Picross DS

•September 24, 2007 • Leave a Comment

By the numbers

Sudoku, eat your heart out. While the trendy number puzzles may be a good mental workout, at the end of a puzzle all you’ve got is a grid filled with numbers. Big deal. Enter Picross DS. Who needs a big pile of numbers when you can be rewarded with a cute, animated picture?

Numbers in the margins offer the map you’ll need to create each puzzle’s picture, representing how many consecutive spots need to be filled in. It’s simple, but plenty of fun, and as sad as it may sound, the pictures really do make a satisfying reward. Meanwhile, downloadable puzzles and the ability to create your own add to the game’s longevity… as does the standard-issue Touch Generations daily play mode that tracks your progress.

There are a ton of puzzles, and the possibilities are endless. But while it’s a fun game, it’s more or less a one-trick pony that’s probably won’t keep you playing for hours on end. On the other hand, it’s a game you can go back to time and time again. This game has huge value, and at its very affordable price it’s easy to recommend.

3/5

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Madden NFL 08

•September 10, 2007 • Leave a Comment

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Curses!

EA was so close this time around. After two years of subpar efforts, Madden NFL 08 is livelier and more dynamic than its Xbox360 predecessors. But while the core game is well made, there are problems that make what could have been a fantastic simulation, well, just another video game.

The game has received a big makeover, with vastly improved animation the highlight. The effect is a game that looks more realistic, with convincing gang tackles, running backs making themselves “skinny” in tight quarters and some great tiptoe efforts by receivers. The gameplay has also been tweaked, and for the first time feels competitive with the PS2 versions that sadly dwarfed the pretty but unexceptional next-gen Maddens. And online play, yes, it seems to work pretty darn smoothly this year. That’s some good news.

But unfortunately, there are problems, and perhaps that realistic look makes them harder to stomach. A lot of problems relate to the line play. Too often defensive linemen will jailbreak through the offensive line to score a quick and easy sack. Slow down some of these plays and you’ll witness offensive linemen doing, quite literally, nothing. Fumbling is overly prevalent and you might find yourself pressing the “cover ball” button rather than actively trying to fight for an extra couple of yards. Like fumbling, injuries also seem to be more plentiful than they should be. Finally, not that they’re new to Madden, but the hyper-athletic defenders, who can instantly recognize where a pass is going, adjust and make a play, even if they’re not necessarily looking at the QB, are ridiculous.

Madden NFL 08 looks amazing, it’s true, and it’s by far the best next-gen version of the game yet. But right now it leaves me hankering for 09. To have a game that looks so real definitely highlights the unrealistic things that tend to happen on the field. It makes for a frustrating experience, but it seems the Madden team is on the verge of something great.

3/5

Bioshock Review

•September 4, 2007 • Leave a Comment

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Spliced to meet you…

Bioshock begins heavily scripted, guiding you down corridor after corridor into the underwater hell that was once the glorious city of Rapture. Take time to soak in the atmosphere and appreciate the rich world created by Irrational 2K Boston/2K Australia, and you’ll be heavily rewarded.

This is a world crafted with love. Clearly, meticulous effort has gone into designing each room, into selecting and creating the soundtrack. It’s quite simply beautiful, while avoiding stale, conventional settings. It all adds up to a wonderfully immersive experience. So let the game take over.

For my tastes, the combat is a bit twitchy and frenetic. But the plasmids and other genetic modifications that are revealed over the course of the game make it open to far more experimentation and therefore more rewarding. Do you freeze your enemies and then hack them into little chunks of ice, or set them ablaze and throw their dead friends’ corpses at them? There is no “right” approach in Bioshock.

Together, these are the ingredients for a great game. But the story that wraps them together takes Bioshock to another level, offering genuine emotional impact and never straining credibility within the game’s world. As well, the choice to tell most of the story through audio diaries that you can listen to at your own leisure rather than through cutscenes is surprisingly effective – immersive and enjoyable – it’s amazing what an excellent script can do.

A fantastic premise, a beautiful world and a great story. Bioshock sets a new bar for this generation as a story and as an interactive experience.

5/5

Welcome

•September 2, 2007 • Leave a Comment

SickBoy from NeoGAF here. What’s this site? Sick’s reviews of stuff (almost exclusively game-related) on a scale of one to five. Har har, what a clever name, right?