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Jun 182014
 

I have now reached my 700th post, which is about something really nostalgic. I can remember the first video game console I ever played was the Atari 2600 and I admit that the graphics and game play were a lot different compared to the video games we have today. However, if you still long for this kind of nostalgia, many of the old classic titles return all on one game called Atari Anthology for the Playstation 2.

To make this Atari set more interesting, the menu screens are up to date graphics of outer space. With each game you go to a different planet. It’s appropriate because if you think about it, many of the old Atari games were different types of space shooters. Sometimes though, the quick transition from new graphics to the old ones does take some getting used to.

There are 85 different games featured. Some I remember more than others. The ones I remember best include the classic space shooter Asteroids. The cute mind game Hangman.

Video Pinball that I still find particularly fun. Demons and Diamonds the quirky laser shooter game.

Casino a simple card game with interesting sound effects but was difficult to understand back in the day. And Atari Air-Sea Battle where you blast different vehicles in a continuous loop. I always loved the explosions.

I also remember Surround, but it’s hard to play without a second player. Why does this game not have a one-player mode like other games?

Many of the other games on this one disk set are ones I never heard of before. Whether they were quest games like the Sword Quest trilogy, first person shooters like Gravitar, sport games like Double Dunk, old arcade titles like Centipede, etc.; they all had something in common. I either don’t understand it, or the control is awkward. Sure the joystick control was tough before, but even now with this modern PS2 controller, it’s still difficult if not worse and there’s no need for that.

If you think Atari Anthology features every Atari game ever made, it doesn’t. I know because there are games I remember playing back in the day that aren’t included. It’s a real letdown, especially because some of the games this set of Atari titles does not include are Space Invaders and the original PAC-Man. Now those games were classics. Now I can understand not including titles that are based on movie and TV franchises like Star Wars, Superman, Spiderman, Indiana Jones, GI Joe, and E.T., but come on. Why leave out the true Atari classics?

The only other Atari game I remember that also wasn’t featured is Cosmic Ark, where you block meteors from different angles to protect your ship and collect an endless number of specimens. The control was a bit awkward when I played it years ago, but I liked the effects of the ship getting blown up.

Overall, Atari Anthology does have both good points and bad points. What I admire most about this title is how it provides the ability to ditch your old media and not have to lose your favorite old material. It’s like having old movies and TV shows on DVD or Blu-ray instead of VHS.

Jan 072014
 

I never would’ve imagined that the Muppets would make it to a video game. Well, here they are on Muppets Party Cruise for the Playstation 2. It’s a series of mini games, which you can play as Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal, or Pepe.

Here’s the story behind it. The Muppets go on a cruise ship for their vacation. They expected to go first class, but instead end up on the first deck because Pepe didn’t know that there was a difference between the two. Of course that didn’t stop them from having fun. One thing I couldn’t help but notice is that whenever Sam the eagle speaks during the intro, he only says, “May I interject something?” No one ever responds to it, so I guess that means no.

There is a choice to play the short cruise, where you could just play any mini game you want, if it’s unlocked. The other choice is the long cruise, where you play your character on the deck, like a board game, and walk to the doors that lead to the mini games.

The object of the game is to collect party favours for each mini game you win. They come in several different colors. To win you need to collect three of the same color before your opponents do. That’s right, the only option is the four-player mode. The CPU controls the other three, but at least you get to choose those characters on the title screen as well as your own.

In place of dice you use a mini pinball machine to roll how many spaces you can go. It’s helpful when trying to collect credits scattered throughout the deck. You’ll need as many as you can get because every mini game expects you to bid. I still don’t understand the purpose of that.

The control is decent in some mini games, others not so much. I’m mostly referring to the driving mini games. It’s very hard to stay on course when the steering is so hard that you can easily go out of control while the other drivers overlap you. Don’t you just hate that? At first I thought it was on a high difficulty setting, but it turns out that there isn’t one.

After the other three players have moved, the game puts two others into the mix, which are other Muppet characters you can’t play as, like Rizzo, Rowlf, Bunsen Honeydoo, Beaker, Swedish Chef, and Sam the eagle. Even Statler and Waldorf occasionally join in. They provide other functions when you go to them, but it can still be tough while you’re waiting for the game to finally get back to your turn. It feels like it takes forever sometimes.

A smart strategy would be to focus on a particular group of doors, but there’s a flaw. If you win the same mini game more than once, it doesn’t count toward your total of party favours. What a rip off! There are only so many simple mini games.

You unlock other mini games with collected party favours. The more you unlock, the more decks you can play on. There are five decks in all, so it’s all a matter of working your way up. However, that also means that the higher you go, the more party favours you have to win.

This is a good game that features all of the original voice actors that perform the Muppet characters. It’s all mentioned on the end credits. Among the characters listed was Digit the robot from The Jim Henson Hour. Does he actually appear in this game?

Dec 132013
 

I remember how thrilled I was when I saw the movie Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time. Shortly after, there was a video game based on it called The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe for the Playstation 2.

This game follows the movie with extra additions. It’s neat that scenes from the movie itself are intertwined with other cut scenes throughout the game.

You get to play as Peter, Susan, Edmund, or Lucy and can swap characters at anytime. That’s especially helpful since each Pevensie has a different skill and/or weapon. It’s also nice that they can all kick butt against various enemies. Yes, even Lucy the adorable is a fighter. Too bad none of the characters can jump.

I have several big concerns with some of the different levels. First are the time limits. There are at least several places in the manor, where you have to hide from Mrs. McGready and there are only specific places each character can hide. They’re hard to find unless you know exactly where they are because you have to be quick. Otherwise, you have to start the level over from the last checkpoint.

Another big concern is direction. In the earlier levels, the game does tell you where to go and what to do, but the later levels don’t tell you anything. That’s ridiculous! Since every area requires something different in order to proceed forward, why aren’t there any given directions on what to do in every level?

The best example is at the beaver tunnel. As wolves try to break through, other creatures try to capture Mr. Beaver and try to bring down a boulder all at once. There was no mention on what to do. I had to look on YouTube to figure out that Susan has to kill the wolves with her arrows from a distance. How was I supposed to know that? These are crucial things that should be mentioned in the game as you go through it, especially since you end up having to start the level over if any one of these groups of enemies succeed. It’s also annoying that they keep coming back so unexpectedly.

It only gets more difficult later on. It seems like every path is blocked in some areas and you have no idea where to go. The enemies are tougher to take down and they keep coming back, so that often rules out the idea that getting rid of the enemies is the key to moving forward. Why should the navigation become so difficult all of a sudden?

There are points where the pan flute can reveal items, but revealing the item requires pressing the buttons in a sequence and even the slightest distraction forces you to start over. That makes it so annoying when enemies are attacking while you do it.

Then we have the ogre bosses. You cannot fight them as you would with any other enemy. Each character has to be in a certain position in order to take the creature down. I can understand the importance of teamwork here, but this is a very complicated way to do it.

Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a good game. It has cool graphics and I enjoy the game play. It just really lacks proper direction. Challenge is one thing, but not understanding the game is another.

Aug 092013
 

Welcome back. The other Shrek Playstation 2 game is Shrek the Third. Once again it’s based on the movie of the same name and I must confess that this was the very first Playstation 2 game I ever played.

Like the Shrek 2 game, Shrek the Third sticks to the main story with extended scenes and alternate dialogue, but this game does play a whole lot better. For starters, you only play as one character per stage and it’s automatic which character is needed. Some levels actually alternate characters in certain areas. That’s automatic also, like a tag team. It’s so much smoother and I love it.

There are also more enemy attacks throughout the game and you can collect fairy dust to gain ogre power strength for Shrek and Fiona, or love charms for Puss in Boots and Sleeping Beauty, etc. If you stun an enemy, you can press the triangle button to have your character do something creative as he or she finishes the enemy off. I like how it makes you invulnerable while you do it.

Of course you still have to look for hidden items, but they’re mostly for unlocking new things in the game. Luckily, they’re not too hard to find if you take the time to smash crates, barrels, and everything else.

You might find this interesting. On the pirate ship level, if you search around, you can find one of the penguins from Madagascar on board in a brief cameo. I’m actually a little surprised that none of the Shrek movies ever did something like bring another Dreamworks character as a walk on role.

Sometimes it can be tough to navigate, but there are plenty of coin trails that can help you along. Just so you know, the coins also help you unlock things in the game.

Like the other Shrek game, you get unlimited lives and get sent back to your last checkpoint, but at least the checkpoints aren’t so spread out this time. They’re actually closer than you might think.

The Shrek 2 game was creative with having Little Red as an apple pitcher that can also fight with her basket. An additional feature in this game is the Lady of the Lake. She talks like a valley girl and loves shoes. It would’ve been interesting if she had been in the movie.

Shrek the Third also has mini games. Some of which are actual levels like Lancelot’s Castle Attack, where you have to knock down targets with a catapult. Some mini games are simple and some aren’t, but I would mostly blame that on the time limit.

I enjoyed Shrek the Third as a video game since it’s so easy to find your way around and it even provides hints when you get stumped, like needing to throw a soccer ball at a witch to get past her forcefield. Now that’s what an adventure game should be like.

Aug 062013
 

Like many movies about sci-fi, fantasy, and superheroes, there’s usually a video game release that quickly follows it. However, when compared with the actual movie, the story line in the video game is never entirely accurate. Sure the characters and basic plot are the same, but the video games have more expanded scenes, additional characters, and altered dialogue. That can be confusing sometimes.

Not many of these types of games were that successful, but there have been some good ones too. The main ones I want to focus on are two of the Shrek games for the Playstation 2. Let’s start with Shrek 2, based on the movie of the same name.

In this game, you go through each level in a group of four characters. Since each one has different skills, you can choose which character you want to play at any time as the CPU controls the other three. It can be a pain sometimes when you have to keep the other characters from getting killed because if one goes down so does the rest of the group. On the bright side, there are unlimited lives in this game.

The only time you get to be a solo character is in the Hero Time levels, but those can also be tough. They’re like first person driving games that you have to pass in order to move forward. Miss once and you have to start the level all over again and that can be frustrating.

Occasionally there are enemies to fight off. What I like about that is that the three CPU controlled characters help you out. However, it’s not easy with the tougher enemies like the spinning armored knights and the trolls that throw bombs.

Each level also has stuff to hunt for, some of which is well hidden. Some items are essential to get through the level and some aren’t. I’m just glad that the essential items are easier to find or I would be in need of a strategy guide every time I play this game, just like I would with the Legend of Zelda games.

Then there are levels that prevent you from exploring like the spooky forest, where you have to keep the three blind mice safe as they wonder aimlessly while finding cheese on the path. Fail to do so and that counts as “losing a life”. Good thing this game has checkpoints, but they’re all so spread out.

One stage I’d really like to point out is the final level. The Fairy Godmother is the last boss, but first you have to fight off a bunch of trolls with bombs, tough knights, and helper elves before you can fight her. The battle is exciting, but like the other stages, if you die you have to start all over again with the groups of tough enemies. That’s what truly makes the Fairy Godmother a very difficult boss. I only beat this game once and it felt like it was luck.

Despite some of its flaws, Shrek 2 is still a fun game with its game play and creative extended story line. Check my blog for part 2. There’s still another Playstation 2 game that’s based on the Shrek franchise.