Version tested: Wii
Hello, readers. Welcome to the latest in our series of Wii Roundups, or as I'm campaigning to have them rebranded, Why Roundups. As in, why did anyone make these games, why would anyone buy them and why do they always land on my desk? The pile is now so big my desk resembles a stall at a jumble sale. If I half-close my eyes I can believe I am in a church hall, surrounded by clothes that smell of sick and dead people's jigsaws.
Or sometimes I pretend I am a princess locked in a dungeon by a mad wizard, forced to chew nugget after nugget of dragon excrement until I crack a tooth on a single tiny diamond. I suspect my imprisonment will last for centuries.
So what's in store this month? There's a contemporary Sonic the Hedgehog game which is as good as most other contemporary Sonic the Hedgehog games, a pisspoor bowling "sim" and some rubbishy old Star Trek tat. Plus two Japanese fighting games I barely understand and care even less about. Let's go!
AMF Bowling Pinbusters
Ah yes, because the Wii could do with another bowling game. It's not as if a perfectly adequate one comes bundled in the box with the console. And it's not as if the other bowling game already released for Wii wasn't spectacular fun to play and well worth the money. OH WAIT.
At least this one has AMF stamped on the box - you know, as in AMF Lewisham, South-East London's premiere bowling venue. I have been to AMF Lewisham many times. As a general rule, the lanes are populated by knife-wielding children and mad people who shout at everything and attempt to pleasure themselves with bowling balls or pins, depending on gender.
Never have I seen the lanes of AMF Lewisham occupied by cowgirls, Elvis impersonators, "surfer dudes" or drill sergeants. Yet these are some of the characters you can choose from in AMF Bowling Pinbusters. You can't just play as your Mii of course, that would be ridiculous. There's also a Latino whore and a gangster rapper, which is a bit more like it, but the realism ends there as the rapper says things like "Mmm, I'm just doing my thang" rather than "Why even lie I know you've got a pay-as-you-go voucher in your bag give it."
Having selected your character it's time to get to grips with the control system, which isn't hard as it's exactly the same as that in Wii Sports bowling. The ball physics, however, are much worse. The sound effects are hilarious. "Effects" is a bit generous, in fact; "A single and endlessly repeated recording of a man throwing a marble into a sink" would be more accurate. The characters' endlessly repeated exclamations ("Whooooo!" "Duuuuuude!") will make you want to take the batteries out of the Wii remote and stab them in your ears until things pop.
There are two mini-games. Pool Bowl is like normal bowling except you must hit an eight-ball positioned in front of the pins to knock them down. Obstacles is like normal bowling except you must avoid a cardboard box with AMF written on it. Neither of these mini-games are worth playing ever.
The tournament mode is utterly rubbish. Up to four players can take part but tournaments require a minimum of eight competitors, so the numbers are made up by AI characters. This means you have to stand around watching each other play against NPCs while waiting for your go. The quick play mode doesn't suffer from this problem, but who cares.
AMF Bowling Pinbusters is like Wii Sports bowling only several thousand times less good. The game mechanics are awful and the presentation is a disgrace. And with a price tag of GBP 19.99, it costs GBP 19.99 more than Wii Sports bowling. Which also comes with free golf, tennis, baseball and boxing games. Next?
Guilty Gear Core
It's never a good sign when there are spelling mistakes on the back of the game's box. But apparently the Guilty Gear series is "higly appreciated", so let's press on. For those who aren't familiar, it's all about engaging in complicated 2D fights to the sound of unpleasant guitar music. Or as the back of the box puts it, "In Guilty Gear, to win or to loose depends only on your skills."
I'm not familiar, which made getting to grips with Guilty Gear Core a challenge. I booted up the game without even opening the manual, a practice I have engaged in without incident since 1994. This was a mistake. After three minutes of play I was left confused, exhausted and on the precipice of a migraine.
The manual is good fun though. Perhaps more fun than the game. Sol Badguy is still the best-named videogame character of all time. The pages are sprinkled seemingly at random with instructions like, "This gauge is required for Over Drive Attacks and Roman Cancels. It increases when you use attacks and dashes. Robo Ky has an Electric Gauge instead of a Tension Gauge."
The names of the special moves are excellent. Super Screaming Ultimate Spinning Whirlwind is a particular favourite, along with Bandit Revolver Prototype, which should be the name of a band. Then there's Potemkin Buster, May and the Jolly Crew, Stroke the Big Tree and Sword Mode: Looks Painful... And Is! Exclamation marks are a common theme. I especially like Hello!, Hello Again!, Speak Up! and the superlative Stay Up, Mr Dolphin!
I should tell you something about what the game's like to play rather than just listing things in the manual. So, you can swing the nunchuk and remote around to perform parts of your combos. The system is complex and often frustrating - for example, swinging the nunchuk "quickly" launches a punch, while swinging "hard" launches a kick, and it's easy to make mistakes.
It's almost impossible to pull off some of the harder special moves. To do May and the Jolly Crew, for example, you must perform a punch, kick, slash and heavy slash, and then press left, down-left, down, down-right, right, left, down-left, down, down-right, right. While simultaneously doing another heavy slash.
You might think that sounds like brilliant fun, in which case you've probably enjoyed Guilty Gear games before and will like this one. A word of warning though, you'd be better off with a Classic Controller than the remote and nunchuk. And you might be disappointed to learn there's no Story mode, although Arcade, M.O.M., VS and Training are all present and correct.
If you're a newcomer to the series, this doesn't offer an accessible introduction. It's not the kind of beat-'em-up suitable for mucking about with friends after a night in the pub, unless you're all Guilty Gear fans. Nor is it likely to impress anyone expecting super-sharp next-gen visuals and fluid animations.
A difficult one to score, then. Add two to the number below if you like Guilty Gear, and subtract two if you couldn't give a toss about this sort of thing.
Star Trek Conquest
Captain's log, stardate 1604200.8. The crew and I have decided to begin this review of a Star Trek game using the tired old clich of pretending it's the captain's log. Later on we might do some jokes about Klingons on the starboard bow and William Shatner's funny old pop records and oh just forget it.
According to the back of the box, Star Trek Conquest is "a blend of intense action and strategy". According to reality, it's a lazily made piece of shovelware requiring as much strategising as it takes to close a fridge door, coupled with action which is less intense than making toast.
As far as I recall Star Trek follows the adventures of the Enterprise crew as they explore the galaxy trying to expand humanity's knowledge and understanding of other planetary cultures. It's basically about a bunch of nosey space hippies. Not so Star Trek Conquest. It is set during "a time of unrest", when "all of the major races are at war" and "diplomacy is dead" and "the Romulans have called Jean-Luc Picard's Mum a c***".
The point is, you choose which race to play as (Federation / Romulan / Klingon / Breen etc.) and set about trying to murder everyone else on a ridiculously simple strategy map that looks like it was drawn in 1992. Each race has different strengths and weaknesses. There are three whole variables: attack, defence and movement.
During your turn you can buy ships from a boringly limited selection, commission an Admiral (they vary according to their skills in attack, defence and movement, astonishingly) or use a special weapon (there are six). You can build defensive outposts and starbases to protect your territory. You can set up mining colonies and establish research stations to increase your income and the purchase rate for special weapons. This is the entire extent of the game's resource management element.
When you encounter a hostile force, you have three combat options. Pick Instant and you'll be told immediately who's won the battle. If you choose Sim, you can issue orders to your ships - telling them to go on the attack will lower their defenses slightly, and vice versa. Arcade lets you control one of your ships directly, using the nunchuk's analogue stick to move it about and the remote to aim and fire. It works well enough, but there's hardly much depth here.
Which just about sums Star Trek Conquest up. The strategy element makes the first level of Advance Wars look like Kasparov versus Deep Blue. There's not even a story to follow. Once you've won a campaign, all there is to do is set different variables or pick a new race and start again. The skirmish mode lets you skip the strategy bit and just shoot spaceships, but there are much better spaceship-shooting games out there.
Even at GBP 19.99 Star Trek Conquest isn't worth the asking price, even if you're a "Trekkie" (or "Spockstic" as I prefer). The game only offers a couple of hours' entertainment and they'd be better spent watching the TV show or one of the films, or trawling the Internet for erotic Wesley Crusher fan fiction.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3
Does the world really need another Dragon Ball Z game? After all, more than 25 of them have been produced so far. But then more than 10 million copies have been sold, so you can't blame Namco Bandai for churning out another one.
You can blame them for failing to include a proper tutorial mode. The one in Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is insanely complicated and takes far too long to work your way through. At the end of it all you're likely to be more confused than when you started, unless you've played some of the previous instalments in the series.
In which case, as with Guilty Gear Core, you'll probably like this one. There are more than 160 playable characters and 30 battle stages and a host of modes to choose from. Serious fans will enjoy Dragon History mode, where you get to play through memorable battles from the entire DBZ series. They're punctated with conversations between characters, plot developments and fighter switches. It does feel rather like you're playing the cartoon, especially since the visuals are of a high quality.
Combos and special moves can be tricky to learn but the basic controls are simple. The nunchuk and remote come into play - swinging the nunchuk will make your fighter dash forward, for example. However, many of these moves take too long to charge up and pull off. Using a Classic or GameCube controller makes things much easier.
The big attraction of the Tenkaichi 3 for Wii is supposed to be the online mode. You can fight against people whose Friend Codes you've obtained or take on random strangers, and battle it out with either default or customised characters. At least in theory. The connection drops far too frequently when you're looking for another player, a process which can take ten minutes or more. When you do finally end up in a match, you're faced with absolutely appalling slowdown and lag. It's barely playable and not worth the effort.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3 does feature an impressive roster of fighters and range of options, and the fighting system works well. Plus you get to do flying. But there's nothing much new here apart from the online mode, and that's rubbish. One for hardcore DBZ fans only; the rest of the world can move along.
Sonic Riders Zero Gravity
Tom didn't think much of the original Sonic Riders on Xbox 1. He described it as "occasionally very fluid and exciting", but for the most part, "overly complicated, and dominated by things designed to stop it being fluid and exciting". For the sequel, SEGA has tried to deal with these issues by throwing in some new elements which are overly complicated and stop the game from being fluid and exciting.
Sonic Riders Zero Gravity sees blueballs and his friends taking to their hoverboards once again, this time to defeat an army of crazed robots. There's some guff about a meteorite and anti-gravity force fields and Dr Robotnik, or Dr Eggman as he became after defecting from the Soviet Union, is up to his ancient tricks. Basically it's a racing game set in a futuristic city full of steel girders, neon lights and gold rings.
In the Wii version, you can control your racer by tilting the remote left and right. "Control" is a bit strong, actually, let's try that again. In the Wii version, you can send your racer veering wildly around the track and watch as they bounce uncontrollably off the walls by tilting the remote left and right. Then you can give up and just use the d-pad, bearing in mind that you must keep the remote perfectly level as the slightest dip will cause more veering and bouncing.
As with the first game there are rings to collect and rails to grind on and jumps to navigate and boosts to earn and the vaguest of instructions as to how to do all this. Plus there's a new gravity points system. You earn points for getting a good start, grinding, pulling off tricks, using catapults and so on. Then you can spend them on things like speed boosts or wall running.
The most interesting option is the gravity control move - press a button to slow down time and make your character rotate in the air, then release it to zoom off in the direction they're facing. It's useful for sharp turns, but it's tricky to get right and all too often you'll end up smashing into the wall. It also interrupts the flow of races; pausing to spin on the spot in slow motion hardly creates a thrilling sense of speed.
There are lots of other over-complicated and unnecessary elements to the game, like the gear shop and the barricade routes and the trick zones, none of which are worth explaining here. It feels as if they've been tacked on in a bid to stop you noticing what's missing - like an online racing mode (you can check leaderboards though, try to contain your excitement), and a story mode that lasts longer than two hours.
So once again, we have here a modern day Sonic game devoid of the elements which made olden days Sonic games so good - speed, simplicity, a decent control system, that sort of thing. Sonic Riders Zero Gravity is not hateful, just pointless. A complete waste of time, effort and the planet's resources. Please stop it.