Tuesday 30 November 2010

Game REVIEW: Epic Mickey (Wii)

Games reviews aren't something I do often. In fact, I'd go as far as saying I don't buy games very often, and when I do they're usually big franchise games like Pokemon, Zelda and Sonic. But while the game I'm about to review stars the biggest franchise character in the world, he's hardly a gaming icon. But from a mere glance at the concept art, Warren Spector's Epic Mickey became my most anticipated game in a long long time. Not even Pokemon Heartgold and Soulsilver were this anticipated. When you look forward to a game that much, how often does the real thing match up to expectations? Well, this game sure does.

Epic Mickey follows the adventures of Mickey Mouse as he is sucked into a world now known as the wasteland - a land for forgotten Disney characters which has now been taken over by the combined forces of Mickey villains the Phantom Blot and the Mad Doctor. Using a magic paintbrush capable to both painting and thinning people and the land around him, Mickey must team up with the wasteland's first resident Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in order to stop the Blot, save the wasteland and get home.

Before we even get to the game play, what I love about Epic Mickey the most is that is was blatantly created by huge retro-Disney fans. This game feels many ways like a sequel to the Mega Drive game Mickey Mania, in which Mickey travelled through selected cartoons from his history. Some of the characters in this game are really really really old/obscure, and that just goes to show how much effort was put into creating the game, and really captures the games themes. Running through classics like Steamboat Willy and Mickey's Mechanical Man really make me want to sit down and watch old Disney cartoons. But its not just old cartoons that are referenced here. No, the entire wasteland is based upon the Disneyland theme parks, so there's even more to enjoy. Why the other day I fought Pete dressed as a character from TRON on top of Space Mountain - and you don't think that's fantastic, then we have nothing in common.

The game also has tons of replay value - there's a mountain of side quests and of course, most importantly, the ability to play the game with different morals. You have the option to paint (befriend) or thin (destroy) your adversaries, and this affects the paths you take in the game and who'll give you quests. From what I've seen so far, being good might be the right thing to do, but being bad seems to wield a lot more hidden items....

My only gripe with the game other than dropping Mickey's 'scrapper' form (in the original concept - using too much thinner would change Mickey to look more like his very early appearances) is the dubious camera angles in some of the sequences. It's not so bad that you'll die because of them, and the game play is fluid enough to override it in most cases, but there will be moments when you just can't see what the hell is going on and have to just take a stab at it. It's not like this game has a limited amount of lives anyway.

All in all I really can't praise this game enough, it's definitely one of, if not the, best Wii game I've ever played. I can fully see why it won the best Wii game at E3 2010 (and as far as I'm concerned it beat off some stiff competition there. Disney finally has a great game again that isn't a Kingdom Hearts title. Long may it continue.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Anime REVIEW: Death Note

Death Note is undoubtedly one of the biggest animes names in the world right now. Somehow it manages to stand alongside big names such as Bleach, Naruto and Fullmetal Alchemist despite being in most cases less than half the length of them. And until now I hadn't even sat down and watched it in its entirety (well, the anime anyway - I saw the two live action films a few years back). It was about time to rectify this....

Most people have heard about or watched Death Note by now so I won't go into any great detail with the plot - high school student Light Yagami finds a mysterious note book called the 'Death Note' which has the power to kill people and even manipulate the events leading up to said death. One large ego trip later and Yagami attempts to become god of a new world by killing all the people he deems 'evil' in the world. The world dubs him 'Kira' and it is soon up to the police and the mysterious L - the greatest detective in the world, to stop him. A battle of wits unfolds over 37 episodes with murder, mystery, and shinigami.

Its rare to see a series use the villain as the main protagonist (Code Geass is the only other example I can really think of) and so it certainly stands out immediately before its content is put under further scrutiny. Light is a great character, and watching his progression throughout the series up to him getting what he deserves at the end is brilliant. L is good too, however I believe that his failure to prove Light as Kira makes him not as good as his movie counterpart (comparing this is the movies isn't the best way to go as it's almost a totally different animal, but if you have watched them you'd know what I mean). Other characters such as Misa Amane and Teru Mikimi are more irritating (and in the latter's case, seemingly pulled out of the writer's hat at the last minute), but at the end of the day they're just there for Light to manipulate. And that he does well. Very well.

One of my main concerns about Death Note is its length - a 37 episodes it's a bit of a double edged sword. Events really drag on episode through episode but this is balanced out by the pay off at the end of it being so good. I understand that this is perhaps poorly worded, so I'll illustrate it a bit more. For example - once Light has relinquished his memories of the Death Note for the first time and a new Kira is discovered working for the Yotsuba company the episodes really begin to droll on with Light and L working together to catch the new Kira. However the instant Light retouches the Death Note and all his memories return it all seems worth it again. The same applies later in the series following the time-skip at a certain point in the series, however the final episodes of the series are arguably among the best. It is this problem that makes Death Note feel like a chore to watch in its entirety at times - but you carry on because you know that the pay off will always be worth it. And as my viewing of the first ReLight OVA (a shortened version of the first section of the series) proved, this isn't a series that CAN be shortened without skipping something important. I know it all needs to be there, but that doesn't make it any less boring at times.

I can't honestly say this is my favourite iteration of Death Note, I still vastly prefer the live action movies. However, this series is definitely worth the praise it gets (some may overrate it a tad, but its still a top notch series) and a great example of leading anime of our generation. Endearing characters and psychological thrills make this one that will remain a classic.