Posts Tagged ‘platformer’

Sonic Adventure Review

Posted: September 16, 2010 in Playstation 3, XBOX 360
Tags: , , ,

I was always a SEGA kid. Sure, A Link to the Past is at the top of my all-time list, and I felt a guilty thrill cheating on my Genesis as I played through Super Metroid, but my fondest 16 bit memories were of games like Sub-Terrania…and Sonic the Hedgehog. I remember counting the minutes ’til junior high school was out so I could rush home and play through Sonic 2. I’ll even still get involved in semi-heated Genesis vs. SNES arguments with friends for fun from time to time. I bought a Dreamcast on launch day, driving all over San Diego to find first a system, then a game, then yet another store still to buy a VMU. I bought Sonic Adventure a few days later, and I convinced myself that it was flawed but great.

I was wrong. Sonic Adventure for XBLA and PSN has successfully driven a stake through the heart of my combined nostalgia/Dreamcast launch blinders/residual SEGA fanboyism. Everything from the original release is in there, from fishing mini-games to Chao raising to awful voice acting, like an evidence folder in a trial against what you thought was ostensibly the Dreamcast’s flagship launch title.

The gameplay shifts between 3rd person, behind the hedgehog running, which doesn’t control very well, and 2D side-scrolling sections here and there which control marginally better (since you’re pretty much just holding forward and hitting the jump button). Enemies and bosses are dispatched by rolling through them, bouncing off them, or boosting through them, but Sonic has always been more about lightning fast platforming than kicking enemies’ collective asses. When Sonic Adventure released, the graphics were amazing, and the sense of speed was unmatched.

The game was so fast, in fact, that you probably didn’t even realize how broken it actually is. Sonic Adventure is so fundamentally flawed that it borders on unplayable – the sections that move the fastest, that work most, that are even slightly interesting, require the least input from the player. In fact, in many of these sections, input from the player will result in death or catastrophe, and there’s really no way to know which until you either fly through not completely sure what happened or die, also not completely sure what happened.

This is, of course, when the camera is working — which is about half of the time. There are not enough expletives in the collected languages of humankind to express how broken the camera in Sonic Adventure is (and I am very familiar with profanity). You might hear people talk about games where the camera seems to get “caught on something,” but in Sonic Adventure it’s like the camera is hanging onto random objects for dear life. Its negligence becomes more homicidal as the level design leans toward the punitive side near the end of the game, but it’s always lurking, waiting for a chance to block your view (often by showing the inside of a character model or game object).

The controls themselves are another failure. Sonic and co. maneuver poorly, even at slow speeds, and there are bizarre collision detection rules in place that will cause you to become caught in bizarre invisible traps that require some frantic thumbstick jerking to break free of. This extends elsewhere throughout the game, as the world itself seems fragile and pitted with holes in its reality. I fell through floors, was catapulted outside of the game world, and generally murdered without warning or explanation by failures in Sonic Adventure’s ability to hold itself together repeatedly. And this isn’t counting the times the camera literally broke free of the game world itself to exist outside of the engine’s geometry.

All of this presumes that you can actually figure out how to get to the next action stage. Sonic Adventure has an overworld – or an Adventure World, rather – that features some mild platforming and pronounced frustration. Characters control even worse in Adventure areas than they do in Action stages, as you’ll be walking most of the time, rather than running as fast as possible. Action stages are difficult to find — they’re entirely reliant on paying depressingly close attention to Sonic Adventure’s painful cutscenes and dialogue for esoteric clues as to your next destination. You’ll be just as likely to stumble on the next nonsense “key” to the Adventure area that holds your next Action stage.

If you think that paragraph is confusing, Sonic Adventure will make you feel like you’re stuck in Groundhog Day by comparison.

The bulk of your time will be spent playing through Sonic’s campaign. But as you play, you’ll meet various, er, pals from Sonic’s menagerie, including Amy, Tails, and Knuckles, which you can then guide through their own little journeys through the horrors of broken 3D platforming. Each character has their own wrinkle or drastic departure from the game’s primary mechanics — Tails hovers, E102 shoots, Amy…wields a giant hammer, Big the Cat fishes, and Knuckles glides and punches. Unfortunately, all of these new mechanics are even less functional than the broken platforming of the main adventure.

While it’s difficult to comment on whether the game feels more broken in downloadable arcade form than it did for its US release on the Dreamcast, there is an unmistakeably rushed and shoddy air to the presentation of the port. It’s as barebones as can be, with hideous menus, no widescreen support, and an options menu that forgets your camera settings once you exit the game. Performance is good, at least, as I can’t remember any point where the game dropped below 60FPS.

Sonic Adventure, in hindsight, feels like a game thrown together in a panic, held together by spectacle and the fervent wishes of SEGA fans for a proper return to form for Sonic and SEGA. Unfortunately, spectacle has a short half life, and Sonic Adventure’s basic design and gameplay fall apart under scrutiny. Playing Sonic Adventure for the first time in 11 years, after returning to the franchise a few times over the last decade, I’ve realized that the great tragedy about Sonic games isn’t that they’ve gotten worse over two console generations — they just haven’t gotten appreciably better. (ign)

  • Published by: SEGA
  • Developed by: Sonic Team
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Release Date: US: Q3 2010 , Japan: Q3 2010
  • E for Everyone: Animated Violence
  • Also Available On: Dreamcast, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Ivy the Kiwi? (Wii)

Posted: September 4, 2010 in Nintendo DS/i/3DS, Wii
Tags: , , ,

When I first heard about Ivy the Kiwi, it was in the context of being the new game from Yuji Naka, the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog. And while that’s a notable fact that may help sales (and is printed right there on the back of the game box), I think Ivy the Kiwi is a game that’s fun enough to stand on its own, without comparisons to any spiny mammals that have fallen from grace.

In Ivy the Kiwi, players don’t control the titular character. The baby bird just runs willy nilly through the levels, and it’s up to players to keep her from dying. They do this by drawing vines across the screen that can act as platforms, walls, ramps, and slingshots. It’s a simple concept, but as the game progresses and Ivy makes her way through more than 100 levels, the difficulty ramps up. I’m impressed with how subtle the difficulty progression was. I didn’t even really notice until I let my roommate play the game at around level 60. He thought the game was impossible. But new concepts are introduced so gradually that they’re barely noticeable while actually playing the game.

The entire game takes place in a storybook, and everything looks like it was printed on old parchment. If you were living in the world of Professor Layton, this is what the videogames would look like. The graphics are simple, but the style is great. The music is light, but catchy, and Ivy has her very own invincibility song.

Both the Wii and DS versions are the same game, at least in terms of the story mode. And the controls for both of them work very well, though I personally preferred the stylus controls on the DS. Drawing lines with my stylus feels more natural than drawing it with the Wii remote. Players can draw up to three vines at a time (the oldest one disappears automatically when a new vine is drawn). Grabbing a vine allows players to use it as a slingshot, shooting Ivy through breakable walls and enemies. You use these mechanics to pull off some really cool things, and it’s rewarding to do the more complicated procedures in the later levels.

While 100 levels is a lot, most of them are easily completed in a minute or so (sometimes as short as 15 seconds). Still, there’s a difference between just passing the level and completing it by earning the 10 feathers scattered throughout each. Getting all 10 feathers is a test of skill that quickly turns the game from a fun casual platformer to a dangerous practice in precise movement and death-defying acrobatics. I imagine the appeal of getting the feathers will likely wear off early on for many gamers. The game doesn’t do a lot to reward the player, so there’s not that drive to finish levels fast or completely. Even the story takes something like 50 levels to continue after the initial cutscene.

The Wii version also includes multiple multiplayer modes, both competitive and cooperative. Competitive allows players to not only draw vines in their window, but also on the other player’s window, sabotaging their progress. It’s fun, in that way where you want to punch everyone in the face when they vine-block you from winning. Co-op allows multiple players to draw vines, which is useful for making some of the later levels easier. It’s more of a girlfriend/parent mode than anything, but it’s a nice addition. (ign)

Published by: Xseed Games
Developed by: Prope
Genre: Platformer
Number of Players: 1-4
Release Date: US: August 24, 2010 , Japan: TBA 2010
MSRP: $29.99
MSRP: JPY ¥3,990.00
E for Everyone: Comic Mischief
Also Available On: Wii, NDSi

Divergent Shift (NDSi)

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Nintendo DS/i/3DS
Tags: ,
Starting off as a student project a few years ago, “Reflection” (as it was once called) managed to make enough of a splash in the indie scene to attract the attention of Konami. The publisher picked it up, rebranded it and shipped it into the DSi Shop – but you can definitely still tell that the newly-renamed Divergent Shift is still a student affair.

The art is the giveaway. The character animation and environment graphics lack a degree of professional polish, as does the overall presentation of this tale of a ninja-like girl who shatters a magic mirror. The control of the girl, though, is good – as is the level design. And that’s the main hook, since each stage is split into two.

The DSi’s top screen is reflected and reversed down on the bottom, with some changes – like Chronos Twin DX you’ll have to control two versions of your character at the same time, and the obstacles one encounters will block the other even if they aren’t there in both realities. For example, your girl on the top screen might run into a tree while her reflection on the bottom sees only open space – and you’ll have to figure out a way around the obstruction, running, sliding and wall-jumping to find the path that allows both images of your girl to move forward.

That’s just one half of the gameplay, though. The other, less publicized style of play is when your girl’s shadow appears on the bottom screen – and in those stages, your two simultaneously-controlled characters can become de-synced with one another. So upper girl runs into a tree, and lower girl keeps right on running. You have to constantly manage each girl’s position relative to the other, because if one dies, both do. (ign)

Published by: Konami
Developed by: Intrinsic Games
Genre: Platformer
Number of Players: 1
Release Date: US: August 16, 2010
MSRP: $8.00
E for Everyone: Violent References

What do you do when you are a major Japanese video game maker who faces a shrinking home market and sees the social games sector virtually explode at the same time? You make the jump, just like Capcom, the brand behind such hit games like Street Fighter, Resident Evil, or Mega Man. According to Japanese business daily The Nikkei, the Osaka-based company will start offering games for Facebook as early as next month.

Capcom’s US subsidiary (LA-based Capcom Interactive, Inc.) will bring yet to be named titles currently available for the iPhone to Facebook, with The Nikkei hinting that more games are to follow thereafter. At the moment, Capcom is offering just a handful of iPhone apps, for example Street Fighter IV or Resident Evil IV.

The Nikkei says Capcom plans to offer the Facebook games for free but will earn money by selling virtual items, as a lot of other game providers on social networks do. As a start, the Japanese company aims at attracting one million Facebook users from the US and Europe. In Japan, Capcom saw the domestic market for video games shrink for the second straight year in 2009 (minus 6.9% to $6.3 billion).

Capcom president Haruhiro Tsujimoto first announced his company’s move into the social gaming business back in May this year. Expect more Japanese video game companies to follow Capcom soon.


Earthworm Jim HD

Posted: August 10, 2010 in XBOX 360
Tags: , , ,

When Earthworm Jim first came out, I was about ten years old. Playing the game for the first time, I remember being incredibly unsettled by the oddness of the characters and the disjointed situations that star hero Jim wound up in. Looking back, I assumed my young age was the reason for these feelings — perhaps I just didn’t grasp the humor going on.

As it turns out, Little Ryan was totally right: Earthworm Jim is still bizarre. After playing the latest remake of the classic platformer, titled Earthworm Jim HD, I remembered why I was so weirded out in the first place. What I didn’t remember are some of the odd control issues that keep Earthworm Jim from being as intuitive a platformer as its modern day peers. Then again, there aren’t many other places where you’ll find a heroic earthworm wearing a super-powered space suit…

The story of Earthworm Jim HD is almost non-existent, but it goes something like this: an everyday earthworm named Jim was minding his own business when all of a sudden a space suit of immense power falls from the sky and lands on him, giving him incredible strength and access to a rockin’ handgun. With these newfound powers, Jim travels the galaxy with the hope of rescuing a lovely princess and generally saving the day.

What follows is some of the most unusual, disjointed 2D platforming you’ll ever experience. If you’ve never played Earthworm Jim before, it’s a surreal experience to say the least and one that will frustrate you even on the normal difficulty level (which is two below the difficulty labeled “Original”). At its core, Earthworm Jim HD is all about running, gunning, swinging across ropes, and fighting crazy bosses. But you’ll also be racing through space and piloting a fragile submarine. All in a day’s work for Jim.

This remake is actually very pretty, as the visuals look fantastic and show off the game’s impressive animations. There’s also a handful of extra bonus levels not found in the original (with an absolutely priceless cameo which I won’t ruin) and the inclusion of multiplayer-specific levels that can be played with up to four different people. The developers went through a fair amount of trouble to make this a special version of Earthworm Jim, and it shows.

Earthworm Jim HD can be really rewarding when you do things right and when you pay attention to the outrageous details found within. For example, just watch Jim’s face as he swings across a rope — the animations are hysterical. The bosses are also utterly bizarre, as Jim will face everything from a garbage can to a falling wad of mucus.

But this madness comes at a price. The levels of Earthworm Jim are entirely incohesive and might throw newcomers off. Gamers may wonder why Earthworm Jim goes from a junkyard at the beginning of the game into the bowels of Hell. I can’t tell you why this is the case — it just is. Variety is great, but I’d prefer some context.

More troubling are the game’s controls, which might feel awkward and unintuitive if you’ve been playing a lot of modern platformers. For example, Jim can’t jump upwards when hanging off a rope — he can only drop down. He also can’t shoot his gun while in the air, nor can he use his whip attack in all directions while jumping. These limitations — regardless of their faithfulness to the original — can be very frustrating.

Another problem with Earthworm Jim which was also present in the original is the lack of proper visual feedback given to players when traversing a level for the first time. There are moments when newcomers just won’t know which platforms can be jumped on or which spikes can hurt Jim and which ones are purely aesthetic. These issues can add to the frustration, which exacerbates the game’s already punishing difficulty.

So while this is technically a solid remake, the design choices of the original Earthworm Jim continue to hurt the experience, especially for gamers accustomed to the conveniences of modern platformers (jumping and shooting simultaneously is fun!). At least the local and online multiplayer modes run very well.

  • Published by: Gameloft
  • Developed by: Gameloft
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Number of Players: 1-4
  • Release Date:
    US: August 3, 2010
  • E10+ for Everyone 10+: Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief
  • Also Available On: Xbox 360, iPhone, NDSi

(via ign)

Furry Legends

Posted: August 10, 2010 in Wii
Tags: ,

Furry Legends Screenshot

Furry Legends Screenshot

Furry Legends Screenshot


Gamelion wants you to play with their balls. Now, if you read that sentence in the mildly suggestive manner I intended it, you’re already one step closer to understanding   Furry Legends — this rolling-ball platformer draws from that style of thinly veiled, mostly uncomfortable humor a lot. It’s probably just the team trying to present a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It comes across, though, as awkward.

The same could be said for almost every other element of this WiiWare design, as in nearly every area you can understand what the developers were going for — but it’s always just a little weird in execution. Your heroes in this side-scrolling world are all spherical, so they roll and bounce instead of running and jumping — it’s original, but odd. The physics don’t quite feel right. Getting your guy to go right where you want can take a lot of trial and error, and you’ll occasionally get stuck in corners and have to wildly jump and spin around to dislodge yourself.

The attack technique is logical in concept, as it’s kind of similar to the homing attacks that Sonic the Hedgehog uses when he rolls up into a ball — so, a good match for the ball-shaped heroes here. But the control scheme ruins it, making it too difficult to pull off. You have to hold one button to prepare your body slam, then push the Nunchuk’s control stick in the direction you want your guy to fly, then wave the Wii Remote to execute the action. It never feels natural.

And, lastly, the length is lacking. I feel like this fact should have been made more prominent before purchase — because the game is called Furry Legends in the marketing and in the Wii Shop, but on the actual title screen (after you’ve spent 10 bucks) it’s called Furry Legends: Chapter One. That’s borderline shady to me — I’m sure tons of players will download this one expecting a full game experience, only to find that they’ve inadvertently invested in just the first installment in an episodic series that will take more money and more downloads in the future to play through completely.

Again, that fact should have been made more clear — SEGA has been on the level about the upcoming  Sonic the Hedgehog 4 : Episode 1, clearly labeling it with that subtitle so that everyone understands what they’ll be getting before they buy. Furry should have followed that example.

  • Published by: Gamelion Studios
  • Developed by: Gamelion Studios
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Release Date:US: July 19, 2010
  • MSRP: $10.00
  • E for Everyone: Comic Mischief, Mild Language

(via ign)