Wii Game Corner

Some quick reviews for games I've played recently:
  • Super Mario Galaxy: As usual, Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and Mario's looking to rescue her. This is probably the best reviewed game for the Wii. Metacritic has it at a 97 and there's not a single review below 90. While this is perhaps a bit too high, I do agree that it's a fantastic game. There are some imperfections. The default camera anges are sometimes a bit off, but that's a general platform game problem, so it's hard to fault the game too much for that. Similarly, the controls are sometimes a bit awkward, but for the most part, it works fine. There are some Do it again, stupid or twitch levels, but I expected this and there aren't that many levels that get too frustrating. Otherwise, the game is great. It's the best looking Wii game I've played, and the music is pretty good too (it evokes the older Mario games while doing its own thing). Aside from the camera and sometimes awkward controls, the gameplay is generally fun and easy to pick up. The level design is great (the general concept of the spheroid, 3D levels with neat gravity tricks is well done), and the game is broken up into little bit-sized chunks (something that appeals to people like myself who don't want to have to play for hours at a time to get anywhere). Bottom line, it's a lot of fun. I haven't finished the game yet, but I'm looking forward to playing more, and I can see why people are heaping praise on the game.
  • No More Heroes: This game follows the exploits of Travis Touchdown, an amateur hitman who uses a beam katana (basically a lightsaber) to dispatch his enemies. His goal is to become the #1 ranked assassin in the world... and to do so, he must take out the top 10 assassins. To do this, he must pay the United Assassins Association to set up matches against each assassin, and to pay for these matches, Travis must take on various odd jobs. There are a few positive aspects of this game, but for the most point, it's a mess. The gameplay is interesting, but much too simplistic. You basically need to just keep pressing the A button. A lot. The game tries to add other attack modes (wrestling moves, charging up an attack, etc...), but none of those are really necessary. For the most part, the game just pits you against a bunch of enemies at a time, and you press A a lot. Now, the one good thing about this control scheme is that when you get to a certain point, the game prompts you to do a "kill move" and displays a direction on the screen for you to slash your wiimote, at whichpoint you see a slow-motion animation of your kill move. This is actually a pretty cool interaction and it works well... The game doesn't seem to care how accurate you are with your killing slash though (several times I know I went in the wrong direction, but it registered anyway). The boss fights are relatively fun (at least, when compared to wading through wave after wave of henchmen). Each boss has certain unique powers and you need to figure out how to counter them. The game is broken up into bite-sized chunks, which, as I've already mentioned, is something I like. Unfortunately, that's where the good things about this game end.

    This screenshot probably makes the game look better than it is...
    This screenshot probably makes the game look better than it is...

    The game wants very badly to be something like the Grand Theft Auto games, but with assassins instead of petty criminals. The game is framed in an open-ended cityscape that you can drive around in. There are stores and places to find work, etc... Sound familiar? Yeah, it is, except that the cityscape is tremendously boring. The "open-ended" cityscape turns out to be a little closed off. There's very little you can do here. In GTA, you can steal other cars, get into trouble, cause general meyham, or simply drive around and find jumps. In this game, you can... drive your indestructible motorcycle (which handles like a boat) to your next job (or to a store). And that's pretty much it. Oh, and you live in a hotel (just like GTA!), but in a delightfully irreverant twist, the "save" function happens when you go to the toilet! How clever! It even has authentic flushing sounds to signal a successful save. The fighting in the game is very repetitive and monotonous. The only thing that sorta saves it from that trap are the boss fights, which are decent (but not great). The "odd jobs" portion of the game is inexplicably awful. You need to run around the city and tackle missions like "collecting coconuts" and "lawn mowing" (yes, seriously, there is a mission called "lawn mowing"). In and of themselves, these mini-games aren't that awful, it's just that they're so very out of place in this type of game.

    The game's visuals are a bizarre mish-mash of styles. It's attempting a low-fi comic book style, which would be fine, except that the graphics are clunky and the animations sometimes choppy. When you dispatch one of the enemy hoards, the slow motion animation is decent, but every enemie basically squirts blood like a hose (think Kill Bill or Evil Dead II) and when the screen clogs up with lots of enemies, you really can't see anything (Luckily, all you need to do to get through this is keep pressing A.) Other visual aspects of the game (such as the menues or the assassin ranking screen) seem to be trying to harken back to old-school video games (very pixelated) and are strangely divergent with the other visual styles of the game. The voice acting in the game is pretty good, actually, but the music... perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if there were more than 2 songs in the whole game. It doesn't take long to get annoyed by the music.

    While not garnering the universally positive reviews that Mario Galaxy did, No More Heroes still seems to have done quite well for itself. It's the 10th ranked game on Metacritic, and it's got a score of 84 (which is pretty good). If you can't tell from the above, I think this is wildly inflated. There are some good things about the game, but overall it's a mess.
  • Miscellaneous Sports Games: I've played Madden 08, NBA Live 08, and Major League Baseball 2K8. I haven't played any of these a lot, but of the three, Madden was the best. It has some pretty neat Wiimote controls (touch pass versus a more bullet-like pass, depending on how you throw, etc...) and is generally pretty fun. I loath the game of basketball, and so I probably have an unfair bias against NBA Live 08... however, I did enjoy the slam dunk competition. Finally, we come to 2K games' just released baseball game, which has a neat pitching controller scheme, but otherwise is pretty glitchy. At one point, after throwing a pitch, the pitcher animation froze for about 10 seconds before resuming and throwing the ball at me (the batter). I've always had bad luck with 2K sports games, and they don't seem very trustworthy as a company in general, so this didn't surprise me much.
One thing I'm noticing about a lot of 3rd party games for the Wii is that they're trimmed down from the versions released on other systems. For instance, Madden 08 is missing lots of features that are on other systems. I haven't played the game enough to know whether what's missing is really that important or not, but it does make purchasing a game for the Wii a little nerve-wracking. Am I really getting the same game? The different controller scheme also makes you wonder if they just tacked on Wii controls, or if the game actually has a well-thought-out scheme. I'm really hoping the announced Star Wars game isn't just a toned down version of the real game (early news doesn't look so promising on that front, though it does look like they're trying to add a Wii only gameplay mode). This sort of trouble, when combined with Blue Ray's victory in the HD format war, makes the Playstation 3 a viable purchase for me. Much as a I hate Sony, I might have to do it... though I think I'll wait for the price to come down (or maybe I can get one of those crazy deals where I get 15 discs along with it) before I seriously consider it.