PLAY FOR TODAY: VIDEO GAMES / AARON BURGESS

 

 

Column #15: Splatterhouse, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, Pac-Man Party and uDraw Game
Tablet. Incidentally, don’t miss the debut of “Play For Today – The Print
Version” in the Fall 2010 issue of BLURT, on newsstands now.

 

By
Aaron Burgess

 

Splatterhouse

Rating: M

Target audience: Metal-mad adolescents (at heart) intimately familiar with both the Evil Dead franchise and four-letter
words

Why they’ll dig it: If
the Splatterhouse name strikes a
familiar chord, congratulations: You’re old-or at least old enough to remember
the cult-classic 1988 horror romp that merged side-scrolling, beat-‘em-up 2D
action with a gore-soaked aesthetic straight out of Friday the 13th. Several iterations into its undead
life, Splatterhouse has rebooted with
this new, 3D edition, which fans will be glad to discover is simultaneously
bloodier, louder and more over the top than all of its predecessors combined.
Visually, it’s also among the-don’t laugh-most beautiful games of the past few
months, even if the more squeamish players among us will be too busy averting
their eyes to notice.

 

 

Flush with obscenities (aural and otherwise) and fittingly
single-player (a family-friendly good time this ain’t), Splatterhouse once again throws you into the shoes of the series’
lead character, Rick Taylor. After a predictable, if entertaining, setup during
which his gal pal Jennifer is snatched away, Rick dons the Mayan Terror Mask that turns him into a muscled mass of mayhem, and proceeds to spend the rest of
the game turning his environment into a Cannibal
Corpse
album cover. (Incidentally, death-metal fans will love the game’s
soundtrack.) Everything from Rick’s fists to the walls of the mansion he’s
searching becomes a weapon, and for those who find mere impalements, shootings
and dismemberments to be lightweight, the game’s Splatterkill finishing moves
make the Evil Dead series’ legendary bloodbaths look like spa treatments. Bloody good fun, indeed.

 

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

 

Majin and the
Forsaken Kingdom

Rating: T

Target audience: Fantasy-gaming fans who wish The
Neverending Story
could be recast with the Rockbiter in the lead role

Why they’ll dig it: To
steal a line from Captain Beefheart, I love you, you big dummy-at least that’s
the way most kind-hearted players will feel after spending some time with Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom‘s primary
character, the “Majin” (read: ancient big-monster race) Teotl. While you don’t
necessarily play as Teotl-your character, Tepeu, is actually a cunning thief
who, through his ability to communicate with sentient creatures, guides the
adorable oaf-you do get to know him intimately as the adventure progresses. The
result, which should take you around half a day’s worth of gameplay to explore
thoroughly, is equal parts battle epic and buddy story, and well worth the
price of admission to either.

 

 

 

The lumbering Teotl, as you might guess, is naturally
well-equipped for combat-a trait that becomes quite handy as you move through Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom‘s
wonderfully surreal boss battles. You can aid Teotl in battle by combining
feats and lobbing the occasional object at your opponents, but he generally
does the heavy lifting. The big Majin is also a surprisingly sharp learner,
however, and along with the slew of environmental puzzles he (via you) is
required to solve, Teotl picks up spells, abilities and other upgrades that
both aid you in battle and allow you to reach new areas by revisiting formerly
blocked pockets of the (forsaken) kingdom. Above all, though, it’s his simple,
childlike personality that will endear Teotl to you-and

 

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

 

Pac-Man Party

Rating: E10+

Target audience: Everyone capable of operating a Wii Remote

Why they’ll dig it: Anyone
needing proof of Pac-Man‘s continued
playability (and we’re talking the original yellow orb-gobbler, not the ensuing
generations) need have merely looked to Google’s
homepage earlier this year
. But even for those of us who don’t remember a
time when arcade games were not just gleefully simple, but also coin-operated, Pac-Man‘s sundry console offshoots have
also produced some winners (most notably, the excellent Pac-Man
Championship Edition DX
).

 

 

 

Packing over 45 minigames into a vaguely Mario Party-like shell, Pac-Man Party rides the sweet spot
between both of these extremes. Younger generations will appreciate the game’s
ambitious events-based competition, which finds developer/publisher Namco
Bandai casting our concentric yellow hero and friends (up to four players can
compete simultaneously) in events ranging from Wii Remote-based dance
competitions to track and field. Older players, of course, will carry some
affinity not only for the basic Pac-Man storyline-here, as ever, you chomp your
way through the boards-but also for the inclusion of other coin-op titles. Dig Dug, anyone?

 

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

 

uDraw Game Tablet

Target audience: Artistically minded Wii gamers (kids in particular) you’d never trust with your
Wacom tablet.

Why they’ll dig it: New
this month, the uDraw GameTablet marks THQ’s ambitious first entry into a
peripheral-happy holiday season dominated by Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s PlayStation
Move
. Unlike those physically fitful gadgets, however, uDraw aims to occupy
your brain instead of your body.

 

 

Sturdy, chunky and intuitive to set up, the uDraw partners
with your Wii Remote-which you pop into a slot in the tablet’s left-hand
side-to connect to your Wii console. The tablet draws power from your Wii
Remote’s battery, so the only wire is the one connecting the stylus to the
tablet itself; and, along with its obvious drawing capabilities, the stylus
affords you additional control through buttons that mimic your Wii Remote’s C
and Z options. Pair these with the uDraw’s built-in tilt and motion sensors,
and you have a creative extension of your standard Wii Remote that feels like a
giant-sized version of your Nintendo DS’ stylus screen.

 

The uDraw GameTablet ships with the Microsoft Paint-esque uDraw Studio software
package, which offers a novice-friendly crash course in the tablet’s artistic
capabilities. uDraw Studio is a good
way to acclimate yourself with the stylus’ tools, palettes and media choices
while getting used to the uDraw’s plasticky 4″x6″ surface-just don’t expect to
create a masterpiece with it. (That’s what your Wacom is for.)

 

 

Just two other games-a rather excellent version of Pictionary (screenshot above; a logical fit for this type of controller) and the
bone-simple platformer Dood’s
Big Adventure
(in which you control the action, DS-style, using stylus
and motion controls)-are available to purchase separately, but THQ is promising
additional titles for 2011. Here’s hoping some even more ambitious games are in
the works, because there’s much potential yet to be tapped here.

 

Get it from: Amazon

 

***

 

Our game guru, Aaron
Burgess, lives digitally but dreams in analog down in Round Rock, Texas. Contact him at first2letters@gmail.com  / AIM: First2Letters

 

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