Friday, July 25, 2014

Super Toy Cars (Wii U eShop) Review

Do you like toy cars? Do you like things that are super? I hope you at least like the latter, as this site is sort of called SUPERPhillip Central. If you don't like things that are super, then this site will soon have its name changed to Phillip Central. Sounds like a James Bond character... Maybe not.

Anyway, our tenth review of the month is for a game that is available on the Wii U eShop. It's Super Toy Cars, and its engine is all revved up for this review!

At least your mom won't accidentally step all over these!

As a kid, I loved playing with my Micro Machines. Whether I'd be building cities with the various play sets that were put out or simply racing them around the family room table, they were great toys. Now, Eclipse Games is trying hard to hit my nostalgia for my childhood through creating a game totally based on racing with toy cars. While they're no Micro Machines (but what is, really?), Super Toy Cars is an admirable attempt at taking something a lot from my generation played with and creating a racer out of it. It just sadly wipes out while doing so.

Man, I could go for that Sprite knockoff and
cheeseburger in the distance right about now... *drools*
Career mode is where all of the single player action in Super Toy Cars takes place. You begin with one toy car, and through progressing through segments of six events each, unlock credits to purchase new vehicles and upgrades. The handling of each vehicle varies. Some control splendidly, while others? Not so much. By that same token, you can purchase upgrades to boost various stats like top speed, acceleration, handling, weight, and more. Thus, even the worst performing toy car on paper can become something you can get used to controlling.

As fun as it is to eat everyone's exhaust,
I'm in the front of the pack where I belong.
However, controlling your car on tracks isn't the best it could be. It has nothing to do with the controls of Super Toy Cars by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, the problem lies with the game's physics, which are funky at best and frustratingly wonky at worst. Even the smallest nudge by an opposing vehicle's bumper can send you drastically careening off course. Take a ramp a degree too poorly, and that makes the difference between a successful landing and a disaster of a jump. Many times I would take a jump perfectly, only then to my surprise I would land and lose all momentum completely, having the AI opposition pass me with glee. I felt like it was a crap shoot whether I'd successfully keep my speed up or have it let out like the air in a balloon.
Please don't let me land stupidly.
Please don't let me land stupidly.
And that's what Super Toy Cars's later races and challenges feel like-- a crap shoot. You're always at the mercy of the inconsistent physics of the game. A race could be going perfectly, and then you touch something on the track that completely ruins your run. Seeing as how quickly the game forces you to respawn at the faintest hint of stopping dead in your tracks or going at a "wrong" angle, this becomes quite problematic, and again, aggravating.

Unfortunately, all of the major actions aside from braking and accelerating are mapped to the face buttons. It's so easy to forget which button does what, that instead of boosting or launching off a weapon or item, you instead cause your toy car to manually respawn, costing precious seconds and in a race's term, several positions.

Regardless, Career mode does offer some variety outside of traditional races. There's elimination events, where last place is routinely removed until one racer is left standing/racing, time trials, checkpoint-to-checkpoint time challenges, and really obnoxious evade events, which are elimination events with... mines splattered all over the track. ...Yeah.

You always know where you need to
go thanks to these helpful track-side arrows.
For multiplayer sessions, Super Toy Cars allows up to four local players to choose an unlocked vehicle and take to one of the game's dozen tracks. That's right. There is no online play to speak of, and unfortunately for Super Toy Cars, most people are not going to get together to play races with this game when there's a better and more exciting alternative with Mario Kart 8.

He who is without friends plays alone.
There's also a track editor and creator to tool around with, but I was unable to do much with it. Each visit to the track creator always ended with me having to pull a cord from the back of my Wii U system, because the system would hard lock thanks to Super Toy Cars's track creator. It's a shame, because I would have loved to see how robust the creator was. It'd also give more variety in the track selection, racing on my own tracks with friends. That surely would have been an incentive to try out this game in multiplayer! No sarcasm intended either. It genuinely would.

The already preexisting tracks feature a handful of locales: a kitchen, a family room, a garage, a driveway, etc. Everyday objects line the turns and straightaways of each track, things like motor oil cans in the garage tracks and produce and aluminum cans in the kitchen tracks. The tracks are serviceable in their design, and they do their jobs well. There could be some more variety in the designs, as many obstacles repeat themselves throughout the tracks.

The cool in-game Photo Mode was used to
take all of these screenshots.
Super Toy Cars looks the part of a child-friendly racer. There's nothing here that really stands out as fantastic in the presentation, save for the blur effects in the photo mode, but it all adds up to something that works and works well. The music is all licensed from the same alternative band, and there's not really much to add about it. It's just there. What I do wish was "just there" was some kind of fanfare for crossing the finish line. As is, each race ends so anticlimactically. Furthermore, the text used in the game for menus and to describe each event type is so narrow that I had to move up to be able to read it.

I sure hope a dog doesn't "use"
this fire hydrant right now.
For those looking for a racer on the Wii U, there are far worse choices than Super Toy Cars. At the same token, there's far better choices, too. The wonky physics, unimpressive presentation, freezing issues, and lack of online make for a hard sell, and rightfully so. While I didn't really enjoy what I played of Super Toy Cars, I must give credit where credit is due-- the team at Eclipse Games have something really good as a foundation right here. Plus, it did give me the great desire to pull out my old Micro Machines toys and start going hog wild! The frustration with the physics of the game was almost worth that alone!

[SPC Says: 4.0/10]

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Disney's Hercules Action Game (PS1, PSN) Retro Review

There's some kind of Hercules movie coming out in North America tomorrow starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Do we smell what the Rock is cooking? Yes. Some kind of Hercules movie. We just said that. Anyway, why don't we take this chance to review a game based off the best Hercules ever to exist in the history of anything? No... not Kevin Sorbo! We're talking about Disney's Hercules! Yes, it's time for a review of the retro variety with Disney's Hercules Action Game for the original PlayStation!

Zero to Hero in One-and-a-Half Hours

When I was growing up around the time of the movie's release, I was obsessed with Disney's Hercules. The animated motion picture regarded content that I was crazy about, Greek mythology, and it offered that content in a charming package with action and a lot of laughs. I bought the McDonald's Happy Meals, I bought the toys, and yes, I played the games. One of my first PlayStation games ever was Disney's Hercules. When I saw it appear on the PlayStation Store, I couldn't resist buying it to see if it would live up to the fond memories and nostalgia I had for it. Did it, or was that task too much of a herculean effort?

The companion game to the Disney's Hercules movie follows the movie's story in an authentic way, even sporting many scenes directly taken from the film to bookend each level. For those uninitiated, Disney's Hercules follows the story of Hercules, child of the thunder god Zeus, as he trains with Phil to become a hero. It goes on to involve a lost interest, Meg, and several encounters with the god of the underworld, Hades, who wishes to take over Zeus's territory.

Hermes serves as the checkpoints of
Disney's Hercules Action Game.
Disney's Hercules Action Game (which is a title that doesn't really flow, so I'll just be calling it "Disney's Hercules") is one part 2D platformer, one part 3D runner, one part boss battles, and one part shoot-em-up. There's a good variety of gameplay styles, as you can tell. However, it's a tad disappointing that the best part of the game, the 2D platforming is only featured in the first half of the game, and then it's gone from sight. To make matters worse, there's only three of these levels included!

"Excellente, kid!"
Well said, Phil.
The 2D levels feature Hercules, swiping his sword at enemies, leaping from platform to platform, searching and exploring levels for secret areas, and in some parts of levels, moving from different planes, such as transitioning from the foreground to the background. This turns the typical move-right-to-left gameplay of traditional platformers on its head and offers even more chances for exploration.

There are three levels in Disney's Hercules which have you in a perspective behind a running Hercules, going through an obstacle course of sorts. You can speed up and slow down to leap over chasms, time your movements correctly in order to avoid hazards, and you can choose way you wish to go on the two levels which feature split paths.

An obstacle course that would make
Double Dare envious!
These two initial types of levels are engaging and enjoyable to play. It's a shame stereoscopic 3D wasn't available at the time, as it would not only make the game look more impressive than when the game originally released, but it would greatly assist with jumps, particularly in the 3D running obstacle course segments of the game.

Boss levels are very quick affairs, sadly, that make this already short game feel even shorter. The physical contests against the Hydra and Medusa take place in circular arenas. That's all these levels are. I would have loved to seen a build-up to these encounters, whether they be the aforementioned 2D platforming levels or the 3D runner levels. As is, when you beat these brief battles, your expression and thoughts will pretty much be summed up with one question: "That's it?"

Don't worry. There's no need to
"get up on the Hydra's back"!
Finally, there's one level where you ride aboard Hercules's trusty steed Pegasus through Mount Olympus' skies as you avoid the strikes and attacks of the legendary and otherworldly Titans. This level is basically a shoot-em-up. Well, technically it's a slash-em-up, as Hercules sort of doesn't possess a gun to ward off threats with, thankfully.

Disney's Hercules is indeed a quick game to beat. The developers obviously knew this, as the save system is rather old-fashioned. In order to save your data after a level, you must obtain all four hidden vases each time. Furthermore, to get continues, you need to collect all of the letters which spell out HERCULES. It adds some replay value to find the locations of letters, but many levels have it where if you miss a letter, you can't backtrack unless you intentionally lose a life and get sent back to a checkpoint to try again. Also, it's important to note that you should really play the game on the Normal difficulty or harder, 'else you won't be able to reach the final two levels of the game.

Ew. I can smell your armpit from here...
The animations and characters of Disney's Hercules are exquisite. I'm still impressed by what Disney Interactive and Eurocom were able to muster with the original PlayStation's power. It by no means animates as smoothly as games today, but it's still quite a looker. Environments are nicely detailed with wonderful parallax scrolling for 2D levels and polygonal objects in 3D levels that don't harm the eyes. The actors from the animated film do all the voice work for this game, which is a magnificent touch and makes the whole package feel like the real deal. Finally, the music is suitably catchy, featuring plenty of tunes that will make your herculean toes tap!

Disney's Hercules may suffer from a short campaign and a disappointing amount of 2D levels, my favorite part of the game. However, the entire package is worthwhile to check out, and it's a game that begs for repeated play-throughs whether for speed runs or just casual play. The game is available for purchase on the PlayStation Store in the form of a PS1 classic, so PS3 and Vita owners can enjoy it either at home or on the go whenever they want. He put the glad in gladiator, and Hercules's game puts the fun in functional, which is exactly what this game based off the animated film is.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

Hyrule Warriors (Wii U) Features Trailer

Hyrule Warriors takes the Dynasty Warriors series and gives it a Legend of Zelda makeover. As you can probably guess, we're big fans of Zelda, so we are absolutely drooling in anticipation for Hyrule Warriors. This trailer shows off the current announced characters for the game, as well as new locales based off of Ocarina of Time, one of three Zelda games getting major representation in Hyrule Warriors. Is it near the end of September yet?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Best Levels in Gaming History - Volume Eleven


We bring Best Levels in Gaming History into the summer and turn up the heat even more! It's time for Volume Eleven of SuperPhillip Central's popular series focusing on the great levels that make up parts of our favorite and beloved games. These have superb design, points of interest, masterful placement of hazards, and anything else that makes a good level truly great. This edition has Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Mario Kart 8, and Batman: Arkham Origins to mention just a few.

If you missed out on a previous installment, no worries. Check them all out at the following links:

Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three
Volume Four
Volume Five
Volume Six
Volume Seven
Volume Eight
Volume Nine
Volume Ten

Hangar - Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (PS1, N64)

Mullet Falls, Montana is the home to the first level of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. It's the Hangar, a place that we spent more hours just messing around in as kids than we'd like to admit. It also happens to be home to a quarter pipe that extends around the perimeter of the entire inside of the building, it's offers a perfect place for setting up as many vertical trick possibilities as your skater can muster. It doubly serves as a fantastic area to grind, allowing you to pull off one impressive grind all around the skating area.

The Hangar is made up of two rooms itself, the airplane hangar and the helicopter hangar. In the airplane room, one can bust out gnarly tricks on the halfpipe that rests inside, or they can go vertical, grinding upon the rails that rest on the high walls of the room.

On the far side wall there's a panel of glass that can be broken through, granting your skater more territory to nail tricks in via a secret area. It's opened up through grinding on one of the wrecked plane's propellers. This opens up a wind tunnel, perfect for catching sick air, nabbing mad money, and just flat out killing it on the scoreboards.

The Hangar is a perfect introductory place for beginners to get their skates wet. It's relatively simple in design, and it offers easy access to places to score big. Pulling off wicked combos (sorry about all of the forced skater lingo in this level description) is a piece of cake, making this level a popular one among the SuperPhillip Central crowd.

Mount Wario - Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

The recently released Mario Kart 8 brings with it one the most cleverly designed courses in series history, Mount Wario, a frigid ride from the mountain's summit to its bottom. Along the way are three segments that make for a mighty wild ride from beginning to end.

Racers start by driving out of the inside of a plane and onto the powdery snow that makes up the top of the mountain. Through drifting among icy pathways, players eventually make it into the inside of the mountain, a cavern full of water. A gliding section allows proficient flyers to keep their flight pattern going as they run off multiple rocks serving as makeshift ramps. The alternative is riding down the raging rapids of the water flowing through the cave, a safe way to go, but also one that takes more time.

It's then a drive through an area that serves as a transition between the mountainous cavern and the upcoming dam. Wario Dam has racers driving on the side of it, with four or five flumes sending water down into the body of water below. However, these flumes also periodically let loose boost pads for racers to drive over and gain a leg up on the competition.

Once the dam has been passed, it's a drive through a forested area. The middle path offers a glide pad to glide over most of the tree and log-covered obstacles in the way. The logs themselves can be tricked off of, but the danger of having one's momentum sending them into a tree is present.

Finally, the last stretch of track is a series of sharp slalom turns down a snowy series of banks with onlookers and a crowd full of Toads and other characters rooting racers on. A final gliding section requires racers to fly through rings for a burst of speed, and a final set of turns leads to the finish line.

Mount Wario consists of so much variety that it feels like an adventure from the starting point to the finish line. It offers terrific opportunities for tricks, plenty of eye candy along the way down the mountain, and a perfect running time to make sure the race doesn't get boring and makes it so players want to come back for more.

Gotham City Royal Hotel - Batman: Arkham Origins (Wii U, PS3, 360, PC)

The Gotham City Royal Hotel has the objective for Batman to apprehend the dreaded Joker. It's a locale that is in the latter half of Batman: Arkham Origins, a surprisingly well made game from WB Games Montreal, and not the normal team behind the series, Rocksteady Games.

What makes the Gotham City Royal Hotel so interesting is how Batman is making his way through swaths of thugs, whether in pure combat or picking them off via stealth, and how much the trek up the hotel feels like one grand, escalating mission with a lot of gravitas to it.

In the Gotham City Royal Hotel, Batman will be required to transport inside and outside the hotel, as the elevators do not function at all. He'll grapple his way up the insides of elevator shafts and the outside pillars of the hotel in the frigid winter night.

The Joker has a plethora of shady goons patrolling multiple sections of the hotel. There's two predator areas where Batman will need to use his brains to incapacitate all of the henchmen inside, the lower level lobby of the hotel and the elevator area leading to the penthouse near the top of the hotel. Sandwiched between both sections are portions where Batman will use his new gadget, taken from the fallen Electrocutioner, a pair of shock gloves. These allow the dark knight to give power to otherwise non-powered contraptions like shutters, elevators, and the like.

Near the top of the hotel, the Joker and his begrudging followers have created an amusement park of sorts. How this was possible in such a short time is anyone's guess, especially since there's no nearby Home Depot or Lowe's to assist with this process. Regardless, not only is Batman fighting and thinking is way up to the penthouse where the Joker is awaiting his soon-to-be future perpetual rival, but Batman is saving hostages one after the other.

The Gotham City Royal Hotel is a very interesting and enjoyable area of Batman: Arkham Origins because like Mount Wario, it feels like one grand adventure from the ground floor all the way up to the penthouse.

Little States - Pilotwings 64 (N64)

As you can probably guess with the title of this next level, Little States is a miniature version of the real life United States. Of course, there's several differences, such as Alaska and Hawaii not being represented, the United States itself being an island with no appearance of its border countries, Canada or Mexico, and there's no not-so-thinly-veiled racism running rampant in the Little States either.

The Little States is such a fascinating and large area to explore, and that's the most fun part of the Little States, exploring it. There's so many fascinating landmarks and true to life locations like New York City, Chicago, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, Mount Rushmore (although in the Little States's history, apparently Mario and even Wario were one time presidents...) and so much more. It's especially entertaining to explore with the Jumble Hopper, leaping high into the air, falling to the ground, and having your feet touch down with the ground as you leap once more, launching into the skies above.

Spaceport Alpha - Diddy Kong Racing (N64, DS)

A track in the last area of Diddy Kong Racing, Future Fun Land, and one of the final tracks in the game, Spaceport Alpha allows for racing with all three available vehicles in the game. Regardless, the primary vehicle featured in the track is the plane.

Spaceport Alpha is a race that takes place aboard a spaceship. It features wide curves at the beginning, a vertical ride through an air vent, which requires some smart braking and acceleration to masterfully move through, and perhaps the coolest room of all, an area where lasers fire throughout the room in seemingly all directions. A safe place to travel here to avoid coming under fire is as close to the floor as humanly, or in Diddy Kong Racing's case, as animally (to make up a word) possible.

Diddy Kong Racing is bar-none one of our favorite kart racers ever devised. The adventure mode gave the single player portion an immense more amount of play time and longevity than most Mario Karts, and the level of polish was incredibly high-- still is. Throw in the inescapable charm, sensational presentation, and wonderful track design like Spaceport Alpha possesses, and you can see why we're still enamored with Diddy Kong Racing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top Five Game Soundtracks of 2014 Thus Far

Game soundtracks have always fascinated me, so why not make a list of 2014's best thus far? Maybe that's the reason this list has been made, or perhaps this list was made to get a viewpoint on what potential game soundtracks could win at various game site end of the year award ceremonies. Perhaps this list was made just to fill a weekday spot. Who knows, really? Regardless, game soundtracks are a fun topic, as you can make note that the majority of songs on my portable MP3 device are music from video games. And classic rock. Lots of classic rock. And that one Katy Perry song. Gotta love Firework.

...Where was I? Oh, yes. Anyhow, these five games sport the best soundtracks of the year thus far, but the year has yet to see its biggest releases. Who knows how much or how little this list will change by year's end? After you read my picks, please share five of your own in the comments section (music examples optional).

5) Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, 360)

While a certain Final Fantasy development team staff member's fixation with the character of Lightning has been a disservice and a negative for the series as a whole (in my opinion at the very least), the one constant besides the excellent visuals of the Lightning Final Fantasy trilogy is the brilliant music that comes from it. Well, except Final Fantasy XIII-2's Crazy Chocobo. A person with any kind of musical taste wouldn't even enjoy that song while high. With a bevy of orchestral, electronic, and techno flavor, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII nabs the five spot on this brief countdown.

4) Kirby: Triple Deluxe (3DS)

We move to game soundtrack number four with the Kirby series, known for its bright and cheery presentation. Kirby: Triple Deluxe checks off all of the appropriate boxes for a Kirby game and amazing and catchy music is but one of those. However, Triple Deluxe expands outside the typical comfort zone of the series by featuring tracks that one would confuse for a Japanese RPG's final boss encounter. The drama that unfolds from each note is unprecedented for a Kirby game.

3) Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

I never thought Mario Kart 64 or Double Dash!! would have their crowns taken away for best soundtracks within the Mario Kart series. Then Mario Kart 8 came and easily grabbed the crown in an almost effortless fashion. A combination of jazz, rock, and traditional Super Mario series sounds, Mario Kart 8's soundtrack is a marvelous display of musical prodigy that makes the already hot and heated races all the more exciting!

2) Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

Playing upon my nostalgia for the Super Nintendo Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Nintendo and Retro Studios contacted one of the biggest minds behind the trilogy soundtrack, David Wise, and asked him to provide the majority of tracks for this past February's Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Not only were plenty of familiar DKC tracks remixed, but a mighty helping of phenomenal new compositions were made, some melodic while others more atmospheric. It all added up to a sensational soundtrack for a phenomenal platformer.

1) Bravely Default (3DS)

Revo created a rocking soundtrack that stands tall and proud over everything else that has been released over the first half of the year. Armed with fantastic character themes, soothing dungeon and field themes, and some absolutely awesome battle tracks, Bravely Default may have fallen apart around Chapter 5, but the quality of music never wavered from the very beginning up to the bitter end. The soundtrack isn't just one of the year's best, but it's one of the best on the Nintendo 3DS, in RPG's, and in gaming in general. Big words, but the music backs up my statements.

Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity (Wii, PS2) Retro Review

Here's a special early morning treat for you guys. Before SuperPhillip Central came to be, I wrote reviews exclusively for GameFAQs. This is one of my earliest reviews that was never published to this site. Now, it is here for your reading pleasure. The name of the game is Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity, and here's my seven-year-old review.

The Blue Blur Rides Again

The original Sonic Riders came out late in the life of last generation. The title was mostly panned by critics but enjoyed by many for its slick visuals, fun racing, and complex courses. Fast-forward to two years later, and Sonic has once again traded in his running sneakers for an airboard with Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity. Now is the Sonic Riders sequel easy to pass up, or is this one title that will pull you in?

Strange meteorites fell to Sonic's planet christening in a ruckus of rampaging robots all over the world. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles are found speeding in a hovercar towards one of the meteorite's crash sites when suddenly they're ambushed by some robots. Turns out Sonic has one of the stone rings that fell down, and this is what the robots are after. However, this isn't an ordinary ring-- it has the power to control gravity. Now Sonic and the gang are out to find out why these robots have all of a sudden gone berserk.

You can play Zero Gravity with one of three different control schemes. Unfortunately, two of them involve motion controls which really don't give you the preciseness that you need in this typCube controller, and there's really no contest on which to choose. This review will reference the GameCube controller.

There's plenty of new content of abilities to make Zero Gravity much more different compared to its predecessor. Those days of worrying about air are over. Now you have Gravity Points which are gained by performing tricks and depleted by initiating a gravity move. The power of gravity can be used by every character, and every character can harness that power in one of two ways. The gravity control is used by holding a button down which will slow everything (except other racers) down. You can then turn on a dime, let go of the button, and then boost in the direction you're facing. This is perfect for navigating those sharp corners on a track. There's also the gravity dive which is great for speeding ahead of the pack. In certain straightaways you can leap off falling debris to gain speed and gravity points to pull off impressive feats of aerial acrobatics. Confused? Fear not. Those new to the Sonic Riders series can feel right at home as there's a welcomed tutorial mode so any beginner and get into the game at their own pace.

In Sonic Riders, the character you chose defined the type of racer they were-- speed, flight, or power. However, this time gear dictates which characteristic you are, so choosing a character is basically more aesthetically pleasing than technically. Most gears have three abilities that need to be unlocked in a race by collecting rings. When the required amount has been collected, you can change your gear to add a bonus to it-- such as the ability to grind rails (speed), soar through aerial rings (flight), or storm through obstacles and walls (power). Each track has its own ability-specific shortcuts, so choosing the appropriate gear is recommended.

Like Sonic Riders, there's sixteen different tracks to speed through. However, again like Sonic Riders, eight of the tracks are altered versions of the original eight tracks. Though this gripe is much less apparent in Zero Gravity thankfully. There's two sets of tracks-- one for the Heroes team (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles) and one for the Babylon Rogues (Jet, Wave, and Storm). These tracks range from convoluted caverns to a futuristic city in Megalo Station, from an Aquatic Capital to the insides of the mysterious company of Meteotech. Regardless of which you play in, each track has a myriad of shortcuts, hidden secrets, and areas to score bigger air and higher trick scores. Although you won't be mashing buttons like in Tony Hawk, all you'll need to do to reach higher platforms and score huge is press the A button at the right time as you trick off a ramp. Timing is everything, and it's the difference between nailing an "X" rank trick and screwing up for a "C" rank trick.

The majority of your playtime actually won't be in the story itself. Both story modes can be sailed through within a couple hours' time. It's a small bummer, but at the same token if you play a racing game for the story then you play chess for the hot king on queen action. Chess porn aside, various mission open up as you progress through the story. You'll be racing for high times, trying to bust off as many tricks for points as possible, chasing an out-of-control car, trying to keep up in a race with Team Sonic, grinding on as many rails as possible-- you get the idea. There's a wide array of missions to choose from-- seven for each track multiplied by the sixteen tracks, and you get the idea of how much playtime you'll be investing in. Plus, you're ranked much like Sonic Riders, but instead of gold, silver, and bronze, you're awarded Extreme, Super, and Normal. Hmm.... I bet there's a really cool prize for beating all the missions as well as beating them all on Extreme, yes? And even if you're done with all those missions, you can still try to get on Sega's online leaderboards or download a staff ghost to compare times against. Sadly, there's no online play which is really a disappointment. It would have game this game even more "legs".

While you're not tearing it up on the tracks, you'll most likely be marveling at the impressive visuals. Unfortunately, for the Playstation 2 version, it suffers from some bad framerate problems and the controller is a tad uncomfortable for this type of game. Regardless, the Wii version runs at a silky smooth framerate. There's occasional pop-up of background objects, but mostly it's nice to gawk at. Voice acting is done by the same 4-Kids crowd which is a blessing or a curse considering who you are. Musically, this soundtrack is more rock than the mostly techno of the original Riders. Nonetheless, it still gets you into the game all the same.

Many have complained that the Sonic Riders series is too slow. Well, as we've seen from the PS3/360 versions of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Team isn't competent enough to make a fast 3-D Sonic without it being a glitchy mess, so there has to be a compromise. Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity is currently my favorite racer for the Wii, and it has a lot of meat to it as well as some stuff for the hardcore fans of Sega as well whether it be the cool final two Sega-themed tracks or the inclusion of unlockable racers like Amigo (from Samba de) and everyone's favorite egg-roller, Billy Hatcher.

Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity may not set the world on fire, and it's done little justice in persuading to people that motion controls will work for every genre, but for what you get is an incredibly fun racer that's just over a little too soon. With some added polish and perhaps just a tad more speed, it could have pulled in some new fans instead of more critics.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bombing Bastards (Wii U eShop) Review

We've been holding off on posting the review to this next game in order to have the 500th review of SuperPhillip Central be designated to Shovel Knight. With that review finished, now we can focus on Bombing Bastards, a Bomberman clone for the Wii U eShop. Should it be bombs away for Wii U owners?

Oh, my God! They bombed Kenny!
You bastards!

Ever since Konami acquired Hudson, Bomberman has been missing in action for quite some time, and has therefore left a void in the gaming industry that only a competitive action game where you blow opponents away with bombs can fill. The folks at Sanuk Games have taken it upon themselves to try to fill that void with the blatantly Bomberman-inspired (not that this is a bad thing) Bombing Bastards for the Wii U eShop. Is the game a suitable substitute?

For solo players, Bombing Bastards has a single player campaign that spans five worlds that each come equipped with six levels apiece. These levels have you doing your best to take out all AI enemies as fast as possible. This is all the while not blowing yourself up or getting touched by a foe. The sixth level of every world pits you against a boss, and these levels are simply put, aggravating at best. Bosses have too much health, and all it takes is one hit for you to have to start from the beginning to the bout. Thankfully, as if Sanuk Games knew how devilish these boss encounters were, these levels aren't mandatory to beat.

Kill these bastards with fire.
The meat and potatoes of an action game like Bomberman or Bombing Bastards is its competitive multiplayer side. Unfortunately, Bombing Bastards doesn't quite get this right either. Matches are sluggish in speed, offering bombs that take their sweet time to actually explode, only furthering the ennui Bombing Bastards's multiplayer brings. This would be fine if you didn't have to blow away obstacles like blocks in order to reach opponents. By the time a path has been cleared to a rival, a sizable chunk of time has expired and so has a sizable amount of interest in the match.

Losing like that was SO not the bomb.
Sadly, there is no option for online play, which would have been absolutely perfect for a game like this. It's a difficult sell to get a group of friends to choose to play a slow match of Bombing Bastards when there are far more appealing and exciting games on the Wii U eShop to play already, and Bombing Bastards becomes an even bigger losing proposition when you factor in retail software.

On the topic of presentation, Bombing Bastards exudes a nice bit of charm, particularly from the solo campaign's doctor character who exclaims various bomb-related puns and statements when you destroy enemies. It's cheesy, yes, but it works well. The different arenas aren't much to look at, but they do have a bit of personality to them, each with their own stage gimmicks like teleportation pads and flame geysers. The music that is featured in Bombing Bastards is all public domain music given a modern twist. It would have been nice to have wholly original music just to give Sanuk Games's eShop title a little more personality of its own.

The visuals are serviceable enough,
but they won't amaze.
With Bombing Bastards, what you end up with is a Bomberman clone that doesn't really do much to fill the space that its inspiration has left. It doesn't offer an engaging multiplayer experience, especially with a total lack of online and a pace that is too slow to hold most players' interest. Its single player aspect is a bit fun at first, but it quickly grows tiring and tedious too. Bombing Bastards is by no means a horrible game, but there's much better avenues to take if you're looking for an engaging solo and local multiplayer experience. All in all, this bomb is a little bit of a dud.

[SPC Says: 4.75/10]