Monday, July 15, 2013

Eyeshield 21 Review (Wii)

Eyeshield 21, for the Nintendo Wii, might look like a traditional American Football game, but it isn't. In actuality it's a mini-game collection centered around the staples of football such as running and passing the ball. The main-game has less to do with actually playing football but rather acting out the scripted scenes from the manga/anime; in the 15-Scenario Single-Player you will only play two full matches of football, with the remaining thirteen scenarios being dialogue, one quarter of a match/two minute warnings, and obscure mini-games. There is a football game here, but you'll only be playing it in Exhibition and Tournament modes.
Unfortunately, while Eyeshield21 does offer an extremely unique take on how a football videogame can play none of it comes together to form a compelling experience. And it isn't just that the aspect of football is lacking, but gameplay also.

The Running Mini-Game is both Inconsequential and a Total Waste of Time
Eyeshield plays out in a simple manner; both offense and defense are limited to five actions, be them enacting a style of play or defending against it. You can run, pass, line-dive, field goal, and punt (on 4th down). For offense each of these plays incorporate a mini-game, while defense mostly has you waggling your Wii-Remote to initiate sacking the QB or kicker based off a timer that you speed up. For defense though there's hardly anything noticeable about picking the right defense; for passing and kicking it shortens the amount of time the QB/Kicker has to set the ball off, but for running and line-defense it's virtually invisible.
Passing brings you into the eyes of quarterback. Pointing your Wii-Remote at the screen you can survey your three receiver's (who always run the same routes) and choose which one to pass to. It does not matter whether one appears open or heavily guarded; the mini-game and chance of success/failure is always the same. Choosing prompts another mini-game where the ball is seen coming at you in the air; both offense and defense point their remotes at the screen and click the ball when a target surrounds it. If offense clicks first the catch is received; for defense it's swatted away or intercepted.

This is a Special Move, but there is no difference between a special run and normal run
Running the ball allows you to choose either your fullback or halfback, but the only difference between them is their special moves (which is detailed below). The runner can be controlled by the Wii-Remote but it is inconsequential; the defense is faster, and they need only be in a proximity to the runner to initiate a mini-game. This mini-game is the largest error of the game; it brings up a "Guess Which Way" prompt where offense and defense swing their remote in a direction. If their the same defense tackles the runner, but if not the runner stylishly passes and continues. The issue here is, beside the Wii-Remote not always reading your swipe, is the amount of time this mini-game takes up. There are two videos in it, and each video is between 5-10 seconds, with the mini-game being three seconds. This may not sound long but it is never singular; all running plays will throw you right into the midst of at least three defenders. The moment you pass one and end the mini-game the next starts, frequently before your runner can even put his foot down. Each running play ends up eating about a minute of time, and at the end of it you'll be lucky to discovered you ran more than three yards. This is no exaggeration; running truly gets you nowhere, as you will always face at least three defenders and by the end of them your character is out of stamina. The moment a fourth defender catches you, which will happen immediately after passing the three, you will be tackled.
Kicking/Punting is the same, and surprisingly simple. A bar on the right goes up and down; flick your Wii-Remote at the top and the kick is a successful one. Line-Diving opens a mini-game where offense and defense waggle their Wii-Remote in a game of two-round tug of war. A bar at the top designates who is winning and at the end of a few seconds whoever has shoved more wins, allowing a successful dive of a few yards or blocking it.
Seeing from the Eyes of the QB is cool, except there is nothing that separates one QB from Another

Akin to anime titles, there are special moves, but like the rest of the game they are essentially inconsequential. Based off five-bars in the corner of the screen, some players have special moves that use up those bars (between two and three bars each). As seen in the pictures above, using a special move while running initiates a flashy move where the runner passes the defenders; the problem is that there is absolutely no difference between a special-move run and just running. It follows the same rules; used the special move but swiped the same as defense? You're stopped. Use the special move and pass the defense? The next defender right next to that one stops you and initiates the same mini-game again anyway. Passing is the same; even if your QB sets the ball on fire with his bullet-pass it goes the same distance as it normally would, and whether or not your receiver catches it is based off the receiving mini-game regardless.
The two that actually do anything are the Line-Dive and Receiver special. Using a special on Line-Dive wins the tug-of-war after only one round, while with receiving this allows your receiver to keep running after he catches it.

Going to my "Verdict" all of a sudden seems hasty, but really I have nothing else to say about this game other than the description of its controls and gameplay and how most of it doesn't work or do anything. Eyeshield 21 boasts unique ideas, but it contradicts itself by making 90% of the game immaterial. Most of it doesn't do anything, or just eats up time making you watch a video of something you'd rather be in control of. And really, the game just isn't fun. You can run the ball and waste a whole minute for a yard or two, or just pass the ball ten yards to a receiver who isn't able to keep running after he catches it. But really; there's just nothing fun about any of it. The game has the graphical charm to lure a gamer in, but actually playing it is just repetitive, dull, and lacking in any sort of incentive. It isn't an exciting anime despite its cosmetic, and it isn't a sports game despite its cosmetic. And honestly, I don't know if this is even a videogame, because nothing the player does actually seems to matter.

 The Language Barrier
If you're still adamant on getting this game than you're fortunate; there is virtually zero language barrier. While you won't have much of a reason to play the single-player as it's 80% dialogue, the core game itself is very easy to grasp. Upon starting the game is a forced tutorial that goes over each element of the game individually, and is even paired with visual Wii-Remote demonstrations to make sure you're doing it right. This game is 100% playable even if you do not know a lick of Japanese.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Puppeteer "Rehearsal" Demo - Impressions


This week the first of demos for the upcoming Puppeteer (PS3) was released onto the Japanese Playstation Network. This demo is called the "Rehearsal" demo because it is not the actual "full-game" demo. It's a demo that is used to introduce the controls and overall game-mechanic of Puppeteer, which is a pair of magic scissors (named Calibrus) that the player uses to cut through the world. These scissors serve primarily as a means of traveling where, when cutting through objects such as flags or clouds, it instills a motion similar to "clawing" across it (but at a brisk, satisfying pace). Inside this brief, five-minute demo you make your way up to the top of a tower while simultaneously cutting it and destroying it.
And at the end of it I really wished there were more, as this game is looking to be great.
Cut 'Em Down!
This is the primary way of travel; essentially, these bats are a ladder
Unfortunately I do not understand Japanese, and so the stunning introduction video, which shows off the game's bosses as well as gives what I believe is an overall introduction to the story, as well as the large amount of dialogue that runs throughout while you play, I did not understand, and so whether or not it reveals anything or strengthens the experience is beyond me. Still, the video, and characters, and overall "mood" of the thing was simply sensational, and really delivers this overtly charming experience of being inside of this comically-dark children's story and performance, and throughout the whole demo the same quality and attention to detail was displayed with equal strength in-game as it was inside of the video.
Again, it's a short, five-minute demo, but it does grant a bit of mobility. As a platformer Puppeteer seems to bear physics akin to traditional Mario titles, which is that it is much tighter than the floaty-ness of the Little Big Planet series, but certainly not as tight as in Mutant Mudds. You are limited to a single jump (in the demo at least), but unfortunately there is very little to try the base-platforming out on here. Instead, the focus is fully on Calibrus, the magic scissors.
The Glowing Strand Here Allows you to Cut through Much Faster: reminded me of Classic Sonic
The Glowing Strand Here Allows you to Cut Through Much Faster: the Speed is of Classic "Sonic" Games
As you progress up the tower you come across a variety of things that you can cut and therefore travel by, from tarps that cascade down from the ceiling to smoke-clouds generated by jackhammers. The tell-tale on whether or not you can cut these things is that interactive things are prominent on the screen, and not of background; it seems loose, as at the jackhammer clouds I was not immediately aware I could cut them, but there is no frustration here, and discovering what can be interacted with seems more a delightful mystery rather than frustrating or obscure.
Cutting is a speedy process of mashing the square button that is accompanied by oddly soothing scissor sounds. Objects bear their own sounds as well when under the blade; tarp fabric tears while spider webs peel and wobble. A lot of detail is also in how these mangled objects fall apart, and each of them display a consistent blend of realistic alongside imaginary in their destruction.
Beyond the basic cutting the demo also offered two unique moments with the scissors, the first being when you come across a tentacle arm shackled into the wall. This brought a button-prompt atop the characters head that required the quick-mashing of the square button; success brought the tentacle slamming out of the wall and offering a new path, but failure did nothing.
The second mechanic actually brought to mind a once beloved series of mine; Sonic the Hedgehog. In the picture above is shown a glowing strand; when you cut into these strands your characters cuts through at an extreme pace and as if on-rails, following the glowing path linearly. In the demo these strands are throughout the top of the tower, and offer really unique pathways of swerves and loops. When one ends abruptly your characters is thrown the air, and slicing into another rail-strand before touching ground offered a really great sensation of speed and control. I could really imagine a lot of uses for these rail-strands and overall I'm pretty excited to see what can be done with them.
No Doubt About It; This Game is Beautiful
No Doubt About It; This Game is Beautiful

Again, this is the "rehearsal" demo, and so there's plenty of Puppeteer not shown here, or is just omitted. For one, the cat you control by the right-stick is totally absent, and as you've only one head there's no experimentation with the aspect of swapping heads and what their uses are. Also strange was that you can't receive game-over here, as at one point there are enemies; get hit and your character's head flies off and you've to chase it and reclaim it. But if it falls off a cliff it is just returned to you, and also you are granted invincibility while headless. Truly, this is just a very basic, clean Tutorial, rather than a game-demo (which is coming).

Overall I loved what I got to play though, and am pretty blown away by just about everything. The art-direction is just charming as can be, the overall graphics/animations simply delightful, and the gameplay is just solid. It's a lot of fun but it's also simple, but never once did I think it "babyish" or dull. Really, this is looking to be just one heck of a genuinely fun videogame, and I am certainly eager to get my hands on the full thing soon.