By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Amy Nicholson
By Carolina Del Busto
In Okami, you're no hack-and-slash swordsman, killing willy nilly to progress in the game. What you'll really become early on is a kind of artist of the gods. You'll meet a small god and companion called Issun, a bug who'll teach you how to employ your PlayStation 2 controller's left stick as a brush. You'll be informed that there are 13 gods of the brush, and as you move through these starry worlds, you'll become adept at using the them.
Sometimes, you'll draw a river to help you pass through a stream. At other times, you'll use the brush as a sword to kill demons in your path. I guess that's why they call the thing a Mystic Celestial Brush. Down the line, you can make a swirling motion to draw the wind, or call up lightning by making a zig zag with the controller stick. Since you have to work at it rather than simply pressing one button, you really do feel as though the elements of wind and fire are in your hands.
Unlike the Greek and Roman myths, the Japanese myths are still new and mysterious to me. As I played the game, I ate up the stories of cherry trees which are gods, and even the tale of Orochi, who has many heads like the Hydra, the multi-headed serpent so popular in Greek myth. Okami is completely rich with stories, so much so that I felt like a kid again, having fables read to me by my mother as I sat wide-eyed. As though you're under a spell, you'll feel that child-like sense of wonder throughout the 40 hours of game play.
Even a game this rich, of course, isn't perfect. You'll get a little tired of pressing the 'O' button to read the words of people, animals, and gods who want to talk to your white wolf character. Sure, it's a fact that when you read, you tend to remember more than when you hear words. Despite this, the constant button-pushing slows things down.
Some games are compelling as far as weapons and creative shooting goes. Some games have a rich story, but repetitive game play or below-par backgrounds. For the most part, Okami, has every base covereddown to the most minute detail. More importantly, Okami is a real triumph of art in gaming.
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
Developer: Traveller's Tales
As a nerdy college kid, I always enjoyed Crisis On Infinite Earths, the Marv Wolfman-penned comic book series that had DC superheroes team with Marvel superheroes. It was one of those rare crossovers that actually worked. What else other pop culture classics would would work? How about Lost meets The X Files or All In The Family meets Friends? Or how about Lego meets Star Wars? Think that wouldn't work? Think again.
While the real buzz and hype of the Star Wars phenomenon has abated somewhat (there are no more movies, after all), there will always be Star Wars fans. To satiate those who will never get enough of Skywalker and Darth Vader, are you ready for . . . some Lego? You better be because the terribly cute, story-rich LEGO STAR WARS II: THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY hit stores earlier this week.
Hot on the heels of the mammoth success of Lego Star Wars which dealt with George Lucas's prequel films, The Original Trilogy doesn't stray from the formula which made the first offering so charming. That formula includes non-speaking, blocky characters which fight their way through the Star Wars universe like real warriors. Why does it work? You just don't expect sweet, little Lego dolls to have the bravery, the courage, the unflinching focus that comes with having "The Force" within you.
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.
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