June 2003

In July’s issue of GMR Magazine, [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] was described as “If Tony Hawk Could Swim.” Obviously the aforementioned description was in reference to this games similarities to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. Given the big name recognition of the Tony Hawk series I feel that it’s unfair to hype a relatively unknown game like this. A similar thing happened when Brute Force was hyped as the “Halo-Killer,” and obviously doesn’t even belong in the same rating scale as Halo. So will [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] suffer this reviewer’s wrath in the same fashion as Brute Force? Hell no, this game fucking kicks ass!

[heading]Who the hell is Shaun Murray?[/heading]

I’m a big fan of video games based on obscure sports. SSX Tricky is high on my list of all time favorites and I couldn’t name one professional snowboarder. Even going back to my Genesis days I thought EA’s Rugby was a classic. I can’t say that I am big fan of wakeboarding, in fact I don’t think I know the first thing about it, but I know that whenever I see clips of it on TV it doesn’t really look all that exciting.

That’s the beauty of video game world; they can take something not that exciting and make it an over-the-top, in your face action fest. [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] is the perfect example of this. The level design is creative, effective, and beautiful. You can grind on everything from moving 18-wheelers to power lines. Every level has enough unique aspects to keep you interested and wanting to desperately see what the next level has to offer.
[i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i]
I give the developer’s a gigantic thumbs up for the graphics on this game. I can only imagine the difficulty of designing an entire game based on the water. From what I’ve seen in the past water is usually one of the worst looking things visually in every game. I find the way the water and wake reacts to the boats movements as close to perfect as possible. Kudos Activision.

[heading]Required Accessories[/heading]

Before you being playing [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] I would recommend picking up some blood pressure medication, a stress doll and possibly a “break proof” controller. Yes, this is one of those games that will have you smashing your controller to the ground frequently, only to have you come back begging and pleading for more seconds later. To unlock different levels and increase character points you must achieve certain goals in the Groove Mode (free ride mode) or complete predefined challenges. Some of these challenges are seemingly impossible and it will take you a good hundred tries to complete them. The amazing part is that it never gets boring. Running through the same challenge for the hundredth time is just as much fun as it was the first time. On the “challenge scale” [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] is as close to finding the perfect balance between too easy and too hard that I have ever encountered.
[i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i]
[heading]And That Rope You’ve Been Hearing So Much About[/heading]

If you’ve heard anything previously to this review about [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] I’m sure that you’ve heard something about the rope. I won’t lie to you; the physics of this thing are unbelievable. You’ll almost feel like you’re really strapped to the back of a boat. You can glide into a turn and build up speed to make a huge launch off of a quarter pipe, and if you don’t think the rope is restricting your airtime, just let it go. You can use the ability to let go of the rope to set up huge catapult launches, bust a few flips, show off some nice grabs and than catch the rope on your way down.

[heading]Xbox Top 10[/heading]

I would consider this one of the best ten titles to own for Xbox right now. I know that’s a pretty lofty claim, but I can make it with full confidence that this game will not dissapoint. If you’re a fan of Tony Hawk you are sure to love this game, and even if you’re not (like myself) [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] rocks the house.

Brute Force

June 17, 2003

I have told nearly everyone I know that I can hardly wait for the much anticipated first-person-shooter sequel Halo 2 for XBOX. Let’s not forget the squad-based action game Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield. But as far as Brute Force is concerned, I’m probably not the first to say that it is not the equivalent to either one of those upcoming releases mentioned above. It could have been comparable to them if Digital Anvil had not announced this title nearly two years ago, being that this game was considered a launch title, and over hyped it. In any case, Brute Force could be your temporary fix for either one of your hard up addictions to MicrosoftA

There Goes Another Fifteen Hours of My Life:
The Castlevania Aria of Sorrow Story

To say that I am a fan of the Castlevania series on the GBA is a bit of an understatement so it would be impossible to write a completely unbiased review of what I consider to be a MUST have game. While my memories of the first installment of the GBA Castlevania series, Circle of the Moon, is a bit of a distant memory, I still retain some vision problems resulting from the many hours dedicated to slaughtering every Skeleton or Axe Armor in the 2 by 2 inch game. Now if you have ever played any Castlevania game on any console, with the exception of the bucket of chum that was released for the N64, and said to your self “this isn’t the worst game in the history of man kind” you need to play Aria of Sorrow. While this is by far the shortest game of the series, it has excellent replay value, which I will go into in greater detail later in the review.

Now the number one complaint with the original Castlevania game for the GBA was the graphics. The game was made so dark you would need to be sitting directly on the surface of the Sun to make out even the largest of details. Some one told me they saw a texture in the game once but I don’t believe them. Fortunately, Aria of Sorrow has a brighter, sunnier, I’m trapped in Dracula’s castle full of demons and the undead look. This is great because the character models are spectacular considering that the largest enemy in the game is only slightly larger than a postage stamp. And the backgrounds are what you would expect, lots of rundown castles with bats flying all around, large halls filled with portraits of long ago slain family members of the undead and of course, under ground caverns of total spookiness WOOOOOOOOOOO (ghost noise). There were few instances were I found myself being gnawed upon by an invisible enemy. The brighter appearance also simplifies the often-difficult tasks of platforming and item detection.

The sound in AoS is typical Castlevania. Konami must have the same guy writing all the music for every game because after only a few seconds of listening you know were you are, you’re in the jungle baby, you’re gonna die!!!!!!!!!! There is a great deal of variation from area to area not only in look but sound. Each area of the castle has different background music appropriate for the location. My only complaint was that the music was often inaudible due to the .00001-watt speaker Nintendo deemed appropriate for the GBA.

Controlling AoS is exactly what you would expect, jump and whip, or in this game jump and slice. The replacement of the whip by a series of swords, spears, hammers, and other weapons was a bit disheartening at first. I mean, who doesn’t like to bust out a whip and not look like an S&M freak? Well fear not, the inclusion of over two dozen weapons with varying attack styles like over hand chop, side slice, poking spear action or even pop pop of your gat will leave you satisfied at the carnage you leave in your wake. Each situation requires you to carefully choose your weapon to best dispense of your foes. Lots of Medusa heads? Why not bust out your HUGE over hand sword and send that snake headed skank and her twins back to Clash of the Titans. As expected you gain abilities which are activated by the shoulder buttons like double jump, back-dash, ground slide and others as you defeat
sses so some areas of the castle are unavailable until late in the game; which is a good thing as you would no doubt unwittingly bump into an Iron Golem and die a most horrible Iron Golem style death with only a plastic fork as your most powerful weapon.

Other abilities gained by the collection of souls (which replaces the Yugi Oh esque card system) allow you to explore further. The abilities range from being able to walk on water to turning into a Giant Bat and flying to previously unreachable areas. Controlling the bat is intuitive, push up on the controller, Giant Bat goes up, push down, Bat goes down, push up up down down left right left right B A B A start, Bat does a few circles and you end up in the main menu screen. Overall the control of the game is very responsive with no lag; very predictable.

Almost every Castlevania has had a reasonable degree of difficulty usually due to ridiculous platforming. You don’t believe me? Go play Simon’s Quest and try not to throw your controller as you fall for the five millionth time into a puddle and die. Thankfully, Konami allowed Soma (the main character) to take swimming lessons before setting him off to face his destiny. There are a few spots for all the die-hards out there that will make you totally pissed, like the Clock Tower full of Medusa heads and Gremlins swooping down to knock you off of one-millimeter ledges, YAY! For the most part you are fairly well equipped for each battle as by the time you reach another boss you have come across another sword or ability, which allows you to dominate. I defeated all of the bosses the first time through, with the exception of Death which took three times, and I kind of suck at platformers so one could say the difficulty was a bit on the weak side. But don’t let that detract you from playing AoS as there is a Boss Rush mode (fight all the bosses in a row with only like two healths) once you complete the game and I have yet to be able to beat that. Your character levels up rather quickly in AoS so you will be able to stomp major ass in no time. As an added bonus after you complete the game you can play through a second time with all of your collected souls and items, minus your experience points, so you will be dropping foes and pimping necrotic hoes like a mad gangsta’.

As you might be able to decipher from the previous few paragraphs I really enjoy this game and am playing through for a third time. Though it is short it is satisfying. The story keeps you interested. There is a nice, albeit linear flow to the game with plenty of hidden areas to explore (sunken pirate ship). Oh, and there is a plot twist at the end, which if you play your souls right, lengthens the game by two bosses and allows you to play through as a different character with, gasp, a whip and completely different abilities!

With over 100 different types of souls to aid you in your quest of total vampirical domination, setting up the perfect combo of three (the maximum allowed at any given time) you will no doubt need to take a few minutes to decide what combination is best for your style of attack. But isn’t that part of the fun? Customizing the overall killability of your character? It’s no FFX but the role-play elements, though few are an added bonus for an otherwise hack and slash experience.

What can I say about Aria of Sorrow? You will no doubt find this title a welcome friend as you wait an hour and a half for your tires to be replaced. But this game deserves more credit than that. Do not be surprised if you find yourself cho

osing to squint your way through this one instead of attending to your much more graphically impressive console games. You may be surprised, but not disappointed. One final note, if you don’t like this game, kill yourself now, as you are no doubt the Anti-Christ. Seven thumbs up.

Greetings to all! I know you all have
impatiently awaited the Week in Review and get the skinny on all
sorts of fresh stuff. First let me give you the low down with my
quick visit to San Antonio. Soda, Pickle and I sat around and watched
the AniMatrix, and I chilled with Cone and Dots for a bit
and that was it. The Gaming Expo is drawing near and we here at
Snackbar are formulating a plan for the Expo that will rock everyone’s
world. Make sure you guys get ready for the Expo and check us out
in Austin on July 26th.

In the PC world EA has released the next update for Battlefield
. The 1.4 patch will include a map editing tool, some game
play enhancements, new weapons, improved effects and also fixes
some bugs. Mindscape announced its new FPS entitled Painkiller.
This FPS look similar to Quake with an apocalyptic setting
with demons and all kinds of mayhem, Painkiller is due out in October
of this year so check it out.

UbiSoft announced Pirates of the Caribbean (POC) for the
PC as well as the Xbox. POC will be an RPG, which will not follow
the plot of the movie. The movie is scheduled for release this summer
and stars Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush. The game
will be released for Xbox and PC this August. The anticipated Tron
, yes it follows the premise from the original Disney movie,
will be released this August. The game will be an FPS and visually
it looks pretty amazing.

In console gaming news, UbiSoft announced Tom Clancy’s Rainbow
Six 3
for the Xbox, which will be released sometime in the autumn
of 2003. Rainbow Six 3 will be featuring 14 new single-player missions,
nine new multiplayer maps, available over Xbox Live and more than
30 weapons. A new preview for Medal of Honor: Rising Sun
has been released. The preview reminds me of the movie Pearl Harbor,
but this preview looks 100 times better with a lot more action going
on. Check it out here!

Take Two announced its PC gangster hit, Mafia, will be making
its way onto the PS2 and the Xbox during the third quarter of 2003.
The PC favorite will be enhanced to provide a more action driven
console experience. ID software has released its first downloadable
map for through Xbox live for its newly released hit Return to
Castle Wolfenstein
. The new content will hold a new map and
a winner take all match play. Seems that the beach has taken a liking
to game developers. Developing company Dreamcatcher has decided
to develop Ultimate Beach Soccer (UBS) for the GBA. The game
will feature pro soccer players from 32 national teams. UBS will
also contain authentic world stars, laser shows, hot chicks and
DJ’s. UBS is also being considered for release on the Xbox and PC.

In other news Devil May Cry (DMC) makers Capcom announced
that it is optioning DMC for a 40 million dollar film. No actors,

or directors have been decided yet, the filmmakers are still in
the meeting stages. Well that should do it for the Week in Review.
Make sure you guys check back with us next week for the skinny in
gaming news. Peace out!!!

Was it me or was this one long week? I swear it took forever to get through it all, more then likely because we were all anticipating the Halo LAN party SB was having on Sunday. The Paladin, EB, and Snackbar crews hooked up for some Halo action with about 14 people showing up. Pizza, beer, chips, and cursing were the fashion of the day as we gamed our asses off. Let it be known that playing with only rocket launchers on in a level designed for only a few people is chaos. I mean utter chaos. A good time was had by all, and our team proved that a whole lot of Snackbar is a good thing. Props to everyone that made it out for the event, especially Wraith for hosting it.

More planning is going on here as we get ready for the Austin Gaming Expo, which of course your favorite web company will be having a booth. We got shirts being made and some other fresh gadgets as well.

Sega let a few lucky folk in Japan test drive a trial of Phantasy Star Online 3. This way they can test to see if the severs are working all good. Good news, you get to play it before everyone else. Bad news, you can’t load your characters to the real game when it comes out. Suckers.

All you moders out there have a chance to win some big bucks for developing the best mod for UR 2003. By big bucks I mean about a million. So if your interested go here

Resident Evil: Apocalypse is in development. The sequel movie to the first Resident Evil will star Millia (time) Jovovich again as Alice. Although Jill Valentine will make her first appearance and negotiations are in place to land Famke Jensen (Jean Grey in X2) to play the sexy Valentine.

Seeing as how we are on the topic of hot chicks still, Lara Croft will be coming back at the end of this month. It seems that Edios finally came up with a release date for Angel of Darkness. Lara will come out for the consoles on the 20th to coincide with the movie Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life which releases on the 25th of this month of course. Did I mention Angelina is hot?

This is the part where I run out of news to post. You see here at Snackbar Cone is the news guy really. I land the Week in Review this week and now I’m stuck. I’m going to play some Neverwinter Nights. Ill be right back to finish the article or when I find some more news.

*leaves and plays NWN for a couple of hours*

*returns to keyboard*

In other news the CEO of Acclaim for the last 16 years has stepped down. Gregory Fischbach has said goodbye and Rod Cousens former COO, says thanks for the raise as he assumes position as top dog at Acclaim. Lets hope his first executive decision is to never ever make another game like BMX XXX.

That’s about all for this week folks. Pretzel will be in the hot seat next week to bring you some interesting tidbits of information in the Week in Review. Thanks for reading, and I rule at Halo.