WHEN: Dec 2006
It's nothing new.
Bomberman DS is nothing more but further proof that the series is in desperate need of going somewhere. There's your single-player mode, which plays exactly the same as the original NES Bomberman except there are bosses, and every item you collect isn't automatically used, but stored so you can choose it any time you want with the touch screen. While this sounds handy, there are at least twenty or so different items to choose, including about five bomb variations, but I only used about five items on a semi-regular basis during the game, as the rest just weren't all that necessary. If they could be used automatically I would've taken use of them, but since I had to do it myself, what was the point? They weren't essential to my victory, so why bother? It doesn't help that the effects of all but three items only last to the end of the level, giving players more reason to totally ignore them altogether.
Multi-player isn't too bad, but just like single-player and the items, it offers tons of game modes, but not many of them aren't all that fun, and you can barely customize them. The game default is two screens tall, with pipes leading down to the lower part, but there's a mode called Mini-Mini which just restricts it to one screen, and is much more preferable. However, you can't play the tile capturing mode in that screen size, or play Mini-Mini with the voice detonated bombs.
But yeah, I always need to complain about single-player, and this game takes the series nowhere. The only difference from this and the original NES game are the bosses and item collection, but none of those things are good, both the additions and core gameplay. The problem with the "kill all enemies" gameplay is simply that there's no difficulty curve. Enemies come and go as you progress, but they are never in such great amount or with such dastardly tactics that you feel outright challenged. Most of my deaths were because I misjudged my bomb detonation time or stood too close to an enemy that could change direction. Bosses are no different, and they even start repeating halfway through the game, the only different with them being different graphics and slightly more health. Even the final boss reuses the strategy of an older boss, with only minor additions that ultimately don't add up to much, making it beyond anti-climatic.
So yeah, the item collection was nice, but I'd much rather have had a port of Saturn Bomberman or an instalment of the series that was actually good and took it places.
Further reading: Check out the Totally Bombastic Bomberman Shrine Place!
WHEN: Jan 2009
Haven't played. (I bought it for mumsy)
How friggin' long is that title? Seriously, you could make peace between the Koreans in the time it takes to write it.
WHEN: Aug 2009
A good all-around title, and a little easier to replay than Circle of the Moon, personally.
Completion: On Normal difficulty.
Further reading: I posted some first impressions on the blog after playing for twenty minutes.
WHEN: Mar 2007
NOTES: American version.
A great game engine wrapped around a subpar game.
I bought this for £13, and even at that price, I was still uncertain of getting it. It looked like a decent game, but I thought the same thing about Sonic Rush and Super Mario 64 DS, and look where they went. When it arrived, I played it, immediately wasn't enjoying it, and believed the only good to come of it would be that I could sell it for twice the price on Amazon. But after playing for a while, it grew on me. The talisman system was awkward, the enemies essentially raped you to death, and randomly generated levels still aren't fun at all, but it was quite possibly the best RPG engine I'd ever seen!
Instead of slowing down gameplay just to flash for a bit and bring you a side view of the battle, you just clobber enemies on the map here. Fling shurikens, lay a bomb or use some magic, it's all done with button shortcuts and through the item window, and even though it means other enemies can join in and batter you to death in a corner, it's ultimately a lot more engaging than menu based crap.
Which is a bit of a shame. The game itself is challenging and can be fun, but towards the end when you have to trek through over twenty identical looking floors just to reach the boss gets rather monotonous, especially the last dungeon that goes on for forty floors, and if you lose to the boss or even just turn off the game during the fight, you're booted back to the village stripped of your items. The only difference between dungeons are how many floors they have, what enemies occupy them and how much visibility there is in hallways, so it's not like you'll be getting any epic puzzles or anything like from Zelda. All you do is fight enemies, collect items and maybe land on a paralysing trap at an inconvenient moment.
This makes it hard to rate, as the game plays very well, offering possibly the best battle engine there is that isn't from Paper Mario, but the game itself, the dungeons and everything, aren't enjoyable. Wrap the engine around a traditional RPG and a similar script and maybe I'll be happy.
Completion: Got to Singularity.
WHEN: August 2009
No better or worse than the other instalments, nothing special to me.
Further reading: Early thoughts of the game can be found in the 14th of August 2009 blog entry.
RATING: 3/4 (needs reassessing)
WHEN: Dec 2005
NOTES: First game! Friend code is 352251 - 520145
If you have a tolerance for asshats (or are an asshat), the online mode can keep you busy for a long time.
Tons of tracks, including some from the previous instalments, and online play; sounds like a dream come true! It is a great little game, but there are some flaws. Namely, the character selection is severe drop from Double Dash!! and some of the choices are odd (Daisy and Drybones?), the online mode is severely lacking and more like an afterthought (and full of bastards), and some of the courses chosen from the previous games are odd choices. On the bright side, the Mission mode is interesting, you can play Battle mode in single-player, and offline multi-player allows eight players!
Completion: Need perfect scores and staff ghosts, but I'm not too fussed.
Further reading: I don't like the Tart Top stage.
RATING: 2/4 (needs reassessing)
WHEN: Feb 2006
More of the same, except more complicated and less interesting!
Other than some effects and the second screen being used to extend your vision, this could easily have been a GBA game. Regardless, this ditches the overworld in favour of Princess Peach's castle acting as a hub between time portals, Baby Mario and Baby Luigi are added to the team, and a race of aliens are now the main enemy. Despite those differences, it's just like the first, maintaining the comic humour, pretty graphics, and decent battles.
My only nags include some of the commands being somewhat complicated: it's hard to tell whether a projectile is falling towards Mario or Luigi; some of the mini-games are either not fun, pointless, or actually harder than the main game (case in point, the UFO segment before the final bosses); and that Mario, Luigi, Peach and Bowser look a bit ugly, both in appearance and animation. On the bright side, although the overworld being ditched for Peach's castle significantly lessens the exploration element, it makes getting lost or finding where to go next practically impossible, a problem I had trouble with in the original.
RATING: 3/4 (needs reassessing)
WHEN: Jun 2006
NOTES: American version.
Nowhere near as memorable as the originals, but still pretty decent.
The first new traditional side scrolling Mario game actually starring the plumber since 1992's Super Mario Land 2, and instead of combining the elements of the previous games into a mega super duper game, it primarily uses the gameplay of the original Super Mario Bros., like the slipperier traction, the wonky swimming physics, and the flagpole and whatnot. It also has elements from later games, like the wall jump, ground pound, Mega and Mini Mushrooms, world map, and some new things, like the Blue Koopa shell suit.
Regardless of the fact that it's been over a decade and they still haven't given the series a super revamping or co-operative multi-player, it's a fun game, albeit lacking the overall quality of the originals, but the mini-games alone are enough to keep it in my DS for long periods of time, with the main game a bonus at least after it's all been done and dusted.
RATING: 2/4 (needs reassessing)
WHEN: May 2006
Fun yet frustrating.
A zany love story involving ludicrous stunts to impress your girl, among the lines of parachuting calculating, shooting scorpions, retrieving turtles from a man's throat, and flinging pedestrians at vans. Crazy!
The game consists of doing such zany stunts as the aforementioned to impress your girl, and completing a task gets points, while failing loses some. 100 points and you go to the next stage. Everything in the game is done with the touch screen or microphone, which adds a new level of gameplay (oh god i sound like gamespot), and it's all pretty cool.
It's fun, but the flaws I find are that your hand can block your view in critical parts (Snake, for example), sometimes you just fail for no reason (especially Dance and that unicycle one) and it's hard to find a way to hold the DS so it doesn't get painful after a while, yet you can still use the stylus right. Since a lot of the mini-games revolve around precision, it seems it would've been better as a PC game instead. But since it isn't I guess I can do is say the obligatory GOLLY GEE THAT DS LITE LOOKS SEXXXY.
Completion: Got to the final level.
RATING: 2/4 (needs reassessing)
WHEN: Dec 2005
NOTES: First game.
Fixes a few elements, but not the big picture. Brilliant special stages, though.
Sonic Rush is claimed to be the best Sonic game since the Mega Drive era, and some even claim it's the best one ever. It's certainly better than Advance 2 and 3, but I wouldn't go that far. The soundtrack is excellent in it's own unique way, the tricks are back and more important than before, and the boost function solves the problems of obstacles in your way at high speeds, and also speeds you up quickly. Plus, the special stages are really fun!
However, the level design hasn't changed much, the storyline is stupid and pointless, and Blaze has got to be one of the most pointless characters I've ever seen. The game feels a bit more polished in gameplay than the last two Advance games, and the boost system sorts out some of my nags with them, but it still doesn't solve the pits problem.
So yeah. It's better than Advance 2 and 3, but not up to the level of close-to-the-Mega-Drive-games as the first Advance. Good to see that the special stages are finally fun again.
Completion: Yes. Need S scores.
WHEN: Sep 2010
Eyeugh. Not the best first impression.
WHEN: Jan 2006
Unless it's Crash Bandicoot, 3D platformers should not use D-Pads. Or touch screens.
A remake of Super Mario 64, it definitely shows how powerful the little DS is, but its gameplay is where it fails. It looks pretty, and there are some nice new additions, but everything else is like they took promising concepts and took big sloppy dumps over them. And there's no co-operative multi-player.
Further reading: An exceedingly whiny series of complaints against the game.
RATING: 3/4 (needs reassessing)
WHEN: May 2006
NOTES: American version.
Undeniably easy, but those are some of the best Mario graphics I've seen.
A new side-scrolling Mario game in a long time, it actually plays more like a Wario game, though, as Peach's four moods are used to solve puzzles, just like Wario's status effects are used to do the same. Peach doesn't have fireballs or invincibility stars or mushrooms, but her umbrella and moods pretty much make up for them.
The game is enjoyable, but as many people have said, it's just too easy. Once the controls are gotten used to, you can simply breeze through the game. Enemies never pose a challenge (except in the underwater segments where the worst control method in existence kicks in: You have to blow into the microphone to shoot at enemies. Seriously I mean what the), pits are frequent but only take half a heart away instead of immediate death, and bosses have their weaknesses told to you before you fight them. With the addition of being able to refill your health just about any time, Nintendo may as well have packaged the game with all the save files completed.
On the bright side, the game is simply a joy to look at. The graphics are definitely the best and most personality-filled since those of Yoshi's Island, and it's all complimented with the chirpy and goofy sounds. Plus, it's a pleasant-enough time killer.
WHEN: Aug 2007
NOTES: American version.
Intriguing, but ultimately rather shallow.
With the exception of Wario Blast and Wario World not really being as good as it could've been, I've loved every Wario game there's been, and so has the realm of video game reviews, apparently, up until this game where everyone was flinging average comments and mediocre remarks all over the place. And then I discovered it was a third-party title.
The game's play control is pretty interesting, as all movement is done with the D-Pad and the stylus is used for performing actions like attacking, changing form (which are gained from treasure chests and infinite, unlike the Wario Land games) and so on, though that latter action causes a spot of bother. Since the icons you're supposed to draw to activate them are in reality more simplistic than they are, it means the game gets confused with what you've chosen, meaning I've often become Genius Wario when I meant to be Arty Wario, even though Arty's square with a line is pretty different to Genius' magnifying glass. Dragon Wario involves drawing a triangle on his back as a tail, while Wicked Wario involves a differently proportioned triangle made as his wings. Considering Dragon Wario falls through narrow floors, and Wicked Wario is primarily used to fly up narrow floors, it's a severe bitch and could easily have been accomplish with just a quick button shortcut or something intelligent. On the bright side, making yourself a heart as Arty Wario simply requires a triangle that doesn't meet up with it's starting point, which saves a lot of hassle.
The game itself has a less consistent goal in comparison to the older games; sometimes you merely have to find the exit, more often you'll just need to find a key or several, told through story scenes with rival treasure hunters, and although slightly engaging, the inconsistent goal and the fact there are treasure chests containing unimportant items along the way means that things take longer than they should. Most stages take half an hour to finish the first time, and the last one took me an hour and a half just to reach the boss, not counting the frequent times I played and got nowhere so didn't bother saving my progress.
Speaking of treasure chests, they suck. One must accomplish a mini-game to open them, which makes them vaguely interesting, but one of those mini-games is downright impossible to accomplish, and it involves tracing an image while lasers try to zap your stylus. Get zapped too many times, you fail! Draw the image perfectly, you fail! It's much quicker to just get zapped and open it again with a different mini-game, as the fact it remained despite it's hazards and tight time limit and overall sloppy stylus work is a bitch and a half.
The main game, although slower paced and clunky, is enjoyable the first time through, but once it's complete there's no drive to play it again. You can revisit old levels with new abilities to get new treasures, but the fact that the levels are just so long, huge and monotonous is a good reason not to go through them again. Treasures are ultimately useless aside from their humourous descriptions, and the levels unlocked at the end of the game are merely the same ones but with a strict time limit and the goal is to find the treasures in the correct order, each one adding a minute to your time. The game actively makes itself difficult to enjoy after it's done and dusted, and that's terrible.
It's a hard game to recommend. I enjoyed the game from start to finish, although varyingly from level to level, but going back to it just isn't fun. For a game with replay value that lacks real value to it's replay, it's hard to justify buying it at all, or at least for full price.
Completion: Yes. Never finished the challenge maps, though.
Further reading: I made a blog entry about the game.
WHEN: Dec 2009
It's got some big shoes to fill, and it's got some damn small feet.
Yoshi's Island, to summarise my thoughts on it (and thus further delay any possibility of me actually reviewing the game properly!), is a very awesome game and it is near and dear to my heart. It's may not be the most inventive game in the world or even the most challenging, but there's a certain something that makes it an overall brilliantly refined product. There's a lot to the game and even the minor features gets their fair amount of mileage; it feels like they did all they could to make it well-rounded and enjoyable, and I love it for that very reason.
So say hello to Yoshi's Island DS! Released a decade later and produced by an entirely different team, it appears to try hard to leave a good impression and look like it's adding something significant to the formula, but instead it feels hollow, cumbersome, and amateur-ish.
Most notably are the various babies - Baby Mario was just a load in the first game, an object you'd have to take safely to the exit and that was that. DS has five babies in total, each of which has various abilities - Peach can float on wind currents, DK can use ropes and vines, Wario has a magnet, Bowser can spit flame, and Mario can make you run faster and eggs will bounce off walls. Although only Peach is the only one of real significance (the others are used significantly in like one or two levels each, but wind currents are seen quite frequently throughout the game), I personally don't see the point for any of them. Peach and Wario are reasonably inventive, but Donkey Kong's unique abilities are never given the chance to proper shine, and instead he's little more than a key that lets you reach a higher platform; Bowser is particularly pointless, as he exists only as a replacement for the fire breath Yoshi can already acquire, and that is one of my main beefs about the game - it never utilises anything to its full extent. Well, that, and it ditched a lot of cool stuff.
Remember the transformations from the original game? The helicopter, the car - all that cool stuff? Three transformations are retained, but they are never seen more than twice throughout the entire game; the burrowing mole tank is the only one that gets a second appearance, which is the very vehicle nobody likes. Remember the melons, among which were the ice and fire melons and it acted as your rapid-fire projectile when you weren't in the mood to throw eggs? They're gone. Don't suppose you recall the item cards, and the fun mini-games associated with them and how satisfying it would be to get a flower on the end-of-stage roulette? The item cards are ditched entirely and anything related to them is replaced with extra lives.
My primary concern with the game during the whole of my play-through was simply... it wasn't challenging me. It wasn't throwing anything in my way that made me go "hmm, how will I get past this?" Nor did it do anything to actually keep me engaged, either. Yoshi's Island could be trusted to present an interesting boss at the end of each world that would have a unique means of defeat using the various capabilities of your eggs, while also demonstrating some mighty fine sprite special effects. The DS game would almost consistently deliver a lacklustre fight that required no unique thinking, no real strategy, very little situational input. I will give it credit that the free-falling boss of World 4 is interesting, but even the final boss offered no real challenge besides the fact that you need to hit more than three times. The first half of World 5 is actually moderately interesting - nothing incredible, but given how dry and lifeless the rest of the game felt, even the slightest bit of interesting level design and challenge gave the game a spark. And that is my concern: The game spends the entire four worlds being dull, lifeless and remarkably easy. When it finally gains a bit of spunk, it just makes me weep that so much time is wasted before the going gets good.
Also, seriously, the game loves to slow you down. I have never been fond of auto-scrolling levels, but this game seems to love them, especially when there's absolutely no need for them. I'd struggle to say I enjoyed those types of stages in the SNES version, but at least they usually had some threat to justify the scrolling such as falling rocks, lava or speeding up the rate of scrolling. The DS game seems to do it for the sole purpose of breaking your spirit, and has checkpoints few and far between - I cannot emphasise how dreadful they are in mere written words. Also, stilts. Who the hell thought those were a good idea? If you're going to give me a time-based trek before a lava flow starts, I'd rather do it in a cool manner like hopping over platforms above spikes.
Lastly... the SNES game was beautiful. My brother did not like the cutesy crayon-style appearances, but I, personally, love it. It adds a fittingly whimsical style to the game and really makes the world come alive - everything has roundedness and edge to it, like it's a natural environment rather than the grid-based appearances of the previous games. The music isn't incredible, but it's suitable and adds to the moment, fitting in with the theme while maintaining a degree of pizzazz most of the time. The DS game doesn't really seem to have a style. It almost looks like it wants to maintain the thick-edged crayon style, but when you've got crudely-outlined enemies, creatures with no outline, smoothly drawn playable characters and stuff plucked straight from the original game without even the slightest touching up, it's nothing but clashing. The music was particularly bothering to me - I continue to throw vague and ill-defined terms around while describing the original game, but for the most part the basic tunes had some bounce and life to them, even the likes of the caves. The DS music I can only describe as "sleepy" - it's quiet, twinkly, and even in foreboding castles it's hideously out of place. There is one distinct tune I can only describe as having a bouncy wild west vibe that vaguely captures the tone of the original game's music, but otherwise it is as flat and dull as the rest of the game, and even during story scenes, no matter what's happening, the same minimalist tune plays. It's rather pathetic.
It's kind of hard to rate. I found it to be a cumbersome and amateur-ish product, unlike Super Princess Peach which is a refined and reasonably polished game, but Yoshi's Island DS, as unimpressed with it as I was, it'll likely intrigue someone more than I did. It didn't offer me anything that I couldn't have lived without.
Completion: Need perfect scores and secondary secret levels.
Further reading: One of many games I played in 2009.