New console game releases have been abundant these last few weeks; here is a look at a few of the titles that stand out from the crowd.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (XBox, $49.99): Video games that are based on television shows or movies are rarely anything to get excited about. They usually evolve as a token accompaniment to the original and don't offer much in terms of originality. However, Buffy, an XBox exclusive, breaks the mold. It is refreshingly fun and true to the show. Most of the actors lent their voices to bring the characters to life - except the show's star, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
The “story” of the game involves Buffy and almost every major character from the show trying to keep the 600-year old Master Vampire from being resurrected by scores of his evil - but not quite so powerful - blood-sucking followers. Players throw a stake or give the boot to any baddie that crosses their path. And by utilizing Buffy's “slayer power” you can access some spectacular Matrix-like moves. The hand-to-hand combat, which is the core of the game, is very smooth and looks superb, thanks to the gorgeous animation throughout. Striking with a spinning combo move and finishing off a bloodsucker with a stake to the sternum is definitely one of the highlights of the game.
The only annoying parts of the game are the corny one-liners from Buffy herself, and having to start each level of the game from scratch, no matter what point your character was at when you bit the dust. This can mean lots of time spent re-doing and re-staking vamps and critters. All in all a good, but not great title. Fans of the show will want to nab this one for sure. Great graphics and excellent sound!
Dead to Rights (XBox, $49.99): If you are in the market for an action/adventure shoot 'em up game for your XBox and don't already have Max Payne, you need to give Namco's Dead To Rights a look. Both Max and Dead bring us as close to starring in a John Woo-style film as most of us will be. Here are the similarities between the two: Tall, dark, square-jawed, leather-jacket-wearing, big-gun-toting lead characters. Yep. Your character is pitted against legions of underworld thugs in a dimly lit big city. Yep. There's Bullet Time, which allows you you to slow down the action in the heat of battle to your advantage. Yep. And extra-heavy doses of gore and carnage. Yep.
What really separates Dead from Max is Dead's secret weapon - his dog! That's right, just when the bad guys are expecting a bullet to the head from you, they get a chomp to the leg instead. Your trusty sidekick can also sniff out bombs and attack enemies, even steal their weapons.
While Max is mostly level after level of action with the occasional puzzle thrown in, Dead is filled with a bunch of mini games that have you doing everything from lifting weights to kick boxing. Do these mini games add to the diversity of the title, or just take you out of the action when you're kicking and clawing to stay? A tough call, but I didn't get much out of the mini games - I just wanted to get through them and continue with the good stuff. And the good stuff in Dead is great - this game gets your pulse throbbing!
My only complaint is in the aiming controls of Dead, which are not up to par with those in Max. The game fires at whatever bad guy is closest to you, which isn't necessarily the one you want - or need - to take out at that moment. And with some of the best action of any game out there, you can't help but wish for better, less-automated control of your weapons. Bottom line: If you don't have Max, then buying Dead is a no-brainer. But you may want to rent Dead first to see if it adds enough to warrant purchasing.
Aero the Acrobat (GameBoy Advanced, $29.99): Watch out for those spikes! Not every game transfers neatly to the tiny Game Boy Advanced screen, but this cute little conversion holds up quite well while remaining faithful to the original Sega Genesis game. Seeing the screen in low light has always been a pain with Gameboy titles, but Aero really spotlights the system's hardware with bright, colorful backgrounds and crisp animation that show up great. The opening comic book-type stories are really a fun read. Aero will have you jumping through flaming hoops, collecting keys while playing as the loveable little critter runs across nearly two dozen varied levels. Some levels even feature log flume slides, rollercoaster rides, and bungee jumps.
There are no particularly groundbreaking challenges, but Aero does provide a fun, familiar ride paired with solid gaming basics and a wide assortment of obstacles which add up to great replay value. Aero is a solid title to add to your GBA library and great for road trips.