Review: LEGO Harry Potter Years 5 to 7

November 28, 2011


Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive

Developer: Traveler’s Tales

Platform: X360

Final Grade: B-

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 might not be the best name for a video game ever, but it is another fun entry into the long running LEGO series of kid friendly titles. It’s certainly a better experience than what I had with the Pirates of the Caribbean game from earlier this year. However, whereas I found myself really enjoying the original Harry Potter title, this entry is starting to show some age in regards to the typical LEGO formula.

Like other LEGO titles, you’ll take control of a variety of characters from this specific universe and smash your way through a series of levels lifted straight from the films and books. The obvious emphasis here is on the movies though, as most of the scenes and characters are depicted in a way similar to the films and not so much the written adventures of Potter. There are still a number of funny renditions of familiar scenes, and that trademark LEGO humor is still present, despite the dark times that permeate most of the plot.

Also, like the previous LEGO Harry Potter, you’ll have an expansive hub world used with Hogwarts, which serves as a launching stage for most of the levels in the game. Hogwarts as a standalone location begs to be explored, and while the structure is similar to the last game; there are plenty of new areas to check out in Years 5 through 7. Along with Hogwarts there’s also the familiar Diagon Alley location, where most of your shops to buy new characters and cheats are located. Finally, there are a huge number of hidden objects, goals, and characters to uncover. The game begs to be played more when the story is finished, which is where you’ll finally have access to the necessary characters to uncover most of the game’s secret areas.

There’s a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving in Harry Potter, more than there is combat like the Star Wars LEGO titles seem to have. You’ll still fight the occasional bad guy and boss, but in general you’ll spend time smashing objects, building objects, and figuring out small puzzles to advance the plot. The puzzles are certainly kid friendly, nothing here will be too taxing for adults. But I did find a number of sequences that left me wondering what to do, until I realized that out of everything I had smashed in a room I still managed to miss one or two things, and those things were what contained the item I needed to advance. This tends to be a small, annoying problem in a lot of LEGO games. You get extremely used to a certain level of hand holding, and when the game takes that away, you might find yourself a little puzzled and aggravated for a few brief minutes.

And still, this game is best if played with another person backing you up. Like the rest of the games in the series, it’s local only, which I continue to find disappointing. Still, if you have kids, or you have a handful of kids that enjoy games, you’d be hard pressed to find a better time waster than this game for the holidays. It’s super kid friendly, pretty engaging even for adults, and is legitimately fun to play. It also doesn’t cap out at 5 hours or so, as you can easily spend quite a few hours uncovering everything the game has to offer or unlock.

Still, despite how much I find myself enjoying the majority of the LEGO games, I find Harry Potter putting me pretty close to my breaking point. The series is incredibly formulaic at this point, and while I loved the magic and exploration aspects of the first Harry Potter adventure, this just feels like more of the same. There are some new spells, which are welcomed additions, but they do little more than allow you to break up the blocks or rebuild them in new ways. And when you start scratching away at the visual flair and realize that the overall gameplay design is the same no matter how it’s being presented, whether you’re building blocks with Magic or with The Force, the experience starts to wear a little thin. I definitely find myself ready to move on from the series at this point.

So here’s hoping that Traveler’s Tales has something more in store for whatever the next LEGO title might be. I’m not sure that there’s another property ripe for the LEGO treatment at this point, with Star Wars and Pirates being the only two licenses they could hope to continue. And considering we won’t see a lot of new material out of either series for a couple years at the most, maybe that’ll give the developers a little more time to go back to the drawing board. Still, if you’ve ever enjoyed the LEGO games, than I can’t deny that Harry Potter remains one of the best uses of that license. I certainly enjoyed this game, and would highly recommend it to parents or likeminded adults looking for a little whimsical fun from their videogames this year.


Review: WWE ’12

November 28, 2011

Since Gaming-Age is undergoing some fixes at the moment, I’m using my personal retro themed blog to get up some content that was scheduled for the site last week. This is by no means a permanent solution, and these reviews will end up getting re-posted at Gaming-Age once everything is back up.  But for now, here you go!


WWE ’12

Publisher: THQ

Developer: Yukes

Platform: X360

Final Grade: B










So a little bit of rebranding has occurred for this years’ WWE title, dropping the Smackdown vs. Raw moniker and opting to go with the simple ’12. Along with that rebranding THQ and developer Yukes are clearly hoping for a little revitalization of the series in general, and thankfully the name change isn’t the only thing different about this year’s attempt. It still has a series of flaws, some of which fall on the technical end of things, but overall this feels like a stronger game than last year’s entry.

Certain things are still present, including the Road to Wrestlemania, WWE Universe, Create a Wrestler and Arena, and Create a Story modes. Road to Wrestlemania presents itself differently this time out, ditching the pick a wrestler function of previous games and instead dropping the player into its initial tale, which is focused on Sheamus. I will say that the plot line for the Road to Wrestlemania stories are more entertaining than last year’s entry by a long shot, and the initial storyline featuring a heel Sheamus teaming up with other wrestlers from the United Kingdom to make their own stable was a lot of fun.

WWE Universe plays out better this year as well, tossing in a few surprises with wrestler appearances you might not expect. It kicks that off with the return of Brock Lesnar to the squared circle, which I hope isn’t much of a spoiler to anyone that’s been following this game. The structure is similar to the way Universe played out last year, as you’ll have either direct control over the matches or can simulate them similar to games in other sports titles. There’s an option to interfere in matches now too, which is pretty fun. If you choose the interfere option, you’ll pick the wrestler to run out to the match, and can choose to help or hinder either AI controlled character. Sometimes you’ll double team an opponent while the ref is knocked out cold, other times you’ll be waking the ref up just in time to see the pin.










The roster for WWE ’12 is pretty fleshed out, featuring pretty much all the current Superstars from the WWE along with handful of notable Legends. Some aren’t present from the start but are promised as DLC in the future, like Macho Man Randy Savage, while others are just simply unlockables. There’s also a variety of outfits to unlock, which cover some of the wrestlers different personas over the years.

Of course the Create a Wrestler function is back, and again it has just a ridiculous number of options to use. You can craft tons of unique characters for the game, and the more talented folks will be able to recreate wrestlers from the past that didn’t make the cut. There are still a lot of moves to outfit their sets with, but there are still some noticeable omissions when it comes to finishers. Overall though, the mode feels pretty identical to what Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 had in it.

So you might be wondering what exactly IS different, considering pretty much all of this content was present in previous games. Well, the biggest and most noticeable change has to be in the character animations, which are vastly improved this time out. There’s still some janky stuff that occurs, like characters sliding into place when a finisher or signature move is performed, but overall the transitions between grapples, holds, submissions, and so on are far better than they’ve been over the past couple years. I really enjoy the new grappling system, and it’s remarkably easy to reposition grappling characters around their opponents.

Also, the introduction of a limb targeting system makes the whole submission aspect feel a little more viable here. If you grapple an opponent, you can hold down the RB button or R1 button to get a small sub-menu that pops up, and shows a diagram of your opponent’s body. From here you can press one of the face buttons to focus on a particular body part, and the diagram will give you a visual indicator of how much damage that particular part has had. The characters will also give visual cues in how they hold their arm, or drag their feet a bit. Characters that have taken a few too many shots to the legs will occasionally stumble when running, and characters with a lot of head damage will almost always be groggy when getting to their feet.










On the flip side of that, I still have a hell of a time getting some things to work with no real indicator of what I’m doing wrong. For instance, if your character and opponent go to grapple at the same time, you’ll lock up. This causes a button prompt to come up, which just tells you to mash the hell out of the button to win control over the grapple. But almost always, no matter how fast I mash A, I’ll lose that grapple. Likewise, while the limb targeting stuff is a great idea, I can rarely perform a successful submission. No matter how much wear and tear I pull off on an opponent, or how hard I mash the buttons when I get the submission prompt, my opponent will almost always tear away or reverse the hold.

Also, reversals tend to get a little ridiculous on their default AI setting. Thankfully there’s a slider control to that, but nothing would aggravate me more than just beating the hell out of a guy for five minutes, getting ready to perform my finisher, and having it reversed. And then from that point on my opponent would become a reversal god, taking my basic strikes and holds and suddenly using them against me. This side feels like it needs to be balanced out a little more on its default setting, but again, you can thankfully tweak this to your liking.

Besides those issues, the game feels and looks pretty great. Hits land like you’d expect, wrestlers will actually sell a move pretty well on the ground for a few seconds, and rarely do you see anyone spring to their feet as if the mat below had caught on fire. The animation work is definitely better this time around, and all the Superstars seem to have their appropriate moves in place. There are a few things that are kind of dated from the start, but outside of introducing a roster update function for these games it’s kind of hard to get around that ever changing aspect of TV wrestling.

I didn’t have much time with the online side of this game unfortunately, so I can’t comment on how well that’ll be when it releases. However, offline play is still a lot of fun. There are quite a few unlockable arenas and belts, and a ton of different modes and rule sets to pick from. TLC and Hell in a Cell remain some of my favorites, and if you opt to play your matches against the AI it doesn’t tend to get annoyingly hard when interfering with your pins and so on.

Overall this is definitely an improvement over Smackdown vs. Raw 2011. I think a little more of a shake-up in the modes used for this game would have been great, but I’ll take the improved animation and controls that this year’s entry offers up. Road to Wrestlemania was thankfully entertaining throughout, and there’s a whole lot to see and do in Universe mode, but I can’t help but feel like both are starting to outstay their welcome. Assuming Yukes will be the developer behind the next game in the series, here’s hoping they’ll build upon these core gameplay improvements by outfitting the game with a few new elements. As it stands though, WWE ’12 is worth checking out.

Red Dead Redemption, Iron Man 2, and a little SMG2

May 28, 2010

I’ve been pretty busy over the past week or so, with review stuff and other things, so my time to play retro related items has slid by the wayside.  At least the stuff I’ve been keeping busy with has been quite good though, for the most part. 

I’m approaching what I assume is the halfway point in Red Dead Redemption, at least according to the story.  Completion-wise I’m at 35%, and I suspect it’ll take a while to fill that up significantly.  There’s just so much to do!  I’ve obtained a few outfits, completed some of the hunter and survivalist challenges, knocked out some stranger missions, and even tackled a couple of the gang hideouts.  Still, this halfway point seems to offer up a whole ‘nother map / area, so there’s a lot to check out. 

If people tell you it’s GTA in the Wild West, they’re not too far off the mark.  A lot of stuff is cribbed from GTA, from the mini-map to mission progress and markers, down to quick travel mechanic (stagecoach instead of taxi), property buying, saving, and overall story tone.  Still, it’s improved on enough of the GTA formula that if you’ve grown bored or dissatisfied with GTA as it is now, you should probably give this a shot.  I’ve actually enjoyed the story quite a bit too, and it seems like Rockstar might be getting over the idea that “adult” signifies a lot of sex and swearing.  Sure, they still say fuck a time or two, but it’s not every other word, and the characters feel a little more like actual characters and not irritating comic relief.

A couple weeks ago I was contacted by High Voltage Studios, the guys behind the Conduit, which I reviewed for Gaming-Age if I remember right.  They offered to add me to a mailing list and send along a copy of their newest title, which was Iron Man 2 for the Wii.  I hadn’t played the X360 or PS3 version of the game, but apparently HVS was a little concerned that a lot of reviews were lumping their Wii version of the game in with the 360 and PS3 games, and they even sent along a letter with the review copy stating something along those lines.  Basically, two different developers, two different approaches, same game idea. 

I’m always willing to give something a shot, even though what I’ve heard about the game on any platform wasn’t exactly positive.  I just finished it up today, beat the last boss, so I’m ready to start working on my review.  I will say that I get their complaint, but at the same time my review probably won’t be that positive.  I’ll argue my complaints as best I can, but the game does have some serious issues.  I’d really like to know how the development of a movie licensed game impacts the overall creativity of the developers involved, like what type of limitations they faced and obstacles they just couldn’t overcome by the time the game needed to come out.  I’m fully behind the idea that NOBODY wants to make a bad game, but it seems like nobody is particularly willing to go into details on how one actually comes about. 

Finally, I’ve been playing a little Super Mario Galaxy 2, which is pretty much as great as you’ve most likely heard.  I’m only past the first world /area, but I’m really enjoying the variety of the galaxies early on.  Seems to be a lot more varied than the first game already, which is pretty nice to see. 

I’m hoping to jump back into some retro-flavored gaming in the near future, but I’ll admit to having a pretty full plate in the next couple weeks.  Regardless, I’ll try and update this a little more with whatever I’m playing, which looks to be the new UFC game (arrived today) and Blur in the near future.

Batman NES and its awesome soundtrack

May 14, 2010

When people ask what NES games are underappreciated, Batman by Sunsoft generally hits the top of my list.  Nowadays, as in a year or so ago, I think more people have become pretty aware of this action/platformer that debuted around the time of the first Tim Burton film, but go back 5 or 10 years ago, and Batman lined the bottom of every flea market bargain bin I’d go to. 

Not to say it has any rarity value or anything, because it doesn’t.  Sorry collectors!

I do think more people are aware of this being a decent to above average title for the NES though, but my primary reason for loving the game?  The completely kick ass soundtrack.  I’m positive that I like just about every tune in this game, enough so that it’s been put on an iPod or two at least.  So, allow me to provide some examples from the hallowed halls of Youtube!

This is probably the best, and quickest example of the highlights from the soundtrack.  That Gotham Streets bit, the third or so tune you here, is fantastic, and right up there with Megaman 2 Dr. Wily Stage 1, or Ducktale’s Moon segment as the best NES has to offer music-wise.  And hell, it’s actually fun to play, but notoriously challenging. 

So, next time you’re browsing through a pile of used NES games, and you see Batman there, don’t write it off as another licensed piece of crap from the old Nintendo library.  There’s actually a good game stored inside that grey little cartridge.

Bringing Donkey Kong Country 2 to an end

April 9, 2010

Well, I think I’m officially done with DKC2.   I’m not literally finished with the game, I’m only at the halfway mark, but I was hitting that point where I was trying to convince myself I was enjoying the game, when really I wasn’t. 

Hear me out a bit on this though. 

Part of my frustration comes from the game literally being FRUSTRATING.  The amount of difficulty between this title and the first DKC is pretty big, and while I enjoy a challenge, I don’t think I was all that well prepared for the spike in difficulty that DKC2 gave me.  I think, if time allowed and I wasn’t playing this for the purpose of writing about it, I’d be able to sit down for an extended period and really dig into the game, and that’d be a little more fair to it than just saying I don’t like it.

But, on the flip side, I do think that I genuinely don’t like it.  As I was trying to jump into it for the 5th or 6th time yesterday, a few things jumped out at me.  One, I don’t like the environments, I think they’re really ugly, bland, and boring in comparison to the first game with it’s heavy jungle themes.  The dark, murky look of just about every location I’ve been to in DKC2 isn’t all that pleasing to the eyes, and it actually makes me feel a little less inclined to continue every time I come to a new area and it looks just as ugly as the last.

Two, I don’t like using Diddy or Dixie Kong, and that’s purely from an aesthetic point of view.  I’d much rather play as Donkey Kong, and while I get that most people enjoy using new characters and what not, I was the same way in the original DKC.  If possible, I’d always use Donkey Kong, and never Diddy, regardless of his quicker run speed.  This is a stupid sticking point, I know, but it’s just how I feel about the characters.  Chances are this would be an issue for me if I ever got around to playing the third game too.

Reason number 3?  The soundtrack.  I’ve always heard people praise the soundtrack for the second game, but man, outside of a couple tracks, I think it’s pretty bland.  It’s really light, as in I barely notice it when I’m playing, and in turn that makes it less memorable.  I’m more likely to remember the annoying noises the enemies make when you kill them than I am any particular background track that runs through each level, and it doesn’t help that a lot of them sound awfully similar to each other.  I love Stickerbrush Symphony, it’s certainly the best song in the game, but it’s also one of like three songs that are even worth checking out when not playing the game.  Definitely doesn’t hold a candle to the first game for me.

Finally, I hate the damn save system.  I’ve lamented this in a previous post, but I still think the whole thing with coins and lives resetting everytime you play the game (and not actually, y’know, saving) is really annoying, especially in light of the limited save points and the fact that you have to pay to save after you’ve used a save point once.  This is probably a non-issue for people more experienced with the game that know every bonus point and extra life location in every single level, but coming into the game fresh and not wanting to resort to an FAQ like I was made the overall experience pretty annoying. 

So yeah, that’s my final stance on DKC2.  Like I said, at some point I’ll revisit the game and give it a more fair shake outside of the realm of wanting to blog about it, but I’m not entirely convinced my mind will change on how I feel about it currently.  Definitely not as awesome as I was hoping it would be, so that’s a shame.

That said, next week I’m going to fall back on an old classic, something I do have experience with playing but haven’t really touched since it was re-released on the DS a while back.  Chrono Trigger!

Slow and steady wins the race, Let’s go Stage 4!

April 7, 2010

I had a little time to get some more DKC2 playing in this morning, and cleared Stage 3 and moved on to 4, which is the pretty cool Amusement Park themed Kremland stage.  The level before you enter Kremland proper though, is equally cool by introducing a new mechanic to the series with Honey that coats various surfaces, rendering you immobile outside of the ability to jump. 

This leads to some pretty ingenious situations where you can’t move and easily dodge enemies, making you stuck with just jumping and timing your jumps to clear the various hornets and what not that pepper the level.  Along with that, the honey is stuck to walls, meaning you get stuck to walls, giving the stage some verticality that’s a bit like wall-jumping in Metroid.  It’s the first time I’ve ran into this in DKC2, and I kind of hope to see it again before the game ends.  I can’t imagine it’s just a single throwaway concept level, so I’m sure it’ll pop up again.

Once you get into Kremland though, I was reintroduced to one of my favorite level types from DKC1, which is the whole riding on things that are on rails.  This time out rollercoasters replace mine carts, but the idea stays the same.  Lots of quick jumps, timed jumps off of enemies that are stacked in different arrangements, and then there’s the mechanic of triggering on the on or off switch for doors that block your path and mean instant death.  This part is pretty tricky, as the game will throw the occasional already opened door at you, which I’ll be so gung-ho about hitting switches that I’ll end up closing by accident.  I’m pretty sure this will provide me with a bit of frustrating fun.

On a side note, and since I just did the Bramble Blast level that features Bramblebrush Symphony that I mentioned in a previous post, I think we should wax poetic a bit about series composer David Wise.  He’s been a long time composer for Rare, and just recently left the company a year or so ago.  He was with them from 1985 on, and served as their only composer until the 90’s.

A short list of some of the man’s highlights on various games:

Marble Madness

California Games

Snake Rattle N Roll

Solar Jetman

Diddy Kong Racing

Viva Pinata DS

There’s numerous other entries for the guy here, but obviously I concur with the idea that his best work stemmed from the entire DKC series.  Recently OCRemix did an album dedicated to remixes based on Donkey Kong Country 2, and David Wise actually contributed a track to the project, called Re-Skewed.  Chances are if you’ve ever played a Rare game (and if you owned an NES as a kid you totally did), then you’ve heard a David Wise soundtrack a time or two. 

Also, if you’re interested in checking out the DKC2 remix album “Serious Monkey Business”, here’s the link:

DKC2 Stage 3 commences, plus why I hate classic save systems

April 5, 2010

So I finally made progress in Donkey  Kong Country 2 over the weekend, but not a whole lot.  Made it up to stage three, defeated the pretty easy Stage 2 boss (a flying sword, really?), and at least hit the save point in Stage 3 before quitting for a bit yesterday.

As much as I like old games, man, I really, really hate the save system in games like Donkey Kong Country 2.  Especially the damn coin system in this game, but I’ll rail on that in a minute.  I guess with DKC2 there was a certain expectation for difficulty, even though I’m not sure where that came from, since I never found the original to be particularly difficult.

Maybe old age and newer games has made me a little soft, but going from a classic Castlevania game to this title, well, I kind of think DKC2 is actually harder than Rondo of Blood was.  Not something that I would have expected, but I’ve certainly encountered more game over screens here than I would have guessed.  Part of my frustration with that is the limited save spots in this game.  In DKC2, and pretty much DKC1,  you’ve got about 1 save spot per level, meaning that you get about three stages into a level before unlocking that spot.  This isn’t so awful, hell, New Super Mario Bros. used a similar set-up (but allowed quick saves), so my issue isn’t really with that. 

My biggest hang-up comes from not being able to save a second or third time, once I’ve exhausted that initial save.  Well, unless I want to spend some in-game currency.  The coins haven’t really been liberally placed either, there seems to be about one or two per stage, but as you advance in level, these get harder and harder to get.  Also, you can’t travel back to previous levels to stock up, because then you have to spend coins for that too. 

Basically, I’m saying that I really, really hate the coin system in this game.  Especially when it’s tied into the save system, which after your first save requires you to spend two coins to save again.  This means, if you don’t have or don’t want to spend coins, you need to make it all the way through the last half of the level you’re currently on, beat the boss, and then clear the first half of the next level before getting to the next free save spot.  This wouldn’t be so hard if I could have my extra lives carry over every time I boot up the game, but if I’m at 10 lives when I turn my system off, when I restart it I’m right back down to three. 

So yeah, not every aspect of older games is awesome, and the save system in DKC2 is a shining example of that.  I know, I’m probably just being a weaksauce gamer here, but I don’t have nearly as much time to sit down and tough it out over two or three hours a day with this game, so it’s a little maddening to sit down and play only to have your progress destroyed by one annoying game over screen.  Thank god for the ability to suspend state on Virtual Console, I’m not sure I’d have the patience to deal with it on the SNES at this point.

Stickerbrush Symphony is awesome, plus a quick blog update

April 2, 2010

Time has not been on my side this week. 

It’s been a semi-hectic week for my actual job stuff, putting in well over 40 hours has kept my game time at a minimum, not to mention my extra writing time that’s not focused on reviews at Gaming-Age, so this blog has suffered a bit this week. 

I haven’t really progressed on DKC2 since my last post, but hopefully will get some of it done this weekend and be ready to go again come Monday.  I’ll probably give some serious thought to the post everyday about one game format of this blog, as I’ll need to have a plan in place for weeks like this! 

Ah well, I’m going to cheap out a bit and just post one specific DKC2 related item, which is this neato youtube vid of someone’s piano rendition of the fantastic Stickerbrush Symphony song from DKC2’s soundtrack.  I don’t think I’m crossing any boundary by saying this is the equivalent of the awesome Aquatic Ambience from DKC, and it’s a pretty solid testament that David Wise could pump some awesome music out of the SNES back in the day.  So here you go, enjoy!

PS:  I do have a strange fascination with youtube videos of normal users playing videogame songs on piano or guitar, so this scratches that itch too.

Chimps vs. Lizards, Donkey Kong Country 2 begins!

March 30, 2010

Early last year I decided I was going to go back and play Donkey Kong Country again, probably for the first time since I was a kid / teenager.  It was one of my favorite SNES titles growing up, and Aquatic Ambience is one of my all time favorite video game soundtrack bits, so I figured, why not?  I was pretty happy to see that this wasn’t a case of rose-tinted nostalgia glasses being in full effect, and I found myself enjoying the game quite a bit after all those years had passed by. 

At some point I figured I’d give the sequels a try, I’m not entirely sure why I missed them when I was growing up, except for it being a money issue or something along those lines (or me not wanting to play “kiddie” games anymore).  Either way, I missed out on both, so I’m looking to at least halfway rectify that with the sequel, Diddy Kong’s Quest. 

So far, and only on the tail end of world 2, I’m enjoying it, but not quite loving it yet.  The inclusion of the girl Dixie hasn’t really added anything worthwhile just yet, she has a cool spin jump move that extends her jump quite a bit, but outside of that I haven’t seen anything here that’s better or worse than the Donkey and Diddy team-up from the first game.  They have a combination move where one tosses the other into enemies, but I kind of prefer just jumping on heads and tossing barrels so far. 

New things I’ve run into:  The coins!  Wow, they’ve kinda upped the collectibles this time out haven’t they?  So besides collecting the bananas (coins) and the KONG letters for 1ups, there’s two different coins.  One is used as currency for various Kong family members you run into on the overworld map (PS:  why does it cost me coins to save more than once at a save spot?!), and the other apparently has something to do with unlocking an end game level.  Honestly, I thought some of the bonus stuff was hard to get to in the original DKC, so I can see this being a pretty big challenge, or a big pain in the ass, this time around. 

I’m glad to see the enemies have changed quite a bit this time around.  I was a little worried when I ran into rats and basic Kremlings, but you quickly come across the diving buzzards, the series standard hornet/bee’s, the Kremlings that toss those little metal hooks, and so on.  There’s enough variety in these two areas that I’ve visited to give me high hopes for the rest of the game. 

One other thing that I’ve noticed is holy hell this is a lot harder than DKC.  Usually I didn’t run into too much trouble in the first game other than trying to memorize some of those frantic mine cart sequences, but I’ve died plenty of times in the second lava filled world of DKC 2.  I thought the 1ups were coming a little too fast in World 1, but they were obviously just preparing me for some of the frustrating aspects of this new world.  It’s not hard enough to turn me off from playing it though, in fact, I think the challenge is pretty nice, and for the most part the majority of my deaths are chalked up to bad timing or impatience on my part.  Nothing too cheap so far. 

So, to finish this late start off for today, I’m enjoying it.  Not quite in love with it yet, and I think the soundtrack is a little bland so far, but I love all the new animals you get to ride around on, the enemies are nice and varied, the challenge is amped up and good, and overall it feels like a great sequel to a game that I love.  We’ll see how this goes over the course of the week though, because if I’m having trouble in World 2, I can only imagine what’s in store for me later.

Sparkster rockets to the end, lets make some ham

March 26, 2010

Alright, endgame time with Rocket Knight Adventures.  I mentioned most of the epic battle you have with Axel in Stage 7, but like I said, he’s not the final bad guy. 

This particular stage starts off by tossing you into a “boss” fight right at the beginning.  You might have saw a King Pig like dude hanging out with Axel post Princess capturing, and then he popped up again at the end of Stage 5 when he runs away like a little baby and leaves the Princess behind.  Well, this is the guy you face off against at the beginning of Stage 7.  He’s actually really basic, and there’s a reason for this.  You pretty much can just rocket yourself into him and easily dodge his jumps; his pattern is pretty much as basic as you can get.  However, once you knock enough energy off, you come to realize that he’s actually a robot in disguise.  A few more hits and this form is toast, but variations of him will plague you throughout the level.  Actually, he’s just about the only enemy you encounter here outside of Axel, and you’ll run past different versions of him being made that will occasionally pop out of the background towards you, but they’re easily dispatched. 

The real battle, after the Axel fight, comes in this Pig robot’s final form.  I’m assuming from the look and shape that he’s supposed to be some type of supercomputer, or AI gone rogue, something along those lines.  If this was a modern game, it’d probably be Sparkster’s long forgotten father that went mad and got sucked into his favorite TV show but really the whole story just doubled as a parable for whether or not Possums can dream when they sleep and then Sparkster would wake up at the end with new robot legs or something.  But no, here it’s just a big round computer screen with a digitized pig face and lasers that shoot out at different angles that bounces around the inside of a room. 


Ah 16-bits, simpler times indeed. 

 This final battle is a pretty big pain, mostly because it gets so damn hard to hit the weak spot on robot pig face.  When the lasers shoot out, depending on the position they reveal themselves, a small red node will pop up on the robot, and you pretty much have to rocket around the room in order to hit it, oftentimes at an angle or by rebounding off a wall.  Dodging the lasers isn’t really the hard part, but the challenge comes from being able to dodge and hit quick enough.  That pesky weak spot doesn’t stay active for very long, making this battle a lot lengthier than it needs to be.  In all honesty, it’s a pretty weak final boss, and I prefer to think of that fight with Axel as the end of the game. 

Anyways, if you manage to hit it enough, it blows up, and Sparkster leaps into an escape pod, and you’re lead to believe it’s all over.  The next screen is Sparkster falling to the planet, and this leads into a particularly cool looking sequence that requires you to dodge the remnants of this robot pig AI that now exists just as a broken screen.  Survive the descent until you hit the re-entry point of the atmosphere, which then causes the unprotected robot to burst into flames.  The background scrolls from space to planet atmosphere during this sequence in a pretty believable fashion, and it’s definitely worth seeing, and pretty inventive to boot. 

 After that, there’s a quick reunited scene between the Princess and her dad, but Sparkster chooses to slink off in stoic knight fashion, and takes off into the sky before anyone can bother to thank him for saving them from Pig Robots.  It’s a nice simple, open-ended ending that paves the way for a possible sequel and doesn’t do much story wise, but definitely fits in with most platformers and action games from that particular era.  I’m actually glad there’s little to no text during this sequence, as it would have been a little cheap to try and tack much story on at this point. 

 So while I won’t say that Rocket Knight Adventures is quite the best of the best when it comes to 16-bit action, it’s still a cool little title that anyone who still owns a Genesis should try and seek out if you haven’t already.  I picked up my version for about $10 off of Ebay, and that was complete, so I’m sure you can dig up a copy for a pretty cheap price if you look around.  Definitely worth the three or so hours you might need to devote to finishing it, and it provides enough challenge without feeling ridiculous or cheap. 

 Next week is another title; this time I’ll be taking a look at Donkey Kong Country 2.  I’ve never played a DKC title past the first one, so this will be a wholly new experience for me, and I’m looking forward to it.  So come Monday, it’s on like Donkey Kong.

Or Diddy Kong.