In the past week, we've reviewed seven video games. Some were great. At least one was the opposite of great. These are our bottom lines for seven notable games, with links to our full reviews.
Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Improves With Age Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm showed great promise, and much of that promise is realised in the sequel. While the strange decision on the developer's part to remove the first game's free-roaming keeps true greatness just beyond reach, in its best moments Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 2 makes me feel like I'm actively controlling an animated movie, and that's exactly what the series is all about.
Review: The Fight: Lights Out Swings & Misses There's not a whole lot to like about The Fight: Lights Out. This is a dank, dismal looking fighting game with iffy controls, a disconnected fighting experience and a dull singleplayer campaign. The most charming moments in The Fight: Lights Out came from actor Danny Trejo's campy instructional tutorials, particularly when the leathery badass is holding pink and blue glowing Move controllers in each hand, mentoring you on how to crack skulls. But those moments are not worth the entry fee required to take part in The Fight.
Review: Assassin's Creed Brotherhood Is The Best Assassin's Creed The game that comes to mind while playing Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Not since Rockstar's potent crime drama has a game so massive, so polished, so impressively improved from its predecessor been released just a year after the prior instalment. But people won't remember how long Brotherhood took to make. They are likely to remember its quality. Ezio's new adventure may be less personal than his previous one, but it is as interesting and as mischievously manipulative of real history as the series has ever been. Nearly bloated with fun things to do Brotherhood is Assassin's Creed in peak form.
Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 Stupefies After two more light-hearted, adventurous jaunts in The Half-Blood Prince and Order of the Phoenix games, it seems odd that EA Bright Light Studios would take such a darker, more mature turn with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Perhaps the idea here was that both Harry Potter and his fans are getting older, and it was time for something less whimsical in the video game department. From what I've seen of Potter fans, however, it's that whimsy they thrive on, and now with Harry and friends' darkest hour upon them, that sense of frivolity is needed more than ever. I'm not sure Potter fans are ready for this sort of game, and I'm definitely sure EA Bright Light Studios wasn't ready to develop it.
Review: Hoard Will Set Your Friendships On Fire Hoard is a missed opportunity for the PlayStation 3. It could so easily have been the console's party game of choice, something to settle disputes and gather around with plenty of friends and plenty of beers. But the game, while fun for a short while, begins to wear thin after a few hours of play, the same simplicity that made it so easy to pick up also meaning you run out of reasons to play once you've seen all Hoard has to show you. I'd only recommend this game if you have regular access to 2-3 other people to play with in the same room.
Review: Guwange Is Bullet Heaven I'll be honest, I'm not a specialist in this genre. I've finished Ikaruga, sure, but for reference, my time spent in Japan is spent drinking and buying sneakers, not playing obscure shooters in a musty arcade. After polishing off Guwange, though, that may have to change, as I had a blast; it's tough enough to make you break out into a sweat, but the fact you can slow the bullets down and dance through them, Matrix-style, makes this fun where in many other games of the type it would just feel like punishment.
Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns Is Hypnotic, Hard Fun Donkey Kong Country Returns is not a Retro Studios reinvention, but an invigoration that may be just as surprising for its ability to both replicate the Donkey Kong Country style of old and to make it feel mostly fresh on the Wii. It's a gorgeous, deep, expertly honed game full of discoveries and challenges, fun stuff very rarely dinged by old-feeling design sensibilities. It's also a great case for why a man plays a Donkey Kong game. You may occasionally curse it for its trappings, namely those mine cart and powder keg rides, but you'll be won over by its charms.
Coming next week on Kotaku... more game reviews. And other stuff.