August 2003

The Great Escape

August 29, 2003

The Great Escape is based on the 1963 movie starring Steve McQueen. According to the IMDB the plot of the movie is:

Several hundred Allied POWs plan a mass escape from a German POW camp.

In the game, it’s you and a couple other guys. No biggie. It would have been difficult and annoying to have a “couple hundred” NPCs just hanging around being in the way anyway.

As a general rule, I have high hopes for most games that end up in my lap. I am fully aware that crappy games do come out and in fact outnumber the quality ones, but I am an optimist so I like to give games the benefit of the doubt. I try to give them a chance to prove to me that they can be good before I write them off as Bargain Bin games. Unfortunately for The Great Escape, that challenge seemed a little too daunting.

I don’t want to spend the entire review ripping on the game because you and I both know that this is a fully subjective topic and somewhere out there is a huge Steve McQueen fan that has been dying for a game based on this very movie. This review might have carried a more positive tone if that person had been me, but it wasn’t.

The beginning of the game is where you are captured by the Germans and placed in the POW camp. You start out in a plane where you have to fight off enemy planes with a mounted machine gun. Quite frankly, my frustration started this early in the game. It was almost immediately that I noticed the controls just seemed “sluggish”. Everyone has had one of those dreams where you don’t feel like you can run fast enough to get away from the “bad guy”. Yeah, the controls feel like that. I felt like I was in slow motion and it got very annoying.

My frustration was extended to the fact that I had to play that intro part a whopping 4 times before I found the stupid parachute and got to move on to the next level.

The game itself is very linear. As your progress thru each mission you basically run around talking to different people to complete tasks. Once you complete one task, you are given the next task. For what I played of the game, you never have more than one active task at a time; hence what I feel is a very guided and linear story. Some people prefer very linear gameplay, but I don’t personally care for it.

I may have some big problems with the game, but I can’t rip on the graphics too much. They weren’t awe inspiring, and I felt they were on par with what I had expected. However, the music in the game was just awful. I felt like I was listening to some generic 30 second track repeated over and over again.

To make matters worse, I got a hold of this game in the middle of my Knights of the Old Republic addiction. I set aside some time to pla
it hoping I would get into the story but it just didn’t happen. I got bored with the game after a very short time and just couldn’t play anymore.

I don’t know what kind of hand Gotham Games had in Serious Sam, but that game was loads of fun so I know they are capable of good material. The Great Escape just fell short in several key areas and fun happened to be one of them. It doesn’t happen very often, but I have to recommend that you let The Great Escape do exactly that.. escape right off the shelf and into the bargain bin.

Wario World

August 29, 2003

Wario World is a throw back to the awesome 2D side scrolling (SS) platform games that I played as a kid. You mean like Super Mario Bros. 3? Yes, except SMB3 is one of the best games of all time and I am having difficulty placing Wario World that high on the list. The major thing that makes this game different is that it does in fact have an added 3rd dimension. This “depth” to the game is very limited and takes a little bit of getting used to. Before I spoil all the fun, let me tell you a little bit about the story.

Wario taking out some enemies by swinging a statue around.

I think it is safe to say that Wario is greedy. Wario is hanging out and suddenly his treasure turns into a myriad of different creatures. Needless to say, Wario is less than thrilled with the recent developments. Of course he sets out to get his stuff back and ends up battling thru 12 levels in 4 worlds (1 level in each world is strictly a Boss Fight). I will be the first to admit that I felt the game was a little on the short side, but each level has quite a bit to accomplish before it is 100% complete. Sure, you can run thru the game in probably 2-3 hours, but I like to collect every last treasure etc etc so I spent maybe 5 or 6 hours total on this game.

Some of the things you can expect to collect are treasure pieces, gold, and rubies. The gold pieces just happen to increase your number of hearts (life) and the rubies are required to fight the level boss. So essentially, you only really have to get the rubies, but it is a pretty pointless game if you don’t make some sort of effort to collect everything else. I personally enjoy games where you have to collect various objects and so I made sure I got everything before moving on.

The aftermath of the Wario Piledriver

One thing I should probably mention is that you will spend a good chunk of time solving 3d “puzzles”. You should see numerous trap doors as you go thru the levels and they lead you to puzzles of varying nature. In the end, your “reward” is one of the various things you are collecting be it rubies or gold.

The controls are pretty simple and didn’t take much getting used to, but the camera was a different story. Since the game tries to stay true to the side scrolling action, the camera work gets a little tricky. In the rooms/areas where you are solving a puzzle, you have control to move the camera almost 360 degrees in any direction. However, during normal level gameplay you are limited to shifting the camera horizontally and moving to a slight overhead view which comes into play in some key situations in later levels. I got used to the camera control pretty quickly but it is a definite quirk that makes the limited 3d depth of the game a tad bit difficult to get used to at first.

You can also throw enemies at each other.

My greatest annoyance with Wario World fell squarely on the use of enemies. They developed a handful, about 7, different enemies and then simply replaced the “skin” o
them in each level. If there is one aspect of the game that got old, it was fighting the same people over and over and over again. I think this was a poor call and someone needs to bust out a dictionary and look up the word “repetition”.

Hey, he has to have a quick way to gather coins.

Despite the flaws that I found with the game, I did enjoy my time with Wario World. I love platform games and although I felt this one was a little short I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the side scrolling platformer. By recommend I mean rent. I can’t fully advise anyone to purchase this game strictly based on its length. I tore thru the game in probably a week and the casual gamer would be finished in probably a weekend. So in a nutshell, the game is good but hardly worth the $50 price tag it currently carries.

It is not often that a game comes along that faithfully captures the spirit of a T.V. show. Games like James Cameron’s Dark Angel and the Dukes of Hazard simply throw together a bunch of boring clichA

You know more and more articles I write the better a writer I become, no really its true. Then I throw it all out the window when I give a description of this game, because Mario Golf in essence is A

Some people like their horror sprinkled with zombies, while others like their horrific video game experiences taken with more abstract monstrosities. Still others prefer a much more subtle, more sinister, more frightening experience. That is where Tecmo’s critically acclaimed Fatal Frame excelled. Recently we had a chance to speak with Tecmo’s Keisuke Kikuchi about that game’s upcoming sequel, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly.

Snackbar Games: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us regarding Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. Before we begin, can you let us know what your role is with this project?

Keisuke Kikuchi: My name is Keisuke Kikuchi and I’m the producer of both Fatal Frame and Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. My responsibility is to set the game direction and lead the team.

SBG: Thus far you all have been pretty tight lipped on the story behind this game, which is understandable. However, are you now in a position to talk a bit about this game, and where you intend to take gamers with this sequel?

KK: Fatal Frame II is a story of twin sisters who found their way into a village that suddenly disappeared during a festival. The twins will face many deadly terrors.

Will Mio protect his sister Mayu and escape from the village? Here is the prologue so that you can understand the storyline:

Mio and Mayu have come to visit a place where they spent a few summers during their childhood. It is a secret play area nestled in a small canyon that looks like a charming little garden. The secret spot has not changed at all. This small mountain area will go under water after the summer when a nearby dam is filled.

While passing the time away, Mio remembers the incident where her sister Mayu was injured…They were briskly coming down a mountain trail after staying there too late into the evening. Mayu was calling Mio while breathing heavily. “If you don’t hurry, I’ll have to leave you here!”, said Mio. Mio would turn to see Mayu time to time as if she was making fun of her sister. Suddenly, there was a short scream and the sound of something sliding down. “Sis, are you okay?”, she uttered as she approached the small embankment next to the trail. Her heart began to beat louder and faster as Mio looked down the embankment. Her big eyes began filling with tears.

While contemplating on this memory, Mio has lost track of Mayu who is nowhere to be found. She looks for Mayu frantically and finally sees her chasing after a glowing crimson butterfly. It’s leading Mayu deeper into the woods.

Mio chases after Mayu. As they travel deeper into the woods, Mio catches up and begins to notice a woman in a kimono slowly overlapping the rear view of Mayu. In a hallucination-like state, Mio reaches over and touches Mayu’s shoulder when, instantly, images shoot through her brain:

An image of a girl who hung herself next to a deep hole, twin sisters holding hands and looking her way, a woman laughing uncontrollably in a sea of dead bodies… finally, her own hands grabbing Mayu’s neck…

Mio abruptly takes her hands off of Mayu’s neck, immediately finding herself standing alone on a mountain trail covered in fog. A sad singing voice is carried by the wind. Rows of lights are visible from between the trees. Is there a solemn event going on? Mio is drawn to the gathering and begins to walk towards it. As Mio passes through the trees and into this open area that appeared to have many people, she only sees Mayu standing alone surrounded by butterflies.

“Sis?….” Mayu slowly turns around to Mio’s voice. All the crimson butterflies fly away.

“The lost village…. that disappeared from the map…”

SBG: Fatal Frame stood out as a unique, and arguably much more effective spin on the established survival horror genre. Was it a conscious decision to make the first game stand out from the competition, and was there an effort to make this upcoming sequel even more differentiated from other games in this genre?

KK: We didn’t intentionally try to differentiate our game from others in the genre, because this game’s concept and style were already unique. Fatal Frame strived to be the scariest game out there, and with that as the foundation, every stage, background, character, combat system, screen effect, and sound was developed. In other words, at the time the game concept was decided, most of the strategy was already in place. The remaining effort was spent on polishing and fine-tuning our method of expression. I believe that the superficial attempt to pro-actively differentiate a game from others is the cause of producing many bad games.

Also, while DreamWorks is in the process of making a movie based on Fatal Frame, I wanted to make sure that the movie and this game were different. This game heavily relies on story development and I was always clear about one thing — that what I’m working on is not a movie. “Interactivity” that is unique to a game is what makes it interesting and adds value. I view DreamWorks’ take on the movie to be my good rival.

SBG: Fatal Frame II seems to paint a picture of symmetry using such images as the two girls and butterfly wings. How does this sort of imagery play into the game?

KK: As a focal point into what causes fear, we used A