January 2008


January 16, 2008

What’s a young culinary rat to do when he is forced from his country home into the streets of Paris? Go invade a famous kitchen to learn how to cook of course! Based off of the Pixar movie of the same name, you take control of Remy the rat in his conquest to create the perfect meal while dodging the occasional cat and health inspector.

Compared to the fact the story was pulled from a decent movie, it lacks that storytelling feel as you are just randomly thrown into different areas where missions must be accomplished to move on to the next area. Really, the plot is just secondary to having you use the mechanics to navigate the area; many times little to no explanation is even given to you as to why you are even there. If it weren’t for the smell cheat, which guides you in the right direction at the push of a shoulder button, you’d be lost.

Each open map is essentially a puzzle to navigate with climbs and timed jumps as you gather tokens to proceed. As Remy, your controls are limited to a few available options which include whipping your tail for an attack, running, jumping and picking up the occasional item to move elsewhere. The game makes use of these mechanics nicely using a jump platform mechanic to land on a series of hooks or a broomstick handle to get to your objective. In addition, the PS3 game features motion sensing SIXAXIS control by allowing you to balance across a tight wire; this feature feels like it was put in at the last minute just to exploit SIXAXIS, but at least it succeeds in breaking up the gaming monotony.

The difficulty is a matter of debate; for a game aimed at kids it is truly unforgiving. It is very easy to die in this game. If the fire doesn’t get you then the fall will, and many times that means repeating a long section just to get back to same place you fell. On top of that, many jumps require a certain amount of precision that I had a difficult time landing, so for kids I could see this being particularly frustrating. Particularly brutal are occasional chase sequences which have you running towards the screen; you don’t have any time to avoid the hidden obstacles just out of view until you are on top of them. A lot of fun sections become the opposite due to slightly flawed execution choices.

Graphics are pretty good on the PS3 as the game does a good job emulating the cartoon nature of the movie. If anything this is the selling point for the movie fans out there looking to get more Remy action. The game also features mini-games which extend the shelf life of the title as you gather the necessary tokens to unlock them.

Historically, movie games tend to be the bane of the average gamer, never living up to the potential the movie set forth, and Ratatouille is no different. While it isn’t a horrible game, it just isn’t as fun as it could be.


January 16, 2008

Draglade is a 2D rhythm-based fighter. Rhythm games are king right now with people picking up Guitar Hero III and Rock Band in droves, but the 2D fighter is underrepresented in today’s market, and Atlus is hoping to capitalize on that oversight by publishing what is the strangest cross-genre game I’ve ever played. If you’re a fan of either genre then Draglade may be for you, but if you like both genres then you should definitely take a look.

There are four stories to work through, but none of them matter. Each is a series of fights culminating you in you becoming the best Grapper (a cross between grapple and rapper I suppose) in the land. For a game centered around music, Draglade‘s soundtrack and music integration are both disappointing. If Def Jam Icon can incorporate music so well into its gameplay then Draglade has no excuse for abrupt transitions between the standard fight and a special move. The cut is jarring and creates a disconnect where there should be a smooth transition as in any other fighter moving from standard punches and kicks to a hadouken.

Until a special move is activated Draglade plays like any typical 2D fighter. There are light and heavy attacks, blocks, and jumps to be doled out, but bouts are won and lost in bullets (special moves) and beat combos. You have a limited number of charges for each bullet which adds an additional layer of strategy to the game, and your rhythm can tip the scales in your favor when beat combos are used. Simple hold the left shoulder button to bring up the combo meter. The object is to press an attack button in time with the beats of the music to best your opponent. It’s possible to rack up a decent combo by just mashing buttons, but you’ll do a lot more damage if your attacks are all landing in conjunction with the beats of the song.

Draglade isn’t a revolution in fighting games, but it is a fun diversion, and the beat combo system is interesting. There’s fun to be had here, particularly in multiplayer. Draglade supports single-card multiplayer, multicard multiplayer, and WFC multiplayer as any competitive game on the DS should. Also of note is Draglade‘s Dragon Sequencer – a mini sound studio that allows the player to author his own combos for use in the game. Combos only last a few seconds, but the sequencer is astoundingly deep for as simple a tool as it is. If you’re looking for a good online fighter to play on the go then Draglade is definitely a front runner for the DS.

MotoGP 07

January 16, 2008

MotoGP 07 is built for the hardcore motorcycle racing gamer. Even though it advertised an easier approach to playing compared to last year’s MotoGP 06 on the Xbox 360, the playing is more frustrating than rewarding. Add to that the half-hearted feel of the entire game and you can almost hear the developers heave a collective A

Assassin’s Creed

January 16, 2008

Ubisoft Montreal has set the bar high for new games in the action platforming genre. As AltaA

BlackSite: Area 51

January 15, 2008

The Area 51 series started in arcades as an on-rails light gun game, and that influence shows in Blacksite’s level design and light story. The primary focuses of this game are quick fights, interesting looking enemies, and one-shot mechanics that are used for a fun boss fight. The single-player campaign is fun, but why can’t I go through with a friend? At every turn there are two other soldiers with me, and it makes the lack of either local or online coop all the more obvious.

The story, as expected from an Area 51 game, is forgettable, but the graphics and sound design are both excellent. Weapons are detailed, and they all look, feel, and sound appropriate. If you’ve got a shotgun then your roommate in the next room will know it. Levels, although linear, are large, open-feeling, and detailed; the Unreal 3 engine is doing its work well here. There may only be one door that leads into the mini-mart, but the way to that door is large and littered with explosive varied enemies and destructible cover. Area 51 takes a lot of cues from its on-rails arcade brethren, but Midway didn’t forget that the rails are gone here, and it shows in the level design and available cover.

Mechanically, Blacksite stumbles a little bit. Prior to release Midway made a huge deal out of squad AI and its morale system. Neither is particularly good. Even when playing on Casual (the lowest difficulty available) you will run into a new area, hide behind a concrete barrier, and watch as your two squad mates run into the fray, complain loudly about being shot, and then fall over dead. At this point your squad morale will drop to low, and you’ll be left alone to fight the wave of enemies without worrying about your teammates blocking your shots. Outside of normal combat your squad is useful for two things: opening doors, and driving humvees and tanks while you man a turret. The morale system may work wonderfully, but your squad will spend so much time dead that it’s impossible to tell. In theory when you perform well squad morale will rise and your teammates will also perform well, but if you perform poorly they’ll take a dive, too. In reality, they just die a lot because they don’t realize that there is cover available, and that it isn’t smart to reload while being mauled by an alien.

It’s still fun, though. The shooting mechanics are well-implemented, weapons are different enough from one another that it’s often difficult to decide whether you really want to trade that reliable M-4 for a nifty alien shotgun, and there are a few straight-from-the-arcade boss sequences. It’s satisfying to take down a giant alien worm that has wrapped itself around a bridge with nothing more than a half-broken helicopter and a single turret, and the fact that Midway managed to successfully combine the arcade shooter with an FPS makes for an entertaining game.

Multiplayer, both cooperative and competitive, is a letdown. Cooperative is missing altogether, and there’s no good reason for it. Everything that is fun in single player would have been better with a buddy. One of us could shoot while the other drives, we could each have a turret on that helicopter, and fire brute fights would make sense because when one of us provided a distraction the other could go hunting for the heavy artillery (despite telling you to create a distraction your teammates won’t take down the brute; it’s all on you). Competitive multiplayer is uninspired and there are better online experiences to be had in Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty 4, and Halo 3. Blacksite‘s multiplayer feels uninspired, and the game types are limited – all you’ve got is deathmatch, team deathmach, capture the flag, and zombies, and CTF is only available on two of the game’s eight maps. It’s okay to make a purely single-player game; I don’t need deathmatch available to me no matter what I have in the drive. If you aren’t going to do it right then please, don’t do it at all.

Blacksite has a few flaws, but it’s entertaining to get alien headshots and save the world by operating a helicopter-mounted turret with unlimited ammunition. Blacksite isn’t just Area 51 in name, as the arcade original’s inspiration can be felt in each episode. If you like FPS, shooting aliens, and fondly remember your time on the STARS team, then Blacksite is worth your time. All others probably have enough current FPS games on their shelves by now.