Bubble Bobble: Double Shot
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
As will be endlessly discussed in a thousand Best Games of 2007 lists, Portal was more than the sum of its parts. It's just a puzzle game about jumping through holes, if you ask me. Of course, there's no question that Valve's baby could have ended up technically impressive yet emotionally bland in lesser hands. Instead, excellence in the form of a sharp, witty script and an inspired design aesthetic (collapsing brilliantly from order into chaos in parallel to the sanity of your nemesis) nailing it on the head perfectly.
Warhammer 40, 000: Squad Command
I studied English Literature at university, you might be interested to know. Structuralism, death of the author, post modernism. All that. I wasn't very good at it, though, so sorry, I had to scrap the Anglo-Saxon poem concept review. Besides, I never got the opportunity to study Beowulf, and putting in the effort to read it for my own personal enjoyment seemed like a bit too much. Why so? Call me an unsophisticated lout, but it's old news, a little tedious, and there are countless other, better things around right now that improve on it in so many ways. Plus, I was waiting for the movie.
The PS2 sits proudly in the centre of the Playstation family photograph, nestled comfortably between its bearskin-clad pioneer father and the powerful child it spawned, the child it knows that one day soon will beat it in an armwrestle and officially make it an old man. That day is yet to come though, and judging by sales figures and the enormous amount of PS2 releases still hitting our shelves, it's some way off. For now the PS2 is still a force to be reckoned with, offering a huge variety of titles. To that end we've decided to take the Rawhide approach, rounding up a few last-gen stragglers and herding them into the EG review pen for slaughter.
When Nintendo unveiled its revolutionary control scheme, even the most cold-hearted of gamers turned their heads. We had high hopes that the Wii would be our saviour. This would be a bold frontier in gaming; the first step towards a utopian goal of brilliant games that were intuitive and accessible enough for everyone to enjoy.
I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about reviewing this. I hadn't seen the movie and here I was playing the game. Pixar's animations are always an event, this one especially, being the next one from Brad Bird, director of the excellent The Incredibles. I wanted to go into Ratatouille fresh. I didn't want to spoil the experience by learning the plot through in-engine cutscenes and level goals when the silver screen experience lay so close to hand. Still, what could I do? I had to obligingly follow my reviewer's oath and get stuck in.
Conceptually, games should function as entertainment on two levels: firstly, to make the impossible possible, and secondly, to make the mundane enjoyable. The GameCube's Chibi-Robo happened to swing more towards the latter of those, with its little robot helper putting the fun into picking up litter, cleaning floors, and other such drudgery in the middle of solving a bit of domestic strife. In other words, we liked it a lot, recommended it to all and, as is our luck, saw the world largely ignore it. Blame that on the game being given a low-key release in the GC's twilight hours (and there were certainly a lot of them), but chances are you missed out on what, given developer Skip's heritage, was one of those rare non-first-party games that epitomised the cute, colourful aesthetics of Nintendo's own work on the fated purple box.
I've just been speaking to my doctor and he advised me not to jump straight to the major criticism in this review or I might do myself an injury. So instead we're going to warm up a little before we get there. We're going to limber up and get those critical reaction muscles working. We'll start by easing ourselves in with some gentle niggles. I'll just wait for you to throw on some loose, comfortable clothing and we can begin.
[Evidence 5C.1 - File #87530: Transcript of suspect's interrogation]
I do my bit for the environment. I care for the Earth. I might not throw my potato peelings on the compost heap to mulch the organic vegetable garden, or collect rainwater in a plastic tub to share a bath in, but I like to play my part. Like, for instance, not buying a new pair of shoes until I can feel the painful crunch of gravel on my socks, borrowing somebody else's newspaper when they've finished reading it, buying the heavily discounted, near-its-sell-by-date bread at the local supermarket to stop them senselessly disposing of it, or maybe just not turning the heating on unless it's really, really cold.
Alert! Alert! The Red Star's box comes complete with an enthusiastic quote from our very own adorable site. "Ingenious and fresh," we call the game. B...but I haven't even reviewed it yet! What madness is this? Worry not, readers, the publishers have simply performed that age-old underhanded trick of turning conjecture into criticism, and pulled words out of a preview. We're above such tactics, though. The only reason I wanted to bring it to your attention is that these words were written in 2004, nearly three whole years ago. At this point, I think we can discount "fresh."
I am constantly amazed. Not by anything special, you understand, but by those normal things in life that can easily be explained away by anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of science. Like the way it's possible to stand up inside a train and walk safely forwards while the outside moves at a high velocity. Witchcraft, if you ask me. Or how a television can effortlessly pulls together a signal in order to create a perfect representation of a human being. You're telling me it's been sent through the air like that? Get away! And eggs - don't even get me started.
I'd suspect that Chad Johnson breathed a little sigh of relief when they chose him for the cover of NFL Street 3. That now puts him out of the running for a position on the box of its bigger brother, the perennial Madden, and the ominous omen of doom that accompanies it. That infamous curse which purportedly lands injuries and performance dips on the bold stars that grace the front of each year's edition may be a lot of superstitious nonsense, but it never pays to be too careful, you know. Instead, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver gurns on the front of the last last-gen EA Big American football title. Look! There he is thrusting a multi-coloured football in our faces, flicking three of his digits at us in a gangsta-style pose. He's safe.
If you asked my eight-year-old self what he thought about dinosaurs, he would have told you that they were brilliant. Hell, they still are. But in that primary school time of your life they take up a special significance. How can any schoolkid not admire their commanding majesty, their imposing mass, and the time that T-Rex pulled the guy off the toilet in Jurassic Park? They were educational and fantastical all at once. A history lesson from the edge of time played out in your childish imagination as much as it did in books, toys, films and museums. Is it any wonder at all that they played as significant a role in my childhood obsessions as Pokémon did to those in the next generation.
Welcome to Blitz: The League, where the rules are: there are no rules! Well, no, clearly there are rules. American football is a sport showered with a glittering pizzazz and promotion that our dreary rugby matches can only dream of. However, its rough and tumble nature is entirely at odds with the fundamental stop-start tactical style of play. You can't go two yards without being told to left-jink the ball in a 1-7-8 Godfather Part II full-on park-the-car-around-the-block squeeze-play and even the supposedly anarchic Blitz embraces those basics. The actual ‘no rules' part we're talking about here applies to the use of excessive physical force to get things done. It's an almost unique concept because, let's face it, that's certainly something you're not going to see in its chief competitor, Madden, any time soon, not since Electronic Arts gained exclusive rights to the NFL license.
Where lie your Samba de Amigo maracas? Displayed as a dusty trophy on the upper shelves of your bedroom closet, no doubt. Which cobwebbed corner of the attic have you stuffed your unwieldy Steel Battalion console desk? What treasure chest did you bury your Dreamcast fishing rod in after you'd fished all you had to fish?
You must play Arthur and the Invisibles. The human race depends on it.
I was going to start this review with an admission of my fitness level to indicate my aptness for training with Kinetic Combat, the martial arts version of Sony's previous Eyetoy workout title. Perhaps, though, I should first point out that I live in the shadow of my brother, who earns a living as a semi-professional weightlifter and sports teacher. So while he's spent the last few years working on his muscle mass, scoffing four large protein shakes and a whole chicken for breakfast, I, on the other hand, am a gamer whose lungs can just take the occasional up-tempo techno tune on DDR.
"Let me tell, youse guys, it ain't easy being a freakin' gangster game. One minute you're riding high on the power of a cultural zeitgeist, the next you're lying face down in a bargain bucket in some two-bit games shop with nothing but a 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free' tag to identify you. Sometimes that's the least of your freakin' problems. Like what happened to my old pal Joey 'The Getaway' Pompeii. After they'd massacred him in the press, the boys opened him up and gutted his freakin' manual. They had to bury him at the back of the second-hand rack. Those godless sons of painted freakin' ladies."