May 12, 2008

REVIEWS: Woo-Hoo! Emo punk and obese dad!

The Simpsons Game for DS - The Simpsons Game Nintendo DS - The Simpsons Game DS Game
The Simpsons Game (DS)
In a nutshell: The Simpsons Game offers a huge chunk of genuinely funny jokes which makes you overlook the fact that it doesn't have the most amazing gameplay.

Different Storylines
Every family member has a different motive, but they get to achieve them when Bart reads a game manual that falls from the sky. You get to control the whole Simpsons family sans Maggie and Abe and do all sorts of things. From the absurdity of shooting targets to save Lenny to the reality of Marge getting a violent carjacking game off Springfield, there's always something happening in Springfield!

Different Abilities
The members of the family have various, cool abilities: Homer can bloat into a morbidly obese ball of fat and dash into his enemies, Marge, well, she can form a riot and make other people do her bidding and destroy stuff, Bart can become Bartman and use his cape to glide through far distances and use his slingshot to shoot from a distance, and Lisa can use telekineses (and the power of the Buddha) to move different stuff in different checkpoints.Image 1You can use the "Buddha Hand" to pick up impeding objects.


The gameplay is very simple and borders on, or puts more emphasis on, jumping platforms and pushing levers. Of course, there are a few of those enemies that you can beat up, but it's mainly composed of aforementioned actions.
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Levels usually alternate between two family members, and one action can help the other. It's a pretty good implementation of the concept personally, but not enough to be revolutionary (I mean, come on, how many games have already done that before?!).

The lives system is... wait, it's non-existent! So basically, no game over screens, and you have unlimited lives.

The irony around the very, very, very by-the-book platformer involves the Comic Book Guy's unlockable Gaming Cliches which means that the game itself already knows that its gameplay is pretty much one big cliche. Like when you fall from a chasm, he says, "Expect a lawsuit from Wile E. Coyote.". Yes, all of them are very funny, but the bad thing about this is that it makes it seem that the developers were focusing more on the humor than the gameplay- which is very, very important.

What would a Simpsons game be without the humor?

What makes the game very lovable is its humor. If you want an example...
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These spoofs are scattered all over the whole game. So you'll be able to see Will Wright with his money and his army of Sims or some weird elves with a resemblance to Mario. It's all just a great experience when you play just because of its first-class humor, and also because of this, you will forget the shortcomings it regarding gameplay.

It's so funny, you'll want more. Unfortunately, it's just...

If you don't count the collectible secret stuff, you can probably finish all 20 or so levels in a maximum of 4 hours. And because it's very short, that feeling of satisfaction just doesn't get to you because you'll want a lot more of the humor and you won't get enough of it. Basically, it's like LSD, but the experience gets cut short by the reality of it finishing so quick.

Graphical Presentation
I love the whole feel of the game because it's very colorful.
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It replicates the feel of the series and during the lengthy full-motion videos that occur before or after every level, the feel is still there, only better because they're so high-quality yet many.

Voice Actors
The original voice actors give the game almost 100% of its comic flair because, obviously, they provide voices for the game. You'll be surprised at how much excellent voice and sound effects the game has, because the amount of vocal content surpasses even Nintendo games!

My favorite part
One of my favorite parts of the game is Pet Homer which is accessible in the Simpsons House in the Springfield map. Actually, it's a bit of an indirect (?) spoof to Nintendogs. You touch Homer's torso, he giggles and a plus sign appears overhead. You let him eat chocolate, pizza, etc. etc. etc. and he could choke or have a heart attack. The heart attack is particularly funny because you can use a defibrillator for that. You know what, it's boring in text, but very fun in the game.

A theory
Maybe it's because of the wealth of content (videos, voice and sound FX) that deprived the developers of making more game levels. The aforementioned content, however, is still very much appreciated, and at least the levels themselves don't suffer in terms of quality, but still...

The Simpsons Game is very much playable, but not extraordinarily so, and the humor makes up for the lackluster gameplay. If you are a Simpsons fan, then this game is perfect for you because of its high quality video and audio content and Simpsons quality humor, which is obviously top-notch. You'll be left wanting more, though.

Rating: 8.0/10

The World Ends With You for DS - The World Ends With You Nintendo DS - The World Ends With You DS Game The World Ends With You (DS)
In a nutshell: Presenting a unique and compelling story, innovative combat mechanics and great presentation, Tetsuya Nomura's new RPG sets the bar high for future DS RPGs and totally excellent from start to finish.

More than routine
When you open the game and make a new save file, you'll see that there are people walking around the street ignoring the game's obviously moody protagonist. This anime-styled, spiky haired moody protagonist thing is very much routine for a Square Enix RPG (or maybe any RPG nowadays) and if you jam in fighting, a fantasy story, the optional Disney cameo, customization and a weird fairyland, there you have it: a Square Enix RPG!

But the game is a lot more than that. To make things different, it gets set in Shibuya- Japan's shopping capital- where people use cellphones, eat fastfood and gossip about a certain "Prince"'s blog, and it utilizes both screens of the DS to fight and you use the stylus and the D-pad to control both characters. A lot more aspects are more than routine in this game, and I'll discuss it and break them down later. But for now, we cover...

The 2D presentation is wonderful. OK, maybe if while you're walking, the character sprites get blurry when they're near you but that's the presence of the feel of proximity. Other than that, the drawn characters are expressive and more importantly- goodly drawn. There are also a lot of great looking attack effects and video sequences presented throughout the game.

The game is scattered with many, many voice samples. For example, when you give a character food to eat, they could say, "It's edible.", and if you let them eat something else, they'll say something else.

And another thing is the soundtrack which I have mixed emotions for. Based from the location set, it's obvious that it's full of J-Pop. One thing's for certain, though, they'll get stuck in your head whether you like it or not! You can purchase these tracks for listening in your Phone Menu- yes, your phone serves as the menu for everything like Save, Items, etc..

Most of the actions in the game is touch-screen based like Zelda. However, one twist to this is in the fighting. When you make a combo with Neku (the spiky protagonist), a green light goes up to your partner because when you fight, you need a partner to survive, and when the green light goes to your partner, stylus input is obviously impossible, therefore you use the D-Pad, or if the player is left-handed, the A-B-X-Y buttons. And when you complete a combination with your partner, the attack is doubled and the green light will be passed back to the bottom screen. Initially, the system is daunting, but once you get used to it, the alternating combat system between two screens ain't so bad after all. And if it gets too out of hand, you can tell the game through its Phone Menu to get A.I. to control your partner. However, for me, the A.I. just doesn't cut it because it usually depletes most of the HP which both share.

Customization has become routine to RPG's. But here, it has a twist. OK, so you look at the effects of an accessory or stats increase at first, but when you go back to the Phone Menu, you will see a top three chart that says what brand is hot in a certain area and what's not. If you equip an accessory or clothing that has a brand that is on the top of the charts, you'll be able to have an additional 120% increase in Attack, otherwise when you equip the brand of fashion that's lowest in rank, your attack decreases by 120% and so on...

The teenage lifestyle
It definitely emulates the stereotypical superficial teenage lifestyle you'll typically find almost note by note, and people can probably relate to some happenings in the game. Plus, this story is not only a unique story of a certain "game" that puts out daily missions to its "Players" who are in turn inspected by the "Reapers", it's also a story of change and maturity and loss among other themes, and most of its moments are actually, genuinely, if not surprisingly, affecting!

Despite the Final Fantasy's and the Kingdom Hearts blockbuster franchises, Square Enix isn't afraid to bring something new in their established history of RPG franchises. If The World Ends With You doesn't get a magnificent sequel, well I'll be darned!

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