Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Time for some mini-reviews!

My gaming pattern is a bit like a dinner table set for a big meal. I have one or two long-term titles that I'm working through to serve as the main dishes. But I also usually have a few side dishes to munch on as well, represented by shorter retail games or Live Arcade titles. I rarely give these "side dishes" as much mention on the blog, because they come and go pretty quickly (sometimes just in the span of a weekend). Still, it's probably worthwhile to mention some of the smaller games I've played through just so people can get a feel for what's out there.

In that spirit, here are three retail games that I've knocked out in the last couple weeks. I'll have more to say about the main courses (Dante's Inferno and Viking: Battle for Asgard) soon.

Disney's Up
Yes, this game is based on the Pixar film of the same title. I didn't see the movie, but I gathered most of the (very basic) plot from the game. Let's just say that I wasn't exactly inspired to rush out and get my hands on a copy of the DVD. Anyway, Up is a pretty crappy game for all the typical reasons that movie licensed games usually fail.

First of all, it's based on a movie with a lot more spectacle than action, so the designers didn't have a lot on which to base the gameplay. Think of it like this: if you're making a game based on the next Terminator movie, then even if the film stinks the game could be great because they can just make it about blasting Terminators. On the flip side, Shawshank Redemption might be a great movie but there isn't enough action to carry a video game.

So what you get with Up is an uninspired and highly repetitive platformer with very little action. Plus it's crazy short. And they use the whole "aimed at kids" excuse to make it stupidly easy. This one is not even worth a rental, unless you're in it for the easy Achievement points.

LOST: Via Domus
From one crappy licensed game to another, this title is based on the inexplicably popular Lost franchise. I'm not a fan of the show...four episodes was sufficient to recognize that it's one of those programs where the writers think "throw a bunch of random shit into the script and then let the fans guess what it all means" is the moral equivalent of being clever.

And no surprises, the game is basically the same thing. You play as a crash survivor who has amnesia (what a fresh, original concept) and must piece together his own backstory as he tries to cope with challenges on the island. Along the way you'll get to interact with all your favorite characters, including Kate, Hurley, Locke, and Jack (don't forget to remind him that HE HAS CANCER).

Again, this is a show that's about character-driven tension (and random shit), not really about action. Thus, the game is mostly a lot of walking around the island taking pictures of stuff from the show. And be thankful that's the case, because the few action sequences are hideously designed so that they represent more of a chore than actual gameplay. Special mention goes to the section where the stupid smoke monster is stalking you through the woods so you have to jump into bamboo patches every few steps. Man did I enjoy that. But you know what's even better? Unskippable cutscenes that I have to watch over and over every damn time the game decides it'd be fun to insta-kill me.

Fortunately, Lost is mercifully short (well under 5 hours) and there's not one bit of replay value so you can have it in and out of your gaming rotation in a lazy afternoon.

Blitz: The League

Okay, I'm starting to realize why I never mention these side dish games - more often than not, they're awful. Blitz isn't a licensed game, but that doesn't stop it from being the worst of the trio. The basic premise is that Blitz is supposed to represent the seedy underbelly of professional football. It's like The Replacements mixed with Any Given Sunday, then directed by Quentin Tarantino. Players engage in brutal dirty hits, the cheerleaders look like strippers, and steroid use isn't just allowed but encouraged. Note in the picture that the trainer is so unperturbed about his "treatment" methods that he doesn't even mind being filmed for the Jumbotron in front of a packed stadium. Sheesh...

Now, I'm no prude, and I think that done properly the game could have been a lot of fun. You know, some tongue-in-cheek humor mixed with a hard-hitting football engine...that could have worked. But Blitz is a turd, plain and simple. The football engine is just terrible, the AI is completely brain dead, and the whole production is riddled with bugs and glitches. On top of that, the attempts at humor are so juvenile, I can't imagine anyone over the age of 14 enjoying this stuff. Frankly, it's repellent.

There are a number of football games available on the 360...Blitz is not worth a moment of anyone's time. That includes the Achievement fans out there, because it's even pretty brutal in that regard.

Ouch, that was painful. Hopefully I'll have some better games to mention for the next batch of mini-reviews!


  1. HE HAS CANCER - *snicker* (i heart PO5)

    Would Blitz have been better if it contained the option for stupidly getting caught out re secret sex clubs?

  2. Since I haven't played all the way through, I can't say for 100% it isn't in there!

    Two things would have made Blitz a lot better:
    1. Utilizing an even halfway decent football engine so the game doesn't feel so shallow and broken.
    2. Spin the humor from juvenile to clever.