Wheel of Fortune PlayStation 2 Video Game Review

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This review was originally written on January 20, 2004
We Waited An Extra Year For This!?!

There are a few things you need to know before reading this review. First, I will be making many comparisons between this PlayStation 2 edition and the previous edition, "Wheel Of Fortune 2nd Edition" for the PlayStation 1 (released in 2000).

Second, this game was originally to be released near the end of 2002, and was originally called "Wheel Of Fortune 2003." Like the two previous games before it for the PS1, it is sort-of a port of a PC version, which in this case DID get titled "Wheel Of Fortune 2003" (though I think the title has gotten changed on additional printings to "Wheel Of Fortune") and DID get released for the PC near the end of 2002. When I say "sort-of a port", I mean that both games have the same box graphics and puzzles, and I'd bet they have the same video clips and audio, too. The only difference is the graphics and GUI.

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BASIC GAMEPLAY

For the benefit of those people who have not seen the show, I will describe exactly how the game is played.

Three contestants compete to solve word puzzles in an effort to win cash and prizes. You start by spinning a wheel, which not only has dollar amount spots, but also spots that will take away your money (Bankrupt), award you a special prize, make you lose your turn, earn you an extra spin, and so forth and so on. If you land on a dollar amount spot, the contestant guesses a letter and receives that amount of money for each instance of that letter in the puzzle. If the contestant has enough money, they can then choose to buy one of the five vowels. However, if the contestant guesses a letter that is not in the puzzle (or lands on a Bankrupt or Lose A Turn space), it's the next contestant's turn – kind of like a round robin version of Hangman.

Once the active contestant believes he/she can solve the puzzle based on the letters currently shown, he/she attempts it and if correct wins the total amount of money earned in the round. Players that earn money in a round, but do not solve the puzzle, do not take that money over to the next round. After the end of three/four/five rounds (or after 10/15/20 minutes has elapsed) the contestant with the most money is declared the winner. That contestant then gets to play the "Bonus Round."

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GAMEPLAY OPTIONS

It should be noted that for the first three options, you can choose to have 1 human player (2 AI [computer players]), 2 human players (1 AI), 2 human players (no AI), and 3 human players. The option to have 2 human players and no AI is a new addition to the game, as it was not available in the 2nd Edition.

• Quick Play - A three round game, in one of the six theme sets (randomly chosen by the computer), and no career stats are saved. This is a new addition to the game, as it was not available in the 2nd Edition.

• Normal Game - Choose between playing a game with a time limit (10, 15, or 20 minutes) or a fixed number of rounds (3, 4, or 5); one of six theme sets; and career stats are saved.

• Tournament Game - Only available to players who have won at least five games or have earned over $50,000 in career winnings. As with a Normal game, you can choose between playing a game with a time limit (10, 15, or 20 minutes) or a fixed number of rounds (3, 4, or 5), and career stats are saved.

• Solo Game - A one player game in which your goal is to win as much money as you can. In other words, to beat your high score, which is saved as part of your career stats. You are given a certain amount of free spins to use for the entire game, the exact amount depends on the game length you selected. (You get 7 free spins for 3, 4, or 5 rounds or for a 10 minute game. You get 9 free spins for a 15 minute game, and 10 for a 20 minute game.) Each time you choose a letter that is not in the puzzle (or land on the Bankrupt or Lose A Turn spaces), one of your free spin tokens will be taken away. If you choose a letter than is not in the puzzle (or land on the Bankrupt or Lose A Turn spaces) and have no free spins remaining, the game is over. I should note that the option to play 10/15/20 minute rounds in this mode is a new addition to the game, as it was not available in the 2nd Edition (where you could only choose a fixed number of rounds). However, 2nd Edition gave you more free spins for each number of rounds: 10 for 5 rounds, 9 for 4 rounds, and 7 for 3 rounds. Another change from the 2nd Edition is that when you play 3 rounds, you are playing 3 complete rounds (possibly a bonus afterwards, I didn't get to it yet). In the 2nd Edition it was two regular rounds and the bonus round.

• Contestant Exam - Allows one player to try a sample exam like those used on the show. You will be shown 16 partially completed puzzles from four different categories, and given 5 minutes to solve all of them. You need at least 12 complete to receive a passing score. This is the EXACT same exam given on the 2nd Edition! However, the 2nd Edition showed videos of Vanna White before and after the exam to introduce it to you and congratulate or console you for how you did. This version omits the videos and just shows a black screen with white text that says "Score __ of 16" after the exam. As with the 2nd Edition, there is no bonus for getting all correct answers (though you got to see the Vanna video in the 2nd Edition). Also, this version makes a few minor (but positive) changes to the controls for this mode. The 2nd Edition only has a button (square) for going back to the previous blank space. This version uses both square and circle to go back and forward. In this version you can select Done (triangle) on any puzzle when you've finished before the allotted time. In the 2nd Edition, you must go to the 16th puzzle in order to select Done.

• Career Statistics - Every time you complete a game, your score and winnings are added to a running "career" total of statistics, which are stored by player name. The statistics tracked are: Game Wins, Game Losses, Earnings, Prizes Won, Most Money On 1 Letter, Most Money On 1 Turn, Best Game, Tournaments Won, Puzzles Solved, Vowels Purchased, and Best Solo Game. You can have up to 8 careers stored.

• Options - Response Time: 30/60/90 seconds. Sound Volume: Off, 5 through 100 (in 5 increments). Vibration: On/Off. Credits. These settings affect all games played during this session. You can also change Response Time, Sound Volume, and Vibration on a per game basis by pressing pause during a game. Unfortunately, game settings are not saved to the memory card (only careers). So if you want response time to always be 30 or 90, music to always be at a level other than 80, or vibration to always be off, you have to make these changes every time you boot up the game. Also, there is a big problem with the Response Time option: it affects ALL timers (except Bonus Round and Contestant Exam). So if you change it to 30, for example, you will get 30 seconds to decide whether to spin/buy a vowel/solve, 30 seconds to choose a letter, and 30 seconds to type in letters to solve the puzzle. 30 seconds is too long to decide whether to spin, buy a vowel or solve; or to choose a letter. However, 30 seconds is not enough time to type in letters to solve a puzzle if it's one of the bigger puzzles and there are a lot of blanks left. I personally set it to 90 just so I have enough time for when I need it, but that doesn't provide for a very tight game like that of the real show.

The 2nd Edition also includes an option called "Behind The Scenes," which contains short clips/interviews (in windows/frames, not full screen) with the production staff from the actual TV show. They are divided up into the following sections.

• Green Room - Four clips of Gary O'Brien, Contestant Coordinator (the first person you would meet if you became a contestant on the show).

• Control Room - Four clips of the show's director, Mark Corwin.

• Production Offices - Four clips each of Harry Friedman (Executive Producer), Steve Schwartz (Producer), and Scott Bresler (Puzzle Writer).

• Stage - Four clips each of Charlie O'Donnell (Announcer) and John Lauderdale (Stage Manager).

• Dressing Room - Eight clips of Vanna White. The ninth clip, labelled "Bonus," is a short full-screen trivia featurette about the show (really cool!). Once you have won one game, all nine clips will be unlocked in this section (the first four are unlocked from the start).

Sadly, this entire option was omitted from this game. This is an insult because this game is in DVD-ROM format, so it can hold a lot more data then the CD-ROM format of the 2nd Edition; and since it's DVD, the video clips could be full screen (not windowed) with extremely high quality. Plus they could have filmed new footage, maybe even given a featurette on the show (instead of short clips), and dare I say it, included Pat Sajak in the footage!

THEMED SET-PIECES

There are six themed sets that you can play on. They are Disco, Las Vegas, Great Outdoors, Oriental Escape, Winter Sports, and Fast Cars. These are the same set themes from the 2nd Edition, however they have either been completed redesigned or are virtually the same but with some new movement thrown in. For example, the Winter Sports set is essentially the same as in the 2nd Edition, but now the snowman's scarf blows in the wind and the polar bear moves his head (though I haven't seen the bears drive by on the sled, like in the 2nd Edition). Of course, it almost goes without saying that the graphics are leaps and bounds above what was in the 2nd Edition on the PS1. And on that note, let me segue into the next topic ...

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GRAPHICS

Since this is a PS2 game and the previous version was a PS1 game, I would expect for this game to have substantially better graphics, and thankfully it does. This blows the 2nd Edition completely out of the water. However, that's not to say that the graphics are 100% perfect.

The camera movement can be a bit nausea inducing as it keeps zooming in and out from a close-up of the board to the board with the wheel in foreground. Is some ways it's an improvement over the 2nd Edition's constant movement from the board & wheel over to a video clip of Vanna playing on a wall to the right and back over to the board & wheel again. Still, I wish the camera would just stay put.

Spinning the wheel comes with an excellent blurring effect. However, I'd still advise not looking directly at the tv while the close-up of the wheel spinning is on screen as it could make you nauseous.

When it comes time to select a letter, you will be treated to the ugliest 3-D tilted letter board you will ever see. Why they could just use a two dimensional letter board, like in the 2nd edition (and every previous edition known to man) is beyond me. It can give you a headache looking at the letters tilted like this.

I also feel like they got a little cheap when the did the graphics for the bonus round. In the 2nd Edition the five prize cards have the letters W-H-E-E-L on them. In this game they are blank.

As previously stated, the sets look much better than in the previous game. The floors are shiny and reflect quite nicely, fire burns realistically, lights twinkle, and other nice little bits of eye candy abound. So, it's not all bad.

VIDEOS

Let me start off by letting you know that I absolutely hate the videos in this game and the 2nd Edition. I find them annoying and absolutely useless. There is nothing they can convey gamewise that can't be handled by an audio clip or on-screen text. I own the 1st Edition for the PC and it gives you an option to turn off the videos (or set it to "minimal"). I would assume that this option is also available for the PC versions of the 2nd Edition and WOF2003. However, there is no way to turn off the videos in any of the PlayStation 1 & 2 versions (I never played the PS1 version of the 1st Edition, so I'm just making an assumption here). This is completely unacceptable as the videos bog down the game, moreso for Wheel Of Fortune than for Family Feud (another PS1 game that I wish had a videos off option).

Luckily there are a few less videos in this game than in the 2nd Edition, but only a *small* few. For one, no longer does the the show opening video play before a new game. Also, there are no longer any video clips for the following actions: no more vowels, bankrupt (when computer gets it), and lose a turn (when anyone gets it). However there is a video every time you have the chance to use a free spin, which I don't think was in the 2nd Edition.

I will say one nice thing about the videos. They are very sharp and crisp with no compression artifacts (like in the 2nd Edition).

The prizes are represented with excellent video/slideshow presentations, although there aren't enough of them as they repeat often. Vanna White's acting is very bad, but on a "so bad, it's good" level. I laugh every time she looks over to the blank space on the right (her left) at the end of most videos. It's just looks so dumb that you can't help but laugh. Of course, usually I just press the start button to skip all of the videos, but I've watched enough of them to fairly judge them.

SOUND

Now here is the major letdown of the entire game. Practically the entire soundtrack is recycled from the 2nd Edition. After the company logos and copyright screens you'll be welcomed by Charlie O'Donnell using the same dialogue that you first heard upon booting up the 2nd Edition back in 2000: "Hi folks. I'm Charlie O'Donnell. We'll get to our game in a second, but first we have a little business to take care of." Heck, my PC version of the 1st Edition made in 1998 has the same opening dialogue (though Charlie adds afterwards, "First off, how do you want to do this? Normal Game, Solo Play, Tournament Mode, or see the high scores?"). I think it may be safe to assume that the PS1 version of the 1st Edition contains the same dialogue. Geez, Atari(Infogrames)/Artech, don't you think you should have recorded some new stuff for this game instead of rehashing what you did years ago?!?

In addition to the stuff from Mr. O'Donnell, you'll also find that this game has the same background music and the same AI voices as the 2nd Edition. In voice actors for both this game and the 2nd Edition are Christine Moran and Derick Fage. While it's reasonable to believe that they were brought in to record some new dialogue to go with the new puzzles (I assume that there's new puzzles), it's also reasonable to believe that much (if not all) of their generic comments were recycled from the 2nd Edition, particularly since most of it sounds the same (cheesy phrases like "Show me the big money!" and "Alright, I'm having some fun now!" spring to mind). Why else would they hire the same two voice actors? They could have, and SHOULD have, hired MANY new voice actors. Why do we need to have the same two AI opponents to play against? Why not get a variety of voices for our opponents?

GAMEPLAY PARTICULARS

Some random comments that didn't fit anywhere else.

For those who may need this information, memory card usage is 99 KB and the card must be inserted into slot 1. I would think that with the PS2 having been out for a couple years now, that game developers would make their games work with the card in either slot 1 or 2.

Three people can play this game at the same time without the need for a multitap. The second and third players alternate use of the second controller. The 2nd Edition also worked like this, even though the manual and packaging incorrectly said that a multitap was needed.

The loadings feel a bit longer than they should be, but are still relatively short (like 10 seconds each).

The alternating nature of the game results in some long wait times between turns. When playing alone the only thing to do while the computer spins is try to figure out the puzzle, but that's of limited benefit and doesn't help when the player already knows the answer. I really wish they would have found a way to get around this. Perhaps they could have added a "fast forward" button or something.

I've read online that there are over 3,200 puzzles. Since I rented this game, and didn't have a manual or packaging to tell me, I have to assume this is true.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I can't believe that this game was delayed for a year, considering how much was recycled from the last game, and the few things that are missing.

I really miss the old NES/SNES/Genesis games where the focus was more on the gameplay than on the presentation (though the games did looked good for their time).

MAJOR REASONS TO GET THIS GAME INSTEAD OF THE LAST ONE (2ND EDITION FOR PS1):

• Can have a human vs. human game with no 3rd AI player.

• Better cheat device (Code Breaker) codes: Don't lose money when getting bankrupt, always have a free spin, vowels are free. These are suggested for use when playing a one player game, but not when against friends.

These are the only two major benefits this game has over the 2nd Edition. Kinda pathetic, huh? Really makes you wonder why they made us wait an extra year for the game.

Trivial Pursuit Unhinged PlayStation 2 Video Game Review

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This review was originally written on March 29, 2004
Unless You Have Online Capabilities Or A Group Of Trivia-Loving Friends, There's Nothing Here For You

Although I really dislike the original board game (I find it terminally boring), I decided to rent Trivial Pursuit Unhinged. I figured that since it's a video game it might provide some enjoyment that can't be found in the board game, due to the nature of the formats. Well, I was wrong!

For starters, you can't really play this game with one player offline because there are NO computer opponents. There are three game play modes, and two of them can be played with just one player BY HIMSELF/HERSELF, but where's the fun in that? The game has online play, but I don't have the PS2 Network Adapter, so I couldn't test it out. Online would be the only way to play this with just one player, in my opinion. (As of this writing, I haven't had the chance to gather my friends together for a game.)

GAME PLAY MODES

CLASSIC - 1 to 6 players - Roll the dice and move around the board. If you land on a category space or headquarters, you answer a question in that category. If you were on a category headquarters, and you answered the question correctly, you get a wedge of that color, and you roll again. If you were just on a regular category space and you answered the question correctly, you just roll again. If you answered incorrectly, turn passes to the next player. The first person to get all six wedges, go back to the central hub, and answer the final question, wins the game.

FLASH - 1 to 6 players - You start on level one, and the goal is to get to level six. On each level you get to choose between two question categories. Answer the question correctly and you move up one level. Answer incorrectly and you stay at your current level. Whether you answer correctly or not, your turn is over and the next player goes. The first player to get to level six is the winner.

UNHINGED - 2 to 4 players (each needs his/her own controller) - Same as classic, except you play for points as well as wedges. You get one point for answering a question correctly and you can gain additional points by betting on whether the current player will answer the current question correctly or not. Points can be used to steal other player's wedges, protect yourself from getting one of your wedges stolen, or to choose a new question if you feel that the current one is too hard. Plus there are special spaces on the board that rotate the board, give you double or triple bonus points, let you recycle questions until you get one you like, choose between only two "multiple choice" answers instead of the usual four (called "50/50"), and do other things, too.

Each game play mode has one setting that you can adjust before you start the game. For Classic and Flash, you can choose whether you want to Shout Out the answers to the questions or select from four Multiple Choice answers. Shout Out is just like the traditionally way of playing. You read the question on the screen (no celebrities read it to you), you vocally give your answer, then you press X to see the correct answer. If you were correct, you press X. If you were wrong, you press O. Obviously the game is trusting you to honestly choose whether you were correct or not. This option of answering questions is best used when playing with other people in the room. For Unhinged mode, the only setting you can adjust is how frequently you want the special spaces to appear (low, medium, high, or never).

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CATEGORIES/MULTIMEDIA

They are slightly altered from the original board game:

Pink - Arts & Entertainment (Whoopi Goldberg)
Yellow - History (John Cleese)
Orange -Wild Card (John Ratzenberger)
Blue - People & Places (Brooke Burke)
Brown - Science & Nature (Bill Nye the Science Guy)
Green - Sports & Leisure (Terry Bradshaw)
(The black spaces are Roll Again)

I'm rather disappointed by the whole multimedia aspect of the game. The game features six celebrity "hosts". However, you only HEAR them read the questions for their particular category (except if you have the Shout Out option on, in which case you read the question yourself). You never see them at all. The game also boasts multimedia questions, in which you are asked a question pertaining to a still photo, audio clip, or video clip. However, these questions come up very infrequently. Most of the time you'll just get a boring old text question.

MY FINAL ANSWER

This game was designed for only two types of people: single player trivia junkies who have a network adapter and online capabilities, and groups of people who love trivia games. Unless you fall into one of those two categories, there will be absolutely nothing in this game for you. If you absolutely must try this game out, rent it first to see if it suits your needs before you buy it.

Tiny Toon Adventures: Plucky's Big Adventure PlayStation Video Game Review

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This review was originally written on July 26, 2002
It's Resident Evil Without The Zombies!

Tiny Toon Adventures: Plucky's Big Adventure (PBA) is a "hunt and gather"-type puzzle game just like Resident Evil (RE). In both games you have to find an item, use it in conjunction with something else, and then take it someplace to complete a puzzle or objective. In RE you have an inventory capable of holding eight to ten items, in PBA you can only hold two items at a time (one for each hand, I guess). In RE there are Item Boxes which can hold 50 or more items (I don't know the exact count), in PBA you have a locker which can hold nine items (although each character has his/her own color-coded locker and combination, they can use each others lockers and the items in the lockers are shared). If this seems like PBA is a bit deprived, keep in mind that in PBA you don't need weapons, ammo, herbs, and health items.

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Every game needs a danger element, and this one is no exception. Instead of zombies and other assorted creatures which you can mutilate with a vast arsenal of weapons like in RE, you have Elmyra and Montana Max who patrol five of the six hallways in an attempt to catch you (luckily they don't venture into the hall with the lockers or any of the rooms). If they catch you, you have to quickly press left and right on the D-pad (or jiggle the analog stick left and right) in order to break free of their grasp. If they grab you too many times, your character will be captured and it's up to the previously character you played as to rescue them. You start playing as Plucky Duck, then Hampton J. Pig, Babs Bunny, and finally Buster Bunny (no relation). If Buster gets captured, you have to play as Babs to rescue him before resuming play as Buster ... and so on. If Plucky gets captured, then it's game over. You have no weapons and no defense again Elmyra and Montana Max. You just simply have to avoid them.

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GAMEPLAY

The controls are pretty solid. I had no problem at all moving the character around, avoiding Elmyra and Montana Max (ducking into another room and coming back out also helped), picking up and using items (though there was one or two items which gave me problems). The controls that deal with your inventory may be awkward at first (especially if you're used to RE control), but they're very easy to get used to. By the way, I chose to play with the D-pad (I turned off the analog mode on the controller), so I can't comment on how well the stick handles.

Some of the puzzles are easy, and some are really hard. I had to resort to a walkthrough in a few places ... not something you'd expect to do with a Tiny Toon Adventures game. Thankfully the environment (the school [aka Looniversity]) isn't as large as the RE environments, so when you have to do some backtracking, you're not going from one end of the world to the other.

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The gameplay definitely surprised me when I first loaded up the game. I bought it expecting a traditional platformer like most of the other Tiny Toon games from the past (most notably the ones from Konami). It was very refreshing to play a different style of game with the Tiny Toons characters.

STORY

The story, which is loosely based on the episode "A Ditch In Time" (available on the Season 1, Volume 1 DVD set), involves you finding parts for a time machine so that Plucky can travel back in time to do the homework he didn't do. Unfortunately that's the only element of the episode which was carried over into the game, which is why the game is so darn short. If you've seen the episode, you know the ending. If you haven't seen the episode, you can probably guess the ending. Sadly, the ending isn't very spectacular (I've seen better endings on old NES games). You will undoubtedly be very disappointed once you see it.

AUDIO/VIDEO

The familiar Tiny Toons theme is present (in instrumental form, of course), and the background music during the game is quite fitting and cartoony. However, that's all there is (save for a few odd sound effects). There is absolutely no character voices whatsoever! Couldn't they shell out a few bucks to have the original voice cast come in and record a few lines? The lack of character voices isn't too bad for Plucky, Hampton, Babs, and Buster; but when you have to constantly have to press X to scroll through Elmyra and Montana Max's dialogue every time you encounter them, it gets to be downright annoying. The only bright side is that by having the game pause for you to press X, you'll have ample time to decide where to go to avoid Elmyra & Montana Max. (Having voices, instead of the game pausing, would have increased the danger!)

The game looks as good as you'd expect for a 3-D Playstation 1 game. The character graphics are, of course, not the best in the world, but they suffice quite nicely. It's a few steps above the character graphics and animation in Scooby-Doo And The Cyber Chase for the Playstation 1 (the beginning cut scene in Scooby-Doo is unintentionally funny).

REPLAYABILITY

This is where the game fails BIG TIME! Once you've beaten the game, there is nothing left to do. There is no reason whatsoever to replay it (unless you want to "relive the experience" all over again). The Resident Evil games gave you alternate clothing and a bonus mini-game. This game gives you zip.

TO BUY OR TO RENT?

I picked this game out from the $10 bargain bin at Target. I chose it because it was a Tiny Toons game. I always liked the tv show and the previous games, so I figured that this would be a nice addition to my collection. Had I known what type of game it was and how short it was, I never would have picked it out. I don't hate it, but since it has no replayability, I doubt that I'll ever play it again.

Whether you like "hunt and gather" puzzle games or Tiny Toon Adventures, I don't see any reason why you'd want to do more than rent it.

The Italian Job PlayStation Video Game Review

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This review was originally written on July 27, 2002
Not A Great Game, But Not A Bad Game Either

The Italian Job video game is based on the 1969 movie starring Michael Caine (as Charlie Croker), Noel Coward (as Mr. Bridger), and Benny Hill (as Professor Simon Peach). Interestingly, the movie was remade in 2003 with Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Seth Green, and Donald Sutherland. That movie also had a tie-in video game on the PlayStation 2, which is a completely different game than the one I will be reviewing today.

The plot of the movie and the game is very simple: A gang of crooks steal four million dollars through a traffic jam, while avoiding the police and mafia. HOW they do it is the fun part!

The game contain 16 missions across three different locales. Eight are in London, six are in Turin, and the final two are in the Alps.

I'd like to preface these next few paragraphs by telling you that I saw the film in it's original widescreen format (aka letterbox) on the Speedvision cable channel. Although this is a commercial channel, I presume the film was not edited. If it WAS edited, some of what I'm about to write may be incorrect.

Out of the eight London missions, only two are directly based on the film: "The Ambassador's Car" is implied in the film (they don't explicitly show you driving from the prison directly to the garage to pick up your car). "Peaches For Peaches" is also implied in the film (we see the hookers outside in Charlie's car while at Peach's place, but we never see him actually pick them up and take them there). The other six missions are completely made up using characters from the film.

The first mission in Turin is completely made up. It's just there to help you locate the places that you'll be visiting in later missions. I don't know why they make you visit the police station, since it is never visited in the game (or the film). The other five missions are directly based on the film (although the game maker's had to take a few minor liberties to make them work in the context of the game). Both Alps missions come directly from the film.

This is the only game that I can think of based on a film (or TV) license that makes PERFECT use of that license. To have a game this faithful to it's license is extremely rare.

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GAMEPLAY

Before you even get to play any missions you have to deal with an extremely long loading time of about 30 seconds for each mission. This could be enough to turn some people off, and make them turn off the game, but I had enough patience to wait out each of these loadings.

Some of the missions are extremely fun, some are downright annoying, and one or two are hard as heck. Since I couldn't pass a few of the missions, I had to use the in-game cheat code to unlock all of the missions. This was great because it allowed me to play all of the missions (or at least attempt all of them) and I could keep playing my favorite ones.

"The Getaway" mission in Turin (a near-exact recreation of the film's iconic Mini Cooper chase scene) is one of my favorites even though I could never pass it. The reason why I couldn't pass it is one of the game's few faults: the cops. They are completely annoying, but are a lot better than the cops in Driver 2. As you get their attention, they (of course) pursue you. The only way to get the cops off your butt is to drive fast enough and take enough turns so as to lose them. When you have a timer counting down and a mission objective to take care of, this is a major annoyance. As if that wasn't bad enough, while they're chasing you, the cops are trying to write down your license plate number. If they get your whole number, you're busted (or "nicked" as the game calls it). Although this is a major improvement over the way the cops deal with you in Driver 2, it has one major flaw. Logically, and in real life, even when the cops get your entire license plate number, you can still drive away and have them chase you. For the game to simply have your mission end because the cops got your entire license plate number is ridiculous. Most often the cops are the reason why you'll fail missions (such as why I couldn't pass "The Getaway").

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Using a walkthrough found at GameFaqs, I went into Free Ride mode and tried to recreate the path of "The Getaway." Although it didn't have the thrill and excitement of the actual mission, for the most part, I was able get a sense of what that mission is like ... and that was a lot of fun. It was because of that that I got interested in seeing the film (I first played the game without having seen the film). I wanted to see if the cool getaway in the game was just as cool in the movie. I never thought I'd say this about a game based based on a film, but the game's getaway was BETTER! The film cuts back and forth between the getaway chase and scenes that take place elsewhere at the same time. This completely throws off the continuity and excitement of the getaway. Still, a game that will make you want to see the movie it's based on is a good thing indeed (especially for the studio that owns the film and the license).

AUDIO/VIDEO

The music is a top-notch mixing of an instrumental of Quincy Jones' "Get A Bloomin' Move On" (aka The Self Preservation Society theme) from the film, bits of "Rule Britannia" (a traditional song also used in the film), and quirky background music that fits the setting perfectly. I enjoyed the Quincy Jones theme so much that I put the game CD in my computer's CD-Rom drive and extracted the short song to my hard drive for later recording onto a music CD so that I could listed to it with my regular music collection. How often do you want to do that with video game music?!?

The graphics are standard Playstation 1 graphics, though they're actually pretty good. There's nothing graphics-wise that stood out as being really bad or exceptionally good, so there's not much to say.

REPLAYABILITY

After finishing the main game ("The Italian Job" mode) you will have access to the Challenge mode, which consists of short missions with tough times where you will test your skills in braking, turning and jumping. There are five jump tests, but since all five use the same course, this gets boring real fast. There is one break test, but it isn't as hard as it initially seems. A checkpoint race on an icy road, a survival lap around the city, and two destructor races (one on an icy road and another viewed from overhead) round out the rest of the challenges.

Along with "The Italian Job," there are other modes that are unlocked from the start. They are:

• Checkpoint - You have to reach all of the checkpoints in the allotted time. Each checkpoint you reach gives you a little extra time to make it to the next one.

• Destructor - Here your mission is to destroy the line of cones in the sequence before the time runs out.

• Party Play - This is the multiplayer mode in which you can play with up to 8 people in different Checkpoint, Destructor and Challenge mode stages.

• Free Ride - Here you can cruise around London and (if you unlocked it) Turin in any car (you start off with one unlocked). You can use this mode to familiarize yourself with the cities, but be aware of the cops. You'll even find some secrets within this mode. Check the walkthrough here are GameFaqs for more info.

As you complete the missions in "The Italian Job" mode, you will unlock extra cars and tracks for these other modes.

The problem with all these extras is that they get boring after a while because it's just the same thing over and over again. At first it's fun, then it's just tedious.

TO BUY OR TO RENT?

Rent. The game is just too darn short to have as a permanent part of your collection, even with the unlockable extras.

Super Bust-A-Move 2 PlayStation 2 Video Game Review

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This review was originally written on December 28, 2003
What A Difference A Sequel Makes

If you read my review of Super Bust-A-Move 1 for the Playstation 2 you'd know that I gave it a very bad review. Simply put, it's the worst Bust-A-Move game ever as it is broken in every possible way.

I went into Super Bust-A-Move 2 expecting the same thing, hoping for marginally better. How pleasantly surprised I was to find that nearly everything wrong with Super Bust-A-Move has been fixed, resulting in a game that is one of the best in the series.

GAMEPLAY MODES

Here's what you've got:

– Story Mode (1 player)
– 1 Player Puzzle: Training / Normal / Classic
– Battle Mode – CPU Battle: Normal / Expert / Chain Reaction (1 player vs. computer)
– Battle Mode – 2 Player Battle: Normal / Expert / Chain Reaction (player vs. player)
– Edit Mode: Edit / Play / Save / Load (create your own puzzles)

The Story and Edit modes were absent in Super Bust-A-Move, and I'm very happy to see them return.

CONTROLS

Unlike Super Bust-A-Move, the controls are pretty quick to respond (which is a MUST for this type of game). However, they seem to be a tad slower than Bust-A-Move '99 & 4 (both for the Playstation 1). It's not a very big problem because they still respond very well.

GRAPHICS

The annoying and distracting backgrounds from Super Bust-A-Move have been toned down. They are now static and not in any way annoying or distracting. Thank Goodness!

The bubbles, too, have been toned down from what they were in Super Bust-A-Move. They are all regular size and it's easy to quickly tell them apart

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MISCELLANEOUS

The plethora of long loading screens from Super Bust-A-Move are a thing of the past. While the one at the very beginning of the game is a bit longer than it should be, most of the loadings are 1 second long or less.

The only thing they didn't fix from Super Bust-A-Move are the characters. We still have a bunch of Pokemon rejects. I wish they would have put back all the cool characters from the Playstation 1 Bust-A-Move games. Oh, well. At least the characters aren't a very important part of the game (you can ignore them easily).

WHICH BUST-A-MOVE TO GET?

There are three good Bust-A-Move games that you can play on a Playstation 2. In all honesty, I can't recommend one over the other because each one has something unique that the other two don't have. If it helps, here's a quick comparison:

Bust-A-Move '99 (PS1) - Basic puzzle play, Win Contest (continuous 1 player vs. comp), Collection (user created puzzles), no Story Mode.
Bust-A-Move 4 (PS1) - Adds pulleys to the puzzles, no Win Contest, no Collection.
• Super Bust-A-Move 2 (PS2) - Adds conveyor belt walls and all sorts of unique bubbles to the puzzles, no Win Contest, no Collection.

All three have Edit mode and the rest of the mandatory puzzle modes.

If you're a die-hard Bust-A-Move fan, I'd say buy all three (that's what I plan on doing). If you're unsure if which to buy, rent all three and see which one you like the best.