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Super Mario 3D Land Review

What it lacks in originality, it makes up for with a challenging experience in slick 3D.

The Good

Tight Controls
Slick Graphics
Great use of 3D
Challening platforming

The Bad

Doesn't do much new
Reused music
Short levels

The Review

Presentation

The Nintendo 3DS has had a rough start throughout the first few months of life. But Super Mario 3D Land has come to ward off the shovelware and ports with the standard addictive Mario platforming. Bowser has once again kidnapped the princess and Mario must save her. Yeah, yeah we've all been here before except that this time the story is told in some well drawn 3D pictures. Aside from using the unique hardware of the 3DS the game doesn't cross much over into newer territory, giving us more and more addicting platforming in new, yet familiar environments with cool suits. And that's what Mario's all about. Having fun in some hectic and fun ways. What it sacrifices in new, it makes up for in challenge and slight frustration.



Graphics

This early on in the life cycle of the 3DS, it's hard to get a grasp on the full visual power of system can be. Super Mario 3D Land is a, for the most part, very good looking game. The environments are bright and colorful as well as the models. A lot of the environmental aesthetics are very pleasing from the waterfalls to moving blocks that reflect light with the light dissipating as they spin. Some might say that it's visually on par with the Mario Galaxy games but it's a far cry. The water, while looking okay, looks a lot more flat and not as tasty as in said games. Also it's a little disappointing to see the hairier creatures not have as amazing looking hair textures as the Queen Bee. Little details like finger animation are pleasing compared to previous games and it runs at a silky smooth frame rate all the way through. A few hitches such as shadow pop in and draw distance issues are a little distracting but don't take away much of the game's overall satisfying visuals.

The main draw here is in the 3D. The game features two different options for 3D viewing as well as ust playing in 2D. A "pop-out" mode, where the visuals pop out of the screen more, and an "extended view" mode. Where it's basically like viewing the game through a window. The pop out mode was more satisfying for me so I stuck with that the way through. While it mostly relies on gimmicky things such as fireballs coming straight at you, it's hard to deny that jumping from platform to platform while in 3D certainly adds a little something with that extra layer of depth. It also uses some unique tricks that you might never be able to judge in 2D. For example, a block might look next to one but it might actually be closer, farther, or even under your current position. Even the gimmicky things can look cool. I couldn't tell you how many times I threw on the boomerang suit and threw boomerangs at the camera until I got tired of it. As neat as the 3D is, it is sadly useless to those unfortunate people who cannot see 3D. But for everyone else, it is probably the best use of 3D for the system thus far.



Audio

One of the most disappointing aspects of Super Mario 3D Land is the use of audio. It follows Nintendo's recent trend of reusing most of the same music as previous entries in the series. The songs sound as good as they always have, don't get me wrong, but it would be a lot nicer to see a soundtrack built from the ground up, for the most part. There are definitely some new songs but even those tend to be a bit overused while still being pleasing to the ear, fortunately. What returns from the Mario Galaxy games are the levels with the changing platforms that are based on rhythm and just as catchy as ever. Voice acting is kept to a bare minimum and hearing Peach yell "Mario!!!!" for about a thousand times will get on your nerves. A nostalgic voice sample returns from Super Mario 64 from when Mario falls a very long distance which, admittedly, got me giddy.



Gameplay

Super Mario 3D Land blends together elements of 3D Mario's and 2D ones. You move in a 3D space but in a strictly linear path, even more so than Super Mario Galaxy. The formula works but it would be nice to finally see another game with big open environments. Be that as it may, the game is filled with colorful levels that never feel repetitive. At one point you may be jumping across platforms that appear based on rhythm or jumping across floating graham crackers as the camera pans automatically. There's a surprising lack of swimming, thankfully, as swimming usually sucks in most video games. The levels that I though stand out the most were the ghost house levels. They provide a good mix of variety with their maze like layouts. At one point you'll be hopping across piano and the next you'll be hopping across platforms that only appear if you're next to them. Though it may take a while, the game can get pretty tough. One of the most notable tough spots for me was jumping across sound based platforms while a dangling spiked log was swinging over them. I must have died at least 20 times and it never felt cheap. Be prepared to dig in. It's only made tougher by the fact that you have to collect the three special coins in each world to play through every single level of Super Mario 3D Land. Disappointingly, after you beat the main game, there are eight worlds which are referred to as "Special". They're essentially the same as the normal game but the levels are remixed with interesting challenges such as Shadow Mario and strict time limits. While it adds an extra layer of difficulty, playing the same levels over again can be repetitive.

The boss fights start out pretty interesting at first. There is mainly Bowser and two of his underlings as bosses. One of them spins his arms super fast and the other throws boomerangs. They start out cool but as the game goes on they never change their tactics aside from teaming up at one point. Bowser is a lot more fun to fight. Similar to the original Super Mario Bros, you beat him by getting to the other side of the bridge and pressing the button. Only it feels more satisfying here. What really stands out is your last fight with him. A hectic chase up a crumbling castle. It's not as hard as the platforming, but it's definitely cool to watch.

One notable addition is the return of the Tanooki suit, which allows you to spin your tail to defeat enemies, flutter your way to ground, and turn into a statue in the special worlds. While it is a neat idea, it's disappointing that you can't fly in it. There's also no option for Mario just to have the ears and the tail, as opposed to the entire suit. Another new addition is the boomerang suit. It does what it sounds like, throw a boomerang and you defeat an enemy. It's also a good way to collect objects out of reach, like a Zelda game. It can, however be a pain in the butt that you only have one boomerang to work with and you have to wait for it to come back every time. There's also the standard fire flower suit and the helicopter block from New Super Mario Bros Wii, which is just as fun as it was there. Aside from those, there's a disappointing lack of suits and it would have been nice to see some more return.

The control system is similar to that of the 3D Mario games, in which there is a side flip, backflip, crouch, wall jump, etc. It may not have punching or kicking but it does add a new roll move. It's not too exciting but it can come through in a pinch. The controls work very well except that the backflip feels disappointingly useless as it does not go as high as you would expect. One last gripe I have is with the game's camera. It's usually static and will change depending on the situation. You can only move it so little and temporarily which causes some views to be obstructed and some blind jumping under the camera. But these moments are, thankfully, uncommon.

Closing Comments

If you're looking for a 3DS game that's finally good, this is a no-brainer. It may not be a system seller in terms of quality, but for those looking for a new Mario game, it fits in perfectly well with the rest.

8.0
Very Good

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Review

Although there might not be enough gameplay, it's a stellar story from beginning to end.



The Good:

Intense Story All the Way Through
Exciting Atmosphere
Clever Puzzles and Escape Sequences

The Bad:

Some Story Tangents are Long and Boring
Not Enough Gameplay

The Review:

Presentation:

Deep and enthralling stories are something I never normally look for in a video game. But Nine Hours delivers the best one I've experienced to date. It's expected from a visual novel, however, it felt just as entertaining as reading a regular book. The story goes as Junpei and eight others are abducted from their homes in order to play what's called the "Nonary game". The core mechanic of the story involves what's known as digital roots. Each character is encoded with a bracelet that displays a number from one through nine. Characters then add partner up in groups of three to six to go through numbered doors accordingly. For example, 8 + 5 + 3 = 16 ) 1 + 6 = 7. So that particular group of people can go through door number seven. Even by the start of the game, I was left thinking of other possible combinations even when I didn't have to. The game actually makes a math lesson ever so unique and fun.

The story is primarily told on the bottom screen while the top screen displays the dialog and characters. The game will change depending on what choices you make that are laid on with simple multiple choice questions. There are multiple endings and they're all very fun to discover and unlock to see what line the story crosses over next. What makes the story even more interesting is that it has exceptional character development. The main character, Junpei, has a love interest who is June, number six. He does a good job of hiding his feelings by blurting out some downright hilarious jokes. Everyone has their own good sense of uniqueness right up to the character who gets killed off early on.

The one and only drawback the story holds is its tendency to go on some really strange tangents. While looking for a way to escape a freezer that I became locked in, I stumbled upon a bag of dry ice. As soon as I picked it up, one of the characters turned into a science teacher and started lecturing me on how there's a water that freezes at 90 something degrees and boring stuff like that. Even Junpei wanted her to stop if you pick it. No one wants a science lesson when you're freezing to death on board a sinking ship. The game does this a few more times with mummies and Titanic replicas and whatnot, which makes it feel like college professors interjected in the writing. There's plenty of great story in between the minor quirks at least.

Graphics:

Visually speaking, there isn't a whole lot going on. There are many different still backgrounds and each of them look very well. They do a perfect job of representing the atmosphere and don't try to go overboard. You never see the characters actually interact with anything but each other as they are displayed only in front of the camera when one of them is speaking, although a few nice looking still shots are thrown in here and there. Their art is reminiscent of the Phoenix Wright games and look very nice. Animations are very limited to a few point gestures and a lot of blushing from the love interest as well as various different things here and there. More animation would have been nice.

During the escape sequences you will see fully rendered backgrounds. These do not really fit in too well with the rest of the game but there is something creepily haunting about them that I rather like. The only things you will see visually representing a 3D DS game are the items in your item inventory. These, however, look rather blurry and sometimes there will be some numbers to help you solve a puzzle and the numbers are barely legible. It would have worked better hand drawn.


In game items are kind of blurry, but the characters have nice art


Audio:

There's actually a great use of sound effects that never sound hampered by feedback ridden audio from a DS speaker. Throughout the game, a clock will bong in the background from 9 o'clock to 6 in the morning with surprisingly crystal clear sound that will make you close your eyes and count with Junpei. Okay, it's strange that they can hear it from several rooms away through thick iron walls but it's good atmosphere. Other clever sound effects are the characters pounding on doors when you least expect it, slightly startling you.

The haunting music fits in rather well, but it's really nothing memorable and most often sounds like deserted hospital elevator music more than anything. As typical with visual novels, nothing is voice acted but there's really no need for it. The story and dialog are displayed on separate screens and trying to read the story while listening to someone is rather headache inducing. Instead, dialog is represented through different pitches of bleeps as text appears. Higher pitched bleeps are females, lowers are males.


Voice acting not needed


Gameplay:

If you've ever played Escape the Room games that are scurried across the internet, you'll feel right at home in this game. As the story progresses, you'll go into different numbered doors which house its own unique escape scenario. Sometimes even two. These involve finding various items to manipulate other items or the environment around you. For example, using a screwdriver you've found to unscrew a a picture frame that holds a picture with a clue on the other side. But it's not all as simple as that. You'll even discover some math functions to piece together to put in a numbered code to open a compartment that holds the next clue. It's really designed to make you think very hard and all the more satisfying once you figure it out.

As well as escaping, you'll bump into some more traditional puzzle solving designed to make you think. Piano keys might be connected to the wrong note and you'll have to play the out of tune beast to a note sheet that you'll have to start over if you screw it up. There's also more Professor Laytonish puzzles such as pushing boxes around a room to the right spots in a set number of moves and it's absolutely not a cakewalk. The puzzles all feel very clever and are a joy to play if you know what you're doing. However, the story takes up almost the entirety of the of the game and it's disappointing that there's only a handful of puzzles and escaping. You can play through the game multiples times and go through different doors to experience everything, which is made less annoying knowing that a different ending might occur.


Find items and escape the rooms, but only a handful of times

Closing Comments:

It's a deep story but it won't satisfy those looking for more of a game. But if you love a good interactive story from beginning to end, it's sure to please.

8.6

Great

Top 5 Games of 2010

Okay, I did not play a whole lot of games this year and the ones I did are all Wii and DS games. Deal with it.

5.

It's an addictive and charming game with the cutest art and animations on the face of the earth. With the exception of the train, the power ups are all very fun to use and the Shoot Em Up sections are top notch. It's not the hardest game, but getting 100% provides a challenge.

4.

It's pinpoint accurate controls and addictive multiplayer make it the best online experience I've seen on the Wii. Finally an addition of voice chat and a wide range of modes. I could play this game for a long while. The single player is not good but the multiplayer more than makes up for it.

3.

Sure it's a remake, but this addictive RPG does what Pokemon Gold and Silver did 10 years ago and made it just as fun for more modern times. It's slightly more challenging but still on the easy side, the mini-games are surprisingly fun, and the little critters are just as cute as ever That is until you see 3rd and 4th generation Pokemon. Don't pass this one up.

2.

It's back and it's as fun as ever. No More Heroes 2 improves upon its predecessor by removing the empty world and replacing it with a more streamlined menu system. While some might call it lazy, I think I like it this way. The story and bosses are hilarious, the combat is addictive, and the retro mini games are a blast. I love this game.

1.

You all saw this one coming, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 is probably one of the best platformers ever created. While rather linear, the worlds provide enough joy an entertainment to play through time and time again. The cloud suit is one hell of a great mechanic, providing even more addictiveness. The art is incredible and mouth watering, the music will make you melt even if a lot of it consists of remix. It's a must own for anyone looking for an incredible experience.

Disney Epic Mickey Review

An annoying camera and lack of voice acting make Epic Mickey not so epic, but doesn't stop it from being fun and enjoyable.



The Good:

Great Use of the Disney License
Nice Story and Atmosphere
Slick Visuals and Animations
Lengthy With Tons to do

The Bad:

Camera is a Pain
Uninteresting Combat
Playing Through 2D Levels Over and Over Again is Annoying
Severe Lack of Voice Acting

The Review:

Presentation:

What initially comes off as glorified product placement, Disney Epic Mickey is much more. Disney's attempt to make Mickey relevant to more than just kids by taking a step in the right direction, backwards in time. Walt Disney's first cartoon creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, is ruler of the world of forgotten characters, such as himself, and he wants Mickey to take no part in his world. Oswald is mad at Mickey for stealing his thunder after Disney lost the rights to him over 80 years ago. Unfortunately for Oswald, Mickey gets sucked into his world by the Phantom Blot, who Mickey accidentally created by being a mischievous mouse and messing with Yen Sid's project. From there, the story gets even more interesting when you discover that Oswald is not even an antagonist, but just a poor soul who wants his world back to the way it is. As you progress through the game, the story goes through more twists and turns and it's a joy to play through just to see what will happen next in this unique plot.

Atmosphere is no slouch in Epic Mickey. It's a shame that it's not what the very first concept art made it seem, but it definitely is a very dark game for what it is. Backgrounds are shrouded in dark purple mist and toxic thinner pours through environments, making the NPC's have a very negative attitude towards you or the world. It's not the most fitting for Mickey, but it's all done rather well and feels rewarding to turn this wasteland back to it's intended way and help forgotten characters such as Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow, become happy again. These and other characters have a good sense of character development and have some funny dialogue to read. On the other hand, the characters that help you through the game, Gremlins, are not interesting and feel more like tacked on hand holders than anything else. Mickey's nephews, for example, would have been a far better alternative.

The game's levels are mostly throwbacks to old Disney rides and other Disney properties. Exploring the world of the Haunted Mansion ride right after diving out of Peter Pan and animatronic Captain Hook is definitely not the same as going to a theme park, but is about as fun as your mind will allow you to enjoy things like that if you're a fan of the source material. What's even more cool is the 2D levels that are based on old Mickey Mouse, and the occasional Oswald, cartoons. They're filled with very cute characters that will do interesting and very cartoony things to either help you or slow you down. Just watching it is enough to put a big smile on someone's face.


Environments based on Disney parks will excite Disney Land fans

Graphics:

Epic Mickey is a pretty nice art house when it comes to the limitations of the Wii. It's no tech masterpiece but some very interesting art choices combined with toon town geometry and and a great palette of colors is very pleasing to the eye. The architectural structure of buildings and houses aren't exactly as detailed and complex as they might be in cartoons and can sometimes seem like they're just there to fill a spot. It's mainly the more important buildings that have that extra attention to detail. The same thing goes for some of the rides as they're no real concept of a queue path and lack the kind of scenery you'd expect to find in a Disney park. Character models are fairly well done with the black and white very fitting for the old school characters, and the impressive shininess and light reflections on the enemies. The 2D to 3D transition that these characters make is definitely not a disappointing one.

Disappointingly, the frame rate takes a hit here and there. It's not terribly common but most noticeable in the Tomorrow City section especially when there are enemies on screen. Which is odd because even then, there's still not that much going on on screen. Shadows are not a strong point in this game. While characters have the correct shadow shape, they don't appear to be in real time. In context to the atmosphere, this sort of makes sense as there seems to be no light source with the purple clouds surrounding the entire world. The world just kind of has light from nowhere for no apparent reason but it's not something you really think about while playing.

One of the absolute best parts about the games are the animations. I had so much fun watching the way everything and everyone looks as they move around. It's unrealistic, goofy, and very slick. These are especially present in the 2D sidescrolling levels. With the way the waves move, to a steamroller plowing through the environment, and then there's very funny skeletons doing ridiculous things. Just about everything that moves is worth looking at. It's not too surprising as Pixar worked on them.


2D levels are done nicely and are well animated

Audio:

One of the few things considerably epic feeling in Epic Mickey are the battles during combat sequences. The way the music turns into a fantastic upbeat orchestra during the boss battles is wonderful. It's the kind of quality you'd expect after watching Disney cl@ssics. A unique thing about most of the music is how it changes depending on you play. For example, the more mischievous you decide to play, the more darker the music will become and vice versa. If more playthroughs are in your mind, keep your ears open for these changes in music. For the sidescrolling levels, the music is based on the cartoons of their respective sources. All of which have nice styl3 complete with a grainy sound that you would hear from really old cartoons.

Disappointingly enough, the voice acting of Epic Mickey is kept to a bare minimum. The only character that ever talks is Yen Sid in the opening sequence while everyone else just make various grunting sounds during their dialogue. The older characters have a cool little "extremely old microphone" sound but it would be much better with actual talking. Warren Spector should have spent less time talking about himself and more time making Jim Cummings, Tony Anselmo, and countless others read a script into a microphone.


It's disappointing that these aren't voice acted

Gameplay:

The main mechanic is the ability to use paint and thinner. It's actually a very neat gameplay mechanic when it comes to creating and erasing various objects to help you platforms as well as solve some puzzles. What the game allows you to paint and erase is already set in stone, but there is so much that you might miss even after a few visits to the area. Some spots are well hidden and it feels very rewarding to find that lost object you didn't know even existed. Paint and thinner are also used as a primary attack source in combat. The way it works is that if you pour enough thinner onto an enemy they just simply die. Whereas paint will turn them friendly and they will help attack nearby enemies. Don't expect any cool real-time strategy segments though. This type of combat is something interesting the first time but becomes rather boring the more you do it. Boss fights are basic pattern based but some give you options to skip them by getting an item that the boss is defending instead of defeating him. These boss fights aren't exactly boring but not memorable, at the same time. Though the controls feels tight and the reticule is jittery but pin point accuracy is not needed, thankfully.

It may take around a dozen or so hours to beat the game but there is so much to keep the game going. There are fetch quest littered throughout every area and, if you choose to do them, will take up most of the game time. Some are mandatory and some aren't. It can get rather confusing as some fulfilling one quest can ultimately make you fail another. I sold a badge of courage to a lonesome ghost which made me fail a quest that had me give the badge to the person who it belongs to in favor of fulfilling said ghost's requests. This can be good or bad depending on how you choose to play. And how you choose to play will route through the entire game. Multiple endings for multiple play **** are in. If you choose to paint your way through, a light hearted ending will occur. Thin your way through and a darker ending is ensured. As well as everything in between. It's worth to go back and play a few more times to see how else it all pans out.

Platforming is definitely not key. There is definitely running and jumping around but it's not as complex as Mario Galaxy, for example. Adventure seems to be more of the focus but the platforming as basic as it is is a little upsetting. Even the 2D levels don't get too complex with is. Speaking of the 2D levels, these are something that you'll definitely get tired of. Exploring a new one is fine and good, but these act as transitional stages throughout each area and you will be going back and forth through some of them quite often and there is no option to skip. It is annoying and unnecessary. At least they're pretty short.

The biggest problem is how annoying the camera is. Very often will walls and architecture get in it's way and it can get extremely tough just shoot anything behind you. It doesn't happen in dangerous situations but it's a real pain. Sometimes the camera refuses to turn at all even when there's nothing in the way. You'll be staring in the direction of a wall or out beyond a level and a consequence might be not seeing where you're about to jump. It gets so frustrating that first person view is practically mandatory at some points but sometimes it doesn't even let you go in first person if it means having the sheer nerve to want to look at what you need to. It definitely is not an unplayable game, but the camera is riddled with annoyances.


Combat isn't particularly fun

Closing Comments:

If you're not a Disney fan, the gameplay might not be enough to keep you interested. But for Disney fans, the annoying camera and lack of voice acting make Epic Mickey not so epic, but doesn't stop it from being fun and enjoyable.

7.7

Why GameStop's B2G1F Deal is Garbage

Black Friday is upon us, and with this being a video game website, saving money on games is high prioriety for us gamers. Many places are having their deals and I'm here to to explain why a particular one should be avoided. GameStop's. It's the same basic forumla as your run of the mill "Buy two, get one free deal" that we're all well aware of, and misinformed people will flock to it like beer on New Year's. For video games, this sounds awesome. But at GameStop, it's not.


Power to the players.

This is only for used games. First and foremost meaning that the game you get may or may not be scratched at various levels. For those of us who know we can't get away with selling scratched games on ebay and never hear the end of it, we use GameStop as a dumping ground and get whatever shreds they feel like giving us for our own accidents. And you'll probably get it. While unscratched games are still quite often given to GameStop, it's a flip of the coin when you buy it.

It gets even worse when you buy used games online. A case and booklet ever so rarely guaranteed, but with most games it's a maybe. And "maybe" in GameStop's language really means "hell no." And for accessories that come in multiple colors, GameStop will do a nice job of deciding which color you want. Not that you want most accessories out there, anyway. Lastly, most of the price gaps between new and used at GameStop are so miniscule that you'd rather shell out the extra dough for a brand new copy anyway. Hell, GameStop loves used games so much that they sometimes make the price higher than a new copy. Isn't that adorable?


I'm worth more than that, dammit!

Competitor's prices make GameStop look laughable in comparison. Even with a buy two get one free deal. So what easier way to do this than to do a little shopping? Let's shop for some high rated games of 2010 and do some comparisons using the deal in question.

Final Fantasy 13 - PS3
GameStop - 32.99 Used
Amazon - 25.23 New

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor - Wii
GameStop - 34.99 Used
Amazon - 23.15 New

Darksiders - 360
GameStop - Free with B2G1F deal. Used
Amazon - 19.99 New

Let's analyze. Before we got to Darksider's, we saved a total of $19.60 using Amazon. Add in an extra 39 cents, and we got Darksiders. So by paying for all three games, we're only paying 39 cents more than if we got one for free. Add in the fact that these are all brand new games compared to every one of them being pre-owned, and you have yourself a deal that puts GameStop's to shame.

Well, no duh.

I acknowledge that a good amount of Gamespot users already agree with me, but this is mainly for the people who still use GameStop as a source for their gaming material when there are better deals out there. Yes, I know they have a ton of prices that are identical to competitor's but I'm not here to say anything good about them. Apologies if this was badly written, I'm more of a fantasy writer and reviewer than a journalist.

Info is current as of 11/24/2010

Another Fake Game D:

Super Mario Advance 3 is not supposed to lose its save file when you turn it off. :evil:

It's also not supposed to look like this.

Arghhhhhhhhhh

Edit: The sticker came off right after I posted this. I can't handle this much fail in one afternoon.

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