Cannon Brawl feels like a mix between Swords & Soldiers and the Worms franchise. Two opposing players harvest gold to build towers that they then have to operate and aim themselves. Matches are quick-paced and tend to be short, which is good. That means if you find yourself on the losing end, you don't have to sit through 30 more minutes of suffering. But I've also played matches where I thought I was going to die, but my opponent neglected to keep his base safe and left it open to long-range attacks. So, yeah, you really gotta stay on your toes. And, boy, does it get crazy when the terrain is ripped to shreds, there's hardly any ground left to build on, and both of you are frantically dashing between your last few cannons. Still, the multiplayer mode can be frustrating, especially when the other player clearly picked better loadouts than you. If human opponents are too aggravating, the campaign mode is a pretty good diversion on its own. It'll only take you a few nights to beat it, but the levels do a great job in slowly introducing (and encouraging you to use) different weapons. Casual RTS fans will really dig it.
I wasn't impressed with Mario Kart 8 at first. It really just felt like more of the same, and the anti-gravity stuff came across as a little gimmicky. In fact, it was starting to remind me of Sonic All-Stars Racing more than anything, though in the end, Mario Kart is the superior racer. There are a lot of minor improvements that add up: hang-gliding, new items, the return of a coin system, being able to jump-boost off ramps and bumps, the fact that ghosts in battle mode can still pick up and use weapons. Battle mode still sucks, though, because the levels are way too big now. But they went the extra mile in race mode and didn't just include 16 retro courses. The retro courses have been remixed to the point where they're basically brand new. And the new new levels (the DLC levels in particular, which are a great value) are pretty darn fun. I love the hang-gliding sections and wish there were more. But the highlight here is the online mode. Nintendo nailed it. It's super easy to get into a game, runs without a hitch, and even allows you to save your favorite replays. This is one of the best online experiences I've had in a long time. A few rounds with 11 other players easily quelled the frustrations I was having against the grand prix mode's rubber-banding AI. With more DLC on the way, I'll be playing this for a long time...
This is more for Dynasty Warriors fans than it is Zelda fans. However, if you're into both series, you're gonna love it. Like any other Warriors game, the combat is satisfying and deceptively simple, but seeing the combos play out as Link, Zelda, or a Goron is just plain cool. I would have liked to see a few more Zelda characters, though, and I question the selection that's already available. Were fans really yearning to play as Agitha, the bug girl from Twilight Princess? Why no Tingle? Just kidding. Nobody likes him. But the small roster is still diverse, and it's fun to try out everyone's fighting styles and take the time to level them up. The story mode is surprisingly lengthy, and there's an extra adventure mode that puts a few twists on the standard battlefield levels. Plus, every mode supports two-player co-op! The weird part here is that one player uses the gamepad exclusively, and the other player gets the TV to themselves. The person on the gamepad may initially feel cheated, but after the first level, you won't even think about it. That said, the framerate does take a hit from time to time in co-op, especially for the gamepad player. Overall, though, this is a solid "hack 'n slash" experience with the Zelda coat of paint acting as the perfect kind of fan service.
King Oddball is Angry Birds for people who are too cool to play Angry Birds. It amps up the weirdness by being about a rock monster that flings boulders at tanks and soldiers with his disgustingly long tongue. The challenge, then, comes from timing when to let go, and it's pretty rewarding to get it just right and watch your boulder bounce around the screen, taking out a chain of tanks. This game does get addicting, and with a huge number of levels to work through, it should last you a long time. The difficulty isn't consistent, however. In between two cakewalks, you might come across a level that you get stuck on for days. Some of the tank placements make it really tricky to hit them all with just three boulders. But then after a hard level, you breeze through the next several in one shot. I think they did that on purpose... In a way, it helps alleviate any frustrations you may have felt earlier. That is, until the next super difficult level comes out of nowhere. This unevenness aside, King Oddball is a fun experience. I've beaten the whole game, and I still want more. I've never been able to say that about Angry Birds.
Sunset Overdrive is a game that doesn't, unlike most video games nowadays, try to be realistic. I was drawn into the game from the second I started with its cartoony-looking style. You create a silly character of your choice and get thrown into a world of vibrant colors, crazy enemies, ridiculous weapons and hilarious characters. You bounce, grind, and shoot your way through swarms of energy-drinking mutants and many other enemies that each have a unique way of trying to kill you. When your enemies succeed, rather than getting irritated, you get rewarded with a funny and unique re-spawn animation (such as your character rising from a grave or getting dropped off by a UFO). Not only is the game a fun and entertaining experience, but the story is great as well. I was connected with the wide variety of creative and unique characters that all had their own personalities which made them stand out from one another. Sunset Overdrive is a colorful, funny, fun, and unique experience that I highly recommend.
I appreciate what developer Wombat Source has tried to do with GetClose by doubling players up on the controllers. Two people can play with just the gamepad, each taking a side. It's a novel idea if you don't mind "getting close" to your gaming partner, but it also means the controls are ultimately pretty awkward. You'll probably get more caught up in playing tug of war with the controller than you will with the game itself. Was that intentional? Maybe. But I'd rather just focus on the game. Unfortunately, GetClose isn't that exciting, offering little variety to keep things fresh. Each player moves a tiny circle around the screen, grabbing power-ups and shooting each other in an attempt to claim the crown. The key word in that last sentence was "tiny." It feels like the action is just a little too small here. It would have worked better if you could play on the gamepad's screen instead of strictly on the TV. Your character's movement is also very sensitive and slippery, which makes it difficult for any casual gamers you've roped into playing to keep from over-correcting their every move. In the right company, GetClose could still be a hoot, but I don't see myself ever breaking it out at parties.
This is exactly what I was hoping New Super Mario Bros. Wii would have been. Not only is Princess Peach a playable character now but all four characters retain their abilities from Super Mario 2. And with the game taking place in 3D, there's much less bumping into and accidentally killing each other. Mario 3D World is really the best Mario co-op experience around. And it feels more like a true 3D sequel than Galaxy did. While it may not be as inventive, it takes so many of the series' familiar, old-school goodies and modernizes them. It's a lot of fun to see classic enemies like the football player and suits like the Tanooki in 3D. The game's flagship power-up is the cat suit, though, which... okay, yeah, it's as cute as it sounds. But it's way overpowered to the point where not having it makes 3D World feel like a completely different game. The camera has also regressed and, frankly, feels like a Nintendo 64 game again. But my biggest complaint is the time limits. Why do Mario games still have time limits?! They are surprisingly strict, and I found myself frequently having to pass on exploring certain areas so I could make it to the end of the level. Nonetheless, I'm thoroughly enjoying the game's creative worlds, particularly in co-op. Whether you're a jaded Mario fan or not, you gotta give this one a try.
This is the kind of game that's probably more fun to watch than it is to play. There's a lot going on visually, and I'm sure the animators had a blast coming up with all of the different attacks for the motorcycle. I really hate to crap on LocoCycle, because it feels like everyone involved had fun making the game. But the final gameplay is, unfortunately, quite lacking. As you race down the highways (with very limited steering capabilities), there are only three main points of interactivity: shooting cars with your immobile machine gun, button-mashing flying robots, and performing quick-time events to avoid obstacles. Seriously, this is a button masher's dream come true. You will mash... and mash... and mash. For those who like a little more control over the action, you're out of luck. I did, however, find it satisfying to boost towards the cars I was supposed to shoot and melee them, instead. Alas, the game does its best to keep you from doing this, desperately wanting to save the majority of melee attacks for the dumb flying robots. And so it's easy to lose interest quickly. Granted, you may be tempted to stick it out for the story, which is incredibly zany, but it's a little too cheesy for my liking. The live action cutscenes are particularly groan-worthy...
Strategically balancing odd-shaped blocks on top of each other is always amusing, video game or not. But what makes Art of Balance particularly fun are the glass-like blocks that disappear if too much weight is placed on them. Once these special blocks are introduced, you'll no longer think of this as merely a digital recreation of something you can do in the real world. Not that we have tons of extra blocks lying around, anyway, right? And across its 200+ levels, the game presents some pretty devious challenges. What I love the most, though, is how I don't feel cornered into solving a puzzle one specific way. Sometimes, my solutions are so haphazard, I have to laugh that they actually worked. Plus, it's nice that the developers allow you to use so many different control schemes, from the gamepad's touchscreen to the analog stick to ye olde Wii remote. There are also a handful of multiplayer modes, but this is where I have to give the game a few knocks. Players 2-4 must use a Wii remote to play and must point at the screen. No D-pad for you. Even in the turn-based modes, you can't share the gamepad. So that's... weird. But I suppose multiplayer is really just icing on the cake for those who have the proper hardware. Taken as a single-player experience, this is still a great puzzler.
Billed as the LittleBigPlanet of dungeon crawlers, Fight the Dragon relies on user-created content to really give the game its legs. The good news: there are already thousands of custom levels ready to download, and the editor to make your own is very easy to use. The downside: there really isn't a lot you can do with it. At its heart, Fight the Dragon is a pretty simple dungeon crawler, and I'm yet to see a level that made me think, "Hey, that was clever!" But I suppose the dungeon crawler genre isn't necessarily bursting with creativity, anyway. It's all about finding loot and smashing your way through hordes of enemies. And there's plenty of both to enjoy here. The "dragon" part of the game's name comes from the mega boss who's always available to fight but who's easily one of the hardest, most unfair enemies you'll ever encounter in a video game. I'm not sure it's even possible to beat him. But how much damage you do to the dragon before dying is the game's fun, little take on leaderboards. So once you've leveled up and found better loot in the random dungeon levels, you can try your luck at the dragon again. Too bad you can't fight him in co-op. Now that would have been sweet... Nonetheless, with local and online co-op available, Fight the Dragon makes for a great, simplistic dungeon crawler.
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