Review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — Did you say “chocolate?”

Remember the 2005 film adaptation of the classic children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? That movie was heavily hyped up before it came to theaters, and for good reason. Tim Burton was in the director’s chair, Johnny Depp portrayed the internationally-famous Willy Wonka, and it was the first time since 1971 that Roald Doahl’s masterpiece came to the big screen. The film itself was a dark and quirky remake, but I found it to be a well-made piece of cinema full of hilarious one-liners and catchy musical numbers. And as I saw in its heavily-replayed commercial, the folks at Take-Two Interactive and High Voltage Software were turning this into a videogame that combined puzzles with action-platforming. Not gonna lie, this game kinda became a guilty pleasure in my library, and it’s my job to tell you about all the interesting features in this game’s…Inventing room, so to speak. Television-Chocolate goggles at the ready!

Sideways, longways, slantways

The beginning of the story is not surprising if you’ve already seen the film, although the plot as a whole has been tweaked for the purposes of the game. Charlie Bucket dreams of visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and the notorious candy man ironically announces that he is allowing five children to do just that, as long as they are in possession of a golden ticket hidden in a random Wonka Bar. Quickly, four tickets have been found, meaning Charlie has only one slim chance to make his dream a reality. And then out of nowhere, a $10 bill flies in and leads the boy to the local candy store. By some miracle, Charlie finds the final golden ticket and rushes home to gear up for the journey that awaits him. He chooses his Grandpa Joe as his chaperone, as the latter used to work for Mr. Wonka before the factory closed down. The tour seems to start off swimmingly…But just like in the movie, four of the five children end up in danger and cause huge problems within the factory due to their self-indulgent behavior. It’s up to you and Charlie to travel through many prominent rooms, solve a variety of puzzles, and repair the giant factory from all the issues that are about to develop.

Each level tasks you with doing some action-platforming and puzzle-solving through the factory’s most important rooms. You won’t be able to handle all of the incoming tasks by yourself, and who better to help you than the miniature assistants known as Oompa-Loompas. They’re pretty much this game’s equivalent of Pikmin, and are able to perform tasks like picking up important items, knocking candy out of trees, fixing leaky pipes, and repairing electrical devices. As the adventure goes on, you’ll be given special candy that will help you reach high places and do combat with machines gone rogue.

Everybody give a cheer

The graphics don’t do anything mind-blowing, but as long as you have the Xbox version, the resolution will be high and you’ll hardly encounter slow framerates. Each room in the factory looks very well-made, as do the character models. The game’s camera might occasionally interfere with your ability to admire how breathtaking the factory is, but it’s not a broken camera by any means.

I’ve probably said this about the majority of games I’ve reviewed on this site, but I’m gonna say it again here — I absolutely adore the audio in this game. Nearly all of the actors and actresses from the film reprise their roles, and the script is nearly identical to that of the movie. One thing to note is that Johnny Depp was not available to reprise his role as Willy Wonka, but James Arnold Taylor does a very nice imitation. I feel this version of Mr. Wonka is wise rather than over-the-top, and I don’t mean that as a complaint…Just giving my honest point of view. But what I love more than the voice-acting is (You guessed it!) the music. If you’re expecting a Danny Elfman score filled with Oompa-Loompa dances, you’re not gonna be satisfied, but you still get a laundry list of incredible songs courtesy of the talented Winifred Philips. The melodies are either really cheerful or on the dark-and-moody side depending on the room you’re in and the task you’re faced with, and all of them fit perfectly considering how up-and-down the film is in terms of emotion.

With a golden ticket, it’s a golden day

It’s not one of the best movie tie-in games in existence, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not without merit despite its short length and imitations of established franchises. Even if you weren’t fan of the big-screen remake upon which it’s based, it’s still a satisfactory and charming game if you like platforming and puzzles. Just don’t try playing this game while simultaneously dancing like an Oompa-Loompa…That would probably be as safe as testing out the three-course dinner chewing gum.

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Review of Pokémon Channel — Lights, camera, Thunderbolt

There’s always the chance that videogame IP’s can be great at one genre but stumble in another, and few franchises are as aware of that as Pokémon is. The globally-popular masterpiece has always been adept at the combination of turn-based strategy and role-playing, but the life-sim game Hey You, Pikachu left a bad taste in Nintendo 64 owners’ mouths. Three years later, the team at Ambrella busted out their Potions and designed a spiritual successor on the GameCube. Watching a variety of in-game TV shows with a wild Pikachu is the name of the game in Pokémon Channel.

No stadiums, no colosseums, but lots of television

The game places you in the first-person perspective of an unnamed child in Mintale Town. After a trio of Magnemite delivers a new TV into your bedroom, Prof. Oak appears on the screen that he is launching a network known as Pokémon Channel. Lucky for you, the professor has chosen you to test out the programs that a variety of Pokémon are producing. But just when you think you’re doing all this testing solo, this new television you’ve received somehow attracts a wild Pikachu. In contrast to its normally-shy personality, this Pikachu wants to help out with all the binge-watching and also explore Mintale Town with you.

With the previous paragraph in mind, it already seems like Pokémon Channel is just an updated version of Hey You, Pikachu, but it does bring some new moves that may remind you of The Sims, Harvest Moon, or Nintendo’s own Animal Crossing. When sitting in front of the tube, you have a wide variety of programs to test out, but most of them must be unlocked by waiting for the next day. It should be noted that the in-game clocks copies that of the GameCube’s clock, so when Prof. Oak says that new programs will launch tomorrow at 5:00 AM, he means it. To pass the time, you and Pikachu can buy new stuff for your bedroom, play a Pokémon Mini emulator, and venture around both your house and the entire town of Mintale. During your travels, you will not only have a laundry list of activities to do, but you and the electric mouse get to converse with other Pokémon. It’ll take at least five days (That includes waiting for each new show to launch) to 100% complete this game, but I’d say it’s worth the effort if you’re an open-minded Pokémon fan.

Since you and Pikachu have your work cut out for you, Pokémon Channel makes up for that by treating you with a well-designed graphics engine. The 3D models of each Pokémon look very crisp, as do every part of the environments from the ocean to the snowflakes. Every song on the soundtrack fits perfectly for each place you go and every show you tune in to.

Gotta binge-watch ‘em all

Despite the rough-around-the-edges performance of Hey You, Pikachu, Nintendo and Ambrella crafted an enthralling spiritual sequel in Pokémon Channel. As long as you can accept the absence of the turn-based combat that is the norm for the franchise, there’s a chance you’ll appreciate the direction it takes. But just for the record, I do not recommend gathering a bunch of magnets in an attempt to carry your television like Magnemite. Safety first!

Review of Sonic Heroes – Setting the stage for a hero’s parade

If you’re a longtime fan of Sonic the Hedgehog, you will no doubt have heard the common opinion that Sega’s flagship franchise has zero business having 3D adventure games in its lineup.  We usually hear that the blue blur’s 3D endeavors have been plagued with issues regarding the controls and cameras, but there are still some huge Sonic fans (Like myself) that are able to look past the shortcomings as long as they are not total dealbreakers.  And if I had to pick my favorite 3D Sonic game, Sonic Heroes would probably be #1; I’ve got plenty of reasons as to why I love this 2004 action game so much, so feel free to eat some chili dogs while I rave about this rad Sonic game.

Team, team, team…I love saying the word “team”

As I mentioned earlier, Sonic Heroes came to North America in 2004, which was two years after the heavily-lauded Sonic Adventure 2 Battle was released for the GameCube.  While the story is connected to SA2, this game does away with the open-world aspect of the Adventure trilogy and focuses on the action and linear levels.  But the biggest hook of Heroes is the concept of controlling a team of characters.  12 characters make up the game’s playable roster, comprised of four trios known as Team Sonic (Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles), Team Dark (Shadow, Rouge, and Gamma), Team Rose (Amy, Cream, and Big), and Team Chaotix (Espio, Charmy, and Vector).  Each team has a speed-type character, fly-type character, and power-type character.  While you’re racing for the goal ring (Or trying to do whatever your mission requires), you must change the leader of your team with a touch of a button and use his/her skills to your advantage.  It may seem a little complex to an outsider, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

For a 2004 game, Heroes looks very pretty thanks to the use of Criterion’s RenderWare engine.  Everything moves at a constant 60 FPS (30 on the PS2) with little to no pop-in.  The colors are so crisp and vibrant that you’ll feel like you’re actually on the beach, in the sky, or any other environment this game has to offer.  Even the cutscenes not rendered in the game engine look really nice for their time.

No Sonic the Hedgehog game would be complete without a bangin’ soundtrack, and Heroes delivers in spades.  Crush 40 and company provide an incredible mix of rock and electronic jams, with each song being completely appropriate for the team you’re adventuring with and the environment you’re exploring.  Chances are the title screen theme will be stuck in your head for a very long time (I’m guilty as charged in that department).  You’ll probably enjoy the music more than the voice-acting, not that the latter is terrible; Some of the lines may seem a bit phoned in, but it’s above-average most of the time.

More content than you can shake a chili dog at

Like the Adventure games, Heroes contains multiple stories and lots of emblems to collect.  Each level has a key you must hang onto, as doing so will give you the opportunity to complete a special stage.  Every odd-numbered mission has a special stage that is simply a high-score challenge, and the even-numbered missions have special stages in which you race for Chaos Emeralds.  If you miss out on getting Emeralds in the story mode, you can go into the challenge mode to gain access to the special stages, gain said Emeralds, improve your mission rankings, and even complete harder versions of the story’s missions.  Once you complete all four team stories, you can access the final story once you have all seven Emeralds.  Adding to the replay value are seven modes of two-player, which involve competitions like foot-racing, battling atop a platform, chasing a Chaos Emerald, collecting rings, and bobsled racing.  The only catch is that you only start off with Action Race and the only way to unlock the other modes is by earning emblems; All 120 are needed for the complete multiplayer experience.

Blue streak speeds by

Heroes won’t replace the Genesis masterpieces, but it combines and sharpens the best elements of Sega’s most iconic franchise.  With beautiful graphics, an incredible soundtrack, and more replay value than you can shake a pair of Power Sneakers at, Sonic Heroes is a fantastic piece of the blue hedgehog’s 3D library, and that’s all it needs to be.  Chili dogs at the ready — It’s Emerald-collecting time!

Review of The Simpsons: Hit & Run – Springfield discovers Grand Theft Auto

Game companies love to create games based on licensed properties, but they sometimes don’t think of the possible consequences; Making tie-in games based on books, movies, and TV programs is not necessarily a bad idea, but one small mistake (Technological or otherwise) can ultimately relegate them to bargain bins and mediocre review scores.  Many popular cartoons are very aware of this stigma, and The Simpsons is no exception.  The inhabitants of Springfield were featured in a poor attempt at a pro-wrestling game, a Crazy Taxi clone that resulted in a patent-infringement lawsuit, and a highly unpopular clone of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.  The Simpsons: Hit & Run (Which was developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Vivendi Universal) tries to be a fun parody of Grand Theft Auto; And despite the sketchy track record that I mentioned, this 2003 action game gets the job done and will appeal to all fans of Matt Groening’s masterpiece.

Steamed hams but it’s a fantastic Simpsons game

The Simpsons writers penned down the game’s story, and they have succeeded in giving us an engaging plot.  A swarm of camera-holding wasps descends from the sky, one of which is destroyed by Homer; After it litters coins hovering above the floor, our donut-loving hero sees a TV ad of Krusty the Klown promoting a “new and improved” Buzz Cola.  Being the glutton that he is, Homer makes a beeline for the Kwik-E-Mart, completely unaware of the crazy thrilling adventure that awaits the Simpson family (And Apu) and the crazy situations that will soon plague the town of Springfield.

Being a Grand Theft Auto clone, Hit & Run‘s levels are open worlds filled with tasks to complete.  You venture through Springfield by foot or by car, completing missions that involve things like doing favors for the residents, following/destroying/evading enemy cars, and even street racing.  Speaking of racing, each level has three bonus races to complete; Time trials held by Milhouse, circuit races run by Nelson, and checkpoint races set up by Ralph.  Winning all three in the level gets you a bonus car, which (Along with every car you’ve unlocked/purchased) is accessed via the payphones.  If you’re up for some gambling, wager races are there for you; They’re similar to time trials, except you must beat the time to avoid losing the money you bet.

Speaking of money, you earn coins by completing missions, finding level gags, destroying those wasp cameras, and crashing into things like lights, trees, hydrants, and Buzz Cola signs.  Once you earn enough, you can access and buy new outfits from the clothes shops hidden inside houses and buildings.  Now that I mention destructibles, it’s important to note that if you do too much damage to people and objects, the police meter will reach the top and you will be chased by cops.  If they successfully bust you, you’ll lose 50 coins.  You will  also litter coins on the floor if you destroy your car, and will have to pay 10 to fix it; So keep your driving under control and look for wrenches on the road.  One last thing to note about each level is that seven collectible cards are scattered all over the place; If you can find every one of a level’s cards, you’ll unlock said level in the four-player bonus game, which is a top-down racing minigame.

Don’t have a cow (Or wasp, in this case), man

Not only does Hit & Run feel and look like the TV show, but it certainly sounds like it too. The iconic theme song’s chorus is integrated into nearly every song on the game’s soundtrack, which also changes in genre and tone depending on which character you’re playing as; Neighborhood music for Homer and Marge, jazz for Lisa, Indian music for Apu, and (My personal favorite) skate punk for Bart.  Not only are all of these tracks very catchy, but more importantly, they really give you the feeling of being on the show.  Another part of the audio that will impress every Simpsons junkie is the official voice actors/actresses reprising their roles from the show and giving us a terrific script full of hilarious one-liners that might just have you rolling on the floor and laughing out loud (And yes, you’ll hear the famous “D’oh” quite a lot).

Thank you, come again

Writing all of these sentences puts on a smile on my face, because even simply mentioning it brings back so many memories of me enjoying this highly-underrated game based on an iconic cartoon.  If you’re a fan of The Simpsons and don’t mind imitations of Grand Theft AutoThe Simpsons: Hit & Run is a charming action game with more missions and hilarity than you can shake a can of Duff beer at.

Review of Super Mario Sunshine – Water you waiting for?

If you were to spend half of your time fixing leaky pipes and the other half stomping on giant spiked turtles, you would most likely develop a serious craving for a vacation.  Thankfully, you wouldn’t have a chance of living like that unless you’re from the Mushroom Kingdom.  If anybody in the gaming universe has earned a long-overdue R&R, it’s everyone’s favorite red-clad plumber — the one and only Mario.  Although this 2002 GameCube platformer has had a very polarizing place in Nintendo’s flagship franchise, Super Mario Sunshine is a spectacular game that sharpens every element of the Mario adventures before it.

Trouble in paradise

In this seventh release in the Super Mario series, Mario, Peach and the Toads head to a tropical island paradise known as Isle Delfino for a sun-drenched vacation, but they arrive to find out that a mysterious figure pretending to be the famous plumber has covered the island in graffiti-like goop.  So instead of catching rays and eating scrumptious seafood like he and his gang originally planned to do, Mario is given the task of cleaning up the entire island by any means necessary.  Luckily, he stumbles upon a special creation to help him clear his name — A backpack-like water-shooter named FLUDD.

So with that brief summary of the plot out of the way, let’s get into the gameplay itself.  Running, climbing, swimming, and crazy acrobatics return from Super Mario 64; However, Mario also has new moves up his sleeve, like jumping from one wall to another, diving and sliding across the floor, and leaping into the air while spinning at dizzying speeds.  FLUDD grants you the abilities to spray water at enemies, hover in the air, take off like a rocket ship, and run at super speeds.  The objectives in the game’s many missions are similar to those in the famous 1996 N64 classic, except instead of collecting Power Stars, every mission you complete grants you a Shine Sprite, which gives Isle Delfino their beloved sunshine. Whether you’re searching for red coins, rescuing villagers, or dealing with troublemakers, each mission not only tests your platforming ability, but also requires you to figure out how to use FLUDD correctly.  Those who need help with their jumps will be pleased to know that Yoshi also makes a return, and he now has the ability to shoot juice from his mouth provided you feed him fruit.

With pasta or pizza

Considering this is a Mario game, I honestly can’t find anything wrong with it, although certain missions and the overall length of the adventure may alienate casual players.  Whether you’re a longtime fan of the Mario franchise or you just love tropical locations, Super Mario Sunshine is a must-have for those who collect GameCube games.  Just try not to get all the back pain Mario has gotten; Wearing a device like FLUDD has to take a toll on your ribcage for sure.

Review of James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing – Side-stepping from GoldenEye’s shadow

The year is 2004 — The movie Die Another Day and the FPS game NightFire have been available for nearly two years, so what’s next for Pierce Brosnan and the rest of the James Bond 007 cast and crew? You guessed it; Another videogame from Electronic Arts.  However, in response to their Bond first-person shooters constantly being compared to Rareware’s GoldenEye, EA changed things up dramatically and gave us a third-person action game with an “unprecedented variety of missions.” With that said, is James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing still worth the money 14 years after its release? I’m pleased to say that not only is it worth all of the $6.99 I spent on it (You could probably buy a VHS tape of Tomorrow Never Dies for that price), but I personally find it to be one of the best 007 games in existence.  Let’s head to the MI6 HQ and talk about it for a few paragraphs.

Please return the equipment in pristine condition

As I mentioned, Everything or Nothing takes a different approach to James Bond videogames; In an attempt to avoid comparisons to the Nintendo 64 classic GoldenEye, this one is a third-person action game, similar to other big franchises at the time like Tomb RaiderSilent Hill, and Resident Evil.  Despite its obvious similarity to other games, there are plenty of elements that give Everything or Nothing the 007 identity it needs.  Not only are there lots of firearms and a responsive hand-to-hand combat system to utilize, but the famous MI6 agent also has his trusty gadgets and vehicles.  There are plenty of moments where you get to rappel down walls, use thermographic vision, and control RC cars and explosive spiders.  And what James Bond adventure would be complete without luxurious cars…Complete with missiles, smokescreens, armor, and refrigerated beverage-holders?

Not only does Everything or Nothing do everything we expect a 007 game to do, but it also helped write the blueprint for the cover-based action gameplay we see in big titles like Grand Theft Auto and Mass Effect.  To help avoid losing health, Bond can not only stealthily crouch and sneak up behind enemies, but can use walls for cover and peer around corners to shoot those aggressive henchmen down.  The auto-targeting system may be a far cry from how today’s cover-based shooters are, but it’s not the hardest thing to get used to.

A golden gun of graphics and sound

Now that we’ve talked about how the gameplay works, it’s time to talk graphics.  For a 2004 game, Everything or Nice is powered by a great-looking engine.  There can be some slowdown when there’s explosions everywhere, but it doesn’t make the gameplay choppy.  Besides, explosions in a 007 story is par for the course.  If you’ve got component cables for the console you play this game on, you’ll be pleased to know that it supports 16:9 widescreen.

The audio in Everything or Nothing will absolutely rock your entertainment system and give you the feeling of being on the set of a James Bond film.  The music screams 007, the sound effects of the bullets and explosions are THX-approved, and you’ll hear some above-average voice-acting from Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, John Cleese, etc.  Some of the lines in the game’s script had me laughing out loud.

A day in the life of an MI6 rookie

If you want to practice some teamwork, there’s a co-op mode where you and a friend can take control of two MI6 trainees and go through a handful of missions to unlock some tasty multiplayer extras.  You can also play the Race mode, in which you complete a mission as fast as possible.  And if you want to see who the better agent is, there’s a deathmatch mode called Scramble.  Last but not least, there’s a 2-4 player Arena mode, which is very similar to games like Power Stone; However, absolutely everything in this mode must be unlocked by playing the other modes.

Give me everything or nothing at all

With a robust variety of missions, easy-to-grasp controls, and a strong voice cast, this is a fantastic James Bond game that’s as fun today as it was in 2004.  It may not be trying to emulate the legendary GoldenEye, but it doesn’t need to.  If you still have some dough to shell out after adding to your collection of 007 novels and movies, you can’t go wrong with the intense and unforgettable James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing.  Just make sure you don’t drink too many shaken-not-stirred martinis before the adventure begins.

GameCube Controllers are now Compatible with the Nintendo Switch- Will the Virtual Console Come Soon?

Last week the Nintendo Switch received its 4.0.0 update, and it added video capture, the ability to transfer saved data between Switch systems, and new icons for your account. What everyone failed to realize is that it also added USB adapter support, which can be used for USB headsets and Nintendo GameCube controllers. Twitter user @MasterMewking tweeted out yesterday afternoon that they attempted to use a GameCube USB adapter and discovered “THEY WORK!”

When Super Smash Bros. Wii U was released in November 2014, Nintendo also released a black classic GameCube controller sporting the Smash Bros. logo. The stylish controller could be purchased alone or in a bundle with the game, and has the same plug-in as the original GameCube, making it usable with the old system but also allowing the USB adapter to be capable of supporting Nintendo or Wave Bird controllers for the GameCube. The adapter takes up to four controllers, making a Smash Bros. game night even more fun. This adapter is now compatible with your Nintendo Switch, allowing you to use any Nintendo, Smash Bros., or Wave Bird controller that you may still have.

The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is fantastic, but also $69.99. I love mine and have no regrets purchasing it, but some gamers may not play their system enough to justify that kind of spending on a single controller. Many Nintendo fans still have a GameCube console or at least a controller lying around because they were usable with the Wii. I have not had a GameCube in years but I never parted with my favorite games or my wireless Wave Bird Pelican controller. I also have the Smash Bros. controller because I was fortunate to receive the bundle as a Christmas gift when it released. If you have controllers and the adapter somewhere in a box or a cabinet, you are in luck and can use them right away. If you only have one or neither, the purchase is still cheaper than buying a Pro controller! You can find GameCube controllers in entertainment and used game shops around town, or on Amazon, for under $20. The adapters, name brand and third party, are also available on Amazon, and the most you will pay for those is $25. Following the links provided, you can get both for just over $30. What a deal, huh?

The main thought that I had from the news was, “Will they be including GameCube titles when they finally launch the Virtual Console for the Switch, and will it be out before the holidays?” The Nintendo GameCube is one of my all time favorite consoles, because it was sturdy, took up minimal space, and had great games that I enjoyed as a kid, a teen, and even now as an adult. It either had or started some of my favorite game franchises, and they are all titles that I would absolutely love to be able to download to my Switch. The original Animal Crossing, Pokémon XD, Harvest Moon: Magical Melody, and many more are ones that I truly hope to see on the Virtual Console. Really, any GameCube support would make me a very happy gamer.

It is a bit unusual that the support was not announced by Nintendo, but it may mean that they have something planned. There is an upcoming Animal Crossing announcement for the mobile game, so who knows what else they will discuss soon. It is almost November and the holiday season always brings good news and more games just in time for me to not be able to afford gifts for anyone in my family.

Sorry guys, but, Nintendo.

Do you think that Virtual Console will come soon? Will there be GameCube titles involved? What games would you like to see on the Switch? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook, and stay tuned for more news on the Nintendo Switch Virtual Console!