I feel as if I’ve just come down from a three-day acid binge. Every time I close my eyes I see Power Stars that need collecting; every time I have the briefest of internal monologues, they are punctuated by high-pitched, grating Toad voices; I keep wishing my dog had a tongue half as awesome as Yoshi’s so we could spit missiles back at enemies or devour walking mushrooms to make them explode colourful Star Bits everywhere. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is such a sensory overload of colour, sounds and brazen gameplay bliss that by the end of it all one cannot help feeling a little manic.
What does the second galactic outing for the Italian plumber entail? Well, just for a change, Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach moments before Mario arrives to watch the Star Festival and share some cake with her. If Mario had played through Portal he would know that cake is always a lie and would have turned down the invitation. Had he done so he would have saved himself the colossal task of having to pilot a Starship Mario (a spaceship shaped like Mario’s head thus making it a “face ship” – HA! [*dies* -Ed]) through the galaxy in search of Power Stars. He also would have avoided having to put up with an obnoxiously overzealous and obese Luma called Lubba, who is there to tell Mario (and by extension you) EVERYTHING. Lubba even tells you when your Wii Remote is about to run out of battery power – how thoughtful. With the Starship Mario acting as a hub, Mario has to flit through six different worlds (ala Super Mario Bros. 3) all made up of various galaxies. The ultimate goal is reuniting Lubba with his lost Power Stars, rescuing Peach and thwarting Bowser’s plans of galactic domination. All in a day’s work, surely?
The game does everything right; it ticks every single box that reviewers look at when critiquing a game. Its control scheme is perfect; the levels grow in complexity at a fine-tuned rate so that you’re never overwhelmed but constantly pushed to your limit; you are continually drip-fed new information, techniques and features so that there’s always something new; all of the boss fights utilise similar mechanics, but they feel unique and are all utterly enjoyable; and the level design is some of the cleverest you will EVER see in a game. Technically speaking this should be the shortest review on the planet; the game is a masterpiece and flawless in nearly every respect. But there is something, somewhere in the deepest recesses of my psyche that is stopping me from slapping 100% on this review and telling you all to go out and buy a Wii, if you haven’t already done so. There is some glaring omission nestled stealthily in the confines of the entire package that no amount of postulating can ever hope to drag out, but let’s try.
There are moments of utter joy to be found throughout Super Mario Galaxy 2. I can’t tell you the number of times I found myself with a blissful smile as the game threw new surprises and cute characters at me. At times I would chuckle quietly out of sheer reverence for what the game was getting me to do. The new power-ups are a treat (Cloud Mario!) and the levels that have you using a drill-bit are so simple yet so undeniably clever that you’ll be left aghast in the knowledge that you’ve reached gameplay Nirvana.
Then there were times that it all honestly just felt like a grind; as if I was pushing myself in order to finish the game for review purposes. I thought “what is it that is driving me forward in this game?” You cannot say that the gameplay is addictive because it is constantly turned on its head. The truth is that there is nothing driving you forward other than a desire to see what cleverness the next level incorporates – and that curiosity will be satisfied as there is invariably some ingenious twist in the level mechanic or control scheme. Other than that, the game is completely devoid of any other means of connecting with the player. The characters are delightful in presentation (I loved Bowser Jr and Yoshi) but they have zero depth. The Gears from Delta Squad have more complexity and depth of character than anything you’ll find in Super Mario Galaxy 2.
“But you’re missing the point” I can hear many screaming. Sadly, I’m not. I know that the overall focus of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is unadulterated gameplay heaven and honest fun; the game does this masterfully but in doing so it becomes almost sterile in everything else. There is no storyline and no connection to the characters other than a desire to bitch-slap Lubba and tell him to stop being so bloody helpful. The intense colours, permanent cheer and overt cutesiness of everything in Super Mario Galaxy 2 belies the fact that underneath it all, the events and characters are simply a box for housing ingenious level design and clever gaming mechanics. It’s like a clown at a children’s party: beneath the garish makeup and painted smile is some poor bastard who just wants to get paid so he can go home and try to forget his day job.
Stifle your rage, Mario fanboy; I loved the game. There was just a sprinkling of moments that had me questioning the torrent of “10/10” review scores that have been lavished on the title. Those moments, however, were short lived as the game would win back my affection through its numerous tricks and “tah-dah!” moments. It’s an essential game for any owner of a Wii console, but of course you already knew that. Just don’t expect to be blown away by anything other than everything that makes a technically flawless game – man, what a confusing notion.
NASA, those people who put people on the moon, are working on an MMO. But before they release the MMO, they’ve got a little thing called Moonbase Alpha, which will launch (for free) on Steam. To quote the website:
A game featuring:
Realistic NASA exploration scenarios
Immersive 3D graphics
Solo or team play
Alternate voicable text chat
Moonbase Alpha is a game where players step into the role of an exploration team member in a futuristic 3-D lunar settlement.
Their mission is to restore critical systems and oxygen flow after a nearby meteor strike cripples a solar array and life support equipment.
…COMING JULY 6th!
All it needs to really get gamers to pay attention, is space zombies.
As geeks, (well, true geeks) all technology fascinates us. We’re brand-loyal to an extent, but just about anything piques our interest no matter who makes it. A robot spider? Way cool. Nanomachines? Hideo explains the concept very well in MGS4, and makes us aware of the amazing things technology can do for us. Toilets that report to our doctors concerning our health? Super, now he knows whenever we’re having a dump and suffering from indigestion at the same time.
But the tech that’s most interesting for geeks like myself these days is the gap between netbooks and cellphones that has created this amazing market for touch tablets and smartphones that cost more than a (cheap) second-hand car. In this market, Apple shines as the superior choice when it comes to an interface and OS that works very well for touch screens. Windows Mobile isn’t suited for this environment despite all the recent updates to it (Mobile 7 may be Microsoft’s savior). Its not as aged as Symbian S60 was (still is), but improvements are still necessary for it to work properly. In spite of this some companies are releasing it on smartphones, and its going up against the giants of the industry: Apple, Symbian and the heavy-hitting newcomer, Google’s Android.
Apple iPhone 4
Is it a tablet? No, its the latest iteration of Apple’s iPhone range. The iPhone 4 packs so much functionality that you might never need a tablet. A snappy 1Ghz CPU, what looks to be 512MB RAM, the best touch-designed OS in the industry, and access to the most profitable online app and music store in computing history make this a very tempting option. Yes, you can edit documents and type out a book, if you’re patient. Yes, it does fit into your pocket without looking like you’ve got a gun in it. Its manly, its got a aluminum bevel, and costs more money than sense. Some might say that not one other phone has bridged the netbook and cellphone market so effectively.
Until the Streak came along, that is. This might be the real deal, a phone that doubles, quite comfortably, as a proper mobile internet tablet. Nokia’s N900 might be the only thing currently able to lay claim to that title, but it has design flaws that make the device useless to anyone with larger than average hands. The keyboard is so small that you have to have two nibbly thumbs like Megan Fox’s one to type fast without making mistakes and I don’t know about you readers, but I think its just pointless. The Streak, with its 5″ LCD, Android 2.1 OS, and LED backlighting might make you want to part with your money (or testes, whichever you prefer) to own one.
A sizeable shoe, the Streak, Blackberry's 9650, Sony Ericsson Xperia, and a Nokia N-series. Big mother, innnit?
Please beware, though, of how fast your dork rating will shoot up the minute you take out a small ringing book with moving pictures and start talking to it.
Its still a concept, but that’s why I’m excited for this average-looking slider that almost immediately turns into a mini laptop. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the pictures. Now, go on, draw a 113.5 x 59.1mm rectangle. If you’ve actually done it, well done, because now you have an idea of how big and possibly comfortable this thing is, bearing in mind it still extends to reveal a almost full keyboard. It won’t sport the 680Mhz CPU of the Nokia N8, or the brand spanking new Symbian ^3 OS, but quite possibly could share the camera and build quality of the N8. The MeeGo OS, being Linux-based, has the strength to take on Apple’s OS 4, and might even shoehorn Maemo out of the smartphone segment.
Any of these three phones stands the chance of being king of the hill, which currently is Nokia. Symbian is still a tough nut to crack, and many have failed trying to rival the legendary devices. These three phones, backed by giants in the industry, may have a fighting chance, but they’ve got their work cut out for them
As is the nature with episodic gaming, it is difficult to discuss the newest instalment without a few spoilers for previous episodes creeping in. That would be the case if Episode 3 was subtitled anything else. But would you look at that, it isn’t. So by now you’ll know (whether you’ve played it or not) that Episode 2 ends with Sam discovering that somebody really has stolen Max’s brain. There is something a little endearing (in a macabre sort of way) in seeing Max’s lifeless body flopped on the floor with his cranium wide open. He looks, so… peaceful and cute with his tongue lolling to the side and his one eye twitching. Naturally, Sam doesn’t feel the same way and seeing his partner’s corpse sends him into a fit of rage – a fit of rage that drags his gasping psyche ever deeper into the swirling torrents of despair, filling him with a cynicism steeped in angst and self-loathing. Was that suitably noir enough for you? Yes? Well, the opening scenes of Episode 3 are a hilarious take on the noir film genre complete with anger-fuelled interrogations, persistent rain and moody narration by Sam. Sadly, it doesn’t last for very long and before you know it the game reverts back to the classic Sam & Max tone, which is not a bad thing but the diversion was welcome nonetheless.
After spending the opening scenes discovering who stole Max’s brain, the remainder of the episode sees Sam trying to rescue Max’s brain to reunite it with Max’s (cute but dead) body. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan and in the ensuing chaos the two manage to usher in an alternate reality, destroy the American credit card and banking system, and expunge all toasters from existence just so that Max can satiate his lust for snack time goodies (“all your corndogs are belong to Max”). Along the way they interact with a loveably loyal, six-foot cockroach security guard called Sal, form an alliance with a rebel group known as the Anti Sammun-Mak Society and Croquet League of West Nigeria (the acronym for which I’ll leave to you to ascertain), and discuss the ninja prowess of Milla Jovovich. I love these games; they are so unabashedly quirky that you can’t help giving sanity the finger for a few hours.
In episodic gaming it is natural to compare one episode to the other; as far as the puzzles in Episode 3 are concerned, they are not as good as those found in Episode 2 with its clever use of the film reel. The somewhat uninspired puzzles aside, this is still a good episode and the inclusion of the noir vibe at the beginning adds an additional layer to the humour. Voice-acting remains impeccable and the controls, while occasionally clunky, get the job done in a mostly unobtrusive manner.
“Turns out 3D television can be inherently dangerous to developing children, and perhaps to adults as well. There’s a malaise in children that can prevent full stereopsis (depth perception) from developing, called strabismus or lazy-eye. It is an abnormal alignment of the eyes in which the eyes do not focus on the same object — kind of like when you watch a 3D movie. As a result, depth perception is compromised. Acting on a hunch, the guys over at Audioholics contacted Mark Pesce, who worked with Sega on its VR Headset over 15 years ago — you know, the headset that never made it to market. As it turns out, back then Sega uncovered serious health risks involved with children consuming 3D and quickly buried the reports, and the project. Unfortunately, the same dangers exist in today’s 3D, and the electronics, movie, and gaming industries seem to be ignoring the issue. If fully realized, 3D just might affect the vision of millions of children and, according to the latest research, many adults, across the country.” – Slashdot Article
Well, ain’t that just a hoot if it turns out to be a serious issue. Both of Sony and Nintendo’s plans for the “future of 3D”, not to mention all those 3D kids movies in cinemas, may be doing serious damage to children’s eyesight. Considering how parents already use TV as a surrogate babysitter, what happens with 3D TV is the standard in the household?
As always with these types of things, nobody will really care until it’s too late, and then it’s the blame-and-sue game.
We just can’t get enough of zombies. No matter how many games arrive that contain this loveable undead menace, every time new info pokes up we get as giddy as a pack of rabid school-girls preparing to watch their first Jonas Brothers concert. Testament to that is this, our July issue, which shares with the world all the gooey details on upcoming zombie slasher Dead Rising 2. We also snuggle under the covers with the upcoming Test Drive 2 Unlimited and its competition, Need for Speed World, and strap on a pair of radiation-proof briefs and look under the hood of Fallout: New Vegas. It’s our review section that’s bursting at the seams this month, however: Red Dead Redemption, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Lost Planet 2, Blur, Split/Second: Velocity and ModNation Racers are just a few of the many reviews we’ve got lined up for you. Not the type to give our hardware gurus any slack, we sick them on the uber-powerful ASUS ENGTX480, unleash the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black, push the GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD9 and see what the MSI 890FXA-GD70 has up its sleeves, and many more.
The July issue of NAG will be on shelves this Thursday, the 1st of July. From this point on, we’ll be returning to our regular release dates of the last Thursday of every month, so expect the August issue to hit stores on the 29th of July, and so on.
Games allow us to play out our fantasies no matter how unlikely; such as seeing South Africa winning the 2010 World Cup considering we’ve just been booted from the competition. What a coincidence then that this game comes up for review just in time to satiate my desire to see our country beat the odds. So that’s exactly what I aimed for: I selected Bafana Bafana as my team and began playing through a digital recreation of the entire 2010 World Cup. All the starting pools are identical and you’re free to select a whole bunch of countries to play as. I, however, opted to stick to South Africa and allowed the other matches to be automatically resolved. As a result I comfortably flew through a month’s worth of football games in a little less than two hours; God bless gaming’s ability to provide instant gratification.
The more astute of you would have noticed that this is the Wii version of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa being reviewed here. You did notice that, did you? Well done, have a cookie. Being the Wii version means that the control scheme will be vastly different to what one would find on the other consoles. Fortunately they’re really straight forward and with enough furious waggling of Wii remotes you’ll soon see your country of choice hoisting the World Cup trophy – that, or you’ll see them rack up a sizeable amount of red and yellow cards for slide tackling. A number of control mapping options are available for people who own multiple Wii remotes but not multiple nunchuk add-ons. It’s entirely possible to play the game without a nunchuk, but you then relinquish a lot of control and only need to worry about pressing buttons for passing and shooting – not nearly as much fun.
One possibly important reason to pick up a copy of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa is as a memento for this historic event being hosted by our nation. Furthermore it is not every day that we see our country featuring prominently, let alone recreated, in a game. That being said, the Wii version lacks a lot of the detail that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions will have. While all of the stadiums make an appearance, as well as all of the players, they’re not very well realised thanks to the Wii’s limitations. Where the Wii wins is in the controls: it is dead easy for anybody to pick up even if they have never played a sports game at all.
Confession time: this is the first FIFA game I have ever played. Accolade time: this will definitely not be the last FIFA game I ever play. It’s crazy, but mere days ago I abhorred sports games and when I was given this to review I had to stifle the urge to vomit a little in my mouth. Well, consider my condescending attitude towards the genre well and truly kicked in the nuts.
As seen on PC Gamer: someone made an Achievement-grinding map, filled with stuff needed to just kill random bots and pick up weapon ammo crates until you get the Achivements you’re looking for, but with a twist. A user, knowing the right command, can trigger Cat-mageddon. The video explains it all: Laser Death Cat
The first in a series of planned DLC packs for Rockstar’s acclaimed Wild West adventure game, Red Dead Redemption, has just been released on PSN and Xbox LIVE absolutely free and for nothing. This expansion, entitled Outlaws to the End, is only really worth the effort if you’re into playing the game in mutliplayer, however, since it’s multiplayer-focused content for up to four players to play at once. There are new XP rewards and trophies/achievements to go with it too, of course. It’s tiny too, only 15MB on PSN… and probably a similar size on XBL. Get it now, it’s free.
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