Hopefully these VGMs will also last till the end of time. Har-har. Until then, why not check out my VGM Database for all past selected songs of mine? My wish for those who have never heard the music of some of the games I list is to find some songs that they find enjoyable and pleasing to their ears.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS) North American Commercial

Paper Mario: Sticker Star releases in less than two weeks, and Nintendo has a television advertisement to share. I, too, will share. Some are worried that the mechanics will make this Paper Mario a weak installment. That is to be seen, but no worries. We'll find that answer out in two short weeks!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

SuperPhillip's Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone Pictures

The latest "game" that is inside my Nintendo 3DS is Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone (known as New Art Academy in Europe). I am trying to get through the title in a fast enough process so I can have a review for everyone this week. I also have the new Professor Layton on the 3DS to cover, so it will be a busy time.

Regardless, much like I did with Colors! 3D, I would like to share my work in Art Academy for the 3DS. I'm no professional artists by any means, but with the help of Lessons for Everyone, I managed to pull off some interesting pieces. I hope you enjoy them. I believe they are listed by first to latest in creation.

The Cherry
The Tree
Mushroom Trio
Juicy Melon
Duo Avacado
The Windmill
The Watermill
Barley Fields
Koi Carp
Stay tuned for a full review of Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone later this week. I hope to have it up before the end of the month. Until tomorrow, enjoy yourself!