Published on April 18th, 2009 | by Greg0
Toys, Toys, Toys: Books and Games
We don’t often get to hit so many platforms with one review, but today we’re hitting quite a few- and so will get right to it! If our other toy coverage hasn’t satisfied your need for fun, we have you covered.
For starters, we’ve been checking out Avalon Code for the Nintendo DS and Rune Factory: Frontier for the Wii, both from Marvelous Entertainment and Xseed Games. Both are RPGs, both are promising examples of fairly deep and engaging gameplay, and they both feature an art style and characterizations similar to Harvest Moon. They also both end up being flawed, with slightly clunky interfaces and a bit less fun than the chores/mini-games in Animal Crossing. The plots are pretty strong, and the core concepts good, but neither features multi-player that would make them standout, nor do they make good use of the unique features of either system. They are different games from one another in many ways, but ended up blurring together a bit for us- fun, diverting, good for those who like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon, but not necessary for those who don’t. Available now, $45 for Rune Factory: Frontier, $30 for Avalon Code.
Then there’s our Xbox 360 game of the day- Ninja Blade. It’s kind of like a summer blockbuster- lots of bluster and some decent graphics but ultimately forgettable. Big, stupid, fun. This one feels a lot (way too much) like Ninja Gaiden, but without the design excellence and sheer challenge… or God of War without the good plot and characters. Ninjas, Tokyo, outbreak of disease, you get the idea, and the “explore the city” mechanic works pretty well (but isn’t quite Crackdown or Assassin’s Creed). Combat is stylish, quick-time events shake things up but end up being a bit tiresome, and the sheer craziness (surfing on a missile?!) almost makes up for repetition. For $55, it might not quite be worth it, but it’s a definite rental. Available now.
Finally in our toy-related round-up, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Barbie doll by reading Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel by Jerry Oppenheimer. We’re always down for learning about the “secret side” of a company, and especially one filled with as many interesting characters as Mattel. And the author mostly delivers on the promise- revealing a pretty dark world behind the parents of Barbie and Mattel in general, with plenty of sex, a suicide, product wars and recalls, and fraud. But the writing felt rushed and without too many interviews and first-hand accounts, the book lacks some authenticity and winds up reading like a tell-all tabloid piece from an outsider. An overemphasis on sexual exploits and unsubstantiated rumors and gossip weaken what could have been a fascinating look at a controversial product and company. Available now, with a list price of $25.