Mini Reviews: Diddy Kong Racing (DS), Metal Slug Anthology (PSP), Sonic and the Secret Rings (Wii).

March 21, 2007

Diddy Kong Racing (DS):


Diddy has never had the charm of Mario, he didn’t in 1997 and he certainly doesn’t now. But whereas in 1997 Mario Kart 64 was a fairly shallow game, offering very minimal options but a hilarious multiplayer (while still being considered the superior game), with the DS hosting arguably the best Mario Kart ever, it makes this port of a ten-year-old N64 game seem very outdated.

The core game remains the same as it was in 1997, navigate car, plane or hovercraft through a variety of relatively bland levels utilising stackable balloon power-ups (and new super power-ups) to jostle your way into first. New to the table are the, relatively entertaining balloon popping stages (think something like a light gun shooter). Other DS ‘improvements’ include spinning/rubbing or blowing to activate start line boosts and ill contrived minigames. The 1997 versions rock hard difficulty has also been given a sharp decrease, making the single player feel more distinctively like practise for the multiplayer.

And this is one area in which Diddy manages to teach its peers a lesson, with all tracks playable (including battle arenas) by six players (eight offline) across a few modes, the online portion of the game is fairly substantial, but Diddy ultimately favours the expert player, rewarding superior driving, rather than mid race, super weapon hilarity.

Diddy is an enjoyable attempt at the kart formula, but ultimately lacks the finesse or sheer multiplayer laughs of Mario Kart.



Metal Slug Anthology (PSP):

SNK have never been particularly generous with the Metal Slug games, while simple arcade games; all past home releases have been of each singular game with a few minigames thrown in for good measure. Not so with Anthology, this is a full Metal Slug blow out featuring Metal Slugs one through to six (with X in the middle). So, with seven full Metal Slug games, there is a lot to shoot…

For the uninitiated, Metal Slug is a scrolling shooter, not too dissimilar to Contra or the more recent Alien Hominid (which itself was based on Metal Slug). The aim is to travel from left to right, exterminating all that lay in your path. The series has no restraints, filling the screen with men, tanks, helicopters and towering.

Anthology does not contain the console version’s minigames, but simply having all seven Slug titles more than compensates for this. To entice repetitive plays, the game offers art galleries, music and wallpapers for your efforts. While lacking a level select, the unlimited lives allow a new player to enjoy the games, with limited lives offering the required challenge for veterans. All seven games also offer two-player support, but both players will need a copy.

If you are looking for a fun arcade blast on the PSP, Metal Slug is a worthy choice. The game is also available on the Wii, but without a Gamecube pad you will be lumbered with awkward motion controls. However, it will be easier to recruit a second player.


Sonic and the Secret Rings(Wii):

Sonic has not had an easy time in recent years, with games ranging from all right (Sonic Adventure/2) to downright awful (Sonic 360/PS3). Secret Rings falls somewhere around the higher end of the spectrum, considerably better than the recent travesty, but still not meeting the heights of polish and gaming brilliance that the fastest hedgehog in the world should be receiving.

The entire game is on rails, as such Sonic is always moving while you tilt the Wii mote to dodge hazards. Hold 2 to make Sonic jump and flick forward to attack enemies, the only move that doesn’t work fully is tilting back to reverse, occasionally failing to register and being awkward to use. By placing Sonic on rails, it has allowed developers to create impressive set pieces, meaning you will sometimes let out an impressed gasp as Sonic follows a Gryphon through the air, or runs from rampaging Triceratops.

The single player is punctuated by too many superfluous missions, which tend to annoy, thankfully the main missions are enjoyable enough to compensate for them. By playing well you can earns medals, which unlock various media from and about the game as well as Sonic’s skills (which allow you to customise his performance to suit specific levels better).

The game also features a throwaway minigames based multiplayer, but ultimately rounds off a fairly substantial package. Not without niggles, Sonic is an enjoyable game and certainly a step in the correct direction for Sega’s once loved mascot.



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