Column #6: Green Day: Rock Band, Super
Mario Galaxy 2, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Toy Story 3, The Sims 3:
Ambitions; plus Nintendo 3DS.
By Aaron Burgess
360, PlayStation 3
Offer up the Beatles on one end and Green Day on the other,
and odds are good that many current-generation rock fans would have a hard time
picking favorites. (Don’t snigger, pop purists.) So it’s fitting that, for its
second band-themed Rock Band game,
Harmonix has followed up the Fab Four (last year’s mega-popular The
Beatles: Rock Band) with a game devoted entirely to the Dookie-spawning American Idiot savants. Though less cinematic-and surreal, for that
matter-in scope than its Beatles counterpart, Green Day: Rock Band is everything a fan of the Bay Area trio could
want and then some: 47 playable songs’ worth of classics spanning Green Day’s
evolution from punk brats to stadium-packing, generation-crossing icons.
Unfortunately, for those of us who remember the band before 1994’s breakout Dookie, the set list for Green Day: Rock Band skips the Lookout!
Records era where Green Day not only cut their teeth, but also wrote some of
their catchiest three-minute tunes. (Read
here for more.) Dookie, 2004’s American Idiot and 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown appear
in their entirety, however, with a smattering of hits from 1995’s Insomniac, 1997’s Nimrod and 2000’s Warning bookending the three albums.
Gameplay loosely mirrors the storyteller formula of The Beatles: Rock Band, following Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool from their salad days (via the fictional
punk venue The Warehouse) to real-life locales both large (the National Bowl in
Milton Keynes, England) and small (the Fox Theatre in Oakland, California).
Likewise, in addition to standard guitar, bass and drums playability, the
fun-but-tricky three-part harmonies and Career achievements also follow those
of The Beatles: Rock Band, with
troves of MTV archival footage (Green Day, after all, are nothing if not
products of the MTV era) available for the unlocking. Ironically, the games’
similarities tend to magnify the areas where Green Day: Rock Band doesn’t quite meet The Beatles version: fewer
venues, less song diversity, a reliance on realistic visuals where fantasy
would tell a better story (Green Day did, after all, did ride two concept
albums all the way to Broadway).
But if you’re looking for similar levels of pop smarts with a mega-dose of
adrenaline to drive them home-well, you had to see this coming, but welcome to
Developer / Publisher: Nintendo
Maybe it’s because of the world in which it lands-a realm of
co-op shooters, rock-band simulators and grave, hyper-realistic realms where faux
physics supplant our own in all manner of settings-but Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the rare videogame that truly feels like a game. If that sounds a bit heady, know
that there’s nothing brain-bending about the game itself-with its objectives
set across multiple wacky 3D planets, SMG2 feels like the logical sequel to 2007’s fun, frivolous adventure starring everyone’s
favorite Italian plumber. (No offense, Luigi.) But it’s the Zen-like simplicity
and childlike sense of wonder with which Nintendo approaches this platformer
that makes it such a standout-that, and the addition of Yoshi, of course.
Available as a power-up (one of many such boosts to Mario’s
mojo this time out), the lovable, long-tongued dinosaur makes for a delightful
addition to Super Mario Galaxy 2-but
really, he’s as much a symbol of everything that’s right with the game. Bowser,
his captured Princess Peach and a map that takes you further toward them are
the primary catalysts for action, while the incredibly designed levels that
comprise the map are the reasons you’ll lose yourself in the quest. Long,
challenging and beautifully framed no matter which dimension (2D or 3D) you’re
experiencing it through, Super Mario
Galaxy 2 tests your preconceptions about platformer games while holding you
to the basic platformer premise. Even memory (with warm tinges, both visual and
musical, of Mario games dating back to the Nintendo 64 days) plays a role in
how you experience SMG2-and by the
time you finish it, you’ll have carved a new space in your memory bank for this
ESRB Rating: T
It’s ironic that you can only get Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on Sony’s smallest system.
Infinitely playable, the handheld-only game from MGS series mastermind Hideo Kojima offers huge
potential whether you’re playing it in linear fashion or experiencing the
countless side missions offered as detours. Picking up where Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops left off, the 1970s-era prequel
puts a full-sized console adventure-gorgeous graphics and all-in the palm of
You’re transported, via one of many comic-book-style cutscenes,
into a storyline where Naked Snake,
a.k.a. Big Boss, is leading the private mercenary unit Soldiers without Borders
when fate intervenes to send him on an emotionally riveting mercenary mission
of his own. Stealth and strategy remain key tactics for fighting your way
through Peace Walker, but the
integration of deep RPG elements expands the way you interact with everything
from weapons (which you can develop and upgrade) to enemies. You can develop
your own army by literally plucking soldiers from the field and sending them (this
time via balloon harness) back to your Mother Base for training. Just make sure
you also have some real friends (up to four in co-op mode) along for the ride.
You’ll need all the help you get to make it through Peace Walker‘s more daunting boss battles.
360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PSP, DS, PC
Productions / Publisher: Disney Interactive
You know what to expect from most licensed kids’ videogame
tie-ins before you even crack the shrinkwrap: predictable storylines, simple
challenges and a handful of minigames to help justify the sticker price. However,
just as Toy Story 3 is no mere kids’
movie, the film’s videogame twin isn’t your run-of-the-mill 3D platformer with
a simplified control scheme and seemingly endless string of collectable items.
That’s not to say you won’t find both elements in Toy Story 3, just that once you clobber the game’s eight relatively
easy levels, you still have a whole other videogame to explore.
Playing as Woody, Jessie or Buzz Lightyear, you run, jump,
chase and object-gather your way through a story mode whose colorful,
action-packed settings play off scenes from the movie. Then, well, you’re
done-at which point it’s time to crack the lid on the game’s Toy Box mode,
which itself is worth the price of admission. The open-world adventure lets you
customize an entire Old West toy town to your liking, embarking in literally
hundreds of side adventures along the way-and, perhaps more importantly, out of
the way. Complete missions to earn gold. Herd cattle or corral townspeople into
buildings of your own silly creation. Or, heck, simply roam through the
sandbox, move stuff around and see how many boundaries you can push. Much like
the experience of play itself, Toy Story
3‘s Toy Box is alive with possibilities.
Anyone who’s played a version of The Sims knows that, just as in the real world, work is part of
your pint-sized avatars’ daily lives. Until now, however, your Sims simply
donned their work attire and headed off to do whatever it was they did all day-but
with The Sims 3: Ambitions, you can
experience a veritable “take your creator to work day” that
The expansion pack for 2009’s The Sims
3 expands on your ability to choose a Sim’s career by tacking an actual
profession-and its attendant tasks, challenges, hobbies and war stories-onto
it. It’s a subtle difference, but it makes for huge possibilities and,
particularly in the roles of ghost hunter, firefighter and private
investigator, some curious dramatic twists. No matter what your lot in (fake)
life, though-doctor, stylist and architectural designer are among the other
options-you’ll find hours’ worth of adventures to expand your world. Here’s
hoping EA similarly expands the available careers, because the potential here
is just, well, ambitious.
in Stereo: Nintendo 3DS
Goodbye, fourth wall. It’s like we never knew you. At least
that’s expected to be the reaction next year when Nintendo succeeds its DS
handheld with the 3DS, which will deliver 3D graphics without the need for
glasses. The system will, thankfully, be backward-compatible with your existing
DS and DSiWare titles, and there’s talk that several major movie studios are
working with Nintendo to bring 3D movies to the 3Ds’ 3.53″ stereoscopic
top screen. (The bottom is a 3.02″ touch panel.) Of course, that’s just
the basic visual experience-the 3DS also features beefed-up wireless capability
(including hardware that “talks” with other 3Dses while your system
is asleep) and three cameras for recording your own real-life action. Yeah,
that’s right: three. One for you, and two facing the outside world so you can
capture it in stereo, too.
Check out the details, complete with some excellent teaser
video, at Nintendo’s 3DS site.
Our game guru, Aaron
Burgess, lives digitally but dreams in analog down in Round Rock, Texas. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org / AIM: First2Letters