Monday, May 29, 2006


Top 10 Gamecube Underdogs

It seems like the Gamecube's best days as a platform for new content are behind it. Yeah, I know, there's still stuff to look forward to. I wouldn't say I've bought my last Gamecube game yet -- Super Paper Mario is certainly in my future, for example. But with Wii taking the reigns in the fall, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on some of my favorite Gamecube games that never really got the spotlight.

10) Pokemon Channel

A terrible idea for a game, designed to milk a cash cow that was already half dead by the time they got around to it. Watch randomly-generated television shows with Pikachu, or go outside and do nothing. But so help me, this game just set its little hooks into my heart. Everything you can do in the game is stupid and pointless, but there's this inexplicable charm to it that tempts me to go back time and again to ride on a bus or watch the Pichu Brothers anime for the eightieth time. Weird.

9) Monopoly Party

Monopoly's always been one of my top favorite board games. Despite its promises, Monopoly Party doesn't bring much that's new to the table, or at least not much that's worth having. No one wants to use their wacky themed gameboards or listen to the play-by-play commentary, and that's a fact. Still, it does bring one interesting twist to the formula: all players take their turns simultaneously. Add this to the fact that you'd be wrong to think that Monopoly isn't awesome, and you've got a pretty all right kind of game.

8) Intellivision Lives!

A retro pack with over sixty games. Two things hurt this collection: one is that many games just plain can't be played without the original Intellivision controller, and the other is that very few people even remember the system. But the Intellivision story is pretty remarkable for the video game world, and more than a couple of the games will satiate your hunger for retro gaming goodness. My personal favorites include Astro Smash, Night Stalker, and (once I managed to decipher the rather confusing control system) Tower of Doom.

7) Amazing Island

Of course, the big draw here is the monster creation system. You draw pieces of your creature's body -- head, torso, limbs -- add accessories, color it, give it a voice, and pop! The game brings it to three dimensional life. Then you can enter it in a sort of "Monster Olympics", where you try to score high in a number of sporting events that generally fall in the genre of "video game track & field". You can even snap a picture of your creature and make it into a "Monster Card" to use in the Game Boy Advance download game. It's probably the deepest GBA download you can get, with both an eight-level single-player "quest" and a multiplayer battle mode. The game is actually sort of short-lived, but it's a lot of fun designing your own video game characters while it lasts.

6) Wario World

A 3D platformer with a 2D soul. Wario World committed the unforgivable sin of being "too short", and so was brushed aside by the general public. It can get a little repetitive at times, but you have the option to skip most of the repetitive battles that you're faced with. My only real concern is that it's too easy to buy continues for yourself. The game's totally worth it for the platforming puzzle sections.

5) Ribbit King

Wow. Frolf. It's like Mario Golf on acid. The object is to fling a frog through an obstacle course into a tiny pond. You score higher if you can get a frog-in before your opponent, but there are bonus points and obstacles strewn throughout each course to tempt you to take your time. Best part of the game is the bonus disc, Ribbit King Plus, that features short, insane cartoons starring the characters from the game.

4) Cubivore

An interesting experiment of a video game, part action RPG and part life sim. You play a cubic animal hunting down and eating other cubic animals in a cubic world on a quest to save the wilderness from evil, life-sucking animals. It's very short, but very deep, with 150 different animals that you can mutate into.

3) The Simpsons Hit & Run

Affectionately subtitled "GTA: Springfield" by its fans, The Simpsons Hit & Run gives fans of the show what they've always wanted: an opportunity to explore the streets of Springfield as characters from the show, to drive around in any vehicle they want, and to smash things. Over the course of seven chapters, you play as Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and Apu in three different neighborhoods of Springfield, taking in dozens (if not hundreds) of little visual gags and references to the TV show. The mission system is very forgiving, allowing you to skip any mission that becomes too difficult.

2) Rampage: Total Destruction

I bought the game because I love giant monsters eating people. But I keep coming back because it's such a solid gaming experience. Unlike its arcade forefathers, Total Destruction isn't a game that's designed to be unwinnable so that you'll keep pumping your quarters in. It's about prioritizing threats, planning efficiently, and managing resources in the form of Health and Rampage energy. Also, it's about turning Las Vegas into a crater.

1) Karaoke Revolution Party

It's been such a treat to watch the Karaoke Revolution franchise grow and blossom. It started off as little more than "DDR With Singing", and look at how far it's come. Now you can turn your video game system of choice into a high-end karaoke machine with fifty different songs, a slick interface with options galore that makes it quick and painless to switch between singers at a party, customizable characters, lots of cool venues to sing at, and even an option to get up and dance. It's not pushed as hard as some of the other music games out there right now, but it's the sort of game that everybody can do well at and enjoy.


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