While rushing to file a story one evening, I couldn’t help but overhear my co-workers in the newsroom debating one important and, apparently, nagging topic for everyone.
Who’s at fault for Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog breaking up?
See, after decades as the celebrity couple in Muppetdom, Kermit finally realized that it’s not easy being the green boyfriend of a fluffy diva, unceremoniously dumping Miss Piggy after the “Pitch Perfect 2″ movie premiere. Seriously.
Making things worse for the one fan of the “Kerggy” pairing — or is it “Pigmit?” — in the newsroom is that Kermit is now dating Denise, who also happens to be a pig no less.
Anywho, those who blame Piggy say she was insufferable and abusive to the admittedly henpecked Kermit. Meanwhile, the one-person Miss Piggy Defense Force member says splitting such an iconic couple is like breaking up Sonny and Cher — until another person pointed out that those two actually “broke up pretty decisively.”
Wait, what are we all talking about again?
In the meantime, anybody in the mood for some game reviews?
ANIMAL CROSSING: HAPPY HOME DESIGNER
— This is a summarized version of our Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer full review
Just a couple of days into my tenure as the new crack shot designer for Nook’s Homes, I came upon an amusing realization.
I’m apparently the only one doing any real work in an office staffed by lovable slackers.
Then again, that’s literally par for the course when you’ve got a boss who spends his days hitting the greens with his golf club while you toil faithfully and make him the big bucks. ‘Cause when it comes to delegating like a boss, no one does it better than Tom Nook.
As a promising new protege, your job in “Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer” is to further the real estate empire of land shark, er, raccoon Tom Nook by adding some pizazz to residential and commercial properties. You start out small by working on single-room houses for locals who hire you to do your magic and help turn their design dreams into reality. Eventually, though, you progress into bigger and better things as you get to employ your genius on yards as well as interiors with multiple rooms. You also end up doing site selection for your clients with the exception of some predetermined locations for city projects commissioned by dear, delightful Isabelle. I must say that seeing the sleepy village slowly grow into a town populated by buildings you’ve picked and designed feels oddly satisfying in a tyrannical sort of way.
“Your hospital is going to be gaudy and garish, you cute little animals. And you’re gonna like it!”
At your disposal is an ever-growing selection of furniture, floors, walls, foliage and other items that should mostly be familiar to fans of “Animal Crossing: New Leaf.” You can also create custom patterns to add a more personalized flair to your work. For extra interactivity, it’s possible to use amiibo cards to drop certain characters into the game so you can design their own abode or interact with them at other spaces.
Although Happy Home Designer sports a lot of polish and charm, the fact that it isn’t a full-fledged Animal Crossing game means it also suffers from some drawbacks. At the top of the list is how there really isn’t much to do outside of designing spaces. Unlike the various activities of New Leaf, Happy Home Designer puts all its eggs in the design basket and can get repetitive quickly.
If you’re looking for another New Leaf, this likely isn’t the title for you. Folks who thoroughly enjoyed the design aspects of the last mainline game, however, should get more mileage out of Happy Home Designer.
PITCH PERFECT? PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2016
— This is a summarized version of our PES 2016 full review
In the cutthroat competition of sports video games, second place often equates to being the first loser.
It’s an unenviable position that Pro Evolution Soccer has found itself in for many years as it was relegated to second banana behind EA’s FIFA series for most of the previous console generation. Then came out last year’s excellent PES 2015, which made an excellent case for the embattled franchise’s promotion.
Now Konami is building on the previous year’s success as it serves up a serious title contender with PES 2016. If I were to sum up what makes the game so good in one sentence, it’s that PES 2016 just feels right. Gameplay is king after all and this is one aspect of the beautiful game that PES 2016 nails. In addition to boasting fluid movement, the game is also quite responsive, making actions such as passes, slide tackles or shots on goal feel like second nature instead of a fight between yourself and the controller.
Granted, it’s not a game that’s easy to get into right away. Unlike FIFA 16, which was easy to pick up, it took me longer to get acclimated to the control scheme of PES once again. Once you get the hang of all your control options, however, the pitch becomes your green, grassy oyster. There are so many nuances available to you when it comes to your actions whether it be pass positioning, feints or defensive moves, which makes one-on-one interactions between opponents play like a mini battle of its own. The AI for foes also seems a lot more aggressive, and I wasn’t able to get the same results I would in FIFA — even with FIFA 16′s improved defense — where I could press sprint and weave through the defense a more easily. Instead, gaining position requires a bit more work, which can be tough at higher difficulties but also more rewarding when you do find success. Switch to manual control and you also get what feels like a chess match on the pitch. I also preferred the animations in PES 2016 over FIFA 16.
Admittedly, there are still areas where the game pales in comparison to primary competitor. These include licensing, overall production values and a less polished MyClub feature compared to FIFA 16′s Ultimate Team. Ultimately, though, PES 2016 does its best where it counts, which is the action on the pitch. If you prefer more dialed down mechanics, more responsive controls and something that feels less arcadey, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 takes the crown on consoles this year.
ICY HOT: NHL 16 TAKES IT TO NET
— This is a summarized version of our NHL 16 full review
My hockey memories are typically filled with one bad moment after another.
My favorite team, the San Jose Sharks, getting unceremoniously bounced out of the playoffs after a promising regular season yet again. My brother beating me a bazillion to two at a 16-bit hockey game I don’t even remember many, many years ago.
Still, every year is a new beginning — a chance to right the wrongs of the past. The same thing can be said of Electronic Arts’ virtual hockey franchise, which succumbed to the freshman slump that many a game did during their jump to the new current-generation consoles. Although the action on the ice was solid, the removal of many modes available on previous-gen versions left a bad taste for many players, something that NHL 16 tries to address.
This starts with new features such as a neat On-Ice Trainer, which serves as a real-time teacher during matches. Designed to help newcomers or rusty vets get up to speed, the virtual trainer provides useful pointers, including what actions to take when, say, attacking the enemy goal, for example. Add coach feedback after each shift and you have one of the more accessible sports entries out there.
Lovers of the virtual hockey life also get a new “Be A Pro” mode, allowing players to guide their virtual counterpart from relative obscurity to stardom. For micromanagers, there’s also the Be A GM mode, where you oversee the team and play resident psychologist.
For socially well-adjusted folks, the game throws in a bunch of stuff for online. You can play six on six, which includes player-controlled goalies, of course. You can even tag-team with a couch-coop buddy for some drop-in hockey online. EA Sports Hockey League also makes a return and now allows you to pick one of 12 specialized player classes like the defensive, physical Grinder or the all-offense Sniper to suit various play styles. Gameplay gets some extra polish as well in the form of more refined or quicker movements via precision skating and smoother puck pickups for added control.
Announcing is a bit of a mixed bag and I wish there was a more involved tutorial mode for teaching newcomers as opposed to the game’s more simple practice mode. Be A Pro also has some niggles where the feedback you get doesn’t seem to reflect your performance on the field, especially if you’re doing well.
Still, NHL 16 represents a much welcome comeback for the virtual hockey franchise.
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