Snowboard Xtreme Review (DSiWare): “Snowboard Basics”

Through the Nintendo eShop, consumers get a chance to nab some neat miniature titles for their DSi and 3DS. In the meantime, smaller developers from around the world also get the chance to try and get themselves out there. EnjoyUp Games is an example of a small developer out to make a name for themselves, providing bite-sized, arcade-style experiences on-the-go. You may recognize the developer for their DSiWare titles such as 99Seconds, Abyss and Gaia’s Moon if you’ve ever played those. With their latest title, Snowboard Xtreme, the developers aimed to give players a quick, pickup-and-play title for only the small price of $1.99. However, does the low price point mean you should immediately pick the game up?

To be blunt, there isn’t anything “xtreme” about Snowboard Xtreme, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time with it. The object of the game has you slaloming down a treacherous mountain and trying to beat the time as you progress through each “Etape” (stage). When you start, you’ll only have the Normal Course available to tackle, which consists of four stages. As you race the terrain, you’ll have to pass flags on their proper sides to add three seconds to the clock. Naturally, the further you progress in the game, the more difficult your navigation will be due to obstacles that will obstruct your path. Should you fail to reach the finish line at any stage, it’s game over and you’ll have to start over from the first stage. Luckily, each stage takes about a minute to complete so frustration rarely kicks in. Upon completing the Normal Course, you’ll unlock the Xtreme Course, which consists of eight stages. While you’ll have a higher starting time limit, the stages will be a bit more demanding, meaning that passing every flag is crucial to adding time on your clock. Early on, certain obstacles will block your path but are low enough to jump over, while others may be tall rocks and trees that you need to dodge. Later levels will have builders coming down at you, while some of them will stop right in your path to prevent you from maintaining your speed. Speaking of speed, you won’t be zipping down the trails at breakneck speeds.

When it comes to controlling your snowboarder, you’ll use the D-Pad or Circle Pad (3DS) to make your boarder sway left and right. You can’t go faster, nor slow down at all. Pressing practically any button will do the same action, jump. There’s nothing more that you’ll really do other than dodge and jump over obstacles as you progress your way to the finish line of each stage. Don’t expect to be going off of huge jumps and pulling off insane tricks. Also, there’s no other boarder you can choose from other than the default one. There’s leaderboard support but only sports for local play. There’s no online leaderboard support to speak of. Visually, the game looks ok, with windy snow effects and all. The boarder’s animations are simple but get the job done. The framerate holds up well until the final level of the Xtreme Course, which really dropped for some reason. The soundtrack is appropriate, if somewhat catchy, but a bit repetitious due to only three track being replayed over and over.

While Snowboard Xtreme is a very basic game and shows nothing “Xtreme” that the title insinuates, the game is still mildly fun. While I wish there was more to do and see, the game is only $1.99 and the content more or less justifies the price tag. You can see the entire game in just under 30 minutes but I found myself replaying it a few times over. EnjoyUp Games has a decent base here to build something more “xtreme” and would like to see a bit more depth in future titles from the developers.

Overall Score: 5.5 out of 10 = Reconsider the immediate purchase…

A special thank you to EnjoyUp Games for providing us a review code for Snowboard Xtreme!

ThunderCats Review (DS)

ThunderCats is a side-scrolling adventure game published by Namco Bandai and developed by Aspect Digital Entertainment. The game is inspired by the ThunderCats animated series from Warner Bros., and was released for the Nintendo DS.

Story: 2/5

ThunderCats is a game based on the new animated series, and as a tie-in, it shares many of the shows story elements. So much so in fact, that the game borrows exact scenes from the show to piece together a story line for the game. In the game, Thundera has fallen into ruin by Mumm-Ra and his evil Lizard Army. The leader of the ThunderCats (Lion-O) must wield the Sword of Omens, and along with his ThunderCats companions, stop at nothing to reclaim Thundera and obtain the Book of Omens. Along the way, the ThunderCats come into contact with other allies that help them on their journey, as they inform them of the dangers that lie ahead on their quest to stop Mumm-Ra. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll have a better understanding of who all these characters are, and why this quest is so important. Yet the game just takes snippets of scenes from the show, and tries to combine them together to give Lion-O a reason for why he is on the next level. It was nice seeing so many cameos and story elements from the show, but had I never heard of ThunderCats, I wouldn’t really know the important details that the game’s story fails to deliver.

Gameplay: 2/5

I’m a big fan of ThunderCats, and was happy to see that a game was finally in the works. Unfortunately, the game isn’t as good as it could have been. While the game does a decent job of incorporating many elements from the ThunderCats animated series, the gameplay itself can be a bit rough. For starters, you can only play as Lion-O, and while the other ThunderCats are in the game, they only act as assists for the player. While it’s a shame that an opportunity to use the other ThunderCats is absent, at least we see them aid Lion-O throughout the game. However, Lion-O needs all the assists he can get, because combat can be a bit difficult for a number of reasons. First off, Lion-O has a very basic skill set: he slashes with his Sword of Omens, can double jump, and slide. Yet Lion-O has no way of actually defending himself. This means that while battling enemies that slash and fire at you, Lion-O will undoubtedly get hit again and again. I’m not sure why a block feature wasn’t implemented, as it would have come in handy to somehow block enemies that are firing at you from a distance. Not only that, but Lion-O seems to get stunned long enough to get hit two to three times before he actually falls backward. This can prove especially daunting during boss fights, and you will need to utilize every assist (you can carry up to three) to help defeat the enemy.

While Panthro, Tygra and Cheetara come in handy with their attacks (which normally eliminate any enemy on-screen or brings damage to a boss), I basically used Wilykit/Wilykat for the majority of the time, as they are the only ones that provide you with health and icons (to call a companion) during some of the more difficult stages and bosses. The game also had an unbalanced checkpoint system. I found myself redoing an entire level if I died, and even if you manage to make it to the boss battle at the end of the level, losing meant restarting the level from the beginning. While I did appreciate seeing many characters from the animated series during the boss battles, I felt that it was difficult to determine if some of my hits were damaging the bosses more than others. Without a life bar, or any visual indicator of my attacks, each hit felt the same. Whether I attacked with my sword, or used a special assist from the other ThunderCats, or even unleashing a powerful Sword of Omens attack (which builds up from enemy attacks and collecting sword icons), there was nothing to let the player know how damaging any of these attacks were. Luckily, the game wasn’t long enough for me to become too frustrated with these issues, as I completed it in about an hour and a half (which is something else to consider when purchasing a game of this length at $29.99). Overall, I feel that ThunderCats could have been more enjoyable if these issues were better handled.

Graphics: 2/5

As a DS game, ThunderCats is not going to be a graphical powerhouse. Lion-O and the other ThunderCats characters are simple sprites that are hard to see because of their size. The backgrounds are uninspired, and the cut scenes are nothing more than stills from the show. I suppose that this is to be expected from the aging system though.

Sound: 2/5

“ThunderCats, Ho!” is a very popular phrase from the ThunderCats, and I loved hearing that when I was a kid when watching the original cartoons, or even from the more recent animated series that the game is inspired by. Yet I got sick of hearing this when it’s the only sound in the whole game. When Lion-O starts a level, when Lion-O unleashes his Eye of Thundera, when you continue after losing a life, when Lion-O requires an assist from a companion; he constantly responds with “ThunderCats, Ho!” It gets old fast. The music is decent though and reminded me of old 8-bit games, but it’s nothing memorable.

Overall Score: 8/20 = 4.0 out of 10

ThunderCats is not a horrible game, but it’s not great by any means either. It was fun to finally play as Lion-O and to experience the world of ThunderCats as a console game. In small bursts, the game is somewhat enjoyable, but that doesn’t hide the fact that the game has its problems, and that many people will tire of it quickly.

PROS:

+ Finally get to play as Lion-O in a video game

CONS:

– No Defense against Attacks

– Repetitive Enemies and Levels

– No Checkpoints

– Annoying Sound Effects

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME 

A special thank you to Namco Bandai Games for providing us a review copy of ThunderCats!

Moto eXtreme DSiWare Review

Moto eXtreme was an interesting game to review.  It was mildly entertaining at times, but there were numerous issues with the game that make it a hard sell, especially for it’s asking price.

Moto eXtreme is a 2D physics-based platformer in which you control a dirt bike to traverse the treacherous environment, collecting stars and reaching the goal.  There are two modes of play, Trial and Constructor.

In Trial Mode, you’ll complete 32 missions in which you are ranked up to 3 stars per mission.  To earn a star, you have to complete each of the three objectives within a single run.  The objectives are simply: collect the stars, complete the level with time remaining and just plainly complete the level.  Just simply completing the mission is all you need to advance which means you can breeze through this mode within an hour or two.  In Constructor mode, it’s the same concept but with a twist.  You have to use your stylus to draw surfaces for your dirt bike to drive on.  Think Kirby Canvas Curse, except not as fleshed out and polished as that.  Constructor mode will certainly take you longer to complete because of this but mainly because the controls are extremely awkward.  Controlling the bike alone with the buttons is cumbersome enough thanks to a lack of precision of how your bike handles.  Now make it more cumbersome by controlling the bike strictly with the D-pad and the L-button to do a 180-turn along with the stylus in your right hand drawing surfaces in mid-air for your bike to utilize.  Sound cramping?  It sure is.

The problem with handling the bike is that it reacts in jerky motions as opposed to smooth movement.  For a game that’s all about precision, it’s just an odd control method.  Another annoyance is that every time you start a mission or restart at a checkpoint, the bike is always facing the left side of the screen…which is usually the wrong way.  Would it have hurt to refine this to “face the direction you’re supposed to go?”  Another weird graphical feature is that the bike is only colliding with the environment if the tires touch objects, but if a back tire is split between the bottom of a platform and the front tire is above an object, the object will ride right through the bike and rider itself.  You also have a grappling hook that you can use to grab stars and also pull yourself towards the top of a ceiling but it strictly shoots diagonally and is a mess to use.

Bottom line, is Moto eXtreme worth the $7.99?  Not really.  It’s an interesting concept that would’ve worked well had it been more refined but it’s not.  I did have fun with it at times, but ultimately the game was more of a chore in the long run.

Verdict:  Don’t Buy It!