Star Drum Bully Master

LEGO Star Wars 2
released September 2006, purchased September 2006

LEGO Star Wars 2 was just as good as LEGO Star Wars 1. But also just as bad.

I mean, they didn't fix a damn thing. The co-op camera still actively works against you, often stranding players in infinite-falls or forcing unexpected dropouts. Plus, one player can "push" the camera along, dragging the other player whether they want to move or not. It's a mess, and after all the generous buzz the Crappy Trilogy Version received, it sucks bantha poodoo that nobody bothered to polish up the Awesome Trilogy Version... because they knew it would sell anyway. (I wish I'd've snapped a picture of it, but during one level the Minikit counter went nuts and it showed a final tally of 11 out of 10.)

It's even more annoying that the bugs weren't fixed because the game is, otherwise, superb. The conflation of the chibi-LEGO worldview and the Star Wars mythos is unavoidably compelling... and not that nobody tried to make Cute Star Wars happen before (**Super Bombad Racing**), but this particular package works because both licenses work. Somebody somewhere sure deserves a cookie for this, but they don't get another one until they get it 100% right.

Memory Score: Two player racing in the first scene of New Hope, using hidden cars found during a convoluted sidequest. AWESOME.

released October 2006, purchased October 2006
Click here for my review, written in January 2007.

Thinking back, I love how scared we all were of this one.

My god, it's a school shooting simulator! It's a bullying simulator! It's Grand Theft Auto with children! You're going to be able to have sex with baby hookers and then kill them!

And it wasn't. Instead, it was a sarcastic riff on 1950s/60s teen movies, with a strong emphasis on the terrible things kids do to each other as they divide into groups by choice or by being ostracized... very much like Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds.

The main focus of the game is ending bullying, not performing it... as star Jimmy Hopkins bounces from one clique to the next, teaching them to stop acting like dicks. Yes, usually through violence, but nothing more violent than a slingshot, a trash can lid, or good old fashioned fists. You can't even drive a car in this game.

The great debate is whether or not this is Bully as originally intentioned by Rockstar, or if they watered a more violent concept down to avoid planting a very intentional industry landmine. I don't believe I've ever seen a straight answer, but Bully's sometimes-weird script and overall character arc for Jimmy leads me to believe that something was altered in midstream.

I have to give Bully a gigantic recommendation, mainly because it permutes the finest elements of Grand Theft Auto gameplay into a very new, very focused world... and especially if you're part of the group that finds GTA either too distasteful or too overwhelming. Whatever your opinion of Rockstar, they have this act down.

Memory Score: That incredible bassline when you step outside.

Taiko Drum Master
released October 2004, purchased October 2006

I found this on clearance for under $15 and even though I had already worn thin on Donkey Konga, I had to buy it. There's a Katamari song on there, man!

Taiko Drum Master feels like a creepy alternate universe Nintendo game. Instead of DK, Cranky Kong, and banana chickens, you have anthropomorphized drums (and drumsticks!), bipedal wolves, and glassy-eyed children in festival clothes. Donkey Konga came out first (in the US anyway), but both games were created by Namco so it's easy to see why they are virtually identical in everything except window dressing.

The drum itself is harder to play than the DK Bongos (FANBOI!!1!!!), but the game's presentation is much nicer. Namco's home-grown characters, weird as they may be, are much more fun and appealing than Nintendo's Donkey Kong Country sub-universe. Plus, Taiko Drum Master has the Dragon Ball Z theme in there, not to mention the aforementioned Katamari track.

At this point, you know there's never going to be anything else that supports the Taiko drum controller (as if you would have expected otherwise, even in '04), so any kind of closeout price on this one is a fair deal. Fun, silly game.

Memory Score: "Even though I was scolded for not washing my hands, I still feel happy."

Next time: A game that killed a company, a game that killed my PS2-phat, and a game that killed all hope of self-respect. The end is nigh for the PS2!

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This page contains a single entry by Joe published on June 12, 2007 11:30 PM.

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