Tag Archive: NES

Read the full in-depth review HERE

Developed By: WayForward Technologies
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Players: 1
Online: N/A

What It’s All About:
A Boy and His Blob is a 2D Platforming re-incarnation of the classic NES game featuring hand drawn graphics and all new motion controls.

What it did right:

  • Hand drawn graphics and smooth animations
  • 40+ levels plus challenge stages
  • Great puzzles

What brings it down?:

  • Bloated control scheme
  • Lacking any replay value
  • Frequent loading screens break immersion

The Final Verdict:
A Boy and His Blob is a fantastic homage to the titles roots on the NES, featuring 2D platforming at it’s best. A gorgeous game to look at, the only downfalls are in the bloated control system and staggering load times that really break immersion. If you want a platformer that has more than just running and jumping, A Boy and His Blob will keep you entertained for hours.



A Boy and His Blob Review

Written By Stephen Heller

Platformers dominated the early days on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and it’s easy to see why when we look back at the catalogue of classic titles to come out of the era. One that is often overlooked is A Boy and His Blob, created by the mind behind the Pitfall series David Crane. The game provided a relationship between a boy and a bouncing, jiggling blob that needed the boy’s help to save his home planet. The boy was happy to help, but often needed the help of tools that the blob was able to change into. It was this mechanic that made the original stand out as a thinking gamers platformer.

Twenty years on WayForward Technologies bring us a re-imagining of the classic, featuring all new levels and gameplay features, topped off with some fantastic presentation that makes this stand out as a gorgeous game. A Boy and His Blob for the Wii is a smart, fun platforming adventure that very rarely falls short.

Keeping true to the titles roots, the story is weaker than diet cordial. The blob crash-lands on our little planet and meets the boy, they team up and embark on an adventure across our planet and beyond to defeat the emperor who has taken control of Blobolonia. That’s about as detailed as the story gets, and while it works in this situation, it still would have been nice to have it fleshed out a little more.

The presentation of A Boy and his Blob is what really makes the game stand out. Boy and Blob travel through unique worlds which range from the lush green wilderness, which looks stunning under the moonlit sky, the bright and outlandish planet of Blobolonia and the dark, brooding mechanical citadel. Each world feels unmistakably different, each with it’s own feeling which keeps the game interesting and fresh. 2D platforming has never looked so good.

What makes A Boy and his Blob look so darn good is the fact that every facet of the game has been hand drawn and animated to perfection. The characters all feature an amazing amount of detail that draw the player in, enemies splatter in a way that brings a smile to your face, and the backgrounds and scenery are some of the best artwork on the Wii today. The art design takes a minimalistic approach at times, but it works rather well. The real-time lighting brings a warm and fuzzy quality, lighting up the scenery and the boy and his blob too. Running a smooth and consistent frame rate, this is one gorgeous game for the Nintendo Wii.

The adventure is spread our across four worlds featuring ten levels each and they will manage to keep you busy for a number of hours. Completionists on the other hand will find themselves replaying each level to collect all three treasure chests hidden in each level. If you collect all three, bonus levels are unlocked (40 of them) which can be beaten to unlock concept art, videos and more. This is an adventure that is lengthy and has plenty of re-playability for those of you who want to unlock everything.

While the charm of the characters manage to draw you into the game, the immersion is severely hampered by a series of loading times, which manage to destroy the momentum created by the game. There are stage loads that are fine, but the mid-level loading times manage to destroy the illusion that the world is not a seamless stage, but merely a conglomerate of conjoined areas. While this isn’t a deal breaker to the games appeal of functionality, it certainly does make the pacing feel broken and slow.

Many gamers will just write Blob off as another 2D platformer, but upon spending some time with it, you will find yourself relying on brainpower rather than the run and jump formula that is found in most platforming games. You take control of the boy, using the nunchuck to move around, using the A button to perform a jump. The boy’s jumping abilities aren’t that great, so more often than not you will rely on your blob to transform into something to allow you to navigate the hostile world. Using the Z button you open up a wheel with different coloured jelly beans, each with a special power that will cause your jiggly blob friend to transform into useful tools. Some of these include ladders for climbing, trampoline to jump over hazards or up rather high, a hole to make your enemies fall to their doom, and even a spaceship when you need to fly somewhere.

Blob’s control scheme is okay once you get used to it, but more often than not it feels boated and sluggish. What should be a quick and simple task of transforming your blob into the tool you desire is slowed down by a number of steps. First you need to hit the Z button to bring up the jelly bean menu, you then need to use the analogue stick to navigate to the desired jelly bean, which changes every level as each level has it’s own designated powers, then you need to press the B-trigger and use the analogue stick to choose your trajectory to throw the said jelly bean. After all this you sill need to hit the C button to call the blob over to you and make him eat the jelly bean. The AI of the blob can be rather cumbersome, more often than not you’ll find yourself waiting for him to catch up. It’s not a deal breaker, but some alternative control methods would have been nice.

A Boy and His Blob is a fantastic homage to the titles roots on the NES, featuring 2D platforming at it’s best. A gorgeous game to look at, the only downfalls are in the bloated control system and staggering load times that really break immersion. If you want a platformer that has more than just running and jumping, A Boy and His Blob will keep you entertained for hours.

GAMEPLAY: 7.8/10 – A unique blend of puzzle and platforming. Great characters and fantastic level designs. Unfortunately is let down by a bloated and sluggish control system.

GRAPHICS: 8.5/10 – Hand drawn and animated characters with stunning backdrops and real-time lighting effects. Rarely do 2D platformers looks this good!

AUDIO: 6.5/10 – The soundtrack is atmospheric but often feels bare. The Blob is humorous but the boy calling out to the boy will get on your nerves rather quickly.

VALUE: 7.2/10 – 40 story levels that will keep you busy for quite some time, and with 40 bonus missions, concept art other unlockables on offer this will keep you busy for a while, but the bonus levels are rather short lived.

OVERALL: 7.5/10

New Super Mario Bros. Wii Review
Written By Stephen Heller

In 1985 a game launched on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), a game that would create a legacy and change gaming forever. It was simple, yet challenging and most of all, fun. You controlled the character Mario through a series of levels plagued with mushrooms, flying turtles and some hectic platforming. Since that game Mario has been in a number of adventures, most recent have been in the 3D realm. What New Super Mario Bros. Wii does is amazing, it takes the formula of that very first Mario adventure, brings in ideas from all of his subsequent quests, and adds in enough new to make this formula not only reek of nostalgia, but feel fresh at the same time. The question is, will this game reach out to a new generation of Mario gamers, or does it only appeal to those veterans who are drawn in by the nostalgia factor? Let’s find out…

New Super Mario Bros (NSMB) is a return to a 2D platform as we run and jump our ways from the start of a level to the flag, taking out a multitude of familiar foes out along the way with a few new surprises to keep the player on their toes. It’s the simplicity of the goal, get from point A to point B that makes this game instantly accessible to any player, it’s objective is so simple that Grandma could sit down and have an idea of how to complete the objective. Accessible doesn’t mean easy, NSMB does it’s best to keep you challenged, right to the end of its 8 worlds.

Due to the games difficulty, and more notably, to keep a level playing field for those new to the series, Nintendo have hatched a new idea called the “Super Guide”. If you have died eight times on a level, next time you load it up a Green “!” box will appear. Hit this box and you will be able to watch Luigi strut his stuff through the level, effectively showing you how to complete the part you keep dying on. It’s a great feature for those who are new to the series, but veterans will most likely steer clear from it all together. It’s not forced upon the player, which means it’s your own choice to use it.

Where NSMB truly shines is the intergration of multiplayer which has the potential to cause friendships to end, family quarrels and bring out your inner jerk in the best kind of way. Each player controls a character as you make your way through the main game, either helping each other out, or competing for overall supremacy. There are sections where co-operation is paramount, utilizing features such as the grab and lift mechanic, effectively lifting a fellow player onto your shoulders, and the ability to throw them towards that hard to reach power-up, or a lava pit to teach them a lesson, whichever may apply to the situation. There is no better feeling than having a friend betray you, only for you to get a lucky wall jump to save yourself and you get a chance to exact revenge. This is some of the best fun you’ll have on your Wii, period.

The four characters on offer are Mario, Luigi or Toad (blue or yellow) which is a little disappointing. All four characters have the same abilities, yet it can be confusing if both toads grab an invincibility star as they flash the same multicolored pattern. Overall the dynamic works well. If one player dies they re-appear in a floating bubble and will re-join the game when another player tags them in. If all four players manage to die at the same time, sorry lads but you’ll need to restart the level. It’s a great way to bring tensions up, especially in those ultra-hard stages and you all have hardly any lives left.

For those of you who are veterans to the 1985 classic you should feel right at home when it comes to the control scheme of NSMB. Holding the Wii remote sideways and using the 1, 2 and D-Pad for the majority of the gameplay mechanics, with a few waggle motions to make it fill the Wii game obligations. A small shake of the remote will have your character pull of a spin-jump, which is handy when equipped with a Flower power-up as it will shoot out in opposite directions, potentially protecting you from incoming foes. The other motion control is a simple tilt action, used to swing platforms and tilt cannons used within the game. They integrate into the gameplay well and don’t cause any issues.

I’m sure many gamers reading this could attest that level design in each Mario adventure has been paramount to the series success. NSMB is no exception, featuring eight worlds bursting with creativity. Each level is carefully plotted, and later levels will have you studying the environment to work out a safe passage to the end goal. It can be a split second gap that will save your life, and while you may go red in the face and clench that controller just a little too tight until you get it, the feeling of completion is a reward unto itself.

For those completionists out there NSMB features plenty of side challenges to keep you busy. Red Coins and Star coins need to be collected, Kidnapped Toads need to be saved and carried safely to the goal in some levels, and a bunch of cannons can be unlocked to shoot you to new worlds. You will be playing each level over and over again to collect everything, which is exactly what you are looking for in a Mario title.

With the addition of the already hectic four player multiplayer comes new game modes. Foot Race breathes destruction as you race across open levels, free from the time constraints of the normal game. Coin Battles pit players against each other on one screen with a series of enemies. The player with the most coins at the end wins.

This is where Nintendo should have capitalised on the potential for rivalries, whether it be the implementation of leaderboards online, or even just a ladder that stays on the home console. Once the game has ended and you want to tell your friends about your epic win, there is no proof on the console. Such a simple concept could increase the longevity of these gameplay modes, yet it is yet another opportunity missed by the developers.

Going back to the games roots, the graphics are a fantastic blend of 3D Characters, retro sprites, scrolling backgrounds creating a feeling of Super Mario World that was released on the SNES with some 3D character modeling. It very rarely departs from this presentation model, and it’s a good thing it doesn’t as the 2D playing field really makes this game feel fresh.

The soundtrack for NSMB is a perfect mix of old school and re-vamped tunes, bringing in waves of nostalgia as you hum along to familiar tunes from your childhood. The sound effects are back, with power-ups and such chiming through the Wii remote speaker which is a nice touch.

The Final Verdict

Is New Super Mario Bros. Wii the greatest Mario title to date? That’s a decision you need to make for yourself, but the fact that it’s debatable is a true testament to just how good this new addition is. Bringing in the best of series, going back to the original form as a 2D platformer, and throwing in four player mayhem brings Mario and his adventures to a whole new level. The most important ingredient is fun, and no matter who you are, you will undoubtedly have a bunch of fun with this title. Nintendo have just proven again that they are the masters of creating a game to suit a large age group.

GAMEPLAY: 9.5/10: Not much could be improved, but at times tighter controls would make things easier.

GRAPHICS: 9.8/10: The game looks gorgeous and is a perfect fit for the game.

AUDIO: 9.5/10: A perfect mix of re-vamped tunes with new twists and great sound effects

VALUE: 9.0/10: Completionists will be busy for a long time, but would have been nice to have some online
 features or some sort of scoreboard for competitive play.

OVERALL: 9.7/10

Top Gaming Moments: Batman

The hype and excitement surrounding the pending release of Batman: Arkham Asylum has been getting a lot of coverage across the globe. Praise is being sung by the critics, fans are chomping at the bit to get their hands on the game this Thursday. To get you through the next few days, why not revisit some of Batman’s Greatest Video Gaming Moments from the years gone past?

Batman: The Video Game
Released on the Nintendo Entertainment System 1989

In the early days the NES was filled with colourful platformers such as Ice Climber, Super Mario and the like, but Batman: The Video Game was a different kettle of fish. Praised for it’s dark graphics, it’s fantastic attention to detail, fluid animations not to mention one of the most kick ass NES soundtracks ever, it still stands the test of time as not only one of the best Batman games, but one of the best platformers of the NES generation. With a variety of weapons, classic cinematics, five stages based on locations from the Burton film, and a show down with The Joker himself, what more could a Batman fan ask for?

The Adventures of Batman & Robin
Released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System 1994

A sequel to the NES title was released to little fanfare, some gameboy titles came and went, but Konami’s The Adventures of Batman & Robin revived the series with it’s stunning graphics and gripping gameplay. Based on the ever popular animated series, the game takes place over 8 stages with a boss fight at each one, with such favourites as The Joker, Catwoman, Two-Face and many more. Backed up with some amazing features at the time including Mode 7, Reflections on the floor, and a large arsenal of weapons, this is truly a standout title in the Batman series.

Batman Vengeance
Released on the Sony Playstation 2 2001

Ubisoft tried their hand at making a Batman game that fans would love, and they did a decent job with an interesting story the furthered the series. Featuring third person platforming, combat and some sweet Batmobile sequences, Batman Vengeance deserves a mention for truly telling a story. The voice acting is top notch, and features the ever famous Mark Hamill reprising his role from the animated series as The Joker.

Lego Batman: The Video Game
Released on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii 2008

Everyone loves playing games in the Lego universe. After the massive successes of the Star Wars Lego and Indiana Jones Lego series, Lego Batman was released using the tested formula of bringing a certain charm to our favourite stories. With heavy weight Danny Elfman providing the score for the game (he did the music on Burton’s original Batman movie) and with the ability to play as not only Batman, but the villains in the series, it’s hard to ignore the importance of this title re-invigorating the Batman series in the minds of gamers.

Batman: Arkham Asylum
To Be Released 3rd of September 2009
Will Arkham Asylum make it on this list when it’s released this coming Thursday? Guess you’ll have to wait until I release my review later this week.

Bionic Commando

review_CPXE95The year 1988 saw the release of Capcom’s Bionic Commando on the revolutionary Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to both critical and commercial success. It was innovative for platform/action titles in the fact that you couldn’t jump, and you needed to make use of a Bionic arm to swing your way across ledges and destroy enemies in certain ways. It stood aside from other games in similar genres and has stood the test of time. That was over twenty years ago, does the same premise offer enough to stand ahead of the pack in the current generation?

2009’s Bionic Commando takes place ten years after the events of the NES title and places the gamer back into the shoes of Bionic Soldier Nathan “Rad” Spencer. In the course of these ten years, Bionic Soldiers have been outlawed in the military and society and have either slipped through the cracks or have had their bionic augmentations removed, or worse, executed. The game jumps right into the action as we witness the detonation that obliterates Ascension City, destroying buildings, streets and of course the main population. Spencer – who has been imprisoned due to the outlaw on Bionic Soldiers is released – is sent into the combat zone to discover who is responsible for such an act.
Bionic Commando

What sets the scene for a potentially sound storyline is let down by pure B-Grade cheesiness with some of the dialogue and cutscenes. Regardless of these shortcomings, voice acting work is delivered superbly through all the characters with the stand out being our hero Spencer who is voiced by Mike Patton of Faith No More fame. Characters are brought into the story to connect it back to the original title, yet more often than not they feel forced rather than detrimental to the story progression. Overlooking all this, Bionic offers some interesting plot twists. It’s not the amazing story some might find in other games, but it’s certainly strong enough to keep you compelled to continue the adventure.

What set the first title apart from the rest was the implementation of the Bionic arm and GRIN have excelled at making the arm an integral feature of the gameplay mechanics and not just a tacked on gimmick. Spencer has been separated from his arm since his incarceration, meaning he needs to remember all of his abilities, which are taught to you along the way via checkpoints and training exercises. It’s easy to learn, but takes a little to master which is a tie back to the original game. There is a sense of accomplishment when you chain together a series of precision placed swings followed by a zip kick.
Bionic Commando

The targeting reticle turns blue when Spencer is able to use the arm to grip onto something and once you have mastered the art you will be firing off your pistol before swinging via a ledge onto a platform and then taking a moment to assess your next move. Having said that the ability to swing and grapple your way across Asscension City isn’t all roses. Falling to your doom, landing in deep water or hitting some nasty radiated spots will result in you respawing at a checkpoint, minus all the equipment you have collected along the way. This will be frustrating for some, but for fans of the original title (or last years Re-armed remake) it will be familiar territory.

The arm is used for much more than swinging around like a not so friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Spencer has an arsenal of attacks ranging from the effecting light or heavy punches, zip kicks which will have you attaching your arm to an enemies chest and then retracting it to kick them in the chest, kiting enemies into the air and throwing objects such as cars, blocks of concrete and even trains! All the attacks work seamlessly with the controls being accessed with some careful timing and some quick button presses.
Bionic Commando

In addition to these awesomely cool Bionic Arm attacks you will also gain access to weapons throughout your journey. Spencer is armed with a standard issue pistol which is accurate and deadly, but through weapons drops in the field you will come across grenades, shotguns, sniper rifles and the like. Unfortunately while these weapons are fun, ammo is so sparse for said weapons that the fun is short lived. It’s not a deal breaker as the arm attacks more than make up for it, but it would be wise to conserve your ammunition for when you need it.

Bionic Commando provides us with a seemingly huge concrete jungle to frolic through yet due to it’s linear gameplay it doesn’t offer enough opportunity to go exploring. Once you have passed through a section of the game there is no going back, so if you are wanting to collect all the collectable items and the like, you better check, and then check again before you move onto the next point. It’s sadly disappointing as Asscension City offers a terrific landscape to explore, yet we are constricted to the contraints of a linear pathway. It doesn’t ruin the experience as such, but it makes you wonder what we are missing out on, or what a less linear path would have provided us with.
Bionic Commando

Multiplayer is a rather forgettable experience. Featuring sixteen maps to fight with up to seven other opponents on, you’ll soon put it down after a few rounds. It’s not ground breaking, it’s no engaging, it’s not fun, it’s just there. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with it, it features your standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag modes, it’s just not at all compelling like the single player experience. It’s a fun time waster, but we won’t see it hitting Call of Duty or Halo online status anytime soon.

Graphically Bionic Commando is up there with the best. Assension City is littered with papers blowing in the wind, dust and particles from fallen buildings, and fantastic lighting effects at the sun sets down across the town. The game camera is rarely ever annoying and feels just right, and little features like dust covering the camera as buildings fall is a nice touch. Character models are a bit cartoonish, but that’s the setting of the game. It’s not a mega realistic title ala Gears Of War. The game manages to keep a consistent frame-rate, which is emperical to the swinging element of the title. Lagging as you were swinging at fast pace through the city would totally ruin the experience. The only time you will even notice the tiniest bit of frame-rate dip will be during some of the larger battle sequences, but it’s not enough to even really notice that often.
Bionic Commando

The city feels like it’s actually a city, not just a landscape created for the game. Buildings look tattered and used, everything is coated in dust after the explosion, buildings, the ground, cars and transport literally are crumbling all around you. My one gripe is the blatant advertising that is present throughout the city. Pepsi, nVidia, Alienware and other signs from companies litter the city, and while it has been seen before, in this pertiular title it really takes away from the experience.

As I mentioned before the voice acting is top notch, and Mike Patton provides yet another memorable character in the video game realm (See: The Darkness). Musically the title will strike a chord with veterans who will recognize some of those eight bit sounds jazzed up a little during the musical score that just suits the title perfectly.
Bionic Commando

The Final Verdict

So has twenty years been too long for Bionic Commando to have any relevance in the modern day video game world? Capcom have proved that an old classic can be turned into something modern day. While the story isn’t taken to it’s full potential and the title is extremely linear, Bionic Commando offers enough innovative, and stylish gameplay mechanics to make it worth your while.

Full Review can be read here