December 25, 2008

Disney's Bolt Review - Xbox 360

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to see Bolt in various stages of its development and with each stage I became increasingly more excited to play the final product. The improvements and tweaks the developers put into the game at each stage have really pulled the game together to make it a fun and enjoyable title for all ages.

Though the games graphics are not taken directly from the motion picture the graphics are similar in style and look. Fans of the film will be drawn to their favourite Bolt characters. Bolt himself is ever the adorable puppy running across the screen and fighting the bad guys. Some people may want to grab a ball and jump on screen to play a game of fetch with the pooch.

The voices, sounds and music throughout Bolt create a great atmosphere for an action super-hero game. Unfortunately, John Travolta and Miley Cyrus do not reprise their roles as the voices of Bolt and Penny respectively. In fact, Bolt doesn’t talk at all throughout the game and his dialogue is contained to growls and barks. The voice actress who does play Penny though does an excellent job of re-creating the voice of Penny, right down to the well know Miley Cyrus accent. Malcolm McDowell reprises his role from the big screen to the video game as the villain Calico. Lets not forget Rhino, the loveable hamster from the motion picture plays a bit part appearing during the games pause menu and makes comical comments as if he is watching your gameplay as an actual showing of the television program.

In the past, many video game tie-ins have been near carbon copies of the movie’s storyline. However, the trend now is to build on the story and expand it even further. This is the direction the game has taken, with the players working their way through TV episodes as Penny (Bolt’s TV Owner) and Bolt. The story is about a super power endowed dog named Bolt and his owner Penny who you will soon see has some skills of her own. Penny’s father, a world renowned scientist has been captured by the evil Calico and his shadow organization. It is up to Penny and Bolt to rescue Penny’s father from the clutches of evil and save the world from destruction.

Each character has their own unique abilities, which gives an added variety to the gameplay. Penny is a technological whiz and comes equipped with a motorized Wheel-Bar which allows her to slide along ledges, pipes, ceilings and cables. The Wheel-Bar also duos as a weapon which Penny can use to perform sneak attacks to knock guards unconscious or to quickly attack an alert henchman. The other gadgets at Penny’s disposal are Techno Camo allowing her to become invisible for a short time to avoid detection, gas grenades to slide towards unaware guards to put them to sleep and night vision goggles that give you hints to where you should progress to next. Penny is quite the computer hacker uses this skill to open doors and hack databases. Hacking is accomplished by successfully completing a virtual shooter mini-game where you shoot down Counter Intrusion programs which look like little pods. As you destroy all the enemies you progress through barriers and eventually open up an access point which will either send you to the next portion of the mini-game or it will complete the hack and you resume control of Penny.

Bolt on the other hand is one ferocious canine using his super-dog powers adeptly to take down his enemies with a variety of offensive manoeuvres. Bolt at a basic level pounces from enemy to enemy linking his weak and strong attacks into combos, or he uses his powerful jaws to grab onto an enemy and perform one of his four finishing moves. Bolt also has four super-dog powers that are Ground Pound, Sonic Super Bark, Laser Vision and Invulnerability. Ground pound is where Bolt jumps into the air and pounds down on the ground launching all nearby enemies backwards and if the enemies are unlucky into explosive barrels, vehicles or boxes scattered throughout the environment. Sonic Super Bark when used against an enemy will damage them a bit, but more important will stun them for a few seconds so that Bolt can get some attacks in while their distracted. Using this power will help you break down the strong defences of some of Calico’s henchmen. Laser Vision is the last offensive power that Bolt has at his disposal and is his most powerful of powers. The drawback though is that it is difficult to aim from a distantance and is best used when up close to your enemy. Bolt’s Invulnerability shield power is very useful when you are being run down by an SUV, or you have one of the explosive discs that Disky attacks with attached to Bolt. To avoid being damaged just use your invulnerability shield, but beware it does drain on Bolt’s energy reserves.

All of Bolt’s super powers can be made Uber by building up Bolts combo meter and increasing his energy. To build up your combo meter you have to link as many attacks in a row as you can, the higher the attack combo the more the combo meter increases. When the combo meter is full, unleash your Uber Super Powers for devastating and awesome attacks.

As you play through the storyline you will alternate between the two characters where the goals needed to be achieved are tailored towards the specific characters. Areas where stealth, problem solving and technology is needed you will play through as Penny. In contrast where brute power and combat is needed you will play through as Bolt. Throughout storyline play you will be able to collect health and energy fills during each mission. Every nine fills you collect will replenish your health or energy as well as increase the maximum amount of energy slightly.

The basic gameplay is quick and easy to learn and will seem a bit easy at first, but as you progress through the game the difficulty is raised higher. Veteran gamers will find the gameplay quite easy, but it will definitely provide a challenge for the younger gamers the title is geared to. Being a huge animation fan I really enjoyed Bolt, and my two year old son really enjoyed watching Bolt in action as I played through.

The great thing about Bolt is that you don’t have to watch the movie to enjoy the game and it won’t ruin the movie for those of you who have not yet seen it. Bolt is a solid family title that I really enjoyed. Though it is geared towards a younger audience it still maintained my attention throughout and kept me wanting to play it through to the end

December 19, 2008

Banjo Kazooie: XBLA Code Contest

Howdy folks,

I have a Xbox Live Download Code available and have decided to have a random draw for the game. All you have to do is e-mail me your Gamertag to enter. Beware though, I will probably add your tag to my friends list if you're not already on there.

Good luck. The contest will close on Christmas Day at Midnight (EST) and the winner will be sent their code on Boxing Day.

December 18, 2008

Rare Contest To Reward Top Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts Creations With In-game Immortality

Toronto, ON – Attention builders, racers, pilots and boat captains! One month after its worldwide release, “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts” has flown, driven and sailed off store shelves and the response from the fan community has been overwhelming. Every day, the “Banjo-Kazooie” Showroom is flooded with new screenshots and blueprints of fan’s custom creations, so today Rare announced a contest to recognize the top seven user generated contraptions created in “Banjo- Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.”

Key members of the “Banjo” development team will be pouring over the in-game photos uploaded to the web in a quest to track down the seven very best player-built contraptions. The reward? In-game immortality. The seven winners will experience bragging rights galore when their designs are integrated into the game for other “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts” players to experience.

Additional details around the contest can be found on the official Web site at

Once the team has made its selections, the contraptions’ creators will be contacted via their Gamertags and asked to send Rare their blueprints.

Contest Details:
• To upload a screenshot of your creation to the official contest Web site:
o Press Start to access the Pause menu, select Photos and Replays, and then select Take Photo. Use the left and right sticks to position the camera, and then press A to take the picture. (Photo mode is available during single-player games or while watching replays.)
o Select Photos and Replays from the main menu in “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts”
o Select Open Photo Album, then My Photos
o Highlight a photo you wish to upload and press the Y button to upload it to
• The deadline for entries is Jan. 5, 2009, 3 a.m. EST. This gives players the whole holiday to be creative
• Anyone with a copy of “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts” and an Xbox LIVE account can enter.
• Participants can enter as many contraptions and submit as many photos as they’d like; just remember that the cream always rises to the top
• Be creative! The Rare Judges are hard to impress and the creations that have already been posted to the web are outstanding, so competition is sure to be fierce
• Be careful! Contraptions that infringe on copyrighted material cannot be considered in this contest

The exact specifics of the reward will be shared in due time, so contestants should get busy, get creative, and get building!

(Article courtesy of Microsoft)

December 9, 2008

You're in the Movies

I wasn’t sure what to expect from You’re In the Movies for the Xbox 360 when I first saw it at X08 in Toronto this year. It seemed a bit odd to be watching people flailing their arms around, running on the spot or turning their head and coughing. It garnered quite a few chuckles from people passing by as they watched people try out this new and upcoming game to the Xbox 360 line-up.

Setting up the game is simple: plug in your camera, load the game and follow the instructions to set up your room as your own personal movie studio. Be prepared to bring in some extra lighting if the lighting in your room isn’t balanced. Lighting will play a big factor in how well the camera performs. You will also need a fair amount of open space to get the full range of motions.

To play the game simply select the movie script you would like to act out. Each movie can be played solo, or up to four players where each of you, choose the role you would like to act out. The actions for the final cut are taken from mini games and a series of director cues and instructions. These cues will range anywhere from actions you need to replicate, emotions and expressions you need to perform or basic walking and running on the spot. You get a star ranking at the end of each round to see how you match up with your fellow actors. Once all the required footage is gathered, the scenes you have acted out get edited into a movie trailer for your viewing pleasure.

The use of the Xbox Live Vision Camera in You’re In the Movies literally gets you into the game. The mini games are enjoyable and the cues from the director are fun to act out and often pretty hilarious depending on the actors you have on hand. This is a good family title that will encourage your kids to express their dramatic selves and put their acting skills to the test. Don’t worry if you don’t already have a vision cam you can purchase it bundled with the game.

December 5, 2008

New Lips Content for the Holidays

“Lips” and Xbox 360 Downloadable Content Brings Holiday Carols and Cheer Right to Your Living Room

Classic Holiday Songs and Premium Custom Videos Now Available For “Lips”

Toronto, ON – December 5, 2008 – “Lips,” the new singing party game exclusively for the Xbox 360 from iNiS Corp., today announced its lineup of Holiday tunes fit for singing and celebrating with friends and family, available around the globe.

Each song comes with a unique custom Holiday video to really bring out the spirit of the season. Additionally, you can download the Holiday custom videos for free from Xbox LIVE Marketplace and use them when singing to Holiday music from your own collection. Pricing starts at 160 Microsoft points.

Global Holiday Songs; Available December 5
Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley
The Dreidel Song - Sister Hazel
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Andy Williams

Global Holiday Songs: Available December 12
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - Gene Autry
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
A Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) - Nat King Cole
Santa Baby - Kylie Minogue
White Christmas - Bing Crosby
Hanukkah Blessings - Barenaked Ladies

(Article courtesy of Microsoft)

December 3, 2008

Banjo Kazooie: XBLA

The classic title Banjo Kazooie, originally released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64 is now available for download on Xbox Live Arcade. The game has received a huge face lift and now can be played in 1080p HD goodness. When I think of some of my favourite N64 games growing up, Banjo Kazooie is a title that is in my top five easily. For only 1200 Microsoft Points you’re getting quite the steal, as the game will provide hours of fun as you battle Gruntilda with hilarious duo.

This is a game that you will be able to play yourself as your children watch, or a game they can easily pick up and more than likely be a bit more successful at it than their parents. Banjo Kazooie has a great story, great comic relief and features Stop N Swop. Stop N’ Swop was a feature that was attempted during the original releases of Banjo Kazooie, and Banjo Twooie but had to be scrapped to complete production. Stop N Swop opens up extra content and features within Banjo Kazooie titles as you accomplish feats in Banjo Kazooie, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and more than likely in Banjo Twooie when it is released to XBLA as well.

I could go on and on about this game as it is one of my all time favourites. What I suggest is that you download the free trial and try out this classic favourite for yourself and download it when you love it.

Banjo Kazooie

December 1, 2008

Scene It? Box Office Smash

I was first introduced to Scene It? Box Office Smash at a Xbox Casual Gaming night in November where I faced off against other gamers from the media and Xbox Community. It took me a little bit to get used to how each category worked, but I slowly made a come back to overtake first place. In the end though I lost my comeback steam and fell in the rankings and had to settle for a dismal second place. Even with my last minute loss I had so much fun that I rushed out to get my own copy so that I could practice and compete against my friends and family.

The beauty of Scene It? is how easy it is to pick up and play. The four controllers that come packaged with Scene It? are easy for new gamers to pick up the game and experienced gamers will adjust just as quick.. The controllers have been designed with ease in mind and have large round button on top that acts as your buzzer and four buttons below that correspond to the answers on screen. If you can push buttons, you can play Scene It?

Being a movie buff I really looked forward to taking on all challengers, but I quickly learned you don’t have to be a huge movie buff to be competitive. There are 20 puzzle types to play through and even though they are movie themed the puzzles can be solved from a casual movie watcher. The puzzles are as simple as solving anagrams & pictograms or as difficult as figuring out a movie from its credits or movie poster. You don’t have to worry about knowing every single movie there is because the trivia content covers the years with classic black and white movies to present day selections. With the New Xbox Experience launched it was a pleasure being able to use my Xbox Avatar within Scene It?. This is an additional feature that just adds on to a great party game that can be played with family and friends.

When I was growing up we had many movie nights and they became the rare occasion when the whole family got together to spend some time with each other. Scene It? will provide a new alternative to your normal family fun nights. Movies, trivia and a competitive spirit is almost guaranteed to give your family & friends an enjoyable, pleasant night of laughter and memories.

High School Musical 3

Highschool Musical 3 Senior Year Dance! (HSM3) is the game your younger teens are going to be asking for this holiday season. Being a closet High School Musical fan I was eager to play the dance pad version of the game for the Xbox 360. HSM3 for the PS2 is also compatible with a dance pad where the Wii version of HSM3 is focused on performing dance motions using the Wiimote and Nunchuk. So you will need to keep the control systems in mind when you are deciding on what version to purchase for your children.

The content in HSM3 is not only from the newest movie but totals 29 songs from all three High School Musical movies. The playable characters from the movies include Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, Ryan, Chad and Taylor or you can create your own Wildcat if you prefer. Each of the characters in HSM3 made the transition from the big screen to be transformed into graphical representations. At first I thought it was odd that they didn’t use the song segments from the movies to dance along to until I realized the developers made this decision so your created Wildcat could be placed into the songs. This is a great option for your kids to get them involved in creating their own dancer so they can take part in their favourite songs.

As previously mentioned the control system for the Xbox 360 version is your dance pad. The game includes a very thorough tutorial mode where you will follow Ryan’s instructions to learn the basics you need to dance along with your favourite High School Musical songs. While dancing you will follow the circular dance queues direction from the center of the dance ring to know which way to step on your pad or move on your Xbox controller. Time your step precisely to correspond with your dance queue hitting the dance ring to score the best points.

While dancing your selected song there are two meters on the screen you will need to watch for. The first is the star shaped meter that will fill up gradually with each correct dance step. When you fill the star meter you will be able to activate your super star power by hitting two corner pads or by pressing down on the LB and RB on the controller. Each correct dance move will earn you more points when star power is active. There is also a performance meter that you must keep out of the red zone. If you miss too many steps, there is a possibility that you fail a song. I suggest you start off with the easier songs in Sophomore and as you get some passing grades, you graduate to Junior and Senior levels.

Personally, with my two left feet and lack of rhythm I found the quick timing of some songs a little hard to follow with the dance pad and often got confused which step was next. Often, I had to look down to the pad to prevent myself from missing tripping myself up. Even with my inability to be a dance master I really enjoyed HSM3 and loved the option to use your controller instead of the dance pad when I got tired of all the dancing. The game also supports multiplayer so your kids can invite their friends over for a dance party.

HSM3 plays like other dance pad genre games available, but has a uniqueness of its own that derives from the dance ring and queue system which replaces the directional arrow directions common to other dance games. One of the most positive aspects about HSM3 is that Disney has released a game that will interest a younger crowd and get them off the couch and active.