Mario Paint Composer

Chances are good that if you grew up in the 16 bit era, you were able to play around with Mario Paint and it’s awesome music composer. It was pretty darn popular, which is fairly evident with the creation of Mario Paint Composer. I can’t quite recall when the program came out, but it is basically a Windows version of composer in Mario Paint. I’ve collected some awesome tunes that people have made in the composer. Check them out!

Breath of Fire – Second Battle Theme (By Lumunaire271)

Castlevania – Vampire Killer (By adolfobaez)

Duck Tales – Moon Level (By Levus28)

Final Fantasy IV – The Dreadful Battle (By HCBailly)

Final Fantasy V – The Land Unknown (By HCBailly)

Final Fantasy VI – Celes’ Theme (By NorseFTX)

Final Fantasy VII – Still More Fighting (By HCBailly)

Final Fantasy VIII – Man With The Machine Gun (By HCBailly)

Final Fantasy IX – Boss Theme (By HCBailly)

Mega Man 2 – Wily Stage 1 (By TomBobBlender)

Mega Man X – Spark Mandrill (theEvilGrimace)

Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone (By TomBobBlender)

Super Mario Bros. 2 – Main Theme (By The Lymphocyte)

Super Mario World – Athletic Level (By Fredfischer)

Tetris – Theme Music (By TomBobBlender)

The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind – Theme Music (By MickeRamone)

The Legend of Zelda – Main Theme (By adolfobaez)

And here are some non-Video game ones. Mostly real songs and TV themes. Very cool as well!

Angry Video Game Nerd Theme (By TomBobBlender)

Collective Soul – Run (By dfarkins)

Dexter – Opening Theme (By Afrodude50)

Dragonforce – Through the Fire and Flames (by Levus28)

Europe – The Final Countdown (By Bangario)

Flintstones – Main Theme (By Friedfischer)

King of the Hill – Opening Music (By Aceticacidplease)

Metallica – Battery (By EverlastingLuigi)

Pirates of the Caribbean – He’s A Pirate (By Uhiwi)

Rocky – Gonna Fly Now (By lapras509)

Star Trek – Movie/Next Generation Theme (By EcLipsE1982Fat)

Star Wars – Main Theme (By MisterAlphabet)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cartoon Theme (By longsocksilver)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Learning To Fly (By JealousGuy)

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Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (Review)

“Lara Croft’s brave new adventure is certainly one of her best.”

First off, I’ve never been a huge Tomb Raider fan. While the Tomb Raider games are fun to play, I’ve never really considered them to be really noteworthy games that deserve high amounts of praise. If anything, I think that the Tomb Raider games have worked best as diversions for gamers while waiting for more high profile games to be released. Because of my stance Tomb Raider, the fact that I think Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a stellar game says something.

Released this year by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos (as well as publishers Square-Enix), Guardian of Light features everyone’s favourite female Indiana Jones in a brand new adventure that is told from a perspective that’s the furthest thing from the standard Tomb Raider formula. Rather than being a third person puzzle game with a bit of endangered animal slaughtering on the side, Guardian of Light is played from an isometric camera angle and is overflowing with intense action. This is not the Lara Croft that we grew up with! A lot of series have received reboots or reimaginings lately, and they’ve worked brilliantly in all cases. Guardian of Light is no exception as Lara fits comfortably into this new action oriented platformer.

First off, there’s the story. In all honesty, there’s not a lot here that is worth talking about. Lara is checking out a temple when some bad guys storm in and accidentally awaken an evil demon who quickly lays waste to the invaders. Lara on the other hand teams up with Totec, a guardian who is tasked with sealing away the evil demon once more. That is the gist of the story so, like I said, there’s not a lot worth mentioning there. It’s basically the sort of story you’d expect to find in a cheesy Hollywood adventure film.

The gameplay is what is strongest in this game, and it certainly does not disappoint. Guardian of Light plays a like a mix between Diablo and Tomb Raider. While the puzzle solving is pretty much all standard stuff for Tomb Raider veterans and isn’t much of a surprise, the constant action is. The Diablo vibe that I get comes from the isometric camera and the constant barrage of demons who are out for Lara’s blood. Lara is frequently confronted by a dozen creatures all at once, but fortunately most of them are easy to dispatch. There are a few larger demons who are pretty tough to take down, and they bring a lot of excitement and tension to the fast paced action. The boss fights are even better, especially the one with a firebreathing dinosaur. I won’t spoil the fight, but it’s really awesome and stands out as one of my favourite boss fights in recent memory.

The puzzles are pretty much exactly what you would expect from Tomb Raider. Lots of rooms that cave in on you, falling platforms, spike traps, and tons of “fetch item A to unlock to door A, then proceed to find item B for door B” scenarios. That’s the great thing about this game, the puzzle aspect of the game will feel very familiar to many players.

The controls work pretty well in Guardian of Light. Combat is a breeze with a keyboard and mouse combination and I had no troubles fighting anything in this game. Puzzles were a little different though, as I found that the game is little stubborn and does not like to register a lot of actions if you are pressing too many keys at once. For example, you cannot run diagonally and jump at the same time on the keyboard. Lara will run and the jump will not register. Because of this, I had to remap my controls frequently to get around that problem.

Guardian of Light has some fantastic level design. Each stage is brimming with exceptional detail, and there are many side quests and achievements to unlock in every stage. Some of them are fairly easy and just involve navigating Lara through an obstacle course, while others are so challenging that you will question whether or not they are even possible. Some achievements ask you to beat the levels in five or ten minutes each, which blows my mind because I had trouble completing some in under half an hour! There is a lot to do in this game in terms of optional content like that. Each level will have about four side objectives to complete, and there’s no way that you’ll be able to finish more than two (and that’s if you’re lucky) in a single run through a level. Finishing a level’s objectives will award Lara with new weapons, relics, and so forth. This makes replaying levels and completing the objectives very beneficial to the player.

Speaking of relics and weapons, Lara is now able to hold four weapons at a time. They can be assigned to the 1, 2, 3, and 4 keys. The weapon I found myself using the most was Totec’s spear, which not only kills foes easily, but can stick in walls and allow Lara to jump up to higher ground. Relics are interesting as well, as they provide Lara with interesting combat bonuses when equipped.

Online play has been promised and should be available soon, so I can’t comment on that. The only multiplayer available at the moment is local co-op, and I don’t think that I’m going to bring a friend over so that we can both play the game on the same computer, especially since my friends have already played the more multiplayer-friendly PS3 version. I have heard great things about the co-op though, with many professional reviewers claiming that it is absolutely essential that both players work together.

Overall, this is a pretty great game. It looks and sounds great, and the gameplay is possibly the best ever featuring Lara. This game is fantastic for fans of platformers and puzzle games. Tomb Raider fans should also find a lot to enjoy here. The big surprise, however, is that this game also should appeal to hack n’ slash fanatics. Like Diablo or Sacred? Despite this not being an open world RPG, I still recommend it as the combat system is very similar. In short, this game should have mass appeal and it’s very well made. Possibly Lara Croft’s best game ever. For about $15 on the Playstation Network, Steam, or XBox Live, you really can’t go wrong with this high quality game.

Final Score

9/10

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (Review)

“Quite possibly the greatest RTS ever made.”

Twelve years ago, I tried a new Blizzard Entertainment game called StarCraft. The “Craft” suffix seemed to imply that it was Warcraft in space. Was it? Not really. It had all of the standard RTS features and the story telling was typical Blizzard fare, but it was definitely was not a space themed copy of its fantasy RTS cousin.

I didn’t care much for the new revered game. What most people called the best RTS ever made, I called a tedious and ugly borefest. I never felt entertained or immersed, nor did I ever get a sense of fulfillment out of the game. I wrote StarCraft off as a game that was obviously quite good since everyone else loved it, but it just wasn’t for me.

Now, here we are, in the year 2010. StarCraft II has finally been released and I purchased and downloaded the game on launch day. I went into the game not sure what to expect, but the opening movie certainly was a lot of fun to watch. You have to commend Blizzard, they’re definitely the best in their field when it comes to cutscenes and videos.

Before I share my thoughts on StarCraft II, which I’ll say I’m quite a fan of just to get that out of the way, I feel that I should touch upon what the story is behind the game for those who aren’t aware.

StarCraft is centered around three races. First is the standard human race, the Terrans. The second race is the Zerg, alien insectoids that assilimate, destroy, and more. To me, they’re sort of like a cross between the Borg from Star Trek and the Scourge from Warcraft, the latter clearly being inspired by the Zerg since they came later. The third and final race is the Protoss, an advanced civilization that wishes to preserve their way of life and maintain balance in a way. The Protoss are your standard enlightened race. Warhammer has the Eldar, Warcraft has the Night Elves, and StarCraft has the Protoss.

StarCraft II opens with the protagonist of the initial campaign, Jim Raynor, is working at overthrowing the corrupt Emperor Mengsk. Raynor was essentially an enforcer of the law in the original StarCraft, but now he is bit of a cross between rebel and revolutionary. With his group known as Raynor’s Raiders, Jim Raynor helps out planets that are being bullied by the Emperor and his Dominion Empire. Things take a turn for the worse however when the Zerg, who had not been seen for several years, makes a sudden appearance and begins attacking numerous planets. It’s up to Jim Raynor to deal with the Zerg threat while also working to do something with the Dominion.

The story that is told in the game’s Terran campaign is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in an RTS. Between missions, players are put into either Raynor’s favourite bar or his spaceship (depending on where you are in the game) and you are able to talk to NPCs, conduct research, check out various photographs and trophies, and even watch TV. It’s really neat and I found myself spending several minutes at a time enjoying Raynor’s ship before taking on new missions.

Completing missions rewards you with currency that you can spend on research or upgrades, or even mercenaries who you can call upon during missions.

Regarding the missions and how the game plays, there isn’t a lot of innovation here and most of what was in the original StarCraft is in here. If you know how to play the original, then you’ll have no problems jumping into StarCraft II and doing well immediately.

Even those who have never played the original game should have no problem, as this is just your typical RTS fare. Collect resources using units trained at your main base, and use your resources to train soldiers and provide them with upgrades. It’s nothing that we haven’t done before, so it’s difficult to get lost in this game. Several difficulty settings also allow you to play the game at a level you are comfortable with.

The graphics in StarCraft II range from slightly above average to simply amazing. Ingame mission graphics are usually just above the average mark for the most case, though I must admit that some units look pretty badass. The scenery usually isn’t much to look at, and I find it peculiar that wilderness maps are more interesting to look at than city/ruin maps. A few missions that take part in ruined cities feel really bland and you get the feeling that Blizzard didn’t put as much work into them as they did with the other maps. They’re still good and are fun to play on, but there is just something missing from them.

Where the graphics shine are in cinematics, cutscenes, and in between missions on Raynor’s ship. Cutscene models look very impressive. There are a few jaggies and unusual spots of texturing, but overall the models look great. The only problem I have with them is that most of the Terran characters do not seem to be able to convey many facial emotions well. Most of the characters have stiff faces that don’t change expression much, even when they are laughing or growling angrily. It’s a little odd to say the least, but it’s actually pretty easy to overlook.

Cinematics are an entirely different story. As expected from Blizzard, the cinematics are simply beautiful. Honestly, I can’t really say much more than this. They just look utterly fantastic. Faces move realistically and textures are very convincing. Animations of characters, guns, aliens, and anything else you name are very believable as well. The cinematics really are among the best out there, if not the best.

The sounds of StarCraft II are just as good. Background music during missions often possesses a sort of southern rock style that I find to be extremely catchy. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to hear Sweet Home Alabama playing in the cafeteria of Raynor’s ship, too. Music aside, the sound effects themselves are good for an RTS. Voice work is good, and amusing at times (medics make a funny Star Trek reference by saying, “Please state the nature of the medical emergency.”), and the sounds of gun fire, explosions, and alien growls are all very sufficient. There’s not much that I can fault about StarCraft II’s sound department. Blizzard did a fantastic job of making the game sound very great, and not even once did anything I hear annoy me.

Online play typically plays a large role in StarCraft II. Since the game only ships with one campaign at the moment, it’s not too surprising online play is the focus of StarCraft II. Online play is done through Blizzard’s Battle.net service, which was recently updated to include all sorts of new social networking features. There is no more LAN support, which I still find a little peculiar.

Playing on Battle.net involves joining ladder games, which can move you up or down in the overall rankings based on your performance and results. There is also a matchmaking system that matches players of similar abilities, so a newcomer to StarCraft II is unlikely to go up against the National StarCraft Champion of South Korea or whatever. Basically, if you suck then you’ll be matched against other people who suck, and if your playing abilities are godly then you will be matched against other deity-like players. It’s a good system, and I commend Blizzard on implementing it.

The game also comes with a powerful editor. If you have used the world editors for either StarCraft or Warcraft III, then you will know what to expect here – a very functional and powerful editor in which the sky is the limit. Expect the community to churn out some really creative and fun maps.

With more official singleplayer campaigns on the horizon, a powerful modding tool, and an online community that will remain very strong for many years to come, it’s easy to see why StarCraft II is a worthy investment. Diehard fans of the original will love the game to bits, and those like me who are simply fans of Blizzard games will also find something to enjoy here. This is probably the best RTS I have ever played, and for good reason. The gameplay is solid, the story telling is superb, and the online services are absolutely perfect.

StarCraft II, undoubtedly 2010’s game of the year. Don’t miss out on this game. Buy it or get a friend to let you try it. You won’t regret it.

Final Score

9.5/10

Alien Swarm (Review)

“Being outnumbered by murderous aliens has never been this much fun!”

Once I believe that nothing interesting can happen on the Source engine any longer, something comes along that blows me away. The latest game to do so is Alien Swarm, a top down shooter that plays much like some classic oldbies such as Machine Hunter, or the top down Contra titles.

The unique thing about Alien Swarm is that it combines fast paced top-down shooting with heavy team play that is very reliant on tactics. The icing on the cake is the game’s very prominent survival horror overtones. In Alien Swarm, you’re plunked down onto a planet that has been infested by deadly aliens. There are thousands of them and only two to four of you.

The survival horror aspect of the game comes from not knowing where the aliens are lurking, or what’s going to happen next. You never know when aliens will burst through objects or suddenly flank you. Fortunately, the game isn’t scary at all due to the fast paced shooting gameplay. You rarely have time to relax unless you literally kill every single alien in a specific section of a level and stay there. Of course, nobody would want to do that. In games like Alien Swarm, you are pressed hard to keep moving.

Alien Swarm is mostly online, and you can play with strangers or your Steam friends. There is an offline practice mode that runs through the game’s campaign, but killing aliens and completing levels will not grant you any experience points. Online play utilizies a leveling system where, whenever you clear a stage or get game over, you and your pals are taken to a screen where experience points are distributed based on the performance of each player in the level. If you kill tons of aliens and assist the team greatly, you’re bound to get a motherlode. When you acquire so many experience points and gain a level, you are rewarded with access to new weapons and accessories. The higher your level, the better the rewards.

Gameplay can be very unique based on what class you choose. There are four to choose from and they are Officer, Special Weapons, Medic, and Tech. Officers are fantastic front-line gunmen with all around decent stats. They aren’t particularly bad in any fields and are a welcome addition to any team. Special Weapons characters get access to high powered guns with vast amounts of ammunition. They are essentially mobile tanks, strong and extremely deadly when used appropriately. Medics are the essential healer class. They are able to deploy health regenerating beacons and can heal their squadmates with a gun that restores health. Bizarre concept, but it works well and you will find yourself falling in love with the medic on your team as they keep you alive. Finally there is the tech, a class that is able to hack doors and consoles. Techs can also use a prototype assault rifle with slight auto-aim properties, and they are able to set up sentry guns quickly. They also carry handy motion sensors.

It is imperative to form decent teams when playing online. Two people alone are probably best off going with a medic/tech team, while variety improves slightly on three player teams. I have never played a four player game except with AI bots in the offline practice mode, so I can’t judge it too well. All I am aware of is that four player teams offer lots of variety and tons of potential. Medics and techs are usually the only required classes, so make sure that you have them on your team when you play, especially on the higher difficulty settings.

The alien swarm is a lot of fun to plow through. Initially, you will only encounter one kind of alien that bears a slight resemblance to the antlions of Half-Life 2. Eventually, you will encounter larger and more dangerous aliens as well as poison spitters and small parasites that resemble facehuggers from the Aliens series. Parasites are exceptionally annoying as they can sneak up you quite well, and aren’t always easy to hit. Flamethrowers are typically the best way to dispatch them. Once you hit the third or fourth level, there’s a fantastic variety of aliens and it is difficult to predict what you will find around every new corner.

The sound in Alien Swarm is passable. Most of the player sounds are forgettable, including the guns they use and commands they shout out. An NPC who seems to be in charge of your mission also informs you what to do in each mission as well as providing updates on things that change in the levels. He sounds a little bit like Craig T. Nelson, which is really awkward, but what’s worse is that he sounds like a Craig T. Nelson who isn’t really sure of the role he’s playing and delivers a very fake sounding performance. The only sounds in Alien Swarm that are particularly nice are the growls and hisses that the aliens make. The poison spitters are especially cool sounding, as they let out these slow, raspy demonic growls that immediately identify them.

The graphics are quite nice for a Steam game. If the game was played in the first person view that most Steam games take advantage of, the graphics would probably not be as impressive, but from an overhead view they look quite good. The lighting is especially nice, and flashlight beams are very convincing and realistic looking. A lot of environmental effects such as smoke and steam are also pulled off well and are definite positive in Alien Swarm’s favour.

The game also comes with an SDK, allowing devoted modders to create brand new levels. Considering that the main game is only one campaign with about seven levels, it’s certainly a good thing that modding is a possibility.

If you like games that involve survival horror, squad-based team play, or just fast paced shooting, then Alien Swarm is probably worth checking out. The best part of the game, though? It’s free. Hop on Steam and give it a download. Since it’s not putting a dent in your wallet, I fail to see how giving this pleasant game a go could ever be a bad thing.

Final Score

8.2/10