Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update

Welcome back again.  As you can see, we are starting to populate the site with new content.  There are few new writers and contributors waiting in the wings with new content.  If you are interested

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update, GaMExpo, Nerdvana Con, Life Updates

What to Watch: You Tube

Top 5 YouTube video’s of the past week (with one blast from the past). Each week, on Tuesday, I am going to post 5 videos I think are worth watching on YouTube.  I’d love to hear what you

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What to Watch: You Tube

Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Bac

Welcome back to Killer Betties! It’s been over three years since I’ve made a post, but I am back. Before I get to what I’ve been doing for three years, I want to talk first about The

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Back, TWD, The Bar, and Other Random Thoughts

Football Manager 2017 Review

Football Manager 2017 is a football management simulation video game for the PC developed by Sports Interactive and published by Sega. Gameplay: In terms of gameplay, it is really fun. You can create

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Football Manager 2017 Review

Volunteers Wanted

Killer Betties is going through some growing pains and we need more bodies (and pens) to keep up with it. If you have any interest in writing video game reviews, previews, interviews or editorials, p

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Volunteers Wanted

‘Omega Five’ Preview (Xbox 360)

by on June 21, 2007 at 12:32 pm

Laser BeamOne of my fondest gaming memories of the NES era was a side-scroller shooter called Life Force. Ever since that day when I first popped that cartridge into my system, I’ve always had an affinity for really good side-scrollers like that. While at the Bomberman Live event Hudson held, they gave us an extremely early peak at their next XBLA title called Omega Five, and already it is looking like something to keep your eyes on. Besides, what other game lets you have a samurai flying on a hoverboard and having his dog attack people?

Much like Life Force and other R-Type and Gradius games, Omega Five is a side-scrolling flying shooter, where you’ll be dodging and dipping around, dodging enemy fire while you move into position for your own attacks to bring down the metal monstrosities. Unlike those games, however, your characters aren’t confined to ships, but are rather very humanistic and float along through the levels.

Info is all preliminary based on the early build we saw and played, but as of the moment the game is to feature three initial characters, with an unlockable one also being in the mix, opening up after you seemingly beat the game or at least do so on a higher level. Right now the characters include a woman with a grappling hook device that hovers in space around her, a samurai looking fellow on a board who uses his dog to target enemies, and another guy who shoots with a giant cannon that spurts all kinds of liquid goo. Each character presented their own play styles and weaponry, thus making it so everyone could find a character they liked. The most popular character seemed to be the samurai, for the sheer gimmick of attacking enemies with your sword while you had your dog go out to target enemies, so you could then throw shurikens at them. Another favorite was the guy with the cannon, as the animation of the various liquid goos shooting out was really fluid and nice.

The graphics and animation were really great looking, especially considering that the game has a more zoomed in feel, as your character and those of the enemies take up a good portion of the screen, leaving you little room that is wasted with empty nothingness. The lack of dead space may make the game harder, but it’s hard to argue it wasn’t pretty to look at.

The enemies for the level we got to experience were mostly pure robotic inventions, but it was the way they were utilized that really spiced the game up. Of course, like many other side-scrollers, enemies came from the right side and onto the screen as usual, but more impressive were the ones who showed up in the background as nothing more than animated parts of the scenery, and then seamlessly blended into the actual foreground and ceased being art and started being actual enemies. Honestly, when these enemies fly in from the background and hit the foreground, it is seamless as there is no pop or anything to shown they have breached that wall. Another neat trick was a massive boss type enemy, who emerged from the background in much the same way, but then surprised us by jumping in from the left side of the screen. The enemy attacks included lots of bullets coming at us from all angles, while the giant boss-esque character also liked to use this ice ray of sorts, which you need to blast through or else risk getting hurt by.

Giant BossEach character has their own weaponry, but they also have unique skills, such as the guy with the cannon having a shield they are able to trigger to conserve damage. By dispatching enemies, little purple triangles would float away from enemies, which we were then able to grab to power our abilities. It remains to be seen all the abilities there are, but they should come in handy with the daunting task of taking all the enemies out. The controls are going to be tweaked some it seem, as it was pretty difficult to get used to the left thumbstick control, as it was on a more pivot based system rather than the usual point right to go right system. If the game incorporated a much more manageable dual thumbstick shooting system like a Robotron or Geometry Wars, for example, it would seem like the ultimate package.

Besides the lovely graphics and animation effects, the sound work was a topic of conversation, because though while many of the voice work grunts had a layer of cheese and B-movie quality to them, with the visual direction of the characters (hello, samurai wielding a dog!) it worked amazingly well and added to the overall fun of the experience, and when Hudson mentioned things will be tweaked and worked on before it goes onto Xbox Live Arcade, everyone in attendance at the event seemed unanimous that the B-movie sound work added to the experience and should be left alone.

Hudson seems on a role with Xbox Live Arcade games, because first they have Bomberman Live coming out, which was an absolute blast to play, and they look to be following it soon up with the equally interesting and engaging Omega Five. Keep it up Hudson, and maybe the Xbox Live Arcade will be turned around and changed for good.

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‘Bomberman Live’ Preview (Xbox 360)

by on June 18, 2007 at 3:37 pm

BombermanLive_CharArt_BmanWhiteI’m a huge Xbox 360 fan. If someone asked me which of the main three consoles to get, it would at this point in time always be an easy answer – the Xbox 360. However, when it comes to one thing about the 360 we’ve usually been against, it was the Xbox Live Arcade. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a good idea and there are some top-notch games, but most of the time it feels like nothing more than recycled games that should’ve been buried a long time ago. However, we’ve thrown down the table cloth, prepared our plate, and grabbed our knives and forks, because we’ve found a game to make us eat our words. Killer Betties was one of a handful of sites to get to see the new Bomberman Live for the 360’s Xbox Live Arcade before it is set to release, and we can say right now that this is the definitive Live Arcade game. Heck, possibly the best Live game – period.

Bomberman isn’t exactly a new franchise, as it has been around for many years, and besides one exception that we can think of, the little guy has pretty much stayed tried and true since the beginning. Bomberman has always had a big head, ran around, and dropped bombs hoping their destructive blasts killed someone else. The formula stays the same here, but oh is it oh so good. Hudson made it known that they want this to be the definitive Bomberman experience on the 360, and the last one you’d ever want for the system. Hudson expressed getting the game out there for a reasonable price, which seems to be 800 points at the current time. After spending hours with the game, 800 points is an easy price point and one you should definitely plunk some change down for without a second thought. Further plans include downloadable content, like possibly new levels or characters, which would be charged for a small fee by how it sounded. But still, should you never buy a single download packet, the game you will get is quite enough as it is.

BigTop_Normal_001If you wanted, you could play the game with your everyday, average, run-of-the-mill Bomberman, which you’ve probably seen throughout the years in countless games and spinoffs. However, who wants to be ordinary and simply one of the masses? Wouldn’t you rather be a Bomberman who looks like a construction worker? Or what about a ballerina Bomberman in a pink tutu and chomping down on a cigar? Yeah, we figured as much. With Bomberman Live, you’ll actually be able to customize your own Bomberman, getting to choose what their hat will be, their head, and their body. That might not seem like many choices, but when you consider everything is changeable and can be mixed and matched, you have well over probably several hundred or thousand costume choices. There are 60 costume sets to Bomberman Live, including that of a rocker, construction worker, hula dancer, cheerleader, astronaut, wizard, and more. You’ll only have a few choices to begin with, but by competing in battles, you’ll see glowing costume caplets drop into play, and if you get it before anyone else, you just unlocked a new costume set that you can use to further your individual online style. Us? We mixed it up with a cowboy hat sporting pink ballerina.

Up to eight players can play Bomberman Live online or during local matches. For local matches at least – we didn’t play online – you can even fill up unfilled player spots with computer AI characters, with easy, normal, and hard difficulties attached to them. The AI is quite hard and intelligent, though a few times we did notice AI getting stuck running against a wall, but this isn’t the 100% finished game either. Eight players is really frantic and fun, but almost a bit too chaotic, as you just can’t look around to notice all the bombs being placed down with that number of players. Through our hours with the game, we found that exactly four players was the golden number of players, as that limited the chaos, and made moves and battles much more deliberate and thoughtful, and thus led to an overall better time to be had; four to eight players is the number you want to try and straddle each game to maximize enjoyment.

Classic_Normal_001Bomberman Live had a total of nine different levels to play on, each with their own potential quirks and pitfalls to change things up. You’ve got Classic (good ol’ Bomberman with no level quirks), Lost World (tar traps can snare you and hold you in place), Ghost Town (trap doors you can fall into), Thin Ice (ice will get cracks and break), Big Top (kick arrows direct the flow of kicked bombs), Plunder Isle (all the powerups are in one place either in the middle of outside of the level), Spaced Out, Blast!, and Random. Out of all the levels, we enjoyed Classic, Lost World, Ghost Town, and Plunder Isle the most, though they were all fun. Lost World and Ghost Town were fun because of the environmental hazards, because there was something simply thrilling about setting a bomb right against someone stuck in tar, or dropping down a trap door to spare yourself from being exploded by a bomb (our personal favorite technique). Plunder Isle, meanwhile, was frantic and a laugh, as usually one or two players got to all the powerups before everyone else, and so you typically had a few superpowered Bombermen running around laying destruction everywhere, while others walked around with their usual one or two bomb placements at most.

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With those nine levels also comes four different settings, so in reality you’ve kind of got 36 levels in a way. You can choose to play the levels as Normal (Bomberman with no quirks), Arena Features (play with level features on like tar pits and trap doors), Zombie (paint most tiles with your bomb explosions to win – death doesn’t take you out from the game, just make your tiles disappear), and Paint Bomb (most colored tiles win – death leaves your colors in place, but takes you out of the game so you can’t add more). We liked simply going after people to kill them, so Normal and Arena Features we enjoyed the most, but yet running around trying to paint tiles with bombs (while avoiding them at the same time) led to the most wild and crazy matches we had there the whole day. Really, there isn’t a mode that won’t get play, as they are all fun to play.

Classic_Zombie_001For every tournament you setup either locally or online, you’ll also be able to change a number of factors to tweak the experience to just how you want it. You can set the Time Limit (1-9 minutes a round), Number of Wins Needed To Win (1-9), Positions (Fixed or Random), Scavenger (when you die you drop your powerups for other people to pickup or either they disappear from the board), Revenge (you roam the outside of the level on a train track, shooting bombs at those you want to take out of the game), Super Revenge (if you shoot a bomb from the outside and kill someone, you get back in the game), and Sudden Death (after time limit is over, cascading blocks fall down to kill you and make your levels smaller). The Revenge modes were fun if you hate getting killed and just sitting around while everyone gets to play, and yet at times we didn’t like them because we sometimes ended up getting killed by someone with a vendetta against us rather than a more skilled opponent. With that said, we usually only disliked the Revenge modes when we were on the opposite side, and enjoyed them when we were the one exploding people. So take our gripe there with a grain of salt.

You can further tweak levels to turn your Power Effects to Beginner (bombs, some speed powerups, nothing fancy), Intermediate (the beginner stuff with a few more advanced bombs and powerups), and Advanced (everything in the game you can use). For a tournament we participated in, we played with Advanced, but otherwise we played mostly with Beginner or Intermediate, just because that seemed to give the best overall experience. But like everything else so far, though we had our preferences, there wasn’t a single thing done bad, and we had those moments where we equally enjoyed the Advanced powerups too. Powerups come in the form of things like being able to place more bombs in a row, being able to throw them, being able to kick them, speed powerups, remote bombs, super destructive bombs, and powerups that increased the potency of your bombs (our favorite of them all). You’ve also got Skulls you can turn on, which is like a virus you can either handoff to another player, or you can spread it to everyone in the game. Being affected by a Skull screws up your game, by affecting you with different dampening powerups to slow you down, or forcefully making you drop bombs whether you want to do so or not (often leading to people killing themselves).

PlunderIsle_Normal_002Another cool feature that is only available online – though sadly we didn’t get to see it work on local play cause online only feature – is that if you have the Xbox 360 camera attached, it will take a picture of everyone at the end of a tournament, showing you the joy and excitement on the winner’s face front and center of the result screen, while showing the frustration in defeat on the screen as well for the losers of the tournament. It is a relatively simple idea, but in execution it should be the ultimate bragging tool and Homer Simpson “doh” moment for the winners and losers out there.

If you fancy yourself a hardcore player who wants to prove themselves and show you are the best player in the world, there will be around or over 20 different individual leaderboards, representing all the major categories, as well as those for individual levels and game types as well. So hey, perhaps you aren’t the best overall player in the whole world, but you just might be the best Paint Bomb player, and now you’ll be able to know for sure. The final game will also have 12 Achievements for you to unlock, ranging in difficulty and challenge. A few of the names of the Achievements included such titles as Totally Bombed; Paint The Town Red; The Name’s Bomb, Dangerous Bomb; Exterminator; Completely Unstoppable; You Die So Good; and Joy of Painting With Bomberman.

Classic_Zombie_004While spending the day with Hudson, we played well over five hours in a row of Bomberman Live, and in all honesty it wasn’t enough for us. Now, if a diehard Bomberman fan told you that this was the definitive game for Xbox Live Arcade, I’d understand you’d be suspicious or going, “Yeah right fanboy.” But look here, this was the first time I ever played a Bomberman game, and I simply could not get enough with this game. I’m already eagerly anticipating playing the game again when it is officially released, and even looking to other iterations I can buy to get my fix until then. So get ready to unleash the little pyrotechnic in you and blow some people up, because you’ll want to make sure you have the points to buy this game when the time comes around.

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‘Pac-Man: Championship Edition’ Review (Xbox 360)

by on June 12, 2007 at 10:05 am

Blue GhostsI’ll own up right now and admit it – I’ve never been a Pac-Man fan. If I had to give Pac-Man some credit, I’d say the only high point in his career to me was a guest-starring role on a Futurama episode where the world of videogames became our world. I’m also not a fan of the old arcade games ported to the Xbox 360’s Live Arcade, and nothing being done for them to update them for the now. Sure, the nostalgia lasts a couple minutes, but not even a once treasured game can stand the test of time. With all of that said, here comes another Pac-Man game for the Xbox Live Arcade, and I’m surprised to say it’s actually really fun.

Fundamentally, the mechanics behind Pac-Man: Championship Edition are the same as they’ve ever been. You play as Pac-Man, a yellow circle with a slit for a mouth, who runs around maze corridors chomping up yellow pellets. To impede your progress are a series of ghosts, who chase after you down corridors in hopes of catching you and doing you in until all your lives are gone. Luckily, to combat the ghosts, are larger super pellets, which when gobbled up give you the advantage, and allows you to now eat the ghosts up for a short time. Along the way you’ll also find fruit scattered around, which goes to improving your high score total. It is here, however, where things cease being the same and start changing up, which ultimately make the game something that deserves to be played, rather than remembered as history in a videogame course.

Ghost ChaseThough in the past the Pac-Man franchise always followed this formula, it always contained itself to one singular maze. You’d have everything setup, you’d go through, and once all the pellets on that maze was eaten, you’d load up a new level and start the whole thing again. The biggest change with Championship Edition is that once you start a game, you never have another loading screen at all, because of instead loading up a map after all pellets are eat, you’ve now got a very cool, auto changing board, which twists upon itself, so that you are seemingly playing one never-ending maze rather than a whole bunch of half-sided mazes. The maze (left and right running this time around) is basically made up of two sides, and once all the pellets for one side are eaten, a fruit will appear on the other side. Once you’ve eaten the fruit, the opposite side of the board will then repopulate itself with pellets, and will also often change the maze up, so it is no longer a perfect mirror image of the side you are currently on. The constantly changing maze is the big draw for the game, and one of the reasons why the new Championship Edition works so well.

Although the past games were all about surviving the levels, now with each game having a set time limit of five or ten minutes, it now seems more like a race to get as many points as you can, rather than surviving. Though surviving usually nets you some Achievements, your High Score will probably be more concerned with how many ghosts you managed to eat in a string of combos. There are several different games now, though you won’t have a clue really what they all are until you play them. While the maze changes happen in each game type, other factors change, such as the brightness of the maze, portions being hidden, or everything moving at a really quick breakneck speed. Though the formula remains the same, the little gameplay tweaks and changes manages to give you enough things new, so hopefully you’ll find one type you really click with, and will find yourself coming back to that game type again and again.

New MazeMuch like the gameplay, Championship Edition manages to keep the retro while yet updating it for the now. Like the gameplay, whereas we had the mazes still in place, they were now ever-changing. Though the graphics of Pac-Man and his fellow ghosts (as well as that of the pellets) are mainly still the same, the mazes are now bright, techno-color fluorescent tubes that block your path and lead you in new directions. These brightly colored tubes and the way they disappear and reappear new makes for a great new update visually. And much like the visuals, though the sound of Pac-Man eating stays the same, the music is now a much more techno club bass pounding, which keeps the action intense and your heart pumping as you swivel around turns as ghosts are closing in on you.

If you are a Pac-Man fan, you’ll definitely want to pick this game up. Even if you aren’t a Pac-Man fan, if you are anything like me (so help you) then you just might find yourself adventuring into a game with very low expectations, and walking away completely stunned at the new transformation of one of the forefathers of videogame history. Pac-Man, you might be an old timer in terms of age, but with the way your new game plays, you look a good ten years younger. Welcome back to videogames!

Rating: 4star
Our Scoring System

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‘Feyruna – Fairy Forest’ Review (PC)

by on May 31, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Witch TrainWhen I think of butt-kicking action stars, fairies don’t come to mind. Sorry, but to the best of my knowledge, Tinkerbell never did anything but flit around and sprinkle dust. And Cinderella’s fairy godmother, well she turned a pumpkin into a carriage, but she never beat anyone up. Well, it’s time for that to change, and Feyruna is looking to give you an action star, who just so happens to be a fairy herself.

You play as an unnamed fairy in the land of Feyruna. It’s a dark time to be living in Feyruna, as the Princes of Darkness has unleashed a horde of evil, baddie monsters across the land, and they are being a nuisance everywhere they go. As a fairy who has just had enough, you take it upon yourself to combat the evil forces, and bring the light back to the land of Feyruna. In general, besides the opening text to tell you what you are going to be doing any given level, there isn’t much of a story to be had besides that which sets up the gameplay.

Feyruna is strictly a single player game with nary a multiplayer game anywhere in view. The core gameplay mechanic is the same from beginning to end, with it being that, you play as the fairy with no name, and you’ll use your mouse to glide your fairy around the single computer screen level, and she’ll glide wherever you point. This flying mechanic that hinges on your mouse movements is the bulk of the controls, though some mouse clicks come into play later for some abilities like that of being able to hurl a fireball of sorts to take your enemies down.

Cloud HatOn each level, a tug-of-war of sorts is happening, where you are trying to bring as much light to the world, while the evil beings are trying to bring darkness. In order for you to cleanse the land and move one step closer to finish the game, you must collect the glowies, yellow bugs that flitter and fly around in various patterns, though mostly that of the rolling wave. For every glowie you collect you’ll increase a health meter, which shows how much light has come to the land – collect enough glowies to fill it to max and you’ll beat the level and move on. To make things harder, you’ve got the evil creatures, such as giant bumblebees, parachuting goblins, dark bats, and other creatures, who are going out of their way to eat the glowies, and for every glowie they eat darkness moves in closer – if their darkness meter rises to max then you lose the level. Besides them eating the glowies and increasing their meter, you’ll also make their meter go up if they hit you. So, though while you can’t die by hitting them, you do make it harder upon yourself to actually win the level.

The hardest thing about Feyruna is that most of the time the glowies will appear on screen, and instantly put themselves on a path, so a bumblebee will automatically start eating them up, all before you even know they are there and can make a move to gather them yourself. The later stages also have a ton of enemies on the screen, attacking you, eating glowies, and shooting poisonous goo at you or slowing your movement down with potions. Thankfully, you’ve got weapons of your own to combat the foul creatures, like earthquake potions to get the witches in the trains stopped, red glowies to give you more light health than usual, potions that let you use fireballs, and potions that put a protective shield of magic around you, so anytime one hits an enemy, the enemy disappears and a gap in your rotating armor appears.

Though there were some close calls at times, the game isn’t all that hard, making it a good casual game that both young and old gamers should be able to jump into and find some enjoyment from. It’s not Halo or Grand Theft Auto or any of those high caliber game, but when rating it as the casual game it is, there is some fun and excitement to be had for its relatively cheap price-tag. Though there are three, throwaway minigames you unlock throughout your adventure, the story mode (and the only mode really) is long enough with enough increasing difficulty to keep things fresh and your mouse gliding across your desk as you control the fairy.

The graphics aren’t overly complex or highly detailed, but they look pretty good. The animation was surprising, as it was very smooth and detailed, a mix between traditional Disney animation and a Pixar film. The backgrounds, though mostly flat with a little roundness to give the perception of 3D, have a little animation to make them pop a bit more than the usual static background.

An occasional buzz here, a zap there, and some music when leaving a level. There should’ve been a light, fairy tinkling song playing over the action of the game, or have the sound work be a little more robust and not so flat. The sound work is also lack, because when a ball of magic hits an enemy it should be a big and powerful zap of magic, not a tiny charge of static shock jumping off your finger.

For a cheap casual game, Feyruna – Fairy Forest is a nice diversion that should appeal more to the younger crowd than anyone else. If you want groundbreaking gameplay and high-def graphics, you won’t find much to like here. But as the casual, quick and easy to play game that it is, there is fun to be had.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

‘Pinball FX’ Review (Xbox 360)

by on April 30, 2007 at 1:40 pm

SpeedBy the time I got into videogames, pinball was slowly starting to be phased out. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some I enjoyed or remember fondly to this day. One traditional pinball game was baseball centered, and by doing well and getting a lot of points, it actually rewarded you with baseball cards. On the videogame front, there was a Sega Genesis game I remember with dragons and ever changing themed miniboards and an actual progression from beginning to end – no longer did you play the same board till all your balls were gone, instead you worked toward an actual ending. So when Pinball FX was announced, I was thrilled to get another pinball game in my hands. Now, the only question is was I left singing The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” or was I ultimately forced to realize just why there are no pinball games much nowadays.

Pinball is pinball and it is an easy gameplay to grasp. You start by putting a shiny metallic ball into play, you watch it as it glides across the level, hitting every little bumper and gizmo in its way, and then when it is ultimately about to go to the very bottom of the screen, you try to use your left and right flippers to hit it back upwards and start the whole process again. The only time that formula changes up a bit is when you unlock multiball play, that can see you trying to juggle two or even three balls on the board at one time (in the case of the game, more than one ball is a chore since the boards are so small). You’ll also unlock special ball saving moves, which should your ball go past your flippers, it will load it up and shoot it back into play right away. See, pinball, easy to play, and Pinball FX doesn’t change that up. However, what Pinball FX does change up, ultimately makes the game less than an ideal nostalgia trip for the pinball fanatics out there, or those who are just too poor to be able to afford an actual pinball machine of their own (don’t worry, right there with you on that).

Pinball FX comes with three boards for your use, and though each have their own strengths, in the land of this game not all are created equal. The first board up is Speed, a street racing car enthusiast machine, that has flashing lights and racing themed challenges. Now, don’t go expecting complicated missions on many different boards, because all the action takes place on this one, single board. However, by hitting balls into specific slots, you’ll have goals such as running from the police, doing stunts, and other car related things that you’ll accomplish by sending up specified ramps and other lighted up slots. At the top of the screen is a LED like animation board, which shows gameplay messages, your score, what missions you can select from, and other goodies.

The next board is the Extreme board, and like most things with the Extreme moniker, of course it sucks. The reason the board sucks so much is because the bottom portion of the board is so small, and it’s hard to ever get it to the top, and, even if you do, it won’t stay up there long anyways as there isn’t really any bumpers much to keep things going. The Extreme board is filled with graffiti scralled flashing messages, basketball, skateboarding, and ghetto ravaged hip-hop influences.

AgentThe third board is the best, but feels like a total ripoff in many ways. Called Agent, it is frankly a James Bond stolen piece, as it has a James Bond looking guy with his Bond girl positioned right in the middle of the board, plus that isn’t even taking into consideration the James Bond like theme song that plays in the background while your ball is flipping around. The Agent board, however, is the most involving and engaging of the three, featuring missions like sniping and messages about planting bugs and meeting informants. Not a bad board, but not amazingly great either.

The biggest problem with the game is the ball physics, which is the ultimate kiss of death since the metal ball is the key to everything. Frankly, the ball doesn’t behave realistically and instead almost seems to have a mind of its own; I’ve literally seen the ball go up in the air on an arc to the right, and then curve backwards to the left – that just isn’t pinball no matter which way you cut it. The sporadicness of how fast balls will move and travel is also annoying, because once again, it just isn’t real and leads to more frustration than fun.

The graphics of the game are pretty good, as they recreate the look of pinball decently, though there are ugly moments, like the general look and feel of the silly Extreme board to the badly drawn James Bond fake and his girlfriend. As for sound, the music is simply okay depending on which board you are playing on. The sound effects range from the good clinks and clanks of slamming against the bumpers, but when it comes to the flippers and such, it sound like nothing more than dull thuds instead of metal on metal pings and pangs I remember of the real machines.

If you want a pinball game, Pinball FX will get you through your nostalgia cravings. If you want a really good pinball game, however, that is a whole other matter and one Pinball FX certainly won’t be able to satifsfy. With a versus multiplayer mode that has you competing against another player to get as many ponits as you can, plus leaderboards so you can compare yourself to other players around the world, it should help add a little replay value to the game. But as a whole, I’ll have to wait to sing “Pinball Wizard” for another day. Perhaps I’ll go rent Tommy .

Rating: 2star
Our Scoring System

‘Boom Boom Rocket’ Review (Xbox 360)

by on April 11, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Boom Boom Rocket 1I never cared for rhythm games in the past, thinking the people hopping around on games such as Dance Dance Revolution were a tad insane and crazy to be doing that in public. Course, then I got my hands on Elite Beat Agents, and suddenly I was addicted to the rhythm. I then ported over the original Elite Beat Agents called Osu Tatakae Ouendan and it was the same thing. And now, this week I’m in a new rhythm kick with Guitar Hero 2, so imagine my double surprise when Microsoft announced the rhythm fireworks game Boom Boom Rocket would be coming. Then imagine my surprise when I remembered that not all rhythm games are created equally, and the utter disappointment that set in after that.

Boom Boom Rocket is a rhythm fireworks game, and if you think that sounds awfully familiar to Fantavision for the PS2, then you would get a cookie cause you’d be right. In Boom Boom Rocket, the camera pans across a night sky in the city, where a bright pink neon light hangs in the air. From the bottom of the screen you’ll see different colors rise in the air (you can also assign these colors to have button name presses or coordinating arrows so you don’t get too messed up). With the colors rising into the air (some straight and some in arcs) it is your job to press that corresponding button right when it touches your pink line; if you do this correctly the color will explode into a fireworks package. And you know what…that is it! Sure, by successfully hitting successive notes you’ll build up a multiplier and a meter that when detonated will let future notes explode into even bigger fireworks shows, but nothing about the gameplay changes beyond that. And to think this game came from the people who did the seemingly infinitely replayable Geometry Wars for the 360 too!

The main mode of the game is the single player game, which has you picking one of the ten songs (yes, only ten – sad I know) and then picking one of the three difficulties and working on getting the best score possible and ascending the leaderboards. Of course, beyond the Standard Game, you’ve got Endurance Game (repeat the same song over and over as it gets faster until you lose – a Survival mode basically), Practice Game, Freestyle (you just push any buttons to watch fireworks explode and you go “ooooh” and “aaaah”), and Visualizer where you let the game put fireworks to your music as you do nothing.

You’ve at least got a multiplayer game to also keep you busy, but who in their right minds creates an Xbox Live arcade game and doesn’t let you play against people over the system you just released the game for? Local play is fine and dandy, but all arcade games on Live should have the ability to be played online. Period.

The graphics are okay – basically imagine those of Geometry Wars but apply them to Boom Boom Rocket. Essentially the game is one mostly black screen (with a few lighted windows in the back to show not just black screen but a “night skyline”) and the pop of colors. However, though they could’ve done some amazingly cool fireworks explosions, everything that explodes is rather tame and not really cool at all. I’ve seen better firework shows put on by the local minor league baseball team.

Boom Boom Rocket 2The sound work isn’t great either. The songs sound good, but they aren’t cool to play – they’re all old songs that classic pianists and composers and such played way back in the day. And just because you rename the song “Hall of the Mountain King” to “Hall of the Mountain Dude” doesn’t make it any better – it just makes you sadder. But hey, at least the music sounds good, even if they are boring songs. As for the explosions, little pops and bursts to me our not explosions. I want to hear the things that have little kids holding their ears in real life, not the sound of someone slapping their arm to pop a mosquito that just landed there.

We had hopes for Boom Boom Rocket and couldn’t wait to get our hands on it, and then we couldn’t wait to get rid of it, get this review out, and forget like the whole experience ever happened. Don’t waste your Microsoft Points or money on this game – put it to one of the three listed in the intro paragraph. Trust me, you’ll have a better time paying off part of those games than buying this one.

Rating: 2star
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‘Guitar Hero II’ Song Packs Now Live, Pricey

by on April 11, 2007 at 12:01 pm

I’ll just come out and say – this news story infuriates me greatly. If you read the review yesterday, you’d see I had nothing but praise for the game. However, I have nothing but negatives for this pricing plan for the downloadable song packs. First up, “Killer Queen” is the only one that initially peaks my interest, but I’m being forced to pay for the others ones I don’t care about? The buck a song I first heard was doable, as I could pick the ones I wanted and not worry about the rest, but this is ridiculous. Microsoft must be stopped with these transactions!

From the article:

Good news: Just a week after the release of Guitar Hero II on the 360, a handful of songs from the original Guitar Hero have now become available as DLC on Xbox Live. Crappy news: You can pick up one of the three-song packs for the low, low price of … $6.25! Hold on, we just choked on our picks.

In exchange for 500 points you can get one of the following three clusters, for just over $2 per song:

Pack 1: “Bark at the Moon,” “Hey You,” “Ace of Spades”
Pack 2: “Killer Queen,” “Take it Off,” “Frankenstein”
Pack 3: “Higher Ground,” “Infected,” “Stellar”

Read the full article over at joystiq.com

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‘Guitar Hero 2’ Review (Xbox 360)

by on April 10, 2007 at 2:41 pm

The PackageShenanigans! Shenanigans I cry! How do you have a game about playing the guitar and you don’t even have Detroit Rock City by KISS from the Alive III album! Sure, it wasn’t the Star Man himself Ace Frehley rocking out on that blasting solo, but Bruce Kulick rocked! But in all honesty, I just wanted to throw out a negative out there, because there isn’t going to be much other than praise from here on out. Yes, Guitar Hero 2 is just that good. So let us pound this review out – I got a whammy bar calling my name!

You want story! You ain’t getting no story. You want a story then here is a story for you. You want to play guitar, you can’t, so the next best thing is you run down to your local gaming store, pick up Guitar Hero 2, and live the dream you aren’t good enough to succeed at in the real world. Hey, if you want, go ahead and practice those cords and licks for hours upon hours during the week. Me? Well, I’m going to be rocking out at Stonehenge while the audience cries out “Freebird” and an alien spaceship comes down to get me because I just rocked so dang hard! You think I’m joking don’t you? Think again my friend.

Okay, so the game has given me illusions of grandeur, but I wasn’t kidding about the “Freebird” yelling and aliens.

Truth be told, there isn’t a story mode, but rather a Career mode, which has you starting out at a school battle of the bands competition and then moving to bigger and better venues as you complete songs on the required set list. But then again, you didn’t come for the story, you came to rock…and for those about to rock we salute you! Yes, that was an obligatory AC/DC reference.

The bulk of Guitar Hero 2 is built around the single player experience, as most of the time you’ll be playing simply to unlock all the songs and content, and then you’ll go back to try and master the entire game and get the best scores possible for each song; this need and drive to continue forward and be the best is what drives the gameplay of Guitar Hero 2.

As said, the Career mode is the driving force of the game, in which you’ll go to different venues, play different songs, and try to advance through the entire list of songs. You’ll start things out by naming your band, picking your guitarist (male and female choices are available), picking your guitar, and then off you go to rock and roll. But first, you’ll also need to pick which of the difficulties you are going to start with, and if you are a noob, please, please, please hear me when I say do the tutorials and play on Easy first – cause even on Easy, you will probably suck some.

To break the difficulties down and tell you what you can expect from each one: Easy (you’ll only use the first three buttons – green, red, yellow); Medium (you’ll only use the first four buttons – green, red, yellow, and blue); Hard (you’ll use all the buttons and the song moves faster); and finally Expert (you’ll use all buttons, more complicated notes, and the song is at its fastest). You’ll also find yourself playing more notes and more of the riffs the higher up in the difficulty you go up. Trust me in that if you can rock out on Expert without breaking a sweat, thou truly are a Guitar Hero – nay – God!

GuitarThe idea of the gameplay is as simple as could be, as all you have to do is watch the telegraphed guitar notes slide down the neck of your guitar in the game, press whatever the colored keys are when they get to your strum line, and then when they do flick the strum bar on your guitar to play the note. Tadda – simple as pie. But single notes aren’t the sole notes, as you’ll also have power chords that require you to push more than one key down at a time. You’ve also got long notes that require you to keep the keys held down until the complete note has finished (however, these longs notes are your chance to break out the whammy and make the song your own).

However, though things start off simple, then you add more keys in and suddenly it is a different game as you struggle to remember what finger represents what color and catching up if you fall behind. Everything doesn’t come in a slow and steady beat either, as you’ll have notes come in all sorts of measure in time, meaning you really need to be paying attention to the screen and not your fingering (fingering needs to come naturally). You’ll also need to learn more complicated finger moves as well, such as hammer-ons and pull-downs which allows you to play closely positioned notes without having to strum for each one.

Should you fall behind on the Rock Meter (green is you’re doing good, yellow is okay, red is bad, and flashing red means you are about to lose) you can always use your built up Star Power, which you get from successfully playing all the star notes that come along as you are playing the song; to activate Star Power all you need to do is crank the guitar upwards and then get playing (Star Power will auto stop after you’ve expended your meter).

You’ve also got an excellent Practice Mode, which you’ll probably need to utilize sometime through your Guitar Hero 2 experience, as you can play songs that are kicking your butt, slow them down, see how you need to move your hands and hit the notes, and you can choose to only practice certain sections if you want instead of just the whole song. You can even practice the bass of the song, which comes into play later on the multiplayer side of things.

As for a few of my favorite songs to play in the game (to give you a taste of what you can expect): Surrender, Possum Kingdom, Heart-Shaped Box, Strutter, Mother, Life Wasted, Cherry Pie, Woman, Carry on Wayward Son, Message in a Bottle, Billion Dollar Babies, War Pigs, Monkey Wrench, Sweet Child O’Mine, Crazy on You, Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart, The Trooper, and of course Freebird!

The game also has a bunch of unlockables, which you buy from the store using money you get from doing good in the top three difficulty modes. With the money you’ll be able to buy new characters, new costumes, new guitars, new finishes, and new songs.

The game is also going to feature downloadable content, where you can download new songs so you never have to stop rocking!

Though the single player game is where the heart is, there is also a pretty sweet multiplayer as well, which seems to be where the foundation of the new Rock Band game came from.

In the multiplayer portion of the game, you can choose to head out to Xbox Live if you want, and either play Face-Off (compete against another player while you alternately play the same song – each player can adjust their skill); Pro Face-Off (like Face-Off only you have same difficulty and play at same time); and Cooperation (you play with another person with one of you playing Lead Guitar and the other player either doing Rhythm Guitar or either Bass Guitar. Now, I’m usually all for battling it out with someone else, but when it comes to music, I’m all into the making love and not war, because the Cooperative mode is just more fun, as it sounds like you are really in another band with another person, making mistakes or rocking out together (depending on how good or bad you both are).

Also, online Leaderboards means you’ll always be heading out to see who is the best at any given song in the game. You think you can play “Thunderhorse” better than anyone else…now you can look it up and see who really is the best.

I’ll cut the game some leeway in that it doesn’t have to look amazing, because you’ll be so focused on those notes coming down the guitar you won’t care if the game looks pretty or not outside that. However, what is there does indeed look pretty nice, with large crowds jumping up and down, cute yet cool cartoonish looking characters, and the environments feature some cool animations, like paper airplanes flying around in the school battle of the bands or beer bottles being thrown at the stage in the bar.

Umm…can I just say awesome here? Okay, it’s awesome. There is bound to be a song you’ll like here (as long as you love the history of rock) and it’ll sound great coming from your television speakers.

At $90 bucks, yeah, Guitar Hero 2 for the Xbox 360 is a steep price and one that might have you dancing like you are waiting in line for the bathroom, because you just don’t know if you should buy it or not. Listen up – buy it! Of course, this is coming from the raving mouth of someone already addicted to the game in only a short time, because I’ve spent so much time playing this game as of recent that I don’t really want to do work. You know what I want to do? If you said “rock” congratulations, you’ve learned well young grasshopper. Now, throw those horns in the air, bob your head up and down, and then go out and pick this game up.

RATING: 5star
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‘Jetpac Refuelled’ Review (Xbox 360)

by on April 3, 2007 at 12:37 pm

SquidsHuh? What game is this? I’ve never heard of it before. Well it can’t be any good can it? It is from Rare, but as of recent that isn’t solid proof of anything in regards to the consistency of a game’s quality. Turns out Jetpac Refuelled is a really fun game available on Xbox Live’s Arcade and they – gasp – did more for this retooling than just gloss over it with a new paint job. We only wish more companies would take Rare’s approach and update the core gameplay a little and improve the graphics as well.

Jetpac Refuelled is without a doubt the way EVERY old school retro arcade game should be brought to Xbox Live Arcade, as Rare shows the love and care that the classic should be remembered as, but yet updating it for the Xbox 360 masses who might be discovering it for the first time like myself. Because, for your Microsoft Points, not only will you be getting the newly updated Jetpac Refuelled, complete with tons more levels, updated graphics, and updated gameplay, but you’ll also be getting a faithful emulation of the original game from 1983 and a tiny history lesson on how the game fits into the videogame history spectrum and how it led to Rare being ultimately formed (the short history is much like those found on the Midway Arcade Treasure discs).

In the Jetpac game as a whole, you play as a little astronaut/robot who finds himself/herself/itself on various aliens planets as it tries to jump from one planet to the next, gathering the fuel needed to continue the journey. Fuel randomly falls from the top of the screen, and you must use your jetpac to fly over to where it is, grab it, and then bring it back to your shuttle to refuel it so you can takeoff (six cells of fuel are needed to pass every level). However, before you can refuel, every so many levels you’ll first have to rebuild your rocket, which comes in several pieces.

Old SchoolThough the Jetpac Refuelled version of the game is where the truly great lies, we’d be foolish not to comment on the original version that is also included in the game – right from the beginning – with no need to unlock. The original Jetpac is pretty simple; though it contains the same overall traits between both versions, the original features no music, considerably less levels, and the graphics are horribly outdated. The old school nature of Jetpac means you’ll get plenty of the gloops and bleeps that dominated the noise landscape back in the day, and honestly, we have no problem with that. However, we do take issue with the enemies, who often repeat themselves in AI, where they fly in a straight line only with a different paint job; you do get different enemy AI later on, but it takes a few levels to get there. The main gripe we have with the original version of Jetpac is that though keeping the original graphics is fine, was there really a need to preserve their flaws as well? We’re talking about bright pinks and green and blues that sometimes bleed into each other, where white will momentarily flash pink in corners and such, and it is really annoying and looks terrible on screen whenever it happens. Thankfully Rare included the updated Jetpac Refuelled or else this game would be a sad two star rating.

As for Jetpac Refuelled and the reason you should actually be playing the game, it features the exact same gameplay as the original, where you’ll build your ship when need be, but otherwise you’re flying around, shooting aliens that stand in your way, and gathering the fuel that you need to take back to your ship to drop off. However, there are new gameplay changes as well.

First up are the powerups, which increase the power of your laser and change up its shooting abilities as well. When you first start a level, your laser will shoot straight and that is all. If you catch the first falling capsule when it appears, you’ll not only slightly raise its power but you’ll also be able to simultaneously shoot upwards as well as forward. There is also a third capsule, which when gathered, though it gives you a laser that shoots less far than the others, it shoots in a three way spread that shoots straight, angled up, and angled down. And though you see the nuclear bomb radiation sign in the original, this time, by gathering the falling radiation signs, you’ll be gathering detonating bombs to use, which will clear the whole screen whenever things get too hectic for you.

The different enemy character designs and AI constructs also make for an overall tighter experience, because though many enemies still just fly in a straight line, you’ve also got things like floating globes that track after you, hands that jump in the air, creatures that swim and dart forward, etc. The enemies also visually look different too, with space squid creatures, mice in astronaut suits, floating spheres, balls of energy with eyes, flying rock people, and jumping hands to name a few.

To be fair, the whole game is better in every regard to the original. Jetpac Refuelled actually has background music (completely missing from the original); more sound work; some nice and simple effects like the smoke from your rocket taking off; and the hand-drawn, painted cartoon look of the backgrounds is quite striking and lovely.

Atomic BoomThe game also features a multiplayer, where you and another player race against time to gather as much fuel and ratchet up your score as high as you can, but it is a pretty lackluster mode mainly because nobody is playing the multiplayer portion of the game. It has some nice moments where you can sabotage your opponent to make them drop fuel and such, but once again, play it for the single player arcade experience. The reason you’ll play is because of the Leaderboards that you’ll want to climb, and it tracks not only the Jetpac Refuelled version of the game, but the normal old school Jetpac as well.

Jetpac Refuelled is one of the best games on Xbox Live Arcade to date, mainly because Rare cared enough to go back, spruce up the visuals, sound, and gameplay, and ended up creating a spectacular reimagining of one of its original properties. Though there are better “full” games out there, meaning titles like you’d be able to buy in a store that found their way onto Xbox Live Arcade (like Castlevania), Jetpac Refuelled is the best of the arcade gems, those where you can pick it up whenever, play for a few minutes, try to beat your high score, and you’ll always come back for more. Highly enjoyable game definitely worth your time and Microsoft Points.

Rating: 4star
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‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade’ Review (Xbox 360)

by on March 28, 2007 at 2:22 pm

MousersWith the release of the TMNT movie, plus the Saturday morning cartoon that started airing again a few years ago, it’s no surprise that the Turtles have suddenly become popular again, after their initial surge around the 80s. Hey, I was a Turtles addict back then when I was a little kid. Well Microsoft decided to join the Turtles bandwagon for the movie’s release, and put on Xbox Live the old arcade classic. However, are the arcade Turtles still as good as people remember?

As a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I certainly remember plunking down some quarters in this arcade classic, always choosing to be one of two Turtles – Donatello or Raphael. Don’t ask me why those two, because they are practically opposite of each other, but perhaps that is me in a nutshell. Anyways, in the game you picked to play as one of the four Turtles as you set out to tackle the enemies and save your girl April. Of course, standing in your way was wave after wave of Foot soldiers, mousers, and bosses like Bebop, Rocksteady, and of course Shredder himself.

Of course though, one of the big things about the arcade game was that, much like the series, in which there are four Turtles, you could actually have four people playing at once, each one controlling a different one of the Turtles. For whatever reason, the idea of a game allowing four people to play as the Turtles really hasn’t been seen since. And with either local multiplayer or Xbox Live multiplayer, it is easier than ever to hop on, gather some people together, and adventure out as your favorite Turtle (or the one you get stuck with cause you are the last to the party). Xbox Live multiplayer is especially fun, as you can chat with each other thru the headset and it feels just like the arcade, though confined to your living room couch.

Combat in the arcade game is as basic as it comes, as you have exactly two buttons: an attack button and a jump button. Each button is relatively self-explanatory, though you could combine the two to perform jumping slashes or kicks, depending on what the special move of your character was. In combat you’d hack and slash your way from one enemy to the next, with very little changing along the way, though there were possibilities for some environmental damage, such as attacking a parking meter and sending it flying towards an enemy or either chopping up a fire hydrant and hurting the enemy with the resulting spray (don’t ask why water hurts them – witches I suppose). Enemies range from mousers who chomp on to you to your regular Foot soldiers who punch, though there are others with swords, shurikens, boomerangs, and guns to name a few. And then of course you did that fighting over and over with the same enemies all the way to the boss, which were classic staples of the cartoon series.

ZapThe graphics and sound aren’t up to snuff either, as the Turtles and enemies look very dated even when compared to other games coming from that generation of gaming. The Turtles look okay, but some of the bosses aren’t that great, and some of the other images such as April look terrible. The game isn’t animated terribly well either, as there are only a few various animations which are used over and over throughout the entire game. And as for the sound…I honestly don’t remember the sound work being this bad. The music is okay I guess, though it doesn’t exactly sound pitch perfect or anything, but the line deliveries are the worst, with the single worst example being April’s cry of “Help meeeeeee!” And yes, if you play the game, you do see that many Es used in her scream. You’ve also got terrible shouts of “Cowabunga,” “Who turned out the lights?” and “Tonight I dine on Turtle soup.”

Was the game really like this when I was younger and I was simply blinded by my love for all things Turtles? Did I waste however many dollars on that sucker and I was a fool? For whatever the reason, I’ve outgrown my love of the Turtles, and the game is simply okay by today’s standards. There are bound to be people out there just in love with it as they were back then, but in today’s world the game seems like nothing more than a nostalgia trip with repetitive gameplay and okay graphics and dreadful sound. I do applaud Microsoft for releasing an arcade game like this and hopefully it will continue the trend. I recall classic Avenger and X-Men games that were like the Turtles game that I’d make room for on my 360, even if it was only to find out they weren’t as good as they once were.

Rating: 3star
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