January 29, 2009

Neighborhood Games - Wii

Author: Kirby Y of Game Boyz

If there is one thing that is consistent with the Nintendo Wii it is that there are a large number of party like game games released that include lots of mini-games for people to enjoy. The gaming community at large has been very weary of such games given that so many of them have been sub-par quality. THQ is the latest publisher to step up and enter the party game arena. I received a copy of Neighborhood Games recently and it was with much trepidation that I opened the package, took out the disc, and took the game for a spin. So is this game another title just trying to cash in on the casual audience? I would have to say no as there are some great aspects to it. That being said, it is no masterpiece either.

I have to caution you about this review. I have played so many types of these games that reviews of this nature are not nearly as in-depth as other genres. So let me apologize right off the top for the shorter length of this review.


For those looking for a game that pushes the Wii hardware, this is not one of those games. It is a very simple looking title that manages to get the job done. If there one thing that stood out in this visual area is that Neighborhood Games really does fit the typical Nintendo fair of what is expected on the Wii: Cute. The game is very cartoonish as the neighborhoods have that surreal type look that looks to be out of some Sunday comics found in many newspapers across North America. Characters are also very endearing given that they have a bobble head style to them. You can make your own custom characters to use in the game, and there are quite a few options to make your character look the way you want too. I was impressed with the fact that my in-game character could take on a look and style that fit my own taste and real-life looks. There is no doubt that the game keeps the feel light hearted as evidenced by the visuals. Overall, given the audience that this game is targeted towards, most will not mind the graphical look to Neighborhood Games, and even I didn't mind what style they took.


Given the source nature of the content, the sounds, like the visuals, manage to get the job done. They fit the simple theme of the game, which is a compilation of mini-games. From lawn darts, golf to the slingshot challenge, everything included in the game gets across the message you are playing the game, just don't expect the realism you would in a more mature title. As well, for those use to the usual bells and whistles of the other next-generation consoles, the sound does not pack the 'oomph' you would get from the 'other' consoles, but again, what would one expect in a title like this. Overall I found that there was very little to complain in this department, and given that I had minor expectations for the games sound, I was not disappointed.


Neighborhood Games, as mentioned, is a party like game that features a large number of mini-games. There are 24 in total and each are relatively simple games that seem to have their origin from times spent in the backyard at your own or a good friend's house. Don't expect a deep story or career like mode as this game is simply about playing games. The single-player mode features five different categories of games such as basketball, lawn darts, horseshoes, shuffleboard and bocce ball. You challenge the computer in any of the aforementioned games and upon beating the computer you unlock new variations of each game. Winning also rewards you new clothes for your customizable avatar. Should you beat the computer three times in one particular activity you are then declared the Master of that specific activity.

Along with the single player mode comes a multiplayer mode. Up to four players can take part in all the games available in this latest THQ release. Play is usually done in a tournament style mode in either a best of three match or in a winner moves on match. You can play any of the aforementioned games, but there are also around nine other types of games such as golf, football, tennis, remote control plane flying or truck driving, water gun fights, batting, slingshot, and ladder golf.

I have to give kudos to this title in terms of how many different games are available. 24 are quite a few, and even though there are some variations on existing modes, there is a lot of stuff to play here. There is no doubt that the target audience is both the younger crowd and casual audience alike. A lot of these games within the game really brought me back to my youth on lazy summer days or made me think about the summer that just passed. There is nothing like picking up the Wii Remote and actually tossing some virtual lawn darts across a virtual yard or playing a round of bocce ball on one's own T.V.

The Wii Remote is also used in innovative and simple ways for playing all the games included on the disc, and this includes the water gun fights to the slingshot challenge. I really did appreciate what the development team did in their effort to make this game as inviting as possible for all those who play. If there is any negative I would have to say that the control is not as responsive as it could be as it was apparent there was some inconsistency. This was very evident in most of the games where you needed to emulate throwing an object underhanded (e.g. lawn darts or horseshoes). There were a few times when it seemed that my 'lighter' throw went wildly into the air, and vice a versa. It was as if there were communications issues between the Wii Remote and the game itself. This control issue is not a deal breaker, just an annoyance that raises its ugly head now and then.


Overall I had some fun with Neighborhood Games and even my four year old daughter, although not the best gamer out there, had fun too with some added help from me. It may not be the most engaging game out for the Wii at this time, and there are some control issues now and then, but the amount of games within the game is pretty impressive and it can provide some great family fun. Now excuse me, I must go and play a round of lawn darts inside while the snow falls down outside.

January 24, 2009

Halo Wars Goes Gold

Genre Defining Xbox 360 Exclusive “Halo Wars” Goes Gold

New video documentary series and Xbox LIVE demo details revealed

Toronto - January 23, 2008 - Microsoft Game Studios and Ensemble Studios announced today that “Halo Wars,” the highly anticipated action strategy game based on the legendary “Halo” universe, is finished and sent to manufacturing! Created from the ground up for the Xbox 360 console and controller, “Halo Wars” combines a peerless control scheme and gameplay with an incredibly rich, epic story set 20 years prior to the story told in “Halo: Combat Evolved”. The result is a commanding experience that is a must-have for “Halo” fans and a title that is sure to become a classic amongst fans of strategy games.

As fans eagerly await launch day, a video documentary series announced today will explore defining themes of “Halo Wars” and give viewers a behind the scenes look at the game’s development and some of the people involved in its creation. The premier episode captures key elements that frame “Halo Wars” gameplay: the controls, perspective and strategy. The “Halo Wars” video documentary is available for download on Xbox LIVE and can be viewed at http://www.xbox.com/en-CA/games/h/halowars/.

In addition, the recently announced Xbox LIVE public demo for “Halo Wars” will be available beginning on Feb. 5 at 2 a.m. PST in Xbox LIVE enabled regions worldwide. In the demo, players will be able master Ensemble’s groundbreaking control scheme in optional beginner and advanced tutorials or jump right into the action to experience the beginning of the “Halo Wars” story with the first two campaign missions. The demo will also include “Chasms,” one of “Halo Wars’” 14 multiplayer maps, wherein players can battle it out in Skirmish mode vs. A.I., playing either as the UNSC with Captain Cutter’s leader powers, or as the Covenant with the Prophet of Regret’s own unique abilities. Don’t forget to set your Xbox to download this demo!

January 18, 2009

Ultimate Band

My first exposure to Ultimate Band for the Wii was at Disney Interactive Studios Holiday Event in late 2008. A few weeks later I also had the opportunity to sit in on an interview with members of the development team from Fall Line Studios. Ultimate band presented itself as an interactive music game without the need for additional instruments which seems to be required for other such titles. To play Ultimate Band all you need is your Wii Remote, Nunchuk, a bit of floor space, and some drive and desire to battle your way to becoming the “ultimate” band.

The graphics in Ultimate Band are on par with my initial expectations in regards to quality and definition. I found that the character models, as well as some scenery elements, tended to be sharper and more defined in the foreground and became poorly contoured, less defined, and at times an all together blurry mess in the background. This caused some stress and havoc to my vision and made it difficult to focus now and then.

There are multiple performance venues that are creatively themed and designed. Many of these have animated scenery. There are fans in the crowd, speakers jumping to the bass, and additional moving elements such as waterfalls or carnival rides in some. At times all the visual elements can become a little too busy, and to be honest there isn’t much time to look around when you are focused on watching for your next strum, beat or move. I was a tad disappointed that the actions of the band throughout the song did not reflect the actual playing of the game. Regardless of whether you missed every note your band member(s) are still displayed on screen rocking out to the song. It would have been neat to see your on screen persona miss a note or move to reflect when you actually do such when playing the game.

A lot of the venues are outside at night or in a dark club and you really see the attention to detail that was put into such things as the stage lighting and the use of shadows in the crowds. The designer’s attention to detail also comes across in the variety of characters available in the character creator as well as the additional clothing and musical instruments available. The latter allows for a nice visual touch to the characters which gives you an added sense of ownership over your band. All your custom characters are used in the cut scenes throughout the game too.

As far as gameplay is concerned your attention is mostly focused to your instrument note bar and/or frontman bar where individual notes and moves appear. The display for each is clear and easy to read. The addition of the graphical images that act as visual instructions for the moves to perform is a nice touch that really helps facilitate a positive feel for the game.

The sound effects for Ultimate Band are well done and even include sound through the speaker in your Wii Remote. There are different sounds for when you hit a good streak of notes as well as an amplified hand clap. Missing a note does not profoundly affect the sound of the song that is played so you will still hear the music instead of the noticeable silence that appears in some other interactive music games. For example, while drumming if you hit the cymbal correctly you will hear an amplified ‘clash’ whereas if you miss timing your move with the note on screen you will still hear the cymbal strike but it won’t be as loud; it will just be on par with the music’s existing audio level. The developers also added a variety of background sound effects by including noises from the each venue’s environments.

Choosing a female or male character actually has an impact in Ultimate Band and is a huge choice. The gender of your lead singer determines if the lead voice of the band is female or male.

Ultimate Band includes both a single player and multiplayer mode that can be played in either Practice Jam, Band Story or Battle Mode. In Practice Jam you and up the three other players can play any of the unlocked songs without the worry of failing out before completing the song. Band Story is basically a campaign mode where you take your band on the road, and on a journey to rock stardom. Battle mode is very much a versus mode. In all of these modes you can choose from one of four positions of the band including Guitarist, Bassist, Drummer or Frontman.

The guitar player and bassist are controlled in similar fashion where playing is done by making a strumming motion with your Wii Remote in time with the note bar passing the note catcher (vertical line). The type of notes that you perform vary and work a bit differently. Rhythm strum notes are played in rhythm with the beat of the song, whereas hold notes require you to strum once and hold the note until the end bar passes through the note catcher. Whammy notes are performed by holding down the B button on your Wii Remote while strumming as fast as you can to reach the required number of strums. If you strum fast enough and go beyond the required number you will gain bonus points. Other moves at your disposal are clapping to get the crowed pumped up, or even bigger moves like the Windmill or Belt Buckle Spin.

While strumming along to the song with the variety of notes at your disposal you will also have to change the chords with your nunchuk controller. This only occurs if you play on the normal or harder difficulties. This makes the game a little more accessible to the younger or more inexperienced gamer as the easier skill levels are not as hard while those looking for a challenge will get one in the higher skill levels. The chords are determined by the C & Z buttons on the nunchuk through different combinations, and when playing as the bassist the position of the nunchuk will come into play as well. I highly suggest that people practice on the normal difficulty before progressing to the hard difficulty on the guitar or bass as the chord changes do tend to get a bit frantic.

Drumming is probably the easiest and most natural of the instruments available in Ultimate Band. You move the Wii Remote and Nunchuk up and down as if you had a drum set sitting in front of you. You time your downward strokes so that the note falls into the note-catchers and you flick your controllers to the left or right in time with the cymbal notes. Flashing notes indicate that you must hit them simultaneously, and if a note has a number in it you must drum up and down as fast as you can to reach the required amount of drum strokes. Like the guitar or bass modes, if you are fast enough and go beyond the required amount of drum strokes you will receive bonus points. An extra move that can be done when playing as the drummer is one where you spin your drumstick in your hand. This is done by moving your controller in a circular motion to fill a meter to complete the move.

The final position in the band, the Frontman, is the most physically demanding as you are the entertainer and energizer of the crowd. The most basic of all the moves is punching where you move your controller in a punching motion as it crosses the note catcher to execute the move. There are also four stances that you perform: the Up Stance, the Middle Stance, the Down Stance, and the Wave. The Up Stance is performed by tilting the Wii Remote up into the air like you are singing into an actual microphone. The Middle Stance is performed by holding the Wii Remote in front of you in a normal microphone position. The Down Stance is a maneuver that you often see singers do by pointing the microphone into the audience to encourage them to sing along with you. Finally, the Wave is where you get the audience into the song and is performed by swinging both your Wii Remote and Nunchuk in an arc over your head as you fill up the stance meter.

During the songs you will periodically encounter a note that has two arrows which face towards spotlight points on the stage. When you encounter these notes you will have to flip your Wii Remote into one of the directions to move your Frontman into the spotlight to gain bonus points when you hit correct notes.

During a song you will fill up your performance meter by correctly hitting notes. The more notes you get in a row, the faster you will fill up your performance meter. When you finally fill up this meter you can activate Grandstand moves to gain extra points by playing through a few mini games. The mini games vary from holding the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in certain positions to slashing the controllers diagonally to make an X. The more mini games you complete the more bonus points you will build up.

As you progress during the story mode you will unlock dome awards by completing certain actions within the games. For example, the “Big Spender” award is accomplished by spending money in the in the game’s shops. To earn purchasing power in Ultimate Band you will have to complete songs and earn Style points. The better you perform the more style points you will earn which in turn can be used to purchase clothing, musical equipment and neat gear in the in the game’s shops.

Ultimate Band is a great title for those who have been daunted by the idea of using up limited space with extra gaming peripherals. The only downfall to the additional instruments is that playing multiplayer may be a little bit more difficult if you don’t have a full compliment of Wii Remotes and Nunchuks. If this is the case encourage your friends and family to bring their own to form your high styling Band. Ultimate Band is also appealing to the tone deaf gamer who could clear a room after one verse as the addition of the Frontman brings a new concept to the interactive music game and some fresh new moves to your band. Overall, Ultimate Band is a solid title for the Wii that provides anyone with some good old fashioned fun.

January 16, 2009


BURBANK, Calif. – (January 15, 2009) – Disney Interactive Studios today announced “Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3: Senior Year,” the only karaoke-based video game that allows players to perform 10 memorable songs from the film “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” as well as selected songs from the first two “High School Musical” movies. Players can perform with their friends or sing solo with the stars.

“Whether you are new to the scene or have been following the excitement at East High from day one, ‘Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3: Senior Year’ will have you ready to get up and join the fun from the very first note,” said Craig Relyea, senior vice president of global marketing, Disney Interactive Studios. “Packed with 25 songs from all three ‘High School Musical’ films, this is the must-have video game for all true fans.”

Disney Sing It: High School Musical 3: Senior Year” for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system and the Wii™ home video game console is scheduled for release on February 17, 2009. Developed by ZoĆ« Mode, all titles have an Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating of E for Everyone. The game will be sold as a standalone or bundled with one Logitech microphone for all systems.

(Article courtesy of Disney Interactive Studios)

January 9, 2009

New Year, New Games, New Direction

Being a new site I know that it will take some time to build up a readership, and even more time to flesh out my own style. I have recently started working full-time again, after spending the past 2 and half years as a full-time Dad and have found my gaming time a bit more limited.

This new job will reduce the amount of games I play and review, but on the other hand I will be adding comments on how to fit your gaming in along with family, and work time. I find some games are a lot easier to pick up and play and fit some time in, where other games will take a lot of time and focus to play. These longer games should be saved for days off and vacations.

So in summary, along with trying to inform parents about games their children may be playing we will be suggesting and commenting on great games for parents to play for themselves.

I look forward to see how far we come in the growth of Recreational Gamers during the next year.