E3 09: Why wait? E3's hottest games reviewed NOW

New Super Mario Bros Wii

Getting one of the best platformers of all time with four player support should be a godsend, right? Sorta. And even though the game retains the DS’s impeccable tight and intuitive controls, the characters goofily occupy a physical space in a relatively small field. “Up To Four Friends!” can now halt your movement, ruin timed jumps, and even swallow you while riding on Yoshi. Furthermore, one player getting shrinky-dinked causes everyone else to pause momentarily for the once welcome and iconic “power down” sound cue, and this can be detrimental to carefully executed maneuvers.

Basically one of this generation’s greatest hardcore experiences is reduced to four player slapstick “for the whole family.” Maybe we’re coming at it too traditionally, and maybe it’s because we had to play with Susie “I’ve only heard of Wii Fit” McPublic n00bs that kept getting us killed… the single player could still kick ass, right? But then, why only 10 levels?
Score: 7

Wii Horror Game With The Generic Name We Can’t Remember (Cursed Mountain)
We were cautious to take this demo, but the “horror game set in the 80s” angle had us intrigued. Unfortunately, this was a book easily judged by its cover. Why is it so many third-person Wii games require players to move at tortoise speeds with clunkier controls than the original Resident Evil? The cover system worked well enough, but using a button to head into light gun mode made for an offense that was far too sluggish to keep up with the enemy on screen. (Who was extremely reminiscent of one of Quasimodo’s gargoyle sidekicks from Disney’s Hunchback, and a lawsuit waiting to happen.)

Above: Even the protagonist wishes to remain anonymous

Whatever the hell game, it resembled an ugly tech demo circa 2004, and only caught our eye due to the visual disparity of being located between otherwise beautiful games like Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers. The game was so forgettable we had to go back to Nintendo’s booth three times to get the name, yet still couldn’t remember it in time for this article.
Score: 3

The best hyper-aggressive racing game since Burnout Paradise. Perhaps, even better. The makers of the highly underrated Pure have truly outdone themselves with a potential sleeper hit so gorgeously adrenaline-packed and explosively over-the-top, you can’t help but do a double take once you see it’s adorned with the Disney logo. It’s got one of the most cleverly unobtrusive HUDs ever seen, and the game doesn’t even bother with Red and Green turtle shell weapon variants found in other vehicular combat games.

Instead, deft drafting and drifting fills a meter that lets you trigger cataclysmic environmental events found throughout the track to takedown opponents and execute shortcuts. You’ll detonate gas tankers, cue helicopters to deploy depth charges, and even bring down entire buildings to cripple opponents and expose new routes. Split/Second laughs at your banana peels, PIT maneuvers, and any other tired mechanic you once considered offensive driving. Any game that lets us take down an airport navigation tower, THEN hurl a crashing 747 at other drivers is genuinely worthy of the finest fake score our website can make up.
Score: 10

When we sat down to play Trine at Atlus’s booth, it was described to us as a cross between LittleBigPlanet and action/puzzle classic The Lost Vikings. Normally we distrust that kind of hyperbole, but in this case it wasn’t far off. Trine puts up to three players in charge of three adventurers – a knight who can kill enemies and lift heavy things, a rogue who can swing on a ninja rope and fire a bow, and a wizard who can create objects out of thin air just by “drawing” them onscreen – and then runs them through a series of side-scrolling levels filled with puzzles that require all of their abilities.

The wizard’s powers fill in the LBP side of the equation, as he’s able to create ramps and boxes that behave realistically within the world, enabling you to stack and drape them over chasms as needed. He can also draw floating triangles, which can be stuck in place and block the movement of any threatening obstacles. In practice it works beautifully, and the other characters aren’t half-bad, either. From what we’ve seen so far, we’re already sold.
Score: 8

A Boy and His Blob
Easily the most heartrendingly adorable thing at E3, the new A Boy and His Blob is beautifully animated, oddly touching and a little awkward to control. The Blob itself is weirdly emotive, turning gray when afraid of an enemy and red when upset at you, which happens whenever you yell at it or separate from it for more than a few seconds, and which usually means you have to hug it to restore its mood. It also gets distracted really easy, and seeing butterflies will send it into a frenzy of jumping around and ignoring you.

While the motion-free Wii controls felt a little awkward at first, this is a lot easier than its 8-bit predecessor – the Blob won’t ignore you for no apparent reason or get stuck at the drop of a hat, and you have an unlimited supply of jellybeans to help it turn into a portable hole, ladder, balloon, shield, parachute, enemy-smashing coconut or obstacle-destroying anvil. The hand-drawn animation is fluid and beautiful, and the puzzle-centric, side-scrolling gameplay is a lot of fun. This is nothing less than a triumphant return for one of the most beloved and irritating franchises in 8-bit memory.
Score: 8