Category Archives: Wii U Reviews

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Available on Wii U, and Nintendo Switch)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: March 3rd, 2017

Parent Talk: Breath of the Wild has been rated E10+ by the ESRB for everyone ten years and up.  The disclaimer lists Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, and the Use of Alcohol.  All of the Zelda games fit this criteria, however this one feels slightly more mature than most Zelda games because it deals with death, failure, and an impending doom.  That said, the story is also extremely minimalistic, more so than almost any other game in the franchise.  The violence is about up to par with the rest of the series, and most children will be perfectly fine with the game.

Plays Like:  I could very easily say Breath of the Wild plays just like any other Zelda game, but that would be a flat out lie.  Certain elements play like the older games in the series, but for the most part, the game that this plays the most like is the original Legend of Zelda, and that’s shocking!  Players are free to do as they please from the moment they leave the starting area.  So about thirty to forty minute in, and you can do literally anything you want.  Want to fight Ganon, go for it, want to traverse the world, you can do that too, how about spending the next 90 hours cooking, yes, that’s also possible.

Review Basis: I invested over 90 hours into Breath of the Wild.  That includes finding and completing all 120 shrines, countless side quests, and all of the Divine Beasts.  I explored absolutely every inch of the world map, and tried to do everything I could with the game.  I’m certain there are still tons of elements I know nothing about, but for the most part, I would say now I’m ready to review the latest game in my favorite series.  Full disclosure, I’ve been playing this series since 1987 and am a diehard fan, so you can expect a fan’s perspective with this review.

This review will be completely different than all the other reviews I’ve ever done.  Typically I race to get out the quickest reviews possible, and sometimes, especially in the case of the Zelda series, I get sucked into the hype and come back many years later to question why I reviewed said game the way I did.  With Breath of the Wild I really wanted to invest the time necessary to see what worked, what didn’t work, and what could be improved upon.  Overall The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an incredible game, and a game-changing one for the Zelda series.  Nintendo hasn’t been this bold since The Wind Waker was released on the GameCube back in 2002.  That game was a huge risk for Nintendo because of the graphical direction Nintendo took the series in, but with A Link Between Worlds Nintendo started to change the core gameplay.  They expressed interested early on in trying to take the series in a brand new direction with Breath of the Wild, and they’ve certainly succeeded in doing that.  The question now is whether or not the countless perfect scores media outlets have given the game are justified or has everyone fallen into the hype trap?  Let’s dig in and find out!

Let’s start off with a variety of elements I loved.

  • A true open world. The sense of freedom is unmatched in any other game.  By now you’ve all heard of just how massive Hyrule is in Breath of the Wild.  The size and scale is incredible, but that’s not what makes this impressive.  What is so shockingly impressive is the fact that you’re left pretty much to your own devices.  Unlike Skyward Sword where you were handheld for what felt like an eternity, here after the opening section you can do anything you want.  You can head directly to Ganon, or you could go in the exact opposite direction.  The game points you to Kakariko Village, but the choice is yours whether or not you actually want to do that.  In total I believe there are only around 10 main quests in the game, one for each of the Divine Beasts, one for Ganon, and a few others pointing you to your next destination once you trigger the larger quest event.  Not since the original Legend of Zelda did I ever feel this much free from a Zelda  When I was a kid I recall going off in any direction, with the only limiting factor being key items I required, or the level of difficulty from enemies.  Here you have all the items you need right at the beginning of the game, so the only thing stopping you is your courage.  Yes the game is broken up in such a way so as to help funnel you to different areas through enemy difficulty, but you still have the choice to ignore all of that and veer off in any direction you want, and that is such a welcome change for the series.
  • I just said that enemy difficulty plays a key part in this game, and that’s absolutely true. Right away you feel underpowered to the earliest encounters the game has to offer.  The reason why, you’re literally naked.  Without any defensive gear you’re left at the mercy of every enemy you encounter.  There are a few ways you can fix this.  You can scour the land and try and find gear, or you can master the combat system, which is simple enough that you can actually race straight to Ganon and actually beat him if you’re extremely well-versed in the combat system.  For the average gamer that’s not going to be an option, you’ll have to play through the game as Nintendo intended.  The thing is, having this incredible difficulty is something us long-time fans have been asking for, for years now.  Zelda games have become all too easy over the past three decades, and having this one kick my butt right at the on-set was a welcome treat.  I loved not being hand-held, and having to stumble onto new tactics to defeat each new enemy I encountered.
  • Every enemy encounter is slightly different. While the combat system as a whole is rather simplistic, the way you actually face enemies is always different.  For example, you might see a group of enemies sleeping, so do you just run in and fight them all just like that?  Maybe, or maybe you sneak past all the enemies and steal their weapon stash which makes them defenseless, or maybe you shoot some fire arrows at the pieces of wood that happen to be holding large boulders that will then fall and crush all the enemies.  This may sound exaggerated, but almost every enemy encounter has between three and four obvious ways to tackle the encounter, and countless others you don’t immediately think about.
  • I’ve said the combat system was simplistic, and while that’s true, when you couple it with how many combat options you have available, it never feels stale. For the most part you have the ability to slash at foes by pressing the Y button.  If you use the ZL button, depending on your held weapon you can deflect incoming projectiles with your shield.  Where things get interesting is that if you time it correctly, you can parry an incoming projectile directly back at an enemy by pressing the A button at the precise time.  This is how it’s entirely possible to storm Hyrule Castle right away and take on Ganon, because the full extent of the combat system is unlocked right away.  You have to have perfect timing though, so don’t expect this to be a breeze.  You can also perform charged attacks and more.  Each weapon has a distinct ability when charged, a giant club will allow you to perform a circular spinning attack, whereas a sword will allow you to charge your attack to perform a one-time classic spin attack.
  • Charge attacks are based on the stamina system, which controls so many different aspects of the game. Stamina is what dictates how long you can glide, how long you can climb up surfaces, how far you can swim, and how long you can perform your devastating attacks.  Since Link has the ability to climb up just about every surface in the game, the stamina wheel acts a nice control of sorts.  As you complete shrines, you can also upgrade your stamina wheel to a maximum of three stamina wheels.  With that much stamina there’s no place you won’t be able to reach.
  • Perhaps the biggest addition made to the Zelda series outside the open world is the newly introduced gravity system. Virtually all of the gameplay mechanics are wrapped around gravity.  My previous example for how you could approach an enemy encounter also mentioned gravity indirectly.  When you set fire to certain obstacles, gravity can take over causing objects to fall.  So you can imagine all the possibilities not only in terms of combat, but also in terms of puzzle solving.  The shrines are mostly made up of puzzles that revolve around using magnetic abilities, bombs, freezing time, or creating ice blocks, but each of these is wrapped around gravity.  So you might stop an object, smack it a few times with your sword, and the power will build up in it that when time resumes, it will fly off in a certain directly at warp speed, almost ignoring gravity.  Sometimes a well-placed bomb will causes debris to fall and crush enemies, and there are so many examples where you need to use gravity to your advantage in order to move an orb into position to trigger a door to open.  That doesn’t even being to mention how gravity affects your arrows, which is to say, a lot.  You always have to aim slightly over a target because you have to factor in gravity pulling the arrow down.  It’s absolutely fantastic, and a great new inclusion to the series that I want to see in all future Zelda
  • The Legend of Zelda series has been known to house some fun and distractive mini-games, but there’s one sort of mini-game here that takes the cake, literally. The cooking system, while not perfect which I’ll touch in later on, is highly addictive.  The way it works is simple, you can grab up to five ingredients from your materials inventory and mix them together in a cooking pot to create something magical.  From cold-resistant elixirs to meat skewers that replace 10+ hearts, there’s no limit to what you can cook.  The real fun part is when you start to explore Hyrule and realize there are secret hidden recipes all over the place, some of which will show you how to make incredibly strong potions that can grant you a series of new heart containers, or even up your attack power.  The catchy little jingle is what makes it even better.  In terms of other mini-games, there are some returning favorites like horseback archery, as well as new ones like snow bowling.
  • Traveling the world trying to find everything Hyrule has to offer may seem daunting at first, and while there are a wide assortment of travel options available, I always found climbing up a mountain and gliding to the next point of interest the best mode of transportation, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the other ways you can travel around. If you want to traverse the sea, why not take a raft and a Korok Leaf to send wind at the raft sail and sail away to wherever you want.  Naturally you can try and mount a horse, calm it down, and then register it at a stable if you want to keep said horse.  This is rather common, but did you know you can also find and ride bears, deer, and maybe even skeleton horses?  Yes, there’s no shortage of ways to get around.  The most useful is fast-traveling from one destination to another, which you can do once you unlock a shrine.  This is why I spent dozens of hours unlocking all of the game’s shrines, because they allowed me to move from one area to the next with ease.
  • Speaking of shrines, they take the place of dungeons. I’ll say this right away, they’re not substitute for a classic Zelda dungeon, but they are indeed fun.  Completing a shrine rewards Link with a spirit orb, which he can use four of them to upgrade one of his heart containers or a piece of a new stamina wheel.  I loved the quick-paced nature of the shrines, but after about 80 of them they start to get very repetitive.  Essentially there are two types, combat trials where you fight the same enemy, just different versions of it, and then there are the puzzle-based shrines.  These are usually made up of two or three rooms with a single puzzle in each.  Occasionally there will be more complex shrines, but not often.  They really put your understanding of the game’s Sheikh Slate abilities to the test, which is why I enjoyed them as much as I did.
  • There are several core abilities that the Sheikah Slate has: Bombs, Magnesis, Stasis, camera, and Amiibo. It can be used to locate shrines, or you can take pictures of items and then switch the sensor to search the world for said items.  The sensor can be upgraded, which grants additional abilities, such as that camera scanning feature.  What’s so unique is that you get the main abilities before you leave the Great Plateau, or the starting area.  That means you’re armed to tackle absolutely all of the puzzle-based shrines from the moment you’re able to explore the world, and that’s extremely unique.
  • Amiibo support gave players an early advantage in terms of materials to use for cooking as well as weapons, shields, and bows they could make use of. The biggest gameplay change-up with Amiibo support was the inclusion of Wolf Link from Twilight Princess  Wolf Link can fight beside Link and can be repeatedly used if he falls in battle, by triggering the Amiibo again, whereas the other ones can only be used once per day.  Only the Zelda-based character trigger special drops, all the other Amiibo figures simply drop a few resources.  If you own Twilight Princess on the Wii U, you can even max our Wolf Link’s hearts to 20.
  • One element that I’ve heard a lot of players dislike is the weapon durability system. The truth is that in past Zelda games most players will stick to about five or six weapons in their inventory, and the others they’d use out of necessity to complete a dungeon or some special boss.  What I like with this new system is that it almost forces you to try everything, at least once.  You can try boomerangs, two-handed weapons, wands, swords, and every bow imaginable.  I really liked that.  Yes it’s unfortunate that there aren’t any weapons that last forever, yes even the Master Sword will need to recharge after prolonged use, and the Hylian Shield can and will break over time.  Still, the fact I played with so many different weapons was an interesting idea.  I think what could have made this just a bit better would have been if one of the great fairies could have upgraded weapons besides just upgrading armor.  That way towards the end of the game players could have kept the weapons they liked the best.
  • As I just mentioned, great fairies are back and they can upgrade your gear from collected materials you find all over Hyrule. This is important as it really gives you a reason to explore, and fight each new enemy you encounter.  From mystical dragons to the dreaded Lynel there are always materials you can put to good use at some point.  I spent many hours trying to harvest all of the materials for my favorite armor sets, and doing so pays off, not only in defensive strength, but also in set bonuses.  Some armor sets allow you to be almost invisible while walking, while others prevent you from catching fire, freezing, or being electrocuted.  Believe me when I say, upgrading your gear can turn the tables on your enemies and make you a force to be reckoned with.
  • Hyrule is populated with an incredible cast of characters. I would go so far as to say the generic NPC you see walking around is actually more interesting than the champions you’re supposed to learn more about from 100 years ago.  The reason why is because they share so many similarities with Majora’s Mask.  People in Hyrule live their life.  They all have daily routines, and when it starts to rain, they take shelter and do something else.  This is so fascinating to watch, and depending on what you’re wearing at the time, from nothing to special armor sets I don’t want to spoil, their animations and even dialogue changes.  It’s absolutely incredible.
  • The story takes a backseat in this latest Zelda which was a bit surprising. When I finished off the game and the credit were rolling I realized just how little story there actually was in the game, but then I recalled all the little elements that the NPCs had added to the tale.  You see yes the main storyline isn’t all that deep.  There are a series of hidden memories you can activate which help flesh things out, but it’s actually old journals, and certain NPCs that really add to the storyline and help make the world feel more cohesive.  What’s really interesting is the support and lack of support for where the game fits in the now infamous Zelda Timeline.  We know the game takes place after Ocarina of Time, but that’s all Nintendo is saying at this point.  There are hints it could take place after Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, or fit within the ‘failed hero’ timeline.  That doesn’t help, as each one of those are branches of all three timelines.  I looked high and low for clues, and ultimately I can make an argument for all three, although personally I’m leaning towards the failed hero timeline because of the placement of the Master Sword, as well as all the nods to the original games, but hey, that’s just me.   Where do you think the game takes place in the timeline?
  • Finally, it’s time to talk about the audio visuals. As a Switch launch title, or a Wii U swansong, the game looks fantastic.  This marks the first brand new Zelda game created on an HD console.  That’s staggering that it took until 2017 to get a native HD Zelda, but here it is.  Before anyone says anything, I’m excluding the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess remakes as those were HD-upgraded ports of Wii games.  Breath of the Wild is a completely original Zelda game that was created from the ground up with high-def in mind, and as you can imagine, it looks spectacular.  From the great animation in enemies and Link himself, to all the wonderful weather effects, the game is a standout on both platforms.  In particular the rain effects look phenomenal when you see small lakes starting to form because of the non-stop rain for past a day.  Little touches like that are amazing.  The audio is much more subdued this time around, with ambient noise playing a more integral part of the experience.  As such you don’t really have those classic sweeping melodies from each new dungeon you enter.  Piano is used extensively throughout the soundtrack, and what music is here is extremely well composed and fitting.  I just wish there were more themes.

Now comes the time where I will highlight elements I thought could be improved.  This is where I expect to see some pitchforks and riots breaking out in the streets.  Do keep in mind that the commentary I’m offering here is in hopes of Nintendo taking things to the next level for the eventual follow-up to Breath of the Wild.

  • Rain, rain go away. Come again another day.  If there is one element in Breath of the Wild that annoyed me more than anything else, it happens to be the weather system.  At first it’s absolutely great, seeing beautiful crystal clear days, and then suddenly the sky darkens and a thunderstorm begins.  It’s breathtaking and truly a sight to behold.  What’s annoying and ultimately frustrating, is that rain seems to happen at the most inopportune times.  I can’t even begin to mention how many times I would be gliding to a nearby mountain to see the clouds darken and the rain start just as I was about to hit the face of the mountain.  This is problematic because you can’t climb anything while the surface is wet.  So what ends up happening is I start to slide down the mountain, eventually all the way down to the bottom.  Then I have to fast teleport back to the starting point, if that’s even an option as sometimes it isn’t, create a fire, and progress time until the rain stops.  Its ok when this happens once or twice, but when it happens over and over again, it starts to get very annoying.  A super simple fix would have been the Song of Storms, to clear out that horrible weather.
  • I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was to hear voice acting in a Zelda Not some garbled chatter, but real honest-to-goodness voice acting.  I had already heard Zelda speak in several commercials for the game, and it was wonderful.  I loved her dialogue, even if it was a bit stilted at times.  What I didn’t expect though, was for the rest of the main cast to be so lifeless.  The voice acting is stiff and comes across as amateurish compared to Zelda and all other AAA open-world RPGs out there.  While I commend Nintendo on what they did with Breath of the Wild, this is one element I hope they spend more time on moving forward.
  • Cooking is one of the best elements of the game, as I mentioned above. I just loved it.  What I didn’t love was the extremely limited way Link can cook.  For example if I wanted to make a meat skewer containing five raw meats, that was fine and worked perfectly.  The thing is, what if I wanted to make 15 of them?  This is where I would have really preferred some sort of automatic system where I could have selected from a list of previously made recipes and had the option to make more than one at a time.  As it is here, making the same meal over and over again gets boring.  Even that sweet jingle can’t save it.
  • In total there are 120 shrines, which naturally limits the amount of variation one can expect from these micro-dungeons. I would say about 30 of them are combat shrines, but that number is just from the top of my head so it could be more.  Each combat shrine works exactly the same, you enter the arena, and take on a Guardian Scout.  Once you learn how to fight one, the battles are exactly the same for all four different versions of the Scout, except the Scout has one or two additional weapons.  I felt this was an arbitrary way of extending the length of the game by having so many similar-themed shrines.  The puzzle-based shrines are the exact opposite and felt like they contained some of the very best puzzles ever created in a Zelda game, thanks in no small part to the great gravity system in place.
  • I missed some of the core Zelda While the four divine beast ‘dungeons’ were fun, they weren’t anything like traditional dungeons.  I’ve always adored the dungeons in Zelda games because of how creative they were.  That’s not to say these weren’t creative, just that they weren’t as fleshed out as the ones from past games.  Remember the Fire Temple, Ganon’s Tower, or Turtle Rock?  Yeah, well there’s nothing even close to those dungeons in this game, and I really missed having those experiences.  I also missed weapons such as the hookshot, and felt that could have added another layer to the puzzles as well as the open-world exploration.
  • Having destructible weapons and shields was an interesting gameplay mechanic, and one I didn’t really have any problem with, however I did have one nitpick. Whenever your weapon or bow breaks, it isn’t automatically replaced by the next one in line.  This forces you to have to open the quick menu to select another weapon.  It’s not game breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have been a nice feature to have instead of always having to go through a menu of some sort.
  • Wii U features are missing in action. Of all the things this game did right, this is the one element that really sticks out as a glaring omission.  It’s clear from the various gameplay mechanics that Nintendo originally had a quick menu system on the Wii U GamePad to change items such as your armor.  It’s likely why there are so many different armor sets that are ideal in different situations.  With a touch of your finger you could change Link’s gear from the Zora set to the fire preventing Flame breaker armor set.  It’s obvious this was implemented from the get-go, but alas when the Switch version was announced this was cut from the Wii U version.  Naturally this is just speculation on my part, but it’s if the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time is any indicator, Nintendo likely had this in mind when they started making the game.  As it is now, you spend an incredible amount of time in your inventory menu switching back and forth between armor sets.
  • Boss fights were very lackluster and uninspired. I really would have loved to have seen something different done with the bosses, but I understand the limitations given the scale and freedom offered.  Bosses can easily be defeated with the most basic combat strategies, and this was done because they had to be designed in such a way as to be downed with an arrow, bombs, magnetic powers, stasis, etc.  Without having a boss created where you use the newly acquired dungeon weapon, there was only so much the developers could do.  That said, I think they could have done more.  Even the very last boss battle didn’t invoke the same feeling of badass-ness that just about all the other past Zelda game did.
  • A huge missed opportunity with Breath of the Wild is with the lack of built-in social features. I can’t stress this enough, this game was made for an achievement system and built-in Twitter and Facebook functionality.  The camera function is absolutely awesome, and yet it’s limited to in-game use.  Nintendo could have easily made it so you could send pictures directly through Twitter and Facebook for all the world to see.  The Wii U version has Miiverse, where you can share different pics, and the Switch version has the nifty capture button that you can then use to share pics to social media, but neither of these feels completely cohesive, they feel more like workarounds.  At least Miiverse has a thriving community, while it lasts.  As for achievements, neither version has a built-in reward system; which is a shame as I can only imagine how creative some of the achievements for this game could have been.
  • The very last thing to mention relates back to something I mentioned way earlier, the graphics. While they do indeed look incredible, the game takes a beating on the hardware its being played on.  Whether it’s on the Wii U or the Switch, the framerate can dip down to a standstill for a few seconds before the game resumes.  That’s very unfortunate, and some areas are extremely bad where it feels as though the game is chugging along to keep up with what’s being displayed onscreen.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a fantastic game, but it also has a few hiccups along the way.  Some will call these genuine problems, others will call them nitpicks, but in the end the pros far outweigh the cons.  Coming from a developer like Nintendo, this is a bold and brash move.  They’ve taken one of their most popular franchises and tried something new, and for that I commend them.  Will this game reach the heights set by A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, for that only time will tell.  Right now it’s an absolute must-buy game for anyone who likes playing videogames.  I can’t wait to return to this game in five years or so to see if I feel the same way as I do right now, once the hype has died down.

Final Score Switch Version: 9.8/10
Final Score Wii U Version: 10/10 

Mighty No. 9 Review

Mighty No. 9

Available on:
WiiU, PS4, PS3, Xbox360, Xbox1, PC

This review is specifically covering the WiiU version of the game.

Parent Talk:

Mighty No 9 is a Japanese action “run and gun” platformer that features robots. The game-play is quite similar to the classic Megaman games and features a comparable level of violence. Beck, the player controlled character, is a robot sent on a mission to stop 8 other robots that are rampaging through the city.   The battles are neither graphic nor gory; nothing here that should be inappropriate for children.

No human or living characters are ever fired upon by Beck, all destroyed enemies are robotic.

The History:

 One cannot discuss Mighty No. 9 without mentioning how it came to be. Mighty No. 9 began as a Kickstarter project, started by Keiji Inafune, a former employee of Capcom that is one of the most influential people behind the Megaman franchise. Mighty No. 9 was created to be the spiritual successor to the Megaman franchise.

With more than 70,000 backers, this was one of the most anticipated games from Kickstarter.

After a turbulent development phase, the game has been released.   How does this Kickstarter birthed game fare? Let’s take a look!

The Good:

Mighty No. 9 has a fair number of features available. In addition to the normal single player story mode, there are a number of challenges, an online co-op mode, an online race, and a mode featuring a different playable character. There’s a fair amount to do beyond just the main story.

There are a lot of familiar elements incorporated from the Megaman series that inspired this game.   You get to choose which level you wish to enter, and may complete the first 8 levels in any order you wish, along with an optional bonus level. Defeating the boss at the end of your chosen level will reward you with a special weapon that you can use in other stages.

The characters in the game have a lot of personality, especially the bosses. One of the more interesting characteristics about this game is that when you defeat a boss, you not only gain their power, but you gain their assistance as well. While they are not playable, they can appear in other stages and help you through them.   You may see them defeating enemies or disabling stage certain stage hazards to help your mission. They also provide clues for you before entering a stage.   This helps provide a sense of teamwork and makes you feel not so alone out on the battlefield.

This gives the boss characters more screen time and makes than more than merely the boss of a level.   The world feels more alive and connected as you see the relationship between Beck and his fellow Mighties portrayed on-screen.

This game features the old-school Nintendo era level of challenge. Depending on how you look at it, this can be both good and bad. You can definitely expect to experience a lot of game over screens as you learn the stages and patterns of your enemies.   Many of the stage hazards require precise timing and careful movements to clear, and the bosses show no mercy.   If you love old-school difficulty and pattern memorization, you will definitely find it here.

The Bad:

The graphics in this game would look right at home on the Dreamcast; they don’t have the look and polish you might expect for a game released in 2016. While they get the job done, they tend to look rather plain and uninspired.

Sometimes, the active objects on the stage blend in with the background, and sometimes it can difficult to determine what is part of the stage, and what is background. It can be frustrating to leap towards what looks to be a ledge you can stand on, only to fall through it. Other times, narrow passages you need to squeeze through can blend into the background and be difficult to spot.

The game has a number of stage design problems. Several times the game will threw a new stage gimmick at you without teaching you how to use it, or you’ll be expected to use to use your special transformations in an unusual way without ever being given any indication that you could perform this task with that transformation. This can range from platforms behaving in unexpected ways over dangerous terrain, secondary abilities for your weapons that were never revealed, to certain miss-able power-ups being required in order to clear a stage.

The game features a dash mechanic that is used both for traversal, and for battling enemies.   Once you’ve inflicted enough damage on an enemy, it becomes stunned and you can dash into it both to destroy it, and to potentially gain temporary power-ups. It’s not particularly natural or intuitive for a run and gun game to encourage you to deliberately collide with your enemies, though this does encourage speed-running and gives the game a mechanic all its own to set it apart from similar games. But this mechanic does present problems all its own. In addition to defeating weakened enemies, dashing into them collects power-ups as well. The power-ups collected from dashing can alter your speed and control in mid jump, and it is quite easy to go sailing off a ledge because the speed of your character suddenly changes. You often fight enemies on narrow platforms where dashing is dangerous and undesirable.   The dash mechanic can lead to a lot of lost lives from accidental dashes off a cliff.

Bosses are the biggest examples of the flaw with the dash mechanic. Once you damage a boss enough, it stops taking damage and begins healing itself until you dash through it. Frequently, a boss would take damage, and then go and fly around at the top of the screen where none of my weapons could reach it and recharge most of its HP. This was quite frustrating, and happened frequently.

The Ugly:

Mighty No. 9, at least on the WiiU, features some horrendous loading times. Each time you lose a life, it takes 20 seconds or more to load the next life; sometimes considerably longer. This is most definitely not okay, and is quite aggravating in a game that features such a high degree of difficulty and trial and error.

The game also suffers some frame-rate issues that can adversely affect game-play. While fortunately this was mercifully rare, it was quite noticeable when it occurred.

The game’s online co-op mode is perhaps the games biggest swing and a miss. In this mode, 2 players co-operate to clear challenge objectives. The problem is, one player will find that the game plays normally, but the other player will find the game to suffer such extreme lag and button input delays, that the mode will be completely unplayable. If you are not the “host player” hosting the room, many times your button commands are ignored entirely, and even if the game does respond to the command, it does not do so properly. It took me 5 attempts to jump onto a ledge directly above me when my character would leap up onto the ledge, and then fall right through it. While the feature is a fantastic idea, it is simply unbearable in this broken state.

The Roundup:

Mighty No. 9 aspires to be the spiritual successor to the famous Megaman series, and while it captures a lot of the elements that made that series great, it doesn’t quite hit its mark.

Despite having a lot of the right elements, the game does not use them well. The stages lack the quality design of its predecessor and the enemy selection is rather plain and boring. You face the same few enemies throughout the game which gives all the stages a similar feel. The stages themselves are pretty generic standard fare types of environments.

While Might No. 9 is not a terrible experience, it is a very mediocre one. Nearly everything the game does, its predecessor does better.

While the multi-player mode is un-playable, the single player campaign, if you can tolerate the loading screens, can give you a decent run and gun experience that will indeed be reminiscent of that old-school Megaman feel. One thing that can help ease the frustrations of this game is to go into the options menu and increase the number of lives that you have. This gives you more opportunities to start from the last check-point and more chances to attempt the trial-and-error based challenges this game loves to throw at you.

All in all, Mighty No. 9 is a very middle of the road game, which has earned it a middle of the road final rating. My final score for Mighty No. 9 is a 5/10.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Review

Disney Infinity 3.0 ReviewDisney Infinity 3.0 (Available on PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Avalanche Software
Release Date: August 28th, 2015

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Disney Infinity 3.0 E10+, or everyone over ten years old. They only site cartoon violence as a potential hazard, and to be honest, that’s absolutely right. Even young kids under 10 shouldn’t have much trouble with the game in terms of content, more so they’ll need an adult’s help in setting up the game and creating some of the content.

Plays Like: If you’ve played any of the Infinity games you should know the drill by now. You purchase the starter set that includes a few figures and the power base, plus a play set. That activates a certain amount of content on the disc. Typically it unlocks one story mode for the included characters. You also get the toy box which is where you can use every figure from across all three games. It’s where you build levels, customize your house and much, much more. If you want to experience more stories or figures, those are all sold separately. The non-user generated content plays out like any other children’s action game where you have limited moves, and make your way through linear stages.

Review Basis: Disney Interactive sent us a review copy for the PlayStation 4.

Disney Infinity has been my go-to series for the toy-to-game genre. Skylanders may have started the trend, and Nintendo is sure making a mint off those Amiibos, but it’s Disney Infinity that seems to have struck the perfect balance between a limited amount of figures, and a very entertaining videogame. This is by far the best version yet, and considering how many figures have been released across all three games, you sure have a lot of options for your toy box.

DI3_2The Great:

Disney characters, check, Marvel characters, double check, and now Star Wars characters, triple check! That is an incredible wealth of content, and for the very first time all three universes have come together in one package. There is something here for children of all ages. Whether you want to spend countless hours in the intimidating, but ultimately enjoyable toy box mode where you can use any figure you’ve collected over the years in a mix mash of games, genres, or anything else your brain can think of; or work your way through one of the many play sets, Disney Infinity 3.0 is a sheer delight. It’s the incredible wealth of content that is by far the single best feature of this game.

DI3_4The Good:

  • This year’s starter set features Ahsoka and Anakin figures, and the play set Twilight of the Republic, which is hands down the absolute best play set included in any of the previous starter sets. While you may note that’s one figure less than the previous starter sets, keep in mind that the price has been lowered. It’s also possible to use the power base from Disney Infinity 2.0 and simply download the game for an even greater cost reduction. That way you can simply pick-up the figures individually.
  • As always the build quality of the figures is top notch. That classic cartoony look the toys have fits the Star Wars universe perfectly. I will admit that excited children might snap off those thin lightsabers though, so parents be warned.
  • Combat is tighter and more refined than ever before. Experienced players will be able to time their button presses to string together a wide assortment of awesome looking combos, but for the kids, button mashing also leads to some rather awesome results. This is a perfect balance for seasoned and newbie players alike.

DI3_1+ The Star Wars property is respected and put to good use. You can explore four planets, take part in space dog fights, and much more. I was surprised by just how fantastic the overall gameplay was.

  • The toy box mode is now easier than ever before. It’s incredible what you can do in this mode, make a Star Wars-inspired Mario Kart, or anything else you can dream of. Previously actually making these mini-games was daunting, but now, thanks to the new tools, I found it much easier to whip up something enjoyable. That said, it is still quite overwhelming at first glance. If building your own levels and games isn’t your thing, that’s ok, you can easily play through the hundreds of user created levels.
  • The audio visual presentation is absolutely top notch. This feels, looks, and sounds like a Star Wars game. The developers didn’t skip a beat, and it shows.

DI3_3The So-So:

+/- Every year it’s the same thing, but ultimately your enjoyment of Disney Infinity 3.0 will greatly depend on how much money you throw at it. If you purchase the additional characters and play sets, naturally you’ll have a much deeper experience than someone who only purchases the starter set. I would strongly recommend if you’re going to buy this for children, pick up at least one or two additional figures and another play set.

DI3_5The Lowdown:

Disney Infinity 3.0 is a fantastic game. While it may appear to be a more expensive affair this time around because of the reduced figure count, you’re actually getting more bang for your buck. While I absolutely loved last year’s iteration, this year’s blows it out of the water. The Star Wars property is handled with respect and admiration and it shows. This is an absolute gem for kids, so if you have some, I strongly recommend you put this bad boy under the Christmas tree.

Final Score: 8.5/10

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Review

SSBSuper Smash Bros. for Wii U (Available exclusively on Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Sora Ltd, Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: November 21st, 2014

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Super Smash Bros. for Wii U E10+ for everyone ten and up. The game features cartoon violence, and that’s about it. It’s a bright, colorful, and fun fighter. There are no realistic depictions violence in the traditional sense. Here you can bash your opponents with a giant mallet, you can throw them off a massive arena, or you can blast them with a wide assortment of wacky power-ups. Imagine if Super Mario Bros., Zelda, and all the other classic Nintendo franchises got together and asked one simple question, which one of us is the best fighter out there? That’s what you can expect from this wonderful game.

Plays Like: Normally I would say it plays like all the other Smash Bros. games, but the truth is that I have virtually no experience with the series outside the 3DS version. So what I will say is that the game features a wide assortment of side modes, a robust single player offering, great Amiibo integration, and a kick ass online mode. The core gameplay requires you to throw your opponent off the screen, by any means necessary.

Review Basis: I played all the various modes available, spent far too much time training Amiibo characters, and got my butt handed to me in more online matches than I would care to admit. I am by no means a master player, but I will proudly say that I’ve come to appreciate the series in a whole new way thanks to this excellent fighter.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a fantastic game that features a wealth of side modes, Amiibo integration, and great single and multiplayer modes. If you have to purchase one Wii U game this holiday season, this is the one you want to pick up. There are so many different modes available that it often feels like you’re purchasing more than one game. Couple that with the great Amiibo figures and you could very well spend the next year with no other game than this one. The fighting system in place is great, and over time you can master each characters’ move set, and attain pitch perfect timing.

SSB4The Great:

Value. That’s the one word that comes to mind when I look back at all the different gameplay modes available. From the classic mode, to the online ranked mode, and everything in-between there is something here for literally everyone. There are now 8-player battles, there’s a cool spin on Mario Party, and then there’s the Smash mode where most of you will be spending the bulk of your time. That’s where you and your friends can learn to master each of the dozens of characters available. When you combine all of these elements together, it’s incredible just how much value there is in this one game.

SSB2The Good:

  • The Perfect example of easy to pick-up and play, but tough to master. Each character has the exact same button commands. Don’t expect circular fireball moves here, no instead the moves are incredibly simplistic. Press a direction and a button, and that’s it. You have two primary attacks, a block and a grapple. That’s all she wrote. What changes with each character are their unique abilities. While up and A might be an uppercut for one character, it might be something completely different for another, perhaps an up-strike for Link, or a cape sweep for Mario. Then there are projectile-based characters which use the same basic commands, but control completely different than everyone else. The timing is also slightly different for each character. What ends up happening is, you’ll find a character you enjoy using, and spend the next few weeks mastering all their finer details, and that’s what makes this game so bloody special.
  • Respecting your heritage. One of the absolute best aspects of Smash for Wii U is how the game pays homage to all the franchises that came before it. From Duck Hunt to Sonic the Hedgehog every stage, theme song, bonus item, and character move set is inspired by some legendary game, series, or franchise. I absolutely loved that. It was amazing to hear so many classic songs with modern twists to them. If you’ve been playing on Nintendo-made consoles since you were little, this is going to tickle your nostalgia bone.

  • Options galore. First off, you can play the game any way you want. From using the GameCube controller with the newly released adapter, the GamePad or the Wii U Classic Controller, the choice is yours. Then there’s the fights themselves. Do you go one-on-one with items off to test your skill, or do you go item on and 8-players for complete chaos? I adored how every aspect of the game has tons of choices available for you to tweak.

  • Event, classic, special orders, All-Star, and the board-game like Smash Tour all offer up their unique takes on the classic action. Some give you specific challenges, whereas others drop random elements into the fights and have you duke it out. Whatever you decide to play, each gameplay mode offers fun in short bursts. If you want to play for hours on end, odds are you’ll find yourself going between the different gameplay modes, while spending the bulk of your time refining your skills online.

  • Speaking of online, there are a nice set of online modes. From ranked modes that keep tally on your wins and losses, to the free-for-all, you can select between one-on-one matches, team matches, and more. The awesome eight-player matches are local only though, which is a bit unfortunate because those matches are completely insane.

  • Beautiful at 60 fps. This is a technical showpiece for the Wii U. During all of the different gameplay modes and matches I played, I never noticed any dip in the framerate. Keep in mind it’s entirely possible that I haven’t experienced every single aspect of the game, and I actually believe I haven’t as there’s just so much. That said, the attention to detail in the environments, and the stunning framerate make this a silky smooth experience you’ll want to come back to time and time again.

  • The audio is also fantastic. While some of these music scores might be recycled from previous games, they all sound amazing. I absolutely loved going to each new stage to hear familiar tunes from the Zelda franchise. That’s my favorite after all, so it holds a special place in my heart. The others were equally as impressive though.

  • I didn’t expect to enjoy the Amiibo integration as much as I did. From spending time to level my figures to 50, to using them against my opponents, I’d say the Amiibo figures are going to sell quite well. I love that I can bring them over to a friend’s house and tackle his team with mine. It’s excellent. There are several ways you can train and customize your Amiibo fighters too, which adds some much needed depth to an otherwise simple concept.

SSB3The So-So:

+/- The arena builder isn’t as intuitive as it should be for being on a system with a touch screen controller. Simple omissions like not being able to create a platform and then move it without having to erase and start over are major oversights. I also found the whole system to be overly cumbersome. It’s a shame too because that really could have been a huge time sink for some, but now I see it being more of a novelty.

+/- I played quite a few matches online and if I knew who I was playing the matches were always spot-on with no lag, however if I played random matches they were a hit and miss. Most, I’d say around 85% were fantastic, however every now and then I would disconnect. Since there is no way to see the connection strength of your opponents, I can foresee this being a problem moving forward. The fact most of the game runs smoothly is a great sign, but hopefully some tweaks will be made to inch that number closer to 100%.

SSB1The Bad:

  • I find it a little silly that in 2014 I still have to text a friend to tell him I want to play a game with him online, since there’s no notification system. Once we’re both online everything else is a breeze, and works perfectly, but the fact I can’t just send an invite and he gets it in whatever game he happens to be playing is kind of sad.

The Lowdown:

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a fantastic game, probably the best currently available on the Wii U considering all the value you get in this one package. Couple that with the prospect of potential downloadable content later on, Amiibo integration, and the robust gameplay modes already available and you can see why the Wii U should have a very successful holiday season. If you own a Wii U, this is one game you should have in your system as of right now, and if you don’t own a Wii U, what the heck are you waiting for? With Wind Waker HD, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Super Mario 3D World, Bayonetta 2, Mario Kart 8, and now this, plus the awesome Virtual Console offerings, there is something here for gamers of all ages.

Final Score: 9.6/10

Hyrule Warriors Review

Hyrule WarriorsHyrule Warriors (Available exclusively on Wii U)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Omega Force, Team Ninja
Release Date: September 26th, 2014

Parent Talk: Hyrule Warriors has been rated T for teen by the ESRB. That makes Hyrule Warriors only the second Zelda game of all time to be rated T, the other being Twilight Princess. The reason why it was rated T is because of fantasy violence and suggestive themes. The suggestive themes are mainly some of the character’s provocative costumes, and the violence should be obvious. You play as any number of classic Zelda characters and take out hordes of enemies with powerful weapons. There’s no blood or gore whatsoever though, so even kids could get a lot of enjoyment out of this one, especially if they’re fans of the series.

Plays Like: Have you ever played a game in the long-running Dynasty Warriors or Samurai Warriors series? If you, know what you’re getting here, well…for the most part. The game mashes the Dynasty Warriors’ series tactic and time management gameplay with Zelda’s objective-based gameplay. It also acts as the very best fan service I have ever played. You move around a large map trying to secure key forts, take out legendary Zelda bosses, and defeat legions of classic enemies from every single game in the Legend of Zelda franchise. This is a love letter to the fans.

Review Basis: Finished the Legend mode, and played through the Adventure mode.

The Dynasty Warriors series has spawned a number of spin-offs over the years including one based on Gundam, Fist of the North Star, and One Piece. While all great fan services in their own right, as a diehard Zelda fan, I have never played something like this before. It perfectly balances the classic Warriors gameplay of properly securing your position, and making the most of the little time you have available with Zelda’s objective-based gameplay, such as getting a new weapon to access a new area or take out a boss. It’s a beautiful looking game too, featuring the most detailed designs ever seen for these legendary characters, and from the moment the intro screen plays you know you’re not just playing some cheap mash-up between two franchises, you’re actually playing the perfect combination of two excellent series. Warriors fans will appreciate the amount of polish that went into the development of the game, and Zelda fans will adore all the little nods to their beloved franchise. I never expected this experiment would turn out to be as awesome as it did.

She's in deep thought.
She’s in deep thought.

The Great:

Do I really have to say this? The fan service is hands-down the best part of the game. From the rocking remix of the classic Zelda theme, to the 13 playable characters it’s all just awesome. Have you ever wanted to play as the warrior version of Impa? How about actually taking part in one of the epic wars mentioned in many of the previous games? Everything is possible here. Battles take part in some of the most memorable dungeons and areas from key games in the franchise and the characters you get to play as are nothing short of incredible. From Midna to Ganondorf himself, no characters are off-limits. I also really loved all the little touches like how all the characters hold treasure they find in chests above their heads, all the classic sound effects, and the remixed tunes of epic themes from years ago. This is the ultimate fan service and I really couldn’t imagine anything better.

Link is ready for anything!
Link is ready for anything!

The Good:

  • Keeping the choices from the Dynasty Warriors games is excellent. You’re constantly challenged with making choices. Do you hold the current fort you’re fighting in, or do you go and try and locate the Gold Skulltula that just popped because you killed 1,000 enemies? How about the mid-boss that just dropped in the middle of the filed; they usually drop tons of rupees when they die. All these choices coupled with the more traditional objective-based gameplay of the Zelda series, such as locating a powerful weapon inside a hidden cave, or downing King Dodongo, help bridge the gap between the two franchises.
  • There are currently 13 playable characters, some of which I’ve already mentioned, and the promise of more to come. This helps keep the action fresh as each character has their own unique skills and abilities. From Princess Zelda, to Sheik, and even Darunia, the assortment of characters is brilliant. Each character also has an elemental affinity, which means certain characters will be more useful on certain stages, and this is great because it almost forces you to try new characters.
  • There’s a surprisingly deep crafting system in place where you can enhance your characters’ with powerful new combos, or skills. It’s excellent making a bottle with a potion, or unlocking some new skill for one of your favorite playable characters. I also loved being able to use rupees to level up characters that I didn’t use in a while. It prevented me from having to grind out levels on characters I wanted to use in the next mission. I did find myself going back to earlier missions to farm crafting supplies though, but that was a personal choice, not one the game forced upon you.
  • Boss fights might not be too challenging, but they round out the package perfectly. From the minute you see King Dodongo on the first mission, to Gohma, and the Imprisoned One, Hyrule Warriors keeps surprising you. While the mechanics used to defeat boss characters may be somewhat disappointing, I still found it awesome to have all these characters in the same game.
  • Adventure mode is a true delight. Not only does it perfectly recreated the 2D map from the very first Legend of Zelda, but each ‘screen’ is actually a battle area. You move around the map, selecting an area you’d like to jump into. From there the action reverts to standard Hyrule Warriors gameplay, but gives you specific mission parameters to meet. There are plenty of secrets and goodies to be found in both Legend and Adventure mode, and I loved how the two were so perfectly connected. You might find new weapons, new characters, heart pieces, and more and everything you do in one mode transfers to the next. It’s brilliant!
  • Off-screen gameplay is fantastic, as always. The footage you’re watching in the video review was made possible because of off-screen mode. Without it, this review would have been delayed for quite some time.
  • Hyrule Warriors is the nicest looking Zelda game ever, at least from a technical perspective. Characters look incredible, and the amount of enemies on the screen at once is amazing. I didn’t experience slow-down in the single player campaign, and the nods to the previous Zelda games are literally everywhere. While the level design isn’t anywhere near as complex as in traditional Zelda games, it really doesn’t matter when the cohesive world comes together this well.
  • The soundtrack is fantastic. All the remixed tunes are spectacular. I especially love the rock version of the classic theme, and the sound effects are mostly ripped from the previous games in the series, so you know you’re going to feel right at home.
  • I was absolutely shocked to hear any sort of voice acting in a Zelda game, and while it’s only one narrator that speaks during the game, it was more than enough for me. I hope one day Nintendo adds real voice acting in the Zelda franchise because it felt right at home with just the narrator.
Yes there's even a brand new character waiting for you to check out.
Yes there’s even a brand new character waiting for you to check out.

The So-So:

+/- Some will say the core action of repeatedly killing enemies in the same manner over and over again gets old, but since you can play as so many different characters, and all the fan service, I truly can’t complain. I enjoyed every minute I spent with the game, even if I only had to press the same few buttons again and again.

+/- I thought I would love the coop mode, but there are a lot of technical issues that pop up in this mode such as major from frame rate drops. It remains a fun diversion, but I eventually stopped playing in coop because I wanted to experience the game as it was clearly intended to be played.

+/- While this acts as one of the best Zelda spin-offs ever made, it doesn’t do very much to push the Warriors series forward. The gameplay remains largely unchanged since the last major Warriors release, and while new fans to the series might not even notice, longtime fans will. It’s not bad though as this current formula works perfectly.

Adventure mode is an absolute blast.
Adventure mode is an absolute blast.

The Bad:

  • I would have loved to have played this game with Steven, but alas that’s not an option.
Classic bosses make a welcome return.
Classic bosses make a welcome return.

The Lowdown:

Hyrule Warriors is a fantastic tribute to one of the best videogame series ever made. If, like me, you’ve been a fan of the series since the original NES game, then this is a no-brainer. In fact I’d say this is a game Nintendo fans as a whole should check out. It’s absolutely incredible, especially for the fans. Since I am a fan I’m not going to sugar coat it, this feels like it was made for me, and I’m now about three times more excited for 2015’s Dragon Quest Heroes than I was before. There are so many other series that could get the Warriors treatment, and so long as Omega Force treats said series with such love and respect as they’ve done here, they’ll have tons of success. I can’t stress this enough, if you enjoy action games or the Zelda series as a whole, go buy Hyrule Warriors. It’s one of the best games of 2015 in my eyes!

Final Score: 9.2/10  

Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes Review

Disney Infinity 2.0Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes (Available on PC, PS4, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Action
Publisher: Disney
Developer: Avalanche Software
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014

Parent Talk: Imagine a game where you play through a story as one of many Marvel characters, or even better, an interactive toy box where you can create your own games, and use a vast array of characters in silly mini-games, highly competitive races, or pretty much anything else you can think of. That’s Disney Infinity in a nutshell. It’s the perfect family game, and one that features nothing but cartoon violence. I can easily recommend this one to anyone with young kids at home as it’s really simple to learn, and you won’t be bored to tears while they have a blast. There’s real enjoyment to be had here for all.

Plays Like: The one included play set (Avengers) is an open world Grand Theft Auto-like story-driven game where you pick up simple missions and complete them to earn experience and currency, which you use to purchase additional goodies for the Toy Box mode. It’s in this mode where you can create your own games using wonderful assists that do almost all the hard work for you.

Review Basis: Disney sent over the PS4 Start Pack, and I played around with the Toy Box mode and finished the main story campaign that shipped with the Avengers play set. I also plan to cover additional toys that get released for the three current play sets available (Avengers, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy).

Last year I thought Disney Infinity was the perfect games for kids. Yes the Toy Box mode was a little cumbersome because it required you to really know what you were doing, and it was a little sneaky forcing parents to buy a second character in order for their siblings to play together, but hot damn was it a fun game to play. This year Avalanche software has mixed things up a bit, and the end result is a fantastic iteration on what was already a wonderful kid’s game. If you have children at home, this will make for one hell of an amazing Christmas gift.

The Great:

The Toy Box mode has been dramatically improved. While you can still customize and make your own games, now the game tries very hard to help you out by offering up some great templates. You can even let the game build mini-games for you if you’re not feeling overly creative, or if you don’t have the time to devote to the game. I loved this aspect as it allowed me to focus on what I really enjoyed, just playing around with all the different creations other people have built. Giving me the confidence to build my own games just made the experience that much better. It’s now easier than ever to submit your creations to Disney, which once approved, can be downloaded by the entire community. Sadly I lack the skill and time to make something really worthwhile, but I have been enjoying what others have created, just as I did in the first Disney Infinity.

Something else I really appreciated was the fact the Starter Pack includes three Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow. You also get the Avengers play set, plus two Toy Box games, which are basically mini-games. That means two kids can play together straight out of the box, whereas last year you had to buy an additional character from one of the three included play sets in order to play together. If you don’t understand the way the system works, it’s quite simple. Each character is associated with a certain play set. Currently there are three play sets available, the Starter Pack’s included Avengers, and two ‘sold separately’ play sets, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Some characters can be used in different play sets if you located 10 character coins in the current play set. This was done to unlock exclusive stories for that character in a play set they wouldn’t normally be associated with. Each play set is a self-contained story mode. Disney has set up a Disney Infinity website (https://infinity.disney.com/en-ca/characters) that will show you all the toys available, and which play sets they work with. Most Marvel characters will work with all the Marvel play sets, but not necessarily all of them. Be sure to check the site before purchasing additional characters. Classic Disney characters only work in the Toy Box mode, so keep that in mind before expecting to use Donald Duck in the Avengers play set.

Assault on Asgard, and Escape from Kyln discs unlock cute little mini-games that are best played in short bursts. If you’re looking for additional discs, you can purchase what are called Power Disc packs. Each pack sells for $5 and includes two unique discs, either a Toy Box disc (hexagonal shape) which could unlock new textures, features, or items for your Toy Box, or you could get a character power disc (circular shape), which gives your Infinity character a stat boost or some other in-game goodie. Because these packs are completely random though, you could spend hundreds in order to collect them all, and in fact you can purchase the complete set of 40 discs for the low asking price of $200 on eBay. Why this is great is because it helps bring the physical toys and discs you collect in real life to the virtual world, and that addictive nature associated with collecting anything really shines through here. Not only can you collect all the toys, but also all the Power Discs, and some of which are extremely rare.

Thankfully you don’t absolutely need the Power Discs to get the full enjoyment out of the game, and if you bought a bunch of figures from the original Infinity I’m happy to report they all work with the Toy Box mode, and all characters have skill trees now! This means you can level them up while you tackle any number of creations in the Toy Box mode. That was a really great, and much appreciated touch.

Personally it’s the figures I love. They’re expressive, detailed, and sturdy enough to actually be played with. While some of the paint work lacks the quality you’d expect on a $14 action figure, they look good just the same. I kind of which they were articulated, but for $14 you can’t expect too much these days, and the poses are fantastic and fitting. I’ll be honest, I’d love to display these on my desk at work because they look that fun. I would gladly spend some extra money to pick up a few extra figures just to have lying around. Disney already has three different waves of figures planned, with who knows how many planned for the future.

Oh and did I mention the game now features Marvel characters? Yeah, that’s clearly great, and coupled with all the existing toys available, this series has just become an instant classic for children all over the world.

The Good:

  • Each character feels completely unique to the last. While Iron Man and Thor can fly, they both have radically different move sets. Each character has a level cap of 20, but their level trees allow players to evolve them as they see fit. When you reach level 20 you won’t have unlocked all the skills, which gives the game some much needed depth. Level progress is saved to the toys so you can bring them to your friend’s house and be just as strong as you were the last time you played.
  • Local co-op is a blast and fitting for parents with their children. There is online play, but it’s for the Toy Box mode only. That’s not a bad thing as that’s the best mode in the whole game.

  • The audio visual package is fairly impressive. I’m a big fan of the way the toys look, and their in-game personas look exactly like the figures. The voice actors do a great job, and there are a few surprise voice actors you may not expect to be here. The music is fairly standard, but there are some good sound effects thrown in making all the special moves sound powerful.

The So-So:

+/- Your children will get a kick out of the play sets, but odds are you’ll be bored to tears very quickly. While it’s great being able to play as all the different Marvel super heroes, the truth is that the missions within the play sets are extremely repetitive. It’s always escort this bus, take this package, or help these people to reach a certain location, or fire up generations, beat back these baddies, etc.

+/- While playing in co-op the framerate frequently drops, and the open city, while fairly nice to look at is made up of the exact same cars and pedestrians. Sure this is a child’s game, but one would expect it to run a bit better than it does.

+/- I love having different characters to play with, but it’s clear some will be better than others. Black Widow is such an interesting character in the comics and in the movies, and while her sculpt on the figure is great, her in-game persona just isn’t anywhere near as interesting as Iron Man or Thor. She unfortunately has to drive to get to different locations, take elevators to reach rooftops, etc. This doesn’t really make her feel very super, or as powerful as the other Avengers do. I have a feeling the other characters you can purchase would be much the same, so keep that in mind. While they might be awesome to look at, they could be really boring to use in-game.

+/- Having to unlock toys in the Toy Box mode never sat well with me, and it remains the same here. It forces you to go back and play through the play sets over and over again. Children won’t mind, but adults will. It limits your creativity until you can purchase new toys and design elements.

The Bad:

  • Some issues occur when playing Toy Box games, including but not limited to full game crashes.

The Ugly:

I really shouldn’t be this into the figures, but damn I love me some Marvel, and these figures are just too awesome to pass up. Gotta Collect ‘Em All!

The Lowdown:  

Disney Infinity 2.0 is a fantastic way to spur one’s imagination. While the core gameplay still needs some fixing, the addictive nature of the Toy Box mode will keep your children glued to the TV screen. If they get bored of watching Daddy try and make new games, they can always play with the physical toys, or jump back into one of the three available play sets. I can’t recommend the game enough for young children, or parents that are looking for a game to play with their kids. If you’re a fan of Marvel, I highly recommend you take a look at the figures, you might just fall in love with the designs and end up purchasing all of them.

Final Score (General audiences): 8/10
Final Score (Kids): 10/10

Shovel Knight Review

Shovel Knight ReviewShovel Knight (Available on 3DS, PC, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Platformer
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Release Date: June 26th, 2014

Parent Talk: Shovel Knight has been rated E for everyone by the ESRB, and features mild fantasy violence. This has all the makings of a fantastic NES classic, meaning even your youngest children can play the game without fear of any damaging material. It’s hardcore platforming action at its best.

Plays Like: Imagine if Mega Man, Super Mario Bros. 3, and DuckTales had an NES offspring, and you’ve got yourself Shovel Knight. It borrows gameplay elements from all three of those classic titles, and yet still brings enough new and fresh ideas to the tables to keep things very, very interesting. It’s a must-play game.

Review Basis: I finished the PC version of the game in one sitting. Afterwards, I grabbed some food, and went right back to playing. I haven’t started the New Game+ mode yet, but oh yes, I sure will.

Here’s an interesting story for you. I told Steven, one of the other COE nutcases, about a new game I just discovered that was absolutely incredible, Astebreed for those that don’t know. He took a guess and said Shovel Knight, to which I replied ‘WTF is Shovel Knight’. After some swearing, belittling, and other obscenities, he said it was a new action platforming game that would be right up my alley. A quick Google search later and I realized what Shovel Knight was. It was a Kickstarter game that got funded last April, I vividly recall their pitch video. Why I never gave them money is beyond me, because it turns out not only is this my style of game, but it too has jumped into my top five games of 2014 thus far. If you enjoy the retro scene, or are just looking for a kick ass game, go download Shovel Knight right now.

SK2The Great:

Everything old is new again. Let’s face facts, the retro scene is on fire right now. Not only are countless indie developers releasing games that reminisce about the classic NES days, but the original carts themselves have exploded in value over the past five years. Just take a quick look at eBay and you’ll see that even SNES games are crazy expensive. I mean $50 for a loose cart of Super Metroid?!?! For real!

Enter Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight was developed by a start-up indie developer called Yacht Club Games, and after this masterpiece they’re not going to be an unknown company for long. Shovel Knight successfully combined level design and boss elements from Mega Man, the awesome pogo gameplay from DuckTales, the overworld from Super Mario Bros. 3, and towns from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It’s not just a combination of these elements that make Shovel Knight so great, it’s the fact that Yacht Club Games simply took inspiration from these classics, but developed their own unique style, flair, and game world. Everything about Shovel Knight screams classic NES, yet at the same time it feels fresh enough to stand on its own, and that’s what makes it such a wonderful experience.

SK1The Good:

+ A platformer with a story. The setup is simple, Shovel Knight and his partner in crime Shield Knight are separated, an evil Enchantress has restored a powerful tower, and there are eight robot masters…I mean eight henchmen that must be stopped in order to restore peace to the land.

+ Each of the eight Order of No Quarter feels like they were ripped directly from a Mega Man game. You have your underwater Treasure Knight, there’s the ice world boss Polar Knight, and more. I loved the throwback to Mega Man, and the fact that each boss and stage is so completely unique compared to the last only makes things that much better.

+ Boss fights aren’t scripted, which means while a certain boss might have access to five moves, how they attack you changes every time you fight them. I really enjoyed that as simple pattern recognition isn’t enough.

+ I already mentioned the overworld map system is taken directly from Super Mario Bros. 3, but I love how they’ve adapted it to fit this unique world. While Shovel Knight moves from one area to the next, occasionally minor boss fights will pop up, there will be gem areas that you can only traverse with a special power-up, and much, much more.

+ Core gameplay is simple, but completely spot-on. You can jump, attack, or perform a downward thrust with your shovel. Along the way you can gain access to secondary attacks which use little jars of magic. Think of it like the heart system from the vintage Castlevania games. You can eventually find relics that allow you to punch through rocks, shoot flames, and more.

+ Weapon and armor upgrades are more than just for show. You can purchase upgrades that allow you to activate a powerful swipe attack after two successful bounces off enemies or blocks, you can get a charge shot like Mega Man would use, or even a beam attack like the vintage Zelda games.

+ You earn gems and diamonds from digging up treasure, defeating enemies, and virtually everything else you can imagine. The more loot you have, the more you can upgrade your health, your magic container number, and more. Die though, and a portion of your loot appears in three flying bags. Taken from Diablo, the only way to get your stolen loot is to head back to where you died and collect it yourself.

+ New Game+ If you’re looking for a challenge, this is certainly the mode you’re going to want to play through. Finish the game, which take under six hours unless you want to explore everything. Once done you can restart the game with all your previous equipment, but prepare to get your ass handed to you.

+ Level design, character design, and the overall graphics are fantastic. The game looks as if it were ripped from the NES, and given the HD treatment. Not since Mega Man 9 and 10 has a retro game looked so good. The sound design is exactly the same, it sounds perfectly unique featuring catchy tunes, and great sound effects. Both come together perfectly to establish Shovel Knight as Yacht Club Games’ mascot moving forward. They’re going to have their work cut out for them to top this.

SK3The So-So:

+/- Perhaps the only negative thing I can say about Shovel Knight is that some of its replay factor just isn’t there. The levels are 100% linear, even though they do feature some hidden paths here and there. The design isn’t enough to warrant multiple play-throughs. Once you’ve completed the main story and New Game+ I’m not convinced you’ll want to return every year, but proof is in the pudding so only time will tell. All the NES classics that this game borrows gameplay elements from could easily be replayed over and over, and over again and if Shovel Knight is able to do the same then it will have earned its place in gaming history.

SK4The Lowdown:

Shovel Knight is the best Kickstarter released game I’ve played to date. Yes, I even enjoyed it more than Broken Age. There’s just something about these throwback games I love. Shovel Knight takes the best of what made the original classics so much fun to play, and spices things up just enough to make it feel unique. If you own a Wii U, 3DS, or a somewhat capable PC, I wholeheartedly recommend you purchase Shovel Knight. It’s retro gaming at its absolute finest.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Child of Light Review

Child of Light ReviewChild of Light (Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: April 30th, 2014

Parent Talk: Child of Light is a beautiful RPG that features fairytale-like fantasy violence as well as the use of tobacco and alcohol, but again, in a whimsical sense. The entire game is told through the eyes of a young girl, and the backdrop is a painting world come to life. There is very little damaging with this game, however I do recommend parents heed the warning of the ESRB because very young children might be scared by some of the darker elements in the game.

Plays Like: Child of Light was designed from the ground up to be reminiscent of RPGs from the 16-bit console generation, however with modern sensibilities. That means there are no random encounters, but action is entirely turn-based. Everything is streamlined here from the basic inventory system, to the relatively simple battle system, however it all comes together in such a way that it proves there’s still a place for turn-based RPGs in today’s overly action RPG world.

Review Basis: Finished the PS4 version of the game.

If you’re looking for a beautiful game for any of the modern platforms from the PS3 to the Xbox One and Wii U, this is a game you should pay attention to. It features some of the liveliest settings I’ve seen in years, and the gameplay, while nostalgic, is extremely balanced and fun to play. It feels extremely rewarding when you time your attacks correctly and prevent a boss from attacking during the entire encounter.

CoL1The Great:

There are two distinct elements that really stand out in Child of Light, with the first being the incredible battle system. What makes it so unique is that it combines real-time elements and classic turn-based commands. At the bottom of the screen is an action bar which show icons for all the characters on the screen, typically two icons for the two heroes and three for the enemies. On the right side of the action bar is a red portion which is the command entry or cast build-up portion. The second your character’s icon hit the left portion of the red section you’re given your turn to enter your command. From there your character will prepare to attack, only doing so when their icon reaches the very end of the meter. The twist is that should you be attacked before your character gets their attack off, it acts as an interrupt and your icon gets blasted back to the left, therefore causing you to essentially lose a turn. What’s so great about this is that you can do the same to enemies as well, and even bosses. This adds an incredible amount of strategy to a deceivingly simple looking combat system.

Things get even more interesting when you include Igniculus, who is controlled with the right analog stick of a real-life coop partner. Igniculus can fly around the screen healing allies, or slowing down enemies, on top of picking up health and mana orbs from the environment. If that sounds like a lot to manage, keep in mind that this doesn’t even include the fact that you’ll be switching your party members almost every other turn later on in the game because each has unique abilities catered to a specific type of enemy.

The other fantastic element are the beautiful graphics. Imagine a hand painted piece of art come to life, and that’s what you get here. Child of Light was deeply inspired by Studio Ghibli and the spectacular art of Yoshitaka Amano. From the backdrops, to the enemy and level design, everything has been meticulously pieced together in such a way that you always feel like you’re playing within a child’s fairytale book and it’s wonderful. Each new area you explore looks dramatically different than the last, and yet they all fit together perfectly. It’s hard to describe in words just how incredible this game looks, and the feeling it will give you as you first step foot in the magically world of Lemuria.

CoL2The Good:

+ The story is quite unexpected as it features a young girl named Aurora trying to save her father, and not the other way around. Each new cast member you meet strikes off on their own, instead of following archaic archetypes from RPGs of old. As such you automatically feel connected to these characters as they all feel important and unique.

+ Incredible sense of style from not only the lush visual presentation, but also the way in which the dialogue has a deeply Shakespearian feel to it. This further enhances the game’s unique feel.

+ The soundtrack feels much like the visuals, organic. The melodies are bold when you’re in combat, and surreal when you’re running by a waterfall. I haven’t played a game where the soundtrack complemented the visuals like this in a very long time.

+ The simple inventory system allows you to easily get the most out of potions and special gems, which you can augment to your weapon, defense, and overall stats. These gems can even be combined through a very basic alchemy system. If you attach a blue gem to your weapon you’ll gain a water attack bonus on all enemies you attack through melee, and if you attach said gem to your defense you’ll gain a certain percentage of water elemental resistance. For the stat bonuses, they can range from increasing your HP and mana, to grant you a limit-break type attack and so much more.

+ Upon leveling up players can unlock one new skill in the level-up tree. Later on it will take two levels to unlock the most powerful abilities. What’s nice is that you always have at least three different directions you can select from on the tree. Typically one area will be most focused on magic attacks, one for melee attacks, and one for overall bonuses, but each character has a unique tree, and often there are skills from all three sets located within each branch. Another bonus is that your entire party gains experience even if they’re not in combat.

+ Igniculus isn’t just useful in battle situations, but also helps Aurora solve puzzles. He can light the way to secret caves, or helps her activate switches she otherwise would never be able to reach. In the end he feels like a true companion.

+ One of the biggest problems people have when they have a family, or begin their working career is a real lack of time to devote to playing videogames. Thankfully Child of Light is around 12 hours long, which is absolutely perfect because even if you can only devote 30 minutes a day, you’ll always feel like you’re making progress and before long you’ll see the end credits.

CoL3The Lowdown:

Child of Light is one of the year’s freshest and best RPGs. Don’t let it’s download-only moniker fool you, this is an incredible journey that’s well worth taking. The combat is balanced and extremely deep for appearing so simple. The graphics and soundtrack are absolutely fantastic, and the story is deeply personal. I don’t know what else I can say except, go give this one a download right away. It comes extremely highly recommended.

Final Score: 9.8/10  

Super Castlevania IV Review

Super_Castlevania_IV_USASuper Castlevania IV (Available on Wii, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Original SNES Release Date: December 4th, 1991
Wii Virtual Console Release Date: December 25th, 2006
Wii U Virtual Console Release Date: October 31st, 2013

Parent Talk: Super Castlevania IV is rated E10+ for everyone ten and older.  The ESRB lists fantasy action and violence as the main disclaimer, and I think that’s appropriate.  The game isn’t too gory, but does feature skeletons, Medusa, and other creatures of the night which could potentially frighten the very young.  That said, I know many people who played this game when they were only five or six and they turned out just fine.

Plays Like: The game plays very much like Castlevania and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse on the NES, although taken to the next level.  The whip can now be swung in eight different directions, and even held in any position which acts as a sort of shield.

Review Basis: Having finished the game numerous times on the SNES, and the Wii Virtual Console, I decided to swing into action and play through the Wii U Virtual Console version just because it was an excuse to return to this incredible game.

Having come off of three incredible hits on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Konami was ready to rock the world with its fourth Castlevania, exclusively released on the Super NES.  While not technically a sequel, more of a reimagining of the original game, Super Castlevania IV features some of the very best audio, visuals, and gameplay the series has ever seen in 2D.  If you have never played this game before and enjoy the series, do yourself a big favor and go download this one straight away.

SCV4_2The Great:

Hands-down the very best gameplay element added to SCV4 is the eight-way directional whip.  Now you could jump and whip down, angle and whip diagonally, or whip straight up, and to the sides.  It was amazing!  You could even hold down the attack button and Simon would hold the whip out in front of him, which helped to protect against incoming projectiles.  Seriously, it can’t be said enough times, this was revolutionary stuff back in 1991.  For some reason Konami would ditch this gameplay element in virtually every single 2D Castlevania afterwards, and the only logical explanation is that it helped make the game a bit easier than the previous entries.  It’s a real shame though as it was just so awesome!

SCV4_3The Good:

+ Other gameplay refinements include being able to shoot your weapon with the R button instead of up and attack.  It might seem like a minor addition, but it went along way to help make this feel like a different beast.  There were also special objects Simon could attach his whip into that would allow him to swing from one area to the next.  Simon could also turn direction while mid-jump, and even jump on and off stairs.  All little additions that came together to make this something really special.

+ Phenomenal use of Mode-7.  Mode-7 is a unique graphical scaling effect the SNES featured, and Nintendo highly marketed.  Certain stages in the game made full use of the effect, such as the infamous tunnel stage that would frequently cause people with motion sickness to want to hurl their lunch.  It was a true sight to behold though, and made those playing the game feel like they were experiencing something truly special.

+ Outside the Mode-7 stages and effect, were the super refined graphics.  Simon’s sprite was larger than ever, the environments were more detailed than anything the NES could pump out, and the boss fights featured some truly massive foes.  One of my favorite was the two-headed dragon you fight during one of the early stages.  Sure there was some slowdown here and there, but it was worth it for these stunning visuals.  They hold up perfectly well over two decades after the game originally shipped.

+ The soundtrack is also fantastic.  Many of the classic tracks from the original NES trilogy return here, although sounding better than ever thanks to the SNES’ great sound chip.  Bloody Tears in particular was a great standout.

SCV4_4The Lowdown:

Super Castlevania IV has aged perfectly.  It’s one of the best entries in the “classic” series, and while it was never overly difficult thanks to the eight-way whip, it’s made even easier by the Wii U’s save states.  The graphics, incredible soundtrack and amazing gameplay prove that timeless classics are always worth revisiting.  This is one you shouldn’t hesitate to experience on any platform you can get your hands on.  It’s an instant buy!

Final Score: 9/10

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Review

ALttPThe Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Available on the Wii U, and Wii Virtual Console)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Original Release Date: April 13th, 1992
Wii Virtual Console Release Date: January 22nd, 2007
Wii U Virtual Console Release Date: January 30th, 2014

Parent Talk: Grab ahold of your sword, pick up that shield, and go out there and rescue seven captured maidens, only then can you restore peace to the land of Hyrule.  Sounds awesome and epic, doesn’t it?  That’s because it is!  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past features lots of sword wielding action, and yet thanks to the cartoony look, never feels like a mature game.  There are some enemies that might frighten the extremely young, but for the most part this is an adventure you’ll want to share with as many as possible, regardless of age.

Plays Like: Take the overhead perspective from the NES classic The Legend of Zelda, and mix the magic spells from Zelda II, and you have only a brief idea of what to expect here.  A Link to the Past (ALttP) forever changed action games upon its release in 1991/2 (depending on your region).  It set the bar so high that no game has ever been able to reach it.  It featured the best possible mix of supremely tight gameplay, a fantastic story, and incredible audio visuals.  Bottom line, this is considered the greatest game of all time for a reason.

Review Basis: Upon purchasing the game in 1992, I have completed it virtually every single year since.  There’s something extremely special about this game that keeps bringing you back for more.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is not only my favorite videogame of all time, but most of the world’s as well.  It was the first game that truly made me go WOW.  The world was massive, the gameplay was spot-on, the story was epic, and the graphics and music were just incredible.  Today, some 22 years after its release, it remains the best of the best.  If you have never played this masterpiece before, you cannot call yourself a gamer.

Who could ever forget their first steps outside.
Who could ever forget their first steps outside.

The Great:

Everything!!!  Thanks for reading the review.  Now go play it.  What, still here?  Why?!  I told you, everything is great, so stop reading and go play damn it!  Ok fine, you want further details, I’ll humor you, but only this once.

Let’s start off with the story.  For the first time in the series, the English actually made sense!  Sure the translation has come under fire in recent years with liberties being taken, but you know what, it doesn’t matter in the least.  The story was so shocking back in 1992 that none of us noticed, and given the quality of the dialogue, you won’t notice today either.  It was one of the first games I can remember that actually had an extremely detailed intro, if you didn’t hit the start button that is.  It explained all about the Golden Land and how a thief broke into this sacred realm and stole a very powerful object.  When you do eventually begin the game, you’re awoken by your uncle, who’s heading off to the castle to rescue the princess Zelda.  Being the good lad you are, you ignore his pleas to stay home and venture forth.  Eventually what appears to be a simple quest becomes something so much more.  By the time you face off against Ganon, and the credits roll it’s incredible to reflect back on all the adventures you’ve had, all the friends you’ve made along the way, and just how epic this tale really was.  Even today it holds up perfectly, but back in 1992 this was simply unheard of in the console space, and it forever changed people’s opinion of what a videogame could do.

One of the coolest uses of Mode-7.
One of the coolest uses of Mode-7.

Next up we have the graphics.  They’re incredible, even 22 years later.  Back when this game hit, the lightning and rain at the beginning of the game were eye popping.  It was such a fantastic way to start the game.  Later on, heading to the Mysterious Forest and unsheathing the Master Sword was another wow moment.  There was also the immense size of the game, not only were there almost a dozen dungeons, but the entire Light World had a clone, with the Dark World.  Clone isn’t the right word, as the Dark World was actually completely different, and because of that this felt like the longest game ever.  The level design was spectacular, the enemy designs were awesome, and the special effects, especially the Mode-7 map was just incredible.  Putting all these things together made one hell of an impression.

The audio was another area that was just spectacular in 1992.  The overworld theme from the original Zelda was crisper, sharper, and all around better in 16-bit.  The number of themes made for this one game were staggering to youngsters the world over.  From the Dark World theme, to the classic fairy music, the amount of songs that originated in this game remain surprising.  Every Zelda game since this one has borrowed at least one theme because they were that memorable.  The sound effects were also great, with a variety of different sounds emitting whenever Link cut a bush, hit into a rock, or attacked an enemy.

A Legend is born!
A Legend is born!

As great as the game is, people might be surprised to hear just how tough it was to complete.  Today we have the Internet, but back in ’92 there was no real way to get help if you got stuck.  Sure you could call a gaming hotline for crazy amounts of money, or subscribe to Nintendo Power, but what if the hotline didn’t have ALttP yet, or what if Nintendo Power didn’t cover the game in that particular issue?  That was it, you just tried, and tried again until you figured it out.  This was such a tough game that Nintendo included a sealed hint book in every copy.  That might be looked at as a fault, but it forced you to explore, and try all the various tools at your disposal.

Speaking of tools, the variety of weapons and items available were jaw-dropping back in the day.  In the original Zelda there were only a handful of items you could find.  In the sequel, the emphasis was more on magic.  With ALttP though, it featured the best of both worlds.  Not only were there tons of fantastic weapons and items to find, but you also had three powerful magic spells you could learn.  The Master Sword had a revamped attack as well.  You could even power-up classic items like the shield and boomerang.  It was nuts!  Overall, this really was light years ahead of the games that came before it.

How did I already rescue the princess?
How did I already rescue the princess?

All of these superb additions wouldn’t mean a thing if the core gameplay wasn’t tight and responsive, but boy was it ever.  Link could not move in eight directions, so everything felt so much smoother.  You could perform a spin attack by holding down the attack button, you could ram through multiple enemies with the Pegasus Boots, and perform so many other fantastic feats with little to no effort whatsoever.  That’s the clear sign that you’re ignoring the controller, and just focusing on the excellent game.

All of this is even before taking into account the Light and Dark World mechanics.  By exploring both worlds you could hop back and forth, finding secrets everywhere.  Exploring became much more than what players had experienced in the previous games, and it was so rewarding that Nintendo would mimic this system with their first 3D Zelda game, Ocarina of Time, except instead of travelling between worlds, you would travel between time.

Many Zelda bosses were inspired from this one battle.
Many Zelda bosses were inspired from this one battle.

The Lowdown:

I could go on for ages, but there’s really no point.  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a masterpiece that hasn’t aged a single day in 22 years.  It deserves to be played every year, and if you have never gotten around to playing it before, you really owe it to yourself to give this one a download.  It set the blueprint for all the Zelda games to come.  It’s the best of the best, a living Legend!

Final Score: 10/10

Batman: Arkham Origins Review

Batman Arkham OriginsBatman: Arkham Origins (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal
Release Date: October 25th, 2013

Review Basis: Warner Bros. Interactive sent us a review copy for the Xbox 360. I completed the game on the normal difficulty setting.

Arkham Asylum is one of my favorite games of all time. It came out in 2009, and was my personal Game of the Year. Remember, Uncharted 2 and Assassin’s Creed were also released that year among others, which made 2009 a phenomenal year for gamers everywhere. That said, when Arkham Origins was announced, I didn’t necessarily feel overjoyed with the news. I always thought that prequels were a bad idea and forced. Usually, a prequel comes around when companies run out of ideas and want to keep selling copies of a successful franchise. After having completed Origins, I can safely say that those worries were put to rest. While it’s true that Arkham Origins doesn’t offer anything new for veterans of the Arkham series, it’s still a worthy addition and one that should be experienced, especially if you’ve yet to play any of the other games in the series.

The Great:

Have you ever read books like Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, or The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb? What about The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, the famed writer responsible for Watchmen? If you have, you know that Batman is one of the most interesting comic book personalities out there. The reason for that is simple, he has the greatest gallery of villains. No other comic book character comes close. WB Montreal did a fantastic job using all those awesome villains. The relationship between Batman and The Joker always fascinates me and they play on that very well. Here, Batman and Joker have not met yet. What happens when they do is brilliant. I absolutely adore their take on both characters. The Penguin is another foe handled extremely well, and even obscure characters like Deadshot are handled perfectly. For fans of the Dark Knight, Arkham Origins is worth every penny for its storyline alone. You can also put your fears to rest, Troy Baker is perfect as The Joker. At first, you won’t even realize that Mark Hamill didn’t reprise his role.

Batman Arkham Origins1The Good:

+ Predator missions are back and as fun as ever. These instances are the closest you’ll ever come to feeling like “The Bat”. The best parts of Arkham Origins is when the game encourages you to be stealthy and use Batman’s wide assortment of gadgets.

+ Excellent free-flow combat is back. Two new enemy types added as well, the martial artist counters your attacks while the venom addicts pack quite a punch.

+ New detective situations show a more forgotten side of Batman. He’s a detective at heart, and solving crime scenes is both exciting and visually stimulating. Only downside is that they don’t pose any actual challenge. It would have been fun to use some thinking to try to solve these crimes, instead of just scanning what’s already highlighted on the screen.

+ Lots and lots of content for those looking to invest many hours into the game. There are side-quests everywhere right from the beginning. These usually involve villains you won’t see in the main plot. Doing them adds some nice plot elements too. One in particular involves the Mad Hatter and is a blast to play through.

+ Fantastic experience points system where you can buy and upgrade equipment. It rewards you for playing well.

+ New Game Plus lets you restart a new game with all your previous equipment and exp. It’s a good excuse to replay the adventure and adds even more replay value to the package.

Batman Arkham Origins2The So-So:

+/- I would have loved to try the multiplayer, however, I just cannot for the life of me join a match online. The game is barely a week old and already no one is online. If you’re plans were largely centered towards multiplayer, you might want to reconsider getting Arkham Origins as chances are, the online servers will be killed quickly for lack of activity.

The Bad:

– Open world concept means there’s lots of tedious traveling in order to reach new areas or return to previous ones. You can unlock quick travel spots, but to do so there’s some lengthy fetch-quests you’ll need to complete first.

– The grapple hook doesn’t work as good as it did in Arkham City. This makes those long sections where you need to go from point A to point B even more tedious than they already were. Sometimes, the option of grappling to a ledge will appear at the very last moment.

– Gotham City doesn’t feel alive. It’s Christmas Eve, yet the only people on the streets are thugs and cops. It might be justified towards the end, but this city feels strangely familiar to Arkham City.

– If you’ve played the Arkham series, Origins offers nothing new. The wow factor of encountering your first predator scenario in Asylum is lost here, as you’ve already experienced it in the two previous entries. Let’s hope they take a break and focus on a new character. There’s this certain “Superman” character you might have heard of who more than deserves a good videogame.

Batman Arkham Origins4The Lowdown:

The feeling of freshness from Arkham Asylum and Arkham City isn’t found in Arkham Origins. Because of that, it’s a bit harder to recommend this one. Still, everything that made the first two Arkham games excellent is still here, the magic, the refinement, and the polish. It might not win any awards for originality, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be played. Heck if you, for some reason, haven’t experienced this series before then run out to your local game store and purchase Origins right away. For veterans of the series though, you might be a bit disappointed with the repetitive nature of Origins. For me, being a huge Batman fan was enough and the storyline more than warrants a play-through. Batman: Arkham Origins will not be in any Game of the Year discussion, but is still a very worthwhile addition to an already brilliant series.

Final Score: 8.0/10

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review

AssIVAssassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
PS3, Wii U, and Xbox 360 Release Date: October 29th, 2013
PS4 Release Date: November 15th, 2013
PC Release Date: November 19th, 2013
Xbox One Release Date: November 21st, 2013

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Assassin’s Creed IV M for mature because of blood, sexual themes, strong language, the use of alcohol, and violence. You play as a pirate who also happens to be the latest assassin, taking out key targets, and causing all sorts of mischief. While the game isn’t over the top in terms of gore, you cut people’s throats, stab them with various sharp objects, and blow them out of the water. Even though the blood is kept to a minimum, I wouldn’t suggest parents let their children play a game like this simply because of the realistic violence.

Plays Like: Since Assassin’s Creed has become a yearly iterated series, the changes from one game to the next are typically minimal. Players can expect an vast open world, where they can pick and choose the missions they want to tackle, a la Grand Theft Auto. This particular entry takes place on the open seas, so there are lots of epic sea-battles, tons of islands to explore, and a much greater sense of freedom than ever before. If you’ve enjoyed any of the previous entries, you’ll find lots of fun to be had here. If you were never into the series before, or never tried it, this is a very good place to start as it feels as though it is the most streamlined game in the series yet.

Review Basis: Ubisoft sent us the PlayStation 3 version to review. I completed the single player game and tried my hand at the multiplayer portions. Players can expect a 25 hour or longer experience.

Assassin’s Creed has become one of Ubisoft’s most popular franchises. The series has continually tried to introduce new elements to keep the core gameplay from getting stale, and even though I believe the release schedule should be slowed down a bit, this has to be one of my favorite entries in the series because I’m a sucker for anything pirate related.

AssIV_2The Great:

Sailing the open seas is an amazing feeling. While it’s great being able to run around an island picking up- missions, side-quests and other things to do, nothing comes close to the feeling of taking command of your own ship and setting sail. The entire game world feels alive because just over the horizon there might be another small island waiting for you to plunder it. This sense of freedom is only magnified when you realize just how large the game world actually is.

AssIV_1The Good:

+ The story feels much lighter heated than its predecessors. Players take on the role of Edward Kenway, a pirate who’s main goal is to make as much money as possible so he can return to England a more respectable man. He’s not in this because of some secret order, and thanks to a weird twist of fate, his destiny is thrust upon him. I enjoyed how the tale was easier to digest and didn’t take itself nearly as seriously as other entries in the series have.

+ The first-person real world side of the story is also very entertaining, albeit completely optional. As a new employee of Abstergo you’re charged with creating a new entertainment product based around Edward’s life, but if you investigate the company enough it’s pretty awesome what you can find out about the future of the series. The nice play on Ubisoft Montreal wasn’t lost on me either, and I found it rather humorous as I’ve been there several times.

+ While gameplay is broken up into your typical exploration, missions, etc. What’s unique here is that you can harvest resources in order to increase not only Edward’s abilities (such as giving him another gun holster), but also your ship. You can also find supplies just lying around hidden islands, and so much more. These little offshoots offer a nice break from the norm, and further your incentive to explore.

+ Sea exploration and battle is incredibly fun, and it’s one of the key reasons why you’ll want to continuously update the Jackdaw. There’s more to it though. Do you attack a frigate and dismantle it for parts, or do you send it off on missions to increase your wealth? The choices you make here actually feel as though they have some meaning.

+ The multiplayer remains fun and engaging because of the cat and mouse style. Try to convince other players you’re nothing more than an NPC, then pop out and shock them. This style almost never gets old, although personally I found the main draw was clearly the single player campaign.

+ While I’ve only played the current-gen build thus far, I can easily tell you this is one of the nicest looking games released this year. Featuring stellar animation, fantastic draw distances and beautiful environments, Black Flag is a joy to the senses.

+ The audio package is equally impressive. From solid voice acting, to an impressive soundtrack and great sound effects, Black Flag delivers the goods. When you’re sailing the ocean, it’s great to hear the wind realistically rushing through your surround speakers.

AssIV_3The So-So:

+/- Some of the missions are great, but there are far too many follow missions, which bring down the action tremendously. Often you have to follow your target for over ten minutes before you can go in for the kill, or maybe not even. Sometime your mission is simply to eaves-drop on the conversation and move on. These missions feel like they drag on and on for ages.

The Bad:

– With games this massive it’s understandable that there would be a few hiccups. One such annoyance is with the way Edward scales obstacles that I never wanted to interact with. If you enjoying running as often as I do, it’s common to have Edward run forward, and jump up to a ledge that I never intended to. There are also issues with key targets disappearing for some unknown reason. Moments like these often either caused my death, or led me to restarting the mission.

AssIV_4The Lowdown:

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag manages to give players an open world to explore in such a way that’s never really been done before, at least in terms of how it truly feels like you’re free to sail the open sea. While I may have only played the PS3 version right now, I’ve got the PS4 version on stand-by and am really curious to see how the visual improvements will draw me into the game even more so than this version. For now if you’re looking for an excellent action adventure game where you feel like anything is possible, Black Flag delivers the goods.

Final Score: 8.8/10

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams Review

Giana SistersGiana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (Available on PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Black Forest Games
Developer: Black Forest Games
PC Version Release Date: October 23rd, 2012
Xbox 360 Version Release Date: March 20, 2013
PlayStation 3 Version Release Date: June 18th, 2013
Wii U Version Release Date: September 5th, 2013

The Giana Sisters series is known, albeit unfairly, as being a Super Mario Bros. ripoff. The original Commodore 64 version definitely deserves that claim, but the Nintendo DS sequel was a fantastic and original offering that never got the attention it deserved because of the series’ reputation. Unfortunately for Spellbound Entertainment, they went bankrupt shortly after the release of said game. Black Forest Games, a studio made entirely of ex-Spellbound employees, decided to buy the rights to the Giana franchise and Kickstarted a game game called Project Giana, which would eventually become Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams. The game first saw release on the PC late last year; a 360 version hit earlier this year, followed by the PS3 version in June and earlier this month on the Wii U. The Wii U version is the one we were sent a review code for, so it’s the one I’m going to zero in on, although all versions of the game are fundamentally the same. Does Twisted Dreams improve upon its excellent DS prequel?

The Great:

There’s no doubt that the visual presentation is Twisted Dream’s most remarkable trait. Being able to switch from a beautiful and colorful world to a dark, punk, and gritty environment instantly with just the press of a button is mighty impressive. Black Forest Games have created a living, breathing world so fascinating, don’t be surprised if you find yourself stopping to look at the backgrounds instead of continuing with the adventure. Gameplay takes the form of 2D side-scrolling platforming you’ve come to expect, although the environments are 3D. It all comes together in a stunningly delicious package that makes you want to progress just to see what the next new area will look like.

Giana Sisters2The Good:

+ Light/Dark world gameplay adds a unique twist to the platforming genre. You have to constantly switch between these two worlds in order to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and continue platforming. For example, some ledges might only be accessible with Punk Giana, whereas others aren’t. As such you find yourself switching between worlds while jumping, running, and more. You need extremely quick reflexes as you often only have a few milliseconds to react.

+ Twirling lets you navigate with a bit more precision, but also leaves you vulnerable. Dashing destroys everything in its path, but is harder to control. You need to master both of these techniques if you hope to beat the game, and only one can be used by each of the sisters, so you need to be aware of what you’re doing at all times.

+ Infinite lives and frequent checkpoints mean you’re free to experiment, and often the game expects you to do just that.

+ Boss battles are extremely challenging, but very original. They’re certainly a highlight, and the final boss will be remembered for quite some time once you finally beat him.

+ If you like hard games, Hardcore and Uber Hardcore will utterly destroy you. Levels typically last around ten minutes, and Hardcore challenges you to beat them without a single checkpoint, but wait, there’s more. To truly master Twisted Dreams, you must complete the entire game without dying once in order to best Uber Hardcore mode. Good luck with that!

Giana Sisters3The So-So:

+/- Extremely hard. This is something you should be aware before purchasing. If you’re easily frustrated, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams may be too much for you to bear as the game’s brutal! Even with infinite lives, checkpoints, and experimentation, this game will bring you to new levels of frustration you never knew existed.

Giana Sisters4The Bad:

– Repetition. There’s not much variety with enemy designs, and the different world mechanic gets old fast. During later levels, world swapping is mandatory literally every three seconds. This means you’re switching worlds so often it can be difficult to see what’s going on, and can be hard on the eyes. Repetition doesn’t just bring down the gameplay either, it also pops up with the game’s limited audio. There are only two music tracks that play throughout the entire game, one for the light world and one for the dark world. By the time you reach the later sections of the game, you might find yourself playing the game on mute.

– The Wii U version features off-screen play, but doesn’t have any sound whatsoever. While that might not be a problem for the soundtrack, it’s off-putting not to have any sound at all. It’s a bug Black Forest Games are aware of and have promised to fix via an upcoming patch.

– Load times are extremely long, regardless of which version you play. Be prepared to wait in-between levels for up to a minute or longer.

– In order to advance, you’re required to have a certain number of gems. That basically means you’re going to have to replay levels over and over again until you find every last gem. This became such an annoyance, I switched the difficulty to Easy, as the gem requirement vanishes on that difficulty. Giana Sisters DS did a much better job than Twisted Dreams by offering shorter levels with only a few collectibles to find. Here, there’s blue, yellow and red crystals to collect and some can only be found in a specific world. It’s tedious, and quite frankly not fun, especially considering the difficulty level and the overall length of the stages. To its merit, collected crystals remain after death.

Giana Sisters5The Lowdown

Twisted Dreams is a solid platformer that gambled everything on it’s light/dark mechanic. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough to create a truly memorable experience. It does have its moments, and is by no means a bad game. I just expected more after playing the excellent Giana Sisters DS. For $15, there’s a lot of content. It took me six hours to complete my first play-through, and there were plenty of extras I missed. If you enjoy the gameplay, you could be at this one for a while. I’d suggest looking at screenshots, and watching a videos, such as my video review, to see if this game is for you.

Final Score: 6.9/10

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link Review

Zelda IIZelda II: The Adventure of Link (Available on 3DS, Wii, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Original Release Date: September 26th, 1988
Wii Virtual Console Release Date: June 4th, 2007
3DS Virtual Console Release Date: November 22nd, 2012
Wii U Virtual Console Release Date: September 12th, 2013

Parent Talk: Having played this while a youngster myself, I can understand why the ESRB rated Zelda II E for everyone. Considering the somewhat primitive graphics, there really isn’t anything too overly mature about the game except the overall plot, which thankfully comes across much clearer than the original’s did.

Plays Like: Unlike The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link no longer takes place with an overhead perspective. Instead the game plays something more like Castlevania mixed with Dragon Quest. There’s still an overworld, although whenever enemies touch Link, they’re transported to a side-scrolling battle stage. Dungeons also take place in side scrolling areas where players engage in some of the most challenging battles ever to grace a Zelda game. Many consider this the most difficult game in the series, and for very good reason, it is. There’s also a leveling system, magic, and so much more.

Review Basis: Much like the original Zelda on the NES, I’ve played my fair share of The Adventure of Link. While this may be one of my least favorite entries in the series, it’s remains a fantastic game that dramatically changed the course of the series.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is generally regarded as the weakest link in the Zelda series, but that’s only because it tried to do so many new things. As a stand-alone videogame it’s actually extremely fun to play, so long as you aren’t easily frustrated. Reviewing this game as if playing it for the first time proved one thing right away, if you dislike dying a lot, this is most likely not the game for you. Outside the challenge, it’s pretty remarkable how well certain aspects have held up some 25 years after its original release?

ZeldaII_1The Great:

Having the balls to do something different. Bow and arrows, boomerang, bombs, yeah, they’re all gone in Zelda II. They’ve been replaced with an overworld and leveling system that mimics Dragon Quest. Enjoyed spending countless hours looking for secret entrances, well they’re still here although they’ve been scaled back to make room for what the real focus is, action. Link can learn a wide variety of skillful sword techniques including the awesome down-thrust, which is one of the most useful abilities in the entire game. There’s now a magic system which allows Link to shield himself, heal his wounds, or even transform into a fairy. All of these changes made Zelda II a completely different beast compared to the original, and depending on when you began playing the series, you either loved it or hated it. No one can deny that it was extremely risky of Nintendo to make all these changes, and today the game is remembered for having the courage to try something different.

ZeldaII_2The Good:

+ Extremely large overworld that contains loads of hidden goodies. While completely different than the original, the overworld still has its fair share of secrets. Players can find point bags, which aid in leveling, they can find heart containers, which increase Link’s capacity to hold more health, and more.

+ Grinding isn’t really required. Sure you can if you want, but unlike true RPGs, Zelda II works quite differently in that each dungeon automatically increases Link’s level upon completion. The game automatically determines which area will increase in strength upon leveling, be it either health, magic or sword strength.

+ Save sates are a blessing for new players. Given the extreme difficulty level, new players will be able to slowly ease into the game thanks to the save states, and not have to worry about restarting over and over again.

ZeldaII_3The So-So:

+/- Brutally difficult at the onset of the game, but slowly balances out as you progress. That’s not to say it ever becomes easy, but as you learn to use your spells more effectively, and get better at the combat system, things eventually balance out.

+/- Dialogue is more useful than the original Zelda, but players will still get lost. Thankfully towns are useful because there are more than a few characters which can point you in the right direction, but when it comes to hidden items that are required to progress, more often than not you’ll spend hours trying to find them unless you resort to using a guide.

The Bad:

– Hit boxes are extremely small. If you’re up against an Ironknuckle for example, unless you use the jump thrust move, you’re likely to lose of half your health because of how precise your hits have to be.

– Merciless. Difficulty is one thing, the lack of health drops from enemies is something else entirely. If you don’t use save states you’re going to die, a lot.

ZeldaII_4The Lowdown:

While many may dismiss Zelda II because of its difficulty or how radically different it is compared to its predecessor, it remains a fun game. The magic system remains fun to use, and exploration is easier than the original because of additional hints and a more linear progression system. If you can stomach the difficulty, aren’t put off by the emphasis on action, then Zelda II is certainly a classic worth revisiting.

Final Score: 8/10

Injustice: Gods Among Us Review

InjusticeInjustice: Gods Among Us (Available on PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighter
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Release Date: April 16th, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us might have been release way back in April, but that certainly doesn’t mean you should ignore it. I had my eye on this game for a while now and finally decided to take the plunge. It actually took me by storm.  I knew it would be a solid fighter based on what I had heard, read, and seen, but I never expected it to be this great. It features an incredible cast of your favorite DC characters, and has extremely responsive and tight controls.  That shouldn’t be too surprising considering it was developed by the team responsible for 2011’s excellent Mortal Kombat.  If you even remotely like DC Comics, fighting games, or are just looking for a good time, this is definitely the game for you.  Read on for full details.

The Great:

The best story mode ever featured in a fighter, nuff said! Gods Among Us‘ storyline puts 90% of videogames out there (including most RPGs) to shame. Never did I expect to find such a rich and detailed plot in a one-on-one figthing game. It uses all the DC characters extremely well and isn’t afraid to push the boundaries. If you thought the ending of Man of Steel was controversial, you might just have a heart attack over this.  All the heroes are voice-acted, and everyone involved did a superb job.  I played the entire story mode in one sitting with a friend of mine, and while we’re both pretty big comic book fans, even those that aren’t can appreciate the excellent storyline.  We couldn’t stop playing just to see what would come next. This would make the perfect Justice League movie. Sure, there are a few parts where characters fight each other for no good reason, but this isn’t a movie, it’s a videogame so that’s perfectly acceptable. It also ties into the classic “superheroes must always fight each other before talking” cliche, but it gives you an excuse to have a few matches in-between events. The story mode will take you a good five hours or so to complete depending on your skill level and difficulty setting, but you’ll be glued to the screen the whole time. I really hope we get a sequel to this in a few years as I cannot wait to see what these guys can come up with next.

Injustice1The Good:

+ Nice variety of characters. You have the option of choosing from 24 heroes and villains from the DC universe right from the get go. Thankfully there doesn’t seem to be any balancing issues, but I’m not a fighting game expert. From what I’ve played (and I’ve played a lot), I never found anyone to be overly cheap or more powerful than anyone else. The fighters are also quite diverse, featuring many different styles. There’s a character for everyone here and it’s one of the only brawlers I’ve played where there’s more than one character I feel comfortable with.

+ Fair difficulty that doesn’t give the middle finger to the average Joe. This is the first time I’ve played a fighter on normal difficulty (or medium as they call it here) without wanting to destroy my TV. It’s perfect for me, and pro’s can simply opt for the harder difficulties should they so desire.

+ Multiplayer is where it’s at. Put two comic geeks in a room and give them Injustice and watch the hours fly by. While there have been some pretty good comic book licensed fighters over the years, most of them are cross-overs. Not so with this one.  Here it’s all DC and that means fans will likely have a few favorite characters, which increases the reply value tremendously.

+ Super moves don’t require advances calculus to pull off and are absolutely amazing to watch. Superman punches people to the atmosphere, Doomsday takes you to the Earth’s core, while Batman shows off his acrobatic skills by dramatically avoiding the Batmobile just in time for it to crush you. 24 characters means there are 24 super moves for you to discover and enjoy.

+ Interactive backgrounds keep you on your toes. Every map has different objects you can use to knock your opponent’s teeth in. Either by firing missiles with the Batmobile or throwing a car on your opponent’s skull, there’s always something around for you to take advantage of. You also have to take into consideration the hero you’re using. For example, Deathstroke doesn’t have super strength so he isn’t able to pick up a car or bike and throw it at his foe. Even cooler than that is the fact that each stage is tiered and by performing a certain move at just the right spot, you’re able to launch your opponent to a new area.  All of these elements add a lot of entertainment to the fight, and make the stages much more than just a background to fight on.

+ They had the balls to include blood and all sorts of gory moves in the game. Sure it’s no Mortal Kombat, but I didn’t expect to see Superman bleed or get stabbed through the heart.

+ Good amount of single player content to keep you playing long after you’ve completed the main story. You can play a more classic “arcade mode” (simply titled Battle Mode) to unlock each character’s ending, but there’s more than one different arcade mode with some needing to be unlocked. There’s also the obligatory mission mode which requires impossible button inputs at the right time to advance. Training and tutorials are also found.

+ When you’re ready, head online and get your ass handed to you. Online multiplayer works flawlessly here, with no lag in sight.

Injustice1The So-So:

+/- We all know that Harley Quinn shouldn’t be able to beat Superman in a one-on-one fight.  Still, this is a videogame and you shouldn’t care. My girlfriend kept repeating that they shouldn’t be able to continue fighting after getting a sword through the abdomen. I personally don’t care, but felt like mentioning this as chances are, you know someone who won’t be able accept the fantastical nature of the battles.  Heck, maybe you’re one of those people yourself.

Injustice2The Bad:

– It follows the current trend of additional character DLC.  Injustice teases you with four open slots, but try as you may, the only way to unlock those characters is to purchase them for five bucks a pop, which is completely ridiculous.

Injustice3The Lowdown:

Do you love fighting games? Enjoy the DC universe? Well if you said yes to one or both of those questions, pick up Injustice: Gods Among Us without looking back. Not only is this a fantastic fighting game, it’s also an amazing videogame that stands on its own. Buy it today.

Final Score: 9.0/10