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DON KING BOXING – REVIEW

Don’t hail to the King, baby…

(NB. There are no screenshots for this review as Geraint broke the screen grab machine thingy)

There was once a time when Don King was a major force in the world of boxing. As such, 2K have roped in the great man and have attached his moniker to their latest big-gloved games. But his magic touch has failed here –Don King’s Boxing is a lightweight, getting floored in the first round and swallowing its teeth.

Your view is in-body like Wii Sports, with a similar control scheme. Thrusting forward jabs, swiping releases a hook and jerking upwards releases an uppercut. Holding B releases a body blow and A raises your defences, letting you duck and weave with a waggle. Stringing combos together lights up a bolt by the adrenaline meter which, when holding C, releases a powerful blow on your opponent. All trained up, into the ring we go…

Boxing stupid
…Only to find there’s little to do. In Story mode you’re given anuncustomisable character called ‘The Kid’ and shown his career through ludicrous documentary cutscenes involving Don King and pals. Big names like Joe Calzaghe will sit there telling you how they championed Kid at an early age. It’s a nice idea but it drags on so much that you end up skipping most of them due to hammy overacting.

Don King is supposed to immerse you into ‘the world of boxing’, but take away all the glitz and glamour and you’re left with a poorly presented game where you fight in empty stadiums with awful crowd sprites cheering you on. Punches sometimes won’t register but it barely matters – even if you get knocked down a few times you only have to knock down your opponent once or twice before they give up.

Exhibition offers two-player bouts with a roster of boxers, although Don’s personal stable is surprisingly empty (no Holyfield or Tyson?). Balance board support is barely worth the mention – it lets you weave during a fight but you’re better off using the standard controls. Training is better but four exercises are slight compared to Ready 2 Rumble’s full deck of modes and customization. If this were one of Don’s poorer boxers, he’d sever all ties with him. Sorry Don, but we’re going to have to do the same with your game.

IN DETAIL:

OVERVIEW:
World’s most flamboyant promoter releases licensed boxing game.

GRAPHICS: 5
Well-rounded boxers but the same care doesn’t extend to anything else in the game.

AUDIO: 7
Hip-hop soundtrack featuring RUN-DMC and even Eye of the Tiger’s in there somewhere…

GAMEPLAY: 4
No challenge variety. Flail your arms, rinse and repeat. Such a shame as the controls are better than Ready 2 Rumble

INNOVATION: 2
Will someone give us a decent Wii boxing game, for the love of God? It can’t be that hard, can it?

NG SUMMARY: 55%
Hopes were raised with the decent control scheme. Sadly, it’s as messy and tangled as the great man’s hair.

READY 2 RUMBLE REVOLUTION – REVIEW
Coming out of retirement for another round…

(NB. There are no screenshots for this review as Geraint broke the screen grab machine thingy)

You may remember the Ready 2 Rumble series on Dreamcast – a ‘comedy’ brawler whose biggest star was Michael Buffer, the foghorn-voiced ringmaster who became a playable character in the sequel and… oh, you want to know about this Ready 2 Rumble? Well, there’s not much to say. The original formula is about a decade old and this update merely includes Wii controls and oddly placed celebrity cameos. A boxing game? On Wii? Ker-ching!

Ready to fumble
Ready 2 Rumble: Revolution is a cartoony scrapper featuring rubber-limbed, plasticine-faced boxers. There are various modes: Arcade for a quick scrap, Minigame for practising training regimes and a deep Career mode where you can create your own boxer and get him to the top of the rankings. There are also multiplayer tournaments if you’re too chicken to chin your mates in real life. Wii Sports Boxing is what every Wii boxing game is judged by and with good reason – it works.  Here, as in Wii Sports,  you hold the remote and nunchuk like you’re protecting your purse, but unlike in Wii Sports, the view is side on, similar to Street Fighter. The analogue stick moves your boxer and thrusting out each hand enables you to jab, while jarring your hands sideways results in a powerful hook.

There are plenty of moves to absorb from the tutorial, but when it comes down to the fighting it all goes out the window as you miserably flail your arms in the hope of a hit. There isn’t any room for tactical fighting because your opponent will charge you from the off leaving you frustrated as you try to land that decisive punch, only to have your Beckham caricature mess about and get floored. Your only real hope is charging up the Rumble meter to maybe land an instant KO, but this over-reliance exposes the game’s lack of finesse.

There’s no logic to any of the celebrity characters apart from having a cheap laugh at people currently in the public eye. Jack Black? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Why not jam Mika or Gail Trimble in there? Original creations such as Afro Thunder were much better and had substance, which pretty much sums up this incarnation. Ready 2 Rumble wasn’t bad in its prime, but should probably think about retiring.

IN DETAIL:

OVERVIEW:
An old Dreamcast boxing game gets a celebrity update and Wii controls, but lacks any fighting spirit.

GRAPHICS: 6
Cowell and Sly Stallone look spot on, but backgrounds are cheap and lazy.
AUDIO: 6 Buffer’s calm, confident voice wins us over, but otherwise it’s stock punch noises and grunts.
GAMEPLAY: 6 It’s an OK party game and you can lose a few hours in Career mode, but it all soon wears thin.
INNOVATION: 3 It’d be great to throw all the Wii boxing games into a pit to see which one survives.

NG SUMMARY – 62%
The hunt for the perfect boxing game on Wii still ‘rumbles’ on (ho ho). We suggest waiting to see how Punch-Out!! fares before splashing the cash.

NGAMER #35 – Wii REVIEW – WINTER SPORTS ’09

FORMAT: Wii, PUBLISHER: RTL SPORTS, DEVELOPER: 49 GAMES, PRICE: £30, OUT: NOW

It didn’t half snow in February, did it? Feeling nostalgic, we booted up Winter Sports 2009 hoping for a quick hit of snow-filled sporting frolics. Our enthusiasm soon melted away like a snowball down our pants, however.

Winter Sports is the sort of title that lives or dies by the quality of its events. Alas, they’re a bit dull. The modes are all similar – Career sees you levelling up your skills (the English commentator had the cheek to scoff at us for choosing a UK competitor), singles mode lets you practise each event individually and Challenge gives you impossibly specific tasks to complete. Amazingly, the controls are pretty responsive, with a mass of specific instructions for each event.

Ice rage
The half-pipe snowboarding and skating challenges are decent and curling stands out as a joy when mastered. Sadly, these are small exceptions. The rest of the events are near identical, such as bobsleigh, skeleton and luge, which force you to use the remote like a steering wheel. Irritating, over-sensitive and just plain baffling, it’s the scratch that exposes the game’s lack of variety and depth. Having to unlock a gold medal every time to unlock other events sent a chill down our spines and the balance board support makes events even more confusing.

Overall presentation is sub-par, though there’s a photo of speed skater AnniFriesinger on the box if that floats your boat. Turn off the commentary as soon as you can because doing so gives you a chance to hear the quite brilliant funk soundtrack – the only real gold medal in Winter Sports 2009.

wintersports Caption: Good job we have pert behinds here at NGamer…

VERDICT:
GRAPHICS: 5
AUDIO: 7
GAMEPLAY: 6
INNOVATION: 4

NG SUMMARY – 58%
Pretty good motion controls, so why ruin them with bog standard events? We wanted to enjoy this one, but it left us cold.

NGAMER #35 – ONSLAUGHT REVIEW

Or ‘The Deep Space Adventures Of Rentokil’

FORMAT: WiiWARE, DEVELOPER: HUDSON SOFT, PRICE: 1,000, OUT: NOW

(NB. There are no screenshots for this review as Geraint broke the screen grab machine thingy)

Have you ever seen Starship Troopers, the film where loads of beefheadsoldiers fly to a distant planet and blow up buckets of alien bug-type creatures? Take that template, add cyber bugs, a dreadful Engrish script and you have OnslaughtOnslaught’s heroes look so much like the Helghast, it’s uncanny, yet they move around with extraordinary slow pace. It’s as if their suits aren’t a Helghast original, but are instead cheaper, heavier knock-offs. It’s one of the many things about Onslaught that, er, bugs us.

So, you’re fighting cyber-bugs and, according to the plot, we sent them into space. They crashed on an unknown planet years ago along with loads of Earth technology, colonising it and evolving alongside our tech. Despite this, there are only three different varieties of bug to tackle, a slug bug, a flying bug with a stinger and a somewhat better looking hopper bug with a massive weak spot on its forehead. As the game wears on they change colour slightly to show they’re tougher but it really doesn’t matter – they’re all dumb and approach in constant waves, crawling into your line of fire and negating any need for strategy.

INSECTICIDE
The enemy weaknesses are a massive let down, especially as Hudson have got the shooting mechanics spot on. The graphics are also pretty impressive for aWiiWare title, presentation wise, it’s top-drawer stuff. From the off you’re given some pretty meaty weapons such as shotguns and rocket launchers with seemingly infinite ammo which you fire with ‘B’ while aiming your remote. The nunchuk, meanwhile, controls a pretty snazzy futuristic space whip, grenades, and also incorporates a clever ‘wipe’ feature. Get corrosive alien blood on your visor and a shake of the nunchuk will wipe it away, like when you wipe tears from your eyes after sitting on a thumb tack.

Thumb-tack-sitting is also more fun than the missions, which soon get boring and revolve around staple FPS conventions: protect an area, infiltrate the bug’s home, get from A to B ASAP. Onslaught is also home to one of the most irritating soundbites we’ve ever heard – “That’s why you’re still a kid!” Hold on a minute, we’re single-handedly saving the universe – why not be a sport and give us a hand? “That’s why you’re still a kid!” Honestly, he has the nerve to say it every five seconds – whoever he is – and it really grates after a while.Onslaught is a decent afternoon distraction for those who just want to spend an afternoon blowing things to kingdom come. For those looking for a deep and varied shooter, you’re probably best waiting for… well, a long time probably.

BOXOUT – BUGBEARS
What really annoyed us about this game were the boss battles. Bosses are speedy, hulking great bugs and since your top speed is leisurely granddad stroll, you’ll die more often than not. “Waaaaah!” we cried…

NG VERDICT – 2/5
It’s good value if you want to spend an afternoon brainlessly shooting cannon fodder. Don’t expect anything else, though. 

NGAMER #35 – LIT REVIEW

Clever puzzles leave us in the dark…

FORMAT: WiiWARE, DEVELOPER: WAY FORWARD, PRICE:800, OUT: NOW (US), TBC (UK)

(NB. There are no screenshots for this review as Geraint broke the screen grab machine thingy)

WiiWare survival horror eh? Stranded in a school (sounds scary already) with all the lights off, Jake’s dropped into the Lit world with no back story or tutorial. Luckily, it’s easy to pick up. There are 30 rooms to work through, all cloaked in perpetual darkness – darkness you must avoid as if it were a bogey someone has wiped under your school desk. Foolishly step into the shadows and ghostly apparitions will drag you to your doom.

The only way to safely pass through rooms is to use your slingshot (equipped with limited pellets) to smash the windows, letting in beams of natural light that act as corridors to guide you to each exit. Artificial light from TV screens and lamps also helps and intriguing boss fights appear every five rooms or so. All the ingredients for Ring-style fun then, eh?

They should be, but Lit doesn’t feel like a survival horror at all. The only reason it’s being pitched as such is because of its gloomy atmosphere and the fact that some ghosts have stitches on their faces – the clearest indication of evil that there is, obviously.

NIGHT SCHOOL
You control Jake with the nunchuk and aim your weapons with the remote, but there’s plenty of scope for accidental deaths. For example, you’re stood next to a light switch plotting your next move, ready to fire your slingshot. You press A and Jake, due to the curse of proximity, will instead choose to switch off the light switch and plunge himself into darkness. You have to be super-precise which is hard when you’re rushing a level because you’ve done it 20 times already, and keep dying through no fault of your own. Niggles such as these guarantee you’ll repeat levels frequently, but not through choice.

As a puzzler, though, Lit‘s actually quite clever. Tasks gradually become more brain-busting. For instance, in one level your only ammo is explosive cherry bombs and you have to shatter a window, yet next to that window is a fragile lamp that you need to light to progress. What do you do?

Solving some of the tougher puzzles gives a real sense of accomplishment, which is the hook Lit needs to hold you until the end. There are a lot of smart ideas here and if they were polished up and put in anything other than a ‘survival horror’, they’d surely get the recognition they deserve.

BOXOUT – THE RINGING
There’s a neat feature in Lit, whereby in some rooms Jake’s girlfriend will phone you from elsewhere in the school. When you pick it up, the game urges you to put the remote to your ear — just like a real phone! Okay, it’s been done before, but it’s vaguely atmospheric here.

NG VERDICT – 3/5
Lit taxes the brain with some well designed puzzles but doesn’t offer any real scares. Still, it’s good fun and something different. Sequel, please!

NGAMER #35 – NEWS ROUND-UP

SNOW JOKE
Mario & Sonic sequel Olym-picked up

We  kind of liked Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games – it had a sweaty charm that few Wii sport titles recreate. In light of its success, Sega have announced they’re making Mario & Sonic At The Winter Olympic Games for Wii and DS to be released in time for the real life Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. Events will be tailored to each individual console (so that’s Wii balance board for skiing, skating and the like) while well-loved characters and the instantly despised (Shadow) will again be making an appearance.

Events wise, details are still a bit scarce.  Heavyweights like skiing and skating have been confirmed alongside bob-sleighing and snowboarding. One worry is that Winter-Olympics style events need to be spot on to make a good game (see our Winter Sports 2009 review as the perfect example). The great thing about M&S is that it’s coming straight from the Mario and Sonic universes, so expect fire-flowers and scope for high-speed cheating. There’s plenty of time for Sega to show us the tricks up their sleeves, but we’ll wait until it’s cold enough to see our breath before giving you a lowdown.

mario-sonicCaption: We’re already working on a list of piste-based puns for this one.

PLEASE RELEASE ME
NGamer in Monster Hunter ‘we told you so’ scoop

Well, we did. So there. Monster Hunter 3 (aka Monster Hunter Tri) is finally getting a western release as we speculated last issue. Capcom have confirmed it’s 100% true. They’re hoping to make the series as popular in the west as it is in Japan, which might be easy now there’s a Wii in every home. Capcom have also pledged to make more DS games, and if you realise that most of their handheld output last year was Mega Man: Star Quest games, this can only be good news. Does this mean more Perfect Prosecutor will be winding its way to the west? And more importantly, does this mean the Phoenix Wright musical has a shot at the West End? Michael Crawford as Miles Edgeworth? You know it makes sense.

KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
New studio a sight for Sora eyes

Kirby creator, Smash Bros legend and Famitsu columnist Masahiro Sakuraiand his company have teamed up with Nintendo to announce they’re working on ‘Project Sora’. Sora is Sakurai’s own development studio, founded after he departed HAL, yet Nintendo own a three-quarter share of the company worth around 200million Yen (12 pence Sterling at current exchange rates). When hearing about the combination of Iwata’s funds and Sakurai’s ideas, we sprayed milk out of our noses and rubbed our eyes before going “BWUH?”.

Details on what Project Sora might be are non-existent. Production doesn’t start until early May and the game may not be completed for an estimated two years, but dialogue printed on the official website claims that when Nintendoprez Satoru Iwata saw the documents, he proclaimed it a game that Nintendo would back, but “could not make themselves”. We love it already.

masahiro-sakurai-and-satoru-iwata-happy-about-project-soraCaption: Hey, it’s like Sakurai and Iwata are talking to each other about games and stuff. Neat.

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