By Jeb Haught
DEVELOPER: United Front Games
SYSTEM: Sony PlayStation 3
ESRB RATING: Everyone
REVIEW RATING: 4.0 stars (out of 5)
Welcome, one and all to “ModNation Racers,” the most customizable game on the planet (I’m talking about planet Earth, not “Little Big Planet”). Other racing games offer the ability to convert vehicles or maybe even the course layout, but only “ModNation Racers” lets players modify vehicles, drivers and courses and then share them with other players online.
Let me begin by saying that this isn’t your average kart-racing game. In fact, players looking for instant racing satisfaction will most likely grow bored with the game after awhile. On the other hand, anyone interested in deep customization will find the user-friendly mod tools to be an excellent template. For example, vehicles have many features to alter, ranging from body type to accessories to the paint job itself. Even painting is broken down into color, patterns and decals for each part of the vehicle.
When players are satisfied with their custom creations, they have the option to play with them in single player or online multiplayer. It’s also possible to upload whatever you create to an online server so others can use and/or modify them even further. This creates a huge amount of free content available for players from the moment they take “ModNation Racers” online.
Unfortunately, the game play is where this title could use an overhaul. While racing isn’t actually bad, I hate how A.I. competitors gang up on the leader only when it’s a human player. Sure, I appreciate the ability to activate a temporary shield to block incoming missiles and power-ups, but it rarely lasts long enough to weather each onslaught. This title also has very long loading screens around every corner.
If you don’t mind game play taking a backseat to a virtual cornucopia of modification options, then you’ll surely love “ModNation Racers.”
Beat the Heat With ‘Backyard Sports: Sandlot Sluggers’
DEVELOPER: HB Studios
SYSTEM: Microsoft Xbox 360, Wii
ESRB RATING: Everyone
REVIEW RATING: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Spring has sprung, the flowers are in bloom, and baseball … err … love is in the air. Well, two out of three isn’t bad, but you’re batting 1,000 if you have a copy of “Backyard Sports: Sandlot Sluggers” to share with your children! This fun-filled title forgoes the frills of familiar baseball games in favor of fast-paced action and lots of humor.
Surprisingly, this baseball game actually has a story line, but it isn’t very interesting. A group of bullies has decided to commandeer the neighborhood sandlot, which in turn forces the local children to cower indoors and play video games. Players assume the role of the new kid in town who must unite the local teams together to retake the field.
This title offers a great combination of in-depth controls and streamlined franchise options to let kids of all ages sit down and enjoy a simple game of baseball. Since the roster for each team is already set, players only have to worry about which players are best suited for each position. However, the ability to switch teammates around in-game lets players adjust to situations as they occur.
Controlling the action isn’t as intricate as most standard MLB titles, but the ability to swing high or low in addition to advancing and retreating runners and picking off base stealers is very unexpected and much appreciated. What isn’t a surprise, however, is the plethora of surreal power-up moves that range from pitching Rocket Balls and Booger Balls to using a Fire Bat or burrowing underground with the Mole Ball.
While the visuals feature realistic-looking sandlots and cartoon characters, they still look average at best. This game also won’t hold the interest of anyone over the age of 12 for very long. On the other glove … err … hand, anyone looking for a child-oriented baseball game won’t do better than “Backyard Sports: Sandlot Sluggers.”
REVIEW SCORING SYSTEM
5 stars = Must Have
4 stars = Very Good
3 stars = Above Average
2 stars = Bargain Bin
1 star = Don’t Bother
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
E10-plus: (Everyone 10 and older)
T: Teen (13 and older)
M: Mature (17 and older)
To find out more about Jeb Haught and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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