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Preview: Boston Phoenix - Gaming Room

Boston Phoenix - Gaming Room





 



Quick hits from the world of gaming

December 9 - 15, 2005

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Quick hits from the world of gaming
For the week of December 9, 2005

The Pats could clinch the division this Sunday with a win at Buffalo and a Miami loss, and I don’t care that it’s in the AFC Least. What matters is that they are still the team to beat in the playoffs, even if Mr. I’m-so-freaking-good-and-everybody-loves-me Manning is on his way (probably) to a third straight MVP. This week, cooler heads prevailed in Illinois, some guy apparently has not been reading up on his 360, and the ESRB fights back. Plus, pics of what may be the first good video game movie.

Game over for Illinois ban (from CNN)

I’m so glad this happened, but not, I’m sure, as glad as the thousands of retailers across the Land of Lincoln who can now look forward to corrupting our nation’s youths for years to come.

Microsoft sued over alleged Xbox 360 glitch (from MSNBC)

I guess this guy didn’t read the bill...




Flux incapacitor

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Flux incapacitor
What’s this? A horrible movie tie-in?

Imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery, but more often it’s the surest sign that something’s gone horribly wrong. Consider Aeon Flux, which cherry-picks the best parts of several better games, then swathes them in hideous neon graphics and props them upon a wobbly game-play platform that seems at all times about to collapse.

How unoriginal is Aeon Flux, you ask? It’s not the running or jumping or shooting that I have a problem with, though all these things have been implemented with the grace of Evander Holyfield on Dancing with the Stars. No, it’s the feature in which Aeon climbs into a metal sphere about the size of an exercise ball. Let’s see, science-fiction-based-platform game play, female protagonist, morph ball — where have we seen this before? Could it be a shameless rip from the Metroid series? It’d be one thing if Aeon’s "roller" didn’t handle worse than a shopping cart. As is, this is a bit like forging the Mona Lisa in crayon and then trying to ...




Grab a seat

January 6 - 12, 2006

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Grab a seat
The Two Thrones even gives you a choice

Don’t worry, they’ve pretty much dispensed with the crappy metal soundtrack this time around. That should come as welcome news to those who loved Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time as much as they hated its sequel, Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within. The Prince here is also in a slightly better mood than he was in Warrior, though it’s hard to crack a smile when your city lies in ruins and you’re suffering from split personality.

The third title in the series picks up immediately after the events of The Warrior Within. The Prince and his new love, Kaileena, sail home to Babylon to find his city burning, the work of the dastardly vizier, the long-thought dead enemy from The Sands of Time. Kaileena is killed; that unleashes the sands of time on Babylon and turns the vizier into something straight out of the imagination of Vincent D’Onofrio from The Cell. Oh, yeah, it also leaves you horribly scarred and able to make a dramatic transformation at all the most c...




Is three company?

December 30, 2005 - January 5, 2006

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Is three company?
2006 is all about the consoles

It’s hard to say what part of the Xbox 360 launch Microsoft bungled the worst. The inferior crop of launch titles relies heavily on sequels and ports, some of which are actually scaled down from their current-gen versions. Several manufacturing glitches have been reported. And despite severe domestic supply shortages, the majority of the Japanese 360 stock is languishing on store shelves. Still, there’s no doubting the demand: as of this writing, just before Christmas, premium bundles were still fetching upward of $1000 on eBay.

Where does that leave Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Revolution? Both are slated to launch in 2006, though specific release dates — like many pertinent details about the systems — have yet to be disclosed. Of the two, the PS3 is positioned as more of a direct competitor to the 360. Sony is touting the new system’s horsepower, saying it’s 15 times more powerful than the PS2. Such claims are speculative at best. Yes, you can throw around fancy-sounding terms ...




War and Peace

December 23 - 29, 2005

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War and Peace
The best games of 2005

5. God of War | Sony | PlayStation 2 | God of War’s whiplash gameplay is nicely complemented by an unrelentingly grim storyline that earns the game’s Mature rating as much as the blood and guts do. Plus, if you don’t see what’s so awesome about plunging your Blades of Chaos through a Hydra’s face, and then slamming it mouth-first onto the splintered mizzenmast of an ancient sea vessel, then I can’t help you.

4. Nintendogs | Nintendo | Nintendo DS | Sure, by some definitions Nintendogs isn’t technically a "game." There’s no overriding objective, and very few obstacles. But oh, those cuddly lil’ Nintendogs! Not many games try to appeal to one’s nurturing side, and even fewer succeed. Thanks to its perfect balance of technological adroitness and simplicity of concep...




Not-so-great ape

December 16 - 22, 2005

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Not-so-great ape
Peter Jackson’s King Kong has a long title, a big monkey and not much else

"I just hope the movie is better than this game. That will be the thought of anyone who plays Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie before seeing the movie. The game’s not horrible, it’s just that we’ve all come to expect so much more from anything labeled "Peter Jackson." And though the movie Kong may be the film he really wanted to make, the game, save for the too-brief moments when you play as the beast himself, is basically Turok with scarier monsters and slightly better graphics.

The majority of the action takes place on Skull Island, whose cliffs and rocks look an awful lot like those in the Middle Earth of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Before you can play as the monkey, you have to play as Jack, a writer hired by Hollywood hack Carl Denham (Jack Black in full-on "Two Kings" mode). For the first few stages, all you’re doing is running around in first-person shooter mode as the AI characters catch you up to speed. It’s a little boring at times, but...




Power of attorney

December 9 - 15, 2005

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Power of attorney
A winning verdict for Phoenix Wright

Your honor, the people’s charges against Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney are grave indeed, and not often brought against video games in this court. The evidence is clear and will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Phoenix Wright is guilty . . . guilty of being awesome.

Phoenix Wright first distinguishes itself by the premise. Phoenix isn’t a cyborg attorney from the future, or an attorney cum hitman. He’s a regular defense lawyer, and he instantly becomes one of the most engaging video-game protagonists I’ve seen. A novice just out of law school, he indulges in wild gesticulations and some of the most aggressive finger pointing since the McCarthy era. Privately, though, he doubts his legal ability and chafes when people make fun of his spiky haircut. His integrity gives welcome gravity to a game that features a giant inflatable samurai.

There are two phases of gameplay. Phoenix spends much of his time investigating the scene of the crime, picking up clues, an...