Reviewed For: Xbox 360
Also available for: Playstation 3
From: Propaganda Games/Touchstone
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, language)
Outside of perhaps “Tomb Raider,” no series went from must-play to must-avoid quite like “Turok: Dinosaur Hunter,” which needed only five years to unload whatever goodwill it had accumulated when it first debuted.
Now, much as “Tomb Raider” did last year, the series has rebooted and found refuge in the arms of a new developer. The result: A shockingly good rebound, and very arguably the best “Turok” game released for its time.
The basics remain the same. It’s still a first-person shooter, and the original hook — you’re fighting dinosaurs as well as enemy soldiers, often simultaneously as they also fight each other — remains the hook today. The diverse means of fighting said enemies — be it by gun, grenade, bow or knife — also remains intact.
What hasn’t returned, for the most part, are the technical limitations and godawful design decisions that undermined and in some cases ruined previous games.
“Turok” isn’t a picture of perfection, with sometimes-stupid A.I. getting in your way and an occasional tendency to populate levels with ambush scenarios that lead to cheap deaths. But it almost completely neutralizes those problems by dousing everything else, from controls to level design to the way the weapons feel in your hand, with several coats of polish. Taking on a battlefield full of dinosaurs and soldiers is a blast, thanks to some smart skirmish orchestration, but the little things — stealth attacks, fighting off a charging raptor with a perfectly-timed swipe of the knife — are every bit as satisfying.
Perhaps expectedly, “Turok” also raises the presentational bar for the series. The story is surprisingly engaging — a much-needed series first. Outside of some occasional weirdness with the character models, it looks awfully good as well. The outdoor levels are refreshingly and gorgeously rich with color.
“Turok’s” attention to detail transfers over to the online stage without incident. The mode list — deathmatch, capture the flag, objective-based team battles — are pretty familiar, but the wealth of options the game gives you within that space plenty of room for customization. Should you wish to cooperate rather than compete, four-player co-op also is available.
But the real hook of online play is (surprise!) the presence of A.I.-controlled dinosaurs in the midst. Having a live (and very dangerous) enemy that neither side can control gives the matches an unpredictable wild card that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the single-player campaign. It also sets “Turok” apart from the bounty of other first-rate shooters already proliferating on both systems.
For: Xbox 360 Live Arcade
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Sometimes, all it takes is one idea and some very good timing.
“Boogie Bunnies,” the first puzzle game to hit Xbox Live’s Arcade service since November, definitely is gifted with the latter. Gamers starved for some simple, familiar puzzle action will find absolutely that with “Bunnies,” which apes the match-same-colored-falling-blocks-to-clear-them genre about as well as one could without having to pay royalties.
The object of “Bunnies” is to stop a marching parade of bunnies from reaching the bottom of the screen and falling into a presumably perilous moat. You do this, naturally, by launching new bunnies upward and matching sets of three or more same-color bunnies. Certain color bunnies give you extra clearing power, and matching aqua-colored bunnies causes the parade to break into dance and dole out bonus points. Outside of the fact that the pieces dance, it’s pretty much every falling-block game you’ve played, revisited.
Here’s where that one idea comes in. In addition to letting you fire bunnies upward, “Bunnies” also lets you fire across the board from the left and right edges. The two extra planes of attack give the game a necessary shot of freedom and strategy — which is precisely what it needs once a few glaring oversights reveal themselves.
Most alarmingly, there’s no way to tell what color bunny you’ll receive after you launch the one currently in your possession. That means there’s no way to plan a move ahead, which robs you of some combo opportunities and makes the game feel more reactionary and reflex-based than anything demanding real brainpower.
This loss of foresight is compounded by “Bunnies’” seeming tendency to always provide you with the only color you don’t need when things get hairy. While it’s never the game’s fault if you let the bunny parade get too close to the moat, you’ll swear some cheating mechanism kicks in the moment this happens, particularly on the harder levels. Reaching those levels feels less gratifying when there’s that sneaking suspicion that the game has made a conscious decision to work against you.
All in all, though, “Bunnies” isn’t a bad use of $10. It has the requisite modes of play, supports online multiplayer and offline co-op, and is generally easy on the eyes if you have a high cuteness threshold. You won’t remember purchasing it a year from now, but hungry puzzle junkies should get their money’s worth in the meantime.