Category Archives: Gaming Reviews

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – Game Review

Similar: Resident Evil

Luigi’s Mansion

Silent Hill



Platforms: GameCube

Genre: Horror Action-Adventure

Length: 15 hours



  • Creative horror mechanics.
  • Great atmosphere.
  • Varied levels.
  • Impactful audio design.
  • Grand story.


  • Dated menu structure.
  • Slightly cumbersome controls.
  • Final level is repetitive.

Eternal Darkness is the sort of game you should go into knowing as little about it as possible. If a third-person action-puzzle game with some of the most unique, brilliant horror mechanics in gaming sounds appealing to you, then stop reading and go play; if not, then read on.

After Alexandra Roivas hears of an attack on her grandfather, she goes to his mansion to investigate, except, his head has gone missing! The police at a loss for words and leads, Alex investigates for herself around her grandfather’s mansion, an atmospheric, oppressive place seeped in mystery and danger. Alex soon realises her grandfather’s death spans the Roivas family line, centuries into the past, ancient magic at play. More than her life, she must place her sanity on the line.

Eternal Darkness’s setting alternates between the Roivas mansion and various locations in history. After each level, Alex returns to the mansion, opening extra sections of the building. The story unfolds in a similar manner, starting with a large mystery that you uncover piece by piece over the grand adventure. This sense of discovery for both plotting and exploration compelled me to keep playing. I always wanted to know where the story would go next, how everything had changed over time.

As for gameplay, Eternal Darkness is similar to Resident Evil in its use of a semi-fixed camera and slow moving enemies to corner Alex in dark rooms. The controls are much better than those in Resident Evil, though still a little clunky in the aiming department. When attacked by several enemies, targeting the specific enemy or body part you want to hack off can be a pain. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often – not as punishing as Resident Evil either. You have a choice of melee and ranged weapons and magic spells – enchantments, offense, summons, etc. Magic is your most important tool in combat and can become overpowered in the later stages (more on that later).

Complementing combat, Eternal Darkness throws plenty of puzzles at you. They aren’t difficult, for the most part, but are fun and a couple take deep thought. However, Eternal Darkness’s greatest gameplay mechanic isn’t the puzzles or the combat, but the sanity.

Why Essential?

A solid story, good puzzles, engaging gameplay, and tense atmosphere make for a great game, but not an essential game. Add in the sanity meter, and Eternal Darkness elevates itself above others of its kind.

As you face enemies, Alex loses sanity – finishing blows and magic recover sanity. The lower the meter falls, the more the world changes around Alex, messing with you, the player, in creative ways. The game truly messes with you. Without spoiling anything, it’s difficult to detail exactly what happens, since it’s best to discover for yourself. Horror mechanics has never been so meta.

The magic, however, as alluded to earlier, puts a wrinkle in this mechanic. At a certain point in the story, Alex learns a spell to recover sanity, effectively rendering the game’s greatest mechanic useless. Thankfully, this is easily remedied: don’t use the spell. It’s a lot more fun that way, trust me.

Recommendation: If you still have access to an old CRT television, use it for Eternal Darkness, as it will enhance the sanity mechanic. Still plays great on modern HD sets, either way. Remember not to use the sanity magic for maximum fun.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – Game Review

Related: The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass (NDS sequel)

Similar: Witcher 3


Golden Sun 2: The Lost Age


Platforms: GameCube, Wii U (HD remaster)

Genre: Action Adventure

Length: ~31 hrs. with moderate exploration



  • Rewarding exploration.
  • Loaded with charm.
  • Sharp combat.
  • Toon Link.
  • Timeless art.
  • Varied dungeons and items.


  • A treasure hunt quest instead of the penultimate dungeon of other Zelda games.

When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was first revealed with its cel-shaded art, many were quick to deride the style as too ‘kiddy,’ but now, so many years later, Wind Waker’s art is timeless in a way the more realistic styles can’t match.

Wind Waker follows the quest of Link as he rescues his kidnapped sister, snatched away by a giant bird to the Forsaken Fortress. He enlists the help of pirates and a talking boat to navigate the seas packed with squid monsters, Bokoblins, and sharks. The open sea is at the core of Wind Waker, for out at sea there are secrets to be uncovered and chests to be plundered. As many open world games, such as the recent Watch Dogs, have shown, a larger world isn’t always a positive, especially when said world is drowning in watered down chores. Thankfully, Nintendo kept the world at just the right size – big enough to feel vast, but never repetitive.

Wind Waker is a game of exploration. When the music swells as you hit the open sea…fantastic. There is so much to discover. You may want to keep a notepad for secrets you should come back to later with the right equipment. When one hits a new island, there is that sense of mystery, of excitement at what one may find. It can range from a chest hidden behind a wall of fire to an entire dungeon. It isn’t predictable. In fact, a favourite feature of mine, and a key to the sense of discovery, is how little information the game gives you. These days, you look at the map in an open world game and you’re met with hundreds of icons telling you where everything is and what to expect upon arrival. Rarely do they have any mystery to them. Two crossed swords – yep, that’s a combat task. A chest icon – why does no one else take this treasure if it’s marked on every map?

The game guides you in subtle ways instead. For example, the world map is a blank grid to begin with. A blank tile says, ‘If lost on where to go, why not try that area over there?’ What will you find? Who knows… There is enough information to get started, but not so much that it feels like you’re hooked by the lip and dragged across the ocean.

You can fill the map by feeding a master painter fish (go with it) in each tile, who greets you with a “Shveh! (Hey, small fry!)” and gives a little information, usually on the island. Even with the map filled, the information is minimal, as it should be. It never feels like a checklist.

The artist fish is one of many charming features you will meet in Wind Waker. This game never seems to stop with the charm. Link’s wide, expressive eyes follow butterflies when he runs past, strangers watch you with peculiar interest at your approach, and that tiptoe sound effect when Link sidles along a ledge! One that always makes me laugh is the man who runs the Battleships mini-game on Windfall Island, the hub of activity. He adds his own sound effects to the mini-game; hearing that “Splooooooosh” should be infuriating at another missed cannonball, but it’s too charming to anger me. Even the enemies have charm. Moblins, a normally serious staple of Zelda, swagger around, lanterns aloft as they patrol the Forsaken Fortress. But poke them in the bum with your sword and they jump to the ceiling, tears comically streaming from their eyes before they run around in circles clutching their backsides. Be careful, however, as they will recover and go to retrieve their dropped weapon, though you can get to it first. Nothing quite like seeing tiny Link wield a serrated blade three times his size.

To battle these foes, Wind Waker uses a combat system as sharp as any action adventure game. The lock-on system invented by Ocarina of Time allows focus on the combat rather than the camera. Attacks are quick and precise, changing in nature depending on the direction of the control stick. A forward tilt plus ‘A’ results in a leaping strike – powerful, but leaves you open, whereas a mere tap of ‘A’ delivers a quick jab. Combos increase your power and can disarm or stagger enemies. Link can also execute deft counters with a well-timed press of the button. The combat is about timing and knowing the enemy’s weakness.

Wind Waker’s dungeons aren’t as good as the likes of Ocarina and Twilight Princess, but they are great nonetheless and the items feel relevant throughout the adventure. The equipment also serves a greater purpose than in other Zelda games. You can salvage treasure under the sea using the grappling hook, while the bombs add a canon to your boat, further increasing tools of exploration.

Why essential?

The exploration and discovery make Wind Waker an essential game to play. It captures the feeling that there is something new just over the horizon, a quality few games have managed to grasp. And once you reach your destination, you have an excellent combat system, beautiful cel-shaded environments, varied enemies, and fun dungeons. Don’t forget the endless charm.

What about Ocarina of Time or other games in the Zelda franchise?

To say Wind Waker is the essential Zelda game is a bold statement in the face of such competition. Every 3D entry into the franchise is the best at something. Yes, Twilight Princess has the best dungeons and Ocarina of Time has the best story, but Wind Waker brings every element together better than the others do. Keep in mind: Wind Waker’s dungeons and story are great, even if not as great as the other two.

The Wii U difference.

The Wii U version is an exemplar in how remasters should be done. It increases the resolution from 480p to 1080p widescreen and overhauls the lighting engine with better volume and shadows. The touchscreen on the gamepad helps maintain flow by not having to pause to check your map or change items. For veteran gamers, there is a Hero Mode option that doubles enemy damage and disables heart regeneration outside of potions and fairies. The Picto Box camera can store twelve photos instead of three for the Pokémon Snap-esque mini-game.

Lastly, a new Swift Sail greatly improves travel speed for those who want to get around faster, but not so fast it may as well have teleported you. It also conveniently changes the wind direction for ideal travel without the need of the Wind Waker to manipulate the wind. The Swift Sail will save at least a couple of hours overall, depending on how much you explore.

Recommendation: If you can access the Wii U version, it is certainly worth it; however, the GameCube will still give you the essential Wind Waker goodness.

Metroid Prime – Game Review

Related: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (sequel)

Metroid Prime Hunters (DS spin-off)

Similar: Bioshock

Batman: Arkham Asylum


Platforms: GameCube, Wii, Wii U

Genre: First-Person Shooter Action Adventure

Length: ~15 hrs. (20 hrs. completionist)



  • Isolation.
  • Unparalleled atmosphere.
  • Interesting mechanics.
  • Unique gameplay.
  • Well aged visuals.
  • Haunting soundtrack.


  • Needs bigger mini-map.

I still remember playing the Metroid Prime demo kiosk at the local K-Mart before its release. There was a timer on the demo before it kicked you back to the title screen, so I would play over and over to get as far as possible (made it past the first boss). I have never had a demo hook me into a game as much as this – it certainly helped that Metroid Prime has the pinnacle of what a first level should be. No filler, all awesome – sums up the whole game, in fact.

To label Metroid Prime as a first-person shooter is misleading, for it shares nothing in common but the perspective with the common notion of an FPS. You won’t find 360-no-scopes or run-and-gun gameplay here. Instead, prepare for heavy exploration, unique combat, and atmosphere few games manage to achieve. Metroid Prime oozes atmosphere. From the way rain and frost affect your visor, to how the interface is integrated Iron Man-style within the game world, to that haunting music of alien mandibles clicking with anticipation, Metroid Prime pulls you into a world unlike any other. My favourite immersion detail is seeing your face reflected inside the visor after a bright flash – mind blowing for the time.

We play as Samus Aran, legendary bounty hunter, as she answers a distress call from a Space Pirate frigate, where experimental subjects have slaughtered the crew. There, she faces Ridley, her archenemy, and the fight eventually leads her onto the planet Talon IV. Alone on this alien-infested planet, Samus must track her enemy and deal with far more than she expected.

The isolation grips you right away. You quickly learn that everything on this planet will try to kill you and there is no one there to help. Expect to dive into murky lakes, roam canyons, delve into volcanos, and explore ruins as you uncover what really happened on Talon IV. Metroid Prime wants you to feel alone, one woman against a planet.

However, to even the odds, Samus has her signature power suit. Early in the game, much of Samus’s equipment breaks, leaving her with little more than the basic Power Beam, as is usual for the Metroid franchise. As you progress, you will find new beam weapons, each with interest effects – the Ice Beam, for example, freezes enemies after a charged shot to the mouth. Beam weapons can further be enhanced with a dose of missiles (also usable on their own). It is so satisfying to complete a charge just in time to blast a leaping alien point blank with a massive explosion, knocking them back.

The way aiming works is unique. As the second stick handles weapon swaps, you aim by holding a trigger to lock-on target. While locked-on, you will strafe instead of turn and you can do quick dodges to sidestep attacks. Use the other trigger, and you stand still, converting the movement stick into a free-view mode. This sounds strange, I know, and if it were a standard FPS like Halo, it would be utter rubbish. However, Metroid Prime was tailored for this control scheme and it works great. If this still doesn’t sound appealing, the Wii and Wii U versions allow free movement of the crosshair with the Wii remote at all times, while lock-on merely keeps the enemy in view.

Metroid Prime has more to it than combat, mind you, far more. Samus can scan the environment (useful for finding secrets) and enemies to uncover lore and weaknesses. At later stages, the visor upgrades with different vision types, my favourite being the X-Ray visor, which allows you to see through walls and into enemies. It still blows my mind how incredible the tech was to build this game.

Samus can also acquire various utility upgrades to help with traversal. Each new equipment find feels meaningful; you immediately get a sense that so much more of the non-linear world has opened up to you. Finding the Space Jump Boots, you remember that platform, just out of reach, which you spent ages trying to snuggle your way onto. Or all those purple doors that impeded your path, now ready to fall aside as you blast them with your new Wave Beam – yes, even the weapons play a significant part in the exploration and puzzles.

Puzzles! Throughout Talon IV, you will find many ingenious puzzles akin to an Indiana Jones adventure, though with a sci-fi slant. Your main puzzle-solving tool is the Morph Ball. Samus curls up and rolls around like a Sandshrew, fitting into narrow passages and scaling walls once upgraded. (Yet another dimension to exploration.) As with all of her equipment, the Morph Ball has uses in combat too. Nothing funnier than turning into a ball when in danger and zigzagging though a room of aliens trying to stomp you – “I am outta here!”

With such equipment, Samus feels powerful, truly like the galaxy’s best bounty hunter, yet the challenge has the right level of daunting anticipation. The difficulty, the balance between figuring out an enemy’s weakness and which weapon to use, keeping your surroundings in mind, all comes together for a tight combat experience.

If I had one complaint, it would be a need for a bigger mini-map. As is, it barely conveys information on which rooms are ahead, making you open the full map more than necessary, which matters in the labyrinth that is Talon IV. Still, minor issue.

Why Essential?

Metroid Prime is a unique game (barring its sequels). Even including Bioshock and Arkham Asylum as ‘Similar’ games above is a bit of a stretch. One may find elements common to other games – great feel of exploration or isolation, for example – but no game brings the unique combat, deep exploration (with plenty extra for those interested), and puzzles together, all wrapped in flawless atmosphere, like Metroid Prime does.

What about the Metroid Prime sequels?

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes adds more to Metroid Prime’s horror side; however, the new ammo system for extra Beam weapons reduces the strategic and puzzle elements, as you end up holding onto your ammo just in case instead of being creative.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption introduces new characters, which is cool, but it loses the sense of isolation and it isn’t as dark, so the atmosphere is weakened. These are still fantastic sequels you should play if you enjoy Metroid Prime.

Recommendation: Whether you prefer the GameCube version or the Wii version (far cheaper as a Wii U download – Metroid Prime Trilogy is one of Wii’s most expensive games) depends on your attitude towards motion controls. Metroid Prime 3 showed off much of what motion controls were capable of in games, which was later applied to Prime 1 & 2. Either version, you are getting a great game. Do note the Wii & Wii U versions do not support GameCube control schemes, only Wii remote with Nunchuck.

F-Zero GX – Game Review

Related: F-Zero X (Prequel)

Similar: Wipeout

Burnout games


Platforms: GameCube

Genre: Science Fiction Arcade Racing

Length: 20 hrs. to experience everything once. Much longer to master harder difficulties.



  • Speed!
  • More speed!
  • Precision control.
  • Creative tracks.
  • Hype music.
  • Smooth racing.


  • Lives system for Grand Prix.

Take Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road (the most punishing one in your memory), increase the speed by a factor of one hundred, where falling off restarts the level, and you have F-Zero GX. Speed, speed, and more speed! F-Zero GX is a challenging arcade racer all about going fast and living on the edge of the track.

You will race at 60 FPS on snaking half-pipes in a lightning storm and tear across an undulating track inside a volcano, reaching speeds over 2000 km/hr. as electronic rock and techno gets you pumped. F-Zero GX requires great skill and focus to complete its twenty-six tracks (fifteen unlocked at start) across five cups, competing against twenty-nine other drivers. Now, the game isn’t impossibly punishing to new players. Several early tracks are quite straightforward in their design – it isn’t until later tracks that guardrails become a rarity – giving you adequate room to improve. There are also four difficulty levels to ease up the competition, so don’t feel intimidated by the difficulty.

My biggest complaint, and most frustrating feature of the game, is the lives system in Grand Prix mode. Depending on difficulty level, you have a certain number of lives to retry a race if you fall off – unlike Mario Kart, falling off ends the race. Run out of lives and you restart the entire cup. This mechanic adds nothing to the game but frustration. The time it would take to get back on track would be penalty enough.

If you want some story to go with your eye-watering races, F-Zero GX features a nine-chapter Story mode with Captain Falcon against various opponents. The story isn’t anything special, but the challenges are fun (and difficult) and a good diversion from gnawing at your controller after yet another fall off Phantom Road.

The controls are a straightforward movement-accelerate-brake scheme, as in every good arcade racer. The shoulder buttons allow you to strafe with quick side-thrusters, adjusting your driving aim with precision or for drift on the turn. You can do a spin attack (only form of attack in the game) to repel other racers at the expense of speed, though it’s usually a better idea to avoid others instead and maintain speed. After the first lap, you can boost at the expense of health, creating an interesting cost-to-benefit scenario. As you master the game, you will find yourself pushing that health bar down to a sliver – what a rush! – until you reach the next pit area to restore health.

F-Zero GX has more customisation than most arcade racers. For the simple, dozens of premade cars are available for unlock, but if you want more control, you can mix and match parts into some funky cars with custom stat balances. There is also four-player couch co-op for those of you with a couch. It takes a new kind of skill to see where you are going on a quarter of a TV at blinding speeds.

Why Essential?

No game matches the sense of speed found in F-Zero GX, especially coupled with such sharp driving and inventive track designs. Whenever I need a shot of adrenaline, I load up F-Zero GX select Cylinder Knot, my favourite track, and I am ready to tackle anything for the day.

Recommendation: With how cheap a GameCube system is, it won’t cost much to get the game second hand, though the game itself is somewhat rare (still no virtual console release). The Dolphin Emulator can increase the resolution and frame rate if your PC can handle it.