Kameo: Elements of Power Platform: Xbox 360 Rating: NNNN Kameo is a svelte flying elf who's taken it upon herself to rescue her kingdom from the clutches of her evil sister, Kalus, and Thorn, the troll king. This is the first game released for the new Xbox 360, so it carried high expectations. For the most part Kameo meets them.
This is true even though at first the game seems confusing. You're dropped into battle immediately without any introduction to help you figure out what you can do, and your situation's complicated by the fact that you can do quite a bit. Kameo has the ability to transform into a variety of characters, each with elemental-based powers, including an armadillo-like creature that rolls into a ball to smash things, a boxing flower that likes to throw uppercuts and a giant furry beast who tosses ice bolts.
The game has a constant barrage of action, with challenging puzzles, fun fighting sequences, stunning graphics and multitudes of objects on-screen simultaneously. It does a good job showcasing the power of the new console, especially considering it's a first-generation game.
Too bad about the short play time - the average player will only take about 12 hours to finish. The co-op mode seems promising - solving puzzles and fighting side by side with a friend doubles the game's enjoyment - but only a select set of levels are available for multi-player action.
Despite these shortcomings, Kameo is funny and entertaining, a great start for a new generation of console games.
Animal Crossing: Wild World Platform: Nintendo DS Rating: NNNN This long-awaited sequel to the GameCube version of Animal Crossing makes its debut on the DS. Wild World retains much of the cast and charm of the original game while adding exciting Wi-Fi options. No longer limited to local friends, you can now connect to other towns globally, chat with their owners or invite others in to show off your Happy Room Association-approved home.
Starting off in a new town with no money, in debt to Tom Nook, the local shop owner, you start learning the basics of the game. Paying off the Nook for providing you with a house is the first order of business, and somewhere between being broke and gaining enough bells (or money) to break that debt, you end up sinking into the simple and amusing tasks in your little town.
One of the great (or painful) things about the in-game seasons and time is that they are based on the real-world clock, and certain items and events are triggered by season or date. This is truly a long-term game - unless you start messing with the game clock to, ah... help things along.
As addictive as the first game was, this title shines on the DS. Making brilliant use of the touch screen as well as the dual screen set-up and the much demanded online play options, this is a gem worth playing.
Amped 3 Platform: Xbox 360 Rating: NN
This is an average game that could have been so much better. Amped was one of the big games for the original Xbox launch, but this time around Amped 3 has been swept to the side by other titles. Following a loose story, you play as a character that you create with a fairly good character builder and work your way toward unlocking all the mountains you can visit for snowboarding. The story is told by a series of cut-scenes using stop-motion animation and motion graphics with a cut-and-paste aesthetic.
The hills in this game are quite simply huge. On some of the higher-level mountains you can go for a very long time before you hit the bottom. Along the way you try to beat any number of challenges to impress the photographers or the locals on the hill. A variety of natural and synthetic obstacles emerge that allow you to perform grabs, flips and spins. If you get bored of snowboarding,hop on your snowmobile or grab a sled and fly down the mountain toward an inevitable wipeout, for which you receive points based on how badly you get hurt.
What's missing? Xbox Live support, for one. There is no online game play, just a handful of poorly implemented two-player crash events. Nor does Amped 3 take advantage of the graphics horsepower of the Xbox 360. Also frustrating is the lack of refinement in the controls. Amped used to feel like you had complete control, but you now feel like you're snowboarding after a night at the bar. The designers spent too much time on the fantastic cut-scenes and not enough on polishing the game itself.
Still, it's fun for a quick pickup game and a good way to get your snowboarding fix until you can hit the slopes.
Magna Carta: Tears of Blood Platform: PlayStation 2 Rating: NN
Intriguing game play elements and an engrossing story give this well-established entry from Korea all the ingredients for a fantastic RPG. That's why it's so disappointing to see it fail to reach the high bar.
You control the somewhat androgynous Calintz, leader of an elite band of mercenaries. In a time of war between humans and the human-like Yason, you fight to avenge the destruction of your home on the world of Efferia. During a raid gone wrong, you meet Reith, the priestess with no memory, which sets you on a different course to stop the Yason.
Well-known artist Hyung-Tae Kim has executed fantastic character designs for the cast, but it's the gorgeous backgrounds and lush environments that are the true masterpiece. In the end, though, these features are sabotaged by a tedious linear format overlaid by terrible voice acting. It's a shame that Tears Of Blood, such a potentially great game, left me crying tears of sorrow.