Bitesized "miniature reviews" are now being posted on a regular basis alongside the usual reviews, with the purpose of being more concise so that you can get the gist faster and ultimately so we can post more of the content you love!
If card games and board games are your thing, then Clubhouse Games (AKA 42 All-Time Classics) is definitely your kind of game! The DS compilation contains a great selection of easily-recognizable games and a few not-so-familiar ones as well. If you enjoy games like Battleship, Hangman, Connect Four, and Sorry, then you'll be pleased to know that the collection features adaptations of these popular games and many, many more. The game also contains extensive tutorials for each game, so it's also great for those who want to learn more card games.
DS | Party | Nintendo | 1-8 Players (DS download / multi-card multiplayer) | DS Download Play demo "gifting" | Out Now | a.k.a. 42 All-Time Classics
Clubhouse Games doesn't just throw them all in without giving much thought to additional modes; on the contrary, the game features a Stamp Mode as well as a challenging Mission Mode, where players are given specific directives to complete in some of the games found in the collection. CPU's can be set to one of three difficulty levels for those that either like to be challenged at their favourite games or for those who want to take things easy. The game also features local wireless multiplayer for up to 8 players. Whether your friends/family have the game or not doesn't matter since it takes advantage of Download Play so everyone can enjoy the game. The game even allows you to talk to each other via text communication a la Pictochat, yet another great addition. Don't be surprised if the people you're playing with suddenly have an urge to pick up the game for themselves! The game also features (worldwide) online multiplayer, one of the strongest points about the game. Integration is fantastic but not all of the games included can be played online for some reason (eg, card games Spit and Speed) which is a bit of a shame. With games like President, Checkers and Chess, finding opponents will prove to be very easy at almost any time of day, however, with other games, such as Ludo and Spy Tactics, you'll be a lot more hard-pressed to find even one opponent. Given the game's popularity, it's very likely that you'll have friends who have the game; after exchanging friend codes, you can form special rooms where you and up to 7 other friends can play online. And, just like with local multiplayer, friends in the same group can talk to each other thanks to the text-based Chat feature.
If you don't already have Clubhouse Games, you're really missing out. There's no reason to hesitate, especially since the game is relatively cheap nowadays. The game is full of replay value thanks to such things as local/online multiplayer support, challenging modes, as well as the ability to unlock hidden features. In short, Clubhouse Games can rightly be described as the best card/board game collection ever developed for the DS handheld. KnucklesSonic8
Gameplay 10/10 - Presentation 9/10 - Enjoyment 5/5 - Other 5/5 Equivalent to a score of 97% /
WiiWare | Rhythm Action | Ghostfire Games | 1-2 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now - 1000 Nintendo Points
Laced with a funky feel, Helix is one of the few rhythm games on the WiiWare platform that serves as a strong contender for future releases in this genre. With presentation that resembles that of a visualizer on a computer, the game tasks players with following the movements of the on-screen robot by making gestures with the Wii Remote. Players play with two remotes at once (although you can play with a single controller, but it takes away most of the experience so doesn't come recommended), moving to the beat of some background music as they punch into the air, make spinning motions, and more. The idea of using two Wii Remotes at once may take some time to get used to, but you'll find that it does grow on you fairly quickly. The success of a concept like this is completely dependant on working controls and so it's a relief to find that the control recognition exceeds expectations. The game recognizes your movements very easily, even when playing songs with a faster BPM rate, and that's great to see.
The game contains a great library of music, mostly consisting of songs belonging to the techno genre. If you're not a big fan of electronic/techno music, then you might want to stay away as 90% of the songs in the game belong to the aforementioned genre. For those that do like this kind of music, however, you'll find that the music quality is great, fused with infectious, tense-sounding backbeats. Not all songs are avaialble at the outset, though, so players will have to play the game a lot before they're able to see all of what the game has to offer. Players are able to play on three difficulty levels, Easy, Medium and Hard, and high-scores can be set on songs under each difficulty. There is a significant amount of replay value that exists in the game, not only in trying all of the routines on each difficulty but also in aiming for the highest grades possible.
Helix is definitely not for lazy gamers! The game really gets you moving to the point that you may even begin to sweat if you play long enough. Not only is the gameplay great for those who love rhythm games, but it can also serve as a great workout. If you enjoy games like Samba de Amigo, then it's likely that you'll enjoy this; Helix is also great for those that enjoy active games like Wii Fit but are looking for a more fun experience.
It's been a long time since Ghostfire Games released Helix and it still holds up as a solid release. 1,000 Points may seem steep at first but for those that enjoy rhythm games, you really should give the game a go. Other than the basic presentation, the game has very few flaws to speak of, making it a worthwhile purchase. If you don't mind working up a sweat then definitely give Helix a try. We can only hope that Ghostfire Games will look into making a sequel to this great game! KnucklesSonic8
Gameplay 8/10 - Presentation 7/10 - Enjoyment 5/5 - Other 4/5 Equivalent to a score of 80% /
WiiWare | Rhythm Action | Gaijin Games / Aksys Games | 1-4 Player Co-op | Out Now - 600 Nintendo Points
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, BIT.TRIP CORE serves as the second title in Gaijin Games' new WiiWare series, with a completely different concept than the last. Essentially, players use the D-Pad to take control of an invisible beam that can appear in four directions. As incoming beats approach in one or more of the directions on-screen, players activate the beam with the right timing by using the 2 Button. Some may be stubborn to adopt the new system after being so used to the tilt control scheme found in the first BIT.TRIP game, but if you give it time, you'll find that it does grow on you.
Just like in BIT.TRIP BEAT, you have a series of small beats with different attributes but you'll also encounter rectangular bars which are treated the same way as the standard pixel beats. Once again, you have the ability to press other buttons to add in your own beats. New to the BIT.TRIP series, though, is the ability to use bombs which will eliminate all on-screen beats in one swoop. This is a great new feature for those who may be having a hard time keeping up with the pace. The game can be very tricky, so expect to be caught off guard more than a few times during your first few plays. Don't be surprised if you find the game to be more difficult than BIT.TRIP BEAT. Just like in other music games, though, satisfaction comes from learning each song and anticipating beats ahead of time.
BIT.TRIP CORE also has really strong presentation values, featuring brilliant music and backgrounds that tell a story if you focus well enough. The quality of visuals are excellent enough to bring a smile to your face, especially once you hit the psychadelic Super Move. In spite of the bright and lively visuals, you won't encounter too many instances where the colours of the backgrounds and the beats blend together. Onlookers may find the stages to be a bit too lengthy but most will be too engrossed to complain about the length. All in all, BIT.TRIP CORE looks fantastic and you can tell a lot of love went into the development of this game. Gaijin Games should definitely be applauded for the amount of work they put into making the game appealing to the senses.
If you haven't given BIT.TRIP CORE a go, there's something wrong with you. In many respects, Core is an even stronger release than Beat with even more impressive music and visuals that dare to impress. Spend the points and give Gaijin Games the support they deserve.
Gameplay 9/10 - Presentation 9/10 - Enjoyment 5/5 - Other 2/5
WiiWare | Platform / Adventure | Over the Top Games | 1-2 Player co-op | Out Now - 1000 Nintendo Points (Demo available)
When the WiiWare service first launched, it was already blessed with the fantastic LostWinds, a game which featured platforming and puzzling elements combined with the ability to control wind with the pointer of your remote, providing a fantastic, if short, experience. With NyxQuest, the developers have taken on a similar concept, allowing you to control and create paths of wind, move balls of fire and interact with the environment itself all with the Wii remote's pointer. These all combine to make some of the best puzzle/platform moments in gaming, but sadly the developers haven't quite managed to beat LostWinds at it's own game just yet.
Sadly, the game lacks from several glitches in the gameplay, sometimes causing premature and unfortunate deaths, and other times leaving you with no way of moving. These can be overlooked, but do provide for some very annoying scenarios at times. In addition to this, the graphics also feel a bit lacking as well. Sure, their cel-shaded style fits really well with the Ancient Greek theme, but sadly some of the set pieces can begin to look really samey as you progress, and some background set-pieces can sometimes be easily confused with items in the foreground. This isn't to say that the game loses out to LostWinds in every possible way, though, since fans looking for more excitement or action in this than that of LostWinds will not be left disappointed, with plenty of quick thinking often required.
The game also features co-op functionality, allowing an extra player to participate in trickier moments, something that proves to be a great advantage during certain sections. Overall, if you're looking for a new platformer on WiiWare, this will not leave you disappointed, although the style won't be for everyone. Gameplay 9/10 - Presentation 8/10 - Enjoyment 4/5 - Other 5/5
WiiWare | Simulation | Hudson | 1 Player | Nintendo Wi-fi Connection DLC available | Out Now - 500 Nintendo Points |
My Aquarium has certainly been one of the more controversial WiiWare releases since it's launch in the Summer of 2008, mainly due to the fact that the gameplay is virtually non-existent in that your only "objective" was to decorate a fish tank, fill it with fish and then watch it, and also because it's still managing to linger around the top end of the WiiWare charts. The only redeeming feature of the game seemed to be the fact that it made for quite a nice relaxing screensaver on your TV, although even then it still seemed relatively pointless. With My Zoo, Hudson has effectively taken a similar concept but replaced the fish tank with a small enclosure and the fish with popular Zoo animals, from Elephants to Lions and your average Three-Banded Armadillo.
Thankfully, all the animals offer more interactivity than the fish in My Aquarium, as you get the opportunity to call them over to you and pet them with the remote, but sadly this idea is flawed due to broken controls and the animals' severe lack of emotion when being pet. Sometimes, depending on the animal and it's age, their personalities will change, varying their energy levels amongst other things, but this hardly effects the gameplay whatsoever. Sadly, further limitations come in when you discover upon starting the game that your (simplistically dull) enclosures are limited to three animals each, all of which have to be of the same species. This is a bit of a disappointment, but it does help with another new feature that allows your animals to breed, adding further animals into their fold (just in case you're too lazy to add more animals yourself).
Other than the age differences (which, for example, add manes to the lions as they grow older, amongst other things), all the animals in the same species look the same, sadly also causing any remaining personality or individuality left in the "characters" to become obsolete. Despite the game's flaws though, they have still managed to fit another few small features into the game, with the addition of further downloadable species (released intermittently over the coming weeks at 200 points each) and the ability to change the music or, in the indoor level, change the lighting. You can also "sweep" up some dirt with the brush, but this once again feels badly implemented due to the fact that it just disappears after waving the remote over it a few times, with no animation or reason for it's appearance given.
Overall, Hudson have taken an average idea and shoehorned further badly implemented features into it, creating a game that tries to be a fun, downloadable pet simulator, but instead turns out to be an underwhelming attempt that feels unpolished in just about every area, from the scenery to the interactivity. What's more is that the screensaver function here is even less appealing than that in My Aquarium, but if you really want to watch a small group of indentical, emotionless animals stroll aimlessly around a small generic area, at least it's only 500 points. Billy White
Gameplay 3/10 - Presentation 6/10 - Enjoyment 1/5 - Other 3/5
WiiWare | Rhythm Action | Gaijin Games / Aksys | 1-4 Player co-op | Out Now - 600 Nintendo Points
With the BIT.TRIP series, the developers decided to take the "retro theme" idea, and put a unqiue spin on it by adding more modern aspects to it, something that works really well in action. The aim of the game is to move your paddle up and down to defend the left hand side of the screen from small blocks (or "beats") which are constantly flying towards you (slightly akin to the basic gameplay of Pong), something simple enough at first, but with extra depth from the very beginning.
To enhance play, you must control your paddle by twisting your Wii remote towards and away from yourself, a method which may sound daunting and unnecessary at first, but manages to work wonderfully, allowing for more control over speed and accuracy. Up to four player co-op play is also available, and even though the bat size is compromised due to the extra help, it provides some great fun with friends. Adding to the experience even further, the beats that fly towards you all make a "bleep" sound when they come into contact with your paddle, forming a fantastically catchy tune as you progress through each of the three levels. Some of them also move in imaginative ways just to fool you, but whilst this may be a tad confusing from time to time, it also manages to add much more personality and difficulty to the gameplay.
All in all, BEAT is a great start to the new BIT.TRIP series, with great gameplay to accompany the fantastic aesthetic style, although sometimes the background imagery (which vaguely displays a story if you pay close attention) can distract you. With the levels clocking up around fifteen to twenty minutes each time, it can also be a pain when you constantly fail at a difficult section and have to start over again, but for hardcore gamers, it's well worth a download at just 600 points.Billy White
Gameplay 8/10 - Presentation 9/10 - Enjoyment 4/5 - Other 3/5