For: Nintendo Wii
ESRB Rating: Everyone (comic mischief)
Tired of plastic guitars, drums, racing wheels and zapper guns cluttering your life? “Lets Tap” offers a solution: a gimmicky peripheral you can fold flat and even toss into the recycling bin once you’re done playing with it.
The vast majority of “Tap” is played with the Wii remote not in your hand, but placed face down on a cardboard box of your choosing. (“Tap” recommends something akin to a tissue box, but the game’s adjustable sensitivity settings make it easy to use whatever box is handy.) Playing the game, in case you haven’t drawn the conclusion already, consists of you (and up to three other players with three other boxes) tapping said box like a cheap drum.
As stupid as this all sounds, “Tap” actually works. The game can sense three different levels of tapping intensity, as well as single- and double taps, with rather remarkable accuracy. The accuracy is such, in fact, that one can navigate the menus using nothing but single and double taps and do so without aggravation. The traditional navigational method obviously works faster, and “Tap” is keen enough to pause gameplay the instant a player picks the remote up off the box, but it’s still a pretty cool trick.
The surprising degree of control on display allows “Tap” to dole out an impressively diverse, if small, collection of mini-games to support the concept.
“Tap’s” arguable showpiece mini-game is “Tap Runner,” which pits players against three human- or computer-controlled opponents in a race through an obstacle course. Tapping softly makes the onscreen character run, while a soft but fast tap sends him into a sprint and a hard tap makes him jump. Maintaining an optimal sprint without accidentally jumping is trickier (and more labor-intensive) than it sounds, and that’s especially true as “Runner” piles on hazards and alternate paths in more advanced levels.
“Tap’s” other selections run the gamut in terms of surprise. “Rhythm Tap,” which finds you tapping in time with various music tracks, makes perfect sense. Ditto for an open-ended visualizer toy, which lets you tap at your leisure to launch fireworks, paint a canvas and more.
But “Silent Blocks,” which combines tapping with what essentially is Jenga, is pretty out there. And “Bubble Voyager,” a sidescrolling shooter that adapts a “Joust”-style control scheme to tapping, might be the gem of the bunch, thanks in part to a wild multiplayer mode that’s essentially tap “Asteroids.”
Beyond its mere ability to work as advertised, what’s especially nice about “Tap” is that each mini-game comes with multiple stages, options and modes designed separately around solo and social play. For a game that revolves around a completely silly gimmick, “Tap” pretty convincingly justifies its budget price.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Reviewed for: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
Other versions available for: Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: Teen (mild language, violence)
As licensed tie-in products do, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” scores an unintentional direct hit as a game that, for seemingly avoidable reasons, feels every bit as disposable as the movie on which it is based.
It didn’t have to be this way, because “Fallen” does an awful lot right on the mechanical side. The various Transformers — and you can embody quite a few of them by playing out the story from both the Autobots’ and Decepticons’ sides — control as they should in robot form. Outside of some temporarily clumsy helicopter controls, they also move fantastically well in their vehicular incarnations.
Switching between forms happens instantly, and “Fallen” makes it fun to do so by allowing you to execute transformations and attacks in a single motion. The distinctive transformations, weapon arsenals and special attacks give each Transformer a unique fighting style that, in turn, gives “Fallen” more variety than its structure otherwise suggests.
When those ideas are given room to breathe — say, during a one-shot level above the Atlantic ocean or during some of the missions set in Egypt — a simple but fun action game emerges.
But those instances overwhelmingly lie in the minority, vastly outnumbered by claustrophobic missions set in cities so cramped, it’s often tricky just to get around, much less do so gracefully. The act of transforming in these areas causes the camera to jerk violently in search of a desirable angle, which disorients players enough to undo whatever good the transformation was supposed to accomplish.
“Fallen” does itself further disservice by ordering players to accomplish the same handful of objectives numerous times, and it only mildly rearranges these objectives between the two campaigns. That makes some missions seem longer than they are — a point made sorer by a complete lack of mid-mission checkpoints. Spend 12 minutes taking down waves of the same enemies over and over, only to die near the very end? Sorry, start over.
Outside of a few unlockable pieces of eye candy, which along with both campaigns can be turned inside out in the span of a weekend, “Fallen” sports an online multiplayer component (eight players) that, for better or worse, does exactly what one would expect it to do. The modes are standard multiplayer modes, and the cramped levels give way to chaotic fights that, while fun for a while, lack the direction and organization needed to give them any meaningful legs.
For: Xbox 360 Live Arcade and Playstation 3 via Playstation Network (coming September for PC)
ESRB Rating: Teen (violence)
Despite the lower price and budgetary disposition, “Battlefield 1943” is, in ways crummy and wonderful, a “Battlefield” game through and through. There are only three (eventually four, pending the release of free bonus content) maps, and they’re essentially remakes of maps from 2002’s “Battlefield 1942.” There’s also only one objective (territorial control) and three soldier classes (infantry, rifleman, scout) from which to choose. But the pared-down options palette merely pushes “1943” along as the get-in-play-a–round-and-get-out experience it purports to be, and at that, the game excels magnificently. “1943” allows friends to set up custom matches if they prefer, but for those who just want to play, a single button click is all that’s needed to drop into battle. Once one 24-player fight ends, “1943” whisks you straight into another and continues doing so until you decide you’ve had enough. It might be a while: The classic maps from “1942” and the technology from last year’s “Battlefield: Bad Company” are a fierce tandem, and everything that made past “Battlefield” games great — guns, tanks, planes, jeeps, boats, medals and ranks — is here. Like too many “Battlefield” titles before it, “1943” has suffered early from server overload and all the misery that entails. But those issues have grown scarcer by the day, and they’ll likely be just a memory by week’s end.