Gaming 727

Published on November 17th, 2009 | by Greg


Gaming Roundup: DS, Wii, 360 All Have Something to Offer

Yes, you’re probably too busy playing Modern Warfare 2 or Dragon Age: Origins to bother reading another gaming review. We aren’t reviewing any of those today, but instead a few that might make you want to hit ‘save’ and try something a bit different.

We’ll start with the Nintendo systems and two games from XSEED- Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga for the Wii and Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road for the DS. The first can easily be dismissed- rarely will we suggest that something is not worth playing but, unfortunately, this action RPG has little to offer. Repetitive, uninteresting, graphically ugly and with poor controls, there is almost nothing redeemable about the game. We haven’t tried previous Valhalla Knights games on the PSP, but we don’t think even folks familiar with the series will find much on hand here- even the co-op multiplayer, which might have been a saving grace, doesn’t work well. The story and ideas are kind of neat, and there is a lot to do- but it’s simply not fun or engaging. We suggest moving on, and will do so…

…To the superior Wizard of Oz, an interesting world for an role-playing game if there ever was one. And thankfully, the developers take the familiar characters of Dorothy, Toto, and the rest of the group in new and mostly interesting directions. It doesn’t have the depth of some other RPGs, nor quite the level of character and style we’ve seen from recent reimaginings like Wicked. It’s kid and family-friendly too, no mature themes here, and we’re happy to report that most everything was handled well- combat is decent, graphics and sound as well. There isn’t quite the level of polish that makes a game truly classic- some areas felt repetitive- but the control mechanics are pretty inventive and addictive. This isn’t some random licensed game, a tie-in for a movie or book, but something that stands on it’s own while keeping much of the spirit of the original. A fun occasional diversion for adults, it might best work as an introductory role-playing game for children or a title for those who love the source material. Both games are widely available online and in stores, and expect to spend around $30 for Valhalla Knights, or about $25 for the Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Next up, on the Xbox 360, we have one of the best driving games to come along in a long time. Forza Motorsport 3 offers more in every way- it’s slicker, faster, bigger, and um, funner than it’s predecessors. Hundreds of realistic cars (400+!), tons of tracks (100+), plenty of gameplay options, and a great career mode make the game incredibly replayable. Graphics are great, better than anything else out there right now, though the music and soundtrack don’t quite live up to some of the other competitors. AI racing is decent, but we confess that the online multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired- the game at it’s core is a simulation racer rather than one with the strong online component that others have already done so well. Forza 3 brings to the table instead some fantastic customization tools and really deep single-player, along with incredible mechanics and some fun features (like the rewind system or the excellent photo options). Split-screen multiplayer, we should mention, is pretty good. Available now, online and in stores, for around $50.

Finally, one of the latest contenders to the music gaming throne- DJ Hero from Activision. This was a game we’ve been looking forward to for some time, and were thrilled to check it out finally on the Xbox 360 (though it is also available on the PS3 and Wii). The game offers tracks from some of our favorite artists, like Daft Punk and Cut Chemist, along with plenty of classics from the likes of Jackson 5, Jurassic 5, Beck, Justice, The Beastie Boys, DJ Shadow, and even a classic MC Hammer vs Vanilla Ice matchup that you know you’ve always wondered about. And we’re happy to report that the equipment is great- music peripheral games can live or die on the plastic instruments, and this one is fun, easy to use, and feels quit solid. Those familiar with the general gameplay of Guitar Hero or Rock Band won’t have much trouble with the basics here, but the new cross-fade adds a level of difficulty that will cause even hardcore players some issues at first and means that everyone can find a challenge- the game is on no-fail mode, for better or worse though. The avatars and environments are pretty good, similar in style to the love-em-or-hate-em previous games in the series, with some fun unlockables in the form of Grandmaster Flash and DJ Jazzy Jeff. It’s an interesting twist, fun both for those who already MC or DJ as well as fans of the music games already out there but in search of something new. Yes, the DLC seems a bit overpriced, we wish there was a freestyle mode, and it is another fairly substantial investment in a game. But it’s worth it for the solid single-player if not the multi-player experience that still leaves something to be desired (you can tie in a guitar, but it’s a bit confusing). So, as a party game, it doesn’t quite fit the mold of having everyone play simultaneously- but on the flip side, it can start, and keep, a party dancing. Available widely for $120.

About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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