Category Archives: Wii U

Soul Axiom Review – Wii U

Sometimes an interesting concept can be made even better by solid, engaging game play. On the other hand, poor UI, janky game play, and low-grade, bland visuals can tear that concept down, and leave the player wondering why they started playing in the first place. If you couldn’t already tell, I wasn’t thrilled by my time with Soul Axiom. I’m never happy to tear into someone’s art, but let’s get into why you might want to pass on this one.

The world is an electric dream hosted on some otherworldly mainframe. It promises it’s users the ability to live through perfectly-rendered fond memories. What is a soul, and can it be preserved? That’s the premise that launches you on Soul Axiom’s narrative journey, and if there was a good game to back it up, that would be enough to carry you through. Using various powers and abilities channeled through your hands, you’ll run through a variety of levels all built around color-coded objects, surroundings, and power-centric puzzles.

Like The Talos Principle and other first-person puzzle adventure titles, there’s a compelling element to running around an open level and putting two and two together. To the game’s credit, if you can look past the downgraded visuals, there is a fairly interesting and unique design and look to its presentation. While there are interesting and compelling spiritual and philosophical questions the game seems to be putting on the table, it never quite fully explores them, nor gives any satisfactory resolution.

To be honest, I’m struggling here to bring up other good points. There may be better versions of this game out there, but the WiiU version is terrible. Frame rate issues, poor controls, all the problems I mentioned earlier, and visuals that have been downgraded as much as possible to work within the confines of the WiiU make for a less-than-ideal experience. The game looks bland and plays poorly.

As short and to the point as I can be with this one, there are better experiences in the genre out there for your to spend your money on. You really have to dig deep and overlook a laundry-list of faults to get anything of merit out of this version of the game. I’m almost interested in looking into other ports, as what little research I’ve done seems to indicate that while the core game may not be better on other platforms, at least it’s playable. Steer clear.

The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 Review – Wii U

Between developers like Telltale and Quantic Dream crafting new takes on adventure games, it’s fair to say that what we’ve come to think of as a traditional adventure game has changed significantly over the past ten years. Sure, Doublefine made a go of reviving the genre with Broken Age, and games like the upcoming Thimbleweed Park are fighting hard to keep that pulse going, but it’s rare to come across a pure adventure game these days. The work of studio Wadjet Eye comes to mind, and now too does the “Book” series.

The Book Of Unwritten Tales 2 is a traditional adventure game told with a level of wit, style, and grace you’d be hard-pressed to find in most modern releases, regardless of genre. It’s set in a rooted fantasy universe and features all the standard click-and-drag features you’d expect from an adventure game. What separates the game from others of its kind is all in the execution; put simply, it’s great. The game is told from the perspective from thee different characters, leaving room for depth and varying perspectives that most games, regardless of genre, rarely offer.

If you’re interested in the game at all, but haven’t played part 1 yet, you can totally play this one without missing out on too much. However, if story is important to you, it goes without saying that you should play that one first, and then come back. No matter what, if you’re a fan of the classic Lucas adventure titles from the 80’s and 90’s, you owe it to yourself to play through these games.

Book Of 2 is great from the top down in almost every way. the graphics, animation, visual flourishes, and UI are all top-notch; it’s a beautiful game that’s easy on the eyes. The voice acting is solid, and while the jokes don’t always hit, the writing is strong enough that the humor carries through all the way until the end. Sound effect, audio cues, and the score itself shine through as well. This game is not only a pleasure to look at, but a pleasure to listen to as well.

If there’s anything negative to be said, it’s that Book Of 2 spends most of it’s time being a little TOO faithful to the adventure games of old. Most of your time with the game will be spent picking up objects, trying to merge them, trying to use them in the environment, and hunting through every inch of every screen you find yourself in. While fans of the genre will feel at home, and should have no problem dissecting exactly what the developers are asking them to accomplish, new players may often find themselves completely lost, and unsure of what to do next. It’s a balancing act that I’m not sure anyone has figured out yet, but someone will eventually, and that’s when I believe the genre will reach heights it never has previously.

All in all, Book Of Unwritten Tales 2 is exactly what you want from a game of it’s type, and then some. As I mentioned earlier, don’t let a few nitpicks here and there stop you from experiencing what feels like a classic game with modern appeal that fell through a hole in time right into your lap. It’s a great time.

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The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 Now Available on Wii U

The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, the critically acclaimed sequel to the popular point-and-click adventures from Bremen developers King Art Games, has now been released on Wii U.

About The Book of Unwritten Tales 2

In The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 the player controls four different characters in a lovingly created fantasy world, and must solve some tricky logic puzzles in classic point-and-click style. The thrilling story and the usual BoUT humor with its numerous nods to fantasy elements and colorful characters guarantee over 20 hours of fun gameplay.

Main Features:

  • From the makers of The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles and The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief
  • Epic fantasy story with over 20 hours of gameplay
  • Classic BoUT humor packed with references to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Discworld, Game of Thrones, WoW to name a few
  • Hundreds of crazy, surprisingly logical puzzles
  • Four playable heroes
  • Projection-mapping technology combines the great features of 2D and 3D
  • Orchestral soundtrack with all the classic and many new works

The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is now available for Wii U in retail outlets and the Nintendo eShop for EUR/USD $19.99.

Dinox Review – Wii U

We review a wide variety of game titles here at Game Chronicles including ones that you wouldn’t exactly classify as much of a videogame by industry standards like educational games. We pride ourselves though in being diverse having covered more than just AAA fare over the years and giving even the most indie game possible a fair go. Such is the way with the downloadable dinosaur themed trivia title Dinox for the Nintendo Wii U which is not a dinosaur themed shooter as one might think.

Dinosaurs are something that pretty much everyone can get behind, as generally children (especially but not limited to boys) go through a stage growing up where they are absolutely fascinated with these gigantic beasts. Some of those children then grow up to go into careers where they spend their lives devoted to learning more about these terrifying (thanks Jurassic Park, Seriously though I love you) but diverse creatures. For those of us not ready to go out into the world of paleontology there have been several documentaries made over the years to give us a look into the lives of dinosaurs. This includes the widely popular 1999 BBC presentation “Walking with Dinosaurs” from which Codix Games gets all the footage used in Dinox.

Trivia games, like many edutainment titles, are always a tricky genre to cover as most of the relevant checklists we look for are not really valid for these. The biggest thing trivia games must excel at is keeping you interested and giving you enough content so that you don’t quickly memorize the questions by heart. Dinox does manage to do both of these in equal measure though it does stumble in a few areas which ill touch on later.

Dinox can be played alone or with 3 other players using a combination of the Wii U gamepad, Wii U Pro Controller or Wii Remote competing against each other to answer questions correctly. Before you get into the questions though, you and the other players choose one of only 4 dinosaurs to act as your avatar of sorts. There are 3 different difficulties of questions to choose from that are selected from a pool of 900 or so trivia question that all precede a video where you much watch or listen to closely and then choose the correct answer for a set of three options.

There honestly isn’t really a huge difference at all as far as the questions and difficulties go through the hardest difficulty throws a third option where you have to think about what is being said or shown before choosing your answer. The biggest thing that got to me about Dinox is something that seems to pop up in every trivia game I’ve ever played, but more so here is that more than a few questions had almost nothing to do with the video clip that preceded it. Seriously why is this a thing?

That annoyance aside, Dinox does contain some pretty interesting trivia information for long time dinosaur fans and even the newly interested in every family making this a nice and relatively inexpensive (compared to the actual DVD series collection) way to learn about your favorite dinosaurs and even some you may not even heard of. The problem is replay value as you ultimately run out of incentive to play more than a handful of times unless this is being used as a school learning tool which is a great idea. The main objective of the game is to be the first one(or only one if soloing) to complete the dinosaur bone model of your chosen dinosaur before anyone else by correctly answering 10 questions that reward you with a piece of the model with each correct answer.

Once you unlock each of your dinosaur models you can view them in the Gallery where you can view them in larger detail and even learn a few things about each one. I’m kind of disappointed that there weren’t more dinosaurs to construct, as that would have definitely added to replay value as there is little else to do.

Even the presentation of Dinox is very minimal with little flair as far as graphics go. The menus and interface for navigating the game and answering the questions are really clean and aside from that somewhat annoying Dinox watermark in the upper left corner during EVERY video the game looks good on both the TV screen and the Wii U Gamepad. The audio for the videos are really clear and easily heard and luckily do not come out simultaneously of the gamepad’s built in speaker and the TV though Dinox does support playing it entirely on the gamepad screen when playing alone.

Overall Dinox is a fun title educational trivia game that was enjoyable for a while before I quickly lost interest after unlocking all the dinosaur models. Playing this with some family members is a lot of fun and if you have a few young ones joining in that is where Dinox ultimately shines.  So if you really love dinosaurs or have young ones discovering them for the very first time then Dinox is worth checking out for the Wii U.  It’s only $5 at the Nintendo eShop.

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LEGO Marvel Super Heroes Review – Wii U

Lego Marvel Super Heroes is an open-world sandbox game from Travelers’ Tales (TT Games). If you played Lego City Undercover or Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, you have a rough idea of what to expect. The story is simple, and serves as a good excuse to bring in every villain and hero they possibly can: Silver Surfer crashes on Earth and his board breaks up into pieces, called Cosmic Bricks. Dr. Doom wants to gather these Cosmic Bricks and make a super weapon out of them, and allies with Loki, Magneto, Venom, and loads of other classic Marvel villains to bring this plan to fruition. The only way to beat a huge villain crossover is, of course, with a huge hero crossover, and there’s the basic premise of the game.

The game follows the general Lego formula: You have an open world where you run around a Lego Marvel version of New York City. The story directs you around the city as the plot advances, though you’re free to explore wherever you like. Over the course of the game, you unlock more playable character, and a great selling point for any good Lego game. There are over a hundred and fifty playable characters to unlock with loads of crazy super powers. These powers are useful for fighting baddies, of which there are plenty, but many areas in the game are also built to highlight a particular character’s powers, so there are a lot of opportunities for characters to shine. Captain America can throw his shield to hit distant objects, Mister Fantastic can stretch and slip through grates, and Hulk Smash.

The moment to moment gameplay is largely the same as any other Lego game. When you enter a level, you fight your way through it until you get to the end. It’s basic beat ’em up gameplay where you just beat down hordes upon hordes of minions as you make your way to the villain responsible for one nefarious deed or another. Along the way, you can smash destructible objects into bricks, which you can collect for points, and I often found myself going out of my way specifically to destroy as much as I could, just for the fun of it. Admittedly, there’s no real depth of play here. It’s video game comfort food, and there isn’t much challenge. The boss fights are often unique and clever, but this isn’t the kind of game you turn to for anything other than a way to unwind.

The presentation is, of course, great. This might be the most gorgeous Lego game yet. I have to admit it’s a bit weird seeing fantastic special effects and a relatively realistic-looking city next to the simple and smooth shapes of all the Lego people, but I got used to it fast. The writing is loaded with jokes (all family-friendly, of course). There are a lot of references to Marvel stories in other media (shawarma, anyone?), and a Lego version of Stan Lee can be found in every level. In fact, he can be collected.

Taken on its own merits, Lego Marvel Super Heroes is a fun game with a mountain of content and light-hearted comedy that can make you smile. I prefer more depth to my combat, but I recognize that the Lego games aren’t really meant to be about that, and I’m not their primary audience anyway. This is a game you play to see silly Marvel characters fight other Marvel characters and listen to jokes. If you’re looking for a deeper play experience, you should look elsewhere, but if you just want to sit down and have a good time, this game is a good place for it.

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Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure Review – Wii U

The pen is mightier than the sword; especially when it’s being wielded by Maxwell, a young boy with unlimited imagination and a magic notebook than can turn his scribbles into reality. Fans of the Scribblenauts franchise already know this, but Warner Bros. is banking on attracting a whole new audience for their latest installment, Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure. With a library of more than 2,000 DC licensed superheroes and arch villains, not to mention all their gear, gadgets, cars, planes, and other toys, plus numerous authentic locations stripped DC’s 80-year history, this may be the biggest Scribblenauts game to date – it is certainly the most fun; especially if you love DC comics.

So, once again we have Maxwell and his magic notebook and his sister, Lily and her magic globe that allows them to instantly travel to wherever they need to be. This time they need to be in the DC Universe since Maxwell’s evil twin (doppelganger) has joined forces with the Joker and is terrorizing Gotham. As you might expect, they almost immediately meet up with Batman, turning Lily into a love-struck fan girl. Soon enough you will be hooking up with most all of your favorite heroes; Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern, just to name a few.

If you strip away the DC dressing you’ll find the same core gameplay as every past Scribblenauts game. You’ll explore some wonderfully imaginative levels looking for people in distress, odd jobs, or other random puzzles that require you to think up nouns to create objects or adjectives to alter existing ones, only now you have to think like a superhero. The game incorporates an encyclopedic wealth of DC assets that you can create, customize, and even mix and match using the Hero Creator to build and share your own heroes using elements from existing ones.

As you explore the fantastic stages that make up this unique world you’ll be collecting Starites as well as earning reputation points by completing the main story quests and checking off a wide assortment of side quests. Side quests are more diversionary fun to fill in the downtime between the main missions that usually feature a major DC hero and their archenemy. Rather than actually playing as the hero however, your scribbling services are more sidekick in nature, but that doesn’t detract from the challenge or the immersive interaction you’ll get from helping Superman defeat Lex Luthor or even go undercover in Wayne Manor to help out the Dark Knight.

There is so much to do and you will need to do most all of it if you want to earn enough reputation points to unlock the final stages. Thankfully, the gameplay is so charming and challenging and the artwork for both backgrounds and the sprite-like characters is so adorable that it never feels like you are grinding for points just to access the next area. In fact, I was often looking for more stuff to do even when new areas became available. Just finishing the 12 levels that make up the core story will take 8-10 hours, but there is a lifetime of adventure waiting when that story is over.

The puzzles can be rather crazy at times, but no less crazy than the endless possibilities of solutions tempered only by your imagination. While there are some restrictions in play, not to mention the fact that you score less points for reusing the same nouns, it’s hard to tell if the designers ever had one single way they intended this game to progress. And you’ll definitely want to break out the thesaurus when Mr. Mxyzptlk shows up and offers double the reputation points for playing within certain restrictions. Admittedly, there are times when you summon an object that logically “should” work and doesn’t, but these are few and far between, and you can almost always think of something that does work within a few tries.

The sound and music are exceptional with a fantastic musical score that never gets old no matter how long you play and some really simple, yet effective sound effects for the environments and actions that take place within the game. The graphics are a simple, colorful, and a pure delight and hold up just as well on a 60-inch screen as they do on the Wii U controller screen. The one thing I noticed is that you end up playing the game almost entirely on the gamepad screen, since that is where you are tapping and typing. You really have to force yourself to look up and play off the big screen, so unless you have a bunch of people in the room all pitching in with ideas, this game can be played just as well without a TV.

Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure is not only a fantastic new installment in the Scribblenauts franchise; it is also a remarkably fun superhero game that treats the DC universe and franchise with utmost respect while creating an open and fun world that encourages imagination and creative free-thinking. I won’t go as far as to call it “educational” but this kid-friendly game should be on every parent’s holiday shopping list, assuming they don’t buy it sooner.


Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver Review – Wii U

I grew up on Hot Wheels as a kid and I bet the majority of our readers did too. It’s easily one of the biggest toy franchises in the world and they’ve made their way into videogames here and there over the years. Now I haven’t played a single one of them until recently with the release of Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver for the Wii U. Originally a live-action racing film(check it on YouTube), Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver pits the player in over 50+ challenges to prove their driving prowess.

One thing that I will quickly dispel about Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver is that I never once raced against any of the other teams that the film or game’s cover makes the illusion to at any time. So if you’re looking for a fast paced racer say like Need for Speed stop here and go play that. What Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver really is an interesting toy themed gauntlet of mini-tests given to each of the four colored teams: Red(Outrageous), Yellow(Powerful), Green(Super Fast) and Blue(High Tech). Each team has a unique group of challenges like drifting for Blue Team or causing as much damage as possible as Yellow Team.

Players are graded on how well they do based on the criteria set for each challenge and receive needed to unlock the next stages in their challenges. You even earn points to spend on unlocking each team’s special ability like nitrous for Green Team on the Team Select menu. Players get to pick a car to drive around the test facility hub previous to selecting an event, which sadly is completely pointless as they designate what vehicle you will use for each event. You can even change the cars color for a little variation, but again that’s pointless too. I have to admit that despite the pre-chosen car bit, the vehicles featured in Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver are actual concepts from the actual toy line so there is a good chance you’ll recognize a few of your favorites while playing.

Some of the challenges were actually fun like traversing narrow beams and hopping on platforms hitting “hot zones” with a dirt bike. There were a few instances where you actually raced around a Hot Wheels circuit complete with orange track but that lost its appeal to me after a few times as the event types repeat through each stage with ever crazier and treacherous locations. If you want an even greater challenge and can find 3 other people or family members you can enter in Hot Seat Mode and see how you stack up against them one at a time passing the gamepad to the next person in each event.

One of the only really good things about this game is that the graphics are not actually that bad. They’re actually pretty good for the most part making use of the Wii U’s more powerful hardware. The cars look great and the tracks and environments themselves are nicely detailed. Most of the vehicles in Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver not only looks good but actually sound pretty good too, with a few exceptions. As you complete challenges you will also hear a distinct crew chief for each Team though I found most of them annoying when I would fail a challenge repeatedly.

What disappointed me about Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver the most was the almost complete waste of the use of the Wii U Gamepad. The gamepad screen does little more that act as a Team colored placeholder or gives a duplicate description of what you’re reading on your TV screen. Unlike the few games that I’ve played on the Wii U, you can’t even swap screens and play it on the gamepad itself which would have been a nice feature. If it weren’t for the fact that you needed a basic racing control layout you could probably play this on the Wii with a Classic Controller or coded the game to support the Wii U Pro Controller at least. Don’t get me wrong the steering controls for Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver are actually decent, but it’s a shame that they couldn’t give you more features with the Gamepad.

Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver wasn’t really the game I expected it to be. A small part of me wanted to race around twisted tracks (I did…sorta) at breakneck speeds like I did growing up with the actual toy line, but it wasn’t mean to be. Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver isn’t really about racing so much as it about fine motor control and driving. The challenges were fun to a point but I just kept losing interest way too quickly. Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver is a title that I would only recommend to those that really love the Hot Wheels license.


Sniper Elite V2 Review – Wii U

Just over a year after its release on PC and all the other consoles of the time, Sniper Elite V2 makes its way to the Wii U. When I first heard that one of my favorite stealth-tactical shooters of 2012 was coming to Nintendo’s new system I had some pretty cool images pop into my head about how it would play…being able to hold the tablet controller up and use an augmented reality scope that would zoom into the scenery being depicted on my big screen…but alas; that vision and pretty much all hope for this game was shattered mere moments after launching this lackluster port.

For those who already played the original and were tempted to try this…DON’T, and for those who haven’t played Sniper Elite V2 and were considering…please play it on any system other than this. The Wii U version of Sniper Elite V2 has had pretty much everything cut except the price. Gone are the DLC missions including your ability to assassinate Hitler and gone is the online multiplayer. What you have left is a 5-8 hour linear campaign mode and a three-map survival mode called Kill Tally. Such limited content would be acceptable for a budget-priced game, but this is being marketed as a full-price AAA title.

For those willing to wait for the inevitable price drop and who don’t have access to any other system to play this game the Wii U version isn’t all bad. In lieu of a virtual scope, your second screen is home to a top-down map view of the area that shows your location, your destination, and any enemies in-between. You also have touch/tap access to your inventory, which is a bit nicer than cycling through items with the D-pad. I would have preferred to play using the Wii U Pro controller but the game insists you use the tablet; at least Sniper Elite V2 offers remote play so you can continue the mission when you get bounced off the big TV.

I love stealth and I love sniping, whether it’s in a dedicated game like this or even taking on a sniper role in a class-based online shooter. Billed as an “advanced sniper simulation”, Rebellion attempts to make good on that promise with “realistic bullet physics” that take into account bullet drop over distance, wind shear, and cover penetration. The higher the difficulty setting, the more these elements factor into your gameplay, and when combined with the removal of several key visual indicators, Sniper Elite V2 does a good job of making you feel like a real sniper with each squeeze of the trigger.

On normal (or Marksman) difficulty you will be given a red diamond indicator that will automatically factor in the effects of gravity and wind, but when playing on Sniper Elite, this diamond is removed, forcing you to factor in your own on-the-fly adjustments using the tick marks on the scope. Obviously, if you play a few missions on Marksman you will slowly learn how to instinctively compensate for drop and wind, but trying to jump right into Sniper Elite mode could prove frustratingly difficult.

Breathing and heart rate also factors into each shot. When you sight down the scope your pulse will start thumping and you can exhale with the right shoulder button to reduce that rate even further, steady the scope, and get a bit more zoom on the target. Crouching or going prone will also steady your scope. Usually a BPM in the low 60’s is good for a reliable shot, but if you have just sprinted down a street or have gotten shot your pulse will be racing, and it takes a while to calm down enough to make your next shot.

Unlike most WWII games where you run around killing hundreds of men with machine guns and grenades, Sniper Elite V2 is a more methodical game that requires careful observation of each new area in the level. You will want to scan ahead with binoculars that oddly have much more magnification than your sniper scope. You can “tag” enemies, making it easier to keep tabs on them when you put the binoculars away, but being able to see them, even through walls, was a bit too “Ghost Recon” for me. Still, with such an aggressive AI engine, I’ll take all the help I can get.

Enemy AI is my biggest beef with Sniper Elite V2. The enemy has almost god-like powers of observation and awareness, able to spot you from several city blocks away, and able to triangulate your exact sniper perch after a single shot. If you are playing on Sniper Elite difficulty the enemies will aggressively storm your location, entering buildings, and try to flank your position. They do this on Marksman as well, but are not nearly as aggressive and you also have the added ability of being able to see a ghost image of your last detected position, so you know where the enemy “thinks” you are, allowing for some nice ambush opportunities.

Speaking of ambushes, some of the most fun you’ll have in Sniper Elite V2 is prepping all sorts of fun and elaborate traps. Once you find a good sniper perch you’ll want to protect your “six” with tripwire and landmines. There are even some levels where you must hold out against several waves of enemies, so prepping your “bunker” is especially important. You can also distract (or rather attract) enemies by tossing a rock from your endless supply. This tactic can be used to either get guards to move away from a door or lure them closer to an explosive fuel tank. One of my best earliest kills in the game was in the tutorial level where I tossed a rock at a truck and four guys went to check out the noise, and I shot the gas tank. BOOM! Four kills with one bullet.

Enemy AI also takes into account sound, so you need to be creeping for most of the game. Normal movement and especially sprinting anywhere near enemies is a dead giveaway. Some levels feature ambient noises like bombs exploding or one level with annoying PA announcements coming over a speaker. You can use these sounds to mask your movement as well as perfectly-timed sniper shots. Guards have patrol routes and you will either need to pick-up and stash dead bodies so they aren’t detected, or you can booby trap them, since they will always investigate a fallen comrade. And for those who want the bullet physics of Sniper Elite mode without the insane AI, there is a Custom difficulty mode that lets you tweak these variables separately.

While the game favors sniping most of the time you will often be forced into situations where you must use your secondary weapons like your standard issue Thompson machine gun or an MP40 you can lift off a dead soldier. You also start with a silenced pistol, great for stealth kills if you can get close enough for a headshot, and if you can get really close you can do physical takedowns like a neck-snap or a throat punch. Aiming is a bit unreliable, and at times I felt like I was playing one of the older GTA games. But with proper use of traps, grenades, and frequently relocating your sniper perch within the levels, you can avoid a lot, if not most of the secondary weapon encounters.

Last year the graphics ranged in quality depending on the system with the PC looking the best, followed by Xbox 360 and then PS3. The Wii U comes somewhere between the 360 and PS3, but what the game lacks in next-gen shine is more than made up for in overall style and vision with great level design that looks authentically devastated by war. Soldiers are nicely detailed and animated and the vehicles, especially the tanks, are very impressive. There is a bit of fogging to mask the limited draw distance and textures are often flat and get muddled when looking through a scope or binoculars. There is also some annoying pop-up.

Of course the real showstopper is the X-Ray Kill Cam that turns every squeeze of the trigger into an endorphin rush. Depending on the angle of your shot and the point of impact, nearly every scoped shot is rewarded with a slow-motion bullet-camera that starts with the bullet leaving your gun, travelling hundreds of yards to its target, then shattering bones and exploding organs as it travels through the body and exits as a crumpled piece of lead. Hearts, lungs, livers, and testicles are all fair game along with copious amounts of blood and bone fragments. Eight hours with Sniper Elite V2 and you’ll be ready to graduate med school…or at least apply to med school.

The audio is also pretty good with some nice military themes for the menus, but once you get into the game it’s all business. The ambient sounds of war have never been more realistic and you can eavesdrop on the Germans, who speak real German, plus you have to monitor the sounds of your own footsteps while listening for those of the patrolling enemy. Even better, when you empty your lungs and the game goes into slow-motion, all the sounds realistically slow and slur and when you fire your sniper rifle you get this powerful sound followed by a great Doppler-whooshing-Matrix-sound that travels with the bullet until the sickening crunch of bones and moist squishy noises of organs being liquefied. Tense music does kick in during combat that is supposed to increase the drama, but I found it a bit distracting and sort of a spoiler since it always fades away when the last enemy dies.

There are ten missions spread across some fairly realistic locations that all start to look alike after a while. They try to mix things up best they can but once you’ve climbed through the rubble of a dozen bomb-shattered buildings they all start to blur together. There is a nice mix of night and day missions along with outdoor and interior locations like a cavernous V2 rocket factory or a flak cannon outpost built into a massive castle. The levels are quite literally “littered” with detail giving you plenty of places and objects to take cover behind. While there is an illusion of exploration, the levels are in fact, quite linear, and any side-trips into empty buildings or down a random side alley is usually for the purpose of finding one of the 100 gold bars or 37 wine bottles scattered about the game; although, sometimes if you look hard enough you can often find a stealthier approach to your target or perhaps a sweet sniper perch.

Each level can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to finish unless you are out to find all the collectibles; then you can spend up to 90 minutes per level. Personally, I found that looking for the gold and wine bottles detracted from the immersion and mindset of the game, so I didn’t go out of my way on my first pass to find them. You can come back later and select any mission for replay to find missing items or try a different skill level.

Sniper Elite V2 might not be quite the “simulation” it is hyped to be, but for a third-person, action-cover-shooter with heavy emphasis on sniping, it just doesn’t get any better than this. The tension of sneaking around, the delight of setting traps and the instant gratification every time you squeeze that trigger on a scoped shot is unlike anything I’ve experience since Agent 47 in the Hitman series. There is a definite learning curve to Sniper Elite’s more methodical approach to combat, but after so much running and gunning in every other shooter out there I found this to be a refreshing change of pace and totally rewarding experience that no shooter or sniping fan should miss. But if you are looking for the best and most complete Sniper Elite V2 experience I would recommend playing the game on any system other than the Wii U. Sadly, too much was sacrificed to get this game ported over to Nintendo’s console.


 

LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes Review – Wii U

Lego games based on popular characters are usually pretty safe and formulaic. Grab a character, run through stages, beat up enemies, and solve puzzles. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes takes a bold risk by stepping out of this comfort zone, abandoning the traditional level-based setup and creating a full open world for Batman to explore as he travels Gotham City and cleans up the streets.

While this isn’t entirely uncharted territory for the series (Lego City Undercover predating its release by a couple months), it’s still new ground. There are hidden spots with collectibles, enemies hiding on rooftops, civilians to save, vehicles to hop into, and in general, just loads and loads of things to do that you’d associate with an open world game. Sure, you can just go through and clear the game, but anyone who’s played one of these knows that there’s an entire world just bursting at the seams with things to find and collections to bring to 100%.

That isn’t the only new thing. Lego Batman 2 is also the first Lego game to feature full voice acting. It’s kind of a weird thing to get used to, since every previous title has just featured miming, but it works, especially since some of the actors come from other Batman video games or the cartoons. The voice acting is solid, and it lends itself well to another strength of the Lego games: Comedy. I’m not going to try to re-deliver any of the jokes here, but I admit I smiled and laughed a few times, something that many games never even try to invoke in their players.

Another major departure from the previous Lego Batman game is the subtitle: DC Super Heroes. It’s not just Batman and his usual rogue’s gallery. The story centers on a team-up between the Joker and Lex Luthor, so Superman is in the picture. So are Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Zatanna, Flash, and loads of other heroes (and villains!) of the rich DC universe. As in any good Lego game, you can take control of all these people and use their super powers. In a particularly nice touch, the John Williams Superman theme plays whenever you take flight with Superman. Of course, Batman himself is still the star of the show, with Robin as his Superman-idolizing partner.

As far as gameplay goes, the actual moment to moment play when you’re accomplishing missions and going through the story isn’t too different from the usual Lego fare. Beat up enemies and solve puzzles. Still, this is the essence of maybe half of third person action games released in the past 10 years, so I’m not about to go bashing this game for that. That’s not what the real lure of the Lego games is anyway. It’s all about collecting, collecting, collecting.

First up is the classic Lego unit of currency, the Stud. Beat up enemies, and they drop Studs. Collect Studs and buy upgrades, vehicles, and other stuff. That’s pretty straightforward. There are also Red Bricks. When you collect these, you get Extras, which are little effects you can enable through a menu. These let you do things like wear Groucho Marx glasses, boost your Stud collection radius, regenerate your health, and locate special Bricks. As you go through the game, you also get to collect and take control of dozens of iconic (and obscure) DC heroes and villains.

The real meat of satisfying this collectable urge are the Gold Bricks. These are what really count when going for a 100% run of the game, and getting these aren’t as easy as just picking them up off the ground. To grab these goodies, you’ll need to solve puzzles, enter races, play carnival games, rescue citizens in peril, and that’s just off the top of my head. There are 250 of these all around Gotham, and this is where the real game is.

This is also where the Wii U version of the game becomes a huge help. It’s an open world game, and no one in the world wants to open up a map screen any time they want to get anywhere. The screen on the Wii U Gamepad shows a map. I realize this doesn’t sound too impressive, but I can’t stress enough how much this improves the experience. It saves time and keeps you in the game, and if you want to see if you’re still going the right way or if you passed something, you just need to do a quick glance down at your controller. This is especially helpful since the other versions of the game have no mini map.

This game is just fantastic in a lot of ways. It’s easy to pick up, easy to play, it makes you laugh, and it’ll keep you occupied for a while trying to collect everything. It’s video gaming comfort food, and when you’re in the mood for it, it hits the spot perfectly. If you just want to sit down, pick up a controller, and have some fun, get Lego Batman 2.