Full Reviews

Full game reviews as we beat them, there will be a balance of both new and old games reviewed. We review the basics of the game and deliver scores in a few categories and an overall score out of 10.

  • Super Mario Galaxy 2

    Full Review

    Super Mario Galaxy 2 CoverIt has been a while since we've seen two core Mario series games on one Nintendo system in a while, you need to go back to the Super Nintendo with the two Super Mario Worlds for the last example, and it is highly arguable whether Yoshi's Island can be considered a core Mario game for that matter. Surprisingly, Nintendo announced Super Mario Galaxy 2 last year and the game was released this May to much herald and acclaim. Glancing at Metacritic, the top two games for the Wii are our two Galaxies, an incredible triumph for Nintendo.

    I actually beat Super Mario Galaxy 2 well over a month ago, but I decided, much like I did with the first Super Mario Galaxy, to wait until I had collected all 120 stars before writing a review. Actually, make that 240, no... 242 stars! Galaxy 2 more than doubles the collectible star count over the original while keeping the game both interesting and challenging. But is the game too much like the Super Mario Galaxy, or does it set itself apart enough to transcend the typical sequel failings we've been witness of lately?

    For a look at the game's opening, check out Nate's first hour review of Super Mario Galaxy 2 published right after release.

  • Left 4 Dead

    Full Review

    Left 4 Dead CoverWhen I heard the announcement for Left 4 Dead, I was enormously elated. Finally, a game dedicated to fast-paced zombie action. A game I could rely on to really satisfy my urges to kill a swarm of infected. Then, when I saw the videos of people at E3 playing it for thirty minutes and then heading to the back of the huge line to play it again, there was no question.

    My hunger for a real zombie game had been stirring for years. I hated Resident Evil, and still do. The idea of searching around everywhere and solving more puzzles than killing zombies -- I was disgusted. The only thing that helped curve my thirst was Counter Strike: Source, where my friend and I would play “zombies” by pitting ourselves against 30 or so bots and allowing them to only use knives. I was even happier to hear that was the way Valve decided to make Left 4 Dead. They did the exact same thing.

    I was counting the days in November, 2008, for the game's release. Every day at college just seemed to drag on and on, forever, until finally the day came. My classes felt longer than those of my final days before Christmas Break. When I got done with school the day of Left 4 Dead's release, I went straight to the store to pick up the game.

    I purchased the PC version, and played through the entire game in a very brief period of time, but that was okay. With all of the achievements to be had, as well as the scoring and varying difficulty levels, this game had more replay-ability than any game I had played before or since. It never gets old. I love this game, and now I own it on Xbox to play the game cooperatively with my wife. We also spend quite a bit of time online playing against other players. 

  • The Saboteur

    Full Review

    Saboteur CoverI don’t think I’ve ever played a game and honestly felt sad that the developer was no longer around, but that’s exactly what happened after I beat Pandemic Studios’ swan song, The Saboteur. I had an honestly great time with a flawed game, which is the opposite experience I’ve had with similar games in the genre. 

    The Saboteur is pretty much the quintessential First Hour game: I played the first hour of the game a few months back, loved it, but had to send it back to my brother-in-law. A few months later I had the opportunity to borrow it again and jumped at the chance. When I said I wanted to keep playing, I really did.

    Without much further ado, The Saboteur was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows, and while the game seems to hint at future sequels, with the studio closing it is doubtful those will ever appear.   But you never know, I’m assuming EA owns the license to the game and characters so they might trudge up good old Sean Devlin again someday.

    My full review is on the Xbox 360 version.

  • Sin & Punishment

    Full Review

    sin and Punishment CoverEvery Monday morning since the Wii craze began in November 2006, the Wii Shop Channel has been updated with new downloadable titles to purchase. The Virtual Console, one of the Wii's few enticing tidbits to core gamers at launch, promised to make all our favorite classic games through the N64 era available on one piece of hardware. Things started out strong for the VC, which reached the 100-game milestone just over six months after launch. It seems Nintendo just couldn't keep that pace, however, as the first seven months of 2010 have seen less than twenty new retro titles. With obvious Nintendo classics like Star Fox, Yoshi's Island, Pilotwings 64, and Excitebike 64 still waiting to be let loose -- in addition to the many unseen third party games worth revisiting -- it seems far too early for the Virtual Console to receive less than one title a week.

    The future of the Virtual Console was looking bright in 2007, however, when Nintendo decided to make the N64 import classic Sin & Punishment available outside of Asia for the first time. It seems Treasure always planned a western release, as all the voice acting was performed in English (with Japanese subtitles), even in the original Japanese cartridge. The rumor is that a dried-up N64 market in 2000 made the niche developer think twice. In a rare showing of extra effort on Nintendo's part, Sin & Punishment was the first of a small collection of games formerly exclusive to Japan to make it to the Americas. It probably didn't take that much effort, though, since the only translation required was in the main menu and tutorials. The original Japanese subtitles persist even in the localized version.

    I'd always planned on putting down the $12 to try Sin & Punishment at some point, but I figured the recent release of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor for the Wii makes this as good a time as any. Might as well snag the N64 game for some context, right? I downloaded the game with the intent of completing a first hour review for our readers, but it seems there isn't a whole lot to talk about beyond that first sixty minutes, so this has been upgraded to full review status. Lucky you!

  • Picross 3D

    Full Review

    Picross 3d CoverI can't name a lot of puzzle games I've honestly enjoyed.  Tetris Attack, the Professor Layton series if those count, World of Goo?  As you can tell I'm not a huge fan of the genre.  I might play a puzzle game for a few rounds before I become bored, but Picross 3D was different, really different.  I've already managed to beat over 200 levels and was becoming so obsessed with the game I was carrying my DS to work in case the opportunity came up over lunch.

    Picross 3D is not a typical puzzle game, it's slow moving and requires a lot of careful thought.  There is little guessing involved and it does an excellent job of driving you on from puzzle to puzzle.  As someone who had never played a Picross game before, I really had no idea what I was getting into until I read Nate's half hour review of the game.  The game is cheap though so there's little investment for a chance of tons of hours of gaming.  Plus it reminds me of my Kakuro obsession during my senior year of college.

    Get ready for my shortest review ever!

  • Half-Life 2

    Full Review

    Half Life 2 CoverIt's hard to find a gamer who doesn't have some experience with the Half-Life franchise. A champion of PC software when things started shifting heavily in the favor of consoles, the original Half-Life wowed critics with its pulse-pounding scripted sequences and seamless stitching of narrative and gameplay in first-person. The long-awaited full sequel, Half-Life 2, received just as many accolades, if not more, for its advances in artificial intelligence, character animation, and especially the robust physics engine powering the game's many objects.

    And yet, it was only two weeks ago that I first experienced a game in Valve's flagship franchise myself. I've never been much of a PC gamer: I can count the number of games I've played on a computer monitor on one hand, and four of them begin with the words "Star Wars." I've had many consoles in my life, but rarely a PC with the power to play current games. I'm actually typing this on a Macbook right now, and as we all know, Macs just aren't for gamers.

    That said, Valve has made an effort to bite into the Apple market with Mac versions of Steam and many of its own big games offered therein, just in time for the annual 4th of July sales on the incredible digital distribution service. And if Valve is willing to create a Mac version of Half-Life 2 and price it at an outrageously fair $3.39 just for me, then I guess I owe it to them to try the game that millions have gone headcrab-crazy for.

    But for all its fame and glory, the bottom line is that Half-Life 2 is a six-year-old PC game in a genre I'm not terribly enthralled by. Did I hate it? Hit the jump, smash that caps lock key and ready your profane comments, PC fanboys, because I'm about to tear into your beloved Half-Life 2 like a shotgun into an antlion.

  • Dragon Ball: Origins

    Full Review

    Dragon Ball Origins CoverWhen most people think of Dragon Ball, they think of energy blasts, non-stop fights against aliens, and dozens of episodes where the only thing happening is veins bulging. But once upon a time, Dragon Ball was a simple kung fu adventure show starring a kid with a monkey tail that was loosely-kinda-sorta-maybe based off of the classic Chinese tale “Journey to the West.” Dragon Ball: Origins takes us back to this simpler time before Goku was a demigod and every other thing wanted to blow up Earth, and delivers a solid adventure for old and new fans.

  • Mario Strikers Charged

    Full Review

    Mario Strikers Charged CoverProfessional athletes who excel at multiple sports are understandably rare. The ideal body proportions of an offensive lineman and a power forward are basically inverse. The abilities and skills required by a closing pitcher and a starting goaltender are worlds apart. And who could possibly have enough time to devote their training and competitive passion to two separate sports seasons that last six months or more each year? Ask a sports buff if any athletes have made an impact on two different sports, and they'll probably answer with Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, and possibly Michael Jordan with a sneer.

    Ask a gamer, however, and the only answer will be Mario. Ever since the platforming plumber took up golf in 1991's NES Open Tournament Golf, Mario's been blazing a trail across athletic endeavors that none could possibly match, serving up scorchers with his tennis racket in one hand and palming a basketball in the other. The Italian even competes under his own personal flag in both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games. And next year, Mario will be adding Dodgeball to his list with the launch of Mario Sports Mix, which will also feature the gaming icon's return to Volleyball, Hockey, and Basketball. Even with his talents spread so thin, critics have mostly praised Mario's spinoff sports titles for their sufficient gameplay and charming Mushroom Kingdom aesthetic.

    Somebody forgot to tell Next Level Games about that Mushroom Kingdom charm, however, as the Canadian developer decided to go a drastically different route for their take on Mario playing Soccer, Mario Strikers Charged. Sure, Mario and his assortment of friends with mustaches and crowns all show up, as do the requisite mushrooms, shells, and stars, but something seems to have deeply upset the usually benevolent bunch: smiles turn to scowls, frilly dresses are traded for form-fitting battle armor, and the good-natured teasing is replaced with some outright lewd gestures. The tone may have taken a turn for the drab, but there is still plenty of fun to be had with this bizarre Mario Sports title.

  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

    Full Review

    Legend of Zelda Minish cap CoverOver the course of The Legend of Zelda series, I haven't missed a lot of games.  I've played everything from Zelda II to Majora's Mask to Oracle of Ages, but there was one that I had skipped: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.  Why that one? How could I have missed it?  I can only determine that my interest was low due to it being developed outside Nintendo again (Minish Cap, the two Oracle games, and Four Swords were created by Flagship, a former Capcom studio) and that it missed the 2004 holiday window by a few weeks.  Plus, for whatever reason it seemed like a kids game.  I always saw the feature of Link turning into a pixie as... lame.

    How wrong I was.

    Five years later and I finally determine that it's high time to play The Minish Cap, so I add it to my Amazon wishlist and receive it for my birthday in May.  I plowed through this game like my family's lives depended on it (meaning I ignored them in the process, whoops, won't happen again), but wanted to let the game sink in for a while before I organized all my thoughts and finished the review.

    It's probably worth comparing my review of this game to the two previous portable Zeldas: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.  I always felt like those games were missing something, but I couldn't lay my finger on it until I played The Minish Cap.  Here's my full review of the one I almost let get away: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. 

  • Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver

    Full Review

    Pokemon Heartgold CoverThe “Pokemon fad” died about ten years ago, but the franchise is still as strong as ever as Diamond and Pearl sold over 17 million copies worldwide.  In order to satiate the appetite of rabid Pokemon fans anxiously awaiting the next generation of games (which were recently announced as Black and White), Nintendo decided to remake the second generation games, Gold and Silver.  Pokemon has changed a lot in the ten years since the release of Gold and Silver, but fortunately Nintendo has added every single innovation into the remake, along with a few new ones.

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