“There’s nothing that gets a true RPG geek all hot and bothered for some hardcore dungeon crawling action quite like having to draw our own map charts on virtual graph paper – okay, we’re kidding. But there is a certain hardcore-ness to it, as well as everything else about Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City. This third outing into nigh-endless, dark and dangerous catacombs doesn’t screw around much with the gameplay that made the first two games both brutally challenging and awesomely geeky. But it does offer some fresh goodies that get us good and wet. And not in the way you’re thinking of, pervert (seriously, why go there?).”
Whoops! It’s been so crazy around these parts lately over the past month or so that I completely forgot to post my July issue Nintendo Power contributions. Page 88 features my short and sweet review of Tetris Party Deluxe on DS, which is pretty damn Tetrisy (a good thing). Fun extra modes are what really makes that one a definite buy. I also have a few Community pieces: There’s a short piece on Japanese artist Haroshi who turned his broken skateboards into some crazy Mario-themed art. And on page 94 you can peep one super rad custom Koopa electric guitar. Shredtastic.
“It might have a strong identity in some areas–likeable characters, a solid plot, an interesting world to explore–but it’s odd how the Blue Dragon series is constantly reinvented with a different style of gameplay in each installment. Whatever the reasoning behind it, the original Blue Dragon’s traditional turn-based battles were thrown out the window in Blue Dragon Plus on the DS for a full-blown turn-based tactical strategy approach. Now Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow takes the series in a different direction with more of a real-time action focus. This latest change of pace brings a few minor changes to the series and makes room for some decent multiplayer opportunities.”
“The advent of the Pokemon series in the mid-1990s and the subsequent frenzy of popularity the charming Pocket Monster games have enjoyed ever since have spurred plenty of clones based on young kids battling with collectible critters for fame and fortune. Monster Racers’ inspiration is obvious, yet embedded deeply in the game’s carbon-copy presentation and revamped concept is a unique element that’s strong enough to give the well-trodden genre some new life. Instead of engaging in lighthearted turn-based combat, the myriad beasties you capture and raise have a burning desire to race against each other when they come face-to-face. Pairing this solid and seamless racing component with the some of the mechanics that make the Pokemon games so entertaining yields an addictive–if somewhat unoriginal–experience.”
“It’s easy to see why the original Picross DS resonated so strongly with avid puzzle game enthusiasts and nongamers alike. Blending elements of Sudoku, crossword puzzles, paint-by-numbers, and Minesweeper into an ultimate puzzle stew, this ridiculously addictive little game is a delightful time-sucking black hole of fun. If forming amusing pixel art images by solving 2D logic-based picture puzzles held you in its thrall, or if you don’t even know what a nonogram is, you won’t be able to pry your fingers away from the stylus once you get a taste of these mind-bending puzzles steeped in 3D. Picross 3D takes the same puzzle concepts that made the original game so enjoyable and builds on them masterfully. Solving each puzzle to uncover the 3D object encased inside of it is more like chiseling away at a rock sculpture than solving a Sunday crossword. This great new approach to the familiar gameplay makes the formula all the more engrossing.”
“Grab a dollar bill and flip it over. See that creepy eyeball with beams of light shooting out from atop an unfinished pyramid? That’s the Eye of Providence–a religious icon representing the ever-watchful eye of God. While it’s an eerie symbol on its own, it takes on a far more sinister role in Again, where it’s used as the calling card for a serial murderer hell-bent on re-creating a string of grisly slayings from the past. Billed as an interactive crime novel, Again has all of the makings of a decent detective tale sprinkled with a touch of the supernatural. Unfortunately, it struggles with sluggish pacing and occasionally ham-fisted delivery. Even for enthusiasts of interactive stories, tapping through hours of text broken up by a handful of obtuse crime scene investigations that require frequent backtracking will test your patience more than your mind.”
“Even though Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are remakes of their 10-year-old Game Boy Color counterparts, they’re the first entries in the series to actually make you want to exercise, thanks to the ingenious Pokewalker accessory that comes bundled with them. Yes, the prospect of getting up off your duff and walking around the neighborhood becomes a lot more enticing when you can level up your favorite Pokemon in the process. That’s the real hook here, and it’s a sharp one.”
Check out my full review of Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver here at GameSpot.
“As its name implies, Infinite Space is a vast and expansive sci-fi RPG that will send you rocketing into the furthest reaches of space to show scores of intergalactic baddies who’s boss. Getting caught up in an armed struggle between warring planetary factions has its exciting moments. It’s also a real struggle to enjoy at times, due to a number of substantial gameplay design issues that will gradually erode your enthusiasm until you’re left wondering if the many frustrating hours you’ve sunk into the quest were a fair trade-off for the limited fun it yielded.”
“The downloadable gaming delights just keep coming, and February has a glut of new affordably priced games that are absolutely worth your time. This month’s top downloadable games list is packed with action. Grab onto your seats, as we go toe-to-toe with hovering space tanks, heavy metal monsters, firepower-packing towers, and musical block puzzles.”
“Taking the axe to a popular MMORPG and paring it down to fit on a handheld platform is risky business, particularly when the massively multiplayer online portion of the equation is what made the experience so enticing in the first place. Ragnarok DS may look and play very much like its online counterpart, but the sacrifices made to bring the game to a portable format wind up hamstringing the adventure. After slogging through many hours of hacking up scores of creatures with my small band of warriors, I found out the hard way this dry, generic anime RPG has a few decent carry-over elements and a whole lot of tedious grind.”