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New Super Mario Bros.

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 23 October 2006 05:23 (A review of New Super Mario Bros.)

To call a new Mario 2D platformer long awaited is an understatement. The last edition, without counting sequels without the classic Mario formula, spin-offs, 3D escapades and what not, was released together with the Super Nintendo, or Super Famicom, in 1991. Does Mario still have what it takes to make 2D platformers all the rage again? Find out in our review.

New Super Mario Bros. is good. It’s grinning from ear to ear, playing till your thumbs hurt good. Playing this game makes you wonder why on earth the world went so ballistic over 3D and why Mario hasn’t stayed true to his roots for all these years. Of course, this is a slightly exaggerated response, but it really feels wonderful to control Mario from left to right again, with a lot of classic formulas present.

Yes, classic formulas. If there was one term to describe New Super Mario Bros., it would be that. While the graphics got a major overhaul, with lush backgrounds, bright colours (extra apparent on a sharp DS Lite) and a superb presentation (we’ll get back on that in a second), it’s obvious that this is just the first Super Mario Bros. for a new generation, or a visit to an old friend for gamers who experienced the game on the NES that many years ago. Pick up a toadstool to become Super Mario, pick up a rose to shoot fireballs, stomp on Koopas and Goombas and reach a castle after some levels. This feeling of familiarity is both good and bad.

So why is it a good thing? Because fans of Mario will be hopelessly in love with all the redone tunes and the familiar places and situations they’ll find themselves in. The presentation of this title is superb and really brings waves of nostalgia in the mix. Of course, there’s plenty of new stuff to add on to the old formula, but most of it comes from other Mario titles. There are hints of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, and even Super Mario 64. Mario can wall-jump and stamp on the floor with his bottom.

But the sense of familiarity is also a bad thing, because pretty much every real Mario platformer had it’s own image, it’s own ‘catch’ that made it different from the rest of the Mario platformers. New Super Mario Bros. is just a mix of all the old with a shiny new face. Nintendo has tried hard to give the game it’s own face, but just not hard enough. This attempt is done through some new items: two different mushrooms make Mario screen-filling gigantic or incredibly tiny. However, items from other Mario games like the coat in Super Mario Word or Yoshi in that same game had meaning: they changed the way you played the game and opened up new puzzles that gave an entirely new dimension to the experience. Here, the new items are nothing more than a novelty. There are not enough puzzles and situations that really make sure you want to become gigantic or tiny, or a Koopa Mario for that matter. And thus, New Super Mario Bros. is just like visiting an old friend, instead of re-writing the rules of the genre.

Possibly, Nintendo wasn’t out to try that at all, but just to give fans of the series a perfect mix of all the plumber’s adventures on a single DS cartridge. In this, the company has succeeded, if not excelled. From the world map to a re-done Bowser battle, from enemies that walk in line with the music to new actions like swinging on ropes or balancing on cords, the game never fails to make the player happy about being in this colourful world, just running from left to right and enjoying everything that there is.

Which brings us to our last point of criticism: the game is a breeze for any Mario fan. Rushing through it makes for a very short experience, even missing out on two from the eight worlds. Of course, Mario games are there to be replayed and secrets to be found, and collecting three big coins in every level will open up new ways making for a longer experience, but it’s still a piece of cake for most gamers familiar with the Italian chap. Maybe this has to do with the fact that no real new challenges are waiting for the player, instead revisits and combinations of old puzzles found in the previous games.

Of course, there is an option for multiplayer, with people having the option to play the levels together (if both players have the same card), or game sharing with the mini games available. The mini games themselves are a total disappointment, because they’re virtually the same as the ones that were in Super Mario 64 DS. Still, if you don’t own that game, the mini games (that are controlled with the stylus) are a nice distraction from the main game.

Conclusion

With that said, New Super Mario Bros. is one of the best games available on the Nintendo DS, regardless of the fact that it doesn’t use any of the machine’s new features, ignoring the menu on the touch screen which brings very minimal extras. Everything just feels finished and polished, and couple that with the simply irresistible vibe in the game that combines nostalgia with sheer fun, and the solid as ever gameplay that makes you think your fingers don’t exist, instead controlling Mario with your brain, and you can’t do anything else than pick up this game and have a jolly good summer with Mario. It’s pure Nintendo fun, it’s what we love the company for.

Pros:
- Presentation is superb, Mario fanatics will love it.
- Gameplay is as solid as it ever was.
- Music is lovely with a mix of old and new, although a more diverse score wouldn’t have hurt.
- Plenty of levels.

Cons:
- Most people will rush through it in no time, due to the low difficulty at most times.
- Mini games available are the same as in Super Mario 64 DS.
- Not as unique as all other ‘real’ Mario platformers, rather a mix of them all.

This game is for: Basically for everyone. Young or old, Mario lover or new to the series, there’s little chance that the game won’t bring a smile on your face.
This game is not for: People who really have a thing against 2D platformers or are allergic to colourful games. You might still think about a rent to try it out, though.

Written by Moz La Punk / previously published on mozlapunk.net


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Saints Row (Xbox 360)

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 23 October 2006 05:21 (A review of Saints Row)

We don’t think there is any review of Saints Row out there that doesn’t name Grand Theft Auto. It’s not that we journalists want to take the easy way out to deliver a piece of text and then move on to the next paycheck; it’s simply that there is no escaping Rockstar’s multi million selling franchise when talking about Saints Row. This game is like most punkbands you see on television these days: a tribute to the real thing, but not quite the same or real.

So yes, Saints Row is a massive GTA rip off, but that is not a problem per se. Since the release of Grand Theft Auto 3 and its two sequels, numerous games have been released that take the same formula, and, well, ensure that’s its just not fun to play anymore. Saints Row could be regarded as the first game in this new genre since GTA that actually remains fun. Because Saints Row is Fun with the capital F. If anything, it reminds you of how solid the gameplay in GTA was.

The most painful realisation players will get fairly early while playing Saints Row, however, is that the game never really takes the genre forward, or even sideways. Indeed, sometimes it even goes backwards. The exclusion of motorcycles and airplanes, for example, feels kind of strange: why would a game on such a powerful machine like Xbox 360 miss out on these goodies that are available for years on the PlayStation 2?

Even Saints Row, the city of the game, is much smaller than the massive landscape that could be found in San Andreas. To be honest, this step backwards could be considered as a step forwards as well, because the playground in San Andreas was ridiculously big, giving the player a very overwhelming feeling. Here, the city is a good chunk larger than Liberty City, but it has the same feeling and it’s actually a pretty well rounded size for a sandbox game. You never really take long to get anywhere, and yet the city feels big enough to pull you in make you believe you’re a citizen of it.

The exclusion of all the body training and health options that were in San Andreas also feels like a relief. While some might have enjoyed smashing the X button to get more muscles on your character, we believe it doesn’t really add anything, not even realism, and thankfully Saints Row lets you change your entire appearance just by spending cash. At the beginning of the game you can change your characters appearance to no end. Well, it has to remain a male, but other than that, you’re free to make your fat wobbly freak. Unrealistically, making your character a fat chap doesn’t make him slower. When playing the game, you can visit the plastic surgery to change your face, body or even race.

But it’s not the way that you can alter your body shape. It’s all the little extra details. Visit a hairdresser to get a new hairdo, or get new tattoos, piercings, or go to a cheap second hand shop to buy some trashy clothes. But maybe you want to be a pimp, so you go to an expensive store and get a nice coat and shiny shoes. It’s all your choice, as long as you make enough money. There are car dealers, and even better, car mechanics, where you can pimp your (stolen) car to no end, almost like in the Need for Speed Underground series, and then save it in your garage next to all the other cars you have saved there. You might here some mighty fine tunes on the radio, so you go to the record shop and purchase the single to put it on your in-game MP3 player so you can listen to it all the time. All these details make for a far more engrossing experience than GTA, and they don’t cost gameplay time. You don’t have to push a button fifty times as fast as you can to change your appearance.

Missions are recognisable from the GTA series as well, but they are varied enough and they are implanted very well in the game. You have to earn respect to be able to do a story-based mission that sees you gaining parts of the city that previously belonged to other gangs. You earn respect, however, by doing all sorts of small missions that aren’t directly tied to the story line. These range from simple pick-up-the-hooker and protect-the-drugs-dealer missions to a quite excellent Destruction Derby-style game and high speed street races.

The missions make sense through various real time cut scenes, in which you’ll see your character just like you made him. While he doesn’t speak, the other characters do, and this greatly adds to the overall experience. While both the dialogues as the radio chatter (yes, just like in GTA) isn’t anywhere near as funny as in Rockstar’s offering (Saints Row tries to hard to be funny), the great voice acting makes the events that occur a whole lot more convincing.

To top it off, Saints Row does what GTA was missing: a good online mode. While you won’t be able to cause carnage with others in the entire city, the arenas are pretty big and a few different modes will certainly keep you occupied. The developers are working on a patch to make the whole experience more streamlined, but at least you won’t come online without anyone to play with: the game seems to be very popular.

Conclusion

The game doesn’t win any awards for originality, but it isn’t out to do so. It has taken much of what GTA did wrong and corrected it. Unfortunately, in the progress of doing so it doesn’t really add original content in it that would really give the game its own face, and therefore it wouldn’t really be justified to give Saints Row the blessing of a truly next generation game, even though the graphics are drop dead gorgeous on a HDTV. It really doesn’t matter when you’re playing this game and you’re enjoying yourself to no end, however. For all the reviews bashing Saints Row because it does a grand theft on Grand Theft Auto, there’s something to be said about just having an enjoyable experience with a game. Saints Row gives you that, and what more could you ask for?

Pros:
- Missions are enjoyable and are integrated in the sandbox game very neatly.
- Customisation is a keyword here, which a lot of gamers will really like.
- Graphics are excellent, especially on a HDTV.
- Online mode is pretty popular and has its fun moments.

Cons:
- No prices for the people knowing where the developers got their inspiration from.
- Sometimes a step backwards. Where are the planes and motorbikes?
- Doesn’t get as funny as GTA anywhere.

This game is for: People that liked GTA and want more of it, people that thought GTA didn’t had enough freedom of choice.
This game is not for: Gamers that don’t want to come anywhere near this genre of games. Apparently, there are quite a lot of you.

Review written by Moz La Punk / previously published on [Link removed - login to see]


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