Review: 3DS XL - Size matters

Handheld gaming has always been a problem for me as I could never successfully find a comfortable position to play in. To use such small devices naturally means that you will either have to hold it up to your face, or require you to hunch over to get a decent view of the screen. Whenever I played my Nintendo DS, I often shifted positions from sitting in a chair, lying on my back, side or stomach. The PSP, although I don't own one, provided a larger viewing area for playing, but I was not interested in games that replicated a console experience. Nintendo's evolution of their glasses free 3D handheld, the 3DS XL, is a device that is perfect for supplementing larger experiences on consoles or PC, all the while proving to be comfortable to play. As long as there is a legitimate reason for why you want to own the 3DS XL, the growing software library and excellent hardware design will counteract any shortcomings or gimmicks that are quickly apparent.

Fan Expo Canada 2012: The Wii U gamepad and ZombiU

Even though Fan Expo Canada is not a convention I enjoy going to, it being the only one in Toronto that comes close to resembling a dedicated video game convention, makes me grudgingly attend each year. Tens of thousands of people attend this comic, sci-fi, anime and gaming convention, and since video games were later added to this originally comic book gathering, there is always a lack of game demo stations suitable for the number of attendees. The convention itself, especially if there's only one area you actually follow, is very limited with things that you can actually do. Once 4 day pass purchasers realize that they have exhausted all available activities associated with their hobbies, they line-up to play Halo 4, ZombiU and whatever game that can occupy their time. Not to sound like a whiner, but this in turn, makes people who go strictly for the games, wait longer in the already lengthy lines.

Wii U Gamepad

With general convention complaints aside, what I really wanted to talk about was the Wii U and Ubisofts survival horror game, ZombiU. That sentence has a lot of "U"s in it which makes it sound weird, but I can't help Nintendo's annoying branding. Wait one more U, U Play. I was hoping ZombiU, awkwardly spelt without the E, would be one of the games that would change my pessimistic perspective of the Nintendo Wii U.  With lackluster first party titles at launch, it was a weird thought knowing that I could possibly buy a Nintendo console to play Ubisoft games. Having confidence that Rayman Legends will be a game I will undoubtedly enjoy is comforting, but after my brief session with ZombiU and its controller, comfortable is not what I am.

Now Playing: Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Smarten up

I have learned to parse the fluffed up public relations descriptions of unreleased games, to find the truth about what exactly is the core of an experience. So when a developer describes their game as one that allows for both stealth and head-on approaches, I immediately sound the horn. Games with stealth components usually become the primary focus of an experience, and this is further supported by the level design. A building complex with many doors, air vents, scaffolding, sewer grates, unreachable ledges and keypad security, are objects not at all related to the success of running and gunning. The way a game was intended to be played is told through its level design, and based off of the numerous objects previously listed, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a stealth game, a good one too.  

Donkey Kong Country Returns and old design practices

Rarely do I play my Nintendo Wii, but even rarer that I play a Wii game on it. For many, the Wii acts as a way to revisit or play missed games from previous generations, which sometimes are more popular than few a far between releases of newly developed games. Despite my general satisfaction with exhausting the Wii library of its best titles, there was one game that I had forgotten - a game that I had little affiliation with.

Donkey Kong Country Returns arrived at the awkward stage in the Wii life cycle where I no longer cared for the thing. I played the latest Zelda, despite being much newer, but that's because it's a Zelda game. Even if it was terrible, I enjoy the franchise too much to not see it firsthand. I have no familiarity with Donkey Kong outside of Smash Bros. and Mario Kart; therefore I have no nostalgia to draw from.  Even with Nintendo's pedigree, I have difficulty paying attention to Kirby or Donkey Kong since I was never exposed to them. I was however familiar with Retro Studios, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Metroid Prime series enough to trust that I was going to spend my time with a quality product. After playing through 6 worlds, quality is what I received, yet I can't help but wish it moved away from old design practices.

Final Thoughts: Alice: Madness Returns - Never ending

As low as some of the prices were, I made a conscious effort to buy games from the Steam Summer Sale that I knew I would actually play. I wanted to avoid buying games because of their ridiculously low price, since I knew they would sit in my Steam Library without even being installed. The first game I would buy under this wallet protection plan was Alice: Madness Returns - a platformer that takes a dark tone and surrounds the colourful Alice in Wonderland story.  Were it not for the different perspective on a familiar childhood tale, I would have never even considered giving it my attention. At the same time, I don't think anyone would have given Alice: Madness Returns a fair chance if it didn't ground itself in Alice in Wonderland. Strip away the aesthetic and attention to the littlest of visual details in the environments, and Alice: Madness Returns is an unevenly paced, tedious platformer that never seems to end.

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