Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

It is pretty obvious, from everything it does, that a spectacular amount of work, dedication, and creativity went into the making of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Its addition of collectibles and its focus on more intricate levels showed the Mario 2-D games had the capacity to be far more than a straightforward race to the finish, and its artistic prowess created a visual masterpiece that succeeded in topping even the graphics of games that took the hardware of the era to the edge of their technical limits. It is true it carries some easily avoidable design issues that end up being the cause of some frustration, and it is arguable some of its worlds could have benefited from more of a thematic cohesion between levels, as sometimes it feels like backgrounds are used randomly rather than to form a uniform term. Nonetheless, Yoshi’s Island is by all means a spectacular achievement that still plays as well as it did when it was released and that retains its capacity to amaze. And those are the biggest statements that can be made about the brilliancy of the content within.

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Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares, then, manages to be, simultaneously, absolutely engaging and infuriating. If, on one hand, it succeeds, like few games have, in constructing a grotesque world that is as irresistible as it is repulsive; on the other, it tends to fill it up with gameplay that is either merely decent or downright frustrating. The Maw is an absolutely stunning setting in which horror, immersion, and disturbing imagery are always present. And amidst that darkness the journey of Six, a character who – like the game she stars – speaks a lot without saying anything at all, is an incredibly compelling act to follow. It is, however, a disappointing shame that a masterful achievement on silent storytelling and atmospheric architecture is hampered by irregular game design. Nonetheless, the lack of a truly great gameplay facet is, in the end, overcome by artistic excellence. Little Nightmares may not be thoroughly enjoyable, but it is certainly a remarkable game.

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Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

Jungle Beat is, in the end, a forgotten gem of Nintendo’s rich lore. The fact it was created for a system that was not a widespread success and the general difficulty of playing it in its best state, which requires the acquisition of a pair of bongos that does not have any use outside a couple of other forgettable games, makes it easy to understand why it is rarely mentioned. Anyone who finds a way to play it, though, will be in for one of those unique and unexpected experiences that only a company like Nintendo can provide. Jungle Beat makes use of a control scheme that is, in theory, absolutely ludicrous for a platformer. However, when it is all said and done, it is able to use the nature of that accessory as a way to embed features and quirks of musical games into the fabric of a platformer; creating, as such, a sidescroller that is more about pulling off perfect combos by beating on a couple of drums with extreme precision than it is about beating the bad guy sitting at the end of the game.

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Donkey Kong Country Returns

Ultimately, though, what the issues of Donkey Kong Country Returns reveal is that the aspects in which the game falters are only perceived as weaknesses because they are inevitably compared to the best of what was offered during the classic trilogy that inspired it. Individually, none of its building blocks stand as the best to have ever appeared in a Donkey Kong Country game, but at the same time, save for its soundtrack, bosses, and mini-games, all of them rank away from the bottom and in pretty respectable positions. The result is a modern classic that, without any legacy to live up to, would come out nearly unscathed from even the most rigorous evaluation. With the exception of Diddy’s Kong Quest, none of the Donkey Kong Country games that came before it clearly surpass it. As such, Donkey Kong Country Returns stands among the best sidecrolling platformers not only of its generation, which was quite prolific in its production of great games of the genre, but also of all time.

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Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D

Due to control issues emerging from hardware that is not entirely suitable for the game’s complexity, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D is a remake that does not, naturally, surpass the source material. Still, to anyone who has no alternative to get in touch with the Metal Gear franchise, it is certainly a must-buy. It carries an utterly flawless stealth component and level design that are both a maturation of the two stellar installments that preceded it. It has an ambitious cinematic storyline that is beautifully translated to a small screen with no visible losses and even some graphical improvements. And it covers it all with a survival ordeal that, while not as grueling as it could have been, gives the quest a lot of realism as well as character. As such, despite punctual problems, Snake Eater, in its grandeur, in its gameplay, and in its production values, still stands as one of the best implementations of stealth.

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Kirby’s Return To Dream Land

The fact Return to Dream Land was a long-awaited revival of the traditional Kirby formula quietly clouded the lack of excellence that can be found throughout the game. In the end, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land just does not mesmerize, it simply does its job of entertaining for ten hours and then proceeds to leave the stage for a few applauses from the crowd. It walks on a very safe line, and as a Kirby platformer it does what it is supposed to do, but when put in the light of comparison to Donkey Kong Country Returns and even Kirby’s Epic Yarn, it falls short.

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Professor Layton And The Miracle Mask

All in all, the game comes packed with 150 puzzles, with an additional set of riddles made available through the Nintendo Network. If players just want to blast through the story and get to the bottom of the Masked Gentleman mystery, the game will last for about fifteen hours, but anybody who wants to become a true gentleman and solve all puzzles will find a game that will deliver over thirty hours of very satisfying gameplay. Once the case is solved, after many mind-blowing happenings, there isn’t much reason to replay Miracle Mask, such is the nature of a story-centered game, but its gigantic collection of puzzles and the already traditional extra mini-games, which contain dozens of puzzles within themselves, will certainly make it last for long.

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No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle

Overall, No More Heroes 2 is a great title. It could have gone wrong in a number of ways, but through its sheer disregard for all things naturally human it manages to find many ways to succeed. The adventure lasts for about eight hours, discounting the time spent on the mini-games, and there are nice extras – such as a few challenging difficulty levels – that serve as good incentive for players to come back. More importantly, No More Heroes 2 shows that videogames are at their very best when they are set free from the constraints and rules that make our real world so dull and mundane. Travis Touchdown slices open the throat of those limitations and uses their gushing blood as his own demented version of the popular yellow brick road. And the path constructed by all the gore leads him to some rather entertaining places.

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Dead Space: Extraction

The core component that makes Dead Space: Extraction rise above the competition is its acknowledgement that it is a game made to be played at home. While some on-rails titles embraced their simplistic nature, Extraction tries to take advantage of the environment where it is meant to be played, without leaving behind the genre’s most important characteristics. The main point where it becomes clear the game has gained in quality and value due to its migration is the emphasis on story. If on an arcade environment characters and plot fall victims to the overwhelming importance of scoring and shooting ridiculous waves of enemies, at home players can take their time, sit back and enjoy the plot underlying all the bullets that are flying.

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Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

Yet, overall, Shattered Memories is more than worthy of one’s time. As far as frightening games go, it might be one of the scariest titles of the Wii’s library, in spite of how a few key flaws stand on its way to sheer greatness. Even if it is not haunting all the way through, Shattered Memories remains as one of the system’s best uses of the Wiimote (including an incredible sound design move that uses the Wiimote speaker as a disturbingly realistic cell phone sound outlet), some of the greatest realistic scenarios to ever show up on a Wii game, and a handful of clever puzzles that will require logical thinking and deep analysis of the environment. Its overwhelming tension wears out as the game progresses, but when it thrills, it does so in remarkable fashion.

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