Category Archives: nintendo wii

FIRST HOUR REVIEW – The Hobbit

If you’re an attentive Grinding Down reader, then you’ll clearly remember me picking up The Hobbit (GameCube version) recently. Well, I’ve now played the first sixty minutes of it, and you can read about all the exciting stuff that happened during said time over at The First Hour: http://firsthour.net/first-hour-review/the-hobbit

When asked if I’d continue playing, I answered “yes.” Alas, I’ve yet to dive back into The Hobbit and sneak past those three trolls, but I will. All in due time. Hey, Frodo didn’t destroy the One Ring in a day after all!

Epic Mickey, epically forgotten

I received Epic Mickey for Christmas, and since then I’ve played it twice. Two times, people. One…two. That kind of says it all, but this is Grinding Down after all, and I always like to say more than is probably necessary.

Epic Mickey is a sad game. It’s sad for many reasons; sad that it can’t be what it wants to be, sad that its controls don’t work like we’re told how they’ll work, sad that its camera is disgruntled and ready to quit at any moment, sad that its best aspect has nothing to do with gameplay. Just sad, sad, sad. And for a Disney product, that’s astounding. Certainly, this would have been much more stellar with all the in-game levels removed, the controller denied access, and released as a straight-to-DVD bargain bin flick. It’s a great story. It would make a great family film.

And here’s a summary of the story: Epic Mickey is set in a world crafted by the wizard Yen Sid (pssssst, that’s DISNEY backwards) which houses all of Walt Disney’s forgotten characters.  Our titular hero Mickey Mouse accidentally spills paint thinner on a page containing the world and is dragged inside. Here, he’ll discover the Phantom Blot has been manipulating the world in very evil ways. Using paint and paint thinner, it’s up to Mickey to set things right (or maybe not at all). Also, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s first ever cartoon hero, who hates the Mouse with unbridled passion, is out for revenge. See, it’s good stuff. It has layers, and it’s a real treat to see many of the forgotten characters actually dealing with their depression and anger. And poor Mickey is just kind of thrown into the mess of it all. Storyboard-style art really helps bring to life the characters and world, and I wish someone else would come over to my apartment, play the game to unlock all the movies, and then go away so I could just watch them one after the other. Yes, that is my wish.

The story is not Epic Mickey‘s problem. In fact, it’s its only sparkle of light. I’ve never been excited over using the Nintendo Wii for anything other than Wii Sports as the WiiMote and Nunchuk are prime examples of masochism. Pure hate against the consumer. They are the worst controllers in the galaxy, and playing anything with them is a minigame on its own. Using the WiiMote to aim the paint/thinner weapon is pointless because even if you do aim it right, the game doesn’t shoot the paint/thinner where you are aiming at. It always falls short. So that’s fun to work with. The controllers also don’t make general platforming easy, especially with that camera that Epic Mickey game designer Warren Spector won’t even admit is more horrid than Goofy doing disco. And good platforming is kind of key for a…platformer. I mean, when I say that I can’t get any further in the game, I mean that in the sense that I physically can’t get Mickey to where he needs to be because the jumping and climbing and clinging controls are broken and he keeps falling to his death. Looks like Mickey is doomed to the same fate as Smee and Oswald, abandoned, stuck in limbo, forever forgotten.

Alas, Epic Mickey is not the second coming of Mickey Mania.

Over at The First Hour, Nate answered with “doubtful” to if he’d continue playing Epic Mickey, and I have to echo his sentiments though I might give it one more try. An epic shame in the end.

Our latest and greatest videogame purchases

Tara and I went shopping over the weekend. I bought jeans and two flannel-infused shirts that go well with–wait, what? You don’t care about the good deals I got on clothes from Kohl’s? Hmph. I see how it is. Bunch of anti-fashionistas. I guess you’d prefer me to talk about all the many videogames purchased this weekend. I guess your wish is about to get…granted!

Warning: this list of games bought is going to blow your mind. Can’t say from what. Surely not the total awesomesauce. Maybe more from the randomness, the WTFs. Steel yourself!

Paul’s Purchases

It was selling for a cool $39.99, and the Internet will not shut up about how good it is. Haven’t touched the multiplayer except for the tutorial level. Oh, I tried. Waited for 15 minutes to have it log me into a new session…and then summarily kick me out. Boo-hoo. Single-player is a much improved performance over the original Assassin’s Creed. Never got to play Assassin’s Creed II. Anyways, if anyone wants to help me give online multiplayer a try, my Xbox Live Gamertag is PaulyAulyWog. Please?

It was dirt cheap. I’ve played maybe an hour of it and also tried Firefight by myself. I’m a smidge above a vacuum. Meh.

Oh man. Where do I begin? Actually, let’s just keep this short. Now that we have our Nintendo Wii set up in the Leaky Cauldron, I’d like to catch up on some GameCube games I never got to play. Such as Pikman and Windwaker and Luigi’s Mansion. All in good time though. And I believe I’ve also previously mentioned my obsession with all things Lord of the Rings. Now, here’s the real tough question; did this version of The Hobbit cost me $1.99, $2.99, $3.99, or $4.99?

It cost less than The Hobbit, and its cover made me laugh.

Tara’s Purchases

This is now our third version of this game owned. Tara’s more interested in it than the Wii version because the controls are simpler. Plus, I heard that you can actually play old Nintendo games within this game–wicked! She liked the sound of that, too. It’ll be curious to experience this version last, seeing as I started out on Animal Crossing: Wild World and then moved on to Animal Crossing: City Folk. Granted, they are, more or less, the same game, but the minute differences are actually where it counts the most.

Mmm…LEGO games.

And those were our big purchases. The funny/annoying thing is that I assumed one could use the Wiimote to play GameCube games on the Nintendo Wii. Y’know, turn it sideways like a traditional controller. Nope. Because the GameCube controller was freakish and had so many random buttons. So we haven’t got to try any of our GameCube buys just yet. We also need an old memory card. The only good thing the Wii does is…uh, let you put the CD into its slot. Geez, it might have been easier just to buy an old GameCube system, but truthfully, we’ve run out of outlets and the back of our entertainment stand looks like the Great Cthulhu, but with wires instead of tentacles. Truly nightmarish.

Pretty sure Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Fallout: New Vegas, and some other games will be able to keep my attention busy until February, and then it’ll be time to travel through alternate dimensions in Radiant Historia.

The Worst Box Art of 2010

If only everything in the world was beautiful. Alas, not all can claim such a stature. Especially not videogames. So I came up with a small handful of 2010 videogames with horrible box art, and you can see my delightful picks over at The First Hour.

Go read and tell me which one wins the ultimate Frown Crown!

It should really be called New Coin Battle Mario Bros.

New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Wii is all about co-op play, as well as co-op murder rampages spawned from the nine-times-out-of-ten frustrating co-op play. But that’s actually only accurate towards traditional co-op. Let me explain further.

Recently, Tara and I visited her brother and played some New Super Mario Bros together. He was Mario, and Tara and I each played as the mushroom dudes. We picked a few levels, and it was clear that we were not destined to get to the flagpole together. Maybe one could make it, but not all of us. We ended up hitting each other with thrown turtle shells or knocking each other down death-holes. Sometimes power-ups would get stolen or friends left behind. It was especially tough on levels that moved, especially ones in the clouds where timing jumps was crucial to survival. Having your co-op partner blocking your way never helped. Eventually, we just gave up on all of this and switched over to the Coin Battle co-op thingy.

In this, the goal was not necessarily to make it to the end, but rather to collect as many coins as possible. Once all players were dead…or all hit the flagpole, coins were counted up and the player with the most won that “round.” We set an attainable goal of winning 11 rounds, and went right to it. Well, first, I switched over to Luigi, but otherwise we went right to it!

Coin Battle can be described in one word: murder.

Yup. Murder is key. Pick up once-your-friend Mario, throw him down a hole, and steal all the coins he was after. Then, if you got more than everyone else, kill yourself and win the round. It was amazing to see strategies forming on the spot; for instance, getting Yoshi can be an extremely winning tactic. That dino you ride can swallow up another player in his mouth until you are comfortable enough to spit them out where they most certainly don’t want to go. This Coin Battle game turned out to be a blast, chaotic as anything, and I think it ended like so:

Sean: 11 wins
Paul: 10 wins
Tara: 4 wins

I’ll win next time, I swear!

But yeah, I have a hard time believing that anyone can actually play successfully the main game with co-op partners. And if they can, well…they deserve a medal.

Kinect–or what’s so wrong with pressing buttons?

Lately, when I think about Kinect, Microsoft’s new piece of tech to power up their Xbox 360 and directly compete with the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation Move, the oil cans scene from The Jerk comes to mind. Except, instead of someone hating cans, they really hate buttons. Stay away from buttons!

I mean, really. What’s so wrong with pushing buttons?

Wait, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s talk about Kinect. Now, I have not experienced first hand this $150 add-on to the Xbox 360, but I’ve kept tabs on it and its plethora of games released this week, and it seems that the whole thing is rather…okay. Like, it sort of works, and when it works, it works, but other than that, this is not the spark of a revolution where gamers worldwide meet up in large fields, toss all their console controllers onto a stack of firewood, and spend the night singing hokey songs as the burdens of their past burn out a-mighty.

Right. So, Kinect is a camera, which tracks movement to turn the player into a living, breathing controller. The camera also comes with a built-in microphone to detect voice recognition. Sounds like something straight out of Minority Report. It could very well be. The point of Kinect is to introduce a new way gamers play games: hands-free. Or, rather, all about their hands. And feet. And entire body, too. You are the controller now, and you are in control. Swat at flying balls with your Xbox Live Avatar, play with pet tigers, and drive a videogame car like you would drive a real car, hands out and on the wheel.

These are all videogame tasks you could do the way it’s been for several decades, with a controller, some buttons, and thumbs. Also, sitting down. So why then is Kinect so insistent you do them without a controller? What’s so wrong with pushing buttons, anyways?

Strangely, I was never as skeptical as I am now when the Nintendo Wii came out. Sure, I didn’t really get it or fall in love with the concept, but the fact remained that, for most games, if one wanted to, one could turn the Wiimote sideways and play traditionally. I think that safety blanket was all I needed to be okay with the whole thing; and I do enjoy a couple rounds of Wii Sports, but never enough to do me in.

Back in the day, before every single game had some kind of tutorial level to teach you the basics, one had to figure out what each button did by pressing it. Hmm, how do I jump? Oh, this button. How do I run? Ahhh, hold down this one. Now, I wonder if I can run and jump for extra distance…

With Kinect, if you want your character to jump, you jump. I guess I just don’t see that as revolutionary. Or an upgrade. Pressing a button to jump is dang near a standard and, despite wonky physics at times (::ahem:: Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind ::cough::), it’s perfected as a cause/reaction happening.

I’m not here to say that controller-free gaming isn’t fun or without a purpose; I just don’t see it as better than what we have now, and I do worry that a select portion of gamers are going to be completed ignored–unless one can imagine playing an entire first-person shooter by holding an imaginary gun in our hands and pulling the imaginary trigger a thousand times over. Also, will we see an epic Kinect RPG in the future? Will there ever be a mix of things where one can play with a controller and still do Kinect-like actions, or is it gonna be all or nothing from here on out? These are important questions, and I’m not the only ones thinking about them; reviews this week have been rather mild with excitement over the tech, criticizing its space neediness and glitchy recognition, as well as the lack of depth overall in its launch titles. All of this comes at a hefty price, too–$150 to $400, depending on what one already has in stock. Others, however, seem to be enjoying Kinect Adventures and navigating the dashboard like a superbeing with a swoosh of a hand.

For as long as I can though, I’m gonna push a button.

The slow death of videogame manuals

At the end of April 2010, Ubisoft announced it was no longer printing videogame manuals as part of a green initiative to save paper and reduce the publisher’s carbon footprint. Good for them! Boo for us that actually like manuals (in other words, me) and not just for nostalgia’s sake. This is a first for the industry, with no other publisher following suit just yet, but while I can see the pros and cons in this action, I also know that, ultimately, videogame manuals are going the way of the dinosaur.

Thankfully, there’s a site called Replacement Docs, which allows you to download manuals of many, many games, some bereft and others not. The archive is well worth scouring. Do check it out.

Right. So I like videogame manuals. I like them a lot. Some nostalgia points slip into this factoring in that, during both the middle school and high school days, I used to get dropped off at the mall, buy an SNES or PS1 game with allowance money/job money, and then sit in a predetermined meeting area until my mother came to pick me up. I’d use this time wisely by devouring the game’s manual page by page, word by word, image by image. Some times I even read the manual more than once. Trap Gunner comes to mind instantly, and after reading about the game for 20 minutes, I just couldn’t wait to get home and play. At that point, I felt like, thanks to the manual, I was more than prepared for whatever the game was going to throw at me.

And even though nowadays we have extensive previews and reviews online, on-screen button prompts, and in-game opening tutorials, the straightforwardness of “training” yourself page after page feels much more natural. You usually see a picture of the control scheme, some plot background details, learning the menus, maybe some pages devoted to key characters, and so on. Also, some tips and tricks are only mentioned in the manual, like how to crouch in Maximo, a game I bought used and without a manual, leading me down a dark and destined-for-failure path until the Internet told me what I was doing wrong. Thanks, Internet, you big manual yourself.

Also, brand new manuals smell, and you know it. Sure, it’s an acquired taste much like a new car or a really old bookstore, but I tell you this, and I tell you this in all seriousness…it’s a smell I’m going to miss. Ripping off the plastic sealing and stickers to crack open the case and give the game manual its first breath into this world is truly a great feeling. So is taking it out and fanning yourself with it during the summer months. I kid on that front, but I love videogame manuals so much that when I bought Fallout 3: Game of the Year edition back in November 2009, I still read the manual front to end before popping the game disc into my Xbox 360 despite waiting over 12 months to get the game. I think that says something.

Will have to look through my collection later for some examples of great and not-so-great videogame manuals. Cause some are truly a waste of paper, but others…well, they’ve got personality. And do more than just tell us how to play the game; they show us what it’s all about.

LEGO Harry Potter Collector’s Edition to cast Avada Kedavra on your wallet

It seems that LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is getting the royalty treatment of a collector’s edition, ramping the price up to $70 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii versions. This magical package will include the game disc, behind-the-scenes featurettes, a set of four House Crest LEGO magnets, and an exclusive Avatar item for those gaming on the Xbox 360. Yeah, I’m gonna go out on a limb and just say that for $20 more, it’s not worth it. The featurettes will surely be on the Interwebz in time, and then that really just leaves us with…magnets. Things you stick to your fridge’s door and forget about for months. I mean, c’mon. It’s a LEGO-themed game. Why not just give us some actual LEGOs to play with? We know you have ’em.

Right. So, what has two thumbs and just can’t get excited over magnets? THIS GUY.

Chances are that my Purchase of the Month for May 2010 will be LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, but most certainly not the CE. Not unless someone casts a Confundus charm on me…

There’s fun to be had in Wii Sports Resort

I could never imagine playing Wii Sports Resort (or its early mutation, Wii Sports) by myself. The fun of sharing your greatest triumph, your biggest downfall, your oddest moment…it is moot when the spaces to your left and right are blank.

Over the weekend, the Girlfriend and I visited her brother and his wife and played some Wii into the wee hours of the night/morning. No, I’m not apologizing for that one. Despite having to share a single Wiimote, we all had a blast. Because even though the games within Wii Sports Resort are more or less mini-games, things of very little variety, the people you play them with makes all the difference.

We played some bowling, basketball, archery, and dog frisbee, and the most fun–group-wise–seems to be bowling. In the original Wii Sports, you just bowled. Simple as that. Here, Nintendo has added some extra features to really help enhance the experience. You can bowl regularly, you can bowl against 100 pins (which make a beautifully addicting sound as they all flip-flop away under the weight of a striiiiiiiike), and you can bowl around obstacles, as shown in the picture above.

Alas, I came in last in each category thanks to my constant curving of the ball. Stupid wrists. Yes, I need lots of practice, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s not so much fun being a pro at a game like Wii Sports Resort, hitting strike after strike after strike. You can’t laugh at those moments.

But taking five minutes to position yourself just right so that you can narrowly miss the moving obstacles ahead only to toss the bowling ball directly into the gutter?

That‘s where it counts.