Game developers have emerged from their winter hibernation and the influx of new titles has finally picked up.
The first months of the year are usually filled with games that barely missed out on the lucrative holiday season. This year was no exception and, luckily, several titles came out during the past few weeks to get me through this typically slow period.
Professor Llayton and the Curious Village (DS): This recent DS title was surprisingly the best time I’ve spent with a game in the past month. This unique title will probably appeal to some Venn diagram-esque population that likes both adventure games and logic puzzles.
As Professor Llayton and his plucky apprentice, you enter a strange town known as St. Mystere to investigate a rich man’s will and the location of his fortune. Unlike adventure games where advancement depends on quick reflexes or battles, success in this game depends on your ability to solve brain teasers. More than a hundred puzzles stand between you and the end of the game, so the title will likely take 10 hours or more. Odds are anyone who hates logic puzzles and a bit of math might want to steer clear of this game. For those of you that like the odd chess puzzle or math question, this might be your game. The storyline is rather short and you can only explore a small handful of St. Mystere, but it’s still well worth the effort.
Sonic Rivals 2 (PSP): I never played the first version of Sonic Rivals for the PSP, but this sequel reminded me why I both love and hate Sonic the Hedgehog. Much of the game plays like a 3D version of the classic Sonic side scrolling games.
The rivals mentioned in the title refer to a group of other characters competing with you to reach the finish line of each stage. In classic Sonic fashion, each racing level flies by in a blur of motion, complete with multiple paths, corkscrews and traps. While the sense of speed is quite impressive, I’ve never truly been into Sonic’s style of gameplay, which emphasizes speed over patience.
Also, the game often takes a break from the racing and throws you into one-on-one battles against your rivals or a boss. These diversions are far less enjoyable than the break-neck, non-stop racing levels and I could have done without them. Despite my personal misgivings, fans of classic Sonic will probably find a lot to like in this title. The spirit of the Sega Genesis titles is clearly there if you can overlook the boss stages and one-on-one battles.
Sonic Zero Gravity (Wii): Sonic hits the Nintendo Wii the only way he knows how — extremely fast. Rather than the usual 2D or 3D adventures in which Sonic the Hedgehog typically stars, this title seems to meld the popular character with the futuristic racing of Sony’s Wipeout series.
The result can be fun, especially when you race against friends. The Wii version allows players to hold the controller like bicycle handlebars. Rolling forward and back controls speed, while tilting allows you to turn. Using a special maneuver, one can slow the game down and turn, allowing characters to make extremely sharp cuts. Several areas remind me of the futuristic levels in Wipeout.
Also like the Wipeout series, offensive and defensive weapons are strewn across the level and power ups can help those lagging behind to quickly catch up. The graphics aren’t bad for the Wii, but the controls aren’t exactly the most responsive.
It plays similarly to that cow racing game on the Wii Play disc, which means it’s fun to control but not that accurate. Expect a lot of hitting walls and missing jumps, especially at first. Overall, the game is certainly more enjoyable against other players. However, if you’re a Sonic fan looking for a solid Wii title, you may want to give this a rental first.
Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii): As one of the most popular titles in Nintendo’s impressive library, the Smash series certainly carries high expectations. Thankfully, this Wii title offers up one of the best versions yet.
The game is essentially a fighting game featuring some of Nintendo’s most famous characters. Donkey Kong can fight Metroid’s Samus and Wario can take on Pokemon’s Pikachu. Each character’s set of moves and abilities closely mirrors the games from which they originated. So Mario can throw fireballs and Kirby can morph into other shapes.
The levels themselves also resemble classic Nintendo games like Mario Kart or Yoshi’s Island. Part of the charm of these games is the obvious care and thought that went into each character. It’s obvious from their design and their fighting moves that the game’s designers know their video game history. Another big draw is the simple control scheme.
Almost anyone can pick up a controller and learn the basic gameplay in a short time. As a fighting game, and one that’s playable online, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is easily recommended for gamers with siblings or friends available. As a single player game, these titles don’t have nearly the same attractiveness.
As a party game, however, Super Smash Bros. ranks up there with Guitar Hero and Rock Band as a title everyone should try at least once.
Philip Palermo is the Reporter’s video game writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.