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Pikmin, Samus Aran, the Prince and Donkey Kong return

Josh Talley | Thursday, January 13, 2005

Pikmin 2How does a company follow up an underground, system release, smash hit? By releasing a sequel that surpasses the original, of course. “Pikmin 2” is one of those few games that takes a completely original idea and then builds on it to make it even better. The story of the game directly follows the events of “Pikmin” and its hero, Captain Olimar. But this time around he has help from his sidekick Louie. Olimar and Louie must collect “treasure” to help pay off the debt of the corporation they work for with the help of sprite-like animals known only as Pikmin. Basically, Louie and Olimar lead them around like a general leads an army. Unlike in the original “Pikmin,” in “Pimkin 2” you have an unlimited amount of time to pay off the debt, so time is not a problem. This creates a more relaxing atmosphere and allows leisure to enjoy every aspect of the game. Tasks are more easily accomplished with the addition of Louie by splitting the task force of Pikmin and taking on two different problems at once. The addition of two new types of Pikmin also makes the game more rounded, providing a better chance of survival in the tough world. The original “Pikmin” had three different types of Pikmin with different abilities. The new types, added with the old, create a balanced squad ready to face any trouble the planet can throw at you, from carnivorous plants to rushing water, and from electrical fences to snake-bird hybrids. Visually the game is very reminiscent of the original “Pikmin” with only minimal improvements to the graphics. But the game still looks great and screen transitions are extremely smooth. The only problem with the visuals, which may not even be a problem for some gamers, is the massive amounts of color on the screen. It might eventually give you headaches, but other than that, brightens the mood and enhances the style of the game. The soundtrack to the game is quirky, with a definitive children’s music feel to it, but this only enhances the game. It creates a background of fun that easily entrances the player. The sound effects also display a childlike quality, from the mechanical voice of the spaceship to the singing voices of the happy Pikmin. The controls of the game handle very well, using the c-stick for easy command of the Pikmin, while basically simplifying the game into easy to use one-button moves. Not overdoing the controls makes this game great for everyone from the most advanced gamers to people who have never played before. Another huge addition to the game is the multiplayer option. Playing solo or with a teammate is great, but going head-to-head in a Pikmin battle royal is even more intense. The GameCube doesn’t skip a beat, even with so much action on the screen at once. “Pikmin 2” is a great game with very few flaws. Its major downfalls are the fact that it is slightly repetitive, over-stimulating to the point of headaches, and childish (although a lot of people love that). This is a great buy for people who love fun games that you can get a lot of play time out of with minimal effort.

Prince of Persia: Warrior WithinThe follow-up to last year’s Game of the Year absolutely buries its predecessor in all aspects. While “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” was an amazing platformer with interesting puzzles and good combat, “Prince of Persia: Warrior Within” is foremost a fighting platformer with enough puzzles to make lovers of the first game stare in awe. After the events of the first game, the Prince is being hunted by Fate itself. To stop it, he must prevent the Sands of Time from being created by using them to travel back to the beginning of the timeline and destroy them before they were created. Confused yet? Don’t worry the game explains everything in more depth. The biggest change from the first game to this game is the darker atmosphere. The entire mood of this installment is different than the original. The game has been revamped to make all the environments and enemies scarier, more deadly and spookier, and even included boss fights, which are a new feature to the game. The game also gives a complete makeover to the Prince himself. The Prince has traded in his imperial blue robes and white pants for metal body armor and a red sash. The Prince has also added quite a few tricks to his repertoire. Most notably, he has figured out how to dual wield weapons, effectively doubling the damage in the game. He has also learned all sorts of new tricks to interact with the environment including sliding down curtains, movie style, and using pillars to propel himself at enemies. To increase the level of combat in the game, the Prince now can also perform over two pages of combat combos to ravage his enemies with. The player can also string together their own combinations or attacks to make customizable combos and fight in a 360-degree environment. But one of the key factors of the first game is still around in the second, making the game all that much better. The Prince can still control time, using it to outrun enemies and traps by slowing time down or rewinding time after a misstep on a ledge or another mistake. Developing both control over the combos and the Sands of Time is critical to the game because without wither of these, you will not survive long enough to even think about beating the game. Finally, the traps in the game are vicious enough to stop you were the enemies fail. Elaborate puzzles are used to escape them and get around large sections of traps. These puzzles involve climbing ropes, pillars, running on walls, back flipping off a wall during a free fall, and many others. The visuals in the game are stunning and can be seen in three different view modes, including first person, third person, and landscape. The cinematics are gorgeous and help further the story in a totally engrossing way. This game pushes the GameCube to the edge of its capabilities and shows what exactly the system is capable of doing. The soundtrack is also a huge part of this game, giving a great classical score during exploration and puzzles while also delivering a power driven rock score, preformed by Godsmack, during the combat sections of the game. The game has another feature that may make the game more difficult, but is a great addition to the game. The game learns from your movements and adapts to your style and plays accordingly. This makes the game extremely challenging but well worth all of effort. “Prince of Persia: Warrior Within” is an amazing game and a must buy for any fan of the action/adventure or platforming genre.

Metroid Prime 2: EchoesOn the surface, this game is aptly named, because it is basically the same game with a different story. But once you begin to play the game, you will realize it is more than just an “echo” of the original. While “Metroid Prime 2: Echoes” has many of the same properties that made the first “Metroid Prime” a hit, it is the equivalent of a remix that is just as good as the original. The basic premise of the single player game is the same. The gamer plays an intergalactic bounty hunter name Samus Aran who must use the first person perspective combat to explore and defeat the enemy. But the game is not just combat. Puzzle solving using scanners to open doors and find key codes as well as using Samus’s morph ball and grappling hook abilities to get to hard to reach areas, make this a great adventure game as well. You are stripped of all abilities at the beginning of the game and must traverse through a hostile world, finding all of your items and re-upgrading your armor. You can even upgrade your armor and weapons using technology native to the aliens and to the planets you are currently on. If you don’t upgrade, you won’t be able to beat the game. Once completely upgraded, you become an unstoppable force capable of completing the hefty tasks the game lays upon you, which of course include killing the big bad guy and saving the planet. The biggest addition of the game, which prevents it from being just a clone/remix, is the addition of multiplayer death-match and capture the flag. The game’s multiplayer allows you and up to three of your friends to fight for dominance over the level. There is nothing like fighting with your friends to be the first to get the rocket launcher and take control of a heated game. Visually, the game is exactly the same as the original “Metroid Prime,” but this isn’t a bad thing. The graphics are still topnotch and show few signs of aging at all. The GameCube has the potential to make the game even more breathtaking, but the same engine was used in this game as the first. One thing lacking in the cinematics is the lack of voiceovers for the movie clips. There isn’t a single human voice in the entire game, which makes the game seem distanced and less engaging. The audio track is very well done, establishing just the right amount of suspense and scariness to make seem almost movie like. The ambient noise and special effects noise though is where the game’s sound shines through. Overall, “Metroid Prime 2: Echoes” is a great game that is just as playable and fun as the original, but it has flaws. The lack of a good storyline and the jumbled plot take away from the action of the game, and the addition of multiplayer death-match instead of a co-operative play isn’t enough to keep this game from essentially being a clone of a former great game. While it is a great sequel, but that is all it is.

Donkey KongaEver played “Dance Dance Revolution?” Like to beat your own drum? Then try your hands at “Donkey Konga,” an interactive music drumming game. Okay, that sounded really bad. But just give it a chance. The game is probably not half as bad as you think it is. It’s actually a lot of fun when played with other people. The premise of the game is that a song is played through the television with symbols that signify when to hit the drum. The game comes with a set of double bongos that allow you to strike the left bongo, right bongo, both bongos, or clap. Then you just choose a difficulty level and play along with the song. Pretty simple, right? Wrong. There are three difficulty levels ranging from Monkey (easy) to Chimp (standard) to Gorilla (hard). The game contains songs from a wide spectrum of genres and some decent “classics.” With music from ska to pop to oldies and video game tunes, there has to be something you would enjoy on the game. But the music is one of the big problems with the game. There just isn’t enough of it, a large enough selection of good songs, or varied enough music for continual use. You can get really tired of some of the songs after playing them just once or twice. There is also a setting where you memorize the beats of a song and play them from memory. This seems like a useless section, because a lot of people won’t care enough to memorize the music to attempt it. This could definitely have been replaced with more music for the regular version of the game. The real treat in the game though is the multiplayer. You can challenge your friends (if they have another bongo set of course) to a one-on-one head to head challenge to see who the better drummer is. Even better is playing duets with a friend. In duets, you play the same song, but different beats. This makes for a frenzied, complex game sure to be full of laughs. And if you want to play a quartet, the GameCube will play as the other players, so you and your friends can compete against the system. There is nothing about the visuals that is great. Basically, it is just the rhythm pattern with colors and Donkey Kong banging on a drum. The sound is pretty good because the songs are pretty true to the original versions of the songs. Overall, the game could use a lot of work, mostly involving more and better music. Hopefully, more discs are released that are just extension discs containing more music.