'Apocalypse Now' Creator Makes War; Tiny Baseball
The most salient thing you need to know about the latest version of MEDAL OF HONOR EUROPEAN ASSAULT is that John Milius, the potent writer of Apocalypse Now, one of the best films of all time, worked on the game. Milius told me recently that games still aren't as good as movies when it comes to story. Which you often sadly realize deep down, when you're taking stock of the time you waste so blandly/pleasantly while you're being entertained. Yet it takes balls for someone associated with a game company even to utter such wondrous blasphemy. And it takes balls to play this game. You're under fire from the beginning, but what makes, say, the campaign in St. Nazaire more than strategic shoot-the-Nazi is this: an old, soul-searching vet reflects on the war as original, imposing black-and-white battle footage becomes part of the beginning of each mission. Also, there are the constant sounds of battle in your face and the visages of fear evident in your fellow soldiers. Sure, the game's been slammed for being too short. It's hard to say it's quality battle time, since war is hell, but you travel all around the world as you battle, and, hey, you don't want too live in a war zone for too long, even virtually.
You can whack me on the head next time you see me for cliché-speak, but looks can be deceiving. MVP BASEBALL looks almost as great as a PS2 game. And there's a ton of good audio sportscaster banter, if I ignore one guy constantly calling me "Meat" when I strike out. And the instant replays look like someone in the booth edited them. Still, there are two things that keep MVP Baseball from becoming a really good game. The viewing angle of the ball is only right when I choose the option that lets me watch the pitch from behind the pitcher. In that scenario, the ball is tiny as the tip of a pencil, and the area in which I'm supposed to pitch is about the size of a pea. So maybe Tinkerbell, the fairy, and GI Joe, the doll, is the demographic to which this is targeted. But it ain't me.
Kirby's Canvas Curse
For: Nintendo DS
I keep hearing young parents, faces scrunched and cooing, telling their kids that food is "delicious." It's a cloying ploy and kids should rebel. Yet in KIRBY'S CANVAS CURSE, the new Kirby, that ever-rolling ball of caffeinated wonder with the Charlie Brown smile, is actually delicious in its creativity. On the DS' touch screen, you draw lines with the DS stylus that make rainbows, rainbows that not only glow but protect Kirby from attack, rainbows that take Kirby into flight and even let him loop-the-loop if need be. In a way, each level is like the final chapter in D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow, except the revelation of bondage is more visceral than cerebral. But the adventure is somewhat literary nonetheless.
For: Nintendo GBA
Nintendo has created a mini-franchise with WarioWare, the blink-quick avalanche of mini games that take three seconds each to play and become increasingly difficult as you go along. The twist in WARIOWARE: TWISTED is a motion sensor in the cartridge. Tilt, rock, and twist the GBA instead of pressing controls. The upside is it's more formidable to play than just mashing buttons. The downside is you'll probably whack someone accidentally when you play in the subway or on the bus. It took me some time to get a hang of how to, say, shave a man's face in three seconds with the motion detector, and I'm not sure the motion detector works that well all of the time. Twisted is not a life altering game. Instead, it's a commendable, if slightly flawed, addition to the WarioWare library.
For: Sprint PCS
The LG MM-535 has a biggish two-inch screen that is more than adequate for cell phone games. Yet the makers of PAC-MAN PINBALL still saw fit to break up the screen into a top and a bottom. The silver ball flows down from the top section; there is an unsettling screen flicker and then you see the bottom part of the playfield where the ball often drains due to the two screens. That's the way PC pinball games worked back in the day. It sucked then and it sucks now. Yet the game is rife with challenges, including a slot machine aspect. If you're a pinball fan, it's an addicting time killer, but that split screen makes about as much sense as sawing Paris Hilton in half to try to get her to two simultaneous parties.
Beach Mini Golf
For: Sprint PCS
Publisher: Digital Chocolate
If you're looking for cutsie windmills or Mimi from the Coney Island Mermaid Parade as some sort of beach candy, BEACH MINI GOLF, thankfully, ain't it. Instead, it's a vexing challenge with some maze-like holes giving you (phew!) 10 strokes to make par. Sure, the aiming function is a little off and the psychics feel like an alien made them for Enceladus, but those things make Beach Mini Golf winsomely wilder and wackier.
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