While it has its flaws and was overhyped there’s no denying the attention to detail in GT5. With over 500 cars, tons of real-world tracks detailed to every crack, excellent tuning options, and a slick interface what’s there not to like? With the new special events, GT5 is oozing with awesome content for car lovers. So flaws aside it’s the attention to detail that won this over the rest.
The most disappointing isn’t exactly the worst. These games tend to be over-hyped and turn out just mediocre when they were claimed to be something amazing by developers.
Disney Epic Mickey
With a game that was supposed to be so amazing, and well, epic this game really was like a punch in the gut. With a bad camera, muddy textures, and poor combat and controls, Epic Mickey should have come out next spring with more polish. This just goes to show that a superb idea can fall flat.
While graphics may not be essential, the artistic side can set them apart and make them individual and unique. The artistry of graphics is very important in defining a series or making it instantly recognizable.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Yarn. Who would have thunk? Using yarn to create the world is probably one of the most original art designs I have ever seen. Why does such a cutesy art design beat out other games that have tons of research behind them? Because it’s original. That’s the keyword. The game makes you feel just as fuzzy inside as the characters look.
The mash-up of Disney and Final Fantasy set fanboys squealing and shook the gaming world. It was like a huge tsunami of awesomeness that no one could have predicted. Thus the first Kingdom Hearts was born with lots of charm and character but had a lot of problems with combat, and one confusing story. The second game came out and really added depth to the game and was fan-freaking-tastic. Birth by Sleep is a prequel to the first game, and you really get a lot of stuff that was answer-less in the last two games. You play as Terra, Ventus, and Aqua who are three key blade wielders trying to stop the darkness from spreading through the worlds and within themselves. While the story works and is a lot simpler than past games it never feels like it really goes anywhere and isn’t as emotional as the other games.
With that aside the next biggest thing is combat. While it’s a lot deeper it’s also a lot more confusing and can be daunting to understand especially to newcomers and younger players. You have a command deck that allows you to swap out abilities and there are a lot of them. You can eventually equip up to 9 commands, but flipping through them is tedious and not so combat-friendly. Using the D-pad to flip through commands can really kill you, especially during tough boss fights. Having to move from the analog nub to the D-pad means you stand still while switching. This leaves you vulnerable and can mean life or death if you have one hit left.
You can use a shot lock command which is like a special attack that requires focus. You go in a first-person mode and lock on the target for a few seconds and it unleashes a pretty devastating attack. Summons are no longer available instead they are replaced with the less spectacular D-links. As you beat worlds Disney characters can be selected, and basically, you just have a different set of commands to choose from. Your health replenishes, but this doesn’t seem as exciting as seeing the character fighting with you.
You can meld commands together and add boosts to create new commands. This can be really interesting and you can make commands you can’t normally buy or find. Other than this the menus are usual with character bios, documents, and whatnot, but once you get used to the menu you will have no problems. The biggest issue with combat is the stupid camera. Relying on a camera is critical with PSP games due to the lack of a second analog nub, but this camera is stupid. Locking on seems like a good idea until the lock-on breaks for some unknown reason and you lose sight of the enemy. This is really irritating during highly intense boss fights because you lose sight of them and can walk right into their traps. The camera likes to flip-flop around constantly and fighting enemies above you are like down into a swirling toilet with needles stabbing your eyes. It jitters and jitters and spasms and it feels like the game is having an epileptic fit.
Despite this it’s manageable and you get so used to it that you just deal with it. Exploration is still the same yawn fest, but even more so since most of the environments aren’t as active or lush as KH2. The worlds are super short and you can get to each boss without even fighting a single enemy, but if you return they re-spawn and this is only because of the irritating amount of level grinding. No matter what you do or what level you are bosses can kill you in just a few hits. At level 25 I was still getting my butt kicked by a boss late into the game. This leads to each character’s story completion time of about 10 hours. The words just don’t feel alive and as exciting as in KH2 and just seem like bite-sized samples of what they should be. There are a few original worlds that are a nice touch, but they could have made the game so much better.
There is a command board game that is so complicated and boring that you may not even care about it. You move around a board trying to collect new commands, and it’s overly complicated as all Square mini-games are. This is more like a mini-mind meltdown than anything else and co-op doesn’t make it any more fun. The game’s best feature is its technical achievement being one of the very few games that push the PSP to the max. You could easily mistake this game for a PS2 game, but there are some frame rate issues and if you don’t install your data to your memory stick you are most likely going to experience horrendous load times. The voice acting is a bit iffy, but the game looks amazing. The enemies are pretty boring and generic and they could have been a lot better.
Overall Birth by Sleep is a great start and I hope this isn’t the last KH on the PSP. If they improve the game’s many flaws we are looking at the best portable game ever made. What the game really needs is a reboot because this formula is tasting a bit stale in 2010.
Arcade racing games have always tried to do something new other than just adding new cars, tracks, and customizability. Racing games are trying to go beyond that by bringing in the environment and getting more involved with the other opponents instead of just racing them to the finish line. Split Second tries to involve everything around you in the race and you really get the feeling that it is. The guys behind the hit sleeper Pure bring back exhilarating speed with top-notch audio, visuals, and controls. The focus around Split Second is bringing the environment down around your opponents and getting ahead in the race.
The way you accomplish this is by building up your power meter which has three segments. Doing drifts, shunts, jumps, or slipstreaming will grant you this power. Activate the power when the icon appears above an opponent and BLAM! something’s going to happen, but you have to watch out because you can wreck yourself doing this as well. You can start out by blowing up cars near opponents, but it’s when you can level whole pieces of track on top of them that it really gets exciting. Having a landing plane come crashing down you and trying to drive under its wing is pretty damn cool and has never been done before in a racing game. Watching huge towers fall down and block the path can really get your adrenaline going especially when you start getting ahead.
Yeah, the further ahead you get in the pack the bigger of the target you’re going to be and the more you’re going to have to watch out. I’ve never played a racing game before where I was actually afraid to be in first since everyone will be targeting me. There are several modes to keep this interesting such as time attacks, and an eliminator mode as well as others that have you dodging things, and even shooting back at helicopters.
You can unlock cars, and most of them vary depending on their stats but don’t expect any real-life cars here. These are generic and Burnout fans will already be used to this. Unlocking new episodes is rewarding and it keeps you playing through the long game, so you won’t ever get bored.
The game looks and sounds great, but the PC version suffers from a bug that makes the music drown out the car sounds if you have any surround sound system at all. Also, playing the game on a keyboard is no good since you can’t get precise control of your car. I recommend a gamepad for this or even a wheel if you have one. The multiplayer is what you would expect, and it is a bit more intense thanks to the more clever human opponents.
Split Second is a racing game that really tries to define the genre and really does a good job doing it if only it weren’t so repetitive. While the game is super fun it slowly wears off unless you play in short bursts. The game really could have built upon the destructible environment idea more and made it a bit more controllable. Despite this Split Second is a must for action racing fans, and you will walk away with a smile on your face and sweat on your palm.
When I saw the Pure demo on XBLM I just blew it off. After seeing how people were having so much fun with the game I downloaded the demo and boy were I in for a treat! The game was super fast, super easy to play, and super beautiful! One thing I just have to say is that I was surprised at how great the game looked. The game is truly next-gen with beautiful open soaring vistas, crisp blue lakes, and waterfalls. Free-flowing grass, flowers, and weeds. Mud that really sticks to your ride and makes you feel like you’re slipping around in the mud. The game is just so beautiful to look at especially when you’re going 120 mph over 200-foot jumps off cliffs! Yeah, this game is all about tricks, speed, and pure awesomeness (maybe this is why they just named it Pure so you can fill in the rest?) the game really feels fast, but the tracks are open and big enough for you to slip and slide around in without feeling cramped.
The name of the game is all about building your ride and doing tricks (ok the name is actually Pure, but work with me!) When you start out you can build your ride from scratch, and I mean straight from the frame and you add shocks, tires, drums, brakes, the body, footrests, the whole nine yards. You can even change what your hand bars look like, the color, decals, I mean customizing your ride is insanely detailed and nothing like this has been done in an ATV game before. Of course, you can pick your characters as well, but there’s no customization in that and I thought that was pretty lame since you look at your character more than your ride anyways. You can unlock new parts and upgrades for your ATV as you win races (yes 1st place on every event or you don’t get the good stuff). There are plenty of parts and you slowly get better and better upgrades to keep up with the competition so there are no worries on that part and as you unlock more ATV slots you can just make endless different types of ATVs.
You’re probably wondering what it’s like to actually race right? Well, that’s the best part! You preload your jumps like in all ATV racing games and you press the right stick in any direction plus one of the face buttons to do a trick. Ok, it’s a lot more involved than that and there is a unique twist to all of this here. The trick system is integrated into the boost system so you can spend your boost with the X button as normal OR you can save it and unlock new buttons to perform new tricks as your bar fills up. Get it halfway up and you get the B button which lets you do intermediate tricks and these take longer to pull off than the A button tricks. Get your bar almost all the way up and you unlock the Y button tricks these are the cooler more advanced tricks that take the longest. Get your bar ALL the way up and you get a special trick bonus you can perform a special trick by pressing the right stick in any direction plus pressing the RB+LB buttons. This takes good 4-5 seconds to pull off so only do this on the SUPER high jumps! But wait there’s more!
You just can’t keep pulling off the same trick over and over since there is a rating system. Every time you do a new trick you’ll get a “Fresh!” star next to the name of the trick; do it again and you get a silver “Tame!” star, and three times you get a bronze “Stale!” star. Tame stars give you a tiny bit of boost and Stale stars don’t give you any boosts. Link tricks together and you can get a major boost…umm boosts and you can quickly unlock the other buttons. Wait there’s more though! You can also tweak your tricks by pressing either the LB or RB buttons; while these take longer to perform they give you an extra boost.
Tricks also have different effects on different race types. There are only three types, but they are very fun: Race, Sprint, and Freestyle. The Race event is what I was just talking about, so you race three laps and you have multiple branches throughout the track that you can take to cut off the other racers and hopefully gain a lead. These are a must-learn since there is a strategy to winning each track. Sprint is 5 laps of a 25-40 second track that maybe has 2-3 small jumps on it so you must nail these to get your boost! Freestyle is probably the most robust event where you have a “gas gauge” and you have to get the highest score before your gas runs out. Linking tricks together gives you a multiplier timer and picking up pickups along the way can help this. Some range from freezing your gas for a few seconds, some give you an automatic special trick, some double your score, some give you a boost, etc. The Freestyle event is always fun and the gas tank meter keeps you on your feet.
Now all of this is fine and dandy, but the game does have some flaws. The AI can be very hard and frustrating since no matter how well you race you can never make 1st. I had to start races dozens of times to nail first place and you have to memorize the track and drive flawlessly to get first place. As I mentioned you can’t customize your character, there are only 3 event types so this makes multiplayer kind of drab. The game also starts to feel very old and repetitive after a while since there are so many tricks to pull off and the game is just the same over and over again. Still, though you’ll have lots of fun with this game and I hope the sequel provides more Pure awesomeness.