It's like Super Mario Bro's, but it's in 3D and there's land and did I mention it's in 3D?

December 1, 2011
by Callan Smith

Super Mario 3D Land Review

Super Mario 3D Land is the embodiment of everything good when it comes to handheld gaming: dazzling 3D graphics, innovative use of the tech and some truly engaging gameplay. Essentially, it’s a feast of bite sized offerings of the immense and colourful world of Mario we’ve all come to know and love. As always, you’ll be controlling the world’s favorite red plumber on his quest to save his princess from clutches of Mario’s arch nemesis, Bowser. Man, the things we do for love…

Taste ma firebalz!

Mario’s latest outing does not disappoint and delivers some well thought out and innovative platforming. The size of the levels are big enough to be engaging but not overwhelming. This fact along with it’s lightning quick interface makes this Mario title the perfect fit for the 3DS’s pick-up-and-play mentality. The game even utilizes the 3DS’s Streetpass function by downloading bonus stages from other 3DS’s in close proximity. In Japan, I bet this feature works like a charm but in South Africa I think you’d be hard pressed to find yourself in this situation very often.

And did I mention how EPIC the 3D looks? If I didn’t, let’s just say it’s fairly mindblowing! Often, the whole aspect of 3D comes across as a tacked on feature, but it is easy to see that Nintendo has built this title from the ground up with this feature in mind. Giant, spiked pillars come spiraling out of the screen and coins float mesmerizingly in mid air with many of the levels tweaked and angled to squeeze the most out of the added sense of dimension – Super Mario Land 3D is definitely one of the best examples of what games can accomplish in a 3D setting.

It's like Super Mario Bro's, but it's in 3D and there's land and did I mention it's in 3D?

One of the best uses of the 3D is in conjunction with the 3DS’s motion sensors where players can use the 3DS as a telescope – the depth works great and it feels as if you are looking right into the 3DS itself. The only thing I had a bit of a problem with is that the camera angles can be a bit fidgety and it is often tricky to backtrack a level when the camera angle is fixed steadfastly in a forward direction.

Although Mario hasn’t acquired as many new power ups as previous titles, this shortage is definitely compensated by the creativity of the the colorful and exuberant level designs. The wacky and whimsical surroundings and inhabitants of each level reveal well planned and cleverly thought out gameplay, and navigating each world was a blast. One downside is that there just seems to be too few levels and before I knew it I had sped through half the game (and I didn’t even use a warp hole!).

You can’t go wrong with this new Mario adventure, especially if you are a sucker for a good platformer. It is easily one of the top games on the system and definitely maximizes the 3DS’s features. Hopefully, Princess Peach will be kidnapped again very soon so that we can pay a second visit to Mario’s 3D haven!

How To Slay Your Dragon

November 24, 2011
by granthinds

The Chronicles of the Dragon Born – Part 1 (Skyrim)

Playing ten hours of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is the equivalent of doing the button tutorial in any other game. I have spent more time picking flowers in the fifth Elder Scroll title than I did killing the entire third world population in the Modern Warfare series.
But how do you review such a game? To capture Skyrim’s massive scale and describe it’s every nuance you’d need a book, a tome – no, a chronicling! Hmmm…


Year of Talos 2011
Our hero did bid his friends and family farewell, for he would not see them for many months, perhaps years.  Someone said something about feeding the cat before it starved, but he was no longer listening.  He had already set off for Skyrim.
Ah yes, Skyrim: a land of  adventure; a land of dragons; a land where a mighty explorer can do as he pleases – other than set the chickens in Riverwood on fire, something our hero only discovered after Alvor the good-for-nothing blacksmith had already beaten him to death.
‘To Oblivion with that chicken-loving peasant!’, thought our hero. How dare that stubby-fingered peon kill him – he who had escaped the attack on Helgen by the dreaded dragon, he who was destined to be the dragon born, (or so he had read on the back of the box).
So, with a new found mistrust of blacksmiths, the dragon born set out to fulfill his destiny.
Soon our hero found himself summoned to Whiterun, where Jarl Balgruuf the Greater asked for his aid in defending the city from the dreaded fire-breathing dragons.  ‘This is more like it’, thought the dragon born.  ’Maybe if I kill the dragon, this Balgruuf guy will help me take out that stupid blacksmith!’

This isn't Skyrim?! This is Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2011!

After much fighting and many quick-saves our hero returned victorious, and was named Thane of Whiterun.  The dragon born had no idea what Thane meant, but as long as it wasn’t ‘coward who hides in a watch tower while his companions kill the dragon’ he was happy.

But the dragon born gained  a lot more than a fancy title from his battle with the beast, for he had learned the way of the voice – an ability to summon lightening, fire and all other kinds of magical forces using only his vocal chords.

How To Slay Your Dragon

‘Now to have a word with Alvor the Blacksmith’, proclaimed our hero, quite pleased with his own wittiness.  But alas, the fates had other plans.  For our hero had been summoned by the Greybeards, a group of powerful old hermits whose mighty beards were only rivaled but those of ZZ Top.

Mmmm yeeeeeah.

So the dragon born set out for High Hrothgar, home of the Greybeards, to learn new powers and hopefully find an even better way to get back at that dirty blacksmith.
Thus ends the chronicles of the dragon born, part 1…

November 24, 2011
by granthinds

Star Fox 64 3DS Review

If there is one thing that Nintendo has an abundance of, it’s flagship characters, and the Star Fox franchise is one of those titles that falls into that revered bracket. This iteration is actually a 3D reboot of Star Fox’s second console outing on the Nintendo 64. For those that haven’t played any in the series, Star Fox 64 3D is an on-rail flight blaster where players take up control of Fox McCloud as he takes intergalactic nasties in his trusty Arwing space jet. Pinpoint aiming and mercurial dodging is a necessity as you hurtle through space taking on hundreds of alien enemies which are spawned at will. At the end of the level you’ll encounter a mega boss fight where you’ll need to work out weak points which you can exploit if you wish to progress to the next level. Certain missions take place on land or undersea which provide a good variety in addition to the flight excursions.

Although it’s an on-rails shooter at heart, the game often goes into a free-roam mode where you are given free reign on wherever you want to fly, albeit with the restrictions of imposed boundaries. These spaces allow for some of the most fun and furious dogfights as you’ll find yourself barrel-rolling or executing slick aerial manoeuvres in order to get an advantage over your opponents. This mechanic also forms the basis for the games multi player component where up to four players can engage each other in an arena-esque deathmatch which can be set throughout the various backdrops of the single player campaign. It was this 4-player mode which made the original Star Fox 64 so wildly popular, and nothing has changed with this latest rebirth.

What really makes this game incredible is its 3D capabilities thanks to the Nintendo 3DS’ screen. Even though it is essentially a rehash of its Nintendo 64 namesake, the depth that the 3D allows makes an for an incredibly gorgeous game. The 3D also adds to the gameplay and makes it easier to judge the proper depth of the obstacles you’ll have to navigate or the enemies heading towards you from a distance. The one area where the 3D does conflict with is the game’s gyroscopic control system. This extra addition is really cool because it allows you to manoeuvre your vehicles by tilting the 3DS in the intended direction. This aspect, however, does interfere with the 3D view which requires a fairly consistent angle of viewing for the best results. That said, the game provides a number of options which you can toggle in order to take full advantage of both features.

All in all, Star Fox 64 3D is a great addition to a 3DS lineup which has been lacking. Its fast-paced action coupled with its eye-popping graphics is well suited to the system. Now all Nintendo needs to do is create a new Star Fox built from the ground up for the 3DS and I’ll be one happy camper!