Reviews


Here is the best thing about Mario Kart 7: This time, Nintendo didn't screw it up.

When you think of Nintendo's hit products, you don't necessarily think of the Mario Kart racing games (specifically) as a dominant part of the 3DS maker's business. But the series is colossal. Mario Kart Wii has outsold every other standalone game on the home system, moving a staggering 28 million copies. That's one game for every three Wii consoles.

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Have you ever played a game that took forever to come out, only to find yourself wondering, "What the hell were they doing for all this time, anyway?"

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is not one of those games. It has taken Nintendo five years to release a game in this series developed exclusively for Wii, and it delivers in every way possible, including some you wouldn't necessarily expect. The visual design and music are gorgeous, the gameplay varied and well paced, the script humorous. And there's a lot of it. As of this writing I've lost 30 hours to Skyward Sword and I still have more to do. (Wired.com writer John Mix Meyer has put in 40 hours and he's just about finished, but not quite.)

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Donkey Kong Country Returns

Start tuning up Back in Black by AC/DC, or find the Welcome Back Kotter theme song on YouTube, because WiiBlog is back! It has been a long hiatus between actual posts on the site, and we apologize for that.

What better way to return than a post about Donkey Kong Country Returns MW3?

I haven’t been able to play the game yet, as I’m receiving it as a gift for Christmas. So expect a review sometime soon!

To keep me, and the rest of you who haven’t played it yet tided over, here’s a list of review scores and snippets released thus far…

The Escapist: Score – 5/5 Stars

Excerpt: Donkey Kong Country Returns deftly blends the familiar with the new, creating a ghost game that’s just cute enough to keep you from throwing it out the window when you die for the umpteenth time. It’s hard without being cheap, charming while remaining challenging.

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IGN: Score – 9.0

Excerpt: Understand there are times where you’ll want to throw your controller against a wall — Donkey Kong Country Returns is not a cakewalk. It’s a hardcore challenge for the hardcore gamer, and because of its difficulty, it offers an amazing sense of satisfaction when you’ve completed a level that’s kicked your butt five ways to Sunday.

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Gamespot: Score – 8.5

Excerpt: Donkey Kong Country Returns doesn’t hide behind any gimmicks. This is a traditional take on 2D platformers, and it excels because the brilliant level design makes old obstacles seem new again. Every level hides a new surprise, and you’ll replay them over and over again not only to nab every hidden collectible, like cod ghosts perks, but also because they’re exquisitely entertaining. Fantastic visual design and a catchy soundtrack complement the core gameplay beautifully, making it a pleasure to enjoy the aesthetic aspects. It’s a shame there are some control issues, but you usually have only yourself to blame when you fall into a bottomless pit.

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GiantBomb: Score – 4/5 Stars

Excerpt: Nintendo’s got an uncanny knack for knowing when it might be a good time to bring one of its hallowed franchises back to the fore, and sure enough, now seems like as good a time as any for more Donkey Kong Country in multiplayer maps of cod ghosts. And mw3 perks and Retro has done a fine job with this new installment, which has Nintendo’s trademark fit and finish all over it. If you’re yearning for solid, demanding 2D platforming and can look past some slightly misplaced motion controls, you could do far worse than Donkey Kong Country Returns.

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Metro.co.uk: Score – 7/10

Excerpt: In the end we enjoyed this game a lot more than we expected, but it still feels like you’re enjoying it for ulterior reasons. Previously it was because of the graphics, this time it’s because of the nostalgia. Not just for the series itself but for the simple charms of a well-designed, gimmick free 2D platformer.

The idea of Nintendo creating a compilation of Mario games to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. is exciting. Surely the company has vaults filled with memorabilia, fascinating documents and stories, and thoughts from the creators of the game. If Nintendo had the urge to create a true testament to how popular and enduring the Mario character has become, it would be an impressive thing.

Sadly, the company took the lazy way out with the Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary package for the Wii. The content included is limited and obvious, but to everyone's credit the price is low. Still, when you're trying to honor your most popular creation, thrift shouldn't be your biggest accomplishment.

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The original Goldeneye came to the Nintendo 64 via Rare, and it made us fall in love with multiplayer first-person shooters on consoles. I know more than a few people who lost years in high school or college to this particularly addictive game; it casts a long shadow. This updated version from Activision and Eurocom—the team that gave us the criminally underrated Dead Space: Extraction—is a little bit of a refresh, a little bit of a sequel, and a lot badass.

Above everything else, this is a game that's fun, and it's hard to put into words all the little touches that makes it so enjoyable. This isn't just a good shooter on the Wii, it's one of the more enjoyable gaming experiences in the past few months, full stop.

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I'm standing in front of my television, and as I lift both hands to the air, palms facing inward, the crowd goes wild. They stand and cheer. This is what it has come to: adulation for no effort. It's like I've just received a holy affirmation, and I'm ashamed to admit how good it feels. And this is just a menu in Kinect Sports. The Kinect whirrs to life when you turn your system on. It looks down at your floor, and then up to your face. It knows what your room looks like. My TV was on power-saving mode one night and came to life when I reached for a soda. The Kinect saw my arm movement and assumed I wanted to play. It's like a lost puppy.

My wife is uncomfortable with our television these days, as there are no less than three cameras or sensors facing us when we watch something; it's like facing a firing squad. The PlayStation Eye goes on the top of the television, the Wii sensor goes into a slot under the screen but above the base, and the weightier, mechanical Kinect goes on the TV stand. When the system is turned on there is a green LED that lights up on the front, as well as what appears to be a very weak red laser from the left-most sensor. That's the IR projector that the hardware uses to see in the dark. If Microsoft was right and I am the controller, I pray my system never becomes weaponized. Let's take a look at hardware that claims to be the future of our living rooms.

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Ubuntu 10.10, codenamed Maverick Meerkat, emerged from its burrow this month with some important changes. The user interface got a lift from some theming improvements and a new default font. Usability got a nice boost from a wide range of design improvements and feature enhancements in the Software Center and Ubiquity installer. Canonical's effort to clean up the notification area took another step forward with the addition of playback controls in the sound indicator menu. The latest version of GNOME is included, with a handful of minor improvements, and the F-Spot photo manager was replaced with Shotwell.

One of the most significant changes in Ubuntu 10.10 is the introduction of Unity, a totally new netbook environment that has some promising design characteristics. Although Unity is an impressive offering, it has some kinks that need to be worked out before it will be ready for mainstream adoption.

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Nyko's Wand+ controller isn't reinventing the wheel, it's simply doing what the wheel does for a little less money and without two pieces. In fact... let's get away from this metaphor before I hurt myself.

The Wand+ is Nyko's take on the Wiimote, albeit with the Motion Plus technology built-in. There is no dongle, there is no extension on the controller—it's just one standard-sized Wiimote that does everything the Motion Plus does. We tested the controller by playing Wii Sports Resort and it worked flawlessly, just as well as the official controllers. Isn't that the mark of greatness when it comes to third-party accessories? Even after switching back and forth between the Wand+ and the first-party controller we couldn't feel a difference in accuracy or responsiveness.

It does feature a few design eccentricities: the power button is now on the right hand side of the controller, the A-button is square and a little larger, and the plastic has a smoother feel than the standard controller. To my hand all these things are actually advantages over the official controller, but that's more preference than fact. This is simply a comfortable, attractive Wiimote.

At $39.99 MSRP it's even $10 cheaper than the standard Wiimote with a Motion Plus dongle at most retailers. If you're tired of losing your Motion Plus attachment, or you don't like the added length of the dongle, this is a good alternative. It's neither flashy nor an amazing leap forward. It simply does everything as advertised. There's nothing wrong with that.

Verdict: Buy

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Batman is an always an interesting character, but the most recent takes on the Caped Crusader have been almost oppressively dark. Go back and read the comics that took place before Year One and you'll find a Batman that sometimes smiles, is much more at peace with himself, and gets the job done with a sort of sly humor. That Batman is on full display in this Wii game, an adaptation of the titular cartoon.

The game is rendered in a beautiful hand-drawn animation style, with bright colors, interesting camera angles, and above all, a sense of fun. This may be aimed squarely at younger gamers, but adults are going to find much to like.

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