GameSpot's Month in Review for July 2004

Our monthly feature sums up all the reviews we posted in July 2004. Check out our Game of the Month awards and our GameSpot Complete PDF Buyers' Guide.

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The dog days of summer are upon us at last. Kids are now trying to suck the marrow out of their last few weeks of vacation before school starts, and what better way to do that than by playing the best games? Like it is most summers, the release calendar was relatively light, but we still managed to review a good array of quality games across all the platforms. This edition of the Month in Review gives a lot of recognition to football games. It seems like an odd thing for a summer release schedule, but the seasons in both the pros and college just seem to keep getting longer and longer, causing the releases of games like ESPN NFL and NCAA Football to extend earlier into the year. In any case, the release schedule for the remainder of the year should begin to accelerate until it finally reaches fever pitch during the holiday season.

As always, the Month in Review includes an outline of each platform's game of the month, with quick links to reviews, movies, and discussion forums. ESPN NFL 2K5 stands out as July's only Editors' Choice Award winner, but every platform has a good selection of great games to buy. Tales of Symphonia on the GameCube, for example, was especially significant, not only for its quality, but also as the first role-playing game to be released on that system in quite a while. Just as a reminder, we do not necessarily give the Game of the Month award to the highest-scoring game on each platform. We discuss all worthy candidates in detail and take a variety of factors into account before coming to our decision.

GameSpot Complete members have the unique privilege of downloading our Complete Buyers' Guide. Check out the right sidebar of this page for the link. Our buyers' guide is available in Adobe Acrobat format, making it both searchable or printable so you can take it with you to the store or anywhere else where you might need to get quick information on all the latest games.

Comments on this feature? Agree or disagree with our picks? Let your thoughts be known in our forums!

PC Game of the Month

Review Excerpt
For anyone who likes a little puzzle solving with their driving, check out this puzzle race. "The brand of simplified, highly customizable driving game that Enlight Software and developer Nadeo's TrackMania aims to be hasn't really seen much attention since the days of the legendary PC game Stunts. Though there have been some games of similar concept--that being the concept of providing players with the means to create wild and wacky tracks of their own twisted design--it has been a long, long time since any game of this type has really stood out. Thankfully, TrackMania puts an end to this prolonged drought. The game has been out in Europe for a while now, and since its European release, it has drawn quite a following overseas. After you play the game for yourself, it isn't hard to see why. Its earnest simplicity and pure addictiveness shine through over its few presentational and control rough spots, providing a wholly enjoyable game with plenty of lasting value and charm."

Check out our other PC reviews in July

Uru: The Path of the Shell (7.6)
"By and large, The Path of the Shell offers a satisfying experience for anyone who enjoyed Uru: Ages Beyond Myst."

Aura: Fate of the Ages (6.4)
"Aura fails miserably as an adventure game, but it often succeeds admirably as a puzzle game, challenging you with one fiendish brain-twister after another."

Baseball Mogul 2005 (5.6)
"Baseball Mogul 2005 has all but ignored the recent evolution of text-based sports management simulations."

Catwoman (5.6)
"Catwoman attempts to deliver some Prince of Persia-like acrobatics, but it's dragged down by bad control, weak voice work, and shoddy gameplay."

Soldner: Secret Wars (5.0)
"Soldner features some neat innovations, but these original elements can't compensate for its fundamental stability, control, and gameplay problems."

Spider-Man 2 (5.0)
"The gameplay in Spider-Man 2 is stripped-down to a fault."

Carnival Cruise Line Tycoon 2005: Island Hopping (4.3)
"Though pretty, this tycoon game flounders due to lackluster gameplay and a lack of variety."

Kuma\War (4.1)
"The presentation is dated and drab, and the vaguely realistic military trappings can't disguise what is at heart a weak, simplistic shooter."

Xbox Game of the Month

Review Excerpt
Watch the video review of ESPN NFL 2K5. "So, when all is said and done, and after all the price drop and release date hullabaloo, does ESPN NFL 2K5 manage to come together to make a compelling, quality football game? The answer is an unflinching and resounding "Yes." Don't think of ESPN NFL 2K5 as a budget game, because it's about the farthest thing from the average budget title that you can imagine. If anything, this game should be called the "Steal of the Century," because you're getting all the benefits of one of the best football franchises of all time for an incredibly measly 20 bucks. If this price isn't enough of an excuse to get you to give ESPN NFL 2K5--arguably the best football game on the market right now--a fair shot, then you are out of your mind. As for the rest of you who are not suffering from bouts of insanity, go pick up ESPN NFL 2K5, and do so with the peace of mind that you're getting no less than the deal of a lifetime."

Check out our other Xbox reviews in July

NCAA Football 2005 (8.2)
"NCAA Football 2005 is still a great college football game, but longtime fans will have trouble shaking the feeling that the series isn't quite living up to its awesome potential."

Samurai Warriors (7.3)
"The core game is still much the same as it has always been, and as such, Samurai Warriors remains a game primarily for those already enamored with the Warriors franchise."

IndyCar Series 2005 (6.5)
"For hardcore fans of the sport with an interest in car tuning and oval racing, IndyCar Series 2005 is worth a rental at the very least."

Sudeki (6.5)
"Sudeki is, unfortunately, more style than substance."

Catwoman (6.3)
"Catwoman attempts to deliver some Prince of Persia-like acrobatics, but its sharp graphics are offset by bad control, weak voice work, and shoddy gameplay."

GameCube Game of the Month

Review Excerpt
Watch the video review of Tales of Symphonia. "Tales of Symphonia was worth the wait. Fans of Japanese role-playing games will take to its style and the depth of its battle system, and those curious about the genre and who loathe the idea of turn-based battle and scads of random encounters will appreciate the quick fighting pace. While the story may rely a bit too much on cliché, the ride is still worthwhile. If you have a GameCube and like RPGs, you definitely need to check out Tales of Symphonia."

Check out our other GameCube reviews in July

NCAA Football 2005 (8.0)
"NCAA Football 2005 is still a great college football game, but longtime fans will have trouble shaking the feeling that the series isn't quite living up to its awesome potential."

Puyo Pop Fever (7.1)
"Puyo Pop Fever comes with a new coat of paint and a new gameplay mechanic, but at its core it's still the same old Puyo Pop."

Catwoman (6.3)
"Catwoman attempts to deliver some Prince of Persia-like acrobatics, but its sharp graphics are offset by bad control, weak voice work, and shoddy gameplay."

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow (6.1)
"Even those who only own Nintendo's system would be selling themselves short by picking up this version of the game."

PlayStation 2 Game of the Month

Review Excerpt
Watch the video review of ESPN NFL 2K5. "So, when all is said and done, and after all the price drop and release date hullabaloo, does ESPN NFL 2K5 manage to come together to make a compelling, quality football game? The answer is an unflinching and resounding "Yes." Don't think of ESPN NFL 2K5 as a budget game, because it's about the farthest thing from the average budget title that you can imagine. If anything, this game should be called the "Steal of the Century," because you're getting all the benefits of one of the best football franchises of all time for an incredibly measly 20 bucks. If this price isn't enough of an excuse to get you to give ESPN NFL 2K5--arguably the best football game on the market right now--a fair shot, then you are out of your mind. As for the rest of you who are not suffering from bouts of insanity, go pick up ESPN NFL 2K5, and do so with the peace of mind that you're getting no less than the deal of a lifetime."

Check out our other PlayStation 2 reviews in July

NCAA Football 2005 (8.5)
"NCAA Football 2005 is still a great college football game, but longtime fans will have trouble shaking the feeling that the series isn't quite living up to its awesome potential."

Pool Paradise (7.9)
"Though there are other pool games available for the PlayStation 2, few, if any, are as enjoyable as Pool Paradise."

Bujingai: The Forsaken City (7.4)
"It isn't an especially standout hack-and-slash action game, but Bujingai: The Forsaken City is still pretty good regardless."

Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 (7.2)
"How much you'll get out of Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 is tied directly to your interest in the songs on the disc."

Crimson Tears (6.8)
"Crimson Tears isn't broken in any way, and if you can overlook the occasionally frustrating fixed camera, it gets better the more you play it."

Athens 2004 (6.5)
"Athens 2004 doesn't improve much on the button mashing and timing-based gameplay that Konami built Track & Field on more than 20 years ago."

Catwoman (6.3)
"Catwoman attempts to deliver some Prince of Persia-like acrobatics, but its sharp graphics are offset by bad control, weak voice work, and shoddy gameplay."

Way of the Samurai 2 (6.3)
"The concept of the game isn't well executed, resulting in an awkwardly paced experience that will only be appreciated by those willing to look past a variety of flaws."

World Tour Soccer 2005 (5.4)
"World Tour Soccer 2005 plays such an ugly version of the beautiful game that it's unlikely you'll play it for long enough to see even half of what it offers."

Game Boy Advance Game of the Month

Review Excerpt
Check out an intense battle in an otherworldly location in this movie. "It shouldn't come as any surprise that, just like so many other games in the GBA's library, Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon is a remake of a game that originally appeared on a 16-bit system back in the early 1990s. What is surprising, however, is that with just a handful of upgrades, Sega and Atlus have taken one of the best strategy role-playing games on the Sega Genesis and have made it into one of the best strategy RPGs on the Game Boy Advance. Those of you who have played Nintendo's Fire Emblem to death will want to check out Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon."

Check out our other Game Boy Advance reviews in July

CT Special Forces 2 (7.8)
"This solid, arcade-inspired shoot-'em-up improves upon its predecessor in every way."

Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors (7.7)
"DBZ: Supersonic Warriors accurately captures the look and feel of the TV show, but the big surprise is that it's also fun to play."

Spider-Man 2 (7.3)
"It's the familiar characters and Spider-Man's abilities that make this otherwise average action game so enjoyable."

Mega Man Battle Network 4 Blue Moon (6.8)
"There isn't much here that wasn't done just as well, or better, in the previous game."

Mega Man Battle Network 4 Red Sun (6.8)
"There isn't much here that wasn't done just as well, or better, in the previous game."

Mobile Game of the Month

Review Excerpt

See screenshots of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3
"The mobile version, which uses an overhead, isometric perspective, has eschewed its antecessor's first-person-shooter component in favor of a complete emphasis on strategy. The result is a game that could almost be classified as a puzzle game. Although it lacks the multiplayer option that defines the PC and console versions, Rainbow Six 3 for mobile is a highly enjoyable experience in itself."

Check out our other Mobile reviews in MONTH

Block Breaker Deluxe (8.5)
"It may be nothing more than a repackaged Arkanoid, but it plays well and makes for a great mobile game."

Shado Fighter (8.1)
"This 2D brawler is equipped with fluent animation, scads of playable characters, and a ton of special techniques and moves, making it one of the best fighting games for mobile phones yet."

Ninja Gaiden Episode 1: Destiny (7.6)
"Despite it having the depth of a prerelease demo, Ninja Gaiden is certainly worth paying for."

Dexter's Laboratory Security Alert! (7.2)
"Dexter's Laboratory is a fun game, if you can look past its dull early levels and a few flaws."

Momentum (7.2)
"There may not be much to Momentum's rudimentary premise, but its clever planning and multiplayer elements make for an unexpectedly engrossing experience."

Chessmaster (7.1)
"Chessmaster provides a solid chess experience."

Hugo - Black Diamond Fever (7.1)
"Black Diamond Fever is a good little platformer that fans of the genre should enjoy."

Ice Maze (7.1)
"It's a nice little time killer, and it's a fairly fun and challenging one at that."

Puzzle Poker (6.9)
"Fans of the puzzle genre will certainly get a kick out of Puzzle Poker, but it doesn't have much appeal beyond that."

Castlevania (6.7)
"Although Castlevania for mobile is a poor value, fans of the series will certainly get something out of it."

Speed Devils (6.5)
"Gameloft's Speed Devils delivers fast arcade fun, but the action is too light to merit any long-term play."

Hummer Offroad Challenge (6.3)
"Aside from your occasional jump or nitro hit, Hummer Offroad Challenge is a pretty bland racer."

Movie Trivia Rave (6.3)
"Movie Trivia Rave doesn't offer enough questions to stay interesting for very long."

Snoop Dogg Boxing (6.2)
"Sony Pictures Mobile has paid liberal homage to the NES boxing classic Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! in this third-person boxing game, but its tough controls and bland presentation make the final product only partially successful."

The Day After Tomorrow (6.2)
"The Day After Tomorrow isn't deep enough to hold your interest for very long."

Skateboard Park Tycoon (5.4)
"Skateboard Park Tycoon simply lacks the depth you'd expect from a tycoon-style strategy game."

Crazy Castle (5.2)
"The bottom line is that Crazy Castle just isn't much fun. Those looking to avoid tedious gameplay should leave this damsel in distress."

Ping Pong Pow (5.2)
"Ping Pong POW tries to add a new wrinkle to a video game classic. Unfortunately, by doing so it drains much of the fun from ping pong."

Spider-Man vs. Doc Ock (5.2)
"Spidey's mobile adventure is uneventful and repetitive, leaving its decent graphics and simple but reliable control as its only positive features."

Sergei Fedorov Face-Off Hockey (5.1)
"Sergei Fedorov Face-Off Hockey is a mediocre title that has little to do with a real hockey experience, so it's unlikely to provide many with lasting enjoyment."

Ancient Ruins 1: The Crypt of the King (4.8)
"With only 15 minutes of gameplay, Crypt of the King is pretty much impossible to recommend on its own."

Double Dragon (4.7)
"Bandai's mobile version of Double Dragon doesn't do the original justice."

Samurai Shodown (4.3)
"Samurai Shodown looks and sounds lovely, but it ultimately fails the playability test due to slipshod control and boring, depthless gameplay."

Tron 2.0: Discs of Tron (4.2)
"Discs of Tron is colorful, but the gameplay is boring, repetitive, and often unfair."

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