Those Games We Play

Game Reviews
4 Star Games / 2 Star Games / 1 Star Games

Bejeweled 2 is a fantastically addictive puzzle game, built around very simple game mechanics. You can slide a colored gem over one space to match up at least three in a row. And then spend days on end doing just that.
Puzzle games are held to a different standard; Other games would be penalized for such repetition, but this is what makes Bejeweled a great game. It's a great way to unwind, and you can just play for a little while at a time and be completely satisfied.
There are different modes, such as timed mode or endless mode, each self-explanatory. The graphics are very basic, as they should be. One of the faults of the game is the shininess of the special effects. They can grow wearisome as you stare at the television for too long.
Also working against this game is age… now that Bejeweled 3 has been released, this version seems slow and a bit lacking on the gem types.
Recommended for a puzzle game fans, as well as any non-gamer with free time on their hands.


Dead Rising 2: Off The Record is an odd duck of a game. It's a reimagining of the core Dead Rising 2 game, starring an older, pudgier version original franchise protagonist Frank West. It seems like the ultimate DLC, rather than a stand-alone title.
A little more polished and tweaked than DR2, it would seem to act as a replacement for that game… and yet, storywise, it offers more to those who have played the previous release. While it follows the same basic storyline, it changes some key plot points to keep things interesting.
A new theme park area incorporated into the game, and a separate free-roaming challenge mode do add value to justify this as a full retail release.
Recommended for Dead Rising fans, and anyone who likes to get up close and personal with the inevitable zombie breakout.


Flatout: Ultimate Carnage is all about arcade racing and launching your ragdoll driver into the air. It's just too bad the two don't often mix.
The game features a racing mode, with three car classes, and a separate "Carnage" mode with events like demolition derby and ragdoll bowling. Each provides hours of fun, though ultimately they leave no lasting impression.
The game looks and sounds great. I appreciate the song title pop-up that work even for songs playing from your hard drive.
Recommended for arcade racing fans and fans of silly violence.


If you like mixing potions, dueling classmates, and collecting millions of lucky charms, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the game for you. But it's not actually a bad game. It's a solid entry in the series, if a bit light on actual gameplay. Aside from some broomstick flying, I've already mentioned pretty much everything you'll do in the game.
The presentation is improved from the previous game, with better graphics and cutscenes that play out in a much less jarring fashion.
And while fans of Hogwarts will be delighted by the atmosphere, there's nothing much here to appeal to franchise outsiders.
Recommended for those who follow the series.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a decent attempt at an open-world exploration game, but because of the plot really ends up with quite linear gameplay.
The highlight of the game is the ability to roam freely around Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; a delight for fans of the books and movies. This experience is closer to the books, since it allows time for some minor plot point that the movie drops.
The missions are plentiful... in fact early on you'll have a couple dozen to choose from at one time. But they're basically just fetch quests involving time and not skill.
And there really isn't much to do except play the storyline missions. You can play a few minigames and perform obvious tasks on items around the grounds to unlock bonuses such as footage of the cast talking about the game. But they aren't compelling enough to really search out.
The magic tricks (performed by controller motions if playing the Wii version) will be used often, but can be frustrating in their lack of challenge and variety.
While the openess of the school is nice and the Hogwarts atmosphere is rich, more effort should have been spent on the actual gameplay.
Recommended for those already a fan of all things Harry Potter.


For the most part, Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour is pretty much straight forward golf. Sure, there are some unique locations, but there are only a few obstacles to prevent normal golf play.
Basically, it's the cast of a Mario Party game out on the links. Not a lot of goofiness you'd expect from a cartoon sport game. Not even a silly caddy?
The game is a pretty fun golf sim. The simple controls work well, and give you plenty of flexibility to line up shots precisely. You can get a good sense of the lay of the green as well as the wind. You have a full set of clubs at your disposal, and even have a few power shots to help you out. This makes for excellent playability while playing golf, which makes up the bulk of the game.
There does need to be more wacky interaction; Right now you can use simple warp pipes and taunt other golfers. There is also no character customization, although you can import a player if you have the Game Boy Advance version. And where's the mini-golf?
Recommended for casual golfing fans and for those who like slower paced games.


Looking to counteract the Tony Hawk franchise's extremely exaggerated take on skateboarding reality, Skate slows things down and brings it back down to Earth. This takes some time to get used to, as it means actively navigating the slightest curb, avoiding imminent death by pedestrian collision, and no longer chaining 100+ combos.
There's a lot that can be polished, particularly the bland art direction, but it's a solid start to the franchise.
Recommended for skateboarding fans looking for a more technical virtual experience.


Conan is a combo-heavy hack 'n slash game, basically a God of War clone, complete with giant bosses and topless maidens.
One of the neat features of the game is allowing you to pick up dropped weapons, letting you switch from an assortment of fighting styles on the fly. You can even pick up torches out of nearby fires to use as weapons or burn down environment pieces.
I do have a fondness for the comic book-esque art style, but overall the game fails to leave much of an impression. That said, if severed limbs is your thing, it is fun to indulge in the brutal combos for a while. You may tire of the game a while before it ends.
Recommended for gamers who like their screens covered in blood.


Guitar Hero 3 Legends of Rock gets a makeover from the previous entry and brings one notable addition, but ultimately fails to add anything of value to the franchise.
Legends of Rock delivers all the same rhythm-based gameplay of the previous Guitar Hero games; this time, the song difficulties are both easier and harder... even more unevenly balanced than before. Adding guitar boss battles into the mix is distracting, at best.
Visually, the graphics have been given some polish, but that makes the repetition and glitches more evident. And design choices are questionable.
In the face of the expansive gameplay of Rock Band, Guitar Hero suffers from limited playability.
Recommended for players of the franchise that need more songs, but aren't yet burned out on the gameplay.


A new take on classic platforming, Spolsion Man self-detonates to propel himself across dangerous gaps and over obstacles. An energetic score and colorful art complement the hyperactive protagonist's journey.
A high difficulty and not-so-generous checkpoints lead to much frustration to those lesser skilled in precise platforming. Not hard enough, you say? Try hardcore mode, which eliminate checkpoints altogether! Yikes!
Recommended for gamers who really enjoy a challenge, and for those who enjoy a hefty dose of goofiness in their game design.

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