Archive for November, 2006

Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex Review

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

For a time, Crash Bandicoot was Sony’s flagship character and spokesperson… er… spokesmarsupial(?). He went so far as to film commercials in Nintendo’s parking lot cracking wise about their console. Given this staunch opposition to all things Nintendo, you’d probably surmise (much like I did) that nothing resembling a Crash Bandicoot game would ever materialize on any of Nintendo’s consoles.

Well, we were both wrong.

Loading... get used to seeing this screen.Now, to be quite honest, I’ve never actually played a Crash Bandicoot game before, so I had absolutely no idea what was going on when I flipped this game into my Game Cube. Thankfully, there was a very lengthy video sequence that set up the game. I didn’t time it, mostly because I didn’t want to sit through it again, but it was long enough for me to wonder if I had bought a game or Crash Bandicoot The Motion Picture.

There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the story behind this game. Bad guys are concocting a plan to off the hero by releasing ancient evils upon the world. To thwart this evil, you must go through various stages and gather the crystals hidden within. Typical stuff.

Wa-Wa and R. Lee Ermy Comparison mug shot.It’s fairly obvious from looking at and listening to this game that literally several dozen dollars went into its production. The characters are acceptably rendered, and the stages all manage to look fine. They even managed to wrangle some quasi-celebrity talent to provide some of the voices. Before traipsing through a select few stages, some of the Ancient Evils appear to talk smack to you to help keep you motivated. I had to put down the controller and walk away from the Gamecube (and this game) once I heard the voice of R. Lee Ermy coming out of the Water Elemental Mask, Wa-Wa.

While at first it appears that there is some variety to the stages, many of them feel suspiciously similar; run around on a predtermined course in a 3D area, grab all the fruits/crystals, optionally bust open the boxes and head toward the exit. Occasionally you’ll control Crash’s sister Coco or pilot the odd vehicle, but those stages are the exception rather than the rule. From what I can gather, this is all typical Crash fare.

In flight.This probably won’t come as a large surprise to longtime followers of the Crash series, but Crash is about as durable as a house of cards in a tornado. Touching a seal (or a bat or anything else that moves in this game) spells instant death for our protagonist. This is offset by the ludicrous amount of lives you acquire throughout the game. By the time I got to the seventh stage I already had well over 20 lives in reserve and was in absolutely in no danger of running out in a tough spot; I couldn’t find any. The game isn’t particularly challenging. It’s possible to achieve success by persistence alone, which made for a tedious experience.

Eventually I just gave up and decided to move on to Crash Blast, the game that you can download into your Game Boy to supposedly unlock secrets. The game really isn’t anything more than a shooting gallery. The only secret I managed to unlock was an advertisement for an upcoming Game Boy Crash title. Meh.

So we have a game that looks OK, sounds OK, and plays OK. What does that leave us with? A game that’s just OK. There’s very little in this game that made me want to keep coming back for more.

Platform: Game Cube
Purchased from: Best Buy
Amount of money I wasted on it: $4.99
One word summary:

Closeoutwarrior Review Format

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Now that I have a few reviews under my belt, I thought it would be a good time for me to go into how the review system works around here.

Each review has to be at least 500 words (or fairly close) and have a minimum of two categories: The Review and the Summary.


This is pretty straightforward. If I can’t take 500-ish words to tell you how much I liked/hated game X then I haven’t given you sufficient evidence to support my assertions. There are thousands of reviews on the Internet that are so short they barely qualify as a paragraph, much less a review. Thankfully, most of those kinds of ‘reviews’ are relegated to the Reader Reviews or some similarly named section in the back of certain sites.

The Review

For the Review section I try to not break down the games into component catagories. How often have you played a game that looked great, but sounded like a sackful of wet cats? Or how many times have you started to play a game that sounded beautifully but looked like animated mud? Scores in any areas that I would likely choose would all hover around similar values anyway. It is unlikely that a given game company would pour significantly more effort into one area than another. Besides, generally when you play a game you experience all the parts together. It just doesn’t make sense to me to carve up a game into arbitrary pieces, comment on the pieces, and then try to connect the fragments into a ‘review’. I may point out things about the visuals, audio, or other areas that are noteworthy, but generally a distinction doesn’t need to be made. I’m reviewing the experiences you get with the game as a whole.

I also have a problem with giving a numeric score to a game (or its components). Numeric scores just have baggage attached to them that I don’t want to have to deal with. Looking at sites that use numeric systems makes me really wonder what the differences are in one game that got an 8.4 and another that got an 8.5. What does that 0.1 point difference represent? Is there a checklist of requirements that a game must pass to attain a particular score or is it up to the whimsy of the reviewer that day? Then there is the dilemma of a ‘perfect’ score. What does a perfect score mean? Does it mean that the particular game is the best game of its class? The best game ever? The best that particular game can possibly be? What happens if I find a game week/month/year that is better? What then?

Most of the games that I’ve ever played need to be ranked on a continuum. Some days they’re just not fun, while on others, you just crave playing them. Trying to pin down the specific amount of enjoyment you might get out of a game in discrete units just seems so counterintuitive.

What I decided to use was a slightly unorthodox method to rank games that I get on this site. I’ve taken the approach that I will write the review like I am talking to a friend about whether or not the game is worth the purchase. I have never walked up to a friend and said: “While the game looked amazing, the sound wasn’t quite up to par with my expectations from this company. I give it a 9.4 out of 10 (not an average).” More likely I’ll say, “That game was pretty good, the things I liked were… *blah blah*” and then just babble on about the game for a few minutes.

The Summary

This is where the rating system comes in. The overall ratings for each game consist of one or two words that summarize my impression of the particular game from the time I spent with it, pretty much like I would give to someone in a conversation. I can’t really tell you how much better a game that gets a ‘fantastic’ rating is than one that gets a ‘dismal’ rating, but you’ll probably be able to determine whether I think a game was worth my cash or not. It is also here that I’ll disclose where I got the game and how much money I blew on it.

In my experience, the people who read reviews have already decided whether or not they want to play a particular game and just read the review to see if the reviewer agrees with their opinion. If they do, the the reviewer is doing a good job. If not, then it was either a bad review or a poor reviewer. One of the great things about the Internet is that everyone has an opinion and believes that everyone else should know about it. That’s one of the reasons I started this site. The other is this stack of games in the corner that collectively cost me less than my copy of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Giving Thanks

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

It’s the third Thursday in November. Here in the States that means I’m taking the day off from administering the site and I’ll be gorging myself on baked birds and smashed tubers coated with a flavorful sauce.

Back on Friday, please try to not break anything.

PiXPO revisited

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

I started using PiXPO in July as a way of showcasing some of the videos that I’ve made during this site’s run. To date I’ve gotten 31 views, which I guess is nice, but doesn’t really justify keeping it up. Especially since I have to keep the client running on my home PC for the thing to even work.


Friday, November 3rd, 2006

Today, in a mere eight hours, begins the five year anniversary party of AsylumLAN, the LAN party that I formerly was affiliated with. I was rummaging through my things while packing them for transport and found that the last time I had attended one of their events was back at their three-year anniversary, which I’m pretty sure is where I gave out the super-amazing Console Video Game Trophy Award(tm).

I do worry a bit that I don’t have/don’t want the games that all the Cool Kids(tm) are playing these days (a trip to EB may be in order), but how often does something I have a hand in starting make it all the way to its five-year anniversary anyway?

Generic Post

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Technorati Profile

Finding Inspiration

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Allow me to not talk about video games for a moment, maybe next time.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks over here in the land of the Crummy Socks. I have, for the second time this year, packed up my belongings and carted them across five states. This time, they’re in a temporary home, and I will be moving them again in a few short months. Each time I do that I’m reminded how much I hate actively dislike putting all my things into tiny boxes, moving them any distance, and taking them all right back out of their boxes. On the bright side, since I’m now back in my home town, I can get my old classic games out of storage and shower them with adoration again: “Oh, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, how I’ve missed having to take four seconds to say your name. Oh, Kid Niki: Radical Ninja, the bizarre juxtaposition of Radical and Ninja reminds me of just how 80’s you really are.” Etc. Etc.

And I’ve managed to segue into talking about video games again. Whoops.

Also, at the time of this post, I still haven’t decided on the topic for my NaNoWriMo book that I have to start writing no sooner than two hours and 49 minutes from now. Time to panic? Ask me again in two hours and 48 minutes.