Imagine A Good Game

13 07 2008

Imagine - It'll Be a Lot More Fun Than Playing These Games...

The Imagine brand has become as synonymous with shovelware as adding a Z onto the end of a game or slapping Training to some mundane task. We all recognise these games as utter tat, but very few of us have actually played them. For all we know they may (and I use that word in the loosest term) be worthwhile. So an hour sat down and six games later I have experienced the Imagine series in all it’s glory and can now share all my experiences with you lucky folks.

Musics Never Been This Bad

Imagine Rock Star: Musics Never Been This Bad

I decided to start my adventure with Imagine Rock Star. The ryhthm game focus ment I had a chance of this being a proper game and I didn’t want my dreams shattered from the word go. The fancy photograph based boxart told me nothing about the game so I was going in blind. Immediately I was presented with garish sounds and several shades of pin that should be banned. Luckily there was an option to turn the sound off, which is perhaps the most sensivle part of this rhytmn game. The game offers four different instruments, Lead, Base, Keyboard and Drums, giving me vague hope of an actual game. This was soon to be shattered though… The top screen displayed my dodgy character and compressed font while the bottom screen showed my instrument of choice. Base consists of sliding up one of three different coloured bars you have to slide your stylus up over as the corrisponding colour reached the marker on the bar above. Base was pretty much the same only with a different background and sliding left and right instead of up. Keybord and drums bisically consist of tapping a part of the instrument at the right time. The siding mechanic works badly, with notes being missed completely even though yuve played them, or being played out of sync. However, this wasnt too much of an issue as it soon became apparent that it doesn’t matter if you play the notes or not as it dosen’t actually affect the song in any way. The music istelf seems to be some garish midi that has been hammered together by a two year old using ‘My First Keyboard’, and had me quickly reaching for the volume bar. Also, the in game notes to hit don’t really match up with the attempt at music, making the experience even worse. Unfortunatey I had to subject myself to several more songs and things didn’t get any better. Therefore I quickly retired and gave my ears a rest. Things weren’t looking good for the series…

Please Like Me, You Know You Want To

Please Like Me, You Know You Want To

It’s at this point I decided to get the bad out of the way, so things will only look up. Therefore the next title was Imagine Babyz, featuring two of the shovelware traits. The box once again shoed nothing of the game, only some evil babies string into my soul. Anyway, the sooned I started ment the sooner it would be over so on with the show. The first thing I noticed with the game is that the screens dark, very dark, as in can’t see it on a regular DS dark… More garish music and graphics enused. Imagine Babyz is in its essence, a collection of poorly made mini-games strung together with a vage storyline about looking after babys. Two of my favourite games was the rattle game, where you shake a rattle for 30 seconds and the cow game, where you have to play moo’s in the right order. The problem with this game though is that the moo’s are very similar and the game dosent tell you which direction to shake for which moo. On top of this, it was rather glitchy and would play different moos than it was ment to. Playing random mini-games enough will eventually progress the story slightly, where you unlock another terrible mini game to endure. On the plus side though, the character models were slightly better than Rock Star.

Stroke Animals In Special Places To Make The Better

Stroke Animals In Special Places To Make The Better

Next up was Imagine Animal Doctor, which I hoped would be more than the monotonus mini-games of Babyz. I was wrong… Once again bad character models and music ruled the day, with my character slowly moving through the surgeory, gliding over the floor. Luckily, you don’t have to walk far, as tapping a button will instantly warp you to where you have to go. After a lot of non-playing I finally got to meet my first, a cat called ladybug. Diagnosis consits of a random selection of mini-games. Some of the best I encountered was scales where you have to tap a button to weigh the cat and Ultrasound, where, in the games own words, you “move the stylus around the screen” None of the games were very responsive and weren’t very fun either. Between mini-games you have to stroke your animals better while you wait for the game to decide that your bored enough to play a new mini-game. The mini-games are better than Babyz, but still pretty dire, and as before, after 5 minutes, you’ve seen everything you want to.

Pamper Disembodied Heads

Pamper Disembodied Heads

I had reached the half-way point so things could only better now, as I entered Imagine Fashion Designer. Once again the usual garish music and charater models welcomed me into this “game”. I use the word game in the loosest terms as it’s hard to call it that. At the start of each level you get a briefing on what the client wants, and then tells you exactly what you need to do in order to achieve that. You then get to actually select the options, but don’t worry if you make a mistake, your fashion carrer won’t be over. Instead the game tells you whats wrong and you select again. And thats it, all the game, just selecting what the text says. To be fair, you can play with the selections in your own time, but this is limited and rather dull, as rather than making your own ranges, you pick one of theirs and slap it on some sort of outfit.

Lightning Is The Number One Cause Of Death For Figure Skaters

Lightning Is The Number One Cause Of Death For Figure Skaters

I was in luck, as thins were abot to get ever so slightly better with Imagine Figure Skating. Unfortunately though, not much better. The garish music is there, but the graphics are ok for most of the game. Rather than 3d models you have quite nice hand drawn characters, who stand around static backgrounds waffling on about skating. However, the bareable visuals are complimentd with terrible voice acting, which hurt my ears. The actual gameplay itself is made of 3d models, with the aim of the game is to trace random shapes with your stylus to perform tricks several seconds later. Different tricks means idfferent shapes, but apart from that theres no variety. Still, it works in a very basic form and it better than the rest, but still not quite good enough to be verging on ok.

Imagine A Kitchen... Or Go Downstairs..

Imagine A Kitchen... Or Go Downstairs..

I had saved the best till last. Research told me that Imagine Master Chef wasn’t actually made by Ubi, but was instead a Japanese Cooking Mama clone, that had been translated and had the Imagine title slapped on. This ment it may actualy be a enjoyable game and that it wouldn’t folow the paterns of its sisters. Indeed it looked hopeful, the cartoony graphics are very similar to tha of Cooking Mama and the music is bareable. The game itself is enjoyable (in it’s loosest term) too. It plays just like Cooking Mama where you have a short mini-game in order to prepare a step of the recipie, such as Chop!, Boil! or Wash!. However, unlike Cooking Mama, there’s no time limits so the arcade feel is missing. Despite this though, it does a half decent job of replicating the games merits and if I had to, I could quite happily play the game through.

In conclusion, the Imagine series lives up to its Shovelware branding, with garish audio and visuals complimented by unplayable mini-game compilations. These games shouldn’t be alowed to be sold, and I feel very bad for anyone whos brought these monstrocities. Having said that though, one of the games manages to pull everything off (admitedly the one Ubisoft didn’t make), so there is some hope yet. Thathope dosen’t extend to the eight new Imagine titles being released this Autumn though, which i’m sure will torment many many more people with its promises. All I can say is listen to the title and Imagine, as it’s bound to be more fun than playing these games.

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Microsoft & Sony – “Wii Want In On The Action”

25 05 2008

News

Darwin

First of all I want to apologise for the terrible pun in the title. I would love to say it won’t happen again, but if I do then it almost definately will.

Let me introduce you to Darwin, one of the gaming industries worst kept secrets. Rumours have been flying around about an XboxWii60 product and now we finally have a few details on the Wiimote wannabe. Darwins being delevoped not only for Xbox 360, but also for Playstation 3 and PC. As you can see from the screenshot above, its very…. familiar to another controller I know.

Safety Strap? Check! Big A button? Check! Trigger On The Back? Check! Four Lights To Show Player? Check! Motion Sensors? Check! Half A Controller In Each Hand? Check! Yes it really could pass as a third party wiimote redesign.

To be fair, there are a few differences between the Wiimote and the Darwin. The Darwin has an extra trigger button on its back for added control, but lacks the 1 and 2 button. To be fair these aren’t used in most Wii games, but were useful for lesser used features such as menu and camera features. Also, the Darwin lacks a speaker. I know the speaker is a marmite functionality for gamers, but most people like it and it does have its uses, such as issueing player specific commands and adding depth to the sound. To be fair, the above points aren’t massive differences, as not all Wii games utilise the Wiimotes unique features and I can see some merit in adding another trigger button. Afterall, both trigger buttons on the Nunchuck are normally used.

There are some rather large differences between the Wiimote and Darwin as well. One of these main differences is that Darwin lacks IR. This means that all pointing capabilities are handed by the gyroscope. This means no need for a sensor bar, but i’m worried this may mean less control. The lack of IR means your not restricted to pointing within a box, which can be useful as theres been several times when I have had to point further up than I thought. However, it also means that you haven’t got a central point to aim at, thus reducing accuracy. Also, if you’ve ever tried using the gyroscope to control the pointer (which I have), you’ll find it can be very sticky to control. Still, if they can pull it off, Kudos to them.

Also, Darwin has a strange Duel Baton system. As you can see in the image above, the main form of Dawin is basically two Wiimotes gaffa taped together. If you try and hold two Wiimotes in this position, you’ll see how uncomfortable this is. It’s also incredibly restrictive and thus is rather useless. The Wiimote benefited from its small size and agileness, so why take this away? Dawin can also cut in half and used Nunchuck style, which looks alot more comfortable, and pretty much just like the Wiimote & Nunchuck combo, only larger. Finally it can also be used split in half for 2 player, which is a rather smart idea actually, apart from the fact that one poor sod is going to have to play their game with a D-Pad and not an analogue stick.

As you can probably tell, i’m not particularly wowed by this blatant copy of the Wiimote and can’t really see it making a dent in Nintendo’s sales. Firstly the thing costs a lot ($80) and thus is going to turn away gamers. Also, it’s an optional add on midway through the consoles life. You don’t NEED these controls, they are just stuck on for good measure, unlike the Wii thats been built with motion ground up. Also, Xbox360 and PS3 owners that really want motion control probably already own a Wii. On the plus side, if more developers are working with motion control from the ground up, it may mean we get better ports on the Wii, but this all depends on how much the developers utilise it.

There is a market out there for this, but I don’t think its going to be a massive, revolutionising market, and with only a few games a year utilising the technology, its going to be too much of an investment for most. Still, only time will tell…





Wii Fit – The First 30 mins.

19 05 2008

Preview

Boxart

It’s finally arrived! Wii Fit is here and here to stay. I’ve delved in with my first 30 minute workout and am so far enjoying it.

It started out with a jump (not a real jump, the game discourages it) onto the WiiBB to measure my weight and balance. Apparently my balance is ever so slightly to the left (which is a miracle since I can’t even stand up most days) and my weight is… well its quite discouraging to see the game make your Mii chubbier and chubbier.

After this it was time for some balance practice. This involved distributing my weight so your distribution falls within a certain percentage boundary for 3 seconds. It starts off simple, but with only 30 seconds to do five, and the boundaries getting smaller and smaller, it becomes a bit more difficult.

Finally, it was time to dive into the main area of Wii Fit, the games. First up was deep breathing exercises, instructed by a friendly trainer. This was, as it sounds, mainly breathing, but a nice and easy way to get into the game. Next up was the football. This consists of heading balls while avoiding obstacles.  This was pretty fun once I moved far enough away from the wall to lean right. Next up was a ball maze, where you need to tilt a board in order to roll balls into the holes. This is hard (and I mean HARD), as the WiiBB is so sensitive to your movements and its not long before your balls are crashing off the board.

After a few fun and games it was time to look at the real exercise. I tried a yoga pose called The Warrior, which consists of stretching your thigh muscles, and the other involved leaning from side to side. I was meant to hold my arms above my head to do this, but unfortunately due to my height, this wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Afterwards was time for some real workouts. This consisted of push ups and twists, which definitely worked up a sweat.  The personal trainers always friendly and takes you through the exercises step by step so it never feels like too much of a blagh experience.

Next up was the aerobics section. First up was the step exercises, which basically consists of stepping on and off the WiiBB. As simple as it sounds, its actually quite fun and relaxing. Also in the aerobics section was jogging, which is basically… jogging. You run up and down on the spot as your Mii jogs around the beautiful Wiffity Isle. The scenery’s relaxing, but the exercise isn’t. I could really feel it in my legs.

Finally, I finished off with a few more balance games. Ski Slalom saw me shifting my balance to Ski down the mountain through the check points. This works pretty well and i’m looking forward to Family Ski’s expansion on the area. I also played a quick game of Tight Rope. This sees you putting one foot in front of the other to walk across a roe without falling. This was very hard as I always kept on wobbling from side to side. Still, it was pretty fun.

30 minutes passed and i’m exhausted. The games fun so far and i’m sure i’ll be playing for days more to come. I will be doing another impressions post in a month or so to see if my impressions have changed.





Mario Kart Wii Preview

7 04 2008

Preview

Last Friday was Nintendo and Game’s Mario Kart Grand Wii event, offering players a chance to play the game a week before release and compete to win a one off Mario Kart themed car. Myself and a few friends went to the GAME in Nottingham to get an sneak peak of whats to come.

The day offered 4 player races on the Luigi Circuit track from the new game using a Wii wheel.

Firstly, I have to say the Wii Wheel is brilliant! They’ve got the controls spot on here. The controllers responsive, but not too sensitive that your constantly re-balancing yourself. Theres a reasonable dead zone in the center allowing you to easily travel straight while small turns let you weave in and out with larger turns allowing you to tightly maneuver corners. The game offers both manual and automatic power sliding for corners. In automatic, you simply turn the wheel pretty much 90 degrees in the direction you want to slide to activate it, while in manual, the slide and hop are activated by a combination of the 1 and 2 buttons. As for the other controls, 2 acts as acceleration, 1 is your brake and B fires any items you currently hold. A oes something but I can’t remember what as I never touched it. The wheel itself feels… well very wheely. It feels quite a substantial piece of kit even in my large hands, but is still incredibly easy to reach all the buttons. The B button has been brought closer to the edge of the wheel allowing easier access to your weapons. the wheel is lso pretty comfortable to hold, and being round it means that you can get a good grip an holding position however big your hands are. Basicly, it makes this fantastic game even better so well done Nintendo!

Now then, onto the actual game. I managed to play 5 or so races during the day and played as Yoshi and DK. The Luigi Circuit track we played was similar to that of the gamecube and DS, offering straights with two large bends with boosts around the outside, but this time the track doesn’t double back on itself.

Wanting to try the new features I used the bikes, which offer a new mechanic to the game, wheelies. When pulling off a wheelie you gain a small boost, but at the expense of any forms of control. This can make it hard to take a corner if you wheelie too long and also leaves you wide open to weapon attacks, but can sneek you ahead if used wisely. When combined with slipstreaming it can become quite a formidable tactic. I also found that the bikes could skim round the insides of a bend pretty well, but suffered from the lack of a proper power slide, which is now exclusive to the Karts. This makes them ideal for the large earlier courses filled with large bends and straights, but I think they may suffer in the later, bendier courses. Still it was great fun to try them out and will offer a new level of stratergy.

As with every new Mario Kart comes a range of new weapons. This game brings back many of the classic weapons such as shells, bananas, mushrooms and stars as well as the blooper and bullet bill from Mario Kart DS. New items include a mega mushroom, which doubles your size, squashing any opponents in the way, a pow block that spirals everyone out of control who do not hop at the right time and a thunder cloud, which acts as a single person thunder bolt which activates about 10-20 seconds, but can be transferred by bumping into another player. These new items seem to work well, apart from the POW block which affected everyone, everytime. This may have just been because none of us knew how to hop though.

To sum up, you need to buy this game. From what I played its as fantastic as any other Mario Kart, and with the promise of 12 player online, 32 tracks and a few subtle hints at a mission mode, its a must have. I cannot wait to try this out properly on Friday and will be posting up a proper review soon.