Posts Tagged ‘Busy Gamer review’

Game Review: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions swings in at a Busy Gamer 4

First Glance:
A new standalone Spider-Man video game title from Activision aside from the movie tie-in games.


Short Story:
The sinister master of illusion, Mysterio, is in the process of stealing the Tablet of Chaos and Order, a mystical artifact able to give its holder unlimited power. Luckily, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man shows up in the nick of time to thwart Mysterio’s evil plan. Unfortunately, in the process of stopping Mysterio, the Tablet gets shattered into multiple pieces. Madame Webb appears and informs Spider-Man that the pieces have been scattered among four different dimensions, and the Spider-Man from each dimension must work together to reassemble the Tablet before the dimensions are destroyed.

The Score:
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimension was an absolute delight. Featuring a great original story and a wonderful combination of cell shaded comic book style graphics and wonderfully detailed scenery, Spider-Man is a great title to play. At times, the levels can get a bit lengthy, but over all, it’s a pretty quick game and it has a great replay value. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimension gets a Busy Gamer 4.

Body of Review:
First of all, I am a HUGE Spider-Man fan. Spidey is my all-time favorite super hero, so when a movie or game comes out that features the wall crawler, I’m there. And this game, by far, is the best Spider-Man game I’ve played. The story itself is so original and so good, and it’s a way to get fans of Spider-Man who aren’t familiar with any other Spider-Man book besides The Amazing Spider-Man exposed to the other Spidey universes. As I said in my quick synopsis of the story, you play as four different Spider-Men. You have the Spider-Man that everyone knows, The Amazing Spider-Man (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris), the younger Ultimate Spider-Man (who wears the dreaded Black Suit, but Madame Webb has prevented the suit from trying to bond with Peter Parker until the deed is done), Spider-Man Noir(who comes from an alternate dimension set in the 1930′s. This Spider-Man primarily sticks to the shadows and uses stealth to his advantage.) and finally, the Spider-Man of the year 2099 (who is the only one of the four Spider-Men who is NOT Peter Parker). Assuming that the 2099 Spider-Man is the Spider-Man of the potential future, it is impossible for this Spider-Man to be Peter Parker, unless Peter Parker was cryogenically frozen and awaken in the year 2099, but that’s a little farfetched even for a comic book… or is it? The 2099 Spider-Man is a man by the name of Miguel O’Hara, who is an employee for the Alchemex Corporation. Alchemex started dealing in gene splicing and tried to splice human DNA with that of the DNA of a previous Spider-Man in order create an army, but no subject has survived the process. Miguel somehow becomes part of the experiment and manages to survive, and now he possesses the same powers of Peter Parker. He now uses his power to take down his former employers.

Classic web-swingin', butt-kickin' goodness

Each Spider-Man has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Out of all four Spider-Men, The Amazing Spider-Man is pretty much your all around Spider-Man, he’s got the perfect combination of power, speed and agility then the other three. Ultimate Spider-Man is a little more powerful because of the Black Suit and he has the ability to go into rage mode which deals more damage to enemies, but his health regeneration can be a little slow. Spider-Man Noir is not great with hand to hand combat and taking on enemies with guns, which is why he works best at stealth attacks and sticks to the shadows. To make up with his inability to take gunfire well, Noir has uncanny health regeneration. And the Spider-Man of 2099 is extremely quick and agile and has the ability to slow things down to dodge gunfire and homing missiles, but his attacks can be a little weak.

Each level takes place in a different dimension and features a different Spider-Man. And along with a different Spider-Man, comes each dimension’s take on classic Spider-Man villains. For me, my favorite villains were the ones portrayed in the Noir levels. They really brought a sense of realism to the villains back story, and it really shows how sinister and gruesome, twisted and demented the villains are. The villains in the Noir dimension are all carnival sideshow freaks who start a crime syndicate. In the Noir story line, the Vulture is the man that kills Uncle Ben, and not only does he kill him, he eats Uncle Ben alive, so that’s the idea that of what things are like in the Noir world. You will encounter every classic villain in the Spider-Man universe. Everyone from the master hunter Kraven, to the embodiment of fear and evil Carnage, the clinically insane Deadpool, and, of course, in the end, Mysterio.

Probably the coolest things about the game is that at certain parts during the levels, there are sequences where the camera will go to a third person over the shoulder view while Spidey is walking around and there is walking dialogue being spoken. Not only that, but certain cut scenes will take you into a first person view of Spidey and you’ll see what he sees as his villains attack him head on. What I really enjoyed during some boss fights is that for some bosses, they will go into a first person view as Spider-Man goes hand to hand with his enemy, and during these sequences, you get to dodge attacks and punch out your enemy. I really enjoyed those sequences because you get to see the detail on the bossesí faces and every time you punch them in the face, they usually have something to say about said punch to the face.

The best thing about the game though… Spidey’s wise cracks. I’ve noticed what was missing in the movies and some of the recent games was the lack of Spider-Man’s classic wise cracks and trash talking while he fights. In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, the wise cracks are back in full force. My favorite is when Ultimate Spider-Man is facing off against Electro, and the entire time Spidey goes on and on about how Electro is not wearing any pants. It was one thing after another in that fight, and it was great.

A new take on classic baddies

Even though I had some great things to say about this game, there were some problems with it. First of all, when you are wall crawling, the camera is IMPOSSIBLE to work with. This has been a problem with every recent Spider-Man game to my memory. As soon as you start wall crawling, the camera goes haywire and it’s very annoying. Another thing that bothered me was that the levels get very repetitive. They usually consist of two boss fights, and in between the boss fights, you spend the levels pursuing said boss, either saving civilians, or taking down thugs.

All in all, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions is a wonderful game. If you are a Spider-Man fan, you will enjoy this game. If you’re not a Spider-Man fan, you will be after playing this game.

Until next time, happy gaming, Busy Gamers!!

M-Dawg out!!!

Game Review: Marvel vs Capcom 3

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 pummels in with a Busy Gamer 4

First Glance:
The next installment of Capcom and Marvel’s crossover fighting franchise.

Short Story:
The biggest names in the Marvel and Capcom universes join forces to stop Victor von Doom and Albert Wesker from destroying Earth with the help of the destructor of planets himself, Galactus.

The Score:
Marvel vs. Capcom 3, for the most part, is a fast game to play through. The arcade mode is only 7-8 stages long, and those stages only consist of winning a fight. Most of your time will be consumed by beating the game with every character to unlock everything and playing online. For the Busy Gamer, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds gets a 4.

Body of Review:
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is your classic 2D fighting game. It features 38 different Marvel and Capcom characters, each with their own set of unique moves and character models. Like the two previous MvC titles, the format is a three on three battle between two teams. First team to have all three members fall loses.

I really enjoyed playing this game. It features many of my favorite Marvel comics characters, as well as characters that I remember playing as a child and also some characters that I don’t know from the Capcom universe. Visually, it’s a stunning game to look at. The graphics are similar to that of Street Fighter 4 but since there are the added comic book characters, there’s a little bit of comic book added to it, which is a nice touch to me. The fighting system is similar to the two previous entries, which is the same fighting system from Street Fighter 4, the same advanced fighting system and gameplay from the Street Fighter Alpha series. Complete with its signature over the top charged and team attacks, which are visually stunning depending on the team of characters that you choose.

Now with more Wesker goodness!

Each character is designed to the T, and each features their own unique fighting stance, moves, special moves, voices, and post battle celebration. My character of choice is Deadpool. I’ve recently grown to love the character of Deadpool and his character in the game is everything that Deadpool fans wanted Ryan Reynolds to be in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (keeping my fingers crossed for the actual Deadpool movie); a wise cracking, sword swinging, gun firing psychopath.
First of all, his “fighting stance” is just Deadpool bouncing up and down swinging his arms back and forth. He approaches his enemy by doing a Travolta style Saturday Night Fever strut, and moves away by simply moonwalking away from his opponent. For those who do not know the character of Deadpool, this is utterly his style. What he says is quite humorous as well. While most other characters will give a grunt while doing an attack, Deadpool (who knows he’s in a comic or video game at all times) prefers to yell out things like “Chimichangas!” or “Hot Dogs!” when he does an attack. My favorite is when he uses a special attack that requires him to just fire his guns at his opponent. Deadpool simply yells, “BANG BANG BANG BANG!!!”

My team of choice: Deadpool, Dante from Devil May Cry (who is Capcom’s answer to Deadpool in my opinion), and Iron Man. I suggest this team because they are a bit of a powerhouse combo. Deadpool’s attacks are fast and painful, Dante is a beast and can hit you a barrage of sword, magic, and firearm attacks, and Iron Man’s crossover attack deals a huge amount of damage. The three make a pretty solid team.

The arcade mode is pretty straight forward, choose your team, fight 7 other teams, then fight Dr. Doom and Albert Wesker, and finally, Galactus in a battle to save Earth. For the most part, the battles leading up to the final stage are pretty easy. It’s fighting Doom and Wesker that sucks because normally, team members will do assisted attacks and the assisting teammate will attack and then run back. In the Wesker/Doom fight, youíre pretty much fighting both characters at the same time. Luckily, they share one health bar.

"Shoryuken this!"

What makes this fight nearly impossible to win on any other difficulty besides Very Easy, is that after you lose one of your three fighters taking care of Doom and Wesker (which you probably will, but I suck at fighting games) you have to take on Galactus, who deals massive damage with every attack and is a colossal enemy to fight. I’ve only been able to beat the arcade mode on the Very Easy difficulty, but like I said, I suck at fighting games big time.

Along with the Arcade mode, you can play online (which I wouldn’t suggest doing unless you play fighting games 24/7 or else you’ll get destroyed). The game also features a Mission section. Basically, this is a tutorial for every character in the game so that you can get used to their moves and combos. It gets pretty ridiculous because it’ll get to the point to where you will have to string together a 5 hit combo and finish it off with a special attack. It can be difficult to say the least.

All in all, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is your classic 2D fighter. The added plus is that you get to play as your favorite Marvel and Capcom characters. For me being a comic nerd, especially Marvel comics, I’ve always enjoyed playing the MvC series.

Until next time Busy Gamers, Happy Gaming!


Game Review: Red Dead Redemption

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Red Dead Redemption blazes in at a Busy Gamer 3

First Glance:

Play a rough and tumble cowboy in the final days of the Wild West. Shootouts in the street, breaking horses, bounty hunting, train robberies, pretty much whatever you can think of to do in a time when cars are just appearing in the world.

The Short Story:

You play as Marston, a former outlaw who is trying to walk the straight and narrow after having misspent his youth in a gang. Marston got out after being left for dead by his former compatriots and has eked out a living only to have his past return to haunt him. In order to set things straight and return to the life he has picked out, he must saddle up one last time and hunt down his former friends, not for revenge but to satisfy the government agents who have forced him to work for him.

The Score:

I don’t know that Rockstar believes in short games. The Single Player experience is phenomenal but is going to take a large chunk of your time if you want to fully enjoy it. The multiplayer, however, is very well put together and may be worth the price of admission on its own. The storyline is utterly engaging, the graphics are gorgeous, and the voice acting is stellar. But with so much to do in the single player, the Busy Gamer will have a hard time squeezing in single player time and staying on top of the learning curve. Quick games abound in multiplayer, however, and if you’re careful, you can squeeze in a decent play session with a limited amount of time. As such, Red Dead Redemption scores a 3 on the Busy Gamer scale.

Body of review:

I can’t say I know many people who played the first game in the Red Dead series, Red Dead Revolver. In fact, I know of only one person that can say they beat it. I didn’t feel the draw of the first game after renting it but after seeing the ads and videos of the gameplay for Red Dead Redemption, I was on board.

Forget the fact that this is the same company that brought you the Grand Theft Auto series. There’s very few similarities to this game and the GTA franchise. Yes, you have the choice of being a hero or a villain as you make your way through this rendition of the Wild West and instead of cars, you can steal horses. This is something completely different. (more…)

Game Review: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Prince of Persia : The Forgotten Sands - BusyGamer Score 2

First Glance:
The next installment of Ubisoft’s popular action adventure puzzle franchise.

Short Story:
You, playing as the Prince, come to visit your brother, Malik, who is a ruler of a kingdom. But when you arrive, you see that he is in the middle of a war. You now go around the kingdom trying to locate your brother while, on the way, defeating enemies at the same time. You meet up with Malik in King Solomon’s tomb where Malik decides to release Kings Solomon’s Army in order to end this war. Then something goes wrong, the “army” thatís released is an ancient evil that draws its power from the sands lead by an evil demon called Ratash. After the seal that held the army captive is broken, the Prince and Malik each took a half of the seal and were once again separated. The two brothers found that whenever they kill an enemy, they gain power from them. Malik likes this power but Prince can see that one can be overcome by it. Then comes the fight with Ratash. After you wear the demon down, Malik comes out of nowhere and delivers a killing blow, or so you think. As Malik’s half of the seal absorbs the power of Ratash, you notice he is now overcome by the demonís power and becomes Ratash. You now have to locate your brother and save him from this terrible fate and save the world as you know it.

The Score:
I was absolutely disappointed in this game. I am giving this game a 2.

Body of Review:
Usually, I like to have a good and bad section to my reviews but I’m just gonna go ahead and combine them into one. I had some major problems with this game. In the past, the Prince of Persia series has been known as an action adventure puzzle game but the problem with this installment is that there was no action or adventure. The majority of the gameplay was me running up a wall, swinging from poles, or avoiding traps around the area. And then when I did actually fight some enemies, there were usually about a hundred or so that I had to fight. The waves of enemies were ridiculous. The gameplay itself was not what it used to be in a Prince of Persia game. Remember back in the Sands of Time trilogy, especially in Warrior Within where you could string together combos to really do some damage? Yeah, those days are long gone. Now you can only hit enemies with so called “quick attacks”, which take at least a 2 second wind up on the Prince’s part, and a charge attack. No more combos, no more Mature rating either, which is what I loved about Warrior Within.

Prince of Persia - The Forgotten Sands

The powers you obtain over the course of the game are okay but not great. They include Fire Trail, Ice Blast, Stone Armor and a Wind Gust. I found myself using the Fire Trail more than any other power because it did the most when I was surrounded by enemies.

You also use the power of the sands in this game. With the power of the sands you can control time, which you can use to prevent some deaths and help figure out the puzzles in the game. You can also slow down time which will slow down water falls and water spouts enough to where you can climb, walk, swing, and shimmy on water. This was a pretty cool feature for the first two sections I had to use it in, then it just became annoying by how much I HAD to use it.

The last power you obtain is the power of the wind. You can be in mid jump and then use this power to dart yourself to an enemy at the opposite end of a once unreachable gap.

I would have to say the only decent thing about this game is perhaps the cinematics. They were done quite well but when you have good cinematics with a disappointing game, it doesn’t help any.

Final Thoughts:
After playing this game, it really made me sad that this is where the Prince of Persia franchise has gone. When I saw that they were going back towards the Sands of Time I was excited because I was a big fan of that trilogy but I was severely disappointed. I hope that if there’s a next installment, they will go back to the days of Mature ratings and violent combos and gameplay.

Until next time, happy gaming everyone!


Game Review: Bookworm for the Nintendo DSi

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Bookworm for the DSi scores a Busy Gamer 5

First Glance:
PopCap’s Bookworm in a portable format. Grab the dictionary and the thesaurus… The pocket versions.

The Short Story:
PopCap has a tendency to make games that I can waste countless hours on. This isn’t a complaint. I used to spend hours expanding my vocabulary on the free web version but now I can blow that time on the DSi and the latest rendition of one of PopCap’s flagship games.

The Score:
This is a no brainer. My DSi is with me on every Reckon Crew outing that involves travel and hotels… Which is most of them. The DSi version of Bookworm is as good as it gets for short or long sessions. Exiting to the menu, as with most PopCap games of late, saves your progress and lets you pick up where you left off. Ease of play, quick loads, and stat tracking earns Bookworm a bilio-tastic Busy Gamer 5.

Body of Review:
It’s safe to say I’m a puzzle fiend. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll keep saying it till someone tells me to shut up. That’s not an invitation… So take a puzzle game and let me flaunt my somewhat impressive vocabulary or at least my encyclopedic knowledge of word structures and I’ll bite every time. That’s why I was so pleased to see the Bookworm title make it onto my lastest favorite portable gaming device, my Nintendo DSi.

Curious about how many three letter words you've used? There's a stat for that...

If you’ve played any rendition of the Bookworm franchise, the controls are easy to pick up when the game starts… Touch the letter where you want to begin and then add on to it until you’re satisfied with your choice. As you use letter tiles, they are removed from the game board and new tiles fall in at the top of the screen. The surprisingly comprehensive in game dictionary tracks whether you’ve entered a valid word and then awards points based on the length of the word and any bonus tiles you might use. You can also shoot for the bonus words as you go to crank up your score.

As you score points, you are awarded levels and titles. With each new level comes the increased chance of a flaming word tile dropping onto the game board. Flaming tiles burn down through other letter tiles when they aren’t used and if they reach the bottom of the board, your game is over. This can add a bit of a panic when they drop into a section with no vowels but there is a scramble button you can use to help out a bit. Unfortunately, using the scramble button can produce more flaming tiles.

Rank up, show your friends you could have finished first in that 2nd grade spelling bee.

Scoring a particularly good word will result in the addition of bonus tiles, letters that can be used to increase the point value of any given word. You’ll be awarded a green, gold, or diamond tile based on the score of the previous word. Use them at any time, they don’t go away unless a flaming tile burns through them.

The only drawback of Bookworm for the DSi is that there is only one play mode. The mode available is untimed, scoring strictly on the words you spell. This can be dangerous as you can lose track of time if you get caught up in trying to spell out twelve letter words…

Bookworm tracks your stats so you can see what your longest or highest scoring word was or you can see how many three letter words you’ve created versus longer words. This allows you to mock your friends who play when you point out you actually were able to make a twelve letter word and they just burned through their entire repertoire of three letter words in the English language. And we all know I wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to mock my friends…

Overall, the game is a great buy for only 500 points through the DSi’s online game store which also conveniently downloads and plays immediately on your device. The purchase was painless (aside from having to use the whole points thing, ugh) and once the download was done, I was playing in a matter of moments.

It’s a great value for the price, a great game to play when you have a few minutes, and it won’t ask you what “extraneous” means… HA!

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Plants vs. Zombies

Monday, June 15th, 2009
Plants vs. Zombies: A Busy Gamer 5 of 5

Plants vs. Zombies: A Busy Gamer 5 of 5

First Glance:
A new take on the tower defense sub-genre, pitting some uncommon plants against brain hungry zombies.

The Short Story:
Grow a garden of destruction to fend off hordes of ghoulish undead. The further into the game you get, the more destructive the plant life becomes but the zombies are no slouches either. You’ll come up against some pretty unique, and tough, versions of the undead in PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies.

The Score:
PopCap has always been good at creating addictive, easy to learn, Busy Gamer friendly games but I have to say that they’ve outdone themselves with Plants vs. Zombies. Quick rounds are easy to get in, it’s easy to learn as you play through the adventure mode, and exiting to the main menu at any time automatically saves the game for you allowing you to pick up wherever you left off last. Plants vs. Zombies earns itself a flowery, yet spooky, 5 on the Busy Gamer scale.

Body of review:
I’ve always had something of a soft spot for PopCap games. I can’t even count the number of hours I spent playing Bookworm, Chuzzle, or Peggle. But even with that soft spot, I would have to say I was caught off guard by the addictive nature of Plants vs. Zombies.

On the surface, it’s a “tower defense” game, a structured area where you have a limited amount of space to build your defenses to fend off the hordes of brain hungry zombies. Yeah, yeah, everybody is doing games with zombies, I know. Did I mention that the area you’re defending is your own yard and that you’re doing it with some capably destructive, and amusing, plant life? It all adds to this game’s allure and is only a part of what makes it unique.

You begin the game with a meager Peashooter, which will be the root, pardon the pun, of your defense as you start off. This plant… well, it shoots peas. At zombies. Make fun if you must but in the beginning, it’s this bad boy that keeps your brain in your head and the zombies off your lawn. As you progress through the levels, the “Bloom and Doom Seed Co.” provides you with a variety of plants, both defensive and offensive in nature. You could even say they were your “Shock and Lawn” weapon provider… Go ahead, I’ll let that one sink in for a while.

"Shock and Lawn"... Get it???

"Shock and Lawn"... Get it??? Never mind.

The resources you gather to grow your plants (sunlight, of course) can be obtained as it falls from the sky during the daylight levels but as night falls, you have to be sure to grow sunflowers or sun-shrooms (a night time version of the sunflower, try to keep up) to be sure to provide a steady supply of sun to fuel your plant growing needs. Due to the limited space on your lawn, you’ll often find yourself juggling between enough room for defenses and resource producing plants but that’s all part of the challenge.

You’ll defend the front lawn, the back lawn, and even your roof from the advancing horde in the adventure mode with each locale requiring a slightly different style of play. Your roof has to have planters for each plant you wish to grow which, strangely, consumes resources (read the description of the planter in the Almanac for a quick chuckle). And you’ll also defend the lawns through day and night cycles which will have you choosing between your day and night faring plants.

Shortly into your adventure, your virtual neighbor, “Crazy” Dave shows up to offer advice. Unfortunately, he’s crazy, willing to admit he’s crazy, and you have to wonder how much you can actually trust someone who wears a pot on his head. Fortunately, he proves to be much more useful as a merchant later on in the game.

Dave has...issues.

Dave has...issues.

Many players will find that the first playthough of the adventure mode serves mostly as a tutorial. It’s the repeated playthroughs, the minigames, the puzzle modes, and the survival modes where the main challenges, and the true value of the game, lie. Beating each of the additional modes results in additional challenges which further increase the replay value of the game.

The Busy Gamer will have to be careful of this game. It’s easy to lose track of time as you grow your garden of doom. Minutes can turn into hours if you’re not careful as you try to beat just one more level. Fortunately, the very useful, very easy save feature makes it a snap to pick up where you left off. Need to be somewhere? No problem. Exit to the main menu and your game is automatically saved. Even if you play a different mode, you can pick right back up where you left off on the adventure mode you were playing until two in the morning.

I imagine there will be many out there who end up missing out on this game because the premise doesn’t sound attractive to them. Their loss. Created with a clever wit, addictive gameplay, and an attractive price tag, Plants vs. Zombies is easily one of the best games I have had the pleasure of sitting down with in a very long time.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

090203_01First Glance:
Final Fantasy with co-op, another entry in the Crystal Chronicles series.

The Short Story:
It’s the Final Fantasy universe so it’s got a decent storyline, fleshed out characters, and enjoyable game play. And being able to play with friends is always a plus. Single player can be a bit of a chore due to some of the puzzles requiring multiple “hands” but overall, a solid purchase.

The Score:
Dungeons are the meat of the game play and while the lower levels can be easily accessed and completed in a short period of time, without some help from friends, you’ll find later levels to be more time consuming. And, as with almost any Square title, you’re going to be investing some serious time to reach the end of the story. While multiplayer is the main draw, short solo play sessions are still enjoyable and so Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time scores a Busy Gamer 4.

Body of review:
You can always expect a story from Square’s Final Fantasy series and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is no exception. While it isn’t as epic as the core Final Fantasy games, Echoes is still a good story on its own merits.

You’ll begin by creating your character which consists of choosing your name, your gender, and your tribe. Your tribe will affect certain combat traits, for instance, how good you are with a sword or with magic, while your gender affects… Well, whether people make fun of you for wearing makeup or not. The choices don’t actually appear to change game play drastically other than to affect your appearance.

I call this spell "Haha, eat fire!"

I call this spell "Haha, eat fire!"

Once you’ve settled on how you look, you’ll begin your journey in a small village where you find yourself starting your coming of age ceremony. If I had a nickel for every time I had to kill a bunch of monsters to prove I was ready to be an adult…

Combat is mostly just pressing a button though as you advance in levels, you’ll learn new tricks with the different weapons available. As well, you have damage spells you can cast while in combat to shore up your melee skills or, if you so choose, to replace them. You’ll find some creatures are more resistant to melee while others are more resistant to magic. A good rule of thumb in Echoes is to manage a good mix of both.

Gear can level as you do and can even be modified to a certain extent to allow for some degree of customization as you play. You can find or purchase scrolls, essentially recipes or blueprints, which will allow you to construct different types of armor, weapons, and accessories as you travel the world.

While playing with friends is a big draw for Echoes, you can choose to go solo and hire henchmen. You’ll find portions of the game more difficult, particularly puzzles, if you go this route, however. While you can switch between your henchman to position them, you’ll find it difficult to keep them in place when trying to activate switches, for instance. In several puzzles, I found it very time consuming to actually position each henchman ever so carefully just to have one move out of place while I activated one of the switches.

"Bad Kitteh! That's mah pot pie!"

"Bad Kitteh! That's mah pot pie!"

Boss fights are always proceeded by a short video highlighting their weak point. While it isn’t always immediately obvious what that weak point might be, the boss fights never failed to be entertaining. This is one area where playing with friends was definitely a plus as henchman could not be relied on to consistently attack the bosses in the manner needed to defeat them.

Death is handled quite well in Echoes. If you die, you become a ghost and can continue to follow your teammates about. Everyone has access to the spell which can bring you back to life so even if you’re playing solo, switching to one of your henchman can allow you to quickly bring your main character back to life. Doing so during a boss fight can prove to be challenging but well worth the effort in those instances where that last bit of firepower is needed.

While I can’t say this is the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise, it’s certainly not the worst and if you have a couple of friends who already have the title, it may well be worth the purchase price.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix for the DS

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix for the DS

First Glance:
The second entry in the Puzzle Quest franchise from Infinite Interactive but this time… in space!

The Short Story:
Travel around the galaxy chasing the big bad while fighting, mining, and gaining levels through the use of puzzles with mines, resources, and the usual gems. Another great entry using the Puzzle Quest equation.

The Score:
Short rounds are easy to get in and it’s portable if you want to pick it up on the Nintendo DS. Puzzle lovers be warned, however. If you’re out to explore, you may tire quickly of the random, timed puzzles you’ll need to beat in order to unlock other quadrants on the map. A solid puzzle game and the inclusion of multi-player combined with the ease of play, shallow learning curve, and good replay value earn Puzzle Quest: Galactrix a solid 5 on the Busy Gamer scale.

Body of review:
Infinite Interactive has found a niche for itself in the puzzle market. A few years back, they started it all with Puzzle Quest: Call of the Warlords which combined roleplaying and puzzle elements to provide an enjoyable experience. The roleplaying elements were in leveling and building your character all the while proceeding down a quest line which would eventually lead to the big showdown.

Building on that equation, Infinite Interactive has produced another gem with Galactrix. The basic elements remain the same; gain experience by performing missions, defeat enemies by matching tiles on a puzzle board, and follow the story line through to the end. A few basics have been changed from Call of the Warlords, however. The board is hexagonal which adds a new twist to the “match three” method made famous by CotW… Gems will move in the direction of your last move rather than falling straight down. This adds a new dimension to the puzzle solving which initially takes a little getting used to.

Hacking a Leapgate

Hacking a Leapgate

Another addition are the mining puzzles which allow you to gather resources which can be used to build new items for your ship or sell for credits at the various stations you’ll come across in your travels. There is an economy in play here with some stations offering considerably more for some resources and less for others. Gathering the “required” amount of resources while mining asteroids also results in significantly higher returns for your time so matching carefully is key when playing the mining puzzles.

You’ll quickly find that the ship you begin with is insufficient in regards to hauling cargo but fortunately, your hard earned credits can be exchanged for ships with larger holds allowing you to gather more resources on any given run. And, of course, you’ll come across other ships which may be interested in what you’re hauling… and willing to take it by force.

Combat is similar to CotW in that matching mines instead of skulls will result in damage to your opponent. Different technologies provide your ship with an interesting array of abilities, some defensive, some offensive, with the remainder providing bonuses to your attributes or different ways to clear large portions of the board.

To fully explore the universe, you’ll have to “hack” Leap Gates to travel from one quadrant to another. The puzzles you’ll have to complete for the hacks are timed and have a sequence of colored gems for you to match. As the puzzles are completely random, this can become a bit frustrating since you may have to attempt a puzzle several times before completing the hack. And once you’ve opened a gate, they can and will randomly shut down, forcing you to hack the Gate if you want to use it. A minor flaw in an otherwise outstanding game.

The story feels a bit lackluster when compared to Call of the Warlords and the characters you’ll meet a bit less fleshed out. A big bad escapes from a space station and you’re tasked with hunting it down and stopping it from destroying the universe. Been there, done that. Fortunately, the overall gameplay makes up for those shortcomings.

There’s a great†idea at the core of Galactrix and while most of the differences between it and Call of the Warlords may seem superficial, they make for a completely different game. And, happily, †it’s one that the Busy Gamer can enjoy.

Gritskrieg – End of Line

Test Driving the New Nintendo DSi

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
Oh, look.  An "inflated ego" lens...

Oh, look. An "inflated ego" lens...

It’s been a while since I’ve been interested in picking up a new handheld system. My DS had sufficed to keep me entertained for countless hours and was among one of the first batches to hit the states when they initially came out. I had flirted with the idea of picking up a DS Lite but after a few minutes with a demo model, I’d decided against it. But then I got my hands on my DSi.

The first thing I noticed was how sturdy it felt compared to the Lite and even compared to my old DS. The shoulder buttons felt less “mushy” as did the buttons on the face. The heft was good, not too heavy, well balanced, making it a bit less cumbersome than the original DS but more solid feeling than the Lite.

Turning on the device for the first time, I was set up and running off of my wireless router fairly quickly. The DSi located and recognized my router as well as the neighbor’s and the process for connecting to a WiFi network was painless and rather “idiot” proof. A quick perusal of the online features of the DSI showed there was no built in web browser which was an initial disappointment for me but it was short lived. Within moments of checking the Nintendo marketplace, I had downloaded the free web browser and was checking out the Busy Gamer website.

The next step was to check out the latest innovation of including two cameras on the device. I had known going in that the cameras were fairly low resolution but I was pleasantly surprised to see they were better than what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be taking vacation pics with my DSi but they are quite capable of taking a decent closeup shot to play with using the built in photo editing software. The user facing camera is built into the hinge of the device allowing me to easily take pictures of my ugly mug while the external facing camera is on the top of the device facing outward when the device is open.

The built in software for editing photos isn’t going to make you throw away your copy of Photoshop but it’s certainly good for a few laughs. I distorted my own image until it was barely recognizable and made a kaleidescope image that was largely nostrils and lips. That’s an admittedly limited usage but it amused me for several minutes and I imagine would keep me entertained when I was taking a break from playing games.

Yeah, you'll be seeing that one in your sleep tonight...  My bad.

Yeah, you'll be seeing that one in your sleep tonight... My bad.

And that brings me to the screens on the device. They’re noticeably larger than the DS screens and when I fired up Final Fantasy Tactics A2, I noticed a fairly decent difference in the way the game looked. It wasn’t that the graphics were any better but they did seem crisper with brighter colors. A quick play through of a battle showed me that the DSi did not sacrifice performance for any of the new bells and whistles the DSi has to offer.

The inclusion of the SD slot was a wonderful idea and the slot itself is easily accessible with a cover over it that feels more secure than on other similar devices. I found my spare 1 Gig SD card and popped it into the device and it was recognized immediately. While I haven’t loaded the device with any music or videos, the SD form factor means I can place the card in my card reader for my PC for file transfers rather than relying on a USB cable and software solution.

While I am still acclimating to the new finish on this device, the rubberized feel make it comfortable to hold and doesn’t make me feel like I will drop it if I’m walking and playing at the same time. It may actually be more prone to scratches and nicks than the DS or the Lite due to the finish but I haven’t had the misfortune of putting that to the test yet. I’ll just knock on some wood now…

Overall, I would happily recommend this device to anyone looking to upgrade from their SP or DS. While the new DSi lacks the slot to play Advance games, it would appear from the brief period that I spent in the market that older favorites may make the transition to downloadable content. My DS games are finding new life with the DSi, however, and I am pleased that I decided to add the DSi to my portable device collection.
Gritskrieg – End of Line

Mevo and the Grooveriders

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Say, isn't that Bill from Left 4 Dead? Why, yes it is.

Say, isn't that Bill from Left 4 Dead? Why, yes it is.

First Glance:
Clever, graphically pleasing, and a beat you can dance to.

The Short Story:
Developed and published by Red Rocket Games, Mevo and the Grooveriders is a rhythm based game that uses two keys to control your character as he dances his way through progressively more difficult levels. Simple in its presentation, “MatG” is the type of game that could potentially keep you in front of your computer for hours on end but has the potential to deliver enjoyable sessions with very little time investment. In other words, if you like rhythm games and you’re a Busy Gamer, you might want to give “MatG” a spin.

The Score:
For $9.99 on Steam, you’d be hard pressed to find a game with higher replay value, a lower learning curve, and the kind of funk Mevo and the Grooveriders delivers. Good beats, graphically pleasing, and with just the right amount of difficulty for a Busy Gamer, Mevo and the Grooveriders scores a 5 on the Busy Gamer scale.

Body of review:
At first, I was skeptical of another rhythm based game. I’ve watched people devote hours to learning how to play songs on Guitar Hero on Expert level and to be honest, if I were going to spend that kind of time, I’d rather learn to play the song for real. On the flip side of that coin, my gamer desire to win pushes me to play songs over and over to try and get the best score I can. So the quandary, as a Busy Gamer, is to find that balance of time investment and feeling like I’m accomplishing something. On most rhythm based games, this means playing on Medium.

Not so for Mevo and the Grooveriders. Simply put, there’s a certain charm to the game in its simple presentation. With only two keys to worry about which means you can focus on getting better at the levels without breaking your pinkie finger. Addictive gameplay and high replay value also ensures that you’ll keep coming back for more.

Shakin' the booty to the music.

Shakin' the booty to the music.

You begin the game as Mevo, a one eyed dancing fool who is trying to rescue his friends from an enemy known as Silence. A quick tutorial gives you the basic workings of the game before you set out on your journey through musical landscapes. The simple controls don’t require much in the way of a learning curve. Your dance steps are performed by hitting the left shift key for left pointing arrows and the right shift key for the right pointing arrows. Hitting the “steps” in time produces music and drum beats that blend with the funky background music while missing one completely may result in discordant notes.

A life gauge at the top of the screen is exactly what it seems. Missing notes will cause you to take damage, some moreso than others, while hitting notes increases your score. Sounds easy with only the two keys, doesn’t it?† At first, it is but as the levels progress, the difficulty of the notes increases as well. You may be required to hit two notes at the same time, sustain a note while hitting the other key, or pressing the keys in rapid succession to keep the beat.

Each level also comes with different goals with three goals for each level. Silver may require you to score a certain amount while gold may have you try to miss very few notes with platinum being even more difficult than the prior two. While you may see a goal asking you to score a certain amount of points, it is entirely possible that the next goal will be something completely different.

Dress it up before you mess it up.

Dress it up before you mess it up.

A character selection screen allows you to “dress” up your character with different outfits as well as choosing different dance styles. Each outfit grants different power ups. For instance, one outfit may allow you to enter an “Auto Pilot” mode where your character will automatically hit notes for a short period of time. Another will allow you to score higher combos, combos being the means by which you will create higher scores. Each outfit has its benefits so there will be reason for frequent outfit changes based on the level you are playing and which goal you are attempting.

While the graphics are simple, they are by no means underdone. Each level you play presents new obstacles and new backgrounds. Mevo’s dance moves are fluid as he grooves his way through graphically pleasing levels. However, admiring the art too closely may find you missing too many steps, quickly bringing your game to an end.

Bottom line is that if you enjoy rhythm games and need a quick fix, Mevo and the Grooveriders is the way to go.

Gritskrieg – End of Line