Category:  Postcard Review

By Stephen Hilger, April 7, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

When Shadow of the Colossus first came out for the PlayStation 2, it was not immediately touted as the instant classic that it is today. It didn’t reach Citizen Kane levels of appreciation until at least a generation later.

But is Shadow of the Colossus one of the best games of all time?

While games like God of War revel in action and gratuitous satisfaction, Shadow of the Colossus is a very minimalist work despite its grandiose battles. There’s no urgency for the player to arrive at the next colossus fight, but exploring the world created by Fumito Ueda is an absorbing and rich experience. One might get frustrated at the game’s lack of direction, yet the game’s freedom makes all victories, failures, and discoveries feel organically unique to the player.

Really, I don’t need to sing the game’s praises past that. The graphics live up remarkably well, the soundtrack is captivating and the design of both the colossi and the Wanderer is top notch.

My only qualm with this game is the horse, Agro. I’ve mentioned how poorly this steed controls before, but I genuinely feel like Agro is the only thing wrong with this game. I do appreciate the realism the game tries to offer by causing the hero to often lose balance and struggle with his sword while on horseback, but there’s no reason Agro should control like unresponsive tar.

Otherwise, yea, the game’s a masterpiece.

By Stephen Hilger, March 31, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

 (Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Throughout Super Mario Bros.’ history, Nintendo has been constantly prodding at Luigi’s feelings of inadequacy. Finally, after a decade of being in Mario’s shadow, Nintendo threw Luigi a bone and gave him a starring role with GameCube launch title Luigi’s Mansion.

While this was certainly a nice gesture by Nintendo for the faded, lime-green plumber, Luigi now had the crushing responsibility of selling the GameCube. His game would ultimately get compared to Super Mario 64 and had the task of following the golden legacy of the Nintendo 64. No wonder he looks so scared on the box art.

Luigi’s Mansion was the first small disc I put into my GameCube, and while it didn’t set any legendary standards like Mario 64, it’s still a very fun game. I remember being blown away by the visuals. The mansion itself was full of wonderfully minute details. I remember spending hours vacuuming every nook and cranny to see what surprises were creeping up in the dust-filled corner.

The ghost-capturing concept was unique, and while the mansion was by no means scary, I was always on the edge of my seat. Though in retrospect, the giant baby ghost was kind of unsettling.

The game’s a bit too short, and I can’t fully recommend a game where the ‘A’ button simply lets you know how scared you are. But, if for some reason you missed this title and are brave enough to venture into the overlooked corners of the past, you might find some gold. Or dust.

By Stephen Hilger, March 24, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Fighting games seem to draw a very polarized audience.

On one side of the spectrum, you have the competitive players who will spend days studying combos and placing characters into competitive tiers. And then you have the people that simply treat the controller’s buttons like a game of Whack-a-Mole, waiting to see what their character does as a result of their random button-mashing.

Oddly enough, Soul Calibur II rewards both styles of play.

Nowadays, I feel that some fighters are purposely hard to pick up and play in order to wane off button mashers. Randomly mashing attacks will get you virtually nowhere in a game like Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

With Soul Calibur II, the game certainly plays better if you know what you are doing but the fighting commands are simple enough (horizontal slash, vertical slash, kick) that anyone can learn how to play properly simply through his or her own intuition.

More importantly, while I greatly enjoy the first and third Soul Calibur, the second installment is the definitive experience. Launching on all three systems (Gamecube, Xbox and PlayStation 2) was a great idea that was only further reaped by the guest character unique to each system.

While I could think of better candidates for Microsoft and Sony than Heihachi and Spawn, a game that lets you play as Link is doing something right.

By Stephen Hilger, March 17, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

Whatever happens in life, I take a strange comfort knowing that I will never beat Battletoads & Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team.

I purchased a copy of Battletoads: Double Dragon well after its release, though it was still in the early enough 2000′s that a store selling SNES cartridges in a bin wasn’t an ultra rare thing to do.

The game, as the title suggests, allies Double Dragon‘s Jimmy and Billy with the Zitz, Rash and Pimple of Battletoads fame. Both parties are side-scrolling legends, so this crossover title was a bit of a supergroup among videogame ultra-stars from the 90′s.

While Double Dragon is one the quintessential beat ‘em up series, Battletoads is more well known for its infamous difficulty over innovation.

What stems from combining the two is essentially an awesome game that’s just slightly less difficult than the traditional Battletoads experience.

I could never get past the third level, but in a way, I don’t want to. This is one of those games you’d spend hours trying to beat with a friend, accidentally beating up the other’s character which would then lead to a real-life kerfuffle.

This kind of game will always be fun, though it is a requirement to play with a friend. And if you guys get past level three, can you tell me what happens? Those girls with the whips are tough.

By Stephen Hilger, March 10, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

What is there to say about the game that had everything? Diddy Kong Racing rooted itself on the Mario Kart formula and reached for the stars. In the era where everyone was aping both Mario 64 and Mario Kart, Rare somehow managed to one-up both games with Banjo-Kazooie and Diddy Kong Racing.

Racetracks in the game featured a wide variety of themes ranging from dinosaur-filled deserts to an aquatic, pirate-paradise. Items, when stocked, were upgradable which added a nice bit of strategy to the otherwise thoughtless process of using items. And though the hovercraft handled like burning garbage, the option to race by land, air or sea is one more racing games should offer.

All this praise, of course, excludes the main thing the separates Diddy Kong Racing from all its competitors: the adventure. Diddy Kong Racing managed to make its single-player experience an engaging adventure game that used racing to glue everything together. The hub world is full of collectibles and secrets, and is just fun to explore.

Other than the tragically forgotten Crash Team Racing, I have yet to see another racing game that seamlessly meshed this many genres.

It’s also funny to see Banjo and Conker in their humble beginnings. I only wish some of the other characters got their own games. I would’ve love to play a game as that awesome turtle. Or maybe a side-scrolling brawler as that crocodile that looks like Roger Klotz.

By Stephen Hilger, March 3, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

My NES library was handed to me at birth, including a modest library of titles ranging from the legendary classic Mario/Duck Hunt to the abysmally atrocious LJN Beetlejuice (though the soundtrack is pretty catchy). Wrecking Crew was in the upper tier and, to this day, is one of my favorite early memories of Nintendo.

The title stars Mario and Luigi supposedly in their side-job as construction workers. Nothing can be that simple for the Mario brothers though, so their blue-collar workdays are filled with traps, monsters, and bipedal eggplant-men.

The goal is destroy all breakable things before the time runs out or you become a victim of one of the sentient produce. Some constructions (such as ladders) have multiple uses so one must plan ahead the order in which they will “wreck” things.

Like any puzzle game, it gets more complicated as you go on, but the whole thing is wonderfully simple 8-bit fun with a great, nostalgic soundtrack. I think it’d still be popular today; in fact, I could totally see it working well on a tablet or smart phone. Touch screens and demolishing things always seems to work well.

Also, I believe this is the game that inspired the birth of Wario. The recurring antagonist is a yellow-dressed, chubby fellow named Foreman Spike. It’s interesting to see where ideas are formed. And who knows? Maybe we’ll see Foreman Spike in Mario Kart 27 on the Wii U 2.

By Stephen Hilger, February 24, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

On paper, this is every Final Fantasy fan’s dream.

Chocobo Racing was (no surprises here) a racing game by Square featuring a cast of recurring characters and monsters from the Final Fantasy series. With the namesake Chocobo in the spotlight, the game also lets you race as a wise-talking Moogle, the iconic White and Black Mages and Bahamut Himself. Oh yeah, and there’s a goblin, a golem and the Chubby Chocobo for the more obscure palette.

Being that Final Fantasy isn’t necessarily appropriate for children, it was a wise move to feature the more innocent looking characters in this game clearly marketed towards a much younger demographic.

While I am a big enough fan to enjoy this game’s existence, it’s really not that good. Chocobo Racing came out two years after Mario Kart 64 and apes it at every turn; essentially, replace item boxes with “magic” and then switch out Mario characters for Final Fantasy and you can imagine the result. Unfortunately, the two things Chocobo Racing doesn’t copy are gameplay and graphics. The game is ugly even for PS1 and the controls are mediocre at best, which is inexcusable for a racing game.

While it’s got some charm and a few unique mechanics, this game is only worth getting/revisiting if you’re curious or a die hard Final Fantasy collector. I enjoyed it as a kid, but as far as racing games go, stick to the classics.

By Stephen Hilger, February 17, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

As much as I love Parappa, no one rocks as hard as Lammy.

Um Jammer Lammy was the psychedelic, spiritual sequel to Parappa the Rapper. Both godfathers of the rhythm game genre, Parappa and Lammy are nearly identical in gameplay; the biggest difference being that Parappa raps and Lammy shreds.

While there’s something funny and charming about how Parappa repeats his “opponents’” lyrics, I prefer Lammy’s guitar. Her music compliments the singer rather than opposing them.

Another leg up Lammy has over Parappa is her story. While Parappa’s game deals with him trudging through a dearth of teen angst, Lammy’s tale is a surrealist misadventure on speed. Tasked with getting to her concert in under fifteen minutes, Lammy gets derailed by an army of infants, dogs putting out a fire, a pilot with PTSD and an unexpected journey to hell. The whole story seems like a bizarre-but-wonderful mix of Run Lola Run and Yellow Submarine.

Yet underneath all the absurdity is a surprisingly touching story about the power of self-expression. Say what you will, but I’m a huge fan of 90′s girl power. There simply aren’t enough games with the same riotgrrl mentality.

And need I say how great the music is? From the funk-inspired firefighters to the Primus-esque airplane level, the game features a wild ensemble of musical genres.

My only qualm is that Milk Can isn’t a real band. They’re like if Cream and Sleater-Kinney joined forces and became cats and fauna.

Like a good album, this game is always worth a replay.

By Stephen Hilger, February 10, 2014 1 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

In the mid-to-late 90′s, everyone was trying to make the next Super Mario 64.

There was Croc, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot and last and probably least: Gex. Even among PlayStation outcasts, Gex is often overlooked and forgotten. But you know what? I loved this game.

Essentially, Gex is a cocky lizard tasked with entering a world full of TV and genre themed levels called the Media Dimension in order to rid the world of the evil Rez. Players explore a variety of worlds to collect different colored remotes that unlock new themed areas. Sound familiar?

Gex himself is drenched in whatever the 90′s version of being cool was. He’s constantly spitting out one-liners, most of which are quotes from pop culture or various impersonations. Overall, Gex’s jokes range from ignorable to funny, though they get old quick. Come to think of it, this game might be exactly what Bubsy 3D was trying to accomplish.

Thankfully, Gex does a much better job.

Even though games like Banjo Kazooie beat Gex in every way, Gex: Enter the Gecko is a solid game. It’s got some clever level design, and there’s a unique charm to the whole experience. That being said, the graphics are a bit ugly and the music seems poorly recorded.

Overall, the game is worth a look if you’re into this era of platformers or if you want to hear the word “deja-ouch” be said by a lizard.

By Stephen Hilger, February 3, 2014 0 Features, Postcard Review

(Editor’s note: In the Postcard Review, members of the Pixelitis staff write small, easily digestible reviews big enough to ‘fit on a postcard’ – hence the title. It can be about the whole experience or just a small piece of the pie. No scores needed.)

I don’t think many have said this, but I always wanted to like Digimon.

The series is such a shameless rip-off of Pokémon, I figured they must have some trick up their sleeves. To give credit where it’s due, the first Digimon film had a surprisingly decent soundtrack, and I always enjoyed the existential subtext of the series. Since Digimon exist in a “digital world” they theoretically don’t exist, and I enjoyed the idea of the characters, and the digimon themselves, struggling with what (and who) is real? Alas, this theme is rarely explored.

Back in my youth, I rented Digimon World for PlayStation during my olive branch phase with the series. On paper, the game is a really neat premise. Essentially you’re tasked with raising a single digimon from birth, taking care of it the way one takes care of a pet. Additionally, there is the combat part of gameplay, where you have to beat all the feral digimon into civilized submission.

But sadly, the game is mediocre at best. The graphics are a bit ugly, and while I liked the one-on-one relationship with your very own digimon, the game was all too excited to take that way from me. After a half hour or so of playing, my beloved orange Dinosaur turned into a green pile of ooze that ate poop.

Yea, sorry Digimon. I like Pokémon better.