Friday, June 27, 2008

The Piffman2 Archive

All of my previous reviews, NiGHTS, Ghost Squad, Geometry Wars and Battalion Wars 2. enjoy

Ghost Squad


Imagine this. It’s the day after Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) and you’ve just gotten a shiny new Wii Zapper. You start playing Link’s Crossbow and you love it. The game is loads of fun and the Zapper is awesome and immersive. However, one hour later you finish the game with all platinum medals. Now what? Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles is good but maybe it’s a little slow or too violent for you. Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 is excellent as well but to some it might just be World War II shooter number 2,128. Sega is here to help with their first Wii Zapper effort Ghost Squad. But is it any good?

First let’s actually explain the game. Ghost Squad is a light-gun game in the vein of Time Crisis and Virtua Cop. You play as a team of covert agents known as the “Ghost Squad” battling a terrorist Group known as the Indigo Wolves through dense jungles, raging rivers, grand villas eventually rescuing the president from Air Force One along the way. One odd thing about the story, as pointless as it is, is that while you take on various high-ranking officers of the Indigo Wolves you never actually see their leader even though he is mentioned. Sequel? Anyway you’ll shoot your way through terrorist on-rails, complete some minigames like rescuing hostages or sniping down enemies, beat a boss and the level is over. Repeat that three times and you got Ghost Squad.

Ghost Squad trumps all other Zapper games so far in terms of responsive and pure arcade game play. However, this is because Ghost Squad is an arcade game from 2004 and not one of those crazy advanced Japan-only arcade games either. Before writing this review I went down to my local amusement park and played Ghost Squad for a good half hour. The game is designed to be test reflexes and kill players quickly forcing them to stuff more dollars into the machine so the controls have to keep up. To achieve this on Wii Sega included a way to calibrate the IR for maximum accuracy. Using this you can play without the cursor but requires you to remain perfectly still and aligned with the TV.

Speaking of controls, Ghost Squad works great with the very light-gunesque Wii Zapper but it also allows the player to use just the Wiimote so gun-shells like the Nyko Perfect Shot and Brando 2 in 1 can be used as well. The different shells you can use work well with the variety of guns you can use in the game. There are other unlockables as well including new game modes and new costumes like a Panda outfit or the ability to go shirtless. You’ll unlock these as you play through the game on harder difficulties and through alternative paths. You’ll want to do this a lot because like Link’s Crossbow Training, Ghost Squad is short. As in, it’s so short I played it at my local amusement park for a half hour because that’s how long it took to beat.

Ghost Squad on Wii is port of a 3-year old arcade game based on X-Box hardware and it feels like it. Graphically the game is competent and even boasts some cool lightning effects during the boss battle on Air Force One. There are also plenty of things to shoot in the environment. Sega also added some new modes for Ghost Squad’s Wii debut. In addition to arcade mode there is a training mode with some target shooting games and a four player party mode. Party mode mixes things up with Ninja Mode and Paradise mode. In Ninja mode everyone is a ninja, you shoot shuriken, bosses are shoguns and your enemies ride giant frogs. Even better is paradise mode. In Paradise mode, you look the same but shoot water from a plastic duck, enemies are girls in bikini’s riding swan boats and brandishing bananas as knives and bosses wear Speedos and board shorts. These modes change things not only from a visual standpoint but also from a game play one. Shuriken and bursts of water have different properties than your standard bullets.

In conclusion, Ghost Squad is a fun but short game for anyone who likes pure arcade-style light-gun shooters. However games like Medal of Honor and Resident Evil beat it in terms of graphics and content. Still, at $30, Ghost Squad is a good game to go along with your new Wii Zapper. Fans of this game should also be on the lookout for Sega’s upcoming port of House of the Dead 2 and 3 on Wii, a similar game with a similar price.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies

Geometry Wars Galaxies- Review

Whenever I mention “Geometry Wars” around my friends the typical response is “Geometry? I hate that class” but Geometry War Galaxies like all Geometry Wars is only called that due to most elements in the game being made of simple shapes. The history of Geometry Wars is odd and a little humble. What began as a minigame in the Project Gotham Racing series soon became one the most popular titles on X-Box Live Arcade with the subtitle Retro Evolved and a big franchise in its own right. That $5.00 downloadable game is now a barely-bargain $39.99 Wii game as well as a $29.99 DS game. However, Retro Evolved is just one battle. Galaxies is the entire Geometry War.

The gameplay of Galaxies is most akin to classic two-stick shooters like Robotron making Galaxies very hardcore in a retro kind of way. However, being on the Wii, Galaxies has some interesting control alternatives. First, players can control their ship with the nunchuk, aim with the cursor and fire with the trigger. It’s certainly functional and players with nothing else will be able to play just fine but the classic controller, with its two-sticks, is hands-down the better choice, especially for high-level play.

The gameplay in Geometry Wars has always been this way but Galaxies offers some new features that set it apart from Retro Evolved. First is the new multiplier system. Before players would get higher multipliers but just killing enemies but Galaxies offers them in the form of Geoms, the currency system. Geoms raise your multiplier as well as allow you to buy things outside of the game like new planets. It’s different but it raises your score much faster even though it maxes out at 150x. Another obvious new feature is the battle drone. This little secondary ship can be programmed to do many things like shooting at enemies or collecting Geoms. As you play your drone levels up and becomes very useful. There’s nothing like destroying a huge group of enemies, having your powered up collector drone gets all of the Geoms, getting a huge multiplier and getting a huge score. Retro Evolved is included as well but with all of the additions in Galaxies I can’t go back to it.

Galaxies also offers an incredible amount of content. There are ten solar systems with at least five planets each. To understand how much content that is, Retro Evolved equals one planet and each planet is basically endless. However, there are only maybe six or seven different types of stages and just several variations of them. These new types of stages are very cool. Some are based on classic games like Pac-Man and the name of the planet tells you what kind of stage it is. For example, Maseis, Masduo, and Mastris are all based on Asteroids. Those stages are my personal favorites because you can get massive multipliers by breaking up asteroids into lots of small enemies. However some stages, like the “washing machine” level are a little too crazy and almost unplayable. Geometry Wars is a game where the player gets into a Zen-like state focus and can’t be distracted by things like environmental hazards. There are also point where there are so many enemies that it’s impossible to survive without using a map-clearing bomb. Still, there are enough enjoyable stages and incentives like medals add to the almost infinite replayability. It doesn’t hurt that Galaxies looks very pretty with its simple style but excellent particles effects and psychedelic warping grids.

Finally, Galaxies offers a few features and extras outside of the main game that help round out the package. Since the game is so fast and twitch-based it’s understandable that there’s no wifi play but there are wifi leader boards. Galaxies also features multiplayer for the first time in the series which is welcome even though sharing lives in co-op is a little annoying and you can only play Retro Evolved. Galaxies coolest extra feature is something more Wii game should be doing, Wii-DS connectivity. If you just have the Wii version you can beam Retro Evolved into you DS and keep it until you turn off your DS. By the way, the DS controls work much better than the Wii ones. The stylus control is very precise and tactile. If you have the DS and the Wii version of Galaxies then the tenth planet is unlocked.

Geometry Wars is a simple game at its heart and the developer, Kuju, should be applauded for getting the most they possible could out of its concept. However, at $39.99, some people may not care about the extras because they’re happy playing Retro Evolved for five bucks. Galaxies is what it wanted to be, Geometry Wars as a full price, fully featured, complete retail game.

Battalion Wars 2

Battalion Wars 2 Review

Way back on an early episode of Hear Mii, I said that Kuju was one of my favorite third-party Wii developers. One reason was that they’re responsible for Geometry Wars: Galaxies. The second, they’re also responsible for Battalion Wars 2, or, BWii, even if it’s not really a third-party game.

The Battalion Wars series is the console spin-off of Nintendo’s old Advance Wars series. While Advance Wars is a very traditional turn-based strategy game, Battalion Wars is an unconventional mix of real-time strategy and third-person shooting. The result creates a gameplay experience that’s decidedly simpler than most PC RTS games, probably to get it to work on a console. Even if the experience is simpler it doesn’t t mean that the game is less fun. I’ve never played the first Battalion Wars game so I don’t know if the controls have improved, however, a game like Battalion Wars lends itself very well to the Wii. You’ll use buttons for most actions and some waggle for mostly pointless actions like jumping. However, the real advantage is using the pointer to lock on and fire at enemies. For what I know this was handled by using the analog stick in the first game and I can’t imagine how rigid and imprecise that must’ve felt. The controls stay the same no matter what unit you are using whether it’s a bazooka solider, tank or the new battleship and frigates. There is one exception, the airplane controls require motion and pointer for changing direction and altitude. It kind of makes sense in theory but doesn’t come together. Luckily you can take command of any unit you want and let the AI control of your squad.

BWii basically has two modes, campaign and multiplayer. There’s also some unlockables like concept art but that’s not too exciting. Campaign mode is divided up into 5 countries with their own separate stories for you too complete. The missions do a good job of teaching you the controls while steadily ramping up the difficulty at a satisfying pace. However its ends a little two quickly as it can be beaten in around five hours. If you’re a completionist you can try to improve your score if you want to extend that number. The story of BWii is pretty ridiculous with a slightly British sense of humor since Kuju is British. The countries of the world are fighting each other over a legendary super weapon. What’s great is that each country represents a major WWII power with America, Germany, Britain, Japan and Russia. The story is told with some well-done cutscenes and some questionable voice-work. It goes from good and strangely cool (the evil Kaiser Vlad) to alright (Brigadier Betty) to bad but not funny (Admiral A-Qira). There’s also a strange flashback mission about an ancient army made up of creatures like Orcs…with tanks. Overall BWii has some good production values as well as some good graphics. The water effects look particularly nice since naval units are the big new feature of this game.

One of the main new features in BWii is online multiplayer mode, a first for the series. You can play your friends or anyone to a game of Co-op, Assault, or Skirmish (where you try to rack up points and not just destroy). Yes the game uses friend codes but it’s also very quick and easy to get online and play anyone. If someone drops out the game even tries to make you feel better by saying “don’t take it personally”. However, it’s really a shame that there’s no voice chat as it’s almost necessary for Co-op. You send messages to your ally like “destroy this unit” and that’s about it. The real strategy comes from using the units you’ve been given against the right enemy units. For example, if you have anti-air soldiers and your ally doesn’t, focus on taking down the gunships. In a way it’s a lot like Rock, Paper, Scissors. Still, the online mode is fun and gives you something fun you can play for a while after you’ve beaten the campaign. Nintendo’s online plan isn’t where it’s needs to be quite yet but with games like BWii they’re slowly but surely getting there.

The first Battalion Wars was a sleeper hit with emphasis on the word sleeper. I’m afraid the same thing will happen to Battalion Wars. The game got little no marketing. AT first I thought it was due to Nintendo’s causal-centric strategy but if good hardcore niche games like Advance Wars: Days of Ruin can get commercials why not Battalion Wars? I don’t like giving scores but if you’re looking for a fun hardcore B-ish game to play during the summer drought try looking for BWii on sale. It may take you by surprise


NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams

oh, and


Anonymous said...

these reviews look so unprofessional...

TheAssailant6661 said...

What do you expect? IGN? Not everyone has a multi-million dollar budget, but it would be nice ;)