August 12th, 2008
Monday a few weeks back, actually more than a few weeks ago, during the start of E3 2008, Nintendo’s tour of Australia (dubbed the Connection Tour) came to my state. I was fortunate enough to attend the event sampling some of the demos on offer. General impressions were a little disappointing, the budget was low in contrast to previous tours with limited demos on display with many of already released titles. In fact numerous games weren’t shown that were stated to be present in a newsletter put out by Nintendo Australia which added to the disappointment. Namely Sonic Chronicles (DS) and Cooking Guide (DS) which I was eager to try out. It did seem a little strange though that Sonic Chronicles would be on display, I don’t even think press have had access to this game at the time.
Despite the omissions, what was on offer was adequate with the best titles consisting of Samba de Amigo (Wii), de Blob (Wii), Guitar Hero Aerosmith (Wii), Guitar Hero on Tour (DS) , Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (DS) and a series of DS Touch Generations games including Maths Training and CrossWords. Here are my collective thoughts on some of these games.
Samba de Amigo
On learning that this game was going to be present at the event, I wanted to prepare myself by watching some YouTube video of the Dreamcast version so that I knew exactly how to play this title before I went hands on. I regretfully forgot to watch the video but not to worry Samba is very easy accessible title.
I had a pretty rough run though. For one, the difficulty was set to Hard for some bizarre reason and the game froze on me after selecting a song beyond the demo’s scope (Hey Macarena). While it was easy enough to understand the play mechanics (6 circles representing up, down left right, diagonals, shake Wiimote and nunchuck in direction of respective circle) my nunchuck often struggled to be recognized, particularly in diagonal gestures. Maybe it was just the context of the event but it was a little concerning.
I realize that Samba is all about crazy colours and confetti filled celebrations but even the bright colours can’t save it from what was a pretty tacky presentation, reminiscent of those tight budget restaurants with cheap party decorations on the wall. It just seemed like all of the commotion in the background was there because it could be and not to provide any visual enforcement to the music.I was pretty disappointed but I do think that with more play time it will be a solid, albeit cheap music rhythm game for the Wii.
de Blob interested me greatly, not just because it’s Australian made but because it’s all about turning the bland and boring into the bright and beautiful, something which Gears of War and Killzone could benefit from.
de Blob is Super Monkey Ball-like in nature; you control a blob of paint in a monochromatic setting with the goal of splashing your colour on every grey surface in proximity. The concept is a charming one but appears highly underutilized. I played several multiplayer matches which basically consisted of rolling the ball around and bouncing off surfaces, occasionally you need to pick up paint canisters for a refill but otherwise there is not much else to it and things grew tiresome pretty quickly. I like the idea and mechanics of this game a lot, I just hope that they can flesh out the experience before release.
Guitar Hero on Tour
There has been some particularly polarizing commentary regarding Guitar Hero on Tour and while I didn’t find the clip on key pad to be disruptively large enough to be awkward, strumming the guitar is quite frankly a pain. You hold the device in one hand and are expected to strum the guitar with the other while pressing the buttons in accordance to the notes on screen. The mechanic works fine with a physical guitar mold in your hand but when you remove that feeling it becomes a bit of a fumbling headache. I gave up after three failed attempts.
Still, I have a great amount of respect for Vicarious Visions who developed this game as well as several other high profile yet under appreciated DS and GBA titles (Tony Hawk, Spiderman Mysterio’s Menace). These guys always give it their all, utilizing as many aspects of the hardware as is available to them.
Unfortunately the criticisms labeled towards On Tour are all largely symptomatic of the weak DS hardware and issues with the hand grip. Comments regarding a lack of songs, sound quality and graphic presentation are all results of what has always been sub par hardware. It’s only when comparisons are drawn between this and the other GH titles that people have realized the downfall (laying the blame on the game and not the hardware, unfortunately). For what it’s worth though Vicarious Visions showed that a Guitar Hero game can work on a portable console (just not for everyone), particularly after being one of the biggest selling games in Activision’s history.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon
I wasn’t expecting and didn’t get very much out of the second installment in the dungeon crawler styled Mystery Dungeon series. The controls are a little tough to get use to and are surprisingly complicated for a Pokemon title, same with your party members wandering off and then screen flashing back to you when they get attacked. Pretty lackluster experience, too slow to be real time, too real time to be turned based.
As the ungratefully hypocritical “hardcore” Nintendo crowd continue to criticize Nintendo for their collection of casual branded titles, I grow more resistant to their rubishy banter thanks to perfectly formed titles like Crosswords. Much like Picross before it, I completely adore Crosswords for its clean cut perfection of adapting a popular past time into a digital format. There isn’t much to say about Crosswords other than it is a fundamentally flawless title which offers a great deal of value and removes the barriers to entry for new crossword players. I played with this one with a friend for more than half an hour and it’s easily my pick of the bunch.