Game Room: December Roundup
EA Sports Active 2
Not a "game" in the traditional sense, the sequel to the wildly popular EA Sports Active allows the user to design customizable workouts based on their lifestyles and fitness goals. Like the original, the game is bundled with EA's Total Body Tracking system, which combines a heart rate monitor and motion tracking data (through the Wii Remote) to ensure an accurate workout with measurable results. For couch potatoes, there's the Cardio Kick Start three-week introductory program; for those further along, a nine-week program with more advanced exercises. You can upload your key workout data -- including heart rate, calories burned and length of workout -- to easportsactive.com track our progress over time, optimize your workout or create and join workout groups with other Electonic Arts community members. While the original was a Wii-exclusive title, EA Sports Active 2 is available for Xbox 360 (for use with the Kinect) and on PS3. Score: 8/10
Disney Epic Mickey
Mickey Mouse awakens to find himself in a twisted Fantasia-like dreamscape world in which he has to fight -- and paint -- his way back home. Longtime fans of the mouse -- who isn't? -- will delight in the cut scenes alone; it's like getting more of the original Mickey Mouse in celluloid. As Mickey you are equipped with a paint brush in one hand and paint thinner in the other. Sometimes you have to paint in missing objects and sometimes you have to erase obstacles (or enemies) that get in your way. There's also a 2D-platformer element to the game that appeals to old school gamers. But mostly this game is for the young crowd. It has limited appeal for adults but it's a must-have for the kids. Score: 7.5/10
Step into the gaming grid with this multi-platform complement to the blockbuster movie sequel. For fans of the movies, the storyline will prove appealing because it fills in the blanks between the original and Tron Legacy. There's also 3D support for the early adopters out there. As for the game itself, the single player mode offers a complicated battle scheme that forces you to pull off complex combos to advance. It's not bad but could have been a little more accessible. The game really shines in multiplayer, where you can get your light cycle battles on inside the real modern day gaming grids. Score: 6.5/10
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011
Pro Evolution stakes its claim as the best soccer simulation of the year by integrating an intuitive control set-up and sprucing up its AI. While the game's realism is certainly intact, there's an element of fun present throughout gameplay that makes this title endlessly re-playable. Passing is crisp and artificial intelligence has gotten more intelligent, resulting in a very satisfying solo experience. Cleaner graphics are a step up from last year's build and an online Master League brings strategic bidding on players into the fray. Score: 9/10
Hands-on: Dragon Age 2
The folks at Bioware are hard at work on the sequel to the popular role playing game, Dragon Age. In a nod to more casual gamers you'll be able to use button attacks in real-time or use the combat menu system to properly choreograph specific attacks and character placements. The latter is more effective. You'll still be able to create a custom character within a specific class that determines your abilities. The demo had clean graphics and solid voice work and an improved conversation mechanic. RPG fans will definitely want to keep an eye on this one. Dragon Age 2 is scheduled for a March 8 release.
Hands-on: Crysis 2
EA is finally bringing the action-packed shooter, Crysis, to the console. The previously PC-only game drops you into a post-apocolpytic New York in which you fight various minions of aliens in a nano-suit equipped with powers like temporary invisibility and invulnerability. Tactically you're able to attack targets head on, or play more strategically using stealth and sniping. The open levels and varied destroyed-city terrain worked for both methods. The graphics were crisp and the enemy AI was effective in the level we played. You'll be able to play the game in 2D or 3D with a 3D-capable TV and glasses. Crysis 2 is scheduled for a March 22 release.
Splatterhouse is a 3D remake of the cult classic side-scrolling arcade bloodfest of the same name. The main draw of the game is, as you'd expect from a game called "Splatterhouse," the torrents of blood and gibs that flow from the pummeled bodies of your enemies. The plot is horror-movie ridiculous: you've been mortally wounded and your buxom girlfriend kidnapped. You find yourself saved at the last moment before death by a skull mask that, when placed on your face, turns you into a musclebound superman capable of regenerating limbs and absorbing blood from your attackers. The mask, when it's not taunting you with epithets not appropriate for a family publication, gives you a choice: you give it blood and it will help you get your girlfriend back. And there will be blood. Everything you kill sprays blood across the screen, across the main character, everywhere. The gruesome faces of the monsters you fight get ripped apart, heads get popped off and torsos get pulled asunder. Remember the scene in The Shining where the hallway is flooded with blood? It's like an HP Lovecraft version of that. Splatterhouse isn't a great game. The fighting is repetitive, the dialogue and plot are juvenile and ludicrous, the collision detection is poor, the camera is frustrating. That said, the game isn't without its ridiculously insane charms and there is something satisfying about beating one monster to death with another's head. If that sounds cool to you, get thee to Splatterhouse. Score: 7/10