My daughter, like most seven-year-olds these days, is always playing some crappy, free Flash game on the interwebs. One of the better ones she frequents is Disney’s Club Penguin game site. It’s just a bunch of mind-numbing clones of bad games, but she likes it. It constantly asks for “parent’s permission” to buy crap, to which I always say, “Never!” One day when I was at Redbox, I saw that a Wii Club Penguin game was available, so I dropped the $2 for it, assuming I wouldn’t be hassled for mini transactions. Luckily, I was right about that. Now while I hardly expected greatness, what my daughter and I experienced was garbage. It was a loosely thrown together mess of mini-games that weren’t worth playing. Most of the games had controls so bad, my daughter would have me play it for her. On the few that had passable controls, we had a modicum of fun, but within a few hours, the entire “story mode” was done. We uploaded the points to her online character, and she was back to Mario Party 9. It was cute, and we got $2 of fun out of it… but just barely.
I know, another Mario Party. For me, this is a renter. As for the party mode, it is the worst in the series. Rather than being able to strategize and buy items and collect the most stars through coins and treachery, everybody takes turns to move the same vehicle down the map where the mini-games are few and far between. For the most part, the game plays itself. Toad is there to tell you everything that happens, is going to happen, and just happened, and then he repeats it! Thankfully, there is a way to turn him “off.” He speaks less but still too much for my taste. The way you win is by getting mini stars which just sit on the board, so whoever is rolling the dice when the group goes through the stars gets ‘em. It’s not all garbage and hand-holding, though. The mini-game mode is all mini-games, all the time. They ditched the lame carnival theme from Mario Party 8, and this game feels more traditional in almost every way. Also, the games are fun and less motion-oriented than last time. If you are looking for a Mario Party, and the far superior Gamecube versions aren’t an option, this one will do nicely. Just stay away from party mode.
Given that I’ve grown to hate motion controls, I decided a year ago that I would pass on Skyward Sword. I convinced myself I wouldn’t like it, and I knew the controls would be terrible. I bought the game, anyway. Well, the controls suck, but I was wrong about liking the game. It is the biggest, most immersive, most beautiful, best written Zelda game in existence. It took me over ten hours to get over what I didn’t like before I was comfortable enough to just lose myself in this incredible world. Ten hours is ridiculous, I know, but it was so worth it to experience the creation of the master sword in Hyrule hundreds of years before Ocarina of Time. There is a solid mixture of all the best features of almost every Zelda game here. I’m talking guard chases, mini-games, sailing, digging, side quests, and the most badass-looking Ganon ever! Plus, the new features, like the real-time complete inventory access, rock. Skyward Sword has plenty of non-controller related faults as well, but to me, they turned out to be trivial in the end. Ultimately, any Zelda fan would be sorely remiss to skip Link’s newest adventure.
Kirby’s back! And he doesn’t suck this time! Er… wait… he does suck, but that’s why this game is good. Unlike Epic Yarn, which stripped Kirby of everything that makes him who he is, Return to Dreamland is a straight-up, traditional Kirby game that’s every bit as good as his NES and SNES outings. The different hats you can wear are charming, and it’s fun to experiment with the abilities they give you. Waggle is kept to a minimum and actually makes sense in some instances (such as increasing Kirby’s suck power). The game presents a decent challenge, too. Anyone who says otherwise probably didn’t play past the first three worlds, although the real difficulty comes from hanging onto power-ups long enough to uncover secret areas. To top things off, Return to Dreamland features 4-player co-op. It’s annoying that Player 1 can’t change his/her character, though, and if Player 1 dies, everyone loses. But I’ll take this over New Super Mario Bros. any day. I’m glad I didn’t sell my Wii after all, because this game fixes so many of my misgivings.
I’m usually a big fan of on-rails shooters, but I’m having a hard time sitting down and playing this one. Maybe I’m just burned out on Wii games, or maybe it’s the unbalanced difficulty that is such a turn off. Sin & Punishment is a tough cookie… if played on Normal or Hard. Bump it down to Easy, and this turns into a very short breeze. Back on Normal, the bosses put up a frustrating fight, and I frequently found myself asking, “How can you possibly avoid these attacks?!” This is the biggest gripe I have with Sin & Punishment: too many boss battles, none of which seem to play fair. Like most on-rails shooters, the game is at its best when there are no bosses, when you’re running down the road, blasting anything and everything in your way. But you’re controlling more than just a reticule, and your character’s movement feels sluggish at all the wrong times. Even with the ability to roll, good luck dodging those bullets! While the N64 original was fun to see on the Virtual Console, Star Successor, aside from the new pointer controls, simply feels like the same old game with the same old problems.
I have very fond memories of Donkey Kong Country, so much so that a modern revision (instead of yet another re-release) should be right up my alley. But it’s a Wii game, which means Nintendo went and ruined it with waggle. I can’t count how many times I unfairly died because of the stupid Wii controls, and controls are the last thing you want to worry about in a difficult game like this. If you can look past the fact that you’ll be shaking to do things that don’t call for shaking, the level design is pretty fun, creative, and challenging in an old-school way. I especially like how DKC now offers simultaneous multiplayer, though its implementation is so pathetic, maybe it should have stayed turn-based. Diddy’s jet pack is unpredictable, making jumping a chore for poor Player 2. It’s also too easy for someone to get dragged off the screen or die, come back to life, and die again without realizing it, thus wasting a precious (and shared) life balloon. Add to this some long-winded and tiring boss battles, and you’ve got a game that disappoints on way too many levels.