By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
I confess: I was never really a big fan of the Jak and Daxter franchise for the PS2. Certainly, I liked Jak's sidekick Daxter, the fictional, genetic anomaly of an otter mixed with a weasel. But I found Jak to be too one-dimensional. In fact, I sometimes wished the series would die.
DAXTER gives the deserving, wisecracking ottsel his own platform in an intriguing, action-filled game that is one of the best this year for the PSP. With Daxter, you've got a highly detailed, Bugs Bunny-inspired creature whose every move is fun to watch and even more fun to play. Call it aggressive lunking and skulking full of lopes, scampers, and lunges.
In a way, playing is like hearing Curtis Stigers do scat. As Daxter moves through a sci-fi world rife with lurid colors and mammoth, Blade Runner-like flying objects, you're transported into futuristic but wacky environments where the ottsel must take the lowly job of pest exterminator in order to find his buddy, that boring Jak. From the beginning, the puff-chested Daxter has to use an electric flyswatter to kill bugs. Step lively; step lightly; do the Daxter dance with alacrity because there's more to come. Daxter gets his weapons upgrade quickly as the bugs become gigantic: everything from an electric fogger to a flamethrower. From the on-target camera angles to the sweet-yet-thoughtful writing, you just feel the assertive attention to detail every step of the way. If you think the game is a little slow at the beginning (you have to do a lot of crouching, walking, and running), don't sing the blues. Daxter gets a scooter to make navigating the delightfully massive world of Haven City much easier.
Call this one electric jazz on acid. I'm always a sucker for a 3D gimmick, especially when it's part of a smart game. That's the case with METAL GEAR ACID 2, one of those card-based tactical games. Don't let the 500 cards stop you from playing. The 3D mode lets you view game play and trailers for a wonderful spatial effect that will make you want to reach out and touch the virtual world of tough guy Solid Snake. You can even link the game to MGS3: Subsistence (but only after you acquire the camera option on the first disc).
Here's how ACID 2 works. The cards you draw help you move along in the game. These cards are often like power-ups and they enhance the abilities of Solid along with his varied weapons. You'll need these powers to complete the missions in the game. But don't think of this game as something like poker or bridge because it has cards. It's full of action, very good graphics, and an easy-to-use interface. Add those very engaging 3D moments, and you've got a game that's much advanced when compared to its predecessor, last year's Metal Gear Acid.
Here's the jazz fusion. With the exception of annoying load times which sometimes seem endless, MX VS. ATV UNLEASHED: ON THE EDGE is an exciting, challenging racing game. The variety here is impressive, if not staggering. You've got so many tracks and vehicles from which to choose, you feel like a kid in a candy store. Add a pulse-pounding soundtrack which features the likes of The Black Eyed Peas and Nickelback, wild vehicles like monster trucks, and physics that rival the game's console version, and you've got the recipe for hours of gritty racing enjoyment. Sure, it's tough to master your clutch and do the necessary tricks to win. The bonus is that On the Edge feels like real racing despite the arcade essence at its core. It's your turn to solo, so make it intricate; don't play with ego; and, most of all, make it swing.
Onimusha: Dawn Of Dreams
I tend to go on about the writing in games as if it's a crusade, but that's because so much is two grades below the writing in the reality TV show Average Joe. Same goes for the times they try to offer a movie-like experience. Half the time, it comes out like a F-grade Uwe Boll (Uwe himself is D grade). But Onimusha: Dawn Of Dreams is a happy exception. It's not only a superior game. It's a constantly cinematic experience with a compelling story line and a good (if not amazing) script.
First, make believe you're at the Ziegfeld. The complex and lengthy opening sequences last for over ten minutes (plus, there's time for some essential time for game play). The movies are real feasts for the eyes as the sorrow and carnage of war meet natural disasters in medieval Japan. Think legendary director Kurasawa meets all-action-all-the-time producer Jerry Bruckheimer. You think, that's gonna suck wind like a boxer who got a nasty haymaker, right? It works nearly perfectly.
The Onimusha franchise, a tight combination of adventure story, combat, and puzzle-solving, is now five years old. In this two-disc set, you're still fighting evil and demons that are hell-bent on taking over Japan in the 1500s. But there's so much that's new that seasoned players will feel the franchise is fresh. And the tutorials early on will appeal to the novice who hasn't played an Onimusha previously. In the process, you'll learn how to fight and how to parry, and you'll whack some nasty demonsincluding an ugly, easy-to-kill giant.
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