Archive for the Gamecube Category

Midway Arcade Treasures 3
PS2/Xbox/GCN (2005)

Midway Arcade Treasure 3, the first themed disc in Midway’s series of compilations, delivers eight different racing games that offer something for everyone. — however. due to the fact that the titles vary so much in style and age, it’s doubtful anyone will care for all of them. Fans of the older games on the compilation will get headaches from the flashy newer titles, while the current generation of games will scoff at what used to pass for racing entertainment.

The current generation of racers are represented by four titles: Off Road Thunder, San Francisco Rush: The Rock, Rush 2049 and Hydro Thunder, the last two of which appeared as stand-alone Dreamcast titles. Those with a need for speed will surely find what they are looking for in one of these four games. What is there to say about current racing games that hasn’t been said? Race laps around tracks in the car (SF Rush), rocket car (Rush 2049), boat (Hydro Thunder) or truck (Off Road Thunder) of your choice. Off Road Thunder is the worst looking of the four with muddy textures and sloppy handling; the other three look visually stunning and play as expected. Most of the newer games allow multiplayer split-screen racing action.

The 2D era is represented by two-and-a-half top-down racers, Super Off-Road, Super Off-Road Expansion Pack (same game, additional tracks) and Badlands. Both games are presented in a slight isometric view, similar to Atari’s Championship Sprint. Surprisingly enough, modern analog sticks serve as decent steering wheel replacements in these games. The control system using the triggers for gas/break and the analog stick for steering gives you good control, a must in any racing game. Super Off-Road has always been one of my favorite SNES titles, so it’s nice to finally own a home version of the real game. Bandlands plays like a futuristic version of Championship Sprint where your cars have been outfitted with weapons.Fans of Champinship Sprint will recognize many of the game’s sound effects which also appear here. These games also allow for multiplayer action, as all the action takes place on one screen.

The “wow, these used to pass for racing games” department is represented by Race Drivin’ and S.T.U.N. Runner, two games that waded into the world of 3D graphics by using few polygons and even less textures. As a kid growing up, the thing I remember about both of these games is that (at least in my arcade) they both had really large, unique environmental cabinets. The Race Drivin’ cabinet resembled a big yellow driving simulator that you got in, adjusted the seat, and even had to push down on the clutch and turn a physical key to start! S.T.U.N. Runner’s cabinet looked like a huge futuristic motorcycle bench you sat on to play. In context and during that era, they are interesting games that show where the industry was headed, but most gamers checking them out will be doing so out of curiousity’s sake and not for any given length of time. Race Drivin’, the sequel to Hard Drivin’, is probably the most cumbersome title on the disc. Both of these games are one player only.

Despite the fact that all eight of the disc’s games were originally played with controllers other than standard joysticks, all three modern consoles’ analog sticks allow the games to be playable. Joystick control for games designed for steering wheels is never perfect, but here it’s adaquate.

Missing this time around are the extras, those little bits that make these compilations more than just collections of games. No configurable controllers, no trivia, no interviews, no unlockable goals, no nothing. Even the menu is stark, filled with a single generically rendered arcade game. The “extras” link from the main menu allows gamers to choose between watching an Ed, Edd and Eddy commercial and the game’s credits. Fortunately, suicide isn’t offered as a third option (it would be a tough decision).

Midway Arcade Treasures 3 is a good but not great collection. Midway’ has taken a step backwards here by offering fewer games and extras than on their previous Treasures discs, but ultimately the games themselves play perfectly and deliver as advertised.

A lack of variety and not enough titles keep Midway Arcade Treasures 3 from ranking higher. “Treasure” may be pushing the status of some of the games on this disc. True fans of racing games will get the most mileage out of this collection.

Lego Star Wars
PS2/Xbox/GCN (2005)

The majority of my youth was split pretty evenly between playing with videogames, Star Wars toys, and Legos. Between the ages of 4 and 14 (at probably beyond), it’s safe to say that I played with at least one of those three things every single day. To say that I was predisposed to like a videogame named Lego Star Wars goes without saying. That being said, what follows is my fair, unbiased, un-fanboyish review of this game.

OH MY GOD THIS GAME RULES!

In Lego Star Wars, one or two players can play their way through the new trilogy of Star Wars films, Episodes I, II, and III. From the sandy dunes of Tattooine to the raging seas of Kamino and the bustling skies of Coruscant, Lego Star Wars takes you chronologically through all three newer Star Wars films, including the as-of-yet unreleased Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. While this review contains no spoilers, be warned that the game itself does.

Players begin the game in Episode I, Level I, with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. In one player mode you can choose one or the other (and swap between them freely), and in two-player mode everybody gets to play. With these characters you’ll learn the basic controls. You can jump, draw your weapon/attack, put away your weapon, switch between characters, and use the Force. Items that can be Force-controlled will glow when you approach them. Throughout the game you’ll need to move objects around to build bridges, flip switches and levers, and do all perform various other tasks. The Force can also be used to shake down trees, planters, and other objects throughout the game to find hidden “studs”. Studs (Star Wars Lego coins) are collected throughout the game and can be used to purchase items in between levels (everything from fake moustaches for your characters to invincibility). In Lego Star Wars you get infinite lives, but every time you die you lose all your studs.

There are three basic types of characters — Jedi (who have lightsabers and can use the Force), Shooters (who have blasters and can use grappling hooks), and Other (droids who can open doors, for example). Many of the puzzles presented throughout the game involve simply figuring out which character to use in a particular situation. For example, you may need to use a Jedi’s Force power to build a ladder out of Legos, and then climb the ladder with a shooter to shoot a bull’s eye target, which in turn reveals a keypad that R2-D2 can use to open a portcullis. The puzzles rarely take more than a minute or two to figure out.

As you play through the game you’ll collect not only studs but Lego figures as well. You get to keep each character you encounter throughout story mode, so before long you’ll have a little drawer full of Lego people. In Story mode the game decides which characters you get to use, but if you go into free play mode you can pick any character from your stable and use them anywhere in the game (you’ll need to do this later if you plan on completing the game 100% — man can that Jar Jar jump!).

Graphics and sound are superb. All the ships, people, and objects you’ll see throughout the game are completely made of Legos. Take one too many shots from a Battle Droid and your character will explode into a pile of Lego pieces. Playing with Legos has never looked, sounded and felt so good. For the record, I own the Xbox version and rented the PS2 version and found any differences between the two negligible.

The biggest fault with Lego Star Wars is its length. With unlimited lives and simple puzzles, it shouldn’t take an adult most than an afternoon of gaming to beat the game. Completing it to 100% may take slightly more time, like say a weekend. Kids may get a bit more length out of it due to the puzzles and a few difficult jumps. My 3-year-old son has played through over half of the game so far and has had no difficulty in figuring out the controls. One really nice feature for parents is the drop-in/drop-out mode, which allows you to not only join a game by pressing start on a second controller, but also allowing you to unjoin a game and return control over to the game. This comes in handy when your kids need a quick hand in solving a puzzle or beating the blasted Pod Race and you don’t want to spend all afternoon tagging along behind them.

Despite its short length and simplistic controls, Lego Star Wars is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve picked up in quite a while. Although I was able to waltz through the entire game over a weekend, I still haven’t collected 100% of everything in the game. I highly recommend Lego Star Wars to all fans (however remote) of Legos, Star Wars, or platformers in general.

Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
PS2/Xbox/Gamecube (2005)

Within five minutes of launching this game for the first time, I had destroyed a dozen tanks with my bare fists, knocked two helicopters out of the sky by throwing boulders at them, and killed an enemy soldier by beating him to death with a cow. If that’s not a recipe for fun, I don’t know what is.

Many superhero-based videogames are as predictable and linear as the films they’re based upon. In games like Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men and even The Incredibles, you’ll have to first learn how to harness all the powers your hero is capable of (usually by working your way through a tutorial level) before heading off into the big city to face your nemesis and his hoard of evil henchmen. And in that respect, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction isn’t much different than its counterparts. Where Ultimate Destruction stands out is in the, well, ultimate destruction.

While The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is ultimately another level-based superhero game, Vivendi has gone out of their way to make the levels (which are large) as interactive as possible. If you see a rock, you can pick it up and throw it. If you see a vehicle, you can smash it. If you see a soldier, you have several options — punch him, attack him with a combo, pick him up with one hand and pummel him with the other, throw him as far as possible, or pick a target and use the poor screaming fellow as a projectile weapon. And yes, if you see a cow, you can even pick it up and use it as a weapon (melee or projectile — your choice). Once the action begins, the game plays like one big three-dimensional version of Rampage. And unlike the previous current-gen Hulk game, there are no wimpy Bruce Banner levels to be played here. This time around, it’s all about breaking stuff as the green guy.

A big plus for this game is the uncomplicated controls. While there are combos and other complicated moves which can be learned and mastered, my eight-year-old nephew did pretty well by simply button mashing his way through levels. The targeting system for throwing projectiles is simple to learn (pull the right trigger to cycle through targets) and easy to use when things get frantic. On more than one occasion my nephew would do something like pick up cars and use them as boxing gloves. When I would ask him how he did that, he would just shrug his shoulders and say, “I have no idea.” The variety of moves and weapons is so great that I often found myself surprised at what the game would let me do (tree + Hulk = batter up!).

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a blast to play — of course, with hundreds of tanks, army men, helicopters and other enemies closing in on you, you won’t have too much time to think about it until long after you’ve quit playing. Fans of the comic books will appreciate the in-game references to characters, while casual gamers won’t need a history lesson in order to enjoy the mayhem. Hulk smash, indeed.

Easy to learn controls combined with open-ended gameplay and interactive levels make for a smashing good time. One of the best comic/superhero games available on the market.

Cubic Lode Runner
PS2/Gamecube (2003)

Somewhere deep in the heart of Japan lies a big cute machine. No, the machine itself isn’t cute; it MAKES things cute. On one side there’s a big funnel where you can insert things — moments later they come out the other side, all cute and cuddly. Hudson recently inserted the classic game Lode Runner into that wacky Japanese machine, and Hudson Collection Volume I: Cubic Lode Runner popped out.

Lode Runner first appeared on the Apple II computer way back in 1981, and has since appeared on several different systems in several different variations. Despite the huge graphics update the N64 and PSX versions received, the game has always essentially remained the same. You control the Lode Runner, a man on a mission to collect gold packages. During your quest you’ll face two main enemies: evil Bungling Agents, whose touch is deadly, and the environment itself, which consists of blocks, ladders, rails, and traps. The only tool at your disposal is your drill, which can dig holes in regular bricks. You’ll need to do this to trap your enemies and complete puzzles throughout the levels, but you can just as quickly trap or bury yourself with this tool so you’ll have to plan a head and move quickly to survive.

After 23 years, Cubic Lode Runner for the PS2 and Gamecube drags the franchise into the 3D world. This adds two new gameplay elements to the classic formula. First, Lode Runner can now dig in four directions instead of two. This is performed by pressing one of the four buttons on the gamepad — the buttons correspond with the direction. The other new element is camera control. The field of play can/must now be rotated using the L/R buttons. While neither of these changes sound major, they completely change the way Lode Runner has always been played. In classic versions of Lode Runner, you could set up big attacks by lining up baddies and digging a line of holes. In Cubic Lode Runner, they’ll most likely just run around your well-laid traps. The map rotation went from being a novelty to being annoying very quickly. Within just a few minutes I found myself in positions where the playing field would have to be rotated to see certain areas of the map, but each time I did so I would get confused and frustrated. To try and solve this problem, the game includes a “slice” mode, which allows you to dissect the map and see how things are put together. It felt like cheating to me, and a way to get around the strange camera controls.

The in-game graphics are cute. Lode Runner’s head is almost half of his total height and perfectly round. Likewise, the agents closing in on him have been Japanified as well. The graphics and music throughout the menus have received the same treatment, tipping their hat to games like Bust-A-Move and Tetris Attack and giving the game a “puzzle game” feel. Also adding to that feel is the ability to unlock “gifts” in the game. By beating levels, there are several extras you can unlock — everything from the original NES sounds to movies, backdrops, and additional levels.

Like the classic versions of Lode Runner, Cubic Lode Runner also comes with a level designer. The interface is simple to use, and all the tools are there to create your own levels should you desire to do so. I was afraid that the language barrier might make creating levels complicated, but it really isn’t a factor.

The conversion of Lode Runner from 2D to 3D adds a new level of complexity to the game, but adds a few quirks and a bit of frustration during the process. Cubic Lode Runner may initially be a bit frustrating for fans of the classic series, but the core of the game remains unchanged and that in itself makes it worth checking out.

Graphics: Cute, but nothing Earth shattering. 5/10.

Sound: So cute you want to pinch its cheeks. 5/10.

Gameplay: A few 3D quirks, but still fun. 6/10.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
PS2/Xbox/GCN (2005)

As children, my sister and I probably watched the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie at least once a week. My parents were the first people on the block to purchase a VCR (back in the late 70s, when they cost around $1000). Willy Wonka was one of the first VHS movies we ever owned, and over the years my sister and I literally wore the tape out from watching it so many times.

People have picked apart poor Wonka over the years, citing problems with the annoying child actors or the cheesy special effects. To me though, THAT movie is the Chocolate Factory I know and love. I know that with 35 years of technology we can make a graphically better Wonkaland, full of CGI and other dazzling special effects, but that stuff by itself doesnt make it a better film.

And so follows Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the new platform game for multiple consoles. Its flashy, its got great graphics and the presentation will blow you away. Unfortunately when you get down to the game play, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about as smart as the four brats who meet their untimely demise in Wonkas factory. Despite all the technological advances, the game simply doesnt play as well as the 2D platformers of yesteryear.

The game starts off well enough. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory follows the popular trend of forcing you to play through an in-game tutorial. Youll learn the ins and outs of controlling Charlie by making his poor ass chase money up and down the streets of Poorville (or wherever he supposedly lives). After a brief downhill race, which while fun proves ultimately pointless, youll arrive in Wonkas abandoned plant. In the game, it will be your job to find Oompa Loompas, assign them jobs, and group them together to complete tasks. While reading this description, I immediately thought to myself, theyre not Oompa Loompas theyre Oompa LEMMINGS! While the idea is definitely the same, the implementation is much worse. Half the time you cant get the Oompa Loompas to do what you want. Believe me, there were many times I wish Charlie could punch, kick, or pick up weapons and go all GTA on some Oompa Loompa ass. How on earth any chocolate ever got made before Charlie showed up is beyond me.

Ultimately, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory suffers from the same problems that all other semi-good 3D platform games suffer from; camera and control issues. I feel like a broken record here, whining about difficult to complete jumps and cameras getting stuck behind walls. The game is stunningly beautiful and colorful, but you really wont give a toot when the camera is hiding Charlie and an Oompa Loompa is stuck halfway in and out of the chocolate river. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a great game stuck in the wrong engine. Without the glaring technical glitches, the game stood a good chance at being a golden ticket among this summers sea of Wonka bars. As it stands, this game is sadder than Mike TV in a power outage. Expect kids to get bored and adults to get frustrated long before you reach the end.

Bust-A-Move 3000
Gamecube (2003)

With versions appearing on the Sega GameGear, Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, Nintendo Super NES, Nintendo 64, and the Neo Geo (both home and arcade), Bust-A-Move, a kind of upside-down version of Tetris, is one of the most popular and prolific puzzle video games of all time. Originally known as “Puzzle Bubble” (and starring Bub and Bob from the video game “Bubble Bobble”), players fire colored bubbles up towards clusters of other bubbles. Connect three bubbles of the same color and the bubbles will pop, sending anything clinging on to them crashing to the ground — and in two-player mode, over to your opponent. Bust-a-Move definitely falls under the “easy to learn, difficult to master” genre of puzzle games.

This time around it’s Bust-a-Move 3000 for the Nintendo Gamecube. I also recently played Bust-a-Move for the PS2, and can honestly say they’re identical.

The oddest thing about Bust-a-Move 3000 is, it seems a lot like Bust-a-Move for the Super Nintendo from almost a decade ago. Despite huge advances in technology, the game looks, acts, and plays the same. Sure, there are a couple of new types of “special bubbles” that appear in higher levels, and both versions support rumble controllers, but other than that, this is the same game it was ten years ago.

That’s not to say it’s a bad game — it’s just unchanged. Gameplay is very addictive and very fun, especially with two players. I had hoped that the next generation of consoles would bring Bust-a-Move into a four player arena, but this is not the case.

The 2D Graphics are bright, funny, and colorful — kids will love looking at the different animals as they shoot bubbles into the sky. The sound effects and music are equally kid-friendly, although you might end up playing with the volume controls like I did — the sound effects were way louder than anything else.

If you liked the old Bust-a-Move series, miss it, and don’t already own it on another console, pick up either one of these (Gamecube/PS2). If you already own a copy of this for another system, there’s no reason to upgrade.