Sonic: Lost World is yet another disappointment considering the premise and games it was pulling ideas from. Like clockwork, this Sonic game fails to focus on the most important aspect of platforming: tight controls. The shame is that despite its cut scene issues, the game is well produced from an aesthetic and musical standpoint. If you're a masochist and don't mind unfair difficulty and clumsy controls, you may still find enjoyment in this game. Otherwise, stick with the sure-bet platformers available on the system (Super Mario 3D Land and Donkey Kong Country: Returns)
1 month ago
Sonic: Lost World
Running around at the speed of sound...ARGH WHY DID YOU PARKOUR INTO A HOLE?
It’s been awhile since a Sonic game was able to pull me back into the series. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the Game Boy Advance editions of Sonic as well as Sonic Rush for the Nintendo DS, I haven’t been swayed to play a Sonic game since then (aside from Sonic 4: Episode 1). And though I’ll admit that I’ve always been a bigger Mario fan at heart, I’ve had enough great moments with Sonic in the past to keep me somewhat interested in the series, despite its constant track record of letting its fans down.
Speed + Clumsy Controls = Death + Frustration
Though I was cognizant of Sonic: Lost World’s inevitable ability to let me down, I was nonetheless pulled in by its alluring level design akin to Super Mario Galaxy. While the gameplay looked fun, fast and creative in its many trailers, I soon found that the end result was not what the pretty surface had led us on to believe. My first sign of doubt occurred during the first story sequence where the overly compressed video was painfully blurry (clearly they ported videos from the console version over to the 3DS and the end result is quite messy.
Sonic has never been out of new ideas and attempts at gameplay change. However, where the series has let us down is by forgetting to pay attention to one the most important aspects of platforming games: making a game that controls well. Ever since Sonic 2006’s leap onto current consoles, the series has been plagued by poor controls which has turned off much of the core community. And, though it’s difficult to admit, Sonic: Lost World suffers with some of the same problems.
Seeing as Super Mario Galaxy and its successor are considered to be two of the greatest games not only of this generation but of all time, it’s a safe bet that games attempting to mimic that formula could certainly benefit from its creativity. Sonic: Lost World certainly pays homage to the great titles by creating worlds that look and feel like something similar to Galaxy. Unfortunately, where the game loses its comparisons is in the aforementioned controls: Mario has always been synonymous with gameplay perfection while Lost World continues Sonic’s run at clumsy controls.
From the beginning, you’ll remember familiar moves such as the homing attack or being able to spin in a ball by repeatedly tapping B. The game’s first mistake is that it doesn’t introduce one of Sonic’s other important moves: the ability to shoot out a projectile and stun nearby enemies. This is a necessity to defeat many of the baddies and until you realize Sonic has this stun move in his repertoire, you’ll be losing all of your rings trying to homing attack the wrong enemies. (and believe me, it’s easy to overlook the move as pressing Y causes Sonic to do a move similar to jumping before he releases this projectile).
Sonic is now given the ability to choose between running and walking which is very unlike Sonic. And while I actually feel like having the ability to walk is helpful in providing more control than previous Sonic titles, I believe that holding down R to run is actually counterintuitive to the game’s design. Because every level is designed to be a racetrack like previous Sonic games, players are encouraged, and often required, to run through its levels. By walking as a default, I found myself initially wanting to explore every crevice of the environment, and nearly running out of time on occasion. However, after I watched some videos online of players skipping through the levels at a fast pace, I realized I was playing the game wrong.
Playing through platforming portions of the levels at a fast pace has never been much of a problem for me but where Sonic: Lost World loses its control is in its implementation of parkour into the formula. Sure, the ability to run along walls and scurry left or right can certainly be done well (Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed) but when done wrong, a game just feels broken. Thus, as you accidentally run next to a ledge or obstacle and unintentionally parkour into oblivion or find yourself looking like an idiot against a wall, you’ll quickly tire of the touchy parkour controls.
I know I’ll probably be chastised for this but I really wish Sega would just drop the whole hit system revolved around ring collection. I know it’s been in Sonic from the beginning but running through a level and losing all of my rings from being hit by one enemy is and has always been demoralizing. Maybe the games could still penalize you by losing some rings or introduce hit points, but I’m tired of something that feels like a mechanic that hasn’t evolved.
Other forms of difficult movement include Wisp abilities (returning from Sonic Colors) which are neat but feel a little too over-the-top and sometimes unnecessary. Motion controls are tied into some of these abilities as well as the game’s bonus stages. In the former, you’ll have to tilt your 3DS while moving at rapid speed (not the greatest combination even with 3D off, but a nightmare with 3D on); in the latter, Sonic flies around freely, collecting rings but his movement is entirely dependent upon your 3DS’s direction. Thus, in order to collect all of the rings and the ensuing chaos emerald, you’ll have to move your 3DS and body in all directions, akin to a tech demo or built in game, Face Raiders.
The reason why controls can make or break a game is that it creates an unfair quality of difficulty. As I play videogames, I almost always desire difficulty first but if the difficulty is created because of broken gameplay or controls, I often lose interest quickly in the game. If, however, the gameplay is perfected and the difficulty is high, a perfect storm has been created for the hardcore crowd. Take Donkey Kong Country Returns or Rayman: Origins for example, where both games feature highly precise controls but extremely difficult gameplay; both games have been heralded as some of the best platformers in recent memory. Sonic: Lost World certainly has its moments of potential greatness but it’s always held back by its frustrating control scheme.
Lost World not entirely a Lost Cause
Despite the high complaints about the game’s control, Sonic: Lost World isn’t a lost cause for gamers; there were actually several things that were enjoyable about the game. First of all, the presentation and level design is creative and inspired (thus the comparisons that have been drawn with Mario Galaxy). Though the cut scenes are a mess on the 3DS version of the game, the levels actually feel a lot like Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS, with level structure similarly linear and bright crisp graphics along the way (the 3D effect works quite well also).
The next major plus about the game is the soundtrack. Taking another note from Galaxy, this game features a score of epic sounding songs that match the adventurous style brought forth by the game’s level design. None of the songs wore on me and I found myself playing this one with sound any chance I could get.
The game continues a recent trend of blending 2D and 3D gameplay and it pulls it off pretty well. The 2D levels had less issues with controls and camerawork than the 3D levels and for that matter were a welcomed transition (probably equally as much serving as a break from the troubled 3D portions). And, though the overall creativity and variation of the levels never quite matched that of Nintendo EAD’s signature Mario games (Galaxy 1 & 2 & 3D Land), the gameplay does feel varied enough to keep you interested throughout the experience.
1 month ago
1 month ago
1 month ago
Pokémon X & Y
There has been a lot of excitement revolving around Pokémon X & Y even before their release and the hype is certainly well-deserved. Never before has a Pokémon experience been so streamlined and approachable. Though the game most certainly does appeal to the hardcore crowd through its deep mechanics, just about anyone else could enjoy these games due to the plethora of improvements. The art direction follows the same path set forth by the beautifully crafted Black & White. The new Pokémon are arguably some of the best (in both design and function) ever, despite there being less new Pokémon than in any previous game. New features such as Mega Evolutions and the new Fairy type are game changers in the competitive world and the new accessibility to effort training is also a breath of fresh air. Finally, the improvements to online functionality makes the experience near perfect in every way. Though Game Freak is sometimes criticized for recycling gameplay in the Pokémon franchise, they've really outdone themselves with these games. Highly recommended.
1 month ago
Pokémon X & Y
Pokémon has finally entered the realm of the 3D handheld experience. Read on to discover Y these X-clusive games are worth your time.
With each iteration of Pokémon, I regain the excitement of catching and training a team of Pokémon. Though I admittedly tamper with creating competitive teams of Pokémon, I also tend to hit Poké-dry spells where my gaming focus shifts towards other games. Still, I’ve got to hand it to Game Freak because they always seem to outdo themselves with each new iteration of Pokémon and pull me in for the next adventure. And, though Pokémon still hasn’t changed its formula from day one, its core gameplay style still holds up to this day.
Pokémon Has Become More than a Monster Fighting Simulator; It’s Now Art.
Over the years, each Pokémon title has refreshed the series with the addition of new Pokémon, moves, items, and gameplay additions. However, it wasn’t until Pokémon Black & White that the games really took a major shift in the aesthetic category. It’s as if Game Freak realized they would be continuing the series with the same tried and true gameplay and wanted us to be in awe of the art they could create along the way. Thus, Black & White and their sequels had a major focus on streamlining the gameplay and on an overall appreciation of art and beauty. From its camera angles to its larger than life metropolis, bridges, and scenery, I would argue that Black & White are the first true ”reboots” of a series that has successfully marched along at the same beat throughout its existence.
Pokémon X & Y continue this trend towards beauty by touting the latest Nintendo handheld hardware and turning Pokémon into a 3D experience. With beautiful areas and landscapes similar to those in Black & White, X & Y provide a fresh environment to explore as you tread onward through your journey, and use the same technique of camera perspective change to bring the world to life.
Seeing as Pokémon is a game that revolves around its battling system, it’s no surprise that battles in X & Y further the leap towards 3D gameplay by creating fully 3D renditions of Pokémon that are on par with console Pokémon titles and utilize the system’s 3D capabilities to make the experience more enjoyable. In fact, most of the game does not use the system’s 3D “gimmick” (probably due to the release of the 2DS and its inability to utilize this feature) but in all honesty, it’s not really missed from the rest of the experience. What I will say, however, is that the significant drop in frames per second while the 3D slider is turned up makes using the 3D feature almost an afterthought (you can’t even use 3D in battles with more than 2 Pokémon, probably due to the lack of processing power).
Focusing on Pokémon Type & Variation
After numbers about the amount of added Pokémon were leaked, there was a bit of a backlash due to this game featuring the lowest number of additions yet. At only 69 new Pokémon, it does seem like Game Freak has dropped the ball a bit when viewed from the surface. However, the addition of the new Mega Evolution has created a large new crop of Pokémon with stronger stats, type changes, and move variations that spell enough of a change to satisfy me immensely.
I would argue that the games with the best Pokémon additions had the least number of brand new Pokémon and instead a mix of new monsters along with new and improved evolutions of older Pokémon. Both Gold/Silver/Crystal, and Diamond/Pearl/Platinum had a wonderful crop of new Pokémon to go along with new evolutions of older ones. This made the games feel like they were adding new content while still pulling in the appeal of previous generations’ monsters. X & Y does a great job of building upon previous Pokémon by creating a new crop of 26 mega evolutions to bolster your team and breathe new life into these Pokémon in the competitive scene. My only complaint is that there are currently only two of these Pokémon that have version exclusive Mega Evolutions (Charizard & Mewtwo) though I’m certain more will come in the future.
Along with its improvement upon earlier Pokémon, X & Y shares another unique feature with Gold/Silver/Crystal: A new type has been added into the mix and it makes for some needed strategic improvements. The new fairy type was added to balance out some of the weaker/stronger types. For instance, it is immensely effective against dragon types by being super effective against and invulnerable to dragon type attacks. Also, its weakness to steel and poison improves the effectiveness of steel and poison type Pokémon. Finally, the fairy type has also been applied to a number of previous Pokémon, further improving the effectiveness of previously overlooked and underused Pokémon such as Wigglytuff, Azumarill, and Mr. Mime.
Another great aspect of X & Y is that there is much more variety of Pokémon crawling around in tall grass. Before I even had my second badge, my Pokédex had already approached 100. And, the variety of Pokémon types available at all stages of the game is improved compared to all other experience; early Pokémon such as Bunnelby or Fletchling evolve into Normal/Ground and Flying/Fire (as opposed to the usual lot of normal and normal/flying types). Thus, you’ll not only be running into all sorts of Pokémon throughout the series but you’ll also have an array of Pokémon types at your command from the beginning of the game.
New Gameplay Features, Item Modifications, and Mechanics
X & Y also continue to persuade you to keep playing through their constant courting of new items, features, or rewards along the way. From the beginning, you’ll receive your starter almost immediately and soon after will be given a pair of roller skates to further improve the flow of movement. Just after the first gym, players are rewarded with a second choice of starters from the original Red, Blue, Green, and the courting continues from there.
Modifications to older items and streamlining further push you along the journey and reduce the need for stagnant grinding. For instance, the experience share, which is received very early on, is now a switchable item that shares experience with all Pokémon in your team (as you can imagine this makes training much quicker and also makes Pokédex completion easier through constant rotating of your last 1 or 2 Pokémon on your team). Other changes such as rewarding experience for catching Pokémon or making effort values more accessible through Super Training (which we’ll talk about later in the review) further reduce the need for mindless grinding.
The aforementioned Super Training is one of many new features added to the game. This mini-game features a round of target practice and gives the gamer a new more focused option of effort training to improve individual stats of their Pokémon. The conventional methods are still intact but this makes effort training more approachable to those not willing to invest countless hours in creating competitive teams.
Pokémon-Amie is another gameplay addition that gives gamers more interaction with their Pokémon. While the Pokéwalker and Pokémon Pikachu were two Tamagotchi-esque virtual pet simulators, Pokémon X & Y combine many of the features from Nintendogs into a Pokémon experience that turns your teammates into virtual pets. Thus, you can improve their affection through petting, feeding, and playing games with your Pokémon. This allows you to evolve some of the new Pokémon as well as any older Pokémon that evolves through happiness, and gives other random benefits in battle such as status curing in battles, or stat improvements.
The other extremely exciting feature about Pokémon X & Y is the seamless online functionality. Ever since they added online functionality into Pokémon, it’s improved over the years but has always been a little cumbersome due to the limitations of friend codes and availability in the game. In Black & White, online functionality was improved through the C Gear by allowing you to have always-on WiFi functionality and instant local battles through IR connectivity.
X & Y finally unleashes the potential of WiFi connectivity and does it flawlessly. Not only can you battle or trade at any time during the game (without having to trek to the Pokécenter) but everything has been revamped to make the experience seamless. Friends can be found through random battles, trades, and interaction, and can become permanent friends after enough recurring actions have been taken. Wonder Trade is a feature that allows you to offer up a Pokémon and trade it for a random Pokémon with someone else (a wonderful way to further the game’s slot machine appeal of finding Pokémon).
Though it’s a bummer the new Pokémon Bank and Poké Transfer App will not be available until December 27th, it is nice to know that there is finally a future-proof digital database of Pokémon storage preventing the need to transfer Pokémon individually as was the case in previous generation-to-generation trade. A $5 a year premium will be the cost of the new Bank app but this small price is a drop in the pan compared to the amount of pain involved with transferring previous generation Pokémon into the newer generations.
1 month ago
2 months ago
2 months ago
Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure
For all its creativity and polish, it's a shame that Scribblenauts hasn't been able to push itself beyond being a glorified sandbox. At its core, the level of detail put into these games is a testament to the developer's dedication to creating a vast array of vocabulary and sprites to match. With Scribblenauts Unmasked, the addition of DC characters brings an equally impressive cast of references from the legendary comic book universe. Unfortunately, though, die-hard fans of the DC universe are likely the only group of people who will appreciate this game to its fullest. For everyone else, if you haven't played a Scribblenauts, you may want to purchase Scribblenauts: Unlimited instead (equally polished game for less than half the price).
2 months ago
Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure
Maxwell's back and he's brought some liscensed friends this time around. Is fan service enough to push Scribblenauts to the next level?
Scribblenauts is one of those franchises that saw tons of onset hype, seen several sequels, and lost a bit of its luster with each iteration. From the beginning, the experience has featured an incredible database of words and hand-drawn art to provide the ultimate sandbox of word related creativity. And though the game was once the most talked about game at E3, the actual gameplay brought forth in the first title was a disappointment.
With each iteration, Scribblenauts has seen improvements to the formula, showing that the team at 5th Cell not only is extremely creative and dedicated to their games, but that they also listen to their fans. Super Scribblenauts saw improved controls along with the addition of adjectives to improve on the original experience while Scribblenauts: Unlimited gave us an interconnected world and the ability to create our own objects to be added into the dictionary. All in all, Scribblenauts has continuously improved as a sandbox with each iteration but unfortunately, the same problem has consisted throughout: lack of reward for over-the-top creativity.
Enter Scribblenauts: Unmasked, the unholy alliance of Scribblenauts and DC Comics to bring yet another veritable sandbox for gamers to play with. In addition to the common words we’re used to, 5th Cell has added in over 2000 words and characters related to the DC universe. So, if you’ve ever had the inkling to summon any DC character or object at a whim, Scribblenauts: Unmasked can fill that craving. Unfortunately, though, unless you’re a huge fan of the comic universe, there’s not much reason to play this game over one of the previous versions.
Scribblenauts: Unmasked follows a similar formula to Unlimited where you’ll explore several different locales looking to solve the problems of those you come in contact with. For the comic book fan, this means you’ll be travelling through different landmarks in the DC universe. I’ve always enjoyed cartoons, movies, etc. but I must say I’ve never been as into comics as most geeks out there. Thus, though I knew several of the characters and objects from the shows I’ve watched over the years, I didn’t get the same level of enjoyment as would a comic book aficionado. And therein lies the issue with this game: its niche appeal limits the gameplay for anyone without a breadth of DC knowledge. Thus, unless the gameplay itself is completely new and fresh compared to its predecessors, there’s not much motivation to play it for anyone but the most avid DC game.
There are aids for those of us less familiar with the universe such as the Batcomputer, which lists all of the available characters in a visual encyclopedia style format. Aside from being extremely impressed with the level of detail 5th Cell has given to providing DC references, however, I found two major problems with using the dictionary: first of all, having to check and read through it interrupts the flow of the gameplay and second of all, the availability of the dictionary destroys the mystery and enjoyment of discovering included characters by summoning them with words. Again, I must emphasize that a DC aficionado will eat this up but for everyone else, it just feels like the mechanical solutions to an unfamiliar test.
If you do manage to play through the entire experience, you’ll be capped at around 12 hours of gameplay through the main game. Though this seems a bit short, the real value, as always, is in the number of solutions possible for solving the numerous puzzles. Fortunately, players are finally rewarded for their creativity through reputation points that are used for unlockables. Streetpass also comes into play on the 3DS version of the game by allowing you to unlock costumes for Maxwell.
The other issue I had when reviewing the 3DS version, though, is that like Scribblenauts: Unlimited, the portability does not make up for the removal of the game’s character creator. Though I haven’t experienced it myself, the character creator in the Wii U and PC versions of the game seems to be a neat addition to the sandbox-nature of the game and I’m a little bummed that it wasn’t available in my version of the game. The other obvious disadvantage to the 3DS version of the game is that the Wii U and PC versions are in true HD and the screen real estate is much more vast. Thus, with more on the screen at any given time, it’s easier to take in the environments and charcters.
The perk of the handheld version, however, is that essentially the exact same game is available in portable format (better in my opinion) for $20 less ($39.99) than the Wii U version ($59.99). This makes it difficult to recommend the Wii U version as well despite having not reviewed it myself. However, at the same MSRP as the 3DS, the PC version seems to be the best choice if you’re looking to pick this one up (and you can pick it up on Steam for 25% off if you own Scribblenauts Unlimited!).