XBOX 360 Video Game Review “Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved”

Platform: XBOX 360
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Rating: E+10
Release date: October 21, 2014

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It has been a few years since I have played games like “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero”, but when those games were big, I used to be mega huge into those games. We had a band and competed online. It was a blast. Those games seemed to have tapered off in the last few years…until now (sort of). “Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved” is the latest game from Harmonix, the team behind games like “Rock Band”. This game is an XBOX One and XBOX 360 exclusive game. The game is totally hands free and uses the KINECT in order to control. The game itself is quite unique. Your hands are the instruments. I think that is pretty rad, this game would have a perfect score except the choice of the songs are a disappointment since they filled with trendy hits and no classics. Still a fun time and a great pleaser during parties.

Official Premise: Players enter the magical realm of Fantasia selected by the legendary sorcerer Yen Sid to hone their musical and magical prowess as his new apprentice. Perform to hit songs by using natural gesture-based motion gameplay. Tracks from Bruno Mars Queen Fun. Kimbra and AVICII and other top artists. Transform and remix music via magical manipulators in real-time like never before. Explore breathtaking environments with a motion controlled “muse”. Discover worlds filled with hidden musical interactions designed to engage players and encourage creativity.

While you are playing a song, you have two basic ways of interacting either swiping and punching. You are scored in points based on the accuracy of your movement. While playing you collect magical energy, which is used to unlock items to use throughout the game. I was certain quite exhausted after a few go-rounds at this game but it is quite fun. If you are used to the the regular rhythm-action games, this is a whole new experience. The music is blended well with the animation.

Here is the full tracklist included at launch for “Fantasia: Music Evolved”: Dvořák – “Symphony No. 9 from the New World”; Vivaldi – “The Four Seasons: Winter, 1st Movement”; Avicii– “Levels”; J.S. Bach – “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”; Bruno Mars – “Locked Out of Heaven”; Cee Lo Green – “Forget You”; David Bowie – “Ziggy Stardust”; Depeche Mode – “Enjoy the Silence”; Drake – “Take Care” (ft. Rihanna); Elton John – “Rocket Man”; The Flaming Lips “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1”; Fun. – “Some Nights”; Gorillaz – “Feel Good Inc.”; Imagine Dragons “Radioactive”; Inon Zur – “Scout’s Theme” (ft. Lindsey Stirling);
Jimi Hendrix “Fire”; Kimbra – “Settle Down”…

…whew! [deep breath] Lady Gaga “Applause”; Liszt “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”; Lorde – “Royals”; M.I.A. – “Galang”; Missy Elliot “Get Ur Freak On”; Mussorgsky – “Night on Bald Mountain”; New Order – “Blue Monday”; Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass”; Peter Gabriel – “In Your Eyes”; Police – “Message in a Bottle”; Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody”; Tchaikovsky – “The Nutcracker Medley”; The Who – “The Real Me”; The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army” and Mozart – “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”

If this game is anything like “Rock Band”, Harmonix is going to expanding upon these track list probably weekly most likely. I hope that they steer away from the trendy pop hits and get some real good songs in the mix. I can easily see myself revisiting this day often. It is a fun way to just let loose and just a really cool idea to be able to control the music with your hands. You always looks at a conductor in a band and think “Wow, he is running the show here”. Well with “Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved”, you are the conductor.

XBOX 360 Video Game Review “LEGO The Hobbit”

LEGO The Hobbit
Format: XBOX 360
Publisher: Warner Home Video
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Release Date: April 8, 2014

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Man, I am totally obsessed with all things “The Hobbit” right now. I have recently set through numerous viewings of both “Hobbit” films back to back. I just can’t get enough. I am also an avid fan of all things LEGO (Yes, 31 year old men still play with LEGO sets). The LEGO game series have been fantastic. Making not breaking video game ground with each no installment but tons of fun. I recently loved the new “LEGO Batman” and “LEGO Harry Potter” games and “LEGO The Hobbit” is certainly no different. If you loved the previous LEGO The Lord of the Rings series, this is yet another great addition and must play for anyone looking to explore Middle-earth LEGO style!

Official Premise: From the makers of the immensely popular LEGO The Lord of the Rings, comes LEGO The Hobbit, inspired by the first two films in The Hobbit Trilogy: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the upcoming The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, productions of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM) as well as the collection of LEGO The Hobbit constructions sets. The interactive game of LEGO The Hobbit allows gamers to play along their favorite scenes from the films and follows the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins as he is recruited by the Wizard Gandalf to aid Thorin Oakenshield and his Company of Dwarves. Bilbo leaves the comforts of the Shire on a journey through Middle-earth to help the Dwarves reclaim their lost Kingdom of Erebor within the Lonely Mountain.

The adventure starts with a Hobbit, a wizened Wizard and a group of valiant Dwarves as you head to the Lost Kingdom of Erebor to face the terrifying dragon Smaug. You can play the game as each of these characters from The Hobbit films including Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Dwarves: Thorin, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Dwalin, Balin Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori and Ori. If that isn’t enough you are able to unlocke Sauron if you purchase the Blu-ray of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” for a special in-game unlockable code. So you are not likely to get bored with the variety of option here. Each character has their own unique abilities to solve whichever quest you are facing.

Since we all know that location is everything even in Middle-earth. In the game you get a chance to explore and visit all key locations from the films including Bag End, head through the dangerous High Pass over The Misty Mountains in order to make it to Erebor. What I love most about LEGO in general and not only limited to the game is that you are create some many cool things. Here you are able to tacke exciting treasure quests, mine for gems, discover loot from enemies, craft powerful magical items or, of course, my favorite getting to build amazing and some times rather complicated new LEGO structures.

Another aspect that I love about the LEGO video game series is the humor in it. I love the dramatic aspect of this games and then mixed in so well is some great humor that lightening the mood. This game plays similar to past LEGO games, especially LEGO The Lord of the Rings but I do love that this game has a very new additions as well including much more ability to roam around. Also props to them for securing Christopher Lee to provide the narration between the chapters. If you enjoyed past LEGO games then you will enjoy this for sure. I apologize to my wife in advance for my constant playing of this game for the next few weeks, luckily there is a very fun multi-player option 😉

XBOX 360 Review “Star Trek: The Game”

Format: XBOX 360
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Digital Extremes
Release Date: April 23, 2013

Our Score: 1.5 out of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of “Star Trek”, especially the new reboot from J.J. Abrams. When it comes to video game adaptations of films, things never usually turn out well. Unfortunately, “Star Trek: The Video Game” is no different at all. You are able to play as either Kirk or Spock or together as a co-op duo. 2009’s “Star Trek” cast is on-board reprising their voices for the game, including Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock. Despite that though, this the game has poor controls, lacking animation and filled with a whole mess of bugs. While playing, I was just left repeating the same thing over and over…”Was this game ever tested before being released”. I guess with the release of “Star Trek Into Darkness” this summer, they were anxious to get it out there. Unless you are a die-hard Trekkie and need to own everything “Star Trek” as a collector, then I would recommend steering clear from this game.

The game itself was developed by Digital Extremes, who are known for games like “Bioshock 2”, “Dark Sector” and “The Darkness 2”. The story is set after events of “Star Trek” (2009) and is written by BAFTA award winner and “God of War” writer, Marianne Krawczyk, along with close collaboration with the writer/producers of the new “Star Trek films”, Bob Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. The story is decent but not enough to balance out the negative. You are able to explore new areas on the Enterprise and other ships, as well as never-before-seen sectors throughout the galaxy. I have to admit that I was very curious about how the co-op experience was going to be turn out and I was left very unsatisfied. I felt that it was very annoying, especially having to wait for the character to catch up when in one player mode. On the positive, you do get two different characters to explore, if you can deal with the bugs. I would have been happier to settle with one character backed with really good game play over what we got here.

For XBOX 360, I have certain expectations in terms of graphics and general animation. From the moment this game started, I was looking at Kirk and Spock and I just said out loud “Eww, they look terrible”. The graphics are very poor and not polished at all. I feel like this final product should have been like the first beta for this game before they cleared the bugs and polished it up. Same goes for the controls, which are all over the place and will have struggling to get a grasp on your characters. Also even though we get the original cast returning, there is also issue with terrible lip-syncing. The game clocks in at around 10 hours, which is pretty good for a film adaptation but that is not 10 hours of pleasure, more like aggravation. It is also 10 hours that you will never get back. “Star Trek: The Game” will leave you wanting more and wishing you didn’t just spend $60 on this game. I might recommend to check it out if when it drops to under $20 bucks, just if you are a die-hard fan.

XBOX 360 Game Review “Marvel Avengers: Battle For Earth”

Platform: Xbox 360
Studio: Ubisoft
Rated: Teen
Release Date: October 30, 2012

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

When it comes to “Marvel’s The Avengers”, they are the hottest ticket in not only film this year but also anything having to do with media in general.  So the release of “Marvel Avengers: Battle For Earth” is not a shock.  The game is a head-to-head fighting game where you can put iconic Marvel superheroes and villains against each other. You can choose from 20 classic Marvel characters, each one that is equipped with four unique superpowers. But this isn’t your typical fighting game you have to use motion to fight and trigger attacks using the Kinect.  But it is met with mostly mixed results.

Like most fighting games there is a wide variety of game modes including Co-op, Campaign, Arcade, Challenges, Versus, and Tournament. Concerning the fighting system, it is decent and definitely not the worst I have ever come across, there is your typical use of Super Attacks, Velocity Boost, Breaker, or Frenzy to battle your  opponents. On the plus side that didn’t make it a total bust for me, there is tons of extras to unlock as you go through the battles like unlocking unique outfits and collector cards.

The character line-up avaialble for “Marvel Avengers: Battle For Earth” is Black Widow, Captain America, Doctor Doom, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Human Torch, Iceman, Iron Man, Loki, Magneto, Phoenix, Queen Veranke, Scarlet Witch, Spider Man, Storm, Super Skrull, The Hulk, Thor, Venom and Wolverine.

I did enjoy getting a chance to control both the heroes and villains of the Marvel universe using my movements but it did get a little tiring.  The capturing of my movement was also quite accurate. The graphics are also quite impressive with some sharp shading. I mean it is not super high-def but I feel that that was the angle that they were going for, more of a comic book look and not so polished.  In the end, this will surely be loved by energetic kids under the age of 12.   Adults might enjoy playing but will most likely loose interest after a short while.

Product Description: “Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth” is the ultimate superhero brawler. It features 20 different characters, including Avengers such as Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Thor, as well as other fan-favorite Super Heroes and Super Villains from the Marvel Universe. Players will use motion gameplay to execute explosive super attacks, unleash devastating special moves and play with friends or against the AI in a wide variety of game modes.

XBOX 360 Game Review “The Sims 3: Pets”

Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Category: Simulation

Our Score: 3 out 5 stars

Who doesn’t love pets…and games about pets? Ever since Nintendo releases their “Nintendogs + Cats” series, it changed the way people look at these types of games. Combine that with the insane popularity of “The Sims” and should have a winning combination.  This game definitely has it fun and cute moments but lacks the want to come back continuously.  This latest edition of “The Sims” is also not a major improvement from past editions.  It still though has good graphics but also  a some lag in a few spots but nothing major.  Hardcore fans of “The Sims” should appreciate the expansion of the world and your ability to control new situations, but casual fans like myself might want to spend their time playing games with a little more draw.

This game is the first time in franchise history that you will be able to take full control of your pet’s in the game. Since this is called “Pets”, it should also be no shock that you will have the ability to create the perfect pet and control all aspect including personality and look etc.  While playing you are able to scroll through the “Live Mode”, “Town Map”, “Buy & Build”, “Landsculpting”, “Mystery Journal”, “Karma Points” and “Challenge”, which typical for your average Sims game.  You can to get to chase, dig, tackle and more. You also have the ability to be friendly or mean to your Sims and the other animals.  I was pretty impressed, I have to admit, with the features that were included and the aspects that were controllable. This game is quite a bit more than just petting or playing fetch with your pets.  You can learn skills like hunting, locating collectibles and also are given career opportunities.  I think that the ability to run around the town and are able to go on adventures throughout.

If you have the Kinect for Xbox 360, you will even get more of an added bonus (I wish I did), you can command your Sims and their pets using voice commands. Could be a cool feature.  Also exclusive for Xbox 360, is the Limited Edition of the game which comes with exclusive content, including 10 rare and exclusive breeds.  These are really cool addition to the game.  You can also activate your online pass and connect to the “The Sims 3: Pets Exchange” where you can download other players content and share your own.  Overall I wouldn’t call this the best game of the year but it is hardly the worst. Lastly I am a little confused about the rating of the game though, which is  “T for Teen: Crude Humor, Sexual Themes, Violence”.  I know that “The Sims” is known for its free ability to pretty much whatever but I would think of this game aiming more towards a younger audience.  I honestly do not see a 40 year old man playing this all night.  If your are thinking about this for a kid, the game play will definitely keep them interested and involved.

XBOX 360 Game Review “Dead Island”

Developer: Techland
Distributor: Square Enix
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform: Xbox 360
Mode: Single-player, Multiplayer
Rating: ESRB: M

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

First, and above all foremost, this is NOT your “Mom’s” Zombie game. This game is bloody, gory, creepy, and fun as all hell. I wanted to play it the first time I saw the official announcement trailer, watch below. This game has the “scare” feeling you get from BioShock, coupled with good music and sound effects. The scare factor is what I loved the most. If you want to really get into the game, play at night, in the dark, using a Ear Force X41 headset, which I absolutely love. You can hear all of the little details in the background, not just the ones close to you. My roommates had a particularly joyful time sneaking up on me. The game is set in an absolutely spectacular island setting, with blue skies filled with puffy white clouds, and crystal blue waters. The fact that a zombie apocalypse begins here of all places is ironic.

Now before you just punch the heck out of the start button to jump in to the game, make sure you watch that intro. For one thing the song “Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?” is addictive, but mainly because it sets up the story for you. For example, it explains why you start out by waking up on the floor in a hotel room. You also want to pay close attention to your mini map and the “bread crumb trail” in the beginning or you will find yourself dying several times before you get off the floor of your hotel room.

Game play is smooth and easy to catch on to changing weapons and setting skill points. Just make sure you are in a safe place when you set those skill points because live mode is still live when you go into your inventory, map and skills section. The tutorial is short, and sweet, getting you into the fray pretty quickly. There are loads of places and things to loot, from the numerous luggage left all over the island, to refrigerators, cupboards, phones and even computer towers give you items to sell, modify your weapons; even the zombies sometimes give out health packs!

Health is regenerated from eating fruit, energy bars, and drinking energy drinks, or using med kits which are given like an injections. Several friends and I have joked that the med kits are more akin to taking an insulin shot after the number of energy drinks and energy bars one consumes to stay alive. Dying doesn’t kill you in the XP section like most games, or the loot, but it will make a nice dent in your wallet. Sadly returning to the site of your demise doesn’t replenish that wad of cash either, you just want to make sure you loot when you can, especially zombies and safe’s as they give really good handfuls.

You have an option of playing in either Co-Op Mode or Multiplayer Mode and in either mode you play through the story line. The difference is with Multiplayer Mode you can join random other peoples games or they can jump into your game depending on the settings you have changed. I particularly enjoyed the Multiplayer mode because anyone could just jump in your game at any time and help you out. You also learn a lot of tips and tricks from them. Then again if they just annoy you you do have the option to boot them out of your game.

With all games there are of course some issues. For instance trying to take a shortcut over a large hill rather than going around it will sometimes find you stuck, or that gap between the fence and stairs will send you suddenly to your death. I find the game play was so much fun that the little things that annoyed me were very pale in comparison. There are some other little glitches, some of them so easy you can’t help but wonder if the programmers did it on purpose. For instance, with an especially expensive or all around awesome weapon equipped, holding down your left trigger, then holding down Y and then holding down right trigger (so they are all held down at once at the end) you drop your weapon, and a duplicate of it. This is a particularly nice “glitch” when you need more money (duplicate, sell, repeat) or when you want to save on the costly price of repairing your weapons (duplicate and save weapon that is at 100%).

All in all I absolutely LOVED this game. The story line is terrific, even including a rather unique reason how the whole zombie thing began. But I suggest you play yourself and try it out. This is definitely a game I recommend to anyone over 18 (there IS a lot of blood and gore!)