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

Flip’s Twisted World
We almost didn’t take the time to check this Wii platformer out, but in the end we’re glad we did. At first glance just another Mario clone, Flip’s promises Zelda-style progression, with dungeon exploration granting you new weapons that can be used to solve puzzles.

But what really sets it apart is the fact that – by holding down a button and quickly twisting the Wii remote – you can turn the entire world 90 degrees in any direction. This turns walls into floors, opens up new paths for exploration and – if you’re not careful – will hurl you out into space to die. We kept dying too often to make a thorough appraisal of the game, but what we saw showed a lot of promise. More promise than most Wii games, at least.
Score: 7

Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Another big surprise from a third-party Wii publisher, Muramasa is a jaw-droppingly pretty, ninja-themed side-scroller from the same studio responsible for the beautiful PS2 action-RPG Odin Sphere. The controls are weirdly simple – there’s no use of the motion controls, and hitting up on the Nunchuck thumbstick makes you jump – but once you get used to the ebb and flow of battle (and of balancing the use of your three swords so that they don’t break mid-fight), you’ll find yourself blasting around through the air, cutting a deadly swath through enemies with continuous ninja-style jump attacks.

It’s wickedly fun, and the prospect of being able to play through at least two storylines – as a male or female ninja – has us interested. You want a good, hardcore third-party Wii game? Here you go.
Score: 9

Heavy Rain
Trying to move around in Heavy Rain can be awfully confusing. In addition to the myriad onscreen prompts for you to hit buttons or flick a thumbstick, you walk forward by holding down R2, and move your character’s head with the left stick. It’s something we could probably get used to with practice, but during our hands-on, it led to near paralysis as we awkwardly tried to explore a scrapyard owner’s garage for clues. You’d also better hope you’re good at quicktime events, because the action scenes – in which failure can mean semi-permanent death for your character – are full of them, with quick, often multiple onscreen prompts that can get you killed if you miss them. If you can’t tell from our tone, we missed a lot of them, and so our demo ended a lot sooner (and a lot deader) than most of the other attendees who gave it a try.

All that aside, Heavy Rain is awfully pretty, and has an intriguing air of moodiness about it. We want to play more – we just hope we have more time to adjust before the game starts trying to murder us next time.
Score: 8

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
The next full Ratchet game already looks to raise the visual bar for the franchise, prettying up the graphics a little while adding cool stuff like bouncing shattered-crate-chunks and realistically rippling water a la Resistance 2. More importantly, it hands Ratchet a new arsenal that includes something called the Sonic Eruptor – a frog-like creature whose noisy blasts are more damaging when its lungs are full – as well as hover boots and a gun that can suck up water and nectar, which can in turn be used to control huge, ravenous swarms of tiny antlike eyeball creatures.

It also brings Clank back (finally!), and he now has to solve puzzles that involve manipulating time to create switch-flipping clones of himself. It’s as much fun as the series has ever been, and Ratchet’s wrench – which can now be thrown without having to crouch – is now key to beating several bosses who desperately need bolts pulled out of vital spots.
Score: 9

Publisher THQ really did Darksiders a disservice by only putting one small, early level out on the show floor for attendees to play. If that were all we’d seen, we’d assume the game is a slow, lumbering take on God of War, with a less-interesting hero who kills zombies in a post-apocalyptic city. A closed-door session, however, revealed that the full product will actually be a sprawling, Zelda-inspired adventure with an open overworld and themed dungeons containing weapons that are key to solving puzzles and defeating their enormous resident bosses.

There’s also lots of third-person gunplay, horseback riding and a demonic sidekick played Joker-style by Mark Hamill. And, yeah, combat and exploration that are clearly inspired by God of War. If all the additional gameplay stuff pans out as respectably as that did, then this has the potential to be a pretty awesome epic.
Score: 8

Jun 5, 2009

E3 09: Why wait? E3's hottest games reviewed NOW!
Day 3: Dare you ignore our authoritative snap judgments based upon fleeting first impressions?

E3 09: Why wait? E3's hottest games reviewed NOW!
Day 2: We pass early judgment on zombies, musical insects, and... Panauians?

Why wait? E3's hottest games reviewed NOW!
Day 1: We've got giant crystal balls and we're not afraid to think with them