Yet the characters put on faces of grim determination and fight for the frontiers of outer space in fine sci-fi style. And for little blocky figures, they sure do have a lot of moves, weapons and ways to fight. Here's the deal. You've got three stories, one for each of the first three Star Wars movies. Each story has six stages which faithfully follow and sometimes enhance the films' stories. Follow these stages through to conclusion once and you'll unlock new characters which will allow you to replay the game in Free Mode (playing the stage with any character you choose). There are a wide variety of Star Wars ships to pilot, too, making you the captain of your space-filled domain. But there's more, too. You can create your own Lego Star Wars character using, say, the head of Yoda and the body of Vader. The delight and humor you'll find in simply trading body parts in and out is one of the prime reasons to play the game.

There are a few caveats, however. Going through the game the first time is pretty quick. Also, it's fairly easy: your Lego never really dies. Also, if you're thinking of buying the Xbox 360 version for an extra $10, think twice. While you'll be able to get marginally better graphics and download some cool stuff via broadband, there is no online play.

However, the console games, including the 360 version, are all tons of fun. And the handheld games offer their own particular cachet as well. The PSP version lets you play the hardest levels from Lego Star Wars I and does sport the PSP's wireless coop mode. Even the Gameboy Advance version lets you play as 36 different characters with graphics that are pretty darn excellent.

Welcome to the apocalypse, Nippon-style
image: Courtesy of Capcom
Welcome to the apocalypse, Nippon-style

Details

Okami
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Clover Studio Format: PlayStation 2
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    So what do the game developers do now that they've finished the Stars Wars stories? Reportedly, they're going to do a Lego Batman video game. The story of Batman and Bruce Wayne is a dark and mysterious one, darker than Star Wars. So that's a true challenge. But I can't wait to see what they do with those crazy, seminal comic book villains, The Penguin and The Joker.

    LocoRoco
    Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
    Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment

    Remember that over the top fat suit Gwyneth Paltrow wore in Shallow Hal? The excess of rubberized adipose made her appear onscreen as a mountain of a woman who, if she fell, looked like she could bounce high as a Superball. The thing about the suit was that, sure, it was gross, but it was also kind of adorable (there was heart and soul in them thar hills). The fat suit reminded me of these in-game globules that look like they're wearing a fat suit after they gorge themselves.

    Called LOCOROCO, the globule-filled game is a much-touted, highly anticipated offering. More often than not, a game doesn't live up to the hype that precedes its release. Look at The Matrix (a real money pit) or even last year's disappointing Madden 06. That's not the case with a small game called LocoRoco for Sony's PSP. The hype began with drooling bloggers almost a year ago. Phrases like "sleeper hit" were bandied about constantly. Early game art looked a little like the Nintendo DS' Mario games in their simplicity. LocoRoco" graphics were intentionally childish, reminding me of one of the greatest games ever for the old PlayStation, the rhythm-based Parappa The Rapper with its first grader-like cutout 2D figures.

    So what is LocoRoco? First off, it's a simple cartoon-like game. You press the right and left buttons at the top of your PSP to play the game. With the occasional pressing of the 'O' button, that's all you need to play LocoRoco. Believe me, kids won't be able to get enough of it. Adults won't be able to put it down, either.

    I know that's a grand statement, especially since I usually don't rave about games, even the ones I really like. But the allure for LocoRoco is manifold. LocoRoco are cute, bulbous, smiley creatures that sing ultra-catchy pop songs. They shake when they move like the element mercury. They're so adorable, you want to hug them—even if you're not predisposed to such emotion. They're also so cute you don't want to see them die, which is why you keep playing: to get them safely to the end of each level without perishing.

    None of this would be worth a plug nickel if the game play weren't so intensely compelling and challenging. Immediately in the first level, you're placed into a strange world full of twists and turns, mountains and hills and moons and suns. You've got to move your LocoRoco up and down these crazy paths. This becomes increasingly difficult because the LocoRoco needs to feed and gets fatter and fatter. To try to get your portly creature up a big hill, you'll find yourself turning and twisting the PSP as if it had a gyroscope inside. But it has no such machine. You just have to be supremely accurate with your pressing of the buttons.

    Hills aren't the only danger in LocoRoco. If he runs into prickly plants or evil inkblot spiders called mojas, he'll come apart like Humpty Dumpty into many tiny LocoRoco. That's when you press the 'O' button, to put Humpty Dumpty, er, LocoRoco back together again. You quest is to find all the LocoRoco in each level, which isn't easy because they're hidden in caves, grottoes or even underneath the ground.

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