Saturday, November 1, 2014

Review Round-Up - October 2014

A trio of games all scored 9.0 this month.
A first highlight is Hyrule Warriors.
DISCLAIMER: I promise that I will not do any more Halloween-related puns. That said, let's chat about the games that I covered for October 2014. It's the Review Round-Up, your one-stop place for all the reviews of the past month that you may have missed.

Nine reviews were posted, several of which on the last week of the month. Talk about making up for lost time! Anyway, we kicked off the month with a review of Hyrule Warriors, hacking and slashing its way to a 9.0. Then, I scratched my Picross itch with Tappingo 2, which netted itself an 8.0. Next, another 9.0 was given to Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. Next up, two indie games on different systems were covered, Paper Monsters Recut and The Legend of Dark Witch. Despite being two different games on two different systems, they ended up with the same score.

Next in the pipeline was a Halloween-themed review of the retro variety, The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return, shooting its way through zombie hordes to get a 7.0. The lowest scoring game this month, but still above average, was Ballpoint Universe (6.5). Finally, we wrapped up the month with a cute game with ghosts, the surprisingly great Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 (8.25) and then the morbid and bleak ZombiU (9.0). That's a study in contrast if I ever saw one!

We're entering the busy gaming season with November. Some scheduled reviews include Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, Bayonetta 2, Fantasy Life, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U! Don't be surprised to see a whole bunch more! These are exciting times for your old buddy SuperPhillip! I hope you'll join the ride!

Hyrule Warriors (Wii U) - 9.0
Tappingo 2 (3DS eShop) - 8.0
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (3DS) - 9.0
Paper Monsters Recut (Wii U eShop) - 8.0
The Legend of Dark Witch (3DS eShop) - 8.0
The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return (Wii) - 7.0
Ballpoint Universe (Wii U eShop) - 6.5
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 (Wii U, PS3, 360, 3DS) - 8.25
ZombiU (Wii U) - 9.0

I loved Super Smash Bros. on 3DS,
but I definitely want seconds!

Central City Census - November 2014

We have reached the conclusion of another month! This past poll was pretty special. It was a two month-long poll. We're getting back to normalcy with November, but first, here are the results of September and October's poll regarding Let's Play videos!

Here's this month's poll subject:

Toy figurines like those found in Skylanders and Disney Infinity are a hot commodity right now with certain sections of the gaming population. Since we're nearing the holiday season, which do you prefer, if any?

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire (3DS) TV Commercial

I don't follow the Pokemon series much anymore. When they got to 2,000 Pokemon or whatever, I lost track and just stopped paying attention. Still, these games continue to do well, and I always enjoy and like sharing game commercials with you guys.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Better Late Than Never Reviews: ZombiU (Wii U) Review

To wrap up this month of SuperPhillip Central content is a Wii U exclusive that launched with the system two years ago. It's a horrifying survival horror game, ZombiU, a review perfect for this Halloween night. Enjoy.

Zombies Ate My London Neighbors

"How long will you survive?" That is the question that Wii U exclusive ZombiU asks players. That's when the game isn't kicking your ass left and right, causing your adrenaline and pulse to pump wildly in fear, having you throw you hands up in the air when an infected grabs onto you and chews on you like a doberman with a fresh piece of meat. ZombiU is a genuinely scary game where survival isn't just of the fittest, but also the smartest, the most strategic, and seldom the most foolhardy.

ZombiU thrusts you into the zombie apocalypse as a vanilla survivor, who has nothing on him or her than a cricket bat and a handgun with six bullets in it. That's it. Through careful searching of your surroundings, new gear, new weapons, new upgrades, helpful items to keep the undead at bay, and items for your health can be found. Your bug-out bag (or B.O.B.) is where you can store goods. However, this is just temporary for reasons you'll soon find out.

This shot to the head is gonna
be a wicked pissa'!
For those who enter ZombiU thinking it is simply a game where you run and gun, mowing down the undead with ease, you're going to get a very unwelcome brush with reality. ZombiU is not like that whatsoever. It is indeed one part survival and one part horror, with a huge emphasis on survival. Frankly, this change-up from what we're used to seeing with zombies in games is a breath of fresh air. I guess in the case of zombies and this game, it's more a breath of rotten air. ...I'll be here all night, folks.

ZombiU is harsh in its difficulty. Each encounter is incredibly intense. It's just the degree of intensity is higher when dealing with a whole horde of undead coming after you. When dealing with just one zombie, things can become very tense very quickly regardless. All it takes is one missed swing of your cricket bat, your lone melee weapon, or one poorly timed shove and a zombie can go in for the kill, biting and infecting you.

Well, this survivor's screwed.
One of the pieces of ZombiU's playbook that resonated with me so well is how many ways you can deal with a given encounter with a zombie or a pack of zombies. Do you stand firm with your back against a wall and hope for the best? Do you throw a flare, running to safety as the zombies are distracted? Do you hide in a hallway, using a doorway as a means to funnel zombies through, picking each one off one by one? By making noise or having your flashlight on, however, you risk getting zombies zeroed in on your location. Alternately, you can just run around like a chicken with its head cut off, hoping for the best. Just some advice-- don't bring a cricket bat to a horde of zombies fight. It won't end well for you. Nonetheless, the amount of scenarios with different tactics you can use is amazing, and it makes repeated play-throughs worthwhile.

Going in guns blazing like Rambo
is not usually the correct strategy.
When infected, your survivor is dead and done for. There's no bringing them back; there's no quitting the game to cheat your way out of your failure to stay alive. Instead, you get an entirely new survivor who comes with the starting gear of your previous survivor-- that cricket bat, that pistol, and those six bullets inside its cold chamber. All of the gear your deceased survivor had is lost.

There is a chance to regain these items, but it's just one chance only. Your survivor will take the form of a zombie at the place where he or she perished. You have to return to that area, kill the now-zombified survivor, and take back their goods. If you fail again, the goods are gone forever, and in a game that is punishing in its challenge, what, with so few consumables, health packets, and ammo lying around, this can mean the difference between being able to continue your missions unabated or being heavily inconvenienced by being forced to replenish your stock of goods out of necessity.

Hmm. I doubt that sign on the top
left has to do with zombies...
London holds a select few safe houses outside of your main home base inside the subway tunnels. Here, you can save your data, replenish your health without using any consumables, stock items within a metal container (these don't disappear when you die), and upgrade weapons using a variety of collectibles found with London's bleak setting. With a dozen or so unique weapons to find and use, such as shotguns, sniper rifles, crossbows, and more, one's armory can be plenty stocked.

Each survivor you control earns points for things like completing missions, killing infected, etc. When your survivor dies, a high score is shown. There's online leaderboards to compare your best survivor total with other players. It's also a means to play against yourself, trying to score high, keep your survivor alive and successfully get through as much of the campaign as possible.

Being a launch title, showing off what the Wii U GamePad, Nintendo's big innovation (you can put that last word in quotes if need be) for their latest home console, is a must. I would surmise that Ubisoft Montpelier has accomplished that goal not only as a launch title but ZombiU still remains one of the games that best uses the GamePad in general.

Pretty much every non-combat-related task within ZombiU is performed by interacting with the GamePad's screen. You can scan the area for hidden items, see which infected are worth troubling with by seeing if they are carrying any helpful items, and so much more. My favorite feature, and this is one that makes the terrifying nature of ZombiU so incredible, is using the GamePad to organize and select contents within your survivor's backpack. The game does not pause when you're checking the contents inside of your backpack, a task that is done on the GamePad screen. This means you're vulnerable when looking at the GamePad and fiddling with backpack organization. There's always the chance that a stray zombie can come in from behind or into the fray and infect you while you're in the middle of selecting items.

The Wii U GamePad is put to excellent use.
While there is no online multiplayer to be found in ZombiU, what is offered locally is clever enough. It has two sides, one using the Wii U GamePad to deploy infected on an enclosed map, and the other using an alternate controller to complete some kind of mission, whether that be capturing flags or simply trying to stay alive as long as possible. It's a fun excursion from the main story campaign, but it's by no means a selling point at the end of the day.

ZombiU captures the feeling of hopelessness, and part of that is due to its abundance of amazing imagery and visual design. Post-apocalyptic London feels like the real deal with such a natural design that nothing really feels too out of place or game-y. The disheveled streets, littered with garbage, messages on walls, huge attention to detail-- all of this makes London a character with a personality of its own, helping to lend itself to the absolute bleakness players will find themselves in.

Hello sunshine!
While plenty of other games of its kind go for an all-guns blazing-type approach, ZombiU sticks with tried and true survival horror. The game is an endurance challenge for even the most skillful of gamers, and there are legitimately spooky moments, sometimes even giving you fits of pure panic and fear. Hell, ZombiU is a textbook definition of survival horror, and it's one of the few games that does both "survival" and "horror" exceptionally well. It's a darn shame that most Wii U owners and gamers in general turned away from ZombiU, as it's a game that will infect players and keep them addicted from beginning to glorious end.

[SPC Says: 9.0/10]

Top Five Horror Video Game Franchises

It's Halloween night here at SuperPhillip Central and at a lot of other places out there, too. Speaking of too-- er, TWO-- I have a duo of articles to be posted tonight. This is the first, a top five of my favorite horror video game franchises. From old haunts to new scares, these are the best of the best in my very meager opinion. After you've started inhaling your haul of Halloween candy, sit back, relax, and read up on my five favorite horror franchises in video games!

5) The House of the Dead

My first selection for a top horror franchise is SEGA's The House of the Dead, which debuted in arcades back in 1996. With several successful home console ports, the most popular of which being The House of the Dead 2, this light gun series of shooters quenches the thirst for blood of many players. Whether you're accurately blasting the heads off a trio of zombies, one after the next, or dishing out damage to a giant boss with a flashing weak point, The House of the Dead series may not give players a lot of freedom on where they want to go, but it still delivers plenty of thrills, chills, and blood spills.

4) Fatal Frame

Taking an innovative premise, high amounts of exploration, and intense showdowns with evil spirits with your only weapon being a mystical photography device known as the Camera Obscura, Fatal Frame is a generally terrifying series. It has its quirks, but don't let your guard down. You can very much shriek like a five-year-old girl at various points during the games.

Despite Nintendo co-owning the most recent entries and all future installments, such as the new Wii U game, us North Americans have yet to see a new title in the mainline series come to our shores. Yes, we did get Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir, but I don't think it was very good (see: it was awful). Perhaps with the movie being released in the West next year, we will finally get another chance to look through the Camera Obscura's lens and be frightened to our very cores.

3) Silent Hill

Many horror video games rely on heavy firepower, strong men and women, and jump scares. While Silent Hill isn't free of all of those, I enjoy this series due to its psychological nature. It shows each main character, someone who you could see on a street, slowly unraveling, being tormented psychologically. Silent Hill offers much less combat and focuses more on thrills and chills.

The first four Silent Hill games were designed and developed by Team Silent, an internal group within Konami. More recent games were tossed around to various developers, with the one who I think was the only group to get it right was Climax Studios, who developed the combat-free Shattered Memories. This game focused on running away from danger, and damn, I'd be lying if I said it didn't make my pulse pound while playing it.

Despite a string of recent duds, save for the aforementioned Shattered Memories, there's still optimism to be had for the series thanks to Hideo Kojima's influence in Silent Hills, an upcoming release that if the playable teaser is anything to go by, it'll have the elements that fans like me have been sorely missing from the Silent Hill series.

2) Dead Rising

Like The House of the Dead, Dead Rising sports campy horror and loads of disturbing imagery. The original had players assuming the role of photo journalist Frank West as he uncovers the secret of an outbreak of zombies in Williamette, Colorado. The local mall is the setting of the game, but the only clearance going on is for flesh-eating zombies... and psychopaths. It feels insanely good to mow down an entire corridor of zombies with an abundance of different weaponry-- guns, swords, soccer balls, lawnmowers, chainsaws, Servbot heads from Mega Man Legends, cars, and so on.

Future Dead Rising games expanded on the concept and foundation that the Keiji Inafune-backed original built for itself, with the most recent releasing last year at the Xbox One's launch. Mixing true survival horror with pure cheese, Dead Rising is my second favorite video game horror series.

1) Resident Evil

Really, what else could it be? Well, besides the other horror video game series on this list. Resident Evil may be in a strange place right now, but even then with the terrifying quality of Resident Evil 6, it wasn't enough to soil my love for the franchise. No, memories of Resident Evils 1-4 (the latter being one of my favorite games ever made) and various spin-off games like characters in the series, don't die easily, especially not to one or two bad games in the franchise.

Even then, there is some current and more recent games in the series that I found amazing, such as Resident Evil: Revelations (the sequel I am quite excited for), and the duo of rail shooters that the Wii received, Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles. I still think it's great to be a Resident Evil fan, and I wear my fan badge with pride. Here's hoping Resident Evil 7 when it eventually comes out doesn't make me regret it.


Are you a fan of horror video games? If so, which franchises are your faves? Let the SuperPhillip Central community know in the comments section below!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 (Wii U, PS3, 360, 3DS) Review

Not all Halloween-related stuff has to be horror-filled and morbid. That's the case with the next game I'm covering. Although it is packed to the brim with ghosts, there's nothing scary about this game. Perhaps the shocking quality of it?

Anyhow, there's only been a handful of reviews for this game, but I've added my own verdict to the small pile. It's Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2. Note: The Wii U version was the one covered, hence my own screenshots.

Worlds better than past Pac-Man game attempts

Pac-Man fans seem to cherish the Pac-Man World series that mostly appeared in the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox generation of home consoles. Perhaps it's nostalgia of playing those games when these folks were younger, as someone new to the games like myself played them for the first time recently and didn't find them satisfying at all. They had cameras that worked as well as Ms. Pac-Man's recent solo career, a complete lack of polish, and frustrating game mechanics.

When I originally looked at the first Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, I thought it would merely be an adequate licensed game at most, but I found myself enjoying the game and believed it to have some genuinely smart ideas, although not executed to a high caliber. Less than a year later, here comes the sequel, and one would think that for a game with such short time to brew would be a catastrophe. Not only is it not that, but Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 is actually an incredibly competent 3D platformer with clever level design, smartly hidden secrets, and in all a largely better game than its predecessor.

Using the same cast of characters as the licensed cartoon of the same name (well, only without the number two in the title), Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2's tale is humorous and charming enough. The evil Betrayus from the Netherworld once again wishes to obtain the fabled repository, the canister that has every evil ghost sealed inside it, including Betrayus' physical form. He devises a plan to have an unassuming Pac-Man lead him to his treasured prize. Thus, what follows is five worlds of about ten levels each of 3D platforming action.

The start of the game is innocent enough.
Upon the first two levels of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2, I had a very been-there, done-that feeling. I ran through city streets, up on the rooftops of buildings, and leaped from vanishing platform to vanishing platform. However, quickly I found myself being genuinely surprised by the quality of the majority of levels after. Not only did each have its own new mechanic or type of obstacle to contend with, but the levels were actually memorable to a degree.

Okay, things are getting a little interesting now.
One level had me using Granite Pac, a Pac-Man transformation that turns our hero into a stone ball, and rolling around inside a gigantic makeshift pinball arena. I can't forget about other transformations that led to some creative platforming. There's a transformation that turns Pac into a bouncing ball, allowing him to wall jump with ease. There's Chameleon Pac, allowing him to latch onto poles to swing from-- no matter how unsanitary that may be. There's also fire and ice transformations, the former allowing Pac to glide large distances, while the other grants Pac with the ability to freeze enemies and fountains of water and lava.

Which way is up? Metal Pac can stick
to these solid metal surfaces. 
Others were less original, borrowing heavily from Super Mario 3D Land and games of its ilk. For one, there were platforms that flipped each time I jumped as Pac-Man, while another had platforms that would vanish and then appear at intermittent timed intervals.

If you're going to borrow level ideas from
somebody, why not borrow from the best?
The problem with the original Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures was that the game relied on haphazard level design. There were too many platforms floating in midair for no reason whatsoever. With this sequel, the levels are more natural in design. They lend well to the environments and scenery and don't feel out of place for the most part.

It's time to get wheel. Er, real.
And, boy, are the environments impressive! Ghostly Adventures 2 boasts a wide array and variety of level types and locales. From an underwater paradise in the form of Paclantis to going back into the prehistoric past and even into the depths of space, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 sports plenty of environments to keep the game fresh from beginning to end.

In space, no one can hear you gobble up ghosts.
Another thing to keep the game fresh are new level types in general. Some levels with have Pac-Man or one of his two closest friends piloting a vehicle of some type. These levels are on-rails experience, with the ones taking place in the air feeling like something akin to Star Fox. These levels are nice to have, they only happen occasionally, but when they do, they add some diversity to the game.

Furthermore, fighting an invisible enemy in the form of a camera is no issue this time around. The Ghostly Adventures 2 does not have manual camera control, meaning you need not worry about fiddling around with the right analog stick to get the desired angle. This would be a problem if the game's fixed camera didn't properly follow the action or give you bad angles to work with. Thankfully, this isn't the case. What this does is allow for a more streamlined platforming experience.

The original Ghostly Adventures did not have much reason for players to return to levels other than having them replay a level without any changes just to earn an arcade token. It was filler in every sense of the word. In Ghostly Adventures 2, each level has a high score to attain. It's not just about gobbling every ghost in sight, but doing so with a bit of strategy.

Pac-Man has something the game refers to as a Boo! attack. When enough ghosts have been consumed, this Boo! attack is ready to be utilized. When used, it turns every ghost in the nearby vicinity into a frightened, crazed creature, roaming around in a hurry with the fear of being eaten. It's in this form that ghosts are worth the most points, and creating a chain of gobbling ghosts can rack up points mighty easily. Using the Boo! attack at just the right times in levels can make the difference between coming close to a gold medal and being stuck with a silver or worse.

It's a full-on Pac attack!
However, gobbling ghosts isn't the only means of attaining a high score. In each level are three special items, usually fruit, that are the collectibles within Ghostly Adventure 2. Some are out in the open, some are hidden, while others are in secret portals that take you to a 2D platforming trial. Finding some of these collectibles made me have to play through some levels up to three times just to find all three of these collectibles in a level. Doing so isn't just for my O.C.D. completionist's sake, but having all three fruit or whatnot at the conclusion of a level doubles your final score, making getting those high scores all the more possible.

I'm a bit of a platforming expert. It's my favorite genre of game, and I'm well versed in it. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 scratches an itch for that 3D platformer I've been wanting. Memories of Super Mario 3D World weren't cutting it anymore. Regardless, with that said, the game is a bit on the easy side. The developers waste no time raining down extra lives on you, handing them out like candy on Halloween night. (See how I made this review topical all of a sudden?) By the first world's end, I was near 60 lives, and for the majority of the game I hovered around the maximum amount achievable.

In the prehistoric levels, the Pac-Man cometh.
The easiness of the game doesn't end there, either. There is a copious amount of food that restores health, and there are plenty of silver orbs that add temporary extra hearts. One would think Betrayus would dismantle all of the vending machines within his hideout, but Pac-Man foes were never the smartest ghosts of the haunted bunch.

Considering that falling off a level only costs you a heart instead of a life, and that losing a life sends you back to one of the myriad checkpoints in a level, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is decidedly a less challenging game than most would like. For me, there were enough platforming challenges and enemy hordes to take down that I was satisfying, heck, I even loved the experience.

There's no bones about it--
Pac-Man's second Wii U outing is quite good.
Pac-Man's latest presents some nice visuals from beginning to end. They're by no means something jaw-dropping, but there were times when I sat back and admired the view. The loading times, at least on the Wii U version, are just long enough to read the gameplay hints shown during the loading screens. Not that bad at all. The audio also impresses at a multitude of spots, featuring some catchy themes, some orchestrated, some not. The voice work in the game is quite endearing, albeit very cheesy. Nonetheless, it's perfect for the target market.

Paczilla! Someone phone Tokyo! Is Tokyo okay?!
Going into Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2, I did not expect much coming from a sequel with less than a year's development time. However, the game managed to impress me multiple times with its tight platforming, above average combat, clever level design and secrets, and presentation. If you were one of the folks who have fond memories of the Pac-Man World games (which in my mind is only from nostalgia, as the games aren't very good), then you owe it to try out Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2. Like me, you need not even be a fan of the subject material, the cutesy TV show. All you need is a thirst for a genuinely good, but not great, 3D platformer.

[SPC Says: 8.25/10]

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ballpoint Universe: Infinite (Wii U eShop) Review

Earlier this week I covered Paper Monsters: Recut, which sported a unique paper and cardboard world. Now, I turn my attention to a game with a paper and ink world. How crafty of me! Anyhow, here's my review of Ballpoint Universe: Infinite, available on the Wii U eShop.

Ink-credible art style, so-so everything else

Most likely if you were in school and if you had a boring lecture you were "supposed" to be taking notes on, you might have been mindlessly doodling away. Apparently the folks behind Ballpoint Universe: Infinite had a similar kind of grade school experience, taking the scribblings and doodles that could have been drawn in a sixth grader's Trapper Keeper and turned them into a game world with landscapes, characters, enemies-- everything you imagine.

Ballpoint Universe: Infinite is a game of two parts. The first occurs as you venture around the various scenery and landscapes of the game world in a 2D side-scrolling fashion. Along the way are various friendly doodles who will task your character with missions, all shoot-em-up based, the second part of Ballpoint Universe. More on that in a bit.

Right away, the visuals do nothing but impress. The trip through the world is absolutely gorgeous, full of intricate details, ornate designs, and fantastical areas. Traveling is rather cool in the way that your character can change layers (e.g.. moving from a background plane into one in the foreground). It's just a shame that what could have been a surefire truly enjoyable part of the game is compromised by poor platforming controls.

Excuse me while I marvel at this art style.
Slippery is the word I would use. Loose is another. Add these together and it's not so bad when all you must do is run along the hillsides and change between layers. However, that's not all you have to do in Ballpoint Universe: Infinite's overworld. No, despite not having a tight and responsive platforming experience, the developers still desired to throw in platforming challenges in the game. Any such section featuring either small or moving platforms was a genuine black mark on my fun. Now, the penalty for falling into an abyss is simply being placed at the last save point you passed. Not so bad, but it's without a doubt frustrating and bewildering why this was seen as okay by the development team.

Today's math lesson, courtesy of SuperPhillip Central:
Precision platforming + slippery controls = GAH!
Back to the other portion of Ballpoint Universe: Infinite, the shoot-em-up levels, this game has those in spades with the aim of not only reaching the end of the stage, but also losing a few lives as possible. Each side-scrolling shooter stage has three medals it awards players based off on how many lives they have accumulated at the end. If you survive with all five lives to your name, then you receive all three prizes, the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

The actual shoot-em-up gameplay in Infinite is enjoyable enough, having ships and enemies of all shapes, sizes, and varieties wanting nothing more than to see you eliminated and turned into a crumbled up piece of paper in a waste can.

Your ship can be customized by spending ink collected in space battles and won as rewards. Your spaceship has four segments to it, an upper arm, a lower arm, a special ability, and a body for defensive capabilities. There's a wide range of weapons and parts to purchase, so if you're in a completionist mood, then you'll definitely have fun grinding ink for parts to collect the entire arsenal.

Unfortunately, I found that despite starting out with a machine gun, it felt more like a peashooter blasting against a steel safe than something formidable against foes. In fact, most of the starting, affordable weapons were pretty poor in power compared to my starting melee weapon. Yes, you read that right, a melee weapon in a shoot-em-up. For what would take ten seconds to shoot down a regular enemy, I could just fly near the enemy ship and slash it with my melee weapon, destroying it in an instant (though, melee weapons activate automatically without a player's input). It's not until you earn enough ink to purchase more intimidating firepower that you can play Ballpoint Universe: Infinite's shooter levels like a traditional game in the genre.

Melee is noticeably more efficient than
your ship's little peashooter.
At the same time, there's really no reason to. I was able to get through the game with a leveled up machine gun and melee weapon, the latter doing the most work. All that was needed to purchase was a body that had enough HP to weather the storm of oncoming attacks to make attaining gold medals a piece of cake.

My main takeaway with Ballpoint Universe: Infinite's shoot-em-up sections is that since guns were so obviously weak in comparison to melee attacks, I just resorted to using swords, spears, and blades for dealing with enemies of all shapes and sizes. I'm guessing this is not what the developers wanted, but unfortunately, that's what they got.

The enemy design is really something special.
Ballpoint Universe: Infinite can be completed in a few short hours, but there is some replay value to be had. The all-new Infinite level takes you on a journey through wave after wave of enemies in what is essentially an endurance stage. It's engaging to see how far you can get as you blast those Logician paper monsters to shreds. In addition to that, there's also getting golds on every shoot-em-up level, acquiring every Golden Sketch, and other odds and ends. Of course, some of these hidden goodies are tucked away in some precarious locations, which again, those platforming physics and controls won't help in getting easily.

For the things Ballpoint Universe: Infinite does right, it does them really well. For what the game fails to do, it fails them pretty hard. From the frustrating platforming to the most likely unintended, strong focus on melee combat in a shoot-em-up, Ballpoint Universe: Infinite has its fair share of problems. However, if you can look past them (and perhaps onto the immaculate art style and design), you'll get a quirky game that is quite unlike anything else out there.

[SPC Says: 6.5/10]

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return (Wii) Retro Review

SuperPhillip Central prepares for Halloween with a horror-themed light gun shooter of the past. It's a retro review of two games that are retro themselves. How deep does this rabbit hole go!? Here's my review of The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return for the Nintendo Wii.

Terror-ific light gun games from the past 
rise from their grave for a Wii revival.

Here's a short history lesson for you. The original House of the Dead released in North American arcades in 1996. Two years later, its sequel crept onto the scene and a little while later received a port on SEGA's haven for arcade ports, the Dreamcast. Following that up in 2002 was the third entry in the House of the Dead franchise. Due to arcades waning in popularity, this title was also ported, but this time on the Xbox of all places.

Fast-forward to the middle of the generation prior to this one. SEGA put both The House of the Dead 2 and The House of the Dead 3 onto one disc for the Nintendo Wii, a system that had time and time again proven itself to be a great place for light gun shooters thanks to the system's unique Wii Remote controller and pointer functionality. While the collection of two games on one disc for a low price is one hell of a deal, there's some ancient archaic design decisions that were better left for dead (i.e. the arcades of old).

Okay! I'm here just in time for our
reenactment of Michael Jackson's "Thriller"!
The basic premise of both House of the Dead games have you on a predetermined path, requiring you to blast away zombies, killer owls, frightening frogs, swamp creatures, and much more in order to not only progress through levels but also to survive. Thankfully, with a home version of both games, you need not sink tons of quarters into some arcade cabinet to continue when you die... and you will die... A LOT.

Aim well or be feasted upon!
Generally a head-shot is good enough to subdue the weaker zombies, but some take a flurry of shots to bring down. It's here where The House of the Dead 2 is deemed more difficult than the third installment. In The House of the Dead 3, not only are you equipped with a shotgun, offering a wider blast radius, but you also have more ammunition in a round of fire than what is available in The House of the Dead 2. While 3 has around 8 bullets in a round, 2 has a meager 5, meaning that you'll most likely constantly end up having to reload mid-encounter. In that sense, there's a larger amount of strategy involved. When and where do you reload for maximum safety and efficiency is such a question that needs to be thought about.

Your shots will bounce right off
these axes, so keep your aim sharp!
Survivors of the zombie/bioweapon onslaught will appear frequently throughout missions. Saving them is a matter of quick reflexes and good aiming. Sometimes a saved survivor will grant you an extra piece of health to work with, while other times the saving a survivor can open up a completely different path through a level. This is where some replay value-- outside of continually going for high scores-- comes in. Upon dying or completing the story of either game, you're shown the route that your special agent took through the game, revealing all of the multiple pathways available. Seeing every path is something that will take a little while to do.

How did this survivor even get
in this predicament?
No matter which path you choose or just so happen to follow, a boss encounter waits at the end of the line for each mission. These demand excellent aiming, fast pick-ups on the boss' various tells, and paying attention to where its weak point(s) is/are. There's a small amount of memorization of boss patterns to deal with, and for the most part, these battles are engaging, fun, and fair.

Boss encounters such as this
add some variety to the formula.
The House of the Dead 2 in this Wii exclusive package comes with two all-new modes, a boss rush and Original Mode. The latter is for players (like myself) who find Arcade Mode too challenging, even with all of the extra lives the game throws at you for continually receiving game overs. Original Mode has you coming across items in each level. These items can then be used to make the game an easier time, such as having more ammo capacity in a round, more credits to work with, and so forth. Meanwhile, The House of the Dead 3 has every little delightful doodad the original Xbox version came with.

Both games offer cooperative play with you and a friend or whoever blasting away loads of undead enemies, or in House of the Dead 3's case, blowing holes through obese enemy bellies with satisfying shotgun blasts. The downside of this is that both players share the same amount of credits, meaning that it's almost a detriment to play with another player, especially one who is, shall we say, less than skilled.

Blowing holes through the bellies
of these fat zombies seldom gets old.
Besides these mode alterations, both House of the Dead games are faithful to their originals, whether that be a good thing or not is up to you. The only thing more offensive than the stilted, horribly acted dialogue (which in all honesty, sort of falls into the "so bad, it's good" category) is the incredibly blocky and ugly visuals of both games. Sure, The House of the Dead 3 doesn't look nearly as bad as its predecessor, but what is seen is the stuff nightmares are made of.

His local Home Depot had a
buy-one, get-one sale on chainsaws.
Having the two most popular House of the Dead games on one disc is a wonderful blessing. Whether it's worth tracking down a brand-new sealed copy is again, up to you. That said, though the difficulty is unquestionably high and the duo of games' arcade roots definitely show some large signs of aging, The House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return makes blowing zombies up into little bits and pieces fun, and hell, that's really all you need, isn't it?

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) - Excitebike Arena Trailer

I don't normally get excited about DLC, but that's different when it comes to companies who do it right. For instance, with Mario Kart 8, Nintendo didn't hold back content for DLC purposes. Instead, it was made after the full game was finished, and it certainly isn't just already on the disc requiring a code to unlock it.

That said, Excitebike Arena will be a part of the first of two DLC packages for Mario Kart 8. Not only is the design reminiscent of Baby Park, but the track layout is randomized each time.

Monday, October 27, 2014

SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs - (Somewhat) Spooktacular Edition

With Halloween coming up on Friday, it seems as good a time as any to devote this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs to mostly haunting and spooky video games and their respective tracks. Oh, and there's a Hyrule Warriors song thrown in for no logical reason whatsoever. If you're not bothered by it, I'm not bothered by it!

v726. Hyrule Warriors (Wii U) - Solidus Cave

I started off the month with a review of Hyrule Warriors, and I'm kicking off this edition of SuperPhillip Central's Favorite VGMs with a track from the same game. Solidus Cave is played during a fiery cavern where the second mission of Legend Mode, the story mode of Hyrule Warriors, takes place. It is accentuated by a rocking rhythm and led by strong brass.

v727. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS) - Level Clear Theme

This song sounds like something Nintendo's top composers would come up with it, does it not? Well, in actuality, the composers of Next Level Games here in the U.S. are the ones to give props to for an excellent job on the Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon soundtrack. The game itself blew away my expectations, and I find it superior to the cult classic GameCube original.

v728. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1, SAT) - Wandering Ghosts

It's not Halloween with Castlevania. Well, technically it is Halloween without Castlevania, as Konami is pretty silent on the franchise since Lords of Shadow 2 didn't do as well as expected critically or commercially. Still, Castlevania, we will always have the good times before a Western developer got a hold of you. Heck, most of us can even forgive you for Castlevania Judgment (well, except me, who enjoyed that game somehow).

v729. Resident Evil 4 (Multi) - Save Theme

Resident Evil 4 is a tricky game for fans of the series. In one regard, it's my favorite of the franchise. On another, it is what led the series to its current low position in quality, focusing mostly on action instead of its roots, survival-horror. The save theme of Resident Evil 4 gives players a brief respite from the tense action, allowing them a moment to pause and catch their breath. Of course, that's before going back into the living hell that Leon S. Kennedy must survive through.

v730. Silent Hill 2 (PS2) - Theme of Laura

It's almost impossible to think that we've been through 729 individual VGM volumes and have yet to cross paths with Silent Hill, both the town and the game series of the same name. Nonetheless, that was the truth, and I'm kicking myself for not including Silent Hill 2's Theme of Laura sooner. It simply slipped my mind. Anyhow, here's a rocking guitar-driven theme from the game as my apology to you, the reader and listener.