E3 2008: Majesco

We had to stop at Majesco this year, since most of their line-up were games that would appeal to a broader, more casual and younger crowd, which always means a good fit for our Junior reviews section.

Cooking Mama: World Kitchen (Wii)

We started by checking out what the next Cooking Mama had as far as improvements, since the controls for the last one really frustrated me quite a bit. There is a bit of a story this time around, where Mama is sometimes called in to help in someone else's kitchen. You alternate between playing the two characters.

Instead of doing the same movements as fast as possible several times in a row, there is now an indicator on the bottom left of the screen that tells you which movement to do, and you can time it to when it tells you to do it. So no more random furious onion chopping! Now you will cut once, turn the onion, do it again a few times, and then chop. For grinding meat, you need to keep the pace according to the indicator; if you do it too fast, you will break the handle off and will lose precious time. Most tasks will have consequences if you do them too fast.

Remember how tricky it was to break eggs? Well now there is a handy meter that tells you the strength you need to crack an egg properly, and if you don't make it in one hit, you can go again and adjust the strength with the help of the meter.

All the pointing has been removed as well, so games that required you to pick things up and mix them in a container are a bit different now. Some mini-games have also been added, for example, the meatball drop game. When you are preparing meatballs, if you drop one, a dog will try to get it. Here you enter a mini-game where Mama will race the dog to catch the meatball first.

Local multiplayer will be included in the final version, and an online option is still being discussed. The game has also had a visual upgrade, with 3D anime-style graphics. Cooking Mama: World Kitchen will be available this Holiday season.

Zoo Hospital (Wii)

Zoo Hospital is all about taking care of and treating animals, and will soon be an activity that you can do on the Wii. The game has a very simple storyline: you get a job at a run-down zoo that isn't doing so well and is probably going out of business soon unless you intervene and turn things around.

Going in a different direction from its PC counterpart, Zoo Hospital jumps from 2D to 3D quite successfully too. The animal models look very realistic, and the overall look was quite sharp for a Wii game (you know what I'm talking about, none of that fuzzyness or grain that we see in so many other Wii titles).

As usual, you get your zoo map and 48 animals to take care of. The treatment process is the same - examine, diagnose, cure - but the procedures are a bit different. The tools are presented as a pie menu that shows the main categories and expands to show the tools for each once you click one. You will encounter mini-games during the diagnostic process, for example, you will see a bunch of virus trying to reach the animal's healthy cells. Your job is to shoot them or scoop them away and preventing them to reach the good cells. After the mini-game you will have to pick the medicine, inject them in the animal's food (you do motions as if using a syringe), and then feed the right food to the animal.

The cases include everything from microscope tasks to pulling teeth, getting rid of fleas, removing gall stones or obstructions. While caring for the animals, your zoo rating will increase, and the higher it gets, the more animals you will unlock.

Zoo Hospital will also include a local co-op mode that llows two players to treat the same animal together. The game is scheduled for a September release.

Our House (Wii)

Our House got me with the building and decorating theme, but even if it wasn't exactly what I expected it to be, it still proved to be an entertaining family-oriented party game.

To start, you pick a character and a house from the available selection (a castle, gingerbread house, traditional, strange futuristic home). Then you go shopping for items that will help you later in the different tasks. The shopping mini-game places you against others (AI or friends) at a store, and you must race around to pick up any items that will prove themselves useful later on.

For example, in the demotiolion task you will benefit from having the jackhammer, since you will destroy everything very quickly. While everyone has to use regular hammers and do a hammering motion, you can just point and move the jackhammer to do the dirty work for you.

The mini-games vary according to the tasks you must do around the house. A tree-planting game has everyone digging a hole on their area of the screen, and while you dig, others will throw dirt onto your area, and you can do the same. Another game shown was a puzzle with wooden pieces where you have to pick the beams and boards, rotate them and place them in the right places. You can even steal the ones your opponents have already used and placed on their puzzle field.

Each project has a set number of tasks to be complete, a series of competitive mini-games forup to four players, locally. An online component will allow players to see other's houses. Our House is expected this Holiday season.

Away: Shuffle Dungeon (DS)

Away: Shuffle Dungeon is a bit like The Legend of Zelda mixed with the movie Cube. It's a puzzle/action/RPG with both screens representing areas of a dungeon. But the trick is, every now and again the dungeon will scroll and an area will give place to another.

The story of the game is basically what you know of Dark Cloud. The people of this place have disappeared, so your goal is to progress to the bottom of dungeons and bring the villagers back to the top. Their houses and shops must be rebuilt, and the spot where you place the buildings will affect the type of upgrades you can do later.

In the dungeon, you will have plenty of levers, switches and passages to open up, with the shuffling process making your progression a lot less easier than you would think. While on the bottom screen, you are on a timer. When that timer reaches zero, the top screen will shuffle and a new one will appear, so you will have to remember which switches you have pressed in which areas.

A quick run through of the game should take you about 20 hours, 50 if you decide to work on all the building upgrades. At the end of the game, any items that your character is carrying in his inventory will carry over when starting a new game.

Although this seems to be a great single-player adventure, a co-op multicard feature is planned as well. Away: Shuffle Dungeon is scheduled for a Fall release.

Major Minor's Majestic March (Wii)

From the same team who brought us Parappa the Rapper comes Major Minor's Majestic March, a rhythm-based game where you lead a marching band through the town.

The game takes place is a very colorful and cartoony world. You begin by setting your tempo, branding the Wii-mote like a baton, in order to march. Then you have to keep the tempo while your character goes around town, gathering new band members and picking up candies to keep everyone happy.

A pretty straightforward game that offers a bit more of a challenge than it seems though. On the top portion of the screen, you will see Major Minor marching and the townspeople and candies passing by. To get someone to join you or to pick up candies, you flick your wrist in the right direction.

As you add more and more members to your marching band, it will become more difficult to keep everyone happy, since those carrying heavier instruments will complain if you're going too fast. Their "happiness" is shown on the bottom screen by colored indicators that go from green (happy) to red (unhappy).

What I really liked was how the music will change as you add new instruments to the marching band, it's a neat little detail worth noting.

Major Minor will be marching on to the Wii this Holiday season!