Chase Down This New Platformer

There’s a new platforming game coming to a DS near you! The Chase stars chibi-styled Felix and Felicity who are rushing to meet up for a date. With the clock counting down and inclement weather slowing you down, you must draw the paths the pair will take for their romantic get-together.

The game is scheduled for a February release.

The game is said to play out like Kirby’s Canvas Curse and Yoshi’s Touch & Go.

Ah, Young Love!

Ah, Young Love!

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Review – Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS)


Developer/Publisher: Konami
Year: 2008
Fun Fact: the 10th Castlevania game released this decade (I think)

There’s been a handheld Castlevania game every single year since 2001 (counting the GBA port of the original NES game) but Order of Ecclesia is the BEST, which is quite an accomplishment given the extremely high regard and ratings the other releases have received. The latest release, starring fair, amnesiac maiden Shonoa, takes some of the strongest elements of past Castlevania games and combines them into an airtight new game.

Introduced in Ecclesia is a world map, breaking somewhat from the strict Metroidvania setup of most of Castlevania outings since 1997. The world map works more or less like you’d expect allowing the player to move freely from one area to another. The areas are unveiled over the course of the game and provide a wide variety. Some areas are basically straightforward action levels similar to what one might expect from pre-1997 Castlevanias. Others require more exploration and treasure-hunting. In other words, if you love the Metroidvania playing style, it’s still here, but it’s not the exclusive design idea.

The game features all of the RPG elements of recent Castlevanias, as well as side quests that seem somewhat Zelda-ish, as in inane little errands performed by request. Some of these side jaunts will reward the player with useful items, while some seem less worthwhile. Magic Points are included and every single offensive maneuver uses some of them but, thankfully, they auto-replenish. The items that use most of the magic are ‘glyphs’ aka weapons. Glyphs are somewhat similar to previous Castlevania ideas in that many of them are dropped by enemies and provide some new ability. The glyphs are equipped just like weapons and used in the same manner. Various glyphs can be combined for abilities and especially strong attacks. Some can also affect performance and status – my favorite allows Shonoa to move at seriously fast speeds.

Unlike most of the Koji Igarashi-produced Castlevania titles, Ecclesia is actually difficult! I died many, many times at the hands of bosses, especially. In fact, it was equipment that got me through the final boss fights more than my stats. Along with the surprisingly high difficulty level is a surprisingly high-quality story. It’s not epic but it makes some sense and offers something more than the ‘some jerk wants to resurrect Dracula’ line.

Grade: A+
Conclusion: Get it!

Review – Metroid Prime Hunters (DS)

Developer: Nintendo Software Technology Corporation
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 2006
Fun fact: from the developers of the platformers Bionic Commando: Elite Forces (GBC) and Mario vs. Donkey Kong (GBA).

All right, here’s the same disclaimer I provided when I reviewed Metroid Prime 2: perhaps Metroid Prime Hunters isn’t truly a platformer but it descends from a fine platforming dynasty and there’s definitely a lot of platforming going on. With that out of the way, it should be noted that Hunters is much more of a platformer than the other Prime entries. In fact, it has one classic platformer element that, if memory serves, has never been in another Metroid game: bottomless pits that instantly kill you!

If you expect Hunters to be somewhat dumbed down compared to the other Prime entries, give yourself a cookie. The exploration elements are much simpler (I figured most of them out for myself for a change). The total explorable area in the game is much smaller than in other games in the series. Additionally, the game is basically level-based and there is a low variety of bosses.

Fortunately, it turns out that sometimes being dumb ain’t so bad. Really, does every Metroid installment have to be the same? The level-based aspect is actually a refreshing change. The main negative aspect of this feature is that there’s definitely a formula in EACH level that goes like this: wander around, fight a rival bounty hunter, find three artifacts that activate a boss portal, fight a boss, and then race back to your ship under tight time constraints. There are really only two boss types between the levels, meaning you repeatedly fight a variation of a spinning pillar and a tentacled eyeball.

In spite of the formulaity, there is a lot to enjoy in the action-heavy design. Unlike many claims, the game is NOT merely a first person shooter in a Metroid setting – there are still many puzzles to unravel and atmospheric areas that don’t have any enemies at all. Speaking of atmosphere, it’s just what you’d hope for in a Metroid adventure. The graphics and audio are great and in line with the template established by the GameCube Prime games.

Finally, the controls – you use the d-pad or buttons to move side-to-side or back-and-forth, a shoulder button to fire, and the stylus to do everything else, at least in the standard control setup. This is somewhat awkward as you basically have to hold the DS unit with one hand and constantly use the stylus with the other. I got used to it fairly quickly but during long play stretches I felt mild annoyance in my hands.

Play the GameCube Metroid Primes first and then check out this high-quality diversion for a different take.

Grade: B+
Personal conclusion: Who knew Samus had rival bounty hunters?

A Second, More Informative Hatsworth Preview

Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure keeps getting more and more love. This time by MTV Multiplayer where previewer Patrick Klepek gushes:

…it’s one of the most creative uses of the DS hardware that I’ve seen. …  May Be My Most Anticipated DS Game Ever… I want more nooooooow. …

Yowzas! We also now understand how the puzzles on the bootm screen are related to the traditional platforming on top.

Essentially, when you defeat an enemy up top, it becomes part of the puzzle below. You must clear them off the grid before they reach the top again, or else they re-enter the platforming section.

Yikes!

Read the whole preview here.

Jolly Good Fun!

Jolly Good Fun!

Hello Henry Hatsworth

A platformer/puzzle hybrid

Earlier we reported on a game by developer Tiburon about a safari-outfit wearing chap on some quirky platforming/puzzler adventure. The game was announced for the DS but not named or dated. Now both of those pieces of information have been made available for hungry platformer fans.

The name of the game has been revealed to be Henry Hatsworth.

Robert Nashak, vice president of EA’s Casual Studios, had this to say:

We are excited to bring an indie-inspired new intellectual property to the EA Casual Entertainment Label with Henry Hatsworth that fuses together two styles of gameplay utilizing the two Nintendo DS screens like never before.

The innovative elements of the game have the potential to appeal to both Nintendo enthusiasts and more casual Nintendo DS players.

The game’s execuitve producer, Scott Walker, added:

Henry Hatsworth is an incredibly unique game. It’s a deep, challenging, and humorous game that you won’t want to put down.

The game will offer thirty levels spanning five worlds, with an additional twelve secret levels to seek out. The level on the top screen is different than the one on the bottom, and what you are doing in one will affect the other.

Henry Hatsworth will be available Q1 2009.

Cid the Boxart

If you’re like me, your most anticipated platformer of the year is Cid the Dummy. Wait, never heard of it? Are you kidding me? Don’t worry, most people haven’t.

Cid the Dummy is a forthcoming Wii, PSP, PS2,DS, and PC 3D side-scrolling platformer. Developer Twelve Interactive has this to say:

CID THE DUMMY is a platform game that grabs you straight away with its amusing blend of action and puzzle-filled gameplay. Based around the multiple opportunities for a Crash Impact Dummy to get into mischief, the game blends classic platform elements such as timed jumps, collecting pick-ups, defeating enemies, and challenging boss battles with more cerebral elements such as puzzles, clever weapon use and route finding.

• Interact as only a crash dummy can. Climb walls, swing on ropes, burn obstacles, destroy exploding barrels, use lifters, bounce on springs and with a neat head butt destroy walls all in stunningly realized environments. Game environment interaction is the most important part of the gameplay.
• CID’s world is swarming with a host of fearfully fun enemies like the Dumper, Cursed Dummy and the bizarre Failed Experiment.
• Apart from fighting enemies, the player will enjoy solving puzzles, avoiding traps and using acrobatic skills to get out of dangerous situations!

But between its website having been only a static image for months now, and the developer’s claiming it was a Q1 release this year but it was a no show, the whole three people who knew about the game  were ready to call it vaporware.

Hold the phone! Just when you thought Cid had crashed for good, Twelve Interactive released the box art today, letting us know that Cid is still kicking.

Crash Dummies Never Looked So Good

Crash Dummies Never Looked So Good

With just the multiplatform Martial Arts: Capoeira Fighters and Wii-exclusive Party Crashers under developer Take Twelve’s belt, many have now switched from proclaiming this as vaporware to saying it’s shovelware. What do you think? Could this be a surprisingly decent platformer or is it trash?

Mushroom Men, new 2D platformer for Wii, DS

It has happened, a platformer that actually lets you play as mushrooms. It has a great artistic style as you can see in its artwork, and graphically it looks really great with a very dark and moody atmosphere. You are able to pick from 3 different classes such as heavy, sage, and scout, as well as combine items to make new weapons (which seems similar to the way you made tools in Lost in Blue). There will actually be a DS version (Rise of the Fungi) as well as a Wii version (The Spore Wars) which will be different games (not ports!). This is great news for a possible new platforming franchise. Look for these games later this year.