scribblenautsboxRooster couture.

Scribblenauts is a unique puzzle game series that challenges players to solve problems by using both common sense and their imagination.

Scribblenauts was the first in the series, released for the DS in 2009.

Not only did it show the world that there was still original gaming ideas out there, but it also introduced us to an adorable new gaming mascot in Maxwell, the game’s fashion forward young protagonist.

The original was well received by critics and gamers alike, but the follow up, Super Scribblenauts, is where the true magic started.

The concept is simple enough: write words (e.g. ladder, chair) and they appear in the game to overcome puzzles. Whats sets Super Scribblenauts apart though is the way you’re challenged to use your technical brain as much as your artistic brain.

The more creative you are with your solutions, the more you’re rewarded. Super Scribblenauts encourages you to try again until you get it right, but occasionally pulls you back in line in humorous ways for taking chances that were too out there.

For example, if Maxwell needs to start a fire, write “dragon” and one will appear. Hopefully his fire breath will start the fire. Instead, the dragon turns on Maxwell and starts burning him to death. Quickly type in “dragon slayer” while you’re running away and hope he can kill the dragon in time.

But don’t give up on the dragon. Next time Maxwell needs to clear a pile of leaves for someone that dragon might cooperate. That’ll give you more points than using a rake or a leaf blower. You develop a “let me try this” approach to the problems, and when one of your more outrageous ideas happens to work, it’s extremely satisfying.

The range of words (proper nouns and adjectives) the game interprets is truly impressive, and the ways you can interact with your own creations will surprise and delight you time and time again.

Sometimes challenging, sometimes silly, but always adorable. That’s Scribblenauts as a series, and if you’ve yet to play any of them, start with this one.

And whatever you do, don’t get it on iPad. Get it on DS.

You can follow me on twitter: @rustyshell and Miiverse: zinger_AU

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Mario Kart Wii BoxThe game that created a genre just keeps getting better.

Mario Kart is the fast, furious cartoon racing game that spawned a whole new gaming genre– the kart racer.

 

Each new Nintendo machine, whether hand held or home console, gets its own version of Mario Kart. In 2007, it was Wii’s turn.

It’s a simple formula: vehicles + weapons + outrageous tracks = addictive fun. And it’s addictive fun for everyone, never more so than in Mario Kart Wii, and that was a very good thing considering a fair chunk of Wii’s audience were casual players.

There’s a difficulty level and a control scheme to suit all players. Turning the Wii remote on its side or snapping it into the included Wii wheel is a great way for beginners to learn the tracks, while plugging in a nunchuck provides seasoned players with that extra level of tightness in the control. There was also support for Gamecube controllers.

Knowing the tracks and knowing what each weapon and item does (and when to use them) is the key to becoming a decent Mario Kart player, and Mario Kart Wii’s wider than usual tracks made it fairly easy for casual players to jump in and be competitive.

Mario Kart Wii also featured one of Wii’s more robust online components. Playing against up to 11 other people from around the world was a great way to practice and learn not only the tracks and items, but also how other human opponents play the game.

You’d also earn or lose points based on your online performance, and it was kept reasonably fair by automatically pitting you up against players of a similar skill level.

You also got to see what country each of your opponents comes from via a spinning map of Earth.

It was a great touch, and you really got a buzz from knowing you’re out there representing Australia on an international stage. You could also go online with a friend via the two player spit screen option, but unfortunately, (and inexplicably) the second player only appeared as a guest, and didn’t accumulate points. Since the closure of the Nintendo Wi-Fi network in 2014, these online components are no longer functioning.

The real fun in Mario Kart Wii, however, came when you grabbed some friends and played together in the same room. Two or three people wass great, but four player is where the game truly shines- and modern televisions made 4-way split screen so much easier to cope with.

Mario Kart is the some of the best fun you can have on Wii, and no matter what your experience level or what kind of games you enjoy, you had to love Mario Kart Wii.

Did you love Mario Kart Wii, or does one of the previous games in the series own your heart? Leave a comment!

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Mmgalaxyboxario’s greatest adventure ever?

No figure in video game history is more iconic or popular than Mario.

Since 1983 he’s been wowing audiences with his incredible adventures and continues to do so today, and with games like Super Mario Galaxy in his repertoire, it’s easy to see why.

Simply put, Super Mario Galaxy is as close to gaming perfection as you could ever hope to get.

And it’s one for all ages- newcomers will enjoy seeing the game’s ending by running, jumping, flipping, flying, swimming and skating through the brilliantly designed levels to collect 60 stars to complete the main story.

More seasoned players will enjoy scouring every corner of the 20 plus galaxies for 100 percent completion and a long overdue ‘bonus’ at the end of the game.

There’s nothing much else to say because there’s no contemplating the fact that Mario Galaxy is one of, if not the greatest games ever made.

Mario Galaxy 2 is fantastic too, and has a gamerankings.com rating of 97.25%, making Galaxy and Galaxy 2 the 1st and 3rd highest rated games EVER.

How great was Mario Galaxy? Leave a comment!

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resistance2boxWorld goes green.

Yet another blockbuster first person shooter at a time when the space felt over crowded, and it was getting seriously difficult to stand out. Especially if you were set post apocolypto.

Resistance 2 certainly stood out, and not only is it one of Playstation 3’s best games, it’s one of the finest shooters ever created.

The game offers a massive post apocalyptic world full of awesome enemies, insane weapons and over the top action.

No one really cares about the story in a shooter, but here it’s told elegantly and with just enough information given by the characters and cut scenes to keep you interested.

Then the wide variety of missions, including some truly incredible set pieces that still look fantastic today. There’s a riveting siege level set in an old house that you’re guaranteed never to forget.

For me, Resistance 2 an overall better single player game than the super popular and reasonably similar Killzone 2The scale of this game will blow you away and for anyone who’s even a moderate FPS fan, I say you absolutely have to play it.

Did you play Killzone 2? Leave a comment!

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vconsolelogoMy enthusiasm about Nintendo 64 and DS games finally arriving on Wii U’s Virtual Console came to a crashing halt when I saw the pricing.

Thirteen Australian dollars each? It’s way too much.

I don’t care that there’s Miiverse integration or customisable control options. Nintendo have done nothing in the way of enhancements or new content, so asking $13 for years old games is ludicrous. And promoting “buy three get one free” as a promotion is borderline insulting.

I understand Nintendo first party games are premium products, but a $4.95 price tag would have been much more generous and realistic.

Nintendo have spoken about how the Virtual Console service was becoming less popular due to the high quality (and quantity) indie games available on the eShop, but I reckon it’s more to do with the ridiculous pricing and severe lack of choice.

The line-up of games is uninspired to say the least, and while I’d love to revisit Donkey Kong 64 from the comfort of my Gamepad, there’s no way in hell I’m paying thirteen dollars for the privilege.

Nor am I paying for Mario Kart DS again when they haven’t even restored online functionality. I understand Nintendo Wi-Fi no longer functions, but this is still extremely lazy, and it rips out a massive chunk of what made Mario Kart DS so great in the first place.

We have been waiting for Nintendo to fully embrace the possibilities Virtual Console offers for so long now, it makes you wonder whether it will ever be anything other than a second thought.

It’s such a shame, because considering their back catalogue of incredible games, Virtual Console has the potential to be the jewel in a Nintendo console’s crown, and a reason to own their machines.

You can follow me on twitter: @rustyshell or Miiverse: zinger_AU

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GEARSBig men, big guns, big action.

From the opening minutes of Gears Of War, you knew you were playing something truly special.

If Resident Evil 4 defined the third person action genre in 2005, and Gears Of War re-defined it in 2006.

You play as Marcus Fenix, a member of a super tough group of mercenaries whose mission is to defeat a devastating array of angry alien types known as The Locust.

Many a game has pit its hero against an alien race in a post apocalyptic world, but Gears Of War does it so much better. A fairly run of the mill story is made interesting thanks to top notch cinematic sequences, as well as allowing the characters’ dialogue to provide background information throughout the adventure.

Fairly standard fair these days, but back in 2006 it was a novel approach, and really immersed the player in the bleak, almost hopeless situation.

From the (at the time) cutting edge graphics, to the awesome gun and explosion effects- Gears has it all going on.

Not to mention the accompanying musical score, which helps to raise and lower the tempo and the tension at key moments to really add to the atmosphere.

But awesome graphics and sound alone do not equal innovation, nor do they redefine genres.

Gears of War innovates by introducing a one-button cover system, which allows for pillars, ledges, fallen statues and a wealth of other things in the game environment to become cover at any given time.

Taking cover in games is nothing new, but so dynamic and successfully implemented is the cover system in Gears, that it allows for some of the smoothest flowing and intuitive gameplay ever seen.

Similar cover systems immediately began popping up in many other action games, and in the sequel Gears Of War 2, this system was further refined.

Big weapons, a big, angry protagonist, and a host of incredible set pieces combine with awesomely powerful enemies (including one of the most memorable final boss battles ever) to make Gears Of War an absolute must play for all 360 owners.

There’s an easy difficulty setting for the less seasoned- another staple of modern games given “street cred” by Gears Of War.

Did you play Gears Of War? Leave a comment!

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CONDUITboxWii scale blockbuster FPS.

The Conduit was a Wii exclusive first person shooter, but don’t let the unfortunate box art put you off, it was quite a good one.

Set in the near future amidst an alien invasion and corruption at the highest levels of government, developers High Voltage strived to not only push Wii’s graphical capabilities as far as they could, but offer Wii owners the quality FPS experience they were mostly missing out on.

Pointing the Wii remote at the screen to aim and look around, and using the nunchuck’s control stick to move was never quite the optimum control set-up for first person shooters it promised to be, but The Conduit got it pretty near perfect.

This was thanks to the developers giving players the ability to completely configure every single aspect of the control scheme to suit their playing style.

You could adjust the reticle “dead zone”, change turning speed and infrared sensitivity, as well as move every aspect of the HUD to anywhere on the screen, tweaking each element until you got it just right.

This enemy showed up a lot...

This enemy showed up a lot…

Some criticised The Conduit for being too linear and un-original in its gameplay, but I say there is nothing at all wrong with a game being linear, and un-original as the plot may be, it’s still good fun.

What’s more, the game features voice acting by Kevin “Hercules” Sorbo, which is cool… at least it might have been in 1997.

The main campaign was quite short- but thankfully The Conduit had a robust online component that allowed for regional or international matches, with loads of options including game type and weapons, which were voted on before a match begins.

The game was also one of the few titles that made use of Wii’s failed voice chat peripheral, Wii Speak.

wiispeak

Ahh Wii Speak, we hardly knew ye…

The time we spent online was quite good for the most part, although there certainly was some lag, especially when it came to registering your kill.

This was a Wii game using Wi-Fi and I was in Australia, so the odds were stacked against my online experience from the get go.

But hey, at least developer High Voltage tried to offer Wii users a viable online multiplayer option.

A lot was made of The Conduit's look. A 3rd party developer trying to push Wii's graphics was a rarity.

The Conduit looked great. A 3rd party developer trying to push Wii’s graphics was a rarity.

With all the amazing blockbuster first person shooters out there at the time, the critics weren’t too kind to The Conduit.

But look. It had pretty graphics, the best Wii FPS controls outside of Metroid Prime 3, and although you can’t use the online features anymore, it’s still worth playing.

So is the 2011 sequel, Conduit 2.

Did you enjoy The Conduit? Leave a comment!

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donkeyamiiboIn this occasional post, I’ll take a look at how a game franchise has progressed over time by ranking my favourites in the series.

If I haven’t played it I’ll tell you, and ports and remakes automatically go last but their impact will be recognised if necessary.

Do the games get better with each new iteration?

Or do they lose their lustre and become stale?

I’m kicking things off with the Donkey Kong Country series. I’m not including the handheld Donkey Kong Land games, it’s Country only.

1. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (Super Nintendo)

Released second, in 1995. Bettered the original in the graphics and variety of levels, Diddy stood on his own as a star.

2. Donkey Kong Country (Super Nintendo)

Released first, in 1994. Original and most memorable, but ideas were refined in DKC2. Check out this Australian commercial from 1994…

3. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)

Released sixth, in 2014. HD graphics and a blistering pace make the game feel new again.

4. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! (Super Nintendo)

Released third, in 1997. Felt a bit try-hardie in terms of going bigger and better, and although I like Dixie, I don’t think she deserved to be in the title.

5. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

Released fourth, in 2010. Wii controls were not ideal in some instances, a bit too difficult in some areas, and some bosses just pissed me right off.

6. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (3DS) and Donkey Kong Country 3 (Gameboy Advance)

These are just enhanced ports, so last on my list. I have never played either of these. Still, check out this cool commercial, back when Nintendo was at the top of their marketing game…

The Verdict:

While the buzz around how amazing the original DKC’s graphics were on the Super Nintendo certainly made playing it that much more exciting, the Country series has, from the start, had pretty much everything going for it.

Loveable characters, a cheeky sense of humour, and genuine gameplay thrills. Whether it be the nerve wracking rush of the on-rails levels, or the thrill of finally getting the better of a deviously tricky level- the Donkey Kong Country series is fun and frustrating, but almost always manages to get the balance right.

While the second in the series is best for me, all the games are among the highest quality platform games ever made, and all were critical and commercial successes.

You can follow me on twitter: @rustyshell and Miiverse: zinger_AU

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eledeesboxEledees (or Elebits in other regions) was a cute little first person Wii game from KONAMI that saw players lift and throw objects around an on-rails environment in order to catch hundreds of tiny little creatures known as Pikmin. Sorry, Eledees.

As was the rules back in the early days of Wii, it was motion controls all the way. Innovative and intuitive use of the Wii remote was Eledees’ selling point.

Using the Wii remote’s pointer, you controlled what can almost be described as a plasma stream similar to (superficially at least) those used by the Ghostbusters.

You could use your plasma stream (or capture gun, as the game calls it) to lift objects and throw them around the environment.

The idea is to flush out those little Eledees and suck them up in order to harness their power and progress in the game.

The more Eledees you collected the bigger the objects you could lift, and the game rewarded players for using objects in innovative ways.

Aaaand lift, and throw...

Aaaand lift, and throw…

There was a four player mode that was rather forgettable, as well as some kind of level editor that I don’t recall ever using. According to KONAMI’s website you could share your creations via WiiConnect 24, a service which is no longer operational.

Eledees reviewed quite well, and in those early days of Wii, anything that wasn’t a mini-game collection was certainly looked at by Wii’s “core focused” audience. I wrote more about Eledees here.

It’s a shame there wasn’t a Wii sequel, because the gameplay ideas and the Eledees as characters showed real potential. The controls of course needed refinement, but KONAMI (like Ubisoft with Red Steel) should be commended for putting the Wii remote to imaginative use in a new IP.

I understand this post category is call Great Games Of Last Generation and while I’ll concede Eledees isn’t a great game, it deserves a mention because of the “hidden gem” factor.

Thanks to spong.com for the Eledees box shot and gamekult.com for the screen.

Did you ever play Eledees? Leave a comment!

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Mario Kart Klone.

Apart from Sonic Racing Transformed, ModNation Racers was the closest thing any other last generation console had to Mario Kart, and it was quite honestly nearly as good.

The create a track component is awesome and easy for beginners to create a basic track, and thanks to a dedicated online community, there is an almost limitless supply of new tracks to play so you’ll never get bored.

It’s funny how as soon as the game was released, there was people faithfully replicating nearly every Mario Kart track there is.

It’s also one of the few PS3 games to include a 4 player split screen mode, something Mario Kart players have been taking for granted since 1995.

ModNation Racers was sadly under rated and overlooked on its release, especially in Australia- but I’d definitely recommend giving it a go if you can track down a copy.

Did you enjoy ModNation racers? Leave a comment!

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