Karts and Clues

Originally posted at GameSpot on May 23, 2008

Had my first taste of Mario Kart Wii this past Sunday – and it was lukewarm. Where am I going with this tasty food metaphor? I guess I was expecting a bit more from Mario and the gang.

The game was fun, and I settled in with Bowser no problem – but it wasn’t that great of a leap forward. It didn’t have to be, but it did have to be as fun as Mario Kart 64 – my gold standard for Mario Kart games. And on this point, it wasn’t. The items were a non-factor, the remote didn’t always steer where it was supposed to, and the new tricks you could do just didn’t add that much.

It’s Mario Kart, and it’s always a good time – but this definitely isn’t the best version out there.

In other news, my wife and I have played through Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I have to say, I’m enjoying the game more than I thought I would. Each puzzle is unique and challenging in its own, and you really want to see one through to its answer.

The story is top-notch. The opening scene of Professor Layton and young Luke driving in the country was nothing short of charming; and I don’t believe I’ve ever used that word on a video game. But it’s a good thing here – as the car rolled over the hills, it reminded me of car trips down to my grandma’s house. An unexpected connection, to be sure…but isn’t that what this game of puzzles is all about?

Some of the puzzles are pretty tricky; I’ve given up trying to go through the game without using a hint. That said, it hasn’t lost being fun – which to me says a lot. I remember doing brain teasers like this in K-12 years, and I hated them. The fact that this game can present them in a fun and interesting matter is nothing short of remarkable.

It will definitely take me awhile to finish, but I know it will be a great ride while it lasts. Supposedly this is a beginning of a trilogy, so I’ll always have a ready supply of Professor Layton when I need it.

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New Super Mario Brothers – play this thing!

Originally posted at GameSpot on February 25, 2008

February 23, 2008, around 11:30 PM – Defeated Bowser to beat the New Super Mario Brothers game on the DS. I’m proud (or maybe I should be ashamed) to say it’s the first Mario game I’ve ever beaten completely on my own. I’ve had some help on the other games from either strategy guides or Game Genie (remember those?), but this time it was just me and my wits against Bowser Jr. and his crew.

This game has garnered a lot of praise, and I’m here to say it’s completely justified. Everything you remember loving about the world-famous plumber and his 2-D adventures can be found in spades here, from colorful worlds to excellent music. I haven’t had this much fun since Super Mario Brothers 3, and as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog this game will have a ton of replay value for me.

They say it’s not the destination, but the journey – and the New Super Mario Brothers proves that point. Standing in front of the final castle in World 8 was bittersweet, since I knew this was the end. Truly a great game and highly recommendable to anyone! Go out there and play this thing!

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The New Adventures of the Bros. Mario

Originally posted to GameSpot on February 22, 2008

There aren’t many positives when it comes to being sick, but playing the New Super Mario Brothers would have to be one of them. I’ve heard good things about the game and played the mini-games with a friend, but this was my first real chance to go through the single-player campaign.

In short, it’s fantastic. Since I’m currently playing through Super Mario World, I feel like I have something to compare it to – and I’m very impressed. The graphics are outstanding, the level design fun, and the time meter is longer! Just that last point alone means I’m having more fun with this game than the other.

So far I’m on World 3, and after finding the warp at the end of the World 2 castle I also have access to World 4.

I really enjoy the old school feel to the game. Fighting Bowers at the first castle on the drawbridge was a nice touch, and even some of the old platforms that were in the original Super Mario Brothers make a comeback.

Most games give me a feeling, and the feeling I get from this one is it’s something I’ll be able to enjoy and re-play for a long time to come. Much like Super Mario Brothers 3, this will be a game I can always pick up and know it will be just as fun as I first time I played it.

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Never underestimate a gaming Grandma

Originally posted in GameSpot on June 2, 2005

If I’m going to talk about video games, then I have to start off by dedicating this post to my grandma. When I think about it, she was the first one to really get me interested in video games. Well, she didn’t start my interest – but she was the one to get my brother and I an NES so we could actually play.

Ah, our own system! No more would I be forced to sit on the sidelines at my friends’ houses while they played. No more would the phrase, “You can play the next game” bring a sting of resentment into my heart. My grandma bought us a system, and it was all ours.

You know how grandmas are. She had always spoiled my brothers and I, and the Nintendo was just another step in that process – a precious, precious step. God bless her! She had it all – cable, late bedtimes, and now a real NES for her grandkids to play.

But she didn’t stop there. What was different with my grandma was that she actually played the games with me. I remember countless times when we would play Super Mario Brothers. She would be Mario, I was Luigi (I always liked him better, I don’t know why), and we would go through the stages. Of course, as anyone who has played the game knows, the “2-player” mode on Super Mario Brothers only let the other person play when the other died.

Needless to say, my lives lasted a lot longer than grandma’s. I would play through many of the levels (especially the level-ending Bowser fights) while she would sit and watch, just happy that I was happy. What a gal, huh?! When I think of some in the previous generations today who think video games are a waste of time or refuse to even try to use new technology, she was a breath a fresh air.

One last thing: I know there are some people out there who play their games in this way, and if so, I completely understand. I still do it myself from time to time, if the pressure is high enough. What I’m talking about is the ability to mimic on-screen moments with your controller, or even your entire body in order to help yourself through the game. Come on, I know you know what I’m talking about – Mario jumps, so you move the control pad up when you hit “A.” Master Chief peeks around a corner, and you find yourself moving your head to the same side.

It’s an interesting (and sometimes unnerving) gaming phenomenon – and my grandma was the best at it. You could actually measure the height of Mario’s jump in real time by how high her controller went up!

So I raise my controller to you grandma – and thank you with every save, every stomped Koopa, and every 3-hit-combo.

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