Blast Works: Build, Trade, Destroy – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Blast Works Title Screen

Blast Works Title Screen

Blast Works is a side-scrolling shooter game released in 2008 for the Nintendo Wii. It was developed by Budcat Creations and published by Majesco Entertainment. From the little research I have done on this game, it appears to be a port of Tumiki Fighters from the PC to the Wii.

Tumiki Fighters was developed by Kenta Cho and released as free software in 2004. Written in the D programming language, it uses OpenGL for graphics rendering. I would assume Kenta Cho had a good deal of creative license with Blast Works given that versions of his other games, rRootage, Gunroar, and Torus Trooper are included as unlockable bonus items in the game.

Come At Me

Come At Me

Blast Works has a unique game mechanic that I don’t believe I’ve seen in any other side-scrolling shooter I have played. When an enemy is shot down and is falling toward the bottom of the screen, the player may swoop in to catch the enemy or the enemy’s guns. Wherever the enemy makes contact with the player’s plane is where the two objects connect. Once connected, the enemy’s guns will fire from that position as the player’s own guns toward other enemies. The former enemy will also serve as a buffer from being hit directly and losing a plane. As a level progresses, downed enemies hook to downed enemies creating a massive structure of firepower the player has accumulated to take on the level’s final boss.

There's nothing quite like a good boss bullet hell.

There’s nothing quite like a good boss bullet hell.

When I first witnessed this game mechanic it surprised me. I had a great deal of fun connecting out enemy planes to the end of the screen and blasting anything in my path with my own bullet hell for once. I then got to thinking that due to this game mechanic the game might turn out to be too easy. Not so. The game makers did an excellent job balancing the game. Each boss I played outside of the first couple levels made me sweat. The player may choose three different levels of difficulty. The bullet hells are intense and Blast Works provides a similar experience to other classic side-scrolling shooters I have played in the past.

Come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride.

Come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride.

Another interesting feature provided in Blast Works is a full-fledged level editor. The player may create their own level, with their own enemies, and custom build their own planes to fly through those levels. Even new bullets can be created and customized. The game offers a CAD-like program to create and save new shapes and modify environments. The amount of detail to which a player can create their own levels is incredible. Blast Works feels like a PC game that still works incredibly well with the standard Wiimote/Nunchuck controllers.

Blast Works features three modes of gameplay for playing through the side-scrolling shooter levels. Campaign Mode allows one or two players to play through campaign levels in a sequential order. I assume extra game features are unlocked through this mode of play, but I have yet to unlock anything yet. Arcade Mode allows one to four players to play through levels sequentially for points. And as mentioned earlier, one to four players may play through a custom level created by a player in the User Levels mode.

Blast Works Game Disc

Blast Works Game Disc

The music in the Blast Works is good. It sounds like a typical Wii game soundtrack, but mixed with the heavy synthetic techno kind of themes I would expect from a classic side-scrolling shooter of the Super Nintendo era. While the graphics are a bit blocky and look quite dated for the time this title was released, Blast Works more than makes up for it in gameplay and replayability. I picked up my copy of Blast Works used for less than four dollars. From a quick Amazon search it appears buying a new copy might cost less than ten dollars. At that price it’s well worth it. I would especially recommend this title for children who enjoy playing with Legos. It’s certainly not Minecraft, but who knows? Maybe this will be a gateway game for getting my son to play with CAD software someday in the future.

Set – Card Game Review

Set Card Game

Set Card Game

Set is a card game developed by Marsha Falco and published by Set Enterprises, Inc. and Cannei, LLC. It was released in 1991 to understandable acclaim, as it is a clever, novel card game. Set may be played solitaire, or with any number of players provided there is enough space around the table for everyone to see what cards are in play.

There are 81 cards in the Set deck. On these cards are combinations of one, two, or three shapes in the form of a squiggle, diamond or oval. These shapes appear in one of three colors: purple, green, or red. Each card’s shape is solidly filled in, unfilled, or shaded. At the game’s start the deck is shuffled, and twelve cards are laid face-up in the center of the table in a 3×4 grid.

Set 3x4 grid arrangement

Set 3×4 grid arrangement

Once all of the cards are laid out, those who are playing examine the grid for potential sets. A set is defined as a group of three cards anywhere within the grid that all either share a similar or completely distinct characteristic for each classification of shape, shading, color, or number of items on the cards. Once a player is sure they see a set, they call out that they’ve found one to everyone else playing. They then pick out the three cards and all other players confirm whether a set has actually been found or not. If a set has indeed been found, the player who found the set keeps those cards and a point is added to their score. Three new cards are drawn from the deck and are used to fill in the places where the cards used to make the set were taken. If a valid set was not confirmed to be found, the player who claimed a set has their score decremented by one set. Play then continues with all players looking for the next set. Play ends and scores are tallied when the deck runs out of cards. Whoever found the most sets becomes the winner of the game.

It is important that all players understand exactly what a set is before play begins. I was mad as a hen when I was picking what I thought were sets and losing points the first time I played Set. Meanwhile my opponent was selecting out sets that I had disregarded because I thought they did not fit the description of a set.

An example of a set is shown where there are three solid green ovals, three solid green squiggles, and three solid green diamonds. These constitute a set because they are all green, there are three shapes on each card, the shapes on each card are all solid, and a distinctly different shape is displayed on each card.

This is a valid set.

This is a valid set.

An example of a group of three cards that is not a set is also shown here. While all three cards are colored purple, each card has a distinct number of shapes, and all of the shapes shown are solid, two of the cards display diamond while the final card is oval. Because not all of the cards contain diamond nor does each card contain a distinct shape, these cards do not constitute a set.

This is not a valid set.

This is not a valid set.

One final example of a set is shown here. The color is different on each card: red, green, then purple. Each card contains diamonds, but each one has a different number of diamonds. The diamonds have distinct shading across all cards. The first is solid, the second shaded, and the third empty. This is a valid set.

This is a valid set.

This is a valid set.

If at any point no set is found within the grid on the table, then three additional cards are pulled from the deck and placed into the grid for a total of 15 cards. Play then continues. When the next set is discovered, no further cards are drawn in order to get the grid back down to twelve cards. Therefore, as I understand it, there should never be more than 15 cards in play at a time. In solitaire play, a player is trying to find as many sets as they can to beat their previous score. When they are unable to find a set in the twelve card grid, they may add the additional three cards, but doing so creates a one set penalty to their score. Of course, who is going to know you’re cheating if you’re playing alone?

Set is a fun little card game that is easy to learn how to play. Given that any number of players may play it, it is an ideal card game for party situations. It has won several game awards including the MENSA Select award. I can vouch that this is a fantastic title that belongs in any serious card gamer’s collection.

Peggle – Compatibility

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 98 or later version of Windows.
Processor: Pentium Compatible 500MHz or greater.
Memory: 256 MB
Video: DirectX Compatible Graphics. DirectX 7.0 required.

Windows 10

Installs – Yes
Runs – Yes
Uninstalls – Yes

Peggle appears to run flawlessly in Windows 10.

Peggle – Windows Vista Game First Impressions

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle is an arcade puzzle game, released in 2007, that was developed and published by PopCap Games. Given the cartoony artwork on the cover of the game’s jewel case, it almost looks like one of those games that used to be sold as a gateway for getting a user to try America Online or to install a Yahoo! Toolbar. I was concerned when I installed it on my machine that I might have to uninstall some unsavory software. I am glad I did install Peggle as it not only seems like a safe stand-alone piece of software, but it is actually a very fun, addictive game.

Multiball!

Multiball!

The objective of the game is to eliminate all of the orange pieces prior to running out of balls. Once all of the orange pieces are eliminated, the player progresses to the next level. The player controls the direction in which a ball is launched. The ball then bounces off of every surface it hits in Plinko fashion until it falls down through the play field. At the base of the play field is a ball catcher that oscillates to and fro. If the ball is caught by the ball catcher, the player is awarded an extra ball to use in play. Otherwise, the ball is lost, and the player fires another ball to attempt to eliminate the orange pieces.

There are also blue, purple, and green pieces. Blue pieces are the standard default pieces. They award a set number of points when hit, but do not contain any special properties. Purple pieces award increased bonus points. Green pieces cause special actions to occur based on the host mascot of the particular stage of levels being played.

Kat Tut's Pyramid

Kat Tut’s Pyramid

There appear to be 50 levels divided into five level stages. Each five level stage is hosted by a particular animal mascot, or master. The first stage is hosted by Bjorn the Unicorn. When a green piece is hit in Bjorn’s levels, the player is awarded a “Super Glide” for the next three balls. Super Glide allows the player to target a piece and then target where the ball will ricochet into another piece. The second stage is hosted by Jimmy Lightning, who appears to be a hamster on a skateboard. Hitting a green piece in his levels spawns a second ball that bounces in the opposite direction of the ball that hit the green piece. If timed correctly, this can cause the player to catch both balls. The third stage is hosted by Kat Tut. When a green piece is hit, the ball catcher turns into a pyramid for five turns. When this happens the player’s ball has a better chance of bouncing away from falling into the abyss and instead making it into the ball catcher for a free ball. I’ll need to play further to explore the other level stages.

Extreme Fever

Extreme Fever

When the final orange ball is hit, the game enters “Extreme Fever” mode. Gameplay enters slow motion and rainbow sparks fly to the background music of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s symphony number 9. The ball then bounces into one of five containers at the base of the play field for bonus points. The middle container is worth 100,000 points, those on either side of it are worth 50,000, and the final containers are worth 10,000 points.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Peggle hits all the right stimuli to keep you playing. Flashy graphics, encouraging cute fuzzy characters, and catchy sounds and music all combine to keep a player focused on shooting another ball onto the play field and getting to the next level. I had meant to review a different game tonight. When it didn’t work on Windows 10, Peggle was my fall back. Even though it was late, I couldn’t stop clicking and wanting to play that next level and watch my score go up and up. This game will eat your time. If you didn’t have anything too important going on, you’ll be glad it did.

Peggle Game Disc

Peggle Game Disc

I purchased my copy of Peggle second hand still in shrink wrap from either a thrift store or a yard sale. The price was right, so I grabbed it. However, Peggle also came out on the Steam platform. At the time this article was published, it could be purchased for $4.99. It’s not the the most challenging puzzle game out there. I would actually consider it more of an arcade game than a puzzle game, but it is a virtual dopamine factory with its visuals and sound. This would also be a good title for small children as it is easy and avoids frustrating the player at its lowest levels.

Decksplash – Compatibility

Decksplash Title Screen

Decksplash Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 10 64-bit
Processor: Intel Core i3 6th Gen or AMD FX-6200 or better
Memory: 4GB RAM
Video: Nvidia GTX 680 or AMD R9 280X or better
Sound: DirectX 10 compatible sound card
Hard Drive: 4 GB
Gamepad recommended for play.

Windows 10

This game was designed for Windows 10.

Decksplash – Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Decksplash Title Screen

Decksplash Title Screen

It’s not often that I review a game so new there isn’t even a Wikipedia page about it. Decksplash was released on November 2, 2017 on the Steam platform, developed and published by Bossa Studios. It is a skateboarding simulator in which the player can perform tricks while competing with other players in the same arena. Decksplash might be best summed up as Tony Hawk meets Splatoon with elements of Rocket League.

The player controls the movement of a skateboard around an arena either in practice mode, or with other players online in team against team matchmaking play. Players are awarded points for tricks they successfully perform and also accumulate points for how successful their landing was. Each time a trick is successfully performed with a successful landing, a splotch of paint the color of their team explodes in all directions from the center of the player’s skateboard with a radius size proportional to the number of points awarded for the trick.

Punchbowl Plaza

Punchbowl Plaza

The more a player performs a specific trick, the fewer points they receive each time they perform it. The game seeks to encourage players to always attempt something new. This begets certain strategies. Some times are better than others to use the high points on tricks a player is particularly good at, while attempting the riskier tricks is preferred at other times. To be competitive, Decksplash insists you read the proficiency of the other team and adjust your strategies to maximize your point count throughout the match. You’ll want to score your greatest points when the other team is floundering.

In online play the objective is to accumulate the most points and color the majority of the arena. Each match begins with both teams having 150 seconds on the clock. Whichever team’s color lays claim to the majority of the surface area of the map receives a countdown on their team’s clock. As soon as one of the team’s clocks hits zero, the game ends and the team with zero seconds remaining is the winner.

Customizing your deck. Default Pickleboard shown.

Customizing your deck. Default Pickleboard shown.

The skateboards can be customized via the “Customize Deck” option on the main menu. The player begins the game with a typical default skateboard with a common truck and pink wheels. All other options are locked and unavailable on first play. As the player accumulates more points and reaches milestones in the matches, they will level-up and receive loot boxes. Loot boxes contain decks, trucks, and wheels that can be selected for the game matches. I was able to get to level three within thirty minutes and had accumulated one new deck, two trucks, and three different colors of wheels.

Costa Del Splash

Costa Del Splash

The game developers recommend playing Decksplash with a game pad. Given that I did not happen to have one handy at the moment, I used a keyboard for this particular review. The up, down, left, and right arrows are used from movement of the skateboard. “A” yaws left. “D” yaws right. “W” pitches up, while “S” pitches down. “Q” rolls left, and “E” rolls right. Periodically you will have a shockwave available to use. You can trigger this by using the “F” key.

EasyAntiCheat Service is required to play.

EasyAntiCheat Service is required to play.

After installing Decksplash and prior to loading the game for the first time, a piece of software called EasyAntiCheat Service was installed to my machine in order to run the game. To my knowledge I’ve never encountered this program before so I did a bit of research on it. It is apparently a popular program for game companies to use to impede cheating on many of their game offerings.

I have read that it scans your system memory and takes random screen shots to ensure you’re playing fairly. It is currently used extensively in eSports, so it does have a legitimate track record in the industry. That being said, I would imagine that a random screenshot or memory scan at the right (or wrong) time could potentially reveal more information about the user than the user would ever intend to make public. I wanted to include this here to warn any paranoid users like me, proceed with caution. It also makes me wonder how difficult it would be to get this game to run in Linux via Wine given that there is a separate anti-cheat component required to run the game.

Observatory

Observatory

All in all, Decksplash is a colorful game that is a considerable amount of fun. I enjoyed making color splotches across the map, leveling up my skateboard, and performing increasingly challenging tricks. The matchmaking is quick, easy, and balanced. So far I haven’t been frustrated by Decksplash; I’ve only been having a blast. Decksplash is available to play for free on the Steam platform until November 10, 2017. If you are reading this prior to that date, go play it for yourself and see what you think.

Igor: The Game – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Igor: The Game Main Menu

Igor: The Game Main Menu

Released on the Nintendo Wii in 2008, Igor: The Game was developed by Santa Cruz Games and published by Legacy Interactive and SouthPeak Games. Igor: The Game begins with protagonist Igor explaining his dream to be a somebody. In Malaria the somebodies are all evil scientists. Since Igor entered life with a hunchback, he was relegated to being a servant to the mad scientists. Therefore he has covertly been working on his inventions in secret in order to create something that will win the annual Evil Science Fair. All of the other characters beside Igor that may be played: Scamper, Brain, and Eva, are all creations of Igor. Eva, Igor’s most recent creation, was created to win first prize in the Evil Science Fair. Unfortunately it turns out she is not at all evil, and it is now up to the player playing as Igor to figure out how to still win the fair.

The storyline to Igor: The Game is creative and clever. It is funny, and has a sort of Addams Family feel to it. The game is based on Igor a motion picture that was produced by Exodus Film Group and released by MGM in 2008. In the beginning cutscene, the player is greeted with the familiar looking Frankenstein-like lab. There is a creature on a laboratory table and mechanisms all around. Igor calls for Brain to pull the switch and the lights go off. After reprimanding his creation, the lights come back on and the correct switch is pulled. Lightning surges into the operating table and Eva, his new creature, immediately comes to life and darts through the walls making her escape toward the local home for blind orphans. They chase after her, seemingly half hoping she is not doing anything to get into trouble while also hoping she is creating all sort of havoc. I’ll admit, I chuckled. This game seemed like it was off to a good start. Unfortunately the gameplay is not as good as the lines and characters in the cutscenes.

Every room feels huge and takes some time to traverse.

Every room feels huge and takes some time to traverse.

I wonder if Igor: The Game was tight on deadlines and raced out the door to be released in time with the movie. One thing I noticed very quickly when I played it was that the environments are huge compared to the size of the player characters. It takes a good bit of time for the player to walk a character across a room. To compensate for this, the players can jump to heights that appear to be relatively higher than what I would have expected and seem to hang in the air longer than expected. It’s almost like the designers just turned gravity down in their game engine configuration to solve a problem that should have been addressed more geometrically. Both of these issues combine to make the game seem incredibly awkward. I realized after pondering the awkwardness for awhile that I would wager they made the environments larger in order to accommodate a more primitive camera for the 3D environments. If the room is bigger with high ceilings, you don’t have to worry as much about keeping the camera being in a difficult position for the player to view the character they are controlling. While I experienced no actual bugs while playing this game, it feels more like a polished alpha build with production cutscenes than a full production title.

You can't hear it here, but the background music is an annoying voice going, "La, La La, La Laaya Laa." I'm sure parents loved this game when it came out.

You can’t hear it here, but the background music is an annoying voice going, “La, La La, La Laaya Laa.” I’m sure parents loved this game when it came out.

One of the selling points of playing Igor: The Game for me was the fact that it allows up to four players to play cooperatively simultaneously. I figured it therefore might be a good game night title to invite friends over to play together in one sitting. While I praised Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game for its fantastic split-screen mode in an article published the other day, there is no such split-screen in Igor: The Game. Given that the environments are large relative to the size of the character playing, even when there are two characters it is easy for their mobility to be impeded when they both find themselves on opposite sides of the screen, especially in the middle of fighting dangerous monsters. There were numerous times when my teammate and I got increasingly frustrated due to being stuck depending on the movements on the other until one of us gave up in our objective and walked back over to the other player.

Beating mechanical chickens and bashing crates is about all we're doing here.

Beating mechanical chickens and bashing crates is about all we’re doing here.

The meat of the gameplay in the little we played of it was to collect flowers and nuts and bolts, and to fight wind-up chicken things. It felt like it took forever to clear a single room of enemies and collect all the loot necessary to proceed to the next area. Once an area was completed and we had reached the furthest extent of the room, it would take forever to backtrack to the exit to move to the next area. While the cutscenes were mildly entertaining, the gameplay was downright tedious.

Igor: The Game Game Disc

Igor: The Game Game Disc

I’m not really sure who would really benefit from playing Igor: The Game. If I were a small child, perhaps a fan of the movie, and this were one of the only games I owned for a gaming system, then I imagine I would be blind to its flaws and just enjoy it for the game it is. But given that this game was a chore to play in the brief time I began playing it, I don’t think it would be one I could see myself recommending or even agreeing to play on a random game night where my friends and I might be browsing through my game collection unsure of what to play next. My advice would be to skip this one over unless you enjoy being a thorough collector for the Wii.

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game Title Screen

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game Title Screen

To make up for her having to play through Cocoto Magic Circus last night, tonight my wife and I pulled out Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game for Nintendo Wii. It was released in 2011. It was developed by Traveler’s Tales and published by Disney Interactive Studios.

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game follows the formula of most Lego games. The game seems to attempt to recreate the film it is based on scene by scene in a sort of parody: switching things up where necessary for younger audiences, to make the Lego blocks work with what is happening on screen, or just to make things more comedic for the audience. It really feels like you are replaying the movie in Lego blocks. The first four movies are represented, so it looks like there is no shortage of adventure awaiting us as we complete this game.

The split screen mechanics work well. Someone was playing as the dog in the lower left.

The split screen mechanics work well. Someone was playing as the dog in the lower left.

What made Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game a good title for us to play is that it is fully two-player cooperative. A second player can drop in and out of the game at any time by pressing the “+” button on their wiimote. Players can change which character they wish to play within the current scene by pressing the “c” button on the nunchuck. This is a fantastic game for two players to spend several hours having fun enjoying a single game together.

Captain Jack Sparrow using his compass.

Captain Jack Sparrow using his compass.

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game will let you be a team player or a jerk backstabber. Friendly fire is turned on by default, so hitting your fellow player will cause them to take damage. I haven’t checked if there is an option to turn off friendly fire, I need to look into that. True to her competitive form, my wife would hit me to knock me away from getting “her” treasure. The treasure totals collected will show up separately during the level, but they get combined at the end of the level. This game is truly a cooperative gaming experience, so there’s no need to be mean.

Choose between Pirates of the Caribbean movies to play through in port.

Choose between Pirates of the Caribbean movies to play through in port.

Sometimes I’ll get into an area in Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game where I am scratching my head, unsure what to do next to progress in the level. I have therefore constructed a formula for progression that has served me quite well when working through a new area in this game’s levels.

1. Kill all enemies in the area. Make sure all damage that can be levied toward you is neutralized.

2. Examine the environment for things that can be built. Many environments are strewn with random Lego pieces that can be put together to create an item that is necessary to progress further in the level. Pressing the “Z” button puts pieces together. If you are stuck, walk around pressing the “Z” button.

3. Run around and look for items that show either a “c” button above them or a picture of another character that is required for you to play as in order to use that item. There were several things we had to do that required controlling a dog, or that could only be done by a specific character like Captain Jack Sparrow.

4. Use Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass to find anything that might be necessary in the area, dig for it, and use it.

We are commandeering this vessel. It's the nautical term.

We are commandeering this vessel. It’s the nautical term.

So far, the gameplay in Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game has been very linear, but the game does not always hold the players hand and tell them exactly what they should do next. I think the game creators struck a refreshingly good balance between creating a challenging, fun experience and guiding players appropriately in how to play their game. After beating the first level, access to the beginning levels in all four Pirates of the Caribbean movies are unlocked, and the player can travel from the port to the current available level in any of those movies.

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game Game Disc

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game Game Disc

Quite the contrast to last night’s game, my wife wants us to complete and stream our progress in Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game. I have had quite a bit of fun with it myself thus far. Obviously this would be a good title for children; the ESRB recommends this title for ages 10 and above. But I would also say this is a fun title for adults that want to play a nice relaxing game at the end of a day where they would like to enjoy only a moderate, light mental challenge while they laugh, have fun, and are entertained.

Cocoto Magic Circus – Nintendo Wii Game Review

Cocoto Magic Circus Title Screen

Cocoto Magic Circus Title Screen

This is the worst game ever. I hate this game! It’s so stupid! – my wife.

Cocoto Magic Circus is a light-gun mini-game shooter released for the Nintendo Wii in 2008. It was developed by Neko Entertainment and published by Conspiracy Entertainment. It follows the same classic formula of many of the light-gun mini-game shooters of the era. The game case boasts, “40 mini-games, each more original than the last!” All of the games are point and shoot with lots of similar patterns strewn throughout all of them making the advertising deceptive at best.

Cocoto Magic Circus was not a new game when it came out on the Nintendo Wii. It debuted on the Playstation 2 where it was played with the GunCon light gun. Since the Nintendo Wii was the ideal console for this type of shooter, it makes sense that Cocoto Magic Circus might be re-released for the system.

Save Fairy from the spiders before she's eaten!

Save Fairy from the spiders before she’s eaten!

The beginning cutscene handily tells the backstory without any words. Four monster-looking friends: Cocoto, Baggy, Neuro, and Shiny, according to the game manual, and their friend Fairy who is a pixie, meet a clown in the woods. He looks creepy as all get-out, but instead of running away they stick around to be friendly with him. The clown kidnaps Fairy, and the others race to help rescue her. Theoretically the objective of the game is to rescue Fairy by shooting her captors in the various mini-games. While some mini-games had us shooting bad guys to keep them away from Fairy, there was no point at the end of any mode of gameplay where Fairy ever regained her freedom that I noticed. The competing monsters would just hop up on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place stands at the end of the game to show how they placed in the Tournament or Duel modes.

This is air hockey... with guns. This shouldn't be a mini-game, but a full featured title.

This is air hockey… with guns. This shouldn’t be a mini-game, but a full featured title.

There are three multiplayer modes: Arcade, Tournament, and Duel. In arcade mode, one or two players play simultaneously and cooperatively until they run out of lives. Lives may be replenished in periodic bonus rounds. Tournament mode is a little bit of a misnomer that actually means hot seat in the case of Cocoto Magic Circus. In tournament mode players pass around one controller and play the mini-games one player at a time competitively. Some mini-games actually lend themselves to this mode of play better, especially for players who are less experienced with aiming a wiimote. This mode allows 2, 3, or 4 players to play. Duel mode allows 2 or 4 players to play competitively and simultaneously for a set number of games.

Try not to shoot Fairy in the face. Oops, instant mini-game over.

Try not to shoot Fairy in the face. Oops, instant mini-game over.

As I alluded earlier, some of the mini-games can be rather frustrating when playing simultaneously with another player. There are a handful of mini-games where all players are aiming at the same target and they only are given one shot to hit it. If all miss, the mini-game is failed. If an opponent hits the target first, the mini-game ends and you won’t get a chance to hit it as well. Then at the end of this short “mini-game,” the player who hit the target is awarded a large number of points for the round and the other players receive nothing. I felt like this happened more frequently than it should have, keeping the game from being well balanced. For this reason I am not sure this game would be very high on my list for Wii games to pull out in a party setting. It seems like the kind of game that is just begging for an argument to break out. My wife argued and screamed about how unfair the game was. I couldn’t understand why the ESRB rated this game for players 10+. There are no unsavory themes that I could find that a 7-year old couldn’t handle. Perhaps the frustration/unfairness issues were a factor?

Cocoto Magic Circus Game Disc

Cocoto Magic Circus Game Disc

Cocoto Magic Circus is a fine game for practicing accuracy with the wiimotes on the Nintendo Wii, but out of all of the similar light-gun games I have played on the Wii, this one is actually my least favorite. It’s just more blah than fun. That combined with the fact that my opponent was yelling at the television the entire time we played made me want to put Cocoto Magic Circus back on the shelf for awhile.

Arctic Tale – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Arctic Tale Title Screen (Dawww!)

Arctic Tale Title Screen (Dawww! So cute!)

In 2007, National Geographic released a movie to theaters called Arctic Tale. It was a documentary that focused in part on a female polar bear they called Nanu. To capitalize on the release of this film, a game with the same name was developed for the Nintendo Wii by Atomic Planet Entertainment and published by Destination Software in the same year. It says on the cover, “Play through the adventures of the major motion picture!” Arctic Tale may be played by one or two players. I didn’t have anyone to play with me this time, so I’ll have to review the two player option at a later date. 🙁

When starting a new game in Arctic Tale, the player begins as a little polar bear cub. You walk around collecting silver and gold paw print tokens. Press the A button to walk around the landscape. The silver tokens provide bonuses and unlock game features, while the gold tokens level up your bear. Be careful of predators and larger polar bears. They want to eat you for breakfast. Run away from them by pressing B. Collecting dead animals replenishes your health. Also strewn across the landscape are larger markers indicating an available mini-game.

Hey, there's Shamu!

Hey, there’s Shamu!

The primary purpose of playing Arctic Tale so far appears to be to collect tokens, fight other creatures in the wild, and get bronze, silver, then gold rankings in the mini-games. I suppose this is really par for the course as far as Wii games go; Arctic Tale was released in the hay day of Nintendo Wii mini-game titles. The four mini-games I played in my first encounter with Arctic Tale were Scavenge, Balance Fight, Ice Slide, and Shuffle Bear.

Hunting for seals trying not to wake up papa bear.

Hunting for seals while trying not to wake up papa bear.

In Scavenge, you attempt to steal the required number of dead seals while sneaking around sleeping grown male polar bears. If you wake the bears, they will attempt to attack you so be wery wery quiet. If you see a line of flashing sparkles, don’t walk over to it unless you have your quota of seals. That is the boundary of the mini-game and the game will end when you cross it. I curiously crossed this line when I was close and had to repeat the whole experience. It was a little irritating.

I'm gonna push this bear into the water where he belongs. I'm king of this ice.

I’m gonna push this bear into the water where he belongs. I’m king of this ice.

In Balance Fight you are trying to knock a fellow polar bear cub off of a tiny floating piece of ice that forms a little sumo wrestling arena. There are some quicktime events that prompt the player to push a button or wave the controller in a specific way. Do what the game says and it’s not hard to get the gold snowflake in this mini-game.

Sliding down. Wee!

Sliding down, collecting tokens. Wee!

Ice Slide is like playing Tux Racer on any Linux box. The controls seemed awkward, but it may be I am not practiced enough with them yet. It could also be this is what happens when you have multiple types of mini-games in a single title and use the same control system for all of them. People who have played the Rebel Assault series may know what I’m talking about.

Playing some Shuffle Bear.

Playing some Shuffle Bear.

The best mini-game I played in my first encounter with Arctic Tale was Shuffle Bear. I’m a big fan of shuffle board, and this is the same thing but with a polar bear instead. Just charge up your bear and see if you can hit the bull’s eye. I got the game Arctic Tale by fishing through a bargain bin. I really got this game because it looked like a good beginner title for small children; I thought my son might like it. But paying a couple bucks to play shuffle bear was worth it for me.

Arctic Tale Game Disc

Arctic Tale Game Disc

It will be interesting to see what other things this game has to offer. While Arctic Tale teaches players about polar bears, it has yet to demonstrate itself as a truly edutainment title. Playing Arctic Tale is about as educational as riding the rides at Sea World without reading any of the literature associated with the ride while in line or on the way toward the ride’s exit. The game thus far hasn’t attempted to define itself in any way or give me any idea of what to expect as I continue in my objectives through it. At first blush, I would imagine I have already seen is all there is to see: lots of snow, killer whales in the background, mini-games, and feeling what it’s like to control a polar bear in a game. But is much here that seems to subtly hint that there is more to come. As it stands, Arctic Tale has impressed me more than most three dollar titles do. If you have small children, this is a fun and safe title for them to play, and at the price I paid well worth it.