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A year on from Destroy All Humans! success, Pandemic Studios was back with the sequel to all sequels! Destroy All Humans 2: Make War not Love hit the shelves in 2006 and with it, a new adventure for Crypto and co. and this time its a global adventure and out of this world...quite literally with a trip to space. But after its galactic debut, would the sequel struggle to get out the docking bay?
Story: It's eight years after the first game, in the year 1967 and full on flower power is in flow. Crypto-137, from the first game, is now dead and his purer clone, Crypto-138, is continuing his pose as the American President. With this purer Furon DNA, this Crypto now possess what previous clones did not! Nicknamed 'The Package', he now has the ability to 'reproduce' and the KGB do not like that at all. With them feeling threatened, the KGB destroy the Furon mothership with a nuclear missile and take out Orthopox-13 as well. Luckily, he manages to download his consciousness to a holographic unit before destruction.
So with Holopox in tow, Crypto adventure begins! Stopping the KGB invading America, revenge for blowing up his ship, Crypto is not in it for the joy of the ride! With trips to Bay City (San Francisco), Albion (London), Takoshima (Japanese island), Tunguska (Siberia) and a Russian moonbase called Solaris, he's in for a heck of a battle! With KGB, Majestic Command Sixteenth Sector (aka British secret service), hippies and the alien race called the Blisk, these guys are who Crypto meets along the way. Time to get the jetpack ready!
Visuals: A year on from the first game and the graphic do look improved. The settings around the world you play in do look really good. From London to the Japanese Island and volcano. Perhaps after they success of the first game, they could spend more money this time around and they used it to updgrade visually? The cut scenes themselves, some look good and others, very blocky looking. Visually, not stunning but a great piece of work for the time.
Audio: The voice acting is superb again and the actor doing Arkvoodle's voice is brilliant! It's so over the top but completely goes with the rest of the game in the ridiculousness stakes! The NPC's (non playable characters) that you come across as you cause destruction or simply going for a walk, now have some brilliant quotes! You have to listen to them as they run away screaming and you hear some crackers. In Albion when your attacking humans, you hear them say: 'Where the hell's the bleedin T.A.R.D.I,S' and also: 'Someone call The Doctor!'. There are loads of these great soundbites and you just have to listen!
The soundtrack itself is just as b-movie-esk as before. With the synth hit big time and blends nicely with the game. Also some pop tracks are included, with the track 'She Changes like the Weather' used very early on and its a great track to start of the 60's too.
Gameplay: So what's new from the first game? Well you now have the ability to upgrade your weapons by collecting FuroTech cells, which are scattered throughout the levels. When you have enough, you go to the Pox-market and upgrade your weapons to be the biggest and meanest possible!
Arkvoodle! Well Arkvoodle is an ancient Furon God and you see his statues dotted around the levels with hippies nearby normally. You have to complete what ever job Arkvoodle gives you to open up the landing zone for your saucer. Once you have statisfied Arkvoodle, the landing zone becomes operable and you can call your saucer to that spot.
Weapons, we have new ones available to Crypto in the shape of 'The Disclocator', which shoots levitating purple disks that take targets with them. The Meteor Strike, which fires meteors. Gastro, the mothership's former janitor uploaded himself into a hologram like Pox and shoots at nearby enemies before self destructing. The Burrow Beast, shoots out a lure for a giant space worm to crawl around and eats humans nearby. The Anti-Gravity Field, which creates a point of high gravity and pulls anything, including humans, into it before exploding, destroying anything. Plus you still have the previous games weapons.
Abilities have changed as well now. You don't have to read people's minds to get enough energy to reuse abilities. Now you can use them whenever you want but some take time to recharge before being able to use them. You still have PK, scan and extract from the first game. PK gets upgraded as game goes on, so you go from picking up humans, to vehicles and even tanks! New abilities are: Body Snatch, which takes over from the previous HoloBob. Now you can enter a humans body and use it for a disguise or just to have some fun. Only lasts a short time. Free Love is a great ability! Aim at a human and watch as they start dancing about and multicoloured flowers appear around them and it also makes them forget they ever saw you. Follow/Protect explains itself. Transmog lets you turn objects into ammo when you are running low. NavMap shows you the location of important people and objects on your map. Mind Flash lets you stun all humans on the map for a short time. You need brain stems to recharge this power but its great to use as it lowers your alert bar back to 0.
The alert bar is used again but this time there are police boxes dotted arounf with telephones in. So you can either prank call the police to get their attention or send the all clear message, which stands down the alert. The alerts this time are: Police, Army infantry, Army tanks and now they comes in waves with there response.
Let's talk controls, which again you have a tutorial every new weapon you receive, so very simple to use. The use of your own mini weapons menu is really helpful. You can now set up which weapon pops up when you match it up with a button.
Conclusion: KGB, aliens and the sixties, what's not to love?! The first game impressed me lots so I had high hopes for the sequel and it well and truly blew my mind! With visiting other countries, this opened up no end of opportunities and they created great settings, missions and such stupid hilarity. The soundbites are awesome from the NPC's and I even loved the police telephone boxes set in Albion. Everytime you rung up, the copper says in a London accent: 'Scotland Yard ere!'. I know it something so little and no purpose to the story, but those little details they added made this game amazing. The script is priceless too! Missions were more varied this time and did not hold that repetitiveness like last time. Plus you could go off and just play with the humans in the different locations if you wanted a break between the missions and The Arkvoodle addition was great as well.
This is a fantastic game that showed the series at the time, was getting stronger. I had great fun when I first played it and continue getting the same level of enjoyment. There is loads re-playability value to be had and a game that wont leave you disappointed. I recommend this game to everyone. It's not about weapons and destruction (well, a little bit), but the stupid tongue in cheek humour and the great pop culture reference you hear. Pick up a used copy from eBay for a couple of pounds and try it. Crypto is waiting to have some fun! Peace out!
In 2005, Pandemic Studios, now sadly closed, gave Destroy All Humans! to the world. But was it all just about aliens, weapons and abductions or just a B-movie rip off.
Story: Cryptosporidium-136, an alien from the species of the Furon, is keeping tabs above an American military base. Suddenly his saucer gets hits by a rocket and destroys his ship as well as leaving him mortally wounded, which leads him to be captured by the US Army. Awhile later and now in the 1950's, Cryptosporidium-137 (nicknamed Crypto) comes to earth with another Furon called Orthopox-13, to recover Cryptosporidium-136. While Pox (Orthopox-13 nickname) hitched a lift to fulfil his desire to extract human brain stems for study.
With trips to the American mid-west, meeting the more rural and not very smart locals, to the Rockwell town fair, yeah it's basically Roswell... Plus to a Santa Modesta suburb, yeah and that is Santa Monica rip off. Area 42, a parody of Area 51 and finally the end game in Capital City, aka Washington D.C.
Oh and there's The Majestic! Okay, so they are just a parody of the FBI but seriously, there out to hunt aliens, so you better watch out!
Visuals: This game came out in 2005 on the PS2 console and to this day, 9years on, doesn't actually look that bad at all. Your not going to get that real attention to detail and crispness but the environment is a colourful and great place to explore. Crypto and his ship really are the stand out when it comes to graphics, you can see they spent the most time on them. But for a 2005 game, graphically you will not be disappointed or underwhelmed, these are pretty decent visuals which set the scene for this great game.
Audio: The Furon main theme, with synth and a great sci-fi feel from the very beginning at the main menu screen. It sets the whole game off into this alien invasion story without sounding serious, just pure silliness and fun. The sounds of the weapons is fantastic when you fire them, also the jet pack noises and saucer sounds add to your experience. The voice acting is superb, especially the two main characters, Crypto and Pox. The lines they have are well written but the way they deliver them really makes them even more funnier.
Gameplay: The controls really are quick and easy to pick up. You start the first mission with a quick tutorial, so you know what to do from the off. Saucer controls are easy as well but can be a little frustrating. It literally feels like you are flying a tank. Still, not that I have ever flown a flying saucer before so perhaps that how it feels?
So, why does Pox want human brain steams for studying?! Well to cut a long story short, the Furons are a race that loves a war and love to conquer new planets all the time. They don't care how they get the new territory so they were using unchecked nuclear weapons which left them both impotent and without the 'goods' to reproduce and so had to turn to cloning to survive. But after generations of clones, the original Furon DNA is degrading and so each clone is becoming less stable with every new body job.
So how does humans come into this all..well many Millennia ago, a Furon scout ship come across Earth and decided to have a little fun before heading home. They impregnated the humans by inserting a strand of Furon DNA into the human gene-pool..Genius! So this ment that each human had a little Furon DNA in their genetic codes. That's your Furon history lesson done and basically the meaning of life...
Weapons and abilities of Crypto are what help you to succeed in your missions. There are weapons for both Crypto to use and ones for the saucer. With the saucer you have the death ray, which can be used to burn humans, buildings and vehicles. Abducto beam, pick stuff up or people or even animals and you can fling or throw them about. Quantum Deconstructor, a nuclear weapon like bomb and finally, the Sonic Boom, which is a bomb that when it hits the ground explodes and causes tremors in its blast radius.
Crypto's hand weapons consist of Zap-O-Matic, a gun that emits an electric charge and shocks humans. The Disintegrator Ray, which turns the target's flesh and organs into ashes and renders only a charred skeleton, think Mars, Attacks! The Ion Detonator, the Furon equivalent of a grenade launcher. Finally, the Anal Probe, a powerful rod that goes into the victim's rectum and uproots a D.N.A. Yes, that's how we get those precious brain stems! Oh and we also have an upgradeable jet pack to help us get to places quicker.
Abilities wise, Crypto has PK powers, which makes him able to pick up stuff, vehicles and people and throw them around. Plus the HoloBob, which is an ability to take the appearance of a nearby human and make it easy to walk about the humans without someone screaming, 'little green man!'. The HoloBob requires energy called 'concentration'. This is replenished by reading humans rather funny thoughts and animal thoughts. They usually consist of, 'mooooo', though. Oh and the men in black (The Majestic) can see throw your HoloBob, so don't get too close. Oh and not forgetting you can hypnotise as well.
This is a sandbox type game which in English equates to a game that lets you free roam in the game world. You can fly around the town, farms, air base and do what you want. You can complete missions and whatever pace you wish to and for the most part, have some fun within the 1950's setting. The actual technology The Majestic have is based on the Furon technology they were able to get there hands on, so think American secret service but with alien gear, totally like real life then. There are also many side missions in each place and also an alert system. This comes into play when Crypto is drawing attention and has four stages; alert, police, army and The Majestic.
Easter eggs/unlockables: There are some great unlockables in this game, including mini movies based on the game story and also a full length feature film from 1959 called 'Teenagers From Outer Space', which you can watch in the in game movie section once you complete the game. I sat and watched one afternoon and whoever idea it was to chose that film was a genius because its a typical B-movie and what the game was basically parodying with its humour and hilarious clichés.
Conclusion: I just wish to point out that I know I talk about anal probes, setting humans on fire and abducting animals, this is not a serious game. It is like you are playing a massive tongue in cheek game based on loads of clichés, B-movies and just so much crazy fun! It is one of the best games I have played in terms of humour, ridiculousness and just sheer entertainment. This is one of these games where you can just turn on your PS2, sit back and whatever was bothering you or getting you down, just instantly goes as you step into Crypto's boots and cause utter mayhem and comical bliss.
This game first come to my attention when I was in a middle of a Star Trek: Voyager phase, so yeah, you know I'm a total geek now. Was watching on Sky 1 when it came up at the adverts that the sci-fi on Sky was being sponsored by 'Destroy All Humans!'. They showed these great clips of Crypto throwing cars in the air and destroying buildings with his saucer's death ray. I was hooked and knew I had to buy the game from just 30 seconds of ads. I was not disappointed at all when I got my hands on it and destroyed all humans, well some humans...
There are sadly some minor negatives, some side missions feel repetitive and just feel like they have put in to fill in gaps between the key missions. Well actually, that is the only negative. You do have collectibles to collect as well, if you are like me and have to complete a game to 100%. The story, gameplay and audio is brilliant and leaves you having a truly awesome time as an alien in America. Plus not forgetting fighting the 50ft robotic president. Yeah, all in a days work for Crypto!
You can pick up used copies on eBay for a few pounds
After a three year hiatus, in 2013, American band Fall Out Boy were back with a brand new album. But the quartet did not want to just go back to how it once was. They wanted a new sound but did the reinvention work.
Fall Out Boy were originally formed in 2001 in Chicago. Made up of vocalist and guitarist Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz on bass, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley. Producing five albums to date and having a huge fan base, Save Rock and Roll was what everyone had been waiting for since there previous album back in 2008. With Wentz's lyrics and Stumps melody writing, Fall Out Boy produced a number of great tracks, both musically and lyrically.
The booming beat kicks off the album with 'The Phoenix'. Straight in with catchy lyrics, great tune and like they had never been away. Definitely one of my favourite FoB singles and a song you can imagine fans love to hear on tours. 'The war is won before it's begun' is one of my favourite lyrics of there's. 'My Songs Know What You Did in The Dark' was there debut single and just like 'The Phoenix', relying on that heavy beat and Stumps great voice.
'Alone Together', a fast paced tune with decent lyrics. A good song and cool to listen too but not one of the tracks that will become a favourite. 'Where Did the Party Go', the sound does start to sound similar now to the previous songs, great musically but not very exciting track. Foxes, an English singer, features on 'Just One Yesterday' and this freshens up the album no end. Her vocals alongside Stumps are brilliant and go so well together. Great lyrics and one of my favourites of this album. This track comes along at the right time on the album. Just as it starts sounding stagnant, this track brightens it up and gives it life.
Big Sean, an American hip hop dude, is featured next on 'The Mighty Fall'. He doesn't do much on the track other than rap. It's an okay track and when the chorus gets going it's one of those songs that you can't help but nod along to. 'Miss Missing You' isn't as heavy on the beat as the all the other songs, more lighter and a great tune. The slight change in tempo and bass over the last couple of tracks helps the album trickle on nicely.
Straight back into the heavy beat with 'Death Valley' but refreshed with an added bit of synth in one part of the song that goes really well with the rest of the song. Top track and great to listen too. 'Young Volcanoes' is a song I really enjoy to listen too. Just a pure track without added heavy bass or too much heavy instrumentals. Just Patrick and his great voice mixed with great lyrics. Definitely a track that always makes me smile and feel good.
Courtney Love is the next featured artist on 'Rat a Tat'. I actually like the lyrics of this track, ones that just stick in your mind and you always sing along too. This is back to the quick tempo heavy bass, a song you can imagine turning up and just sitting back and listening too. Courtney Love doesn't do much other than talk and sing a little but she is an alright addition and adds to make a quality song.
Last track and another featured artist, Elton John. Yes, from Courtney Love to Sir Elton John! 'Save Rock and Roll' wraps up the same titled album with a slower feel to it that then turns into some sort of ballad in parts. Patrick and Sir Elton's vocals actually work okay together and make this quite a decent end to the album. Definitely different to the rest of the album but still keeps that FoB feel to it.
1. The Phoenix
2. My Songs Know What You Did in The Dark
3. Alone Together
4. Where Did The Party Go
5. Just One Yesterday
6. The Mighty Fall
7. Miss Missing You
8. Death Valley
9. Young Volcanoes
10. Rat a Tat
11. Save Rock and Roll
Conclusion: I'm not a fan that religiously buys FoB music, I just find there songs so catchy and great to this too. This album is no different in that sense but musically it is different to there previous work. It really feels like they mixed it up to try and take it to the next level and away from there previous stuff. In some tracks, it really does work and submersing yourself into that heavy beat is fantastic. But other tracks, just don't sound as good. This is a good album but there isn't anything extraordinary about it. I still enjoy listening to the songs and will continue to. Stand out tracks are: Just One Yesterday, Young Volcanoes and The Phoenix. To be honest, I would just buy this album for those three songs as they three quality songs and in a way, showcase the different ways they can write and produce yet still create brilliant music.
Fall Out Boy are back and other than a stutter in parts of the album, it quickly re-found its feet with fantastic music, great melodies and lyrics beautifully sung by Patrick. I go this album for a fiver from Amazon and is a bargain for that price. It is currently (Jan 2014) the same price for an Amazon mp3 download.
Japan, 1996, the birth of a new craze was born. It did not reach European shores until 1999, but when it did a new era was created for young children and parents alike. Starting off with these two games, the series has spawned 21 games (23 if you include Pokémon Pinball and Pokémon trading card game). To date, this is one of the best selling and greatest video game series ever. From these 2 games, a legend was born...
Story: Starting out in Pallet Town, Kanto region, your characters home town. You go exploring in the tall grass only to be stopped by Professor Oak, the brilliant and famous Poké researcher, who warns you about the dangers of tall grass when you have no Pokémon to defend you. Professor Oak brings you to his laboratory and you meet his grandson, another aspiring trainer and who becomes one of your greatest rivals. You are asked to choose a starter Pokémon, with each one having there own positive and negative attributes as well as weakness and strength against other types of Pokémon.
You will travel along the land, searching far and wide. To teach the Pokémon, the power they have inside. Starting with your starter Pokémon, you battle to capture more Pokémon so you are able to create a team of Pokémon and defeat the Gym bosses to gain badges all in your quest to beat the elite four and become the ultimate Pokémon master. Have you got the skills the to be number 1?!
Visuals: So a game from back in 1999 on the Game Boy, your thinking poor pixelated graphics and rubbish visuals. Nope! We have Pokémon which are well drawn, towns looking although a little flat but never less still bubbling with atmosphere and also all the different areas/terrain so uniquely created. The caves, water and the insides of buildings, each having there own cleverly constructed puzzles. Simple and yet still magical to this day.
Audio: Even to this day I can hear all the music to these games in my head. The start up tunes, the battle noises, the sound when they evolved and right down to the different tunes you got for each City or Town. I have played many handheld games in the past and found the music and sound effects to be more of a hindrance or studios not taking much time on them. But with this, they put in the time and effort and got rewarded with a soundtrack that I guarantee, most now early twenty year olds will know. Just hearing those sounds takes me back to being 9 again and exploring the Pokémon world for the first time ever.
Gameplay: Exploring the region that is Kanto brings you face to face with wild Pokémon and your fellow Poké trainers. The main frame of the game is quite simple, use your Pokémon to capture wild Pokémon to create an undisputed team. A team consists of 6 Pokémon, but you are able to capture many more to be stored away. With this team you battle other trainers for rewards and at Gyms, you fight the Gym leaders for Gym badges and different moves. Without getting too complicated, I will try to explain how the basics work! Every time one of your Pokémon fights in a battle and wins, they earn XP which are experience points. After you receive so many XP, you level up and can learn new moves and when you reach some levels and depending on which Pokémon you are using, they will evolve.
Now there are different types of Pokémon and Pokémon can only learn certain types of moves. For example take a fire type like Charmander, he cannot learn water cannon because water and fire do not mix! Now with these different types of Pokémon, this leaves you with some that are vulnerable to certain types. Back to Charmander, the fire type, if he was battling against Squirtle, a water type, he would lose as water does damage to fire and not the other way around. So with these different types of Pokémon you have to create a team that compliments each ones different weakness and strengths. I love this part of the game where you have to work out whose best facing who, especially when it comes to the Gym and the later bosses battles. The battle themselves aren't in fact what they sound like. You pick a move and execute it, then they pick one and do there thing. It may sound monotonous but it isn't at all. As you advance and your Pokémon level up, each battle becomes more exciting and fun.
There are 151 Pokémon to capture but some are only available in Red and some only in Blue. Now could say that was just a marketing ploy to get more money but it didn't bother me. I have both games and whilst I played one, my brother played the other and with the brilliant trading you could do between 2 Game Boys by linking with a cable, I could get the Pokémon unavailable in my version. The Pokédex is what holds all the information you will need about the Pokémon. It also updated every time you ran into a new Pokémon and caught one. You also can collect and find new moves as well but you have to choose wisely with which Pokémon gets which move as you only get one chance with each TM move. Howerver, with the HM moves, you can use them as many times you wish too but once a HM move is learnt, the Pokémon can never learn another move to lose it. Pokémon can have up to 4 moves at a time.
The controls are simple and seriously easy to use but let you express what you wish to do quite well. Flicking between menus, scrolling your Pokédex and exploring the environments around you.
Conclusion: Pokémon, without it my childhood would of been a lot less fun but the parents wallets would of had a lot more money in them! I went the whole hog, games, trading cards, books, tv series and even t-shirts. They created this fantastic fantasy world where wonderful relationships came to the fore point. You came to care for your Pokémon deeply and it helped you, as a child, to understand the big wide world. Okay, I am getting philosophical about a children's game but this was more than a game, it had greater meaning to it. I mean, if this wasn't the case then how come 14years down the line, people from my generation, now early 20 to mid 20 year olds, are still buying Pokémon and playing it. The proof is there and all over the internet.
I have lost count the number of times I have played these games but I will never grow old of them either. All the different elements keep you addicted, from the story itself, the journey, the capturing of Pokémon and the battles themselves. Not forgetting the fantastic audio as well and the wonderfully created visuals. These games are classics and legendary but at the same time, my nostalgia does not cloud my judgement. This is where it begun and where they created a series which will live on forever. If you want to become the best Pokémaster, then this is where you should begin. You will not be disappointed, I can guarantee that!
Available in a used condition (the only way you will find them now) on eBay for under a tenner.
In 2010, a Manchester duo going by the band name Hurts hit our airwaves and tv screens with an explosions of beautiful melodies and tunes so classic, original but still modern. With influences of the Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and the Human League, Hurts brought us a 80's sound but still kept a modern twist. Could the good 80's sound be keep as true to the original and mixed with a modern sound to grab today's listeners? Well yes it can and I know this because this album shows how it can be done and yes, they created this masterpiece of a debut album called Happiness.
Hurts are made up of the spine tingling voice that is Theo Hutchcraft and the synthesist, Adam Anderson. Creating an amateur video for there single 'Wonderful Life' and uploading it to Youtube opened the world to there mesmerising songs and the hypnotic voice of Theo. The video went viral and a few months later they signed for Sony. As they say, the rest is history...
The booming beat of 'Silver lining' and the silky vocals of Theo grab hold of you and mix in the brilliant lyrics has you drowning in musical bliss from the very beginning. As an opening track, it really sets you up for the brilliance that follows. 'Wonderful life' holds an addictive beat with yet again lyrics that rumble in your head for a long time to come. This track does have a distinct 80's underlay for me, the synth sound that runs through it but it doesn't feel over the top, just perfectly done.
'Blood, Tears & Gold' has a romantic cry to it with a more slower feel to it and the lyrics resonating off the synth beat. The piano music at the end wraps this track up perfectly. 'Sunday' brings us back to a faster beat but still with the lyrics yearning for love. Although this isn't a cheesy pop track, this is a brilliant track filled with even more synth brilliance. In case you haven't noticed by this point, if you don't like synth sound, then this isn't the album for you. However, the tracks are so well sung, written and produced, I think this album could be the one to win you around.
'Stay' is one of my favourite tracks, opening with Theo's smooth vocals before the chorus booms in with the help with backing vocals. This tracks music is fantastic and so consuming. Even though the lyrics are about gloomy, depressing stuff, it is so beautifully created and sung that you can't help but feel elevated by this song.
'Illuminated', now this is the track where it all begun with me. This track was used heavily in Sky1's autumn drama campaign in 2010 and from the first time I heard it I knew I had to find out more about Hurts. This sensational piece of music deserves nothing less than getting played loud and you just falling into this void where nothing else matters, just this track playing over and over. Theo's voice really shines for me in this one and the lyrics really do grab you and don't want to let go.
'Evelyn' is a song that again is so catchy and again so intense lyrically and musically. As the album goes on, Theo's voice becomes more and more powerful but in a more emotional sense than any other. It's hard to say what is a stand out track on an album full of brilliance but another one of my favourites. 'Better Than Love' is very much the opposite of every track on here. Much faster, much more upbeat feel to it and very much oozes 80's through every note.
'Devotion', a track that caused the original album to recalled after not believing they had any hope of getting Kylie on board. Well she loved there sound and agreed so a hasty retreat back to the recording studio with Kylie brings us to another tale of love in this electro-ballad. With Theo's and Kylies vocals, this track really is delicate in it's sound. I'm not a Kylie fan but she sounds brilliant on this track and enhances Theo's voice to even better levels. Catchy, cracking beat and another awesome track.
'Unspoken', wow! This track blew me away with all its beauty. I have never heard a track so intense, so meaningful and just so superb. With orchestral backing, the lyrics beautifully written and sung with passion. This track is special and the instrumental interlude in the middle is so engrossing and enchanting. With this track put on your headphones, turn up the volume and feel yourself falling into something so near perfect, it can't be real.
'The Water', after the barnstorming previous song, it was always going to be hard to follow up and close there debut album. With this track they took a slower feel but still as soulful. The hidden track, 'Verona', regains the more vocal power of Theo's voice and is a fitting way to end the album.
Conclusion: This was my album of 2010. A polished, well presented piece of music that is created masterfully. Lyrically the tracks are all very meaningful and will have touched somebody at least once. You can draw parallels with some of the wording with real life and that makes the tracks even more deeper. Musically every tune is so impressive and captivating. Each track having there own unique sound but still keeping in with the synth sound. The mix of modern and flecks of 80's make such an exciting sound when done right and believe me, this is done so right. Finally the vocals, Theo's voice really does give you goose bumps when singing such rich lyrics. Without him this would of still be a good album but with him it exceeds it's level of exceptionalness.
This album reached only number 4 in UK chart which is crazy. This is quality British music at it's best. From start, middle and the end, this album will never leave your play list/cd player due too the sheer quality. For £5.28 (Oct 2013) for 12 tracks of total mind blowing brilliance, just buy it and become absorbed by there pure passion and belief in their music.
1. Silver Lining
2. Wonderful Life
3. Blood, Tears & Gold
8. Better Than Love
11. The Water
12/Hidden track. Verona
Gran Turismo, a long standing pillar in the racing simulator community for the Playstation consoles. This taster for the full game gave fans a chance to get back into the seat before the full title came out. But was it easy to handle or just never reaching top gear.
You start on 'My page', a personalised home menu which has various tabs to choose from: News (for updates and added content), GT-TV (to watch real car videos), Online (online gaming), Ranking (see how good you are per track and car), Arcade (just for fun), 2P battle (battle your mate), Event (this is where the fun is and I'll talk more detail lower down), Garage (where you keep your motors), Dealership (where you buy your motors), Replay, Options, Manual, Save.
Event is the career mode. Where you race to earn credits to buy new and better cars, to open up harder challenges. There are races for time trials, missions and championships which you compete against the computer controlled racers in various classes. You get rated in Gold, Silver and Bronze depending on how well you do. You also have three different classes (A,B & C), which are rated in difficulty terms.
Visuals: Wow! The cars really do look sexy in this game. So sleek, so realistic and just so much attention to detail. All the cars, which are licensed for the game, really are things of beauty. Being rational, this is probably the only time you (well, me) will drive a ferrari or Aston Martin around a track or street circuit. It's the visuals which make this game feel so real and take it to another level of adrenaline rush. I spoke about the details before but with functioning speedometers and odometers, the various camera angles you can use whilst driving, plus the ability to use your wing mirrors and rear view mirror to watch how your fellow competitors are doing behind you. Well whatever detail they could add, they did and created a game that any studios would be proud of. However, there are a couple of not so great stuff visually. When you crash into another car it is like nothing has happened, no damage and just has an arcade style feel to it. Also, some of the tracks surroundings do not look that great. It is a pity they didn't spend the same amount of time on this two things, especially the lack of car damage.
Audio: This is a racing game, so all you really want to hear is the purring of your engine as you put your foot down and head for the front. Gran Turismo Prologue does not let you down with the crisp exhaust sounds to the tyres squealing as you push them hard around a corner or bend. Beautifully done to go so well with the beautiful cars.
Gameplay: There are 6 tracks to race on, mixing rally, race tracks and street circuits. From the streets of London to Japan and even to North America to have fun on the Daytona International Speedway. The bowl that is Daytona, with its steep sides, show off the car physics built into the game so brilliantly. As you climb higher to pass your opponents, you feel the car getting pulled closer to the race wall as real physics kick in. The harder you push, the harder it is to keep control of your beast of a car and yet at the same time, the real thrill as you just keep control of your car, glancing off the wall and passing another car leaves you feeling so pumped. The controls are simple to pick up and it so easy to just start racing straight away.
Conclusion: You know you are going to get amazing looking games when it comes to the Gran Turismo series and this game doesn't disappoint. Add the audio of the purring car engines and you have your own Silverstone in your own front room. The game physics and realistic handling just make this so enthralling to play. The lack of car damage when crashing is a let down but the only negative amongst all the many positives. I actually got this game free as part of my console bundle when I got my PS3. Normally you get rubbish or never heard of before game titles but when I saw it was Gran Turismo I was surprised. Even though I did get it free, I would of paid out for this game anyway. It is an addictive game which caters for someone who likes an arcade style racer (pick up and play) and the more in depth racer who likes to read up on your cars horsepower and top speeds. This is a taster game, a game to wet the appetite and make you hungry for the full game. Well this concept did not totally work with me as I loved playing this game so much, I didn't feel the need to shell out for the full version.
A racing simulator that gets your heart pumping and adrenaline rushing through your veins. The best Gran Turismo game and the best racing sim I have played. As of October 5 2013, available on eBay for £7.93. A true bargain for a beautiful game.
Hitting the snow for some snowboarding fun, in 2008 Shaun White Snowboarding offered the chance for gamers to grab a board and hurl themselves down the edge of a mountain. But did this game leave us riding high or just heading down a very slippery slope.
Visuals: Unless your allergic to the colour white, this game really holds a brilliant looking environment. Mountains, cliff faces, log cabins and even ski resort buildings look really fantastic and incredibly realistic. Other than the trees, course markers and buildings everything else is white. I mean this is a snowboarding after all but the snow doesn't look flat like in other snowboarding games. Without sounding too weird, it does have a nice feel when boarding on in this game.
Audio: One of my favourite parts to this game is the cracking soundtrack of songs playing in the background as you are boarding down the mountain. There is a wide range of rock, indie and just generally some brilliant tunes. In a way, they have done what most gamers do when playing sports games, they do not listen to the game but listen to tunes. So instead of people sticking in headphones and listening to iPods, they have created there own great play list for the game soundtrack.
Gameplay: Grab your board and go, literally! If you just want to have some fun and try out some tricks it really is simple to just jump straight in. At the beginning of the game it helps you with all the different button configurations to pull off the different tricks. But don't worry too much about getting confused as it does not chuck in at the deep end and leave you muddled. It starts of off with the basics: jump, grind, grabbing your board. Then once they have been learned, it's only a simple additional button to pull off some great moves! You will fall over a lot but you dust yourself down and your off hurtling down a mountain or grinding again. One of the cool things I like with this game is the fact you can throw snow balls at the other snow boarders. You can even do it in a race to try and put them off.
The customisation is really in depth with being able to choose numerous items of clothing and your board designs, as well as unlocking other items with the money you have earned in game. There are different challenges on each level which range from winning a race, picking up the most trick points and to advance on the story, you have to collect coins that are found on each of the four mountains. Some are hard to reach and leave you working out how to reach them and it does change the game up a little rather than just boarding around aimlessly. But, I just like wondering around not actually doing anything in particular purely down to the nice slick controls and beautiful environment.
In case anyone is wondering, Shaun White is an American snowboarder and skateboarder. With two winter Olympic gold medals and loads of Winter X Games gold medals to his name. He is one of the best snowboarders around and most recognisable with his long red locks. Bit of pointless information, his nickname is the 'flying tomato'.
Conclusion: Visually beautiful, audio brilliant and controls slick and impressive. I really want to love this game but I just could not get into it at all. There wasn't that addictive feeling to play all the time like I have with other games. I would have an hour here and there but it just didn't grab me like I really hoped it would. It is an okay game to play but I don't get that buzz at all. It feels and plays like a game that is nicely polished on the outside but lacks the heart for a gamer. The difficulty of some of the challenges are a little annoying as well, so that does not help. In a way, this game could have been a great game. But to me, the lack of fun and uninteresting story/challenges leave you feeling direction less and a bit pointless playing it. They worked hard on the visuals but didn't put enough graft with the story. It was a disappointment but I'm still glad I bought it as visual affect, sound and the first hour or so of boarding around is quite cool. Games like this annoy me as I really want to like it but I just cannot. There isn't enough to this game and I'm glad I got it for a cheap price a few years back, as it wasn't worth its RRP.
In 2004, Eurocom brought us the next Spyro game, the fifth game overall. After Enter The Dragonfly's good attempt at recapturing the Spyro magic, could Eurocom's instalment spell disaster or go one step further and fill the ever lasting void of a long awaited, enchanting game...
Story: Back in the Dragon Realms and some peace for Spyro and Sparx to chill out. However, Spyro doesn't get much time off when it comes to fighting the bad guys and this time is no different. It's the turn of an Elder dragon gone bad after being banished from the Dragon Realms many years previous. Red wants revenge and he's bought along Gnasty Gnorc and his army of Gnorcs to aide him. Red uses the mysterious dark gems to drain the Elders and the Dragon Realm of all its life.
With more friends returning from previous games to help Spyro, can Hunter, the Professor, Sgt. James Byrd and a new friend in Blink. Spyro needs them all more than ever to defeat Red, Gnasty Gnorc and his army. Freeing Dragons, defeating the bad guys and saving the Realms, a piece of cake for Spyro...
Visuals: Spyro and is ever enchanting worlds in which he lives in are just as bright and colourful than all the previous games. Well drawn characters and well animated. With the big, daunting looking Red overshadowing all in his path and creating such a fearsome looking enemy, as a kid it worked in scaring me (just a little). Then on the other side of the bad guys, Gnasty Gnorc and his army, looking strong and formidable but yet drawn to just show yeah they are the muscle but clearly don't have the brains. Hunter, Blink, Sgt. Byrd and the Professor, as well the Elder Dragons, are so very well generated that they have such presence on the screen, especially the dragons. With the worlds and Realms, from the Atlantis feel to the Lost Cities Realm, the frozen world of the Icy Wilderness Realm and then finally to the Volcanic Isle. Each Realm has such distinction through the detailing, added little touches here and there. It is like stepping into a magical world where you don't want to leave. The best Spyro game visually in the series.
Audio: The same old cool sound affects are back, why change something that isn't broke? The soundtrack to Spyro games are normally a highlight and this game is no different. With the change in tempo in line with the story and the whole dreamy feel to the music, it just suits the whole Spyro world perfectly. Not the best soundtrack to a Spyro game but still a nice listen. The voice acting is again superb and with the well written script, there is some humour chucked in to an all ready fun game to play.
Gameplay: What's new in Spyro's armoury? Now we have fire bombs to literally spew out at the enemies. You can only carry a limited number of these at a time, so use wisely. You have the various breath types or fire, ice, water and electricity to enjoy breathing out. Each has there own use throughout the game to defeat certain enemies and solve the various puzzles along the way. There is still the ability to glide, although this has been changed slightly with the addition of the double jump ability which lets you gain more height and cover more distances when gliding. You can also hover as well now, which is another great change to the gameplay. Climbing up walls, swinging on poles, Spyro is just your average dragon to control.
Collecting gems was one of the main parts of the previous games stories but, this game uses gems as currency and so there isn't as much to find and you don't have to find them all to complete the game. You spend your gems at Moneybags stores to buy items to help you on your adventure. However, you do need to collect the dragon eggs and the light gems to progress with the story. You will revisit old places where there are higher platforms which you could not reach before, but now can with the new learned abilities you pick up during play. Plus, some areas will only open up when you collect so many light gems. So although the emphasis on gem collecting has gone, you do still still need to collect the light gems and dragon eggs.
With the return of previous characters and the addition of Blink, you can play as these guys as they can do stuff which Spyro cannot. I enjoy the little 'side' missions when playing as the different characters as it is fun playing with there different abilities to Spyro. It breaks up the game a little bit and in some ways, makes the story more interesting to explore the Realms through someone else's eyes to Spyro's.
Controls are just as simple and slick as before. Easy to pick up and learn, with information appearing on the screen telling you what buttons and when to push them to pull off a move, you really cannot go wrong. Whenever you pick up a new ability, you will get a the information screen every time and it does stay on there as long as you stand still.
Conclusion: Did Eurocom learn from Check Six Games previous instalment? Yes and a big yes indeed! In nearly all departments, this game was a major improvement on Enter The Dragonfly. Visually, this is the best Spyro game from the PS2 games and even though it was only two years after the last one, it really does look so much better. Not much has changed gameplay wise but with some simple yet clever new jumping, climbing and longer gliding abilities, this does add some freshness to what some people may say staleness to the Spyro games. Story wise it is fun to play and is well written and acted out. The only part I preferred in the previous game was the soundtrack. Even though A Hero's Tale does have a decent soundtrack, Enter The Dragonfly's just sounded more magical and enchanting.
All of Spyro's games are made for children (and big children), so they have to to certain extent, simple. From the controls to the story and gameplay. I play these games for fun and just a break from the more serious gaming that I do. Spyro: A Hero's Tale is a fun, charming, clever game that I won't ever get old of. It is one of the best Spyro games I have played and will continue to play every now and again. Nearly ten years on from it's first release, the kids of today will love this just as much I did way back then. This is Spyro of old and Spyro that you can never tire of. Another game, another adventure and Spyro back to his fire breathing best. Don't get burnt and miss out on this superb game.
2002 and two years after the conclusion of the original trilogy by Insomniac Games. Picking up the story after the Year of The Dragon, Check Six Games brings us a new adventure for Spryo and Sparx that sees them battling old foes. Can a little purple dragon win the battle again or will Ripto get his revenge!
Story: It's party time as the celebration for the young dragons rite of passage and the Grand Dragon Parade. With the addition of the new arrival of young dragonfly guardians for the young dragons, every dragon, young and old, is celebrating. Then, a bolt from the blue has a portal opens up and Ripto gatecrashes the party to exact his revenge! He attempts to capture the new young dragonfly guardians to weaken the young dragons but this is Ripto and he isn't very bright. His spell backfires and instead of capturing them all, the young dragonfly guardians become scattered throughout the Dragon Realm. It is up to Spyro and Sparx to find all the dragonfly guardians to help the young dragons to fulfil there destiny. Oh and deal with Ripto. Easy, right...
Visuals: Bright, eye opening environments to explore and just look at. You know from these type of graphics you are in for a really fun game and this doesn't disappoint. Created in 2002 for the PS2 and Gamecube, these are some nice quality visuals for the time. Characters are well drawn and do look just as good as the environments they are located in.
Audio: The best way to describe the background music is a pleasant sound and goes well with the magical, mystical world that Spyro inhabits. It isn't too samey and does not bore you at all, in fact it enhances the gaming experience. You get changes in tempo and tune in the different situations. More faster beat when your heading into trouble and a nice mellow tune when your just going around exploring or collecting gems. You have cool sound effects as well, the nice pinging of when you collect he gems or the noise when your running about on ram mode and even the sheep boinging sound. It's just all fun, pure and positive fun. The voice acting is again very well done and gives the story a fresh breath to it.
Gameplay: What I like with Spyro games is there is a mini tutorial at the beginning of play on every game. For the newbies to the Spyro series this is really handy and helpful. For the veterans of the Spyro series it is done so simple and quickly, that it will not bother you at all and is over in seconds. So they went for the quick and simple approach which I think is a clever way to keep both types of gamers happy. Controls are simple and easy to execute. The addition of having multiple breaths available to collect and use during play gives a nice change up to the normal fire breath. There is bubble to collect the dragonflies with, ice breath to freeze stuff and electric breath to shock your enemies. With the simple controls to toggle between the different breath's, it is so quick and easy to switch and no annoying menu screens. Plus there is the new deflect ability, Spyro can protect himself better than ever before.
The story for this game is to go and collect up all the dragonfly guardians that got blasted to different parts of the Dragon Realm. However, there is more to than just a simple dragonfly hunt! Just like before, collecting gems from off the ground, smashing the baskets to release more gems and even ramming a few sheep just for fun (okay there is a reason to ram them, they release the butterflies which Sparx needs for health points and extra lifes) or perhaps just to look/glide about the various levels. With a few mini-games scattered around various levels, there are some points to break up the dragonfly hunt and extend the game.
Conclusion: Check Six Games bought us the first attempt of the Spyro series post Insomniac Games era and I do go on about the games being developed by the different studios quite a bit, I know. But there is a reason for that and that is because true Spyro fans say that the original trilogy games are the only true Spyro games. Now I'm not as biased as them but I do compare post trilogy games because the original ones were basically what I spent most of my young childhood on and dreamt about living in Spyro's Dragon Realm, I probably played far too much as a kid but they were fun and beautiful games. Back to my point, Check Six Games did produce a very nice game and although not on par with the originals, in it's own right, Enter The Dragonfly is a very solid and fun game. With great music and simple but beautiful environments, this game brings me joy and my inner child out. It's comforting but never boring, it is Spyro not quite at his best but close to it.
You can buy used on eBay for cheap prices and if you have a PS2, I would recommend the harmless fun this game brings. Just sit back and watch the little purple dragon in is adventure, nothing is too big in scale for Spyro!
Released in 2008 by publisher and developer Level-5, Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the first in a trilogy of games. With an influx of the puzzle/work your brain games on the DS, this one took a different take on the genre. But could there strong narrative theme mixed with puzzles hit the spot?
Story: We join Professor Layton and his child side kick, Luke, on a mission to unravel the mystery of the golden apple. However, as the investigation begins, more funny going ons in the village of St Mystere leave the Professor and Luke asking more questions that finding answers. By completing puzzles to advance the story, will we find the answers in the end?
Visuals: From the opening video setting the scene, you know are just starting a visually magical game. The video itself looks like a really well drawn and created cartoon that you could be sitting watching on the telly and not in fact on your DS's small screen. The colourful environments, the added detail on the buildings around the village and of course when you venture inside these buildings, so much detail. It really has been created by a game studios wanting to show how much they care for the visual impact of a game. On to the characters, with each and everyone very distinct in there own right. They did not cut corners and just use a same face but with different clothes/hairstyle. All the characters are different and drawn in a way to give off clues of there personality before you talk to them. Like the harsh looking detective or the sweet but always walked over servant. This game was released in 2008 and still today really is amazing for the eyes to see. One of the best DS games visually.
Audio: No place to start other than the voice acting! The DS games I have played in the past very rarely have voice acting. I would assume that is down to the fact people hardly ever have the volume up when playing handheld games. Hmm, the best way to describe the voice acting as very Mary Poppins-esk. Now by that I'm talking Dick Van Dyke's dodgy Cockney accent. But these characters are not Cockney, no what I mean is it feels like they employed non British actors to do the voice acting and there accents sound really pretentious and just annoy the heck out of you. It is like the American view of how Brits sound, incredibly false and just not real. It is funny in the beginning but does become boring quite quickly. Just a quick bit of added information, the guy who plays the Professor is in fact American. There isn't much variety with the voice work either. After doing a puzzle and waiting for the answer, you get the same words spoken every time. 'Luke, here is my answer', can only be heard so often without wanting to tell the Professor to shut up. The actual soundtrack of the game is not of much interest. Again in the beginning it fits well with the genre and mood of the game but is very repetitive throughout.
Gameplay: With the main story of this game played via completing puzzles, the use or the stylus and touch screen has been very cleverly integrated to create a very fun game to play. For the puzzles this includes simple writing numbers, drawing circles or lines and moving items about. It's simple, easy and really does make you feel you are completing an actual puzzle in front of you and not on a DS screen. Exploring the village is a very different and sadly more boring to complete. It is basically a quick click on the shoe icon and arrows will appear and you click on the arrow of where you wish to venture. I am glad it isn't slow in between areas and there isn't lots of scrolling to do but it does feel a bit tedious when you compare it to the clever stylus use in the puzzles.
There are 135 puzzles to complete of varying difficulty and nature. The mixture of the different puzzles and having none which are exactly the same really is refreshing. They took there time and created a great compendium of puzzles that leaves you feeling 2 ways: happy or very frustrated. These puzzles are not a walk in the park. Some of them are perplexing and work the old brain quite hard. Now I do like a challenge but when you come across a particular hard one, it does leave me frustrated and wishing to hurl my DS away in annoyance. Obviously I would never do that to my DS, but who wants to play a game that makes you feel inferior due too being unable to answer a complex puzzle. There are hints available for every puzzle but you need to pay for them with hint coins. Hint coins are found hidden around the village but there is only a limited number, so use them wisely. There are occasions where it feels they chucked in a puzzle just for the sake of it. There is actually a part of the story where Luke says along the lines of; why are we doing a puzzle when someone has just been murdered?! This did make me laugh as I thought exactly the same.
Conclusion: My brother brought this game when it first came out in 2008 and we share each others games to cut down on costs. I do really enjoy the visuals of this game, especially the cut scenes that are really beautifully done. The use of stylus and touch screen for the puzzles make the puzzles feel more enjoyable and more hands on. But with some of the puzzles you feel you have to be some type of genius just to complete them. I'm all for a handful perhaps near the end being hard, so that you are built up for the sudden onslaught on your brain. With there being no rhyme or reason with the order with the puzzles, you can go to a real easy one onto an excruciatingly hard one next, it disrupts the flow and your time playing. Getting stuck on a puzzle is boring and brings your game to a halt whilst you either give up, cheat or guess the right answer.
I would recommend this game for adults and quite smart ones at that. However, I'm not sure if the visuals will suit the older generations. But unless you have a genius for a child or teenager, there isn't much point buying this game.
Spyro, the little purple dragon that started gracing our screens back in 1998. Insomniac Games, the creators that bought us the amazing original trilogy of games, left this series along time. Fastforward to 2005 and for this game, Spyro was in the hands of Amaze Entertainment. But was the little purple dragon struggling under a different studio or was he still kicking butt, dragon style!
Story: Nothing is easy in life when it comes to Spyro! Even on his holiday the bad guys are out for trouble. Lazing on the beach, Spyro falls asleep unaware that a dark storm arrives and traps everyone within the Dragon Realms, Avalar and the Forgotten Realms in a dimension called the Shadow Realm. With Sparx for company, Spyro sets out on an adventure to save his friends and the Dragon Realms. Learning magic and mastering the dragon martial art of dragon-kata to help him crush the bad guys and get rid of the Shadow Realm. All in a days work for Spyro...
Visuals: This 2005 game does bring some well drawn and created graphics. The vibrancy of all the characters and the beautiful environment you play in really are a great positive. The character animations are very well done and do make for some nice gaming moments. The buildings themselves do look very two dimensional and you do feel they didn't put in a lot of effort on them.
Audio: The audio has something quite enchanting to it and does go really well with the whole fantasy/magical world in which Spyro's adventures all take place. Before the dark magic arrives and the Shadow Realm takes over, you have that happy everything is awesome beat to the music. Soon as the badness arrives, the music changes and you feel the darkness take over as the reality of Spyro's new adventure comes ahead. The audio really is good and I do enjoy listening to it when I play the game. It's a welcome break to hear some nice audio for a DS game, especially for one from so long ago (2005).
Gameplay: Oh boy, where to beginning! Scrolling, scrolling and yep, let's do more scrolling! Takes an age to get anywhere in this game so exploring the nice environment does become a chore, even when charging instead of just walking. Everything feels so slow and just takes away so much from the game, it really is disappointing. Unfortunately the controls are not much better with important actions being executed on the same button, this leads to even more frustration as you go to open a door and you will breath fire instead. You have to be on the exact right spot to open the doors but even then when pressing the action button you will open the door but will still breath the fire. Whoever thought you should have important actions for the same button has clearly never played a game before. Such amateurish behaviour does make you wonder about the quality of the game studios back then.
The use or lack of use of the touch screen is again disappointing. It is used as the menu to inform you of how many jewels, eggs, keys you have and items you have picked up along your journey. There is also a map of the islands and shows what outstanding missions you have. As well has having the upgrade screen to show your current level and how long to go until your next level up. Finally it has the magic screen where this actual has an important use in the game. You have to draw set symbols depending on what magic spell you want to use. Now this draw the magic symbol does feel that someone said at the studios 'let's think of a way to use the touch screen without putting much thought in to it'. It really feels like a last gasp thought to just appease the touch screen ability of the console.
Conclusion: Oh Spyro, what have they done to you... I have played Spyro games over the years on all different platforms (Playstation, PS2, GBA & DS) and he's one of the characters I can relate to playing as when I was a child. The cool little purple dragon along with his dragonfly called Sparx, saving the dragon world one step at a time. So as a fan of the little guy I was incredibly disappointed with this game. Everything felt so slow, so boring and just so uninteresting. Yes the original elements were still there with the collecting gems and dragon eggs and even the cool animations when Spyro flies, fire breathing is decent. The characters themselves do look good and the audio works perfectly within the fantasy set game. However, the story, the gameplay and the controls, including the under use of the touch screen, fill you with frustration and sometimes anger. The constant need to spam buttons when battling enemies is not something you find in a Spyro game but for some reason, the game studios opted for this type of style when it comes to attacking.
The very essence of Spyro game feels lost with this one. Sloppiness by the creators on many different issues leaves you feeling blue for Spyro. I will always love Spyro but this game is poor and no nostalgia can make up for this underwhelming game. A sad day in the Spyro Realm.
In 2006, Nintendo opened up the Animal Crossing world to the DS gamers. With it making it's debut on the Gamecube, could a move to the handheld system be just as fun or would it lose that carefree feel.
Story: This open-ended game begins with you creating your human character to move into a village populated with humanised animals. You spend your days collecting items, fishing, catching insects, digging up fossils and talking with your fellow villagers. They will send you on errands, give you items and genuinely do not make sense most of the time. You can earn money to buy items for your house, new clothes and house extensions.
Visuals: Graphics are cartoonish but aren't too babyish at all. Everything is bright and just looks fun to play with in the environment. There not really great detail but this game doesn't need that. It just needs well functioning graphics and this game does hold that.
Audio: Mundane and dreary is how I would describe the music to this game. Nothing exciting or adding anything to the game either. The noise the characters make when talking can be funny sounding when you speed it up.
Gameplay: This game is synchronised with your DS's clock and calender which gives you real time play. This means in game you will be the same time as it is in non-gaming world. If you are playing at 9pm at night, it will be 9pm in the game world. Exactly the same with what season you are playing in. If you are playing in December, there will in snow on the ground in the game. I really like the use of real time play with this game as it adds to the realistic feel and just makes it a lot more fun to play. I mean you can go and plant a tree in your in-game garden and go do it in real life as well if you want. The real time play is the main part of the story for this game and without it, it would feel boring and lack direction.
The bulk of this game is spent collecting or catching items. Catching the insects is fun to do and so is catching the fish. It is simple once you get the knack of hitting the action button at the right time. Going around shaking trees for there fruits and other hidden treasures can seem a little boring. Although running away from the impending doom of a beehive attack adds more than a little excitement! Going around digging random whole to find fossils is again a bit repetitive. However, I like the fact I can take them to the town museum to be created in the shape of the said dinosaur! Same with the aquarium full of the fish I have caught and the insect room.
Controls, or lack of use of the touch screen feature of the DS. You use the D-pad to move your character about and the shoulder buttons to speed up how fast you walk. Touch screen is used for navigating the menus only. I feel they could of used the touch screen to be more useful and give a more positive gaming experience.
Conclusion: I did play the first Animal Crossing game for the Gamecube and enjoyed it. That is why I forked out for this when it first came out on the DS back in 2006. I have spent many hours/days/weeks playing this game, trying to collect all the insects, fish and fossils. This game did not disappoint at all but I do now feel that I'm older, I don't get the same satisfaction or enjoyment playing it. Perhaps the repetitive nature isn't for me any more or perhaps I just don't enjoy the Animal Crossing world now. This is still a good, fun game but just not one for the older me. I had so much fun playing it a few years back but have definitely grown out of this game. I would recommend it for teenagers as that was when I loved to explore the village and meet the strange animal characters.
2005 and THQ bring you the chance to own your very own zoo whenever and where ever. But did this ported version bring the same old zoo magic or did it leave you wanting for a lion to eat your game through frustration (okay a little extreme...)
Story: So it is your job to build up a zoo, keep the animals happy, keep the visitors coming through the gates and them happy as well. It is just like all the other Zoo Tycoon games with meeting goals and completing scenarios and hopefully having fun building the ultimate zoo.
Visuals: Very poor and quite childish graphics. I mean it reminds me very much of a GBA game I played a number of years back which yeah back then looked cool. But this was a 2005 game here on the DS and not a GBA game from a few years before. You cannot actually see the animals or people clearly due too the such lack of quality of the graphics. Everything looks bright and lacks details so you can guarantee a headache would be imminent if you played a session of this game.
Audio: I have no idea what they have done to the game series them tune which you hear on all their PC games. But with this version, it sounds like they have butchered the perfectly decent electro beat infused theme to an annoying, horrible rip off. During the game it self there is actually no music, no tune, it's just completely quiet. This doesn't bother me as I hardly ever play with the volume up but for people that want to have a deeper gameplay experience, perhaps adding animal sounds and a nice background music wouldn't of been hard at all.
Gameplay: There are two playing options: tutorial and scenario, freeform. Tutorial and scenario start with the tutorial, explaining controls and how the game works. You start off with a zoo with some exhibitions and animals. There are various objectives to meet to advance through the levels and scenarios. Some objectives are usually revolved around the same thing: breeding certain animals, buildings exhibits and keeping animal happy for a certain length of time. With the scenarios, they do get harder as you progress but in all truth, they are quite easy to do if you wish to complete the scenario section of the game. There are 15 scenarios in this game and 3 tutorial scenarios to help you get started and use to the interface.
Freeform is basically you choose from the 20 different zoo templates, which come in different sizes and biomes (grass field, savannah, artic etc). Then once you pick the template you want, you essentially have a blank canvas to do what you want with your new zoo. You can also set how much money you start off with your zoo, depending if you want to start with less and make it a challenge to earn cash. Or you can start off with lots of money and just make a way over the top zoo.
This is basically zoo tycoon 1 from the PC on the DS. It has the same set up visually (although poorer graphics) using the same look over the top view down on the zoo. However the controls, especially the need to use the d-pad to scroll, are incredibly frustrating. The lack of use of the innovative technology on offer by the DS affects the players fun and experience of the game. The menus do look clear, simple and hold all the information you want about your zoo.
Conclusion: I have played all the Zoo Tycoon games available on PC, so back in 2005 when I saw a DS version of the game I jumped at the chance and received it as present that year. To say I was disappointed after playing it several times is an understatement. Now firstly Zoo Tycoon 1 was never a totally brilliant sim but it was enjoyable, fun and great to play. This on the other hand felt like the game studios knew they had the audience there to pump out a poor game and yet reap in the profit. Just by the looks of it you can tell they didn't put thought, energy (or cash probably) into the visuals. The poor controls make it such an annoying game to play. Then to top it all, your only allowed one save game! Yep, that means you are only allowed to play one zoo at a time otherwise you will have to wipe all your hard work building up a zoo if you wish to play another.
This could of been a great game to play and instead they created this poor game. It is very limiting in terms of what you can create in your zoo and with the controls it offers. If you are a fan of the Zoo Tycoon series like me I would say do not get this game. In fact it feels like someone made a rip off of a Zoo Tycoon game and the game studios put there name on it. A hugely disappointing game and feels like a massive kick in the teeth to the fans of the series with the lack of care shown by the games maker.
Bomberman. The crazy little dude who drops bombs. Hmmm, that just doesn't sound right these days... In 2005, the long running Bomberman series was introduced to the DS for the first time. He's come a long way since his first outing in 1983, but can it still hold the fun factor 22 years later.
Story: You take the reigns as Bomberman and in his fight against the bad guys. With the ability to create bombs in his hands and with strategic placement of the bombs, hopefully you blow the bad guys away without getting in the way yourself! You also will need to blow up the blockades to find items and the level exit.
Visuals: The opening video is nicely drawn and presented. Really crisp and bright and a welcoming invite at the start of the game. The levels themselves look again bright and fun to play. Everything looks great for its age (2005) and well designed.
Audio: I would describe the music from this game as a very old school Gameboy feel. Really nostalgic ridden vibe but obviously slightly different on the old games. But I like it and it adds to the all ready there history of this series.
Gameplay: So there is 10 levels with 10 stages per level, which makes for 100 stages of different puzzles and bomb fun! Bomberman has stuck to its original roots with this game. After all there is no point fixing a formula when it still works! You still have to clear each stage of bad guys and the various blockades with you bombs! This game is about strategy as you need to think on your feet where you are next going to place a bomb and where you can move yourself out of the way of the area it affects when exploding. Plus throw in the bad guys moving around each stage, it makes for a fun and interesting game!
The touch screen is non-existent in this game. It's basically used as the menu and when you wish to use items you have found. Taking into the account this was one of the early DS games and so didn't have much time to develop more or probably knew how too at the time make use of the touch screen, I will cut it some slack. But it does basically feel like a Gameboy or GBA game with the top screen used for play and the D-pad used for movement and 'A' button as the action/drop the bomb button.
The multiplayer mode I cannot comment on as I have never played it. However, the way they made it so that you only needed one player with the game but still ment that eight people could battle it out was a very good and clever idea!
Conclusion: I played my first Bomberman game on the Gameboy I believe, was awhile ago that is for sure. You know what you are getting with a Bomberman game every time. A fun, quality puzzle game which makes you think. They haven't changed the gameplay much over time. Obviously with better consoles and technology the visuals have improved but the majority of it has stayed the same. Not forgetting the ultimate goal of blowing up the bad guys and clearing the blockades to find the exit. As you progress the levels will become harder and this does freshen up the game a bit. Some people will get bored with the repetitive nature of the levels and gameplay. But this is an atypical Bomberman game and is for a casual player than a hardcore one. I like to swap and change the games I play to give me a break from storyline driven games. Games like Bomberman DS give me an opportunity to take that break yet still have a fun game to play. If you fancy having a quick casual play of a game and a trip back to childhood memories, Bomberman DS has both of these and still never feels old or worn. Just don't stand too close to the bomb otherwise bye bye Bomberman...
Another Sims game, another chance to control/ruin someones life! This time we are in Strangetown and yes, just as it sounds, it really is a funny place. EA brings the hit PC game to the small screen of the DS. But life isn't all as it seems in Strangetown. Just what is going on?!
Story: After a car crash you arrive at Strangetown to be welcomed by an old dude who lets you know your car is in bad shape. He lets you know there is a hotel in Strangetown and recommends you stay there whilst your car gets fixed. Okay, lets agree with this complete stranger in this weird town and go to the hotel as he said too. Can't see how anything bad is going too happen... When you enter this hotel you find out the hotel manager left the day before and on the reception desk there is a letter addressed to you. (Okay, now its getting weirder.) When you read the letter, it informs you that you're the new hotel manager! Now seriously, what is going on?!
It's up to you to keep the hotel running smoothly and the rather random guests happy. With improvements available and furnishings to buy for the rooms, you think its going to be easy. But this Strangetown....
Visuals: This game delivers okay graphics for a 2005 DS game. So the Sims themselves look a bit fuzzy and you can't see the finer detail. The buildings and objects look incredibly blocky. But to be honest, who cares? This game was never going to be about good graphics. For the purpose of this game and with it being from 2005, I would say they are good graphics and visuals, nothing fancy. Just don't expect some beautiful, clear environment but instead, expect good functional graphics.
Audio: This has your typical Sim type music. The electric slow melodies that you basically hear on every Sim game. However, in the intro it does have a more heavy music, which is refreshing to hear something different. But the rest is just the usual handheld run of the mill sounds. Nothing of interest or importance for the game. Average when it comes to audio for this game.
Gameplay: Unlike other Sims games this is set in real time. This mean that the game continues to play even when you aren't. Just like Animal Crossing, the game never stops. Now this does add to the realism but can be annoying if you don't play the game everyday. Why? Simply because if you leave the game for awhile rubbish will build up in the hotel and the guests will start hating you. Some people may like it but for this game, I just dislike the use of real time play. However, there is some use for this and it does intertwine with the story and gameplay. For example, when guests are leaving on specific dates, the shop changes items each week and items are found around your hotel at specific times. So it can be annoying but it's a must for the game.
Lets talk touch screen and controls! Touch screen is mostly used for the mini games and when socialising. With the mini games you can use a metal detector in the desert to find treasure, use a vacuum around your hotel to find money and other items, draw your own masterpieces to hang in the hotel gallery to sell, record some music and even become the town's superhero! There isn't an over use of the touch screen in this game and they use it okay. Not really adding much to the game but it does make the play a little more interesting.
The whole point of this game is to make money and bring the hotel and town back to life. There are various ways to earn the money so you won't get bored doing the same thing to earn the Simoleons. Via the mini games I mentioned above, selling items you don't need, earning Simoleons by cheering up or calming down people and the obvious one, getting guests to stay at your hotel. You need to run errands for your guests, keep the hotel clean, invest and build extensions for your hotel.
The way socialising is done on this game is simple yet well worked. With different options available to click on: discussing errands, completing missions, talking and giving gifts. The mood bar for each character gives you a quick and clear indication on how they feel towards you. The use of the touch screen comes into it when you interact with them. There mood will be shown via different colours and there are three different forms of action to chose to settle them down or whatever is up with them. This system does work well and easy to understand and at the same time, doesn't take up too much time or bore you. You have to watch the characters body language to see if you picked the right option. Again, another little realistic simple but good touch.
Conclusion: This is a typical Sims game in being addictive to play and the way to customise your hotel. But at the same time, it is totally barmy with the strange storyline, the fun/crazy alien laser gun battles and when you become a superhero to fight crime, aka the Ratticator! This game doesn't take itself seriously and does make for quite a ridiculous but fun game to play. I don't think I have played such a weirder game with all the different goings on in Strangetown! At the base of the game the whole building and controlling a Sim does remain. They just refreshed up the game with the extras and it did make the game more interesting. The mini games are fun to do and do mix up the game if you want a change of pace.
The Sims 2 DS isn't ground breaking in any sense of the word but it is fun to play and nice to escape to this weird town to explore the desert and battle the aliens. The graphics and audio are of the typical average kind for the DS at the time, but the content and storyline is what makes it different to other games. This is a kind of game where some people playing will stop after one play as they don't like or get the weirdness side of it. Then others will just like the sheer randomness and will keep on playing. Now I like randomness. Games that are different, unique from the usual stuff make for an interesting play. This game is pretty close to being too weird for my liking but with the mix of basic Sim gameplay (controlling your Sim, socialising and building/furnishing your hotel) it just keeps it ticking over to a not too extreme level. They combine the two elements well to keep the game ticking over nicely. I enjoyed playing this game and would recommend it, but I know it will not suit everyone's taste. Just watch out for the aliens and robots...