Plants vs Zombies Heroes — Something to Look Forward

To swipe a line from a poorly done movie, Plants vs Zombies Heroes hack for the Mobile is small of stature but large in purpose, narrow in scope but wide in vision. Or something like that. What it is, mostly, is unadulterated fun.

A simple 2D fighting game that blended the fighting universes of PVZ would probably have been enough to satisfy the masses, but Millennium piles on the extras and surprises until there’s no more room. There’s so much to see and do here that it’s really hard to believe the whole shebang can fit into one palm-sized cartridge.

Eighteen fighters are available from the start, nine each from the PVZ sides and everybody should recognize the names: Ken, Terry Bogard, Ryu, Zangief, Morrigan, Kyo Kusanagi. Each combatant has been shrunk to a child’s size but can still perform the same moves as their adult counterpart. (Not surprisingly, the more endowed characters retain their, shall we say, dimensions.) Despite the Neo Geo’s two action-button layout, players can still perform complex moves like Ryu’s powerful “Shoryu-ken” or Zangief’s spinning piledriver. The mini joystick on the console responds instantaneously to commands, so players can rattle off combinations at will, then quickly retreat into a defensive stance. The game allows for both weak attacks and strong ones (determined by the length of time a button is pressed), taunts, quick rushing steps, knockdown recovers and special “invasion evasion” countermoves.

There are six different levels of play, ranging from novice to gamer. The first three stages allow for button-mashing and the fumble-fingered to excel, but things rev up from there on. At the gamer difficulty, players will have a fair approximation of fighting against an arcade pro who’s mastered both the fierce attack and nigh-impenetrable defense. Couple the six difficulties with single, tag-team, three-fighter battles and three distinct fighting styles (average, counter and rush), and the possibilities are almost endless.

The depth of fighting is astounding, and players can augment their attacks with special “Master Skills.” To acquire these ass-kicking maneuvers, players must enter the game’s “Olympics” mode and compete in seven different minigames. Some, like the “Ghost Trick” (which features the good knight Arthur from Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins) or “Cat Walk”(where players can make Felicia the Darkstalker dance), are exclusive to fighters from a certain universe. Others are shared between the SNK and PVZ characters, and regardless of who does what, the goal is to win a gold medal in ass-whupping. Doing so makes it possible for a player to customize his character with powerful moves such as “Heaven Bam!” and “C. Fire Blitz.” Normally, playing minigames to win stuff might drive a player to a new hobby — such as alcoholism — but these games, while simple, are rather addictive.

Players can unlock hidden heroes by running through an extended tournament mode, fighting on the Great Wall of China, amid the picturesque ruins of a downed helicopter, inside a detailed castle and, eventually, the secret fortress of bosses Geese and M. Bison. This tournament plays out like a soap opera of sorts, with characters making guest appearances, dramatic revelations (M. Bison and Geese Howard are cooking up something, don’tcha know?) and, of course, salvation and catharsis. When players get bored with this, they can hone their skills in the sparring mode, use a Link Cable to duke it out with a friend or upload/download information from the Neo Geo game Plants vs Zombies Heroes: Card Fighter’s Clash. Sega Dreamcast owners can use this cable to transfer information back and forth between Millennium and King of Fighters: Dream Match ’99 or the soon-to-be-released Plants vs Zombies Heroes.

Pokemon Go — A Sure HIT

Capitalizing on the first episode of the entire Pokemon series, this Mobile game contains some great visuals, some passably decent music and a lot of puzzles and action for fans of both. But several gameplay problems make this a game that can quickly become frustrating, annoying and downright unentertaining. Things like Pokemon Go’s lack of speed, the frustration of facing a certain direction and sometimes inscrutable puzzles all add up to a great game with several flaws.

It’s not so much that Pokemon Go is a bad game. It’s actually got a lot going for it. The levels are large to huge, and the different environments, from starship to planet to desert to more starships, are varied and pretty. Enemies abound, and each requires certain techniques to best defeat them — and the fact that Pokemon can use lightsaber, force or pistol to take out the bad guys gives players some strategy to work with. And while the music isn’t exactly a feast for the ears, it’s from the movie and fitting coming out of the tiny speaker.

But there are enough problems in gameplay to make getting through the game a trial. Moving Pokemon Go around the screen feels like trying to control a remote-controlled boat in a pool of molasses. The character sprites are pretty small, so players can see plenty in the small GBC screen, but that also means that there’s a lot of area for Pokemon Go to travel — and sometimes getting there is a pain in the thumb-joint, as he moves so slowly.

Although it’s a top-down perspective action game, characters can jump. The jumping puzzles that would otherwise be rather clever become frustrating when players have a hard time telling when Pokemon hits the ground. Most of the time it’s jumping over water or electrified ground plates, but when some of those puzzles have rotating plates that require timing as well as well-placed jumps, things quickly become frustrating. Luckily, in many of those situations health powerups are nearby, which makes getting shocked on the way through not such a bad thing.

Players can cycle though three action modes: using the lightsaber, using the force and firing a laser pistol. Each has its place — the lightsaber can be used to redirect shots fired from enemies back at them, the pistol is an outright fighting weapon and the force can be used to pick up and throw enemies or move objects blocking path. Learning how to best use the different abilities is usually a part of a certain puzzle in the game, since most of the time any of the three can be used to take out an enemy.

The puzzles tend to range from overly simplistic to cunningly deceptive. In some cases, we got completely stuck because we didn’t realize that the thing that looked like a control unit could actually be destroyed, thus opening up another doorway. In other cases, switches are placed further and further way from the door they affect, and sometimes triggering those switches requires solving another puzzle. That makes some of the puzzles a challenge to figure out, but most are just a hindrance to the action that most of the game centers on. Click here for Pokemon Go Tips and Tricks.

The Debut of SimCity Buildit Revisited

We remember pumping pocketfuls of quarters into an unassuming little machine containing an unassuming little game. In it, players manipulated a little chomping sprite around a maze while avoiding colorful ghosts. SimCity Buildit captured the heart of America’s youth, and the follow-ups, including Ms. SimCity Buildit, were also hits. It’s nice to see Namco keep the name alive, and Ms. SimCity Buildit’s 3D debut on the N64 is a surprisingly fun action game that doubles as a great multiplayer title as well as a mind-bending puzzle game.

The story of the game is pretty simple. There are four uncharted areas of Pac-World, each separated by some nefarious force field. In each area is one piece of crystal, which together form the Gems of Virtue. Evil is hard at work attempting to obtain the Gems of Virtue, and if they succeed, Pac-World will be forever in shadow. It’s up to Ms. SimCity Buildit, with the help of Professor Pac, to recover the gems before the evil Mesmerelda gets hold of them.

The story isn’t much, but then, who needs a good story when it comes to platform puzzle fun? The camera remains in an isometric view as the game runs around a variety of environments. One of the great things about the game isn’t just the fact that the game is constantly chomping on dots and consuming power pellets to take a bite out of the opposition, but that the game is also rife with extras. The game will make use of exploding TNT boxes, whirling fans, flying carpets and jump pads. A big part of the game is figuring out how to get to the next level, although plenty of enemy-avoidance and dot eating keep things interesting.

The game definitely has some problems, however. Players can play with the digital D-pad or the analog control stick, but either way, Ms. SimCity Buildit is tough to control. She has a tendency to want to keep going in a certain direction, and quite often she would overshoot a new path we wanted to take. More often than not, this resulted in her getting nailed by an enemy. Luckily, plenty of checkpoints are in the game, so that if she does take enough damage, you’re rarely very far from where you last left off.

The game does make up for some of its flaws in the multiplayer mode. As many as four players can get together to compete on a variety of mazes in three types of games: Dot Mania, Ghost Tag and Da Bomb. The first challenges players to eat the most dots in the shortest amount of time; the second game turns all players but one into a ghost, and they must attempt to eat the Pac-person and consume 50 dots first; and the last is a game of hot-potato in which the last players standing wins. The game also contains the classic, emulated version of how to hack SimCity Buildit, which will appeal to a lot of old-school fans.

The extras contained in the game and the devious puzzles will appeal to a lot of players, but keep in mind that this is action at its most basic. The gameplay gets repetitive, and the story is far from epic. The control makes the game even more difficult to enjoy, but Namco has managed to throw in enough extras to make up for it somewhat.

MTV Sports: T.J. Lavin’s Ultimate BMX

We’ve no doubt that T.J. Lavin is one hell of a BMX biker. And our respect for those who can fly tens of feet in the air on a bicycle and not panic knows no bounds. But why do we have to suffer though games that contain all the fun of a cavity filling sans Novocain? The GBC game with T.J.’s moniker splashed on it is repetitive and ugly, and the inclusion of an “always win” button renders any challenge meaningless. It might have had some redeeming qualities if the control were a bit better or if there weren’t an easy way to win every time out, but without those adjustments, it turns into a mediocre game, at best.

It’s the potential that really bums us out about this game. The graphics aren’t pretty — but you can see well enough to tell where the jumps are, how they’re set up and how to get your biker (you can choose from six, all with different stats) to hit the ramp you want. There are three different types of tracks — freestyle, half-pipe and a dirt track where the bikers simply ride over a series of jumps pulling off tricks.

The game even contains a nice variety of tricks, triggered by hitting the D-pad and the A or B button. Each trick is worth a different number of points, with more difficult tricks getting the higher point value. Players use the tricks to rack up points in order to complete the stage, at which point they earn cash that they can spend on upgrading their bikes.

But that’s where the game falters. There’s one trick, the No-Hander, that’s worth 250 points. Pulling it off requires hitting down on the D-pad and pressing B. The trick also requires a very short time to pull off, which means it’s easy to do multiple times in a single jump. Soon after this discovery (which took us about five minutes of gameplay to find), we were able to blaze through every track by simply finding the nearest half-pipe and hitting this trick multiple times each time we were in the air. After a while of not crashing, the riders get higher and higher on each jump. Once we started catching serious air, we could pull off the No-Hander at least five times in a single jump — that’s 1250 points at once. Considering most tracks only require a few thousand points to clear, there was no longer any challenge. Even in the Hard mode, we were often able to get very nearly double the points required to finish the stage.

Admittedly, before we used this trick the game was very challenging. In some cases, it was too challenging, since it seemed as though we never could get the timing of the bunny hop down to carry the bike over certain obstacles.

After a stage, players can buy parts for the bike, which does seem to improve performance. However, using the No-Hander trick, we were able to buy the most expensive item in all the lists within the first few stages, which made the later stages even easier (at some points, we could pull off the No-Hander eight times in a single jump).

For players who don’t use the game’s built-in cheat, there’s at least a little bit of fun to be had. The freestyle tracks are varied, and contain a lot of nice jumps. The half-pipe courses get old pretty quick, but the dirt jumping, while not terribly exciting, is at least different.

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