Archive for the ‘Nintendo DS/i/3DS’ Category

Grand Theft Auto, one of the biggest franchises in videogames, now rides shotgun on iPad. A port of the PlayStation Portable edition of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (which was in turn a port of a Nintendo DS game), the iPad version is a phenomenal play.

You are Huang Lee, the spoiled son of a Triad ganglord. After your father was murdered, you must deliver an ancient sword to your uncle so as to keep the empire in your family’s name. Ambushed at the Liberty City airport and left to die, you now find yourself drawn into the underworld with thoughts of vengeance. But what starts out as a simple revenge tale grows in scope, with a criminal world about to explode as gangs (and cops) square off for control. The Chinatown Wars narrative is strong, full of both humor and real drama, and benefits from excellent writing.

Instead of a 3D behind-the-shoulder view, Chinatown Wars returns to the top-down roots of the pre-PlayStation 2 GTA games. The art style is cartoonish and looks fantastic. The camera gives you a good view of the city around you, and unlike the iPhone version which allowed you to get too far ahead of yourself if you started going really fast, the iPad provides ample space around Lee. It’s great to see one of the few problems with the iPhone edition solved by making smart use of the benefits of the iPad.

Chinatown Wars uses a virtual stick for on-foot movement that is just about as good as you’ll find on the iDevices. Combat controls would benefit from some sort of targeting system, but I experienced few problems with digging into a violent crew and trading bullets or putting shoe prints on their faces. When driving, though, you default to a pair of arrows for turning left and right, which you use in conjunction with gas and brake pedal buttons. All of the virtual buttons (gas, shoot, kick, carjack) are also now just the right size. (They were too small on the iPhone.) However, until you get the hang of things, you often must look at the buttons to make sure you are hitting the right one. In the middle of a big fight or a high-speed pursuit, this is troublesome until you are 100-percent comfortable with the controls. The menus have also been cleaned up a little for the iPad.

The mission variety in Chinatown Wars is one of its strongest features. You are not just driving to a location, shooting somebody, and then returning to home base. You perform in a parade, hijack fuel tankers to turn into giant bombs, run interference during a race, and put out fires. And on top of the main story, there is a plethora of side jobs and races, including the extra content that was included with the PSP port. But most surprising is the drug dealing. I’m not just shocked that Apple was cool with heroin (other games have been rejected for drug- and alcohol-related content), but just how vital it is to the overall game. If you want to make money, you have to juggle this resource management game-within-a-game where you buy low, sell high, and watch out for busts.

Another Chinatown Wars high point: the GPS system. Tapping locations on a map to set a course is intuitive and makes finding your way around town easy. Of course, getting there isn’t necessarily a cakewalk, as you must watch for cops on the lookout for the new kid with the high wanted level. All of the touch screen elements from the DS original are pulled into the iPhone Chinatown Wars, too, such as kicking out the back window of a car in the water, interacting with computers, scratching lotto tickets, or hot wiring a car.

Finally, Chinatown Wars does not have the same kind of licensed music as other GTA games. Instead, it has a series of five stations that play genre instrumentals, like hip-hop and dance. I actually like this quite a bit; over time, I found the licensed music in the GTA games almost look-at-me distracting. You can also create a custom station with your own music, which is cool if you want to shoot up Chinatown while listening to Dean Martin.

I already mentioned that the raised camera and extra screen size of the iPad makes it easier to play Chinatown Wars on iPad. But I must also stress just how insanely good this HD edition looks, too. Rockstar refreshed almost everything for this port, cleaning things up so they look sharp on the large, higher-resolution screen. The attention to detail combined with the cel shaded-esque art direction makes Chinatown Wars one of the best-looking iPad games to date. (ign)

Published by: Rockstar Games
Developed by: Rockstar Games
Genre: Third-Person Action
Release Date: US: September 9, 2010
Also Available On: PSP, iPhone,Nintendo DS, iPad
Also known as: GTA: Chinatown Wars


Remember when Nintendo said it’d release its release date for the 3DS autostereoscopic portable game system on the 29th of this month? We may already have the magic number — depending on how you interpret a few Japanese words. You see, a supposed video game accessory designer by the handle “nocchisan” recently tweeted that eleven Nintendo 3DS accessories will be released on November 11th, and asked his or her followers to kindly buy them up… while purportedly remarking that the 3DS itself will arrive at the same time. While the tweets in question can certainly be read that way, and it makes a certain amount of sense foraccessories to appear at launch, our admittedly limited grasp of Japanese suggests an alternative translation: that it’s the accessories themselves (and not the 3DS) that will all arrive at the same time. There’s also the little matter of nocchisan himself, whose Twitter account has already disappeared — we have nothing actually connecting him to the accessory company except a link in his tweet. (engadget)

We haven’t heard much about Dead or Alive 3DS since E3. And to be honest, we didn’t hear much about it then either.

It looks like Tecmo Koei is at long last ready to start talking. posted today a screenshot-filled look at the game, which is now know as “Dead or Alive Dimensions.”

The preview lists a few cast members and stages. The cast members mentioned at the site include Kasumi, Ayane, Hayate. The stages include a mountain area and Kyoto.

There are no gameplay details in the report, but the site does say that all the special features of the series will remain in place. More cryptically, the site says that players who’ve moved away from 3D fighting games will be able to enjoy themselves.

The site’s information box lists Dimensions as being developed by Team Ninja, with production and direction from Yousuke Hayashi. No release time frame is listed. (andriasang)

Professor Layton and his apprentice, Luke, have already investigated multiple mysteries on the Nintendo DS. Previous iterations in the puzzle franchise, the Curious Village and Diabolical Box, have quickly become fan favorites due to their high production value, fantastical storylines and of course, challenging puzzles. The latest adventure for the good professor, subtitled the Unwound Future, keeps that tradition intact.As the title suggests, the plot for the professor now revolves around time travel. Layton and Luke attend a time machine demonstration that goes awry – there’s a massive explosion, and the Prime Minister and scientist in charge of the project vanish in the shroud of the blast. Shortly after the incident, Layton receives a letter claiming to be sent by the future version of Luke. Things only get weirder from there, and the tale unwinds over 12 chapters (plus an epilogue) where you’ll discover the truth behind 10 mysteries. Unlike previous games, this tale shows you an important part of Layton’s past and harbors a great theme about the importance of balancing emotion, logic and pride. If you’ve never played a Professor Layton title before, you shouldn’t worry as the story doesn’t rely on your knowledge of past games.

The production of the Unwound Future is really impressive. The animation sequences and voiceover work in tandem to bring the story to life, and they’re both beautifully done. The voice work still isn’t incorporated throughout the entirety of the game, likely due to space issues, but there’s enough of it to satisfy. The ending sequences were incredibly striking, and there was some 3D model work to complement the regular anime style.

Layton and Luke make some new friends.

If you’ve played a Professor Layton game before, the formula hasn’t really changed. Conversing with folks you meet along your way, or even animals, often results in a puzzle challenge. People everywhere seem to be focused on puzzle solving, no matter what’s going on in the world (massive explosion? Who cares! What’s the answer to this puzzle??), and they either want you to solve the riddle for them or can’t wait to test out their creation on the famous professor. I solved around 100 different puzzles throughout the course of the main campaign, but there are plenty of others scattered around the world as the game boasts 165 total conundrums. Any puzzle that you might’ve forgotten or passed over will be directed to a specific area on your map so you can solve them later.

Of course, you can’t skip over puzzles tied to the main storyline and there are even blockades that prevent you from progressing through the storyline unless you’ve completed a certain amount of brainteasers. Should you ever get stuck, you can always call upon your hint system, though I did come across one puzzle where that wasn’t an option. Normally, hints are unlocked by hint coins, which can be collected by tapping around on environments. In previous Layton games there were only three hints to help you, but Unwound Future includes a fourth option: the super hint. Designed for those puzzles you really can’t grasp, the super hint generally lays out the answer for you, though it’s not a guaranteed “win button.” Although the Unwound Future tells you to use coins sparingly, during my time with the game I found plenty of coins, enough that I was able to freely spend them when I needed to and not worry about running out.

Regardless of whether or not you use the hint function, successfully completing puzzles garners you Picarats, a form of currency that allows you to access even more puzzles in the Bonus area if you earn enough. The amount of Picarats a puzzle is worth usually indicates its difficulty level and should you guess at your answer or get it wrong, the amount of Picarats you earn decreases. This isn’t a huge problem if you’re the cheating sort as Professor Layton still allows you to cheat by saving before a puzzle, figuring it out and then rebooting so you can pretend you solved it on the first try. So, while cheaters supposedly never prosper, they certainly do in the world of Professor Layton.

Ranging from numbers to diagrams, the puzzles you struggle with will likely vary compared to your friends. I’m not a big math person, so any time a number-focused puzzle came up I found myself leaning on the hint system. There’s a great variety of puzzle types, and there were only a handful that appeared multiple times, so if you really hate a specific style you’ll likely only have to deal with it once.

There are some new puzzle modes to complete the package in Unwound Future. Similar to the hamster feature in Diabolical Box, there are now three different areas that can be accessed outside of the campaign – Toy Car, Parrot and Picture Book. All of them are great inclusions as they mix fun, simple themes that can get difficult really quickly. Like a twisted version of Mad Libs, Picture Book requires you to unlock stickers by solving puzzles in the main story that are associated with one of the books, and figure out where the stickers belong to create a cohesive story. This was my favorite of the new additions, but I was disappointed that there were only three books to complete.

Can you solve the puzzles?

The other two modes, Toy Car and Parrot, are just as enjoyable, but don’t offer the adorable storybook packaging. Toy Car features a matchbox sized vehicle that moves around a grid based on a finite number of directional arrows you have to place, and you usually have to collect a certain amount of goods before you can exit. It’s straightforward, but tougher than it looks, especially as you progress. Another seemingly simple mode is Parrot, where you have a limited amount of ropes you can place to help a feathered friend deliver a package to someone on the opposite side of the screen. Both of these seem easier than they actually are, so it does take time to decipher the solutions.

Don’t expect these new modes to increase the replay value of the game, as just like any other puzzle once you’ve figured it out there’s no reason to try it again. That said, I spent around 16 hours with Layton and Luke and still haven’t even come close to completing all of the puzzles available, so it’s a good value. Even after you complete the story, the game plops you back into a previous point in the adventure so you can continue to solve puzzles that you might have missed. (ign)

  • Published by: Nintendo
  • Developed by: Level-5
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: US: September 12, 2010 , Japan: November 27, 2008
  • MSRP: $29.99
  • E10+ for Everyone 10+

Call of Duty: Black Ops for PC will ship with dedicated server support this November, but there’s a catch.

Activision and Treyarch studios announced it has partnered with to offer exclusive dedicated server rentals when the game launches.

“We are extremely excited about this unprecedented relationship with Activision to offer dedicated servers exclusively for Black Ops”, said GameServers CEO David Aninowsky. “We are placing a great amount of pressure on ourselves to ensure that we exceed any and all expectations.”

According to GameServers’ pre-order page, ranked servers will cost $14.95 a month for an 18 max player limit. Discounts are offered for monthly prepays. Unranked servers will cost $0.99 a month per player up to maximum of 24. Teamspeak support will have an additional fee. Discounts will be offered for a 3, 6, and 12 month prepay.

Treyarch Community Manager Josh Olin said this partnership will provide high-quality servers at an affordable rate for the game.

“If players want to run a dedicated Ranked or Unranked server on the PC, they will have to rent one through GameServers,” Olin told IGN. “Treyarch will be providing a fleet of ‘Day-1 Servers’ (through GameServers) which will be up and operational on November 9th.

“Nobody will have to rent a dedicated server through GameServers in order to play the game,” says Olin. “But for anybody who wants to run their own server, it will be run from”

Olin added that this partnership adds the advantage of much more effective anti-cheating and hacking moderation.

“If you rent a server, you will still have the ability to Kick, Ban, and Configure it the way you see fit,” Olin added. “Of course Ranked servers will have some set configurations that can’t be messed with; but you will still have the power to administrate your servers as a customer of GameServers.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops ships for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on November 9. (ign)

  • Published by: Activision
  • Developed by: Treyarch
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • Release Date: US: November 9, 2010  , Japan: TBA 2010
  • MSRP: $59.99
  • RP-T+ for Rating Pending
  • Also Available On: Nintendo DS, Wireless, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3,  Wii, PC

Previewing games can be a funny business. You’re either under the watchful gaze of the developers themselves as they unveil their progeny for the very first time or part of a scrum of people keeping one eye on the game at hand and the other scoping out to see if the lady with the tray of tiny burgers is coming any nearer. In the best case we get to play in the office, although that’s with the constant interruptions of the phone and under the guilt of leaving an untended inbox.

It’s all a far cry from games’ natural habitat – a room full of friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon, everyone feet up and juggling slices of pizza, cans of beer and controllers – but that’s how we got to enjoy the near-final code of FIFA 11 this weekend.

Away from the din of developers reciting feature lists and the overpowering stench of excitement from a convention’s show-floor, it’s possible at last to really see how a game is shaping up and coming together. We’ve already been through what’s new, but this, at last, was a chance to see what really works.

FIFA 11’s not got the benefit of one big new feature to wow people with – there’s no game changer like the 360 degree dribbling that was introduced last year, nor the myriad headline improvements of 09 that helped establish FIFA as the premier football game series. What it does have is refinement and polish alongside countless little advances that do their very best to eradicate any of the faults of FIFA’s past.

There’s none of the dumb-headed positioning from your A.I partners, none of the moments of crass stupidity from your keeper as he lays the ball off into the path of the opposition and none of the frustrations from another cheap chipped goal. Instead, there’s a whole load of quality. Passes are now more technical, requiring a little more thought and a lot more care before spreading the ball around the field, and wide play is now more likely to be rewarded with a crisply met header than before. The result is a game that’s much more reliable than before, and one that steps even closer to aping the flow of the real thing.

It’s got a lot more character than before too. Part of that’s from the new suite of animations as players stumble and falter in their pursuit of the ball, and part of it’s from the improved likenesses across the board. “But Phil Neville looks grotesque” protested a friend. Yes. Yes he does.

The way the personality of each player is reflected in how they play is the most impressive thing, however. On the squad selection screen players have symbols by their names signifying their special attributes; Torres, for example, is both a Speedster and an Acrobat, meaning he’s more likely to perform the spectacular in the box and can sprint with gusto. Gerrard, meanwhile, is a Crosser, Playmaker and Engine among other things, a complete midfielder who can perform at his best for almost the entire 90 minutes. Learn a team well enough and you’ll soon know who can do what and tailor your play accordingly. It’s all the more gratifying when you know the team from what’s just happened on Saturday afternoon.

There’s some more surprising ways that the personality plays out on the pitch. Different referees now officiate the action, each one with their own character; some will reach for their top pocket if you so much as glare at an opposition player, while others will happily let everyone kick seven shades out of each other before so much as awarding a free kick.

Some additions aren’t as welcome though. For the first time handballs are introduced, and it’s unsurprisingly infuriating especially given the frequency with which it occurs. Penalties are often given against you through no fault of your own, and if we weren’t so placid (or, more truthfully, sedated by the blend of warm beer and mounds of melted cheese we’d just imbibed) we’d have destroyed a controller or two. Thankfully it’s optional and defaulted off. We’d recommend you leave it that way.

Otherwise it’s looking like another exceptional outing for FIFA. There’s a lot more to discuss – we’ve yet to scratch the surface of either the new career modes or put a serious spell between the sticks – but all that will come in the full review in the next few weeks. (ign)

  • Published by: Electronic Arts
  • Developed by: EA Canada
  • Genre: Sports
  • Release Date:
    US: September 28, 2010
  • MSRP: $59.99
  • RP for Rating Pending
  • Also Available On: Nintendo DS, PC, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Xbox 360, iPhone, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3
  • Also known as: FIFA 11

Capcom has a new batch of costumes on the way for Super Street Fighter IV players. Today, the game’s Japanese official blog was updated with a first look.Here’s a glimpse at Ryu, Chun-Li, Fei-Long, Juri and Cammy:

Hoping for in-game shots? You’re going to have to wait until next week. Capcom will be making some announcements regarding the console Super SFIV at the Tokyo Game Show. Included in the announcements will be details on the new costumes and a first in-game look. (ign)

  • Published by: Capcom
  • Developed by: Capcom
  • Genre: Fighting
  • Release Date: US: April 27, 2010 , Japan: Q1 2010
  • MSRP: $39.99
  • E10+ for Everyone 10+: Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
  • Also Available On: Arcade, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions PictureYour friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is back. In fact, four Spider-Men are back for Shattered Dimensions, a game that celebrates the wallcrawler’s various incarnations. These four Spider-Men inhabit different worlds with different gameplay styles and unexpected variations on well-known villains. If you think you’ve seen it all with Spider-Man games, think again. (Go ahead, think. I’ll be here waiting.) Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensionshas some incredible Spider-Man moments, but plenty of familiar issues that prevent it from being the Arkham Asylum of the Spider-Man universe.

Mysterio is after a powerful tablet that will make him more than just a lame illusionist. But the pieces of the tablet have been spread out across four dimensions. Fortunately, each dimension has its own version of Spider-Man. There’s the Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Noir Spidey and Spider-Man 2099. Each has unique abilities, a different visual style, and even different voice actors pulled from Spidey’s long television history (including Dan Gilvezan of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends fame).

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions PictureAs you hunt down the pieces of the tablet, you’ll get a first-hand look at Spidey’s notorious Rogue’s Gallery. What’s cool about Shattered Dimensions is that each world can bring drastic changes to familiar foes. The Noir Green Goblin is a circus freak, 2099’s Doctor Octopus is a chick, Ultimate Electro is living electricity sans lame green and yellow costume. The intros for each boss, which come at the start of the level, are handled brilliantly. There’s a sense of drama in Shattered Dimensions that has been missing from Spidey games for years.

But that drama is all in the way the villains are presented (along with some truly epic boss battles). The story itself is weak. I mean, Spider-Man goes from level to level chasing and then beating a boss to collect a piece of the tablet… that is the plot. Spoilers.

The story has no pull to it, but here are plenty of good things that kept me playing, even as the plot fell completely flat. Each level has 15 challenges to tackle and those challenges unlock upgrades to your character and a slew of cool bonus costumes. Who wouldn’t want to play as Bag-Man Spidey of Fantastic Four fame or the Scarlet Spider? The challenges are sensibly constructed and pretty much always stuff that doesn’t force you to break from the main game. You might disarm five mercenaries instead of smacking them with your fists to win a challenge, earn some Spidey points to spend on upgrades, and reveal more of the level’s available tasks. These challenges were a big help in keeping the naturally repetitive nature of an action game like this from feeling tedious.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions PictureThe biggest change from recent Spider-Man games is that there’s no giant, open New York City to swing through. Instead, you have well-crafted, linear levels that offer little freedom for exploration but have more flavor than Activision’s usual virtual Manhattan. This is a smart break from the usual formula and probably saved Shattered Dimensions from becoming a big empty world filled with fetch quests. But it also leads to one major problem — too often the levels take place in confined indoors areas, which causes the camera to flip out. Why can’t anyone make a Spider-Man game with a good camera? Some of this can be blame on the nature of a Spidey game — quick pace, lots of swarming enemies — but some of this lies firmly on the shoulders of developer Beenox. If I am crawling on a ceiling to get the drop on enemies below me, the camera should not be focused on Spider-Man. That’s just too obvious not to have been fixed before this game hit store shelves.

I did mention there’s a lot of fast-paced action. And that’s handled well. Much of the action is stuff we’ve seen before. Spidey kicks, punches, and webslings his way through enemies. But there are some welcome wrinkles, mostly brought on by the four different versions of the Webslinger.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions ScreenshotThe Amazing Spider-Man world is the classic Spidey world and ol’ Webhead has the same powers and skills as would be expected. The strength here is in the unique levels and in the boss battles, which are, for the most part, really solid.

The Noir Spider-Man isn’t nearly as strong and relies of stealth to take out enemies. He needs to use the shadows. If spotted, alarms are raised and Spidey is shot to hell. It’s not a perfect stealth system, though. Noir Spidey takes a page from the recent Splinter Cell, where the colors in the world bleed out when you are in shadows and (presumably) hidden. Problem is, the world’s design is heavily desaturated to begin with, so there’s not a ton of visual different between being in shadows and being in the open. In other words, sometimes I thought I was hidden only to still be spotted. The stealth stuff is a great idea, but it’s far from perfect.

Ultimate Spider-Man wears the Venom suit and can enter rage mode to truly punish his enemies. While this Spider-Man isn’t too different from his Amazing counterpart, the big difference is in seeing the change in enemies. Carnage is just a dumb, dumb enemy in the Amazing world, but is actually quite horrific in the Ultimate world. So using the Ultimate version leads to this uniquely horrific level unlike anything in previous Spider-Man games.

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions ScreenshotAnd the 2099 version can enter an Accelerated Vision mode that slows time, allowing him to dodge missiles and pummel enemies with greater ease. There are also some slick HALO jump sequences where Spidey has to chase villains while rocketing towards the ground.

Regardless of the version of Spider-Man, all of them have a few moments where they enter first-person hand-to-hand combat. I’ve got to imagine someone thought this would be cool to test out, then everyone realized far too late into development that this idea was completely stupid and not something anyone would ever, in a million years, want in a Spider-Man game. What were they thinking?

The good news for Spidey fans is that there are some spectacular levels in Shattered Dimensions, enough to overcome some dumb design choices and annoyances (Oh boy, save more civilians!). The Sandman level is so incredibly cool. For much of the level, Sandman is a giant tornado, destroying the level as you chase him, forcing Spidey to zip along the pieces of debris. And the enemies are sand creatures, which must be doused with water to harm. What a great level.

That’s not to say every level is a work of genius. There are a few that are a little frustrating or, at least, less inspired. But I’ll take a few mediocre levels if it means getting to enjoy a few fantastic ones.

And most importantly, the four Spider-Men are brought together in an intelligent way for the final battle. I was really worried that some dumb final gimmick would ruin this game, but that’s not the case. Don’t worry, you won’t have some sort of super-merged Spider-Man battling Mysterio for the fate of the world. (ign)

Published by: Activision
Developed by: Beenox
Genre: Action
Release Date: US: September 7, 2010
MSRP: $59.99
T for Teen: Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence
Also Available On: Xbox 360, NDS, Wii, PS 3

Posted: September 8, 2010 in iPhone/iPad/iPod, Nintendo DS/i/3DS, PC, XBOX 360
Tags: , , , , , ,

You would be forgiven for saying you’ve had your fill of tower defense games. The past few years have seen a flood of these strategy clones filling downloadable portals like Xbox Live Arcade. But you know who might be able to bring you back: the good people that brought you Peggle. PopCap, one of the best developers and publishers around, has brought its excellent tower defense game Plants vs. Zombies to XBLA. While it uses the basic mechanics of all efforts in this genre, it stands out for its charm, personality, and loads of gameplay variety. The result is another addictive experience from PopCap that will appeal to all walks of gamers.

Zombies are creeping on your lawn, and your garden is the last line of defense against these brain-crazy cannibals. You have some pretty peculiar (but useful) plants at your disposal, including pea shooters that spit green balls at the undead, hot tamales that burn everything in their path, and Venus zombie traps that will devour an enemy in one gulp. By planting various seeds in strategic locations around your lawn you may be able to hold off the onslaught and keep them from entering your house and eating your brain.

Unlike many tower defense games there isn’t a winding path the zombies follow towards your home. The yard is divided into six rows and zombies shuffle across the yard in a fairly orderly fashion. They won’t cross over into other lanes but you will find multiple bodies coming in on one row. It’s a very simple design and, while it does eventually become challenging, this is one of the easier tower defense games I’ve played. The real draw here is the incredible variety of plants (towers) and zombies. There are 48 kinds of plants with numerous offensive, defensive, and production capabilities, and 26 different zombies. Completing each level in the game will unlock a new plant or item to add to your arsenal. The array of choices means you can customize your strategy and confront the undead on your own terms. These constant rewards really keep you involved and will have you defending your lawn for much longer than you may have expected.

There is also a wide variety of gameplay styles. Some levels take place during the day and some at night, which has a large effect on what plants are available to you, how you harvest sunlight (your resources), and what environmental obstacles you encounter. Interspersed among the regular levels are more arcade-like variations on the tower defense formula. You may lose the ability to select plants and instead have to make do with pre-selected weapons that come down a conveyor belt. Or you may be asked to play Whack-a-Zombie out of the blue. There is also a survival mode to unlock and puzzles that let you play as the zombies. You can’t go more than a few minutes with this game without discovering something new and delightful.

Adding to the game’s charm is the cast of undead, ranging from football players to zombies that carry screen door shields to aquatic zombies that ride dolphins (you have a pool in the backyard). These aren’t your gruesome Left 4 Dead or Resident Evil zombies. This is a zombie game for the whole family (never thought I’d say that). It also has a catchy, organic soundtrack that becomes more intense as your yard is flooded with enemies. The light voice acting gives the undead character as they lurch toward your house grunting and moaning for brains.

The transition from mouse and touch screen controls to a control pad has been handled very smoothly. It’s easy to whisk your cursor around the screen with the analog stick and now you can hold the triggers to suck sunlight in. This version of Plants vs. Zombies doesn’t feel cumbersome at all.

New to Plants vs. Zombies are competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. Versus mode is particularly fun and lets one player take control of the zombie horde and try to eat their way into their buddy’s house. When playing as the plants, you win by shooting down three of the zombie’s five targets on their side of the screen. It’s great fun. These multiplayer modes are only available locally. PopCap is trying something different with Plants vs. Zombies’ leaderboards on XBLA, and I’m not sure it works. Instead of a list of high scores or game completion percentages, you can show off your house to your Xbox Live friends. A pile of dead zombies will accrue on your lawn and ornaments will appear as you earn achievements, which are supposed to be representative of all you’ve accomplished in the game. As I’m playing the game early for review, I can’t really get a sense of how satisfying it will be to check out my friends’ houses. (ign)

Published by: PopCap Games
Developed by: PopCap Games
Genre: Strategy
Number of Players: 1-2
Release Date: US: September 28, 2010
MSRP: $15.00
RP for Rating Pending
Also Available On: iPhoneiPadXbox 360Nintendo DSPCMac

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Picture The Brave and the Bold series on Cartoon network pits comic books most popular hero, Batman, with some of the lesser known DC characters. Rather than teaming with Wonder Woman or Superman, the Caped Crusader takes to the streets with Plastic Man, Blue Beetle, and Red Tornado. That premise carries into the DS game, which highlights some lesser known heroes and villains but still centers on Batman.

As we quickly learn, the world seems to be going to Hell and Superman’s on vaca, so it’s up to Batman and friends to travel the globe cleaning the clocks of a variety of villains. Some you will surely know (Catwoman, The Joker, Scarecrow) and others are more of the laughable variety (Clock King, Gentleman Ghost, Black Mantis). Regardless of what you might think of these foes, each antagonist poses some different challenge for the Dark Knight.

Brave and the Bold on DS is a single-player game, but you can switch between Batman and his ally at any time with a tap to the touch screen. Though you always have Batman at your side, your ally changes with each level and they have unique abilities necessary for getting past certain obstacles. These are simple challenges, so no puzzles that will tax your noggin. But there are definitely a few tough platforming parts. Fortunately, Brave and the Bold has tons of checkpoints, so you’ll never have to go back far if Batman dies.

Batman’s pals each have one or two things that make them different. Plastic man can turn his hands into mallets to smash through walls. Red Tornado can hover across chasms. Aquaman can call forth a fish to strike enemies (oh, stupid stupid Aquaman).

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Picture You might be wondering how Batman (no superpowers) can hang with people like Green Lantern. Well, as you play you collect bat symbols, which can be used to buy upgrades at the Batcave. This includes practical stuff like increased punching power and extra armor and those eccentric little toys the Batman loves. Batarangs that deliver an electric shock, force fields, and more. When playing as Batman, you can select your utility belt item of choice.

Eventually, Batman becomes far more powerful than his friends and it becomes smarter to keep him on screen much more than anyone else. It’s always good to offer ways to improve your character, but there is a bit of a balancing issue here. I already think Green Arrow is silly. Having him feel underpowered compared to Batman doesn’t make me want to use him at all.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a pretty short experience, beatable in under three hours. Most of the levels are good, with one true standout. The battle against Scarecrow is awesome and certainly a model for the creativity and challenge that would have been nice to see more consistently throughout the campaign.

Aside from the short single-player story, there are some bonuses. If you have the Wii version of Brave and the Bold, you can use the DS to connect with your console and play as Batmite. As Batmite, you drop power-ups, bombs and anvils on the screen. That’s it. It’s pretty boring.

More interesting is the Challenge Room, which includes several different options to extend gameplay. These include battling bosses, beating areas with Batman’s allies, and surviving hordes of enemies.

Batman’s latest adventure is a good, but short yarn on DS. It would have been nice to see more variety in the levels and to have the guest characters used in more interesting ways, but it’s a solid game nonetheless. If you’ve been itching for a good Batman game, give this one a go. It won’t last long, but it’s satisfying. (ign)

Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developed by: WayForward Technologies
Genre: Action
Release Date: US: September 7, 2010
MSRP: $29.99
E10+ for Everyone 10+: Cartoon Violence
Also Available On: Wii