Lauren Rasco

Like most animated movies that come out these days, DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens was also released for many game systems.  Based on the characters and general plot of the movie, the game takes you into the world of five monsters who are forced to become heroes when aliens invade planet Earth.

The game itself is a basic platforming game in which you can play as three of the five monsters: Susan/Ginormica, the 49ft 11inch tall woman who utilizes jeeps for roller skates; the Missing Link, who is part fish and part ape; and B.O.B., a gelatinous mass with one eye who can walk on ceilings and walls.  Your guide throughout the game is Dr. Cockroach. Occasionally the fifth monster, Insectasaurus, needs your help. It is primarily a single player game, but there is a co-op mode that I will touch on in a bit.

All levels involving Susan’s character are skating levels.  This gets a little mundane as every level is essentially the same.  You change locales of course as the plot progresses, but she can never seem to get the skates off of her feet.  When you play as the Missing Link you have the most freedom.  He possesses the most number of attack moves and was the character I enjoyed playing the most.  Full of witty and sarcastic comments, the Missing Link is strong, fast, and has a move that slows down time for a bit, Matrix-style. The levels you play with him also are a bit repetitive and you start to wonder why the side of a government robot looks almost identical to that of the alien robot.  As B.O.B. you are either maneuvering through areas riddled with grates that you fall through unless you are holding something inside yourself – be it a baddie or a box.  Some levels are more complex than others in which they throw in mazes littered with grates, exploding boxes, and bad guys.  You also have the ability to use a plasma turret as B.O.B.  When you come to these parts of the level you are stuck on the turret with the ability to shoot or form a protective shield around yourself.  There is something fun about spitting plasma at helicopters and alien technology to destroy it.

As you go through out each level as the different characters you are collecting monster DNA which is used essentially like cash to buy extras and challenge modes.  You get multipliers that help up your DNA count – this is where a second player actually does come in handy because they can grab hard to get DNA multipliers. At the end of each level you get a point tally that gives out bonuses for varying things and lets you know your DNA balance and gives you the choice to progress in the game or go to the DNA lab.  One neat thing the developers threw in was if you had any other DreamWorks game saves on your hard drive you get an automatic 90,000 point bonus at the end of each level for being a ‘DreamWorks’ fan.  You also get a bonus when you play though with two players.  When you go to the DNA lab you will likely be irritated with the way it is structured, you have to buy or beat certain things before you can go on to the next cluster in the strand.  A lot of times I just wanted to play another challenge but had to waste my hard earned DNA on concept art.  The challenges are just time or goal re-hashes of the levels you already played.

There is a co-op mode that is different that most traditional co-op modes I have played before.  When you have a second player, the first is the monster you would be playing in the single player game, but the second player is Dr. Cockroach.  You can’t see him or control his movement, but you do have a triangle that you move around that you can use to shoot enemies, boxes, jeeps, etc. and use it to pick up DNA pieces.  You are just basically there to assist player one, not the most exciting way to play co-op, but a nice option as a parent helping out a younger kid.

The game play is not difficult to master, my five-year-old son could play through most levels on his own.  There were a few instances when you had to match button sequences to progress that threw him off, but it was a fun and easy game to pick up.  No complicated control schemes to master and you have Dr. Cockroach around to make sure you always know what it is you are to be doing.  Overall, I would say I enjoyed playing through Monsters vs. Aliens and would recommend it to other gamers who are fans of DreamWorks or have younger kids and are looking for a fun and easy game for their kids to play.


October 8, 2007

I really wanted to like EA’s Boogie for the Wii. I really, really did. I had high expectations for this game. I wanted to dance and sing my heart out. While I’m no pop star, I had really hoped to strut my stuff in the privacy of my own living room. Instead, what I did was sit on my sofa lazily swinging my Wii remote this way and that way, trying to keep more of a tempo to the song than actually dancing and trying to A

I must admit when I first looked at [i]Brain Age[/i] I was thinking to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” After playing I can’t help but think of the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” [i]Brain Age[/i] may seem silly and even perhaps a little dorky at first glance. Give it a chance; you might be surprised what you find inside.

To sum it up, [i]Brain Age[/i] is a video game developed by a real neuroscientist – Dr. Ryuta Kawashima of Japan- that helps you develop your “brain age.” The game consists of multiple mental exercises ranging from simple math calculations to reading aloud to help you train your brain to be tested in the [i]Brain Age[/i] Check.

When you first start the game you get to create a profile. The only noteworthy thing at this point is that you get to use the stylus to create your signature. You also input your birth date and what hand you use to write with. The nice thing is there are multiple profile spaces so that for instance Cone and myself both have our separate training space. And then I can gloat when I have a lower brain age. After your profile is set, you then get your first [i]Brain Age[/i] Check. Your brain age is a number that reflects how active your brain is. The best possible “age” is 20. I am currently at age 23. Your goal, obviously, is to train to get to age 20.

Once you are established as an old fart in the brain age world you then get to go to the Daily Training area of the game so that tomorrow you can improve that embarrassing brain age. You can only record scores for training and your brain age once a day, so it encourages you, nay forces you to play daily. In the training area there are multiple exercises to choose from and the more you play, the more you unlock. My personal favorite at this point it one called “Head Count.” It would be much too complicated to explain in full but it deals with keeping track of people as they enter and exit a house. It is definitely a challenge. The game keeps track of your scores via graphs and you can compare yourself to other player’s profiles and also hook up your DS to another to compare scores and other things.

Also included with the training and brain age testing is Sudoku. You have probably seen it before in the newspaper. It is a series of 3 x 3 squares with some numbers provided to you. You have to then fill in the blank squares with the numbers 1-9. That may sound simple, but there’s more. Each 3 x 3 square can only contain each number once, as can each column and row. It is addicting that is for sure. It is pretty sad that for the past few nights after our son goes to sleep Cone and I fight over who gets to play Sudoku first.

A bit cheesy at times, some of the things the doctor says to you are a bit corny. A bit weird, like when it asks you to draw a rhino, a giraffe, and then Africa from memory to be compared to the drawings the doctor did himself. I maintain that there is no way ANYONE could draw as well as he does with a stylus on a DS screen. Overall, [i]Brain Age[/i] is a fun way to spend a few minutes – or hours if you are Sudoku-ing it – everyday making yourself smarter. You really can’t complain about that. And if your mom tells you to put down the handheld for a while you can simply explain that you are trying to better yourself as a human being. Just don’t tell her I said that…

Oh Nintendo, why must you continue to make more and more ways for me to enjoy my old pastimes? Portable ways at that! The newest baby to enter our console family is the Nintendo Game Boy Micro. He is by far the favorite handheld, (don’t tell the others) beating out my old favorite, the Nintendo DS. You may be wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, it is just a handheld device.

The newest Game Boy is a much sleeker, sexier version of its predecessors. More elongated in length makes handling it much easier; especially handy when playing things like Dr. Mario for hours on end. The whole thing just looks nicer too. Black and silver, bright screen, cool buttons that light up. What’s not to love? Too dull for your personal style? Nintendo thought about that too. The Micro has interchangeable face plates. Our version is what they call the Silver Micro. Mostly silver with a black faceplate, it comes with two additional plates. Not your style still? Try the Black Micro. It comes with a whole different set of face plates. Not good enough you say? Try the retro styled one. This whole changing faceplates thing is a bit gimmicky for me, but hey, there are probably a hundred thousand others out there who love the customization aspects.

Now that is just part of the buzz on the Micro. What I would consider its biggest asset is the better, brighter screen. The resolution…beautiful. It’s like night and day between it and the old GBA. It even kicks the DS to the curb. This new screen technology is supposed to be the one that gets used on all new Game Boy releases including the soon to come redesigned DS. I don’t know how to say this in any other way. Just take my word on it. The screen makes the thing worth the purchase.

The sheer smallness of the Micro makes it easier than ever to take your favorite Game Boy games on the road with you. Put it in your pocket, it’s no worse than that wallet that you haven’t cleaned out in years. I’d be willing to bet if you stuck them side by side, the Micro would be smaller. Not that I am trying to say that all guys never clean out their wallets, some of you have wives and girlfriends that tell you to and I suppose that some of you do it on your own… all I am trying to say here is this; it’s small.

Take it with you wherever you go; renewing your driver’s license, flying to visit grandma, waiting in line at the bank, on your lunch break at work. The possibilities are endless. Don’t want to play alone? Use your wireless adapter to play with a friend.

You can check out all of this at Nintendo’s website or the special Micro site. I think that if you have ever hesitated to buy a Game Boy for any reason, if there was ever a time to buy one, this one should be it. d For under a hundred dollars this little guy packs a lot of bang into the buck. If you see me in line anywhere I’ll be the one with the best little handheld on the block.

So you might be wondering what a link to a gift store is doing on our front page. I am here to tell you that you should click it. My mom, who has a store in the quaint town of Boerne, TX has launched an online store. So, if you need to find a gift for someone check there first. I’ll even link to it from here so it is easy for you. [url=] All the Way Home Gifts[/url]