Endless Ocean – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Endless Ocean Title Screen

Endless Ocean Title Screen

Endless Ocean was developed by Arika and published by Nintendo for their Wii console in 2008. Many critics seem to consider it to be an adventure game. My current impression is that Endless Ocean is an exploration and collecting game, in many ways similar to Pokemon but without combat. The game is set in the fictional waters of the Manoa Lai sea.

Map of Manoa Lai sea.

Map of Manoa Lai sea.

The game begins with a tutorial where the player learns how to use their wiimote to swim underwater while wearing their scuba gear. Katherine Sunday, the player’s partner, instructs the player on what controls to use. The controls seem a little awkward and I’m not sure they were the best choice for underwater swimming. In order to swim, the player presses the B trigger button and then points with the wiimote in the direction they want to go. The wiimote must be pointed at the screen when the player does this since the player’s direction is based on the position of the infrared camera inside the wiimote. If the infrared camera is not detected by the Wii’s sensor bar, then the player halts movement. This was mildly aggravating when people would walk in front of the screen while I was playing.

I found a new fish!

I found a new fish!

Pressing A on the wiimote, the player can interact with various sea creatures. Using the D-pad, the player may pull out food to feed creatures encountered or select the option to return to the boat. When the player first returns to the boat, they are greeted by their partner Kat. She explains how the player’s job and her own are sponsored by the Marinas Foundation. Periodically missions will be sent to the player from the Marinas Foundation that provide direction to the game. Kat makes it very clear, however, that just because the Marinas Foundation writes the paychecks that doesn’t mean she nor the player have to do anything they say. I get the impression Kat would never make it in the corporate world. It is also discovered early on in the game that Kat cannot swim and is therefore not a licensed scuba diver.

I'm Katherine Sunday. I'm kind of a big deal.

I’m Katherine Sunday. I’m kind of a big deal.

While seemingly short on underwater ocean skills, Kat is supposedly an expert regarding all things wildlife. She has been compiling an encyclopedia of all ocean life around the Manoa Lai sea. The encyclopedia acts as a scrapbook of sorts. There are forty pages of wildlife that fill in when the player discovers them, and there are three types of study milestones that can be achieved with each creature.

Each discovered creature shows up in your encyclopedia.

Each discovered creature shows up in your encyclopedia.

The underwater scenes were somewhat breathtaking for the Wii at the time Endless Ocean was released. Given that the Wii’s graphical capabilities are limited to 480p, the graphical experience is somewhat underwhelming today. This might be a good title for Nintendo to release an HD version. The soundtrack is calm and soothing. It appears there are several tracks that can be unlocked as the game progresses which can be selected from the load screen as the player is diving from the boat into a mission underwater.

Some creatures come visit you on your boat.

Some creatures come visit you on your boat.

Endless Ocean appears to be a fantastic game for the gamer who loves to explore and collect on their way to completing all the tasks offered. The map and the encyclopedia are inviting, and the atmosphere is calming. This might be an excellent title for adolescents who are old enough to grasp the handling of a wiimote controller. Since I found no overtly frustrating gameplay in Endless Ocean, I would imagine this would be a good game for children who are easily frustrated by more unforgiving and challenging games. Endless Ocean won’t be for everyone, but it may surprise you how much fun this non-game like game is to play through.

Endless Ocean Game Disc

Endless Ocean Game Disc

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.

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.

Battalion Wars 2 – Nintendo Wii Game First Impressions

Battalion Wars 2 Title Screen

Battalion Wars 2 Title Screen

I purchased my Nintendo Wii right before I graduated college. I actually had it set up to host a post graduation party at my then new apartment. The Wii was relatively new at the time and given that I had scored a new software development job, I decided to make the Nintendo Wii a graduation gift to myself. Coming from a computer gaming background, probably my favorite game genre at that point was real-time strategy.

Consoles are not typically known for their real-time strategy titles. There are many reasons often given for this. I have heard it implied that the game pad controllers are not a good fit for strategy titles. This sounds like a cop out to me. I could imagine it may be difficult to provide a good competitive real-time strategy experience between multiple players playing on a split-screen where everyone can see each other’s troop movements. I’m not sure this would stop such a game from being fun though, and many console strategy titles have some very solid single-player campaigns. I wager the greatest historical reason why gaming consoles did not see many real-time strategy releases was due to the lack of online multiplayer capability.

Empress Lei-Qo of the Sun Empire.

Empress Lei-Qo of the Sun Empire.

I remember the first time I saw a gaming console play a multiplayer real-time strategy game. The game was Command & Conquer: Red Alert on the original Sony Playstation. Two of my friends had hooked their Playstations together using a link cable and were playing two separate sides on two distinct television screens. This seemed ground breaking for consoles to me at the time, but in truth I already owned Starcraft on the PC and was playing it on Blizzard’s Battle.net nearly daily with millions of people around the globe.

Anglo Military Intelligence is second to none!

Anglo Military Intelligence is second to none!

I was a little conflicted on whether I should purchase a Nintendo Wii. On one hand, everyone who had one seemed to be having a lot of fun with it. The Wii-mote controllers were incredibly novel, and worked well. I played extensively with a Wii my friend had. We had some great late-night experiences playing mini-games of Wii Play, Wii Sports, and WarioWare. The Wii seemed like a remarkable party console, and one I wanted to collect for eventually, but wasn’t sure if I needed one right then.

Player begins controlling one person as in a third-person shooter.

Player begins controlling one person as in a third-person shooter.

I don’t know how I heard of Battalion Wars 2. Somehow I think I was complaining that there weren’t enough strategy titles for game consoles. The first game console I had ever purchased was a Sony Playstation 2. One of the first titles I purchased for it was Goblin Commander, a real-time strategy title that was published for the Microsoft XBox and Nintendo Gamecube as well. I figure I must have complained to the right person who encouraged me to look into Battalion Wars 2. I read several positive reviews, and that’s how I got sold on purchasing a Nintendo Wii.

Take command of multiple types of units.

Take command of multiple types of units.

While Battalion Wars 2 used to have the ability to play multiplayer over Nintendo’s Wifi platform, this service is no longer operational. These days a gamer has to be satisfied with its single-player campaign if they wish to play it. In spite of this limitation, I have experienced a great deal of pleasure replaying Battalion Wars 2. Battalion Wars 2 is a real-time tactics game for the Nintendo Wii and was released in 2007. It was developed by Kuju Entertainment and published by Nintendo.

Battalion Wars 2 takes the approach of being an action/strategy hybrid. The game tutorial begins with the player controlling a single commander unit. This commander may be freely moved around the game field from a third-person perspective. The player may target enemies and fire upon them as if they were playing any other third-person shooter console title.

Hopping into a tank and shooting anti-aircraft missiles is fun.

Hopping into a tank and shooting anti-aircraft missiles is fun.

As the player progresses through the tutorial they encounter other units that they may then recruit and command. This opens controls for the player to command units while simultaneously dodging enemy fire and engaging in active combat along-side the player’s troops. In the first mission, the player is then taught to view the battlefield from a bird’s eye view in order to better command the troops under their command.

Battalion Wars 2 is specially designed for the Wii to best use its controls. It never attempts to be another Starcraft or Command & Conquer. It is Battalion Wars 2, and it’s really good at it. There are five different single-player campaigns that may be played: the Solar Empire campaign, the Western Frontier campaign, the Anglo Isles campaign, the Iron Legion campaign, and the Tundran Territories campaign. In my first few missions playing the Solar Empire campaign, I realized how much I had forgotten of the storyline in the ten years since I last played, but have been greatly impressed with how well the game has held up in those years.

The player can get a bird eye's view of the battlefield.

The player can get a bird eye’s view of the battlefield.

The design choices of the races in the campaigns of Battalion Wars 2 are interesting. The Solar Empire, clearly framed as a force of good and light through the beginning of the game, appears to be modeled in many ways after Japan, while their immediate enemy in the first campaign’s missions is the Anglo Isles whose characters are clearly of English decent. Given that this is a Japanese strategy title dealing with military themes, it’s probably one of the few games I have seen provide a Japanese take on modern military politics providing a different view in a genre typically dominated by developers with a western cultural background.

Battalion Wars 2 Game Disc

Battalion Wars 2 Game Disc

There is so much more to be said about Battalion Wars 2 that I will need to save for a more in-depth review. This is in my opinion one of the best titles on the Wii. I purchased a Wii to play this game, and ten years later I have not regretted it. If you come across Battalion Wars 2 and you are a fan of tactics and wouldn’t mind a little action mixed in, I would highly recommend it.

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.

Seicross – NES Game First Impressions

Seicross Title Screen

Seicross Title Screen

In celebration of International Video Game Day 2017, I decided to play an arcade title ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System. You can’t get much more video game than that. Seicross was released by Nihon Bussan for the NES in 1988, four years after it made its arcade debut in 1984. The arcade posters contained the tag line, “Evade enemy chase and attack the fort!! Infiltrate the mysterious base!!!” I am thankful I found that poster to put some of the pieces of the game together. Even with it, this game is crazy.

Seicross is a cluster of chaos. The player’s objective is to pick up these little waving blue guys hanging out on what looks like a motosport race track and to score big points by shooting things using their… bike? You have a fuel meter keeping track of your remaining fuel. If you run out of fuel, your bike explodes. The game moves at the speed of the level, whatever the level designers felt was an adequate challenge. If you’re not ready for it, you’ll run into a wall. If this were not enough, the game designers threw a ton of other random characters on bikes that just like to bump into you and get in the way. If you’re not careful, they’ll distract you and run you into dead-ends and walls. It’s comical to watch them run into dead-ends and walls themselves.

Pick up the blue guys.

Pick up the blue guys for points and radioactive buttons for energy.

The music makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a futuristic county fair carnival and the visuals are intensely bright and colorful. The sound effects and explosions are crisp and satisfying. Nothing about Seicross seems to take itself seriously though it is clear a lot of time was spent making it the fine game it is. I am not sure if my impression of the game would be different if I were living in Japan in the era it was created. It is possible I am missing some artistic cultural details that would make me switch my feelings on this title. Right now I respect it almost as a slap-stick comedy of the arcade form. I wonder if that was what the designers had intended, or if they were going for something much more serious or vastly different to my current impression.

This is one crazy game.

“Out of my way! I just want to get to Starbucks for my morning latte!”

Like many arcade games of the era in which it was released, Seicross in many ways actually does its best to be unfair. The purpose of this game was to be just fun enough where you keep playing, but just hard enough where you are constantly having to inject the arcade machine with more of your hard-earned quarters. They succeeded marvelously on both fronts.

Seicross is hard and confusing, but so much fun. I want to keep playing to get an ever larger high score and see if I can make it to the next level. There is a multiplayer mode where you can play with a friend. It would have been better if this option allowed two players to play simultaneously on the same playfield, but like many NES games it only allows players to play one at a time and keeps track of their scores together.

Seicross game cartridge

Seicross game cartridge

I purchased my copy of Seicross from Amazon for under ten dollars. It looks like there are many copies still selling for a very cheap price. If you are interested in collecting for the NES, this is an easy game to get your hands on. It has also surprisingly been one of my NES titles I keep coming back to whenever I browse through my game collections for a game to play ever since I got it.

Puzzle Kingdoms – Wii Game First Impressions

Puzzle Kingdoms Title Screen

Puzzle Kingdoms Title Screen

When judging by its cover, Puzzle Kingdoms presents itself as a simple generic jewel matching puzzle game where you get three or more items together in a group and they disappear. While that’s essentially the game play in a nutshell, Puzzle Kingdoms subtly offers so much more. Multiple mini game modes are provided including a two player competitive mode. I played the campaign mode for this initial first impression.

Puzzle Kingdoms Character Creation

Character Creation

When beginning the campaign mode, the player may pick their character to proceed. The only options are one stock warrior avatar for either male or female. There is no customization here. Even the character’s name is randomly generated. If you don’t like the name of your chosen gender, you can keep clicking on the opposite gender then click back again until you get a name you like. I personally would have liked to have the name ElbinoBunny, but I don’t know how many clicks it would take to get to that. The world may never know.

Puzzle Kingdoms Initial Backstory

Puzzle Kingdoms Initial Backstory

The campaign mode features a campy, generic fantasy adventure story. The campaign starts off with a slide show presentation cut scene of the story thus far. The player is then greeted with an over-world map from which they can see the kingdoms of the land. All other kingdoms except for the starting kingdom are off limits to the player. The starting kingdom provides the tutorial for how the game is played.

Once the player has clicked on the current kingdom, another comic-book like cut scene begins to give some episodic back story and some super dry campy humor. The story is certainly an acquired taste. I got bored with it the first play through, but as I played through it tonight I have felt the characters grow on me. At first glance the entire Puzzle Kingdoms chronicled saga seems to be filler in between the puzzles which are the main event. Upon further inspection it seems someone actually took some time to create some depth into such seemingly throw away characters.

Purchasing Troops

Purchasing Troops

Once all the cut scenes are over, the player receives control of a hero and can recruit soldiers using gold to fight under that hero’s banner. Each hero may recruit up to four soldiers to fight. In the initial tutorial and into the next kingdom, the player may only recruit peasants, archers, and swordsmen. The peasants are so incredibly weak they seemed like a waste of a recruit to me. Archers have increased attack strength, but are weaker on defense. Swordsmen have greater defense, but are weaker than archers on their attack. At the beginning of the game I recruited an extra swordsman because of their greater defensive capability, but there is actually more to this decision than I understood at the time.

Puzzle Gameplay

Puzzle Gameplay

The objective of the puzzle portion of the game is to get three or more symbols (the game calls them power blocks) in a grouping to gain points. This is where having chosen your recruited units is important. Swordsmen may only attack after the player has grouped together the equivalent of three white crosses three times. If the player groups four white crosses, then they get a bonus cross out of it. An archer, however, may attack after two sets of three green leaves, or one grouping of four green leaves have been matched, thereby often getting their attacks out of the gate much quicker. Peasants are the worst requiring three sets of three yellow suns to attack.

Zap Move

Zap Move

When a player matches three or more of the crossed swords together, a zap of damage is dealt to one of the opposing player’s units. All other power blocks that are not used to provide attack points to units send power directly to the hero. When the hero has enough points, the hero may cast a spell.

Puzzle Kingdoms Wii Disc

Puzzle Kingdoms Wii Disc

So far Puzzle Kingdoms has been surprising interesting and addictive. Unfortunately while I was working on this first impression the disc I had stopped loading correctly in my Wii U. I was a little shocked at how sorry I was that I wasn’t able to play further in this game. Despite it’s mediocre graphical presentation for the system, the game play feels top notch. I most certainly will try to swing back by and give this one a closer look once I figure out what I can do to get it to load properly again.

Daikon Set – Wii U Game Review

Daikon Set Title Screen

Daikon Set Title Screen

According to Wikipedia, the word daikon literally translates to “big root” in Japanese. It is described as a “mild flavored winter radish” that is “characterized by fast-growing leaves and a long, white, napiform root. However, Daikon Set, by Butterfly Corporation, is a downloadable suite of three retro-style (think Atari 2600) mini-games for the Wii U. On the fourth of July holiday, my son and I were playing some Wii games on my Wii U when I noticed a little Mii in the online Miiverse saying something on the order of, “This game is actually free!” I thought, why not, and clicked on it.

Chroma Star Title Screen

Chroma Star Title Screen

Daikon Set takes a little while to download and install but once I had it running, I encountered a menu with three game options. The first game is called Chroma Star. At first glance it looks like a space invaders type arcade shooter. When I went to shoot the enemy ships, however I learned very quickly that my laser bullets were not blowing them up but were instead just pushing them back. The objective is to continue to push back all of the invading ships until the background musical score finishes playing.

Chroma Star Gameplay

Chroma Star Gameplay

The first few times picking it up and playing through the game it was much more challenging than I expected. But after a little practice, it actually became quite boring and tedious waiting for the song to end. A scoring system where I could have received a high score would have probably eliminated this sour feeling. I made it through the first two levels to reach a final level boss fight. All I had to do in the boss fight was to dodge a mild bullet hell and then I was greeted with a screen informing me the game was complete.

Pink Mite Title Screen

Pink Mite Title Screen

The second game is called Pink Mite. In this game, the player plays as a little fairy inside a bubble, floating around dangerous obstacles attempting to collect bubbles along the way. Miss a bubble and you die, and the game ends. Hit an obstacle, same deal. The concept of game play is similar to playing a water level in a Mario game. You press the primary fire button to float in the direction the D-pad is pointing. Yet the controls are incredibly fluid and responsive. Every time my fairy died, it felt fair and was almost frustration free. In fact this is an incredibly relaxing game. It’s the kind of game that I could see myself coming home from a long day of work and playing just to forget about the stresses of life for awhile.

Pink Mite Gameplay

Pink Mite Gameplay

The music in Daikon Set is composed of surprisingly good chip tune mixes. The title theme is incredibly catchy, and the themes for the levels are relaxing and put me at ease while I play. I suppose that was actually a frustrating thing for me. While I was on edge trying to concentrate on beating a level, the soothing flow of background music was out of sync with my emotional feelings of concentration. When I’m really into this game, I somehow get annoyed at how relaxed it makes me feel. I would recommend, and it’s almost as if the game were designed this way, for any player to just breathe, calm down, and not expect any sort of achievement while playing. Just simply enjoy and experience Daikon Set for what it is.

The Queen Title Screen

The Queen Title Screen

The third game in the Daikon Set is called The Queen. Imagine repelling a ball like in Pong, but then attempting to dodge the same ball simultaneously. The player controls a large rectangle with two colors, cyan and purple. There is a bouncing ball that glides around the edges of the screen. The objective is to keep the bouncing pong ball from hitting the purple side of the rectangle, which represents the queen and hitting the pong ball with the cyan ball. This one has strangely been the hardest one of all for me thus far, though I’ll probably have it figured out better within another day of additional play or so.

The Queen Gameplay

The Queen Gameplay

If you are interested in arcade retro style game play, then I would recommend trying the Daikon Set. It is not the most impressive retro title I have played on a more modern console system, but it is fun, and it is certainly hard to beat the price of free.