Graphics take flight in Combat

<p>Climb into the cockpits of some of the most advanced fighter jets in the world, take to the skies and fight for the glory of your homeland in this sixth installment of the ultimate air combat action game.</p>

 



 

 




Ace Combat 6: Fires Of Liberation

Publisher: Bandai Namco Games

Platforms: Xbox 360

Rating: T — Teen

Game type: Flight

Rating: **** (out of five)

 




What’s the premise?


Climb into the cockpits of some of the most advanced fighter jets in the world, take to the skies and fight for the glory of your homeland in this sixth installment of the ultimate air combat action game.





This game is most similar to…?


Blazing Angels, but with much sweeter rides.





Is it suitable for younger gamers?


There’s no face-to-face killing, however even a slow kid is going to figure out what all those missiles and bullets are doing to your enemies.





One player or more?


Take on other would-be pilots from all over the world on Xbox Live in matches of as many as 16 players.





What’s missing?


The storyline that ties together all the battles that you’ll take part in is a little thin and it may not immerse you in the game as much as the dynamic action in the air will.





The (not-so) secret to success is…?


Use the right tools for the job. As you progress through the game you’ll have the opportunity to choose different aircraft and weaponry before you head out on missions. Pay attention during your mission briefings and choose your tools wisely if you want to make it out alive.





And in the end?


Ace Combat 6 is more arcade action than simulation and that’s a good thing. The controls are tight and easy to learn, the action is fast, the graphics smooth — flight combat games don’t get much better than this.










Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground

Publisher: Activision

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS

Reviewed on: Xbox 360

Rating: T — Teen

Game type: Sports

Rating: **** (out of five)





What’s the premise?


What kind of skater do you want to be? That’s the question you’ll be asked repeatedly as you customize a character and hit the streets on your board looking to become the best as either a pro, hardcore or maverick skater in a world where every decision you make leads you down a different path.





This game is most similar to…?


Tony Hawk’s Project 8.





Is it suitable for younger gamers?


They might be happy just cruising around on their board, but there are some mad tricks to be done to keep the game moving that require a fair amount of skill to master. Can your little friend handle that?





One player or more?


There are a pretty decent variety of multiplayer modes, but off and online, which allow you to school your punk friends (or strangers from around the world).





What’s missing?


The “nail-the-move” feature introduced in Tony Hawk’s Project 8 is back with a twist. There’s now a manual requirement that is rather finicky and unfortunately mandatory to master if you want to keep the story mode moving. This feature is fine, but should have been made less fussy.





The (not-so) secret to success is…?


Follow the leader. You’ll be challenged to do some pretty outrageous tricks and moves as you progress through the game. Watch the expert skater demo them for you and you’ll have a much easier time than if you just try to wing it.





And in the end?


With some new moves and tons of mini-missions to do, fans of the Tony Hawk franchise ought to be pretty pleased with this ninth incarnation.










Thrillville: Off The Rails

Publisher: LucasArts

Platforms: Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo DS, PC

Reviewed on: Xbox 360

Rating: E — Everyone 10+

Game type: Simulation/party

Rating: **** (out of five)





What’s the premise?


Live out the dreams of many an eight-year-old as you take control of an amusement park and look after everything from building and tricking out new rides to hiring and training staff and making sure that the fans keep coming back for more. Best of all: You get to enjoy all the rides and games, too!





This game is most similar to…?


Let’s go with the obvious: Thrillville.





Is it suitable for younger gamers?


Off The Rails has all the makings of a great family game. You can design the park together and then let the kids try out all the rides and games.





One player or more?


There a good pile of mini-games you can play as a group.





What’s missing?


You only have a certain amount of space and power to spruce up your park with. This, unfortunately, limits your creativity on occasion.





The (not-so) secret to success is…?


Give the people what they want. A key part of park management is talking to park patrons about what they are— and aren’t — digging about your features. Listen up to what they have to say and you’ll be raking in the dough in no time.





And in the end?


Off The Rails is basically two titles in one: A cool amusement park creator game, a la Roller-coaster Tycoon, and also an excellent mini-games package. With all that, how can you go wrong?










Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles

Publisher: Konami

Platforms: PSP

Rating: T — Teen

Game type: Action

Rating: **** (out of five)





What’s the premise?


Take two classic monster-slaying games, upgrade one and put all three into an outstanding little package and you’ve got Castlevania: The Dracula X Chroniciles. Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood is finally available for North American gamers over a decade after its release in Japan — and not only the original 2D platformer but also a new 3D version, too. Rounding out this triumvirate is the late 90s PlayStation classic, Castlevania: Symphony Of Night.





This game is most similar to…?


This is old-school platform gaming at its finest.





Is it suitable for younger gamers?


Blood, gore, monsters and violence? Uh, no.





One player or more?


Two players can take on the big, bad bosses of the game using the PSP’s ad hoc network function.





What’s missing?


Certainly not a challenge. It may seem like simpler gaming times when you start out, but all of these games, especially Rondo Of Blood, require a lot of skill to tackle.





The (not-so) secret to success is…?


Like many 2D platformers, Castlevania often requires you to bite the big one a few times before you figure out how to advance through tough parts or against some of those aforementioned big bosses. Don’t get mad; just get even.





And in the end?


Fans of this stalwart franchise are no doubt doing cartwheels at this game’s release — and for good reason. It’s an impressive addition to the legacy of Castlevania.










Spider-Man 3

Publisher: Activision

Platforms: PSP

Rating: T — Teen

Game type: Action

Rating: *** 1/2 (out of five)





What’s the premise?


Swinging into action just in time for the DVD release of this summer’s big theatrical blockbuster comes the PSP version of Spider-Man 3 — complete with all the web swinging, wall crawling and bad guy bashing you’ve come to expect in the adventures of this masked marvel.





This game is most similar to…?


Spider-Man 3 for PlayStation 2.





Is it suitable for younger gamers?


Kids would probably dig the web swinging and wall crawling, but the bad guy bashing might be too much for their easily influenced little brains.





One player or more?


It’s just you and the ol’ web-head.





What’s missing?


An epic feel. It might just be because it’s on the small screen of a handheld, but this version of Spider-Man just didn’t seem to capture the excitement of being a super-hero as well as the console versions.





The (not-so) secret to success is…?


The clothes make the man. Spidey can switch back and forth between his alien black costume and his usual blue and red jammies at will and while the former gives you increased abilities, it will also come back to haunt you if you wear it too long.





And in the end?


If you loved the movie and/or really like the character, there’s plenty of stuff to enjoy in this portable release, but you’re still probably better off with the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 versions.









Backyard Basketball

Publisher: Atari

Platforms: Nintendo DS

Rating: E — Everyone

Game type: Sports

Rating: *** 1/2 (out of five)





What’s the premise?


Take some of your favourite NBA stars like Steve Nash, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett, make them pint-sized and let ’em hit the hardcourt for some high-scoring 3-on-3 hoops action.





This game is most similar to…?


Backyard Hockey, but without the ice, pucks and sticks.





Is it suitable for younger gamers?


No blood, no guns, no swearing, no sex — it’s perfect for kids.





One player or more?


Two players can go head to head over Wi-Fi, as long as you each own a copy of the game.





The (not-so) secret to success is…?


You may fire when ready. Even at the hard setting this game is an absolute shootout with defence being pushed way to the back burner, so don’t be afraid to go toe-to-toe and take the ball to the rack with reckless abandon.





What’s missing?


The aforementioned defence. Your team doesn’t have much of it, either.





And in the end?


It’s probably not as fun as Mario Hoops: 3-on3, but young fans of the NBA will love the chance to play as some of its stars in a pretty well done little basketball game.




jonathan.kuehlein@metronews.ca

 
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